A Travellerspoint blog

Proof that one little person can change the world

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Today we headed to an elephant nature park an hour outside of Chiang Mai for an overnight stay. The park was set up by a Thai lady originally from a local tribe (although now shunned as a rebel for her good deeds) and it's primary purpose is to rescue and improve the lives of domestic elephants. Unlike wild elephants, which are considered endangered in this area and receive some protection, domestic elephants have similar rights to most other domestic animals in Thailand (i.e. almost none). In the past, domestic elephants were primarily used in the logging industry, but since the ban on logging here they were put to work in tourist trekking camps and on the city streets begging for their owners. Many of these animals are mistreated by their mahouts (handlers) or owners and all must undergo a horrific and brutal "spirit breaking" ritual when young in order to break the bonds between mother and baby.

The park we visited currently has 34 elephants, most rescued from abuse and a lucky few that were born at the park. Here are just two of their stories:
Medo: Seriously injured in a logging camp, when a heavy log fell on her and broke her ankle. The bone was never properly set, leaving her lame. She was then put to use in a breeding programme. In particularly bad breeding programmes, female elephants are chained up and males allowed to mate with them. In Medo's case, she was chained by all four legs and left to the agression of a huge male elephant. Her injuries after this encounter were life threatening. But her owners kept her hidden away from the sight of people who could help her, until finally she was rescued 18 years later.
Jokia: Used in an illegal logging camp. After giving birth Jokia was put straight back to work, her young baby allowed to walk alongside her. When her baby fell down a slope Jokia was not allowed to go to him, but was forced to continue working. Her baby died and Jokia soon after began to refuse to work. In order to get her to work her mahout, and later her new owner, shot stones and arrows at her eyes. She is now completely blind.

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As well as rescuing such animals, the park makes regular trips out into the tribes to give medical care to domestic elephants still working. And thanks to the enthusiasm of the park's founder, street begging by elephants is now illegal in some of Thailand's big cities and campaigns for increased animal rights in Thailand are gaining support. We think that this is proof of how much one person can do to change the world.

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Our day involved feeding some of the elephants, walking around the park to meet some of the elephant families and learn their histories, bathing some of the older elephants that don't like the water so much, and eating a lot of yummy food!

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Tonight we stay in a hut here in the park and look forward to waking up to the sound of elephant trumpetting!!

If anyone wants to learn more about the plight of these fantastic animals and all the amazing work done by the park staff then check out the park's website at http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/index.htm

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 03:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged and thailand chiang mai Comments (1)

Chiang Mai

sunny 27 °C
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After a ridiculously long lie in (needed after a complete lack of sleep the night before) we set about trying to decide what to do with ourselves for the next couple of weeks. Once satisfied that we had some kind of an idea what we wanted to see and do in Northern Thailand we ventured into town.

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We both think that Chiang Mai is amazing...loads of little cafés, bars, restaurants etc...there are even Boots stores here!! And we've managed to find a British pub run by a welshman which is serving a proper Christmas dinner on Christmas day. We have of course already reserved our places and look forward to a glass of sherry at midday on the 25th!

This evening we went to Carols by Candlelight run by one of the local churches here in Chiang Mai. It was lovely and got us feeling very Christmassy!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 03:02 Archived in Thailand Tagged and thailand bangkok Comments (0)

Oh the pain!

sunny 32 °C
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What can I tell you about today? You know that feeling when you swear you will never drink again? Yes, that is us today! After only three or four hours sleep it was time to get up again to pack and check out. We then rushed over to the nearby McDonalds for some comfort/hangover food, but this turned out to be more difficult than anticipated as the staff got our order wrong and made a right mess of trying to set it right, which ended up with us having three meals ordered instead of two! Back to the hostel social space to watch Atonement (appropriately depressing for our mood right then!) before heading off to the airport to catch our flight to Chiang Mai.

The airport proved yet more difficult as we couldn't find our flight time on the boards. Then we began to remember that email that our travel agent had sent us all those months ago about a flight time that had changed..... oh s**t! Luckily it had only changed by ten minutes so we hadn't missed it! Our brains were so muddled then though that we tried to check in at the wrong airline! And in this state I attempted, yet again, to change my flights home. It was not successful!

Onto the flight we went, where we were thankfully served some food as the hangover hunger kicked in again, and were descending into Chiang Mai within the hour.

