Fall Equinox at Angkor Wat | Siem Reap, Cambodia

While in Siem Reap, I found out that twice a year, the sun rises directly behind the middle tower at Angkor Wat. This sunrise occurs in March and September, which corresponds with the Spring and Fall Equinox. I just happened to be exploring Angkor Wat at this exact time in March. Talk about a special sunrise.

Fall Equinox Angkor

The rumor was that this event was going to occur Friday, March 22nd. Laura and I just happened to be planning our third and final day at Angkor Wat. We weren’t necessarily planning a sunrise visit, but when we heard this “rumor,” we knew we had to go. Plus, there were a few other temples on our list that we wanted to visit/re-visit too.

The day before with spoke with Morl about another day with his services and our plan. He agreed.

One thing I forget to mention was that in addition to his tuk-tuk service, Morl offers photography services. I opted in for both services, even though I enjoy taking my photos. Reason: it’s sometimes nice to have candid shots of myself.

At 4:45 am, the three of us were heading towards Angkor Wat. Having a local guide, like Morl, during the sunrise, was highly beneficial. Not only did he have a plethora of knowledge, he knew the best location to watch the sunrise.

By the time we arrived, Angkor Wat was already getting widely busy. We weren’t the only ones hoping for that perfect sunrise. Thankfully, Morl suggested we hang back by the entrance to get the best shot.

Fall Equinox Angkor

We were all saddened when the sun began to rise slightly, off-centered from the middle tower. It wasn’t the “perfectly centered” sunrise we hoped for, but it was close enough. Plus, when we walked to the left side of the entrance, we were able to stage a perfectly centered sunrise. This was going to be my last Angkor Wat sunrise, so I didn’t mind a little staging. After all, it was close enough.

Now, if you read my first Angkor Wat blog, then you’d have read about my experience at Ta Prohm. Outside of the main temple, I was most excited about this temple, and my first visit was far from perfect. Thankfully, Laura felt the same way. We both knew we wanted to return when it wasn’t so busy.

Return to Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

After a short time watching the sunrise, we headed back to Ta Prohm. Morl told us that if we go first thing, it might not be super busy and he was right. We were able to experience an authentic feel of Ta Prohm and the massive trees protruding from the ancient temple.

Morl, being the amazing photographer he is, knew the special tricks to be able to capture the perfect shots. It’s one of those phone tricks that I ALWAYS forget about- panorama mode. Let’s say, returning to Ta Prohm was 100% worth it.

Banteay Srei

Other than the sunrise, Laura and I wanted to visit Banteay Srei. This 10th-century temple is located roughly 25 km northeast of Angkor Wat and built primarily out of red sandstone. Banteay Srei temple’s history is unique, as it is the only significant temple not built by a king. The translation of Banteay Srei is “Citadel of the Women” and built in honor of the Hindu god, Śiva. It’s basically one badass women’s temple.

The drive out to Banteay Srei is very peaceful. You pass through several small villages, rice fields, and another major “thing to do” in Siem Reap, the Cambodian Landmine Museum.

Cambodian Landmine Museum

Did you know Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world? According to the Cambodia Landmine Museum website, this is because of a long line of major conflicts including the Khmer Rouge regime and American bombings. In fact, there are still Cambodians injured and killed each year from landmines.Did you know Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined country in the world? According to the Cambodia Landmine Museum website,

This museum teaches and educates visitors about the history of landmines and the clearing of them throughout the country. It goes into particular detail about one Khmer man.

Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to this museum but spoke with several backpackers who spoke highly of the museum.

Night Life and Pub Street

After touring Banteay Srei, both Laura and I were “templed” out. Three days at Angkor is a lot but needed to be able to see everything it has to offer. We both decided to head back into Siem Reap and just chill at the hostel. I, however, had plans to switch hostels to meet up with friends I had met previously in Pai.

Onederz was a great hostel for the few early mornings at Angkor due to the quietness component. I did meet a few people in the lounge, but I was ready for a change.

