Las Vegas: The Series Top Tips for surviving Vegas!

I have just about recovered from my week in Vegas and have a few tips to share with you for surviving Vegas. Some of these are things I did and some of these are things I WISH I did!

HYDRATE

This seems so obvious because you should do this anywhere. Vegas is right in the middle of the desert, and even though I was fully aware of this before going and fully prepared to need extra hydration I was still surprised by HOW DRY Vegas was! I needed to drink so much more water than usual, my skin,my lips, my hair, even my nails were dry! Drinks lots and use a lot of moisturiser. Even when you escape the heat outside you’re still in Air Conditioned buildings which are just as drying. I live in England where A/C isn’t really needed so found the dryness very full on. I made sure I always had a bottle of water, lip balm and hand cream in my bag, as well as sun screen to top up through the day- this kept me hydrated enough until I got back to the room.

Suitable Clothes

I know a few people who have been to Vegas who all warned me how hot it was during the day here and to dress accordingly. Only one person told me it can get chilly at night- but she mentioned that she went in October. As I was travelling in May I took a light jacket but didn’t think I would need it. I was wrong, there were two nights when the wind was COLD and I was very thankful for the jacket. I suppose this is pretty standard “desert” weather and I wish I had maybe taken a pair of jeans for the evening in case of cooler weather! There was often a breeze right down the strip (both day and night) which was cooling in the day, but played havoc with dresses. Be wary of what you take because I had a few “Marilyn Monroe” incidents! Next time I would take fewer floaty dresses and more shorts!

Good Walking Shoes

This is sort of linked to taking Suitable clothes, but I made a mistake with the shoes I took with me! I read something this morning that said “everything looks closer than it is in Vegas” and it’s so true! I think because everything is so huge it looks close, but you don’t realise that it takes 10 minutes to get past each building! I took flip flops, two pairs of sandals and a pair of heels and my feet were in agony by the first night! The floor was burning my feet THROUGH the shoes and I desperately needed some support. I would definitely take a better pair of shoes to walk around during the day, something that offers at least some support. Hopefully it will save you ice baths for your feet and sleeping with them propped on pillows!

Use the Deuce/SDX

There are buses that run up and down the strip 24 hrs a day, the Deuce stops at each stop down the strip then goes all the way downtown to Fremont Street, the SDX runs late but not 24hrs, this goes up and down the strip (but doesn’t stop at every stop) as well as downtown, to the shopping outlets and to the Las Vegas sign (this is about a 15 minute walk past Mandalay Bay). I highly recommend this bus, its safe, clean and always runs, you can buy a 3 day pass for $20 (I think there is also a 5 days pass available), the passes are valid on the Deuce and the SDX. Taxi rides are really expensive up and down the strip ($20 from the Luxor to Caesers) so the bus is well worth the money!

Tix For Tonight

There are about ten stands for this company located up and down the strip as well as one on Fremont Street. They sell reduced tickets- usually for that night or the night after- to almost anything. You can get tickets to shows, attractions, excursions and dinners. We used Tix For Tonight to get tickets to the Titanic Exhibition in the Luxor (50% off), the Eiffel Tower at Paris ($8 off) and tickets to see Penn & Teller at the Rio (46% of) which also included transport from Harrah’s to the Rio. You can save some serious money here so check here before buying tickets to shows. We used the stand outside Planet Hollywood the most, but we did use stands by M&M World and the Linq too.

My Vegas Slots and My Vegas Blackjack

These are free apps to download onto your phone, you play either Blackjack or the Slots (this is really easy you just press a button) to win gold coins. The gold coins can then be used to redeem vouchers at any casino/hotel using the MLife reward system. You can get BOGOF buffet vouchers, free drinks, money off at Starbucks, show tickets or attraction tickets. This is a great way to save a little money, Vegas can get pretty expensive so every little helps! Something to be aware of which is buried deep in the Ts&Cs of this app is that if you have both apps your coins are combined (e.g. the coins shown at the top of your app are the combined total not what you have on each app) and you are only able to redeem 4 vouchers every 30 days, and the vouchers can only be redeemed while you are in Vegas as you need to go to an MLife desk (which are in the Casinos).

These were just a few things that I did or wish I did to make my stay in Vegas easier, cheaper or better. I hope these might be helpful to somebody who is going as I wish I’d seen some of these before I went. If you have any tips that you think I missed let me know becuase it would be good for me to know for my next trip!

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Las Vegas: The Series

I got back from a week in Las Vegas last week and its safe to say I had an amazing time. I’ve spent the last week recovering and catching upon my missed sleep!

