Volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park

Last week, I volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park (ENP), just outside Chiang Mai, Thailand. I did my best to manage my expectations leading up to it, but I have to say, a week at the park is going to be one of the highlights of my trip.

Why?

Watching elephants roam free in front of you all day, meeting an absolutely awesome bunch of people and learning some new skills was a great experience.

I recommend ENP highly. Even if you can’t volunteer for a week, a day trip to the place should be on every Thai traveller’s itinerary.

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Bangkok Shenanigans

I was advised that travelling doesn’t really go to plan. So far, for me, it had gone very smoothly.

But when I left Hong Kong for Thailand, it wasn’t the smoothest transition I had imagined. I learned plenty from it though.

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Hong Kong and the Free(ish) Trip to Macau

My itinerary took me to Hong Kong for four nights. It was a stark contrast from my time in China. I landed on Saturday evening in the Yesinn Causeway Bay Hostel in a tall, 9 story building and headed straight out to the madness of Lan Kwai Fon. It was especially mad for two reasons. Firstly, it’s just how Hong Kong is – one big expat party, with some people claiming to work around the partying. Secondly, because it was the closest Saturday to Halloween, everyone took to the streets in fancy dress. Not just Halloween outfits either – I passed giant pandas, bananas, gorillas and even a Lance Armstrong (a guy sporting the yellow jersey, glasses and plastic needles taped to his arm).
I came to realise, Hong Kong has it all. Skyscrapers, nature, gadgets and places to relax all on your door step in an interesting blend of east meets west. Here’s what I covered in my four nights. […]

5 of the Best & Worst Things I Learned About China

Best

Bodily functions like burping and farting are considered the norm. It’s fine to make such noises during moments of silence.
Almost everything these days is “Made in China”. If you can find the factory for what you’re after, you’re bound to get it cheap.
If you’re a Westerner outside of Beijing, you can see what it’s like to live the life of a celebrity… in terms of being stared at and asked to be in photographs. You may find next time you see a celebrity you won’t ask for their autograph or a picture.
Land transport is very very cheap in China. Buses 1 RMB (~10p), Subway 2 RMB (~20p) and high speed trains dirt cheap compared to planes.
Getting a local sim is easy and cheap. There are mobile shops everywhere and txts/calls are negligible. Data plans are common on pay-as-you-go sim cards too.

 
Worst

Entering into the country is too difficult. You need to have flights, accommodation and an itinerary proof in order to get the visa. If the visa gets declined, you’re stuck with (probably) non-refundable bookings. Having it arranged in Hong Kong by an agency is known to be the simplest way.
Kids have the right to pee and defecate anywhere on the street. So much so, they’ve even design trousers to make it as easy as possible to do it without a parent needing to be around. Careful where you tread.
The language is difficult to learn. Regional variations (Mandarin, Cantonese etc.. and thick accents outside of the cities), an alphabet of pictorial characters instead of letters, a heavy reliance on context with exact sounding words meaning different things, words spoken with varying tones meaning different things and difficult pronunciation even with a word written down in western letters.
Snorting […]

The Jinshanling Great Wall of China

I toyed with the idea of going to the infamous Badaling section of the Great Wall, being close by to Beijing and public buses running from town. However, I was SO glad to have chosen the Jinshanling section. Especially after returning to the hostel and asking a couple how busy the Badaling section of the wall was in their opinion. They answered “it was ok, you could move forwards” in a positive way. Gosh, that was even a week day.
Hawkers aside, the views on this section were stunning and it was quiet enough to get could get beautiful winding views without anyone else in the way. I was lucky enough to get a reasonably clear day so hopefully, the photos below speak for themselves… […]