If you know me, you know that I am a very social human. I had heard from other travelers that Siem Reap has a very active nightlife. I was itching to go out and experience it.

My friends booked at a known party hostel, Mad Monkey, and I wanted to be with them for the last few days in Siem Reap. One of the many benefits of Mad Monkey is the social aspect, and it didn’t disappoint.

I walked into several people hanging out in the pool, which quickly turned into mini pool party. This pool party continued even after my friends and I went out to dinner. When we returned, the party had migrated to the rooftop bar, which was the pre-game spot for the PUB CRAWL.

Mad Monkey Siem Reap hosts many pub crawl throughout the week (as do many of the other MM). It’s by far, the best way to meet feel travelers and experience the night life. Obviously, my friends and I joined in on the pub crawl and hit up Pub Street for some nightlife entertainment.

Pub Street is the main street for restaurants, souvenirs, and bars. It’s a place where you can eat a scorpion and was it down with a cheap beer. It’s a place where you can stay out late and listen to music. Basically, it’s the social central of Siem Reap and it’s worth the visit.

Grand Circuit at Angkor Wat | Siem Reap, Cambodia

I have been told that “one day is plenty for Angkor Wat,” especially if you are on a budget.” Thank goodness, I didn’t listen. Although I was on a budget, I chose to purchase the 3-day park pass upfront, just in case, I did want to return. And in all fairness, I know me well enough to know that I was going to want to go back. I can tell you now, with a high level of certainty, that ONE DAY is NOT enough.

This time, however, was going to be different. My new friend, Laura, and I decided to hire a tuk-tuk driver instead of opting for the hostel’s tour. We were able to make contact with my original tuk-tuk driver, Morl, and hire him for the day. (Exchanging contacts with him was one of the best things to come from Siem Reap. We’re even still friends and will be using him again come October!)

Exchanging numbers with Morl was one of the BEST things to have happened during my week in Siem Reap. It not only gave us the freedom we both wanted but allowed us to create our own “tour” experience by selecting which temples to visit.

Angkor Wat is WAY more than just a sunrise. Before I visited, I didn’t know much outside of the main temple and that it was an ancient city, and I limited my research before avoid spoiling the adventure.

As mentioned in the last Siem Reap blog, there are commonly two “drives/tours,” you could follow during your visit. On my first visit, I did the Sunrise Petit Circuit tour, which consists of the temples in the inner circle. This time, Laura and I decided to do the Grand Tour, or outer loop, with the sunrise AND sunset option.

When you hire a tuk-tuk driver, it allows you freedom to choose what you want to do and where you want to visit. It’s always good to have a general idea and discuss it with your driver ahead of time. For us, we both knew we wanted another sunrise, AND we wanted to see the sunset at Angkor Wat.

When Laura and I were in the initial stages of planning our day, we were sure where we could do sunrise. We did Angkor Wat the day before, so we asked Morl for his recommendation. He mentioned Srah Srang. I had no idea what this was, but he explained that it was the king’s pool. So, at 5 am the next day, Morl was at Onederz Hostel to pick up Laura and me for sunrise at Srah Srang.

There was a striking difference between the “famous sunrise at Angkor Wat,” and this peaceful, non-crowded, quiet sunrise over a beautiful water reservoir. I think, in total, I may have only counted 10-12 other people at this location. The sunrise at Srah Srang is how a sunrise should be experienced, in my opinion.

One thing I remember when talking to my hostel-mates was about “how to beat the crowds at the temples?” After the nightmare feel of Ta Prohm, Laura and I both knew we wanted to beat the crowd. One tiny piece of advice they had for us, “Do the circuit BACKWARDS!” Simple as that.

Typically, the circuit begins by leaving Angkor Thom’s North Gate heading towards Preah Khan (Banteay Prei). It continues to Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon and ends at Pre Rup. Instead, we started our journey at Pre Rup. Since we went there first, we had the entire temple to ourselves. It was so refreshing compared to the day before’s sardine feel.