I had this trip booked a while and it took a fair amount of planning and organizing.

Like I did with Thailand, I’m going to do a mini series on my recent stay to share with you.

Hidden Gems in Europe

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to travel Europe a little- even if only a weekend at a time. I also feel lucky to have stumbled across a few great places in Europe that may not get as many visits as others,I thought it might be nice to share some of them so other people might get the chance to visit them.

Duisburg, Germany

I might be a little bit biased as I actually lived here for 9 amazing months, this city has a bad reputation as being “ugly and industrial” but there is a lot of hidden beauty here. Not only is there a lot in the city itself, but the Ruhrgebiet is a great place full of history. Duisburg has fantastic transport links to the surrounding region and is 15 minutes from Dusseldorf and 40 minutes from Cologne. There are plenty of city centre hotels here, as well as a good hotel on Dellplatz, which is a few minutes away from Websters- the best place to get German food in the area, according to a German person!! If you do get to visit here make sure to visit Tiger&Turtle, The Landschafts Park and  The Innenhafen. There are plenty of museums here as well as the (not so) world famous MSV Duisburg football team if you’re into sports, GO ZEBRAS!

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One of the many beautiful sunsets I saw over Dellplatz.

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

I know this isn’t a “hidden gem” as it’s the capital city of Luxembourg but it’s somewhere I feel that people don’t visit that much- at least amongst people I’ve spoken to. I find it difficult to find flights to Luxembourg directly from the UK. This is another place that I got to visit courtesy of my Year Abroad as I had access to cheap rail travel and the bonus of only being 3 hours from Luxembourg. I visited here with a friend and it wasn’t until we arrived that we realised that neither of us had actually planned anything to do while we were here! This actually worked out for the best as we spent most of our time lost in this beautiful city and found some really interesting buildings. We eventually got onto the main tourist track and enjoyed amazing hot chocolates in the Chocolate House across from the royal palace. Definitely don’t miss the crypts and catacombs, these are really interesting and also offer amazing views of Luxembourg.

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Brindisi, Italy

This was a really lucky find for us. My sister and I try to get away on a “cheeky weekend” once or twice a year and usually go to Europe- somewhere we’ve never been before. We were in desperate need of a break early in the summer last year and were checking out cheap flights into Europe, we couldn’t settle on anywhere but Brindisi kept popping up on our searches. I did a little research and was completely taken in by the pictures alone. We decided to stay in Brindisi town (although Lecce is supposed to be good too and little more lively) the town itself is quite small but gorgeous, we stayed in the Hotel Buena Vista which is right on the sea front (the difference for a sea view room is worth it!). We spent our weekend strolling through the town, eating good food, and drinking good wine. Our hotel was amazing, it included breakfast at a local cafe (coffee and a croissant) the guys that worked there were really helpful and told us all about the town and where to find the nice beaches further up the coast (easy to reach via public bus). One thing to be aware of before visiting here is that very few people speak English here (we only found two people and they were tourists too!), we had a small italian phrasebook and between our terrible Italian and the english the people did know we got through it. Our time there was so relaxing and I really enjoyed actually feeling like I was seeing “Real Italy” rather than a touristy resort. There are lots of Roman History here and the architecture is gorgeous.

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Long Haul Flights: Must have Items

I’ve been on quite a few long haul flights- at least enough to know what I need to make myself comfortable on long flights. Its taken a lot of years, flights and trial and error and as I’m getting ready to take my longest flight yet at the end of this year (26 hours to Brisbane) I want to take an oppurtunity to share my must have items for flying long distances to keep yourself as comfortable as possible.

1.Neck Pillow

Investing in a good neck pillow can make a huge difference to your comfort on the flight, it’s the difference between an hour of light sleep and a few hours of proper rest. My neck pillow has extra support in the form of an extra “tier” and a drawstring to keep it snug around my neck. This really changed long haul flights for me and made the whole experience much more comfortable. My neck pillow was a (really good!) gift so I don’t actually know where to get them from but I did manage to find a picture of the pillow I have so you can see what it looks like.

Cabeau, evolution microbead

2. Eye Mask

As with a good neck pillow an eye mask can really improve the quality of the rest you get on a flight, I find I wake up a lot less with an eye mask during the flights. It’s especially useful to have an eye mask if you’re going to try to sleep through meal times like I usually do.

3.Hand Sanitizer

Let’s face it, aeroplanes are gross. They’re essentially a giant tube full of people and all of their germs. I always at least try to take hand sanitizer to use every so often through the flight especially after using the bathroom (door handles are dirty) and before eating. Not everybody has the same hygiene standards as you do and hand sanitizer seems to make the flights seem less disgusting.

