We learned a lot about the plight of Thailand’s elephants and got up close to these amazing creatures during a trip to the Elephant Nature Park  - here's the story of our day there.

The Plight of Thailand’s Elephants

There’s a huge contradiction in the attitude towards elephants in Thailand; on one hand they’re revered as sacred animals that helped build the country and win wars but on the other, they’re beaten and abused in the worst ways. Historically, wild elephants were domesticated in Thailand for logging work, however, after this was banned in 1989 they became surplus to requirements and many were either abandoned in forests, sold over the border to Burma where logging is still legal or used instead to make money from tourists.
When Andrew and I first visited Chiang Mai in 2009 we were charmed by the surrounding forests and lush countryside, the bustling ancient city, the markets and book shops, the vegetarian restaurants, glittering temples and orange-robed monks. Even though I love big cities, especially my beloved London, I find Bangkok overwhelming and struggle with the dirt, heat and hassle. By contrast, Chiang Mai is much more appealing to me; it’s smaller and easier to get around, the climate is cooler and you can escape into the mountains on day trips whenever you like.
When you’re strapping yourself to a wire suspended hundreds of feet above the jungle floor preparing to launch yourself across the abyss, you want to be sure you’re not going to plummet to your death, right? Well, when we went zip lining in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I found myself seriously questioning the safety standards in place and with good reason.

Our trip to Thailand didn’t get off to the best start.

After an exhausting but incredible three weeks in the Philippines we bid a sad farewell to our mountain retreat in Sagada and headed back to Manila, excited at the prospect of meeting our friends and family in Thailand in just a few days’ time. As we settled down in our Manila hotel for a day of badly needed rest, Andrew received an email from Tiger Air. Our flight to Bangkok had been put forward to the early hours of the next morning and what’s more, we were due to leave from Clark airport – not Manila.Yes, that’s right - we were in the wrong city.
We were initially relived that we failed to obtain our 59-day visas for the Philippines as we'd heard that it was a tough country to travel through; reducing our trip to just three weeks also allowed us to visit Malaysia and explore Borneo too, which we loved. As it turned out though, we completely fell for the Philippines and it became one of our favourite countries. In fact, we loved it so much, especially the time we spent in Ifugao and Mountain provinces, that we plan to go back in April next year.
After splurging in Malaysia we were hoping to reduce our travel costs in the Philippines. We only had 21 days to explore but the Philippines turned out to be one of our favourite countries so far; the scenery in the mountain provinces of Luzon were unrivalled in their beauty and what’s more we managed to keep to a much better budget than in Malaysia. So, here’s how much we spent during our three-week Philippines travel experience.
How do you fancy squeezing through narrow gaps deep underground, wading through waist-high, dark water and slipping on slimy rocks with only a kerosene lamp and a local guide for comfort? Well that’s what we signed up for when we took on a dangerous but exhilarating caving adventure in Sagada, the Philippines.

After our exhausting trekking adventures in Banaue and Batad we were searching for somewhere to relax for a few days before leaving the Philippines. Luckily, we found the perfect place in the peaceful mountain town of Sagada; in fact, we loved it so much we didn’t want to leave – here’s why.

Ever heard the saying: Nothing worth doing is ever easy? Well, we’ve certainly learnt the truth of this sentiment since we’ve been travelling. As I noted in our six-month travel update, none of the most memorable experiences I’ve had so far on this trip have been easy; they’ve all been physically, mentally or logistically tough and have pushed me well out of my comfort zone. Our trip to Batad in the Philippines was another travel experience that drove me to my absolute limits but in doing so, I achieved a kind of strength I never knew I possessed.

We’ve seen some spectacular beauty so far on our travels; in New Zealand we encountered towering volcanoes and sparkling emerald pools on the Tongariro Crossing; vast shimmering lakes surrounded by cloud-capped mountains in Queenstown and patchwork fields studded by lush rolling hills in Golden Bay. In Indonesia we were again awed by huge fiery volcanoes when we visited Mount Batur and Bromo and hit paradise when we washed up on the golden beaches of the Gili Islands. None of these sights, however, prepared us for the extreme beauty we discovered when we travelled through the Ifugao and Mountain provinces of the Philippines.