Grand Circuit: Pre Rup and East Mebon

Pre Rup is a 10th-century Hindu temple, believed to be the sight of funerals. It is built out of combination of brick, laterite, and sandstone, which gives this temple a slight pinkish color. Upon entering the temple, I was staring onto a grand staircase with a small stone “cistern” placed in front. The grand floor plan surrounded me with small towers in every direction. At the top of the stairs stood five towers in a quincunx formation. Each built with their own deities to stand guard. In this formation, one tower is placed in each corner with the final tower in the middle.

This similar style of architecture is also found at East Mabon, our next temple. It is only located only a few minutes from Pre Rup. We also were blessed at this temple to be the only ones, until a family of four showed up. East Mabon is another 10th-century Hindu temple dedicated to the god, Shiva. It was built in honor of the king’s parents, on an island in the middle of the East Baray. The East Baray was once a body of water but has since dried.

According to Wikipedia, “its location reflects Khmer architects’ concern with orientation and cardinal directions. The temple was built on a north-south axis with Rajendravarman’s state temple, Pre Rup, located about 1,200 meters to the south just outside the baray. The East Mebon also lies on an east-west axis with the palace temple Phimeanakas, another creation of Rajendravarman’s reign, located about 6,800 meters due west.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Mebon

It still fascinates me how much thought and planning went into these now-ancient structures at the time of construction. From the perfect placement of the sun behind Angkor Wat to the placement of East Mebon and relationship to the other temples, the king’s vision was able to come to life and remain centuries later.

Grand Circuit: Ta Som

We continued the Grand Circuit tour and headed towards the next temple, Ta Som. We were met with peaceful silence. These temples have such a different feel to them when you can enjoy them alone and truly soak up the beauty.

Ta Som was built around the end of the 12th-century. It has a similar feel to Ta Prohm, including massive trees growing amongst the ruins. Ta Som was thought to have been destroyed around the 16th century, and for many centuries remained untouched. It’s layout consists of three enclosures each containing a gateway, known as gopuras, and main shrine. Thanks to restoration, it can be easily navigated.

Grand Circuit: Neak Pean and Preah Khan

Neak Pean was next on our tour. This particular Hindu temple is very different from others, not only the overall design, but the entrance from the road to the temple is a wooden bridge. It was thought to have been built sometime in the late 12th to early 13th-century, and according to our driver, Neak Pean was built to help cure diseases. The design of this temple consisted of

“four connected pools represent Water, Earth, Fire, and Wind. Each is connected to the central water source, the main tank, by a stone conduit “presided over by one of Four Great Animals (maha ajaneya pasu) namely Elephant, Bull, Horse, and Lion, corresponding to the north, east, south, and west quarters.” (Wikipedia: Neak Pean)

Preah Khan was then next temple along our tour and was far more untouched than any of the other temples we have visited. Preah Khan was built in the 12th century for the king’s father. Its name translates to “holy sword.” It’s a two-story structure, which differs from the one-story Ta Prohm, built for his mother and a features massive trees intertwined with the ancient ruins. This particular temple has been mostly untouched from restoration due to the difficulty of the growth of vegetation and unknown historical accuracy.

Terrace of the Elephants and Baphuon

After Preah Khan, we passed through the North Gate of Angkor Thom and arrived at the Terrace of the Elephants. This 12th-century structure was built in order of the king to view his army and for ceremonial purposes. It is a perfect place for a mid-day walk, just beware of the monkeys.

We walked the entire length of the terrace, stopping a few times to take in the architecture. We continued onto Baphuon, an 11th-century pyramid style temple built high into the sky. To arrive at Baphuon, you walk on a long, elevated walkway. This walkway ends at the entrance and continues to a set of steep stairs. These stairs are a “must climb.” When you reach the top, the view is breath-taking and one of the best in Angkor.

Laura and I were exhausted at this point of the afternoon. With one final stop at Angkor Thom’s Southgate, we made our way home. However, we were not ready to be finished at Angkor Wat. We asked Morl if he would be willing to return us to the hostel and pick up us late to take us back to Angkor Wat for sunset. He agreed, and we were very grateful.

