Staying in Phuket, Without Seeing Phuket

For the past few days we have called Phuket home. Yet somehow it's been possible to technically be in city, without actually seeing the city.

While in planning mode we opted to make this stretch of travels our "down time" with little desire to explore our surroundings. We did just that while staying at the luxurious Radisson Blu located on Cape Panwa.

Our home at the beach side Radisson Blu Panwa Resort

Our home at the beach side Radisson Blu Panwa Resort

This small peninsula located south-west of Phuket town is home to a handful of resort hotels and guest houses, no more than a dozen restaurants, and only a few bars.

Daily we've had to enforce relaxation, since we are planners through and through, always wondering "where to next?" and even creating a detailed itinerary for this trip in our shared Google Drive "Thailand" folder. Seriously- we plan, document, organize, and track- and we're damn proud of it.

The daily To-Do list. 

The daily To-Do list. 

One of our favourite little bars here is called the Small Bar. Owned by the always smiling and truly upbeat Gaye, who has adorned her little drinking hole with hand-made jewelry, strings of beads, carved statues, painted buoys and a tiny bar from which she serves up the stiffest drinks around.

It was at Small Bar where we discovered our new favourite game- Shut the Box.

Small Bar

Small Bar

Shut the Box was not created in Thailand, it's history is slightly muddled but apparently goes back centuries ago with roots in France, England, and even the Hudson's Bay Trading times. But the Thai's have their own twist, varied rules, and a required competitive nature that we can relate to.

Shut the Box is mostly a luck-driven game of rolling dice, and is highly addictive. In beer bars around Thailand the locals are well known for making bets against unknowing tourists and earning themselves some serious Baht.

Shut the Box game. The goal: to flip over all numbers until it reads "-Jackpot-" 

Shut the Box game. The goal: to flip over all numbers until it reads "-Jackpot-" 

We played so many rounds we simple had to buy the game to bring home as a memento of how awesome I am at it (Dylan will dispute this, but he's a poor loser)! I managed to "shut the box" several times- a rare feat. (Insert applause here.)

We're now leaving the secluded comfort of our swanky beach-front resort for the more-crowded Koh Phi Phi.

As I write this we're jam-packed inside a questionable boat that makes BC Ferries seem like a luxury cruise line. But, this is what we signed up for and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Overnight Stay at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai

We spent the past couple of days at Elephant Nature Park- an elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre about an hour and a bit outside of the province of Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand.

Two old gals who have found freedom at ENP. 

Two old gals who have found freedom at ENP. 

ENP is home to dozens of elephants, most brought to the park after having previously been abused, overworked, and even disabled from the now illegal logging industry, as well as tourism and trekking parks.

When trapped and taken to work in trekking camps the elephants are forced to shuttle around photo-op-hungry tourists on their fragile backs for hours on end every day.

One partially blind elephant and her close confident and protector. 

One partially blind elephant and her close confident and protector. 

Unable to behave normally or socialize with other elephants properly, they can develop long-term disabilities to both their mental and physical health.

Several of the older elephants who now call ENP home have noticeable spinal, hip, and leg damage. Many still suffer from the memories of being mistreated in logging and trekking camps and by former owners.

One of the few babies sharing food with an adoptive mother.

One of the few babies sharing food with an adoptive mother.

Here they're free to roam the massive grounds, bathe in the river, create mini herds with other elephants they feel a connection with, and start to restablish some of their long-lost natural tendencies.

An adolescent elephant who roams solo, not yet able to fit in with a community due to behavioural issues.

An adolescent elephant who roams solo, not yet able to fit in with a community due to behavioural issues.

ENP's grounds have expanded from it's initial mere few dozen acres in a corner of the jungle in the mid 90's to what is now an impressively large protected park for not only the elephants, but also cats, dogs, and water buffalo rescued from the meat-trade industry or the streets.

The herd of 77 water buffalo and one brave pup.

The herd of 77 water buffalo and one brave pup.

We participated in the overnight stay, allowing us to take our time at the park and observe the elephants in their natural habitat. This program allowed us to visit a smaller preserved space up the road from ENP where two of the more senior elephants are being reintroduced back into the jungle. There they are still guided by their mahouts, who teach them to forage for food instead of simply waiting on hand-outs from humans.

One of two elder female elephants who are starting to be reintroduced back into the wild on protected grounds further up in the village past the sanctuary. 

One of two elder female elephants who are starting to be reintroduced back into the wild on protected grounds further up in the village past the sanctuary. 

Elephant Nature Park has been a highlight of our Thai adventure so far, it was hard to leave behind these beautiful old girls who have been through to much turmoil and suffering. Thanks to Elephant Nature Park they've now found a beautiful home and well-deserved freedom.

Welcome to Thailand: Bustling Bangkok

We touched down in overcast Bangkok (a blessing, as it was still 32 degrees Celsius) on Sunday, roughly 16 hours after leaving Vancouver. 

Powering through the jet-lag we dropped off our bags at the hotel, managed to avoid temptation from both the clean bed and air conditioning, and wandered the streets in search of some grub.

As an individual semi-prone to mild OCD tendencies, the smell wafting up from the sewers, combined with the heat and very noticeable disregard for tidiness and safety were the first thing I noticed. In that first hour I was not sure I would be able to enjoy Bangkok.

How so very wrong I was. 

Bangkok grew on me in a quick and beautiful way. The pace was both laid back and upbeat, simultaneously. The scent of sewer was soon replaced by that of the never-ending street food being served from the carts of hard working locals. The dirt was still very present, but I stopped worrying about what I was stepping in, and more about avoiding the downed power lines, rusty wires and random electrical cables sticking out of buildings and straight into the narrow sidewalk path.

One of the many bustling Bangkok alleyways. 

One of the many bustling Bangkok alleyways. 

Very little jet-lag so far, a few days in, it's more food comas than anything. I cannot stop eating, especially my new favourite Thai dish- Khao Soi.  A brilliant blend of curry spices in a coconut milk broth, mixed with shallots, lime, a few greens, and made complete with steamed egg noodles and topped with the same, only very crispy. Lovely texture contrasts and just enough kick. I'll have to track it down when back on home-turf, though I fear it'll be hard to come across outside of Thailand.

We're wrapping up here in Bangkok and heading north to the province of Chiang Mai. Onwards we wander...

Preparing for the Long-Haul Flight (and Head Cold Fight)

When it rains it pours, right? That common (irritating) saying rings true now with my health. Tonight when we depart for Thailand, for which I'm already a wee bit nervous (such a strange, foreign land!) I will be fighting my first head cold of 2015. My body has been extremely efficient and my immune system on-point recently, and yet I get a cold now when I'll  soon be on a highly pressurized airplane for 12 hours straight! Damnit.

So I'm downing undiluted drops of Oil of Oregano, electrolyte tabs and lemon wedge-filled warm glasses of water as I write this.

I'm an air travel master. I fly regularly and this cold won't stop me from being comfortable and ready. I have our snacks pre-portioned for mid-flight noshing, a multitude of lozenges,  small tube of pure shea butter for the desert-like plane air, and my most comfortable clothing layers with slip-off shoes for efficient airport security screenings.

I'm going to knock this damn cold out of my throat in the next few hours. One can only hope! The countdown to Asia is on.