Elephant Jungle SanctuaryΒ 

The first tourist attraction I thought of after arriving in Thailand was an elephant encounter. However, I was certain I would avoid supporting the iconic ‘Elephant riding’ and everything the camps stand for. The
care and treatment they receive while in captivity, in some camps is devastating. Reducing the amount of Thai elephants substantially.

That all being said, I did my research and found two parks out of Chiang Mai that Were legit. Taking in elephants that were previously in riding camps, sick etc. This was honestly the first animal attraction/encounter I did in Asia and I am glad I booked with Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, camp 4, in the end. Elephant Nature Park is the other highly recommended experience in Chiang Mai.

The encounter its self was absolutely magical. To be up close and personal with such a massive creature absolutely blew my mind. I spent the whole day at the park. Shortly after arriving we were introduced to the elephants, making friends by feeding them sugar cane and bananas. Amongst the group was also a new baby elephant, only two months old I believe. You could tell he was still getting used to walking, his big trunk would just flopped about carelessly – absolutely adorable!!

The highlight from the day was easily the mud bath! You watch the adorable videos on YouTube, from your desk or at least I did, of Elephants loving life in the mud and their is always a little baby around that doesn’t know what to do and simply sinks and trips around. Well I was IN the mud with them! A crazy moment that made a few of us pass and wonder if it was real life! 

This was a highlight day from my entire five months in Asia, by far! Although not surprisingly, as most of my highlights are when I was knee deep in nature πŸ˜‰

Oh, and this smooch happened! 

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Kawah Ijen

As if I thought anything could top Bromo – 14 hours later I was beginning to hike up to the Ijen crater. This was certainly more of a trek. Walking an hour and a half, straight up the hill, at 1:30 a.m. gave us all a little work out. 
When you reach the top of the crater, it’s still pitch dark but you can see a slight blue flame in the distance. We scaled down a sketchy, rocky path that led us 45 mins down to the bottom of the crater to get a closer look. It was mesmerizing. Again, my photos don’t do this wonder justice. National Geographic names it the largest blue fire site in the world. It’s because of the ignited sulphuric gas that comes through cracks of the earth at 600 degrees Celsius, that we see it burn blue – only in the night. 

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 Finally we climbed back up to the crater rim and waited for sunrise. Feeling exhausted yet absolutely mind blow at this point, you start to see the acid crater lake appear. The electric turquoise colour of this lake was stunning. I may have actually enjoyed this site a little bit more than any other the past few days. The Ijen Crater lake is said to be the largest highly acidic crater lake in the world. 

   
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 The only twist to this whole adventure was the active Sulphur mine that was in production with workers as we poke around the ‘tourist’ sight to see the blue flame. I wasn’t expecting this. I didn’t even think about a mine like this to still exists. It was heartbreaking to be honest. I felt guilty as I realize how hard these men are working, while I enjoy the sights and snap photos around them. It was after this that I looked up details on the mine and learnt every night they work, they make two trips up and down the crater with sulphuric rock loads reaching 60kg. For each load, there only earning $6 EUR. Don’t quote me on that, but knowing its in this ballpark is thought provoking enough. 

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 A few men asked us for water and snacks as we trekked down, and I couldn’t have been happier to hand it over. It’s the least I could do. One thing I did wish to do, that would be beneficial, is but these men masks. All the tourist can rent a mask to go down near the the gases and these men are working in it ever night with no protection. This is causing numerous respiratory diseases in the long term for everyone working. 

All in all, It was a beautiful, thought provoking-mind blowing, morning to be apart of. Another fantastic experience for the books. 

Gunung Bromo

To adventure Mt. Bromo I went up to Cemoro Lawang for the night. Or rather for dinner and a three hour nap. I stayed just outside of the village, in the most beautiful landscape. Rich green rolling hills, and cute little homes. Very quiet though, it was nice to do it not during peak season. 
Part of the adventure was to trek up to a view point, Mt. Penanjakan, to look down on Mt. Bromo and the ‘Sea of Sand’. The jeep ride up was pretty cool all on its own. Followed by a little sweat sesh, and we were to the top. Unfortunately, due to weather we were engulfed by clouds (the con to not going during peak season I suppose). I had a glimpse of the sun, and a peak at the volcano but Mother Nature wasn’t on our side to say the least. 

Had Bromo not been so cool, it would have been a disappointing morning. However, as soon as we drove down to the volcano base, I was pumped. I was shocked by the size of this crater. I could only imagine how powerful it’s last eruption was; January 2011 was the last eruption, closing the area to locals and tourist for a little over a year and a half. I also just learnt that in late November 2015 there were more warnings issued. I can’t seem to read what the status is now (crazy considering I was just there!). 

These photos speak more words than I could write to do them justice, yet they don’t do it any justice at the same time. 

Feeling the earth rumble below my feet was absolutely magical. 