Angkor Wat at sunset was recommended to us by another traveler. We were told that it was much less crowded and much more enjoyable. They were not wrong. Sunset at Angkor Wat did not disappoint. It was very refreshing to watch the day end without the 10s of thousands of travelers.

As much as I have loved Angkor over the past two days, I was ready for a break. I was ready to explore more of the lovely city of Siem Reap. Stay tuned to find out what I did on my day off from Angkor.

Two Friends in Thailand | Phuket to Bangkok

It’s hard to believe how quickly a week vacation went with my friend Chris, but all good thing must come to an end, right? (okay, maybe not always)

Thankfully, it wasn’t quite over. We were all set to fly from Phuket to Bangkok in the afternoon. Chris’s return flight to America, however, was not until Sunday afternoon. So, technically, we had another day and a half, which between the two of us, was plenty of time to do a few more things!

We did allow ourselves to sleep-in Saturday morning, which was much needed before we wandered Patong Beach to find breakfast. After breakfast, we ended up finding smoothies and a fish massage place. . You know, those big tanks of tiny fish that you put your feet into and the tiny fish eat the dead skin. That’s what we decided to do on our last day in Phuket, fish massages.

It was one of the strangest feelings, and I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s like a mix between a pedicure, tickling sensation, and mini, painless pinches over your entire foot.

We originally paid for 15 minutes, but the guy allowed us to stay for like 30 minutes. It was pretty excessive but it’s Thailand! We told him at least three times that we were done, but he just sat there.

Once we finished, it was time to star gathering our things and wait for our taxi. Not going to lie when I say it was slightly stressful, as our taxi was quite late. Thank goodness Phuket International Airport was a smaller airport and we were only taking a domestic flight.

Returning to Bangkok

The flight back to Bangkok was uneventful, and we quickly found our way to our hostel. When we initially planned this trip, I booked the two of us in a dorm room, but after a few days, I changed to a private room, to allow Chris the ability to spread out and pack easier.

The hostel, Niras Bangkoc Cultural Hostel, was located in the heart of Bangkok and is located across the street from a very famous restaurant. However, I didn’t know that at the time of the booking, but defiantly good to know for future reference.

Our night wasn’t that eventful. It was mostly Chris gathering a few last-minute items and walking around the neighborhood we were staying. The neighborhood was full of beautiful temples, a bit of traffic, and was close to the Giant Swing, a common tourist spot. Honestly, it was a bit underwhelming and uneventful, but I guess I can say we’ve seen it.

Chatuchak Weekend Market

The next day, we woke up with little plans. However, since it was a Sunday, Chatuchak Weekend Market would be open. It’s one of the top things to see in Bangkok, and it’s where Chris and I decided to spend our half day.

Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the world’s largest weekend markets. It covers nearly 27 acres of land, has well over 15,000 booths, and is the perfect place to gather souvenirs or wander around.

I’ve been before, and since I was at the start of my 6-week backpacking adventure, I wasn’t really in the market for shopping, but it sure was fun watching Chris look around.

Our time quickly came to an end. Before I knew it, Chris and I were in a Grab taxi heading to the airport. Saying goodbye to Chris was hard. It was such a refreshing week spent with a friend who knows me. It also meant that I was about to embark on my longest solo adventure ever.

After Chris left, I only had two things on my to-do list before changing hostels. First thing I needed to do was…get my second anti-rabies shot at a local hospital (SUPER EASY). The second thing I needed to do was to head to a mall and purchase a new GoPro. Mine decided to break while on our Phi Phi Islands boat tour.

Thankfully, regarding my GoPro, I pay for GoPro Plus, which means I can send in my broken GoPro under warranty and get a new one. Unfortunately, I’m in Thailand. This meant I needed to send it home with Chris to the USA to be covered. On the positive side, I GOT TO BUY THE GOPRO 7, which is AMAZING!!! And I did!