4.Lip Balm

Aeroplanes really dry out my skin and I always end up with chapped lips, so i take a lip balm in my hand baggage to put on throughout the flight. I use a balm called Paw Paw by Papayagold, as it can be used on chapped skin in general so I put it on my undereyes too and anywhere else that I feel needs extra moisture.

http://www.superdrug.com/PapayaGold/Papayagold-Pawpaw-Moisturising-Balm-25g/p/905860?gclid=CPLut6b74tICFTgo0wodf7IJwg&gclsrc=aw.ds

5. Face spray

I know this is really high maintenance but I always take a face spray on a flight with me. Not only does it rehydrate your skin, but it also makes your skin look a little less dull. I like to spray my face when I wake up from a nap as it refreshes me and makes me feel more awake too. I used the Urban Decay B6 Vitamin spray (mini) for my last journey, but I’ve heard really good things about the body shop Vitamin sprays, so I might give them a try next time.

In general I try to organise my hand luggage to make the flight easier. I keep my liquids in the clear bag, all of my electricals in one bag and anything else I might need during the flight in another bag. I usually have everything in separate makeup bags in my hand luggage so I can take the smaller bags out that I need and put my larger bag in the overhead compartment (gives you a little bit of spare leg room too).

Happy flying!

 

 

Thailand: The Series. Future Plans

It’s the end of my Thailand series and I thought I would go over what I would do differently or what I plan to do next time I visit Thailand.

I plan on heading back in 2019 (talk about forward planning) as I’m heading to Australia over 2107/18 christmas and new year! I loved my trip in Thailand and I’m glad I did things the way I did, but having been there are few things I would do differently or would add in. I thought I would share a few of them here so it could help somebody else to learn from my “mistakes” or maybe get some suggestions for my next trip.

  1. Backpack

We took suitcases on this trip as we were staying in hotels and flying between destinations, although we didn’t experience any problems as such with taking suitcases I feel like it would be a little easier to take a backpack next time. It would make the ferry rides easier as getting the cases off the boat could be a bit of a challenge, although we always got offered help with our cases getting them to our rooms was also a bit rough depending on the “condition” of the floors. I feel like taking a backpack would also prevent overpacking, nobody wants to carry around unnecessary items on their back!

2.Sleep Aboard- Maya Bay

It was only after I got back to England that I found out about Sleep Aboard trips, I still have some research to do but I’ve got the basics. This trip takes you to Maya Bay in the evening as most of the other tourists are leaving. The boat docks out in the bay and you are taken to the beach by Long Boat. You have a BBQ and there’s music and a fire for you to get to know the people on your trip over. You can snorkel with the plankton and jump into the sea from the boat. You sleep on the boat and can see the sunrise from the bay, you have breakfast then return to Phi Phi Don where the trip runs from. This sounds like an amazing experience and is definitely something I will be looking into for my next trip.

3. Better footwear!

I made a bit of a mistake with my footwear and only took a pair of flip flops, one pair of cheap pumps from primark and two pair of sandals (one of which I didn’t end up wearing). Looking back I definitely needed a pair of “proper” shoes that would offer me some kind of support when I was walking! We did a lot of wandering around during our trip and I feel like my feet suffered for it, everybody knows the feeling when you’ve been wearing your flip flops for too long. I’ll make sure to pack some trainers next time!

4. Railay Beach

We stayed in Ao Nang on this trip, I enjoyed my stay there it was quite nice to wander around but it was almost an “anywhere resort”, walking through the streets of countless indian restaurants, McDonalds and Irish pubs it was quite difficult to identify this place as Thailand sometimes. That being said we did meet some lovely people here,in the quieter bars down the side streets. We will probably stay at Railay Beach next time for a more relaxed feel and “island vibe” to our time in this part of the country.

5.Stay within the Walls- Chiang Mai

I loved our hotel in Chiang Mai, it was beautiful, quiet and so relaxed it was almost horizontal. I do feel that we didn’t see much of Chiang Mai though and for that reason we will be looking to stay closer to the city centre this time and in a hotel that is less like a resort. Being walking distance to the main centre will mean we are free to explore a bit more and get a better feel for the city.

6. D.I.Y Full Moon Party

If you have had chance to read any of my other posts you will know that we booked our Full Moon Party as part of a package, this worked quite well for us and gave us piece of mind for our first trip to this part of the world. Having been to the party and stayed on Koh Phangnan we have seen how easy it is to organise our selves and we also have an idea of where we want to stay, we know a good ferry company to go with and will probably organise this ourselves so we have a bit more freedom with our time on the island.