   
    
    
   

Beautiful Java

After filling my weekend with yoga and mediation. Health food and no Bintang, I headed to Kuta for my flight to Java. With one last night at Skygarden and my British babes first, naturally. 
Java is exactly what I was picturing and hoping for in Indonesia. It’s wild how much Bali differs from being built up for tourism. Not that their is anything wrong with that, it was a blast, but I do feel good now that I’m back amongst the ‘dirty’ backpackers. Literally, I need to was all my clothes. 
As I headed for a small village at the base of Mt. Bromo, it was advertised to me that Ijen Volcano was also open. I was told its closed for another month, and instantly knew I had to fit in since I’m here. So I have booked a tour of sorts, just basic transportation and accommodation arranged so that I can be sure to get the most out of my three days here. 
It’s back to hanging with locals at bus stops and never really knowing what’s going on as you sit around and wait until your rushed on a bus so quickly you’re making sure you still have an iPhone and Passport.

Back to Gili T

I am officially glad I went back to Gili T, if not just for the boat ride out. Not only did we end up on the roof of the boat, tanning and drinking Bintang (felt like a booze cruz we didn’t have to pay for!) but we came across a massive pod of Dolphins. There was over one hundred Dolphins, easily. The captain actually stopped the boat to turn around and go back to them. Slowing down so they could race the front of the boat, my mind was blown. It was better than any whale watching experience I had been on. 
The weekend ended up being everything I expected, a total blast. Meeting heaps of amazing people and laughing more with those I was with. Late evenings, and beach days. Delicious food from the night market for dinner, and Joss Shots for dessert. 
I lasted three nights and decided I needed to head back to Ubud, before I had to leave Bali. I couldn’t not go back one more time. And I was in need of some R&R after the shenanigans. 
It was decided I will trying to make it to Germany to celebrating my birthday at OctoberFest with Nadine and Simone, I can’t wait to dress the part. And I’ll be seeing the boys in only a few short weeks for Songkran, in Chang Mai. As I said, I’m never traveling alone! xx

Home away from home

I have found my first ‘home away from home’. Minutes after arriving in Ubud I knew I wouldn’t want to leave. Plus, our hostel had a pretty sweet lounge area by a pool – It can be simple making backpackers happy. 
I headed up there with a group from Seminyak – my two new favourite Germans, Simone and Nadine and of course, more English boys, Rikki and Shaun. Not that I don’t love the English πŸ˜‰ I am just constantly surprised by how many I have met travelling Asia. 
We filled the days with all the tourist check marks: rice fields, temples, Monkey Forest and a volcano sunrise hike up Mt. Batu. I also started scoping out all the health food shops and yoga studios immediately. Its amazing the quiet little roads you can find filled with unique shops and markets. But you do have to get off the Main Street, its absolutely packed with traffic at all times.
It was here that I decided to go back to Gili T. There was a whole group going out that I had been with, and well, my FOMO kicked in. Plus, my last experience was quiet so I figured it was worth a go on the ‘crazy’ days of the week. 

Indonesia bound

I am pretty sure I took the most difficult flight path possible from the Philippines. All to save $100. Good old backpacking budget! After 4 flights, two nights sleeping outside domestic airports, on the ground (maybe sleeping isn’t the best word, laying), I was only a boat ride away from Gili Air. I was meeting back up with Shipmate, Anthony, and a crew of people he was with. Which we ended up adding to the ship as well! The next few days were filled with lovely ladies getting their tattoos, beach naps and happy hours. 
I absolutely loved Gili Air. All the hype is for T, but I can say after going to T (twice!), Air is a perfect little island I would visit again for vacation. Great place to relax after my flights, and unfortunately my ear infection came back and more painful than the last. Luckily their was a clinic near by, and it didn’t cost me too much. Island life on painkillers and antibiotics isn’t so bad it turns out. 
It was because of my ear infection that all hopes of getting to Flores next were out the window. I had been looking forward to Mantarays and Shark dives for weeks. I will be planning a dive vacation to Flores at some point in my times over seas. Perhaps when I am in Australia, Asia will be in my ‘backyard’, after all.

After checking out Gili Air for four nights, and two nights on T, we were headed for Kuta. Our nights on T were fairly quiet as we were there for Thursday and Friday, which turns out to be the quietest days every week. Friday is religious day. 

Because of this we had our game face on for Skygarden. That place is too cheap not to return too, I was guilty of it on 3 separate occasions throughout my weeks on Bali. Plus, Anthony was headed home, so he had to go out with a bang! 

Thinking I would run far away from Kuta after one night, I ended up staying in Kuta and Semyniak for three more nights. And I am glad I did, as I was able to meet up with my Aussie girl, Emma. She and I had worked together in Calgary, when she moved home to Australia a week before I left. Turns out she had a weekend in Bali while I was there! It was a blast catching up and FaceTiming Cibo while we were poolside, drinking all the G&T’s of course. #cibroforlife

I also was able to meet back up with Natalie, Erin and Leanne. This was the third country our paths have crossed now. Leanne officially has be convinced I may move to Bristol and never want to leave. 

People always comment, ‘oh your travelling all these places alone?’ And look at me as if their sad for me. Fact is your never alone, and I enjoying every minute of making these new friendships. I can’t wait to go crash on everyone’s couches while I’m in Europe. When I do find myself alone for an evening or bus ride, I enjoy every momment of Jamie time. Same as if I was at home!