My night concluded with me changing hostels, showering, and sleeping. I was heading to Cambodia early the next morning on a bus, and I didn’t want to miss it.

Stay tuned for stories and adventures of my 19th country and second country of Southeast Asia!!!

Two Friends in Thailand | Scooters Around Phuket Island

We had another peaceful morning in the dorm, as our dorm-mates did not arrive home until close to 6 am in the morning. We, mostly me, decided to sleep in a bit this particular morning since we knew we were going to have sunrise-early mornings over the next couple of days.

Our hostel, Bearpacker Hostel in Patong, had been EXTREMELY helpful with any questions we asked about “what to do” in Phuket and guided us to the decision of motor scooter rentals for the day. They were able to provide us with a motor scooter rental place near the hostel. The rental place charges 300 baht per day, which is roughly $10, and we knew we’d only really need the scooter for one day. We had another excursion per booked for Thursday and Wednesday was kind of our only free exploration day!

As I mentioned early, we had a late start to our morning but still managed to get out of Patong before noon. If you don’t know anything about Phuket then let me tell you this, Phuket is a decently sized island with very few main roads and Patong, where we were staying, is a beach town on the island but is not the main city of the island. That city is called Phuket City, or in Thai, Amphoe Mueang Phuket. Amphoe Mueang indicates the primary city of a province or island, Amphoe means the second largest city, and ban means a suburb or neighborhood of that specific location. For us, we knew our first destination of our “Tour de Phuket Motor-scooter Adventure” needed to be the main city to explore the historic “Old City of Phuket City.”

Chris, I must say, was quite the natural scooter driver! He didn’t hesitate to jump on his own bike and follow me as we headed eastbound on a hectic road. I didn’t really know where our final destination was going to be, but we had an area in mind. It didn’t take us very long to arrive into the Old City, and after driving for a tiny bit, we found a cute coffee shop called Old Phuket Coffee “Coffee Station” and decided to park and have something to drink.

I was kind of a lousy tour guide at this point because I honestly didn’t do much research on things to do in the Old City and wasn’t totally sure of what we should do. Thankfully, Chris is a pretty easy going guy, so he was up for just wandering and wandering we did.

After a while, we decided it was time to take off to another location, and this location I knew about beforehand. If you know anything about me, you’ll know I love a good beer or liquor tasting. I love learning about how each distillery or brewery makes their products and if there is anything special about these products. In Phuket, there just happens to be a unique rum distillery located in another neighborhood that I thought would be a fun destination. At the time I told Chris about it, I didn’t know just how unique it was,. I honestly thought it would just be fun to say we’ve toured a rum distillery in Thailand.

Chalong Bay Rum Distillery, located in Chalong Bay, makes their rum from sugarcane, which differs from other rums distilled. Most rum is made from molasses, including the rums made in the Caribbean. In fact, they told us that less than 5% of all white rum is made directly from sugarcane and that Thailand, which has over 200 types of sugarcane, is the 4th largest producer.

Did you know sugarcane actually originated in southeast Asia and was exported to the French Caribbean by Christopher Columbus? MIND BLOWN. I had NO IDEA. I’ve even been to rum distilleries before, but never knew this piece of information. It was quite a fantastic experience at Chalong Bay Rum Distillery learning about how uniquely special it was and getting my first taste of Thailand sugarcane white rum. We even got to try their famous mojito and 4 different flavored rums. Totally worth the visit!

From the rum distillery, we headed south towards an area called “Fit Street.” Why? Well, a friend of a friend of a friend of mine from Arizona actually coaches CrossFit at one of the big gyms in Chalong, and I thought it would be fun to see how these Muay Thai gyms run. Holy smokes, I was NOT prepared for what I witnessed. Her particular gym, Tiger Muay Thai, was MASSIVE. It was quite the sight to see how many people are training for mixed martial arts, Muay Thai and CrossFit all in the same area! Joy was a perfect tour guide to her gym, and I’m so thankful with her kindness to two complete strangers.