7.Koh Tao

We didn’t have time to get to Koh Tao on this trip and only sailed past on our way to Koh Nangyuan, but it’s somewhere we would like to squeeze into our itinerary if we could. The snorkelling here is amazing so it would be good to get into the water here (I don’t think we’re brave enough for scuba diving).

8.Chiang Rai

We don’t think we will have chance to get to Chiang Rai on our next trip unfortunately, which is a real shame as we want to see Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple). We have come across a day trip that runs from Chiang Mai which will take us to see this and this is definitely something we will be looking further into as even just a glimpse of this place would be worth it.

9.Skincare

This is a bit of a weird one but I don’t feel like I went on my trip fully equipped for the weather and what it would put my skin through. I took a light moisturiser with me thinking it would be okay and feel like my skin paid the consequences for my mistake.  Next time I will be taking coconut oil with me as this has multiple uses and will hydrate my skin properly.

10.A different attitude

As this was my first trip to this part of the world I had no idea what to expect and it made me a little wary until I settled in. Next time I go I will know I’m going to a country with some of the kindest and friendliest people I have ever met. I will know that the food is nothing to be afraid of, and where to but the cheapest water! I’ll know what a good price is and when I’m being “scammed”, I’ll know how to get a good deal on what I’m buying and where to get the best massage! I’ll also go equipped with the basics in Thai so I can at least greet and thank people for their help! In general I will go with the knowledge that I’m going to a beautiful country full of amazing people and experiences and I can’t wait to dive into it headfirst.

Until next time Thailand.

 

Thailand- The Series. Must have items

As a chronic over packer for most trips I tend to take lots of unecessary items that never get used as I’ll find that something else I’ve packed is much more useful or suitable.

Here are a few things that I wouldn’t go back to Thailand without and would recommend you take with you.

1-Sarong

In most temples or religious buildings you are required to dress respectfully- shoulders and legs covered. Obviously Thailand isn’t know for it’s cool and breezy climate so it can be difficult to cover up all the time- especially for people from colder countries. A sarong kept in your bag is great for throwing over your shoulders or tying around your waist to be respectful. I also used a sarong to cover my shoulders or head on the ferry journeys we took to prevent (even more) sunburn and as a skirt when I had a hanger-related meltdown and didn’t want to wear my shorts anymore!! It can also be used as a beach towel which is much lighter to carry and quicker to dry, and obviously takes up much less space in your bag. If you don’t own a sarong, you should be able to pick one up from most markets.

2-Microfibre Towel

I picked up a large microfibre towel from Decathlon before going to take on trips as they are lightweight and can be rolled in your bag. As I was using my sarong to wear sarong i didn’t want it to get too covered in sand and sea water so used this instead. This became so handy as it dried so quickly, we took ours to the elephant sanctuary to dry off after our shower, on our snorkelling trip, on our island hopping tour and to Maya Bay to name a few.

These were relatively cheap and come in lots of colours, they also have a strap so you can roll it up and it will stay secure.

https://www.decathlon.co.uk/microfibre-towel-l-grey-id_8364540.html

3- Small Rucksack

We picked up a small 10L rucksack up from decathlon for £2.49, which came in handy when we were on our trips. The bags are designed for hiking so are lightweight and compact but big enough to carry water, sunscreen, a small towel and your camera and money. This saved us unpacking our bigger rucksacks everyday and meant that we didn’t have to carry anything too bulky around.

Even though these werre really cheap they were still really high quality, they come in lots of colurs and are machine washable.

https://www.decathlon.co.uk/arpenaz-10l-hiking-backpack-blue-purple-id_8331388.html

4- Aqua Bag

We bought a bag called an aqua pack while we were out there that turned out to be an absolute life saver. You could get them from most markets on the islands, they are a waterproof bag that rolls down and clips closed to keep your electricals safe from water damage. You can get them in a variety of sizes- I think we went for a 6L which we put all of our electricals in and carried our other things in our rucksacks. I believe you can buy these before you go but you will pay a lot more than you would in Thailand.

aquapack-dry-bag-7l
Photo Credit: Shields Paddling Co

5- Go Pro Float

This applies to any waterproof camera you might have. I would take mine into the sea with me on a wrist strap but also had a float attached to it should it slip off my wrist. Nobody wants an expensive camera full of memories at the bottom of the ocean.