First impressions? Our hostel seems nice, and our room has a giant bed! We cannot wait to flop into it asleep tonight!!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 02:55 Archived in Thailand Tagged and thailand bangkok Comments (0)

China town and Bangkok nightlife!

sunny 32 °C
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Today we visited China Town in Bangkok. It took us a while to get there as we somehow managed to direct a taxi half way across town in the wrong direction! Oops! But we made it there and enjoyed some tasty spring rolls at a restaurant on the river before venturing into China Town!

China Town was crazy! Soooo many people! But it was great to look at all the stores and all the random things that were being sold there. Jo manged to find a stall that was selling only material patches so stocked up on all the country patches she needed to adorn her rucksack on getting home.

Keeping our fingers crossed our visas would be granted, we made our way back to the Vietnamese embassay. Success!! That was much easier than we both anticipated :-)

Back to the hostel to get ready for a night out in the city...

Evening antics:

First stop...the nightmarket. Bustling, busy, noisy...pretty awesome!! Our main mission was to buy some shoes that weren't flip flops or trainers so that we would be let into the fancy Sky Bar (see below). Mission accomplished, we enjoyed a beer on the edge of the market which was a great spot for people watching.

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We then went to the Sky Bar which is located on the 63rd floor of the Lebua hotel (and featured in the film "The Hangover Part II"). It was awesome! The views of Bangkok are incredible from up there and totally worth the extortionate price of a G&T and having to buy a new pair of shoes!

Back to the nightmarket where we went our separate ways for a short time to buy each other a Christmas present. The theme for these gifts...tat! The tackier the better. I for one can't wait to unwrap mine!!

Then onto a couple of bars where we drank a bit too much, made some British friends, danced like crazy people (and yes, some Gangham style was involved), convinced some nice Dutch men to escort us to a Ping Pong show, went to said Ping Pong show (where a rogue ping pong hit a mortified Jo in the arm) and then ended up in a McDonalds! By the time we got back to our hostel the sun hadn't started to rise...it was fully up! I'll let Jo explain the hangovers from hell we experienced that day...

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 02:51 Archived in Thailand Tagged and thailand bangkok Comments (0)

Ladies what lunch

sunny 32 °C
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What a productive day we've had! We were up at the crack of dawn again in order to be at the Vietnamese Embassy to apply for visas by opening at 8.30am. We had assumed that the embassy would be very busy and we would have to spend hours queuing (because that's what people have to do at embassies back home!)..... the place was empty! One very simple form and £30 later and we were free! How easy! Back to the hostel to do washing - it never seems to end. Then, after prettying ourselves up we went out to meet Felix and Sarah, friends from our time in India.

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We had a great lunch with them, followed by a scrumptious ice cream, and listened in raptures to all their travelling stories from Northern Thailand (our next destination). We particularly liked the tale of one bus journey where Sarah had to sit on Felix's lap, as there was only one seat left on the bus, while a local Thai girl fell asleep on him! A nice way to spend three hours when you're a tall German guy!

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After a rather sad goodbye, and promises to meet up in Vietnam or Cambodia depending on our travel plans, we parted ways and Tam and I tried to cram a whole day's sight seeing into just a few hours. We took a boat up river to Wat Arun, a temple, then caught a boat across the river to see the Reclining Buddha. This Buddha was the largest one we've seen yet! And as we weren't appropriately dressed for visiting a temple (tut tut us!) we had to see it whilst wearing attractive fluorescent green bathrobes! Nice! They were, in fact, so nice that the people who made them felt it necessary to write a little message on the back asking you not to take them home! We managed to just about restrain ourselves!

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Onwards for a quick peek through the gates at the Grand Palace, a look at the Democracy monument and the Golden Mountain, before grabbing a tuk tuk home through the rush hour traffic (although it always seems to be rush hour traffic in Bangkok!).

As we're both exhausted, it will be an early night for us tonight!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 02:44 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand bangkok Comments (0)

Hello Thailand!

sunny 32 °C
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A nice early 7am flight to Bangkok for us today! Needless to say our brains weren't fully engaged at 5am when we left our hostel which made it difficult to sort out the double booking that had been made by the hostel for our taxi to the airport! Oh dear.

On route to Bangkok we had a couple of hours stopover in Kuala Lumpur airport which was most productive! Jo managed to work out how to change her flight home in March having decided to extend her trip by two weeks to go to the Philippines, buy a Clinique chubby stick in the shade she's been after for a while(!), and locate a Starbucks for us to get our iced coffee fix for the day. I bought some new sunglasses as an early Christmas present to myself. We boarded the flight to Bangkok very pleased with ourselves!