Since Joy lived in Phuket, she was also an excellent resource for things to do, and at this point of the evening, we were closing in on sunset. Joy was able to provide us with a few places we could go to watch the sunset along the western coastline.

One of the places she mentioned, which I’ve read about from other sources, was Promthep Cape. We thought it sounded like a great place to go, so we jumped back on our bikes and headed southwest to this cape. It was extremely populated with easily over 100+ humans, and unfortunately, the sunset was not that great…or, so we thought.

We ended up leaving the cape because of how non-climatic the sunset had been and began driving back north towards Patong with Chris in the lead. All of a sudden, Chris turns into a beach parking lot. This is one of those totally Mapless Adventures. It wasn’t a very large beach, but it had these beautiful rock formations. Once we arrived at this random beach (later found out it was called Yanui Beach), the sunset turned the sky into beautiful shades of pink and purple. Absolutely breathtaking. Of course, a mini photoshoot occurred with me totally not understanding what Chris was trying to tell me, and well the pictures speak for themselves.

After sunset, we continued on our way, driving through Kata Beach and Karon Beach before returning to Bearpacker Hostel. We both decided it was better to keep the bikes for the next morning even though we had a tour because our tour wasn’t until 11:30 and that was plenty of time to see the sunrise at another popular location.

Our night didn’t end here. Once we returned from our motor scooter adventure, we headed out for dinner and decided tonight was a perfect night for a Thai massage. We chose a place close to the market near our hostel, but unfortunately, Chris’s first experience with a Thai massage wasn’t very traditional. I was a bit sad because I was really hoping he’d get a great experience. It just meant we would need to get another one before the week was over.

As per usual, our night ended reasonably late even though we had another early, early morning for sunrise, but thankfully our dorm-mates went out partying, so we had the place to ourselves.

Stay tuned for our next day’s adventure, which I will call “MONKEY.” You won’t want to miss this travel story!

Two Friends in Thailand | Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Phuket

Homesick is a real thing, and although I don’t get homesick often, it hits me hard when it does. So when one of my good friends, Chris, texted me saying he was thinking of stopping in Thailand for a week on his way home from his Nepal trip, most of the homesickness disappeared! It turned in to excitement! Excitement for not just planning a whole week vacation but also for getting to show off this amazing country I call home now, to a good friend, who has been ever so supportive in all of my crazy, Mapless Adventures!!!

One thing Chris told me was all he wanted to do was see elephants and to go ahead a plan the trip, which is quite a big responsibility and I really didn’t know where to start! I needed a little help from him, so I asked him to decide on beaches or mountains. This helped us determine the entry and exit point (which ended up being Bangkok regardless).

He mentioned he hasn’t really done a “beach” vacation, so after endless research (I’m a sucker for research), I decided on Phuket Island, in the city Patong. I understand Patong has a reputation for party and nightlife, but I choose the location simply because of the location! It was very central and not too far from anything! Once the city/location was selected the rest of the planning was pretty easy!

I felt like a kid at a candy store, waiting for his arrival in Bangkok! And practically burst into tears when I saw him walk out of the arrival area. I kind of felt bad for him as he was dressed for cold weather, and Thailand was anything but cold. He arrived in the late evening, so we didn’t do much that first night (our flight to Phuket was early the next morning), mostly just talked and looked at pictures from his Nepal adventure and I loved every minute of it!

Our journey from Bangkok to Phuket was pretty uneventful. The flight was about 1.5 hours, and then the taxi was for about an hour to our hostel. Once we arrived at our hostel, we got settled in then ventured out for Chris’s first authentic Thai food experience- Pad Thai! We ate at a place called No. 9, which was super popular and for a good reason. It was delicious! After lunch, we honestly didn’t do a whole lot the rest of the day. We mostly just wandered the streets of Patong, experiencing our first crazy Bangla Road heckling for “ping pong” shows, which obviously we DID NOT do. We had our elephant experience early the next morning, so we called it a relatively “early” night.