On arriving at our hostel in Bangkok we were pleasantly shocked at how nice the hostel was. So modern, a huge bedroom and a fancy bathroom!! We feel like we're in the lap of luxury here :-)

This afternoon we went to the MBK which is a gigantic shopping centre...8 floors! The food court was amazing...there was a food station for each type of cuisine you can imagine. We opted for a random mix of Greek and Italian food! Yummy!


Our evening was spent on some much needed grooming...exfoliating, facials, foot filing etc....we now feel a bit more human and ready to face the bright lights of the city!


Posted by Tam-Jo 03:06 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand Comments (0)

Goodbye Malaysia

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The top ten things we've learnt whilst in Malaysia:

1. You'll feel surprisingly clean and refreshed after "showering" with muddy river water.
2. Don't go to a laundrette in Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon during rainy season...you will get stuck there!
3. Parakeets like Jo!
4. Turtles don't like Chinese tourists.
5. Probosis monkeys are RUDE!
6. Patch could out survive Bear Grylls.
7. Much like pandas, orangutans are greedy and hilarious!
8. Fish eagles are smart - who knew an empty bottle floating on the river was actually holding a fishing line beneath it.... not us!
9. Refusing to leave until someone lets you on the trip works!
10. Tammy likes to shop!

Posted by Tam-Jo 03:05 Archived in Malaysia Tagged malaysia Comments (0)

Goodbye sea!

sunny 32 °C
View Great Escape to the East! on Tam-Jo's travel map.

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On the agenda for today was a boat trip to a local island in order to top up our tans before we leave the beaches behind us. We chose the biggest of the bunch - Manukan Island, which lies just a few kms off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. White sands, blue waters and jungle! Perfect, except for the staring locals and the destroyed reefs. But you can't always have everything your own way, I suppose, and we have been spoilt in the past! Even so, we had a nice day reading and swimming and eating before heading home to the hostel. En route back we stopped in at Starbucks for a taste of home and discovered a few promotional Christmas drinks, including the scrumptous Iced Peppermint Mocha. It was a little odd having such a Christmassy drink served cold, but neccessary in the heat! Despite the Christmas trees and tinsle everywhere over here, it still doesn't feel like Christmas to us without the wind and rain of home..... I'm sure we'll cope though!

In store tonight? Packing and bed - we have another early start tomorrow as we head to Thailand!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 03:05 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo Comments (0)


sunny 30 °C
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Not much to report on today. We got an early boat back to Sandakan from Turtle Island and spent most of the morning at the hostel doing life admin and re-packing our (ridiculously messy) bags before flying to Kota Kinabalu that afternoon.

The two highlights of our day were a trip to Starbucks for some paninis (which the nice man behind the counter gave us a discount on as we didn't have enough cash for two!) and a cinema trip that evening to see the latest and final instalment of the Twilight Saga. It did not disappoint!!!! Jo and I have already decided to go and see it again as soon as possible :-) Total Twihards we are!!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 03:04 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo Comments (0)

The adventures of Patch Crusoe

sunny 30 °C
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This story is dedicated to Bertha the Cow and tells of the epic South China Sea adventures of a monkey called Patch (or perhaps the story of how Jo kept herself entertained for a few hours on Turtle Island!)

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One day, when visiting Turtle Island with his friends, Jo and Tammy, Patch decided to try snorkelling. Whilst swimming around the coral reef, he caught a glimpse of a turtle and quickly swam after it. But, having chased the turtle for a few minutes, he got tired and was dragged out to sea by a strong current!


He floated out at sea for a long while, before eventually washing up on the shore of an unknown island.


After resting a while, he decided to explore the island in the hopes of discovering someone who could help him get back to his friends. But, alas, there was no one there but him.


Knowing how much Jo and Tammy loved him, he was sure that they would have sent out a search party looking for him. To help with his rescue, he wrote an SOS sign on the beach, hoping it would be seen by a search and rescue helicopter. But after a few days, no one had come and he was beginning to feel hungry and tired. So he decided that he would have to use his immense survival skills, that he had learnt from watching Bear Grylls on TV, to keep himself alive until someone found him.

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He built himself a fire, and made a fishing rod out of the flotsom and jetsom on the beach. Then he built a shelter for himself. After all this he felt a little better. But after a few more days, still no one had come. So he decided that he would have to rescue himself.

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He spent days building a boat that would get him off the deserted island. But his first attempt at sailing it failed.


After some adjustments he tried again... SUCCESS! Patch merrily sailed away from his isle in the South China Sea and was rescued a day later by a friendly man on a fishing boat. He found his way back to Tammy and Jo, who were very relieved to see him safe and sound, and promised never to let him go snorkelling alone again!!

The End

Posted by Tam-Jo 02:09 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo Comments (2)

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