The next morning, it was time for elephants! I hadn’t done this before nor had Chris, so it was a first for both of us. We decided on the full day excursion with Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket, which includes feeding, jungle hike, poo paper, kayaking, bathing with the elephants, and two meals. Seemed like a pretty good deal!

The morning part with the elephants was something special. We learned general information about the Asian elephant, we learned about their food and diet, and we got a chance to feed them corn, bananas, and sugar cane. There were quite a bit of people both on full day and half day excursions, and only 5 elephants, so a little chaotic. I did actually feel bad for the elephants, though. We did learn about the elephants’ backstories on how they came to be at EJS, and it broke my heart. Several came from logging camps, others came from riding camps, and one came from a hotel, where she was required to “dance” (which meant shake her head and sway her body) and was beaten if she didn’t.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was able to save two new elephants 3-days and the day before our visit. These elephants had two very different personalities. The one who came the day before was kind and gentle. The other female elephant had such badly broken spirit and couldn’t be around humans as it was aggressive. It had to be habilitated to learn how to be free from the abuse and riding.

It was heartbreaking to hear her story, but she was one of the elephants who we got to walk with in the jungle, and that was special. Chris and I spent our time during the hike with this precious elephant. I think we both enjoyed watching her get to be an elephant again in the jungle, pulling in trees and plants, scratching her body against a tree and just walking.

When we got back from the trek, it was water time. Chris held the hose for the two elephants to drink, and when it was Grandma’s turn (83year old elephant), she ran away so quickly when Chris attempted to rinse her off. We did get to witness a first with the newest elephant, named Aom Ngung. She got to experience the shower, and you can see the pure happiness in her eyes!

The mid-day break was a bit strange. To start, It was a two-hours long. It started out with lunch, which was delicious. It also included a 45-minute poo paper arts and crafts with a brief explanation of the process. I was hoping to get my hands dirty and attempt to make my own paper, as was Chris but whatever. We still made it fun, and the people in our group were easy to talk too.

Then the kayaking. Oh, the kayaking. It was kayaking, in the middle of a hot sunny day, in basically a swamp. Not to mention, there was no dock or stairs or platform or anything to help us get on or off the kayak. Kind of a complete waste of time, but whatever.

We were then shuttled to another one of the camps (they have 3 or 4) for the afternoon session. We joined with another decent sized group of tourists with 5 elephants.

It started with the “mud bath,” which was an odd experience, but the elephants seemed to enjoy as almost all were splashing themselves with mud.

It was off to the swimming hole next, which none of the elephants even hesitated to get into the water. They immediately dunked their bodies into the water. They kept spitting water and dunking their heads. It was quite a sight to see. Although our time at EJS was not perfect, and slightly a let down on some things, the time we spent with elephants was pretty special!

Our time with the elephants was completed, and it was time to head back into town. Once we returned, we showered then headed to find food. It was at dinner that we decided on our “free day’s” excursion, which we decided on scooters. After dinner, it was off to sleep. This actually became our norm for the trip: return from an excursion, shower, head out on the town for food, go back to the hostel, and go to bed. The best part was that as Chris and I headed to bed (every night of our trip in fact), our dorm mates were heading out on the town. Actually benefitted us in the long run as we were kind of able to get good night sleeps.

TO BE CONTINUED…because of the number of excursions and adventures Chris and I went on, I broke this trip into multiple blogs to make for a better reading experience!

****Disclaimer: I know this isn’t going to make everyone who reads this happy. There is so much information: good, bad, correct, incorrect, false, and accurate information, going around about ethical animal travels and excursions. It’s tough to know what to think without truly experiencing it. I will not ride elephants, that much is clear, and I have my own opinions on the elephant excursion matter. I do live here in Thailand and hear, see, and learn A LOT about it, but I’m not going to get into it. I’m not one for cyberbullying, trolling, and cyber arguments, so I’m not going to get into it. I felt that our experience, although far from perfect, was insightful, and was special. Please keep your negative comments to yourself. This is a personal blog on personal experiences. Thank you.****