I actually bought a variety pack on attachments and mounts for my GoPro from amazon, it wasn’t an official “Go Pro pack” but all of the attachments fit and work perfectly.

I can’t find the exact pack I ordered but this one seems to include all the same things, you get all of the basics, chest strap, head strap, wrist strap, stick, suction mount, float plus extra pins etc.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/ibn/Zookki-Accessories-Bundle-Camera-Accessory-Lightdow-DBPOWER/B01F6YOW94/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1485710812&sr=8-12&keywords=go+pro+accessory+pack

6- Covered Shoes

Three times I was grateful for my covered shoes in Thailand were: Temples- part of covering up, it is preferred to wear covered shoes in the complexes, slip on are the best as you take them on and off to go in the buildings. Walking- it saves on sunburned feet and they are much more supportive than flip flops. Full Moon Party- That beach gets gross, you’re practically barefoot in flips flops! I just took a pair of primark pumps that I didn’t mind if I ruined.

7- Black/ dark clothes

Our trip was around a month after Rama IX passed away and the country was in mourning- the official period of mourning will last for around a year (until at least October 2017).  We were warned to dress in dark colours as a show of respect, the Grand Palace in Bangkok especially were quite strict on enforcing this. You will notice a lot of Thai people still dressing in dark colours. We did notice a lot of market stalls selling black clothes had popped up.

8-Tiger Balm

If you don’t ave this before you go you can buy this while you are there from pretty much any pharmacy. This stuff can fix anything from aching muscles, headaches, congestion and bug bites! This saved my life and my legs when the mosquitoes used me as an all you can eat buffet on Phi Phi.

9-Portable  Charger

Not only was this geat for the flight over but once we were there we would charge this uo and throw this in our bag in case our phones or cameras got low on charge during long days out. There was no way I was missing out on getting some of those memories on camera! You can get these from most electrical shops, I actually picked mine up from TK Maxx and it was really cheap.

http://www.tkmaxx.com/gadgets+tech/gold-tone-dual-usb-power-bank/invt/36053108

10- Hand Sanitizer

I personally don’t travel without this, but was especially glad I had this with me this time. Some of the bathrooms still haunt me now, sinks and soap aren’t always standard  so it’s always nice to have a small bottle in your bag. I took this with me from home because I don’t fly without a bottle with me anyway!

Hopefully this might help with a few packing essentials for your trip. I know I definitely won’t go back without these things!

 

 

 

 

Thailand- The Series- Top Ten

I’ve read so many of these lists and watched so many videos and have always found it really interesting to see what different people see as the highlights of a country. Lists like this gave us a lot of ideas for our trip and I hope that this list might help somebody else too!
This list is only based on my opinion and I’m sure I missed something amazing out, narrowing it down to just 10 was difficult!

10. Ride a Tuk Tuk!
Such a typical tourist I know! I couldn’t resist the novelty though, and they are so much cheaper than taxis. We mostly used Tuk Tuks or walked to get around in Bangkok, yes some of the driving is a little “adventerous” but be sensible and use your common sense, if you feel unsafe don’t get in! Be prepared to haggle for your journeys and don’t be afraid to walk away if you’re not happy with the price. If you’re still a little unsure you can book organised Tuk Tuk tours which are regulated and the drivers tend to drive a little more carefully.

9.Try Thai Street Food
Even the weird stuff, you might never see this food again. Some favourites I tried were Pad Thai, buttered corn, spiral potatoes, spring rolls, rice cakes, Massaman Curry, fried rice, Pandan Custard and Steamed bread. There’s plenty of “mystery meat” and insects if you’re feeling brave too!

8. Snorkelling off Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan
The sealife here isn’t shy! You will find yourself completely surrounded by fish you have never seen. I personally found the snorkelling off Koh Tao the best (Mango Bay I think) for the variety of fish, but I did see some interesting animals off Nang Yuan too. You usually book a trip to here and get both destinations included meaning you get to explore Koh Nang Yuan- which is beautiful!

7. Temples
This might seem an obvious one, but the two I highly recommend are Wat Phrathat Doi Sutep in Chiang Mai and Wat Pho in Bangkok. I found the Temples in Chiang Mai to be very ornate with such amazing detail. The entire Wat Pho complex is packed with history, this temple is also open at night and is like a completely different place in the dark. Definitely try to get there if you can!

wat-pho

6. Phi Phi View Point
A big climb, but worth it for the view of both of Phi Phi Don’s bays! Take lots of water, sunscreen and mosquito repellent and take rests if you need them. Next time I climb this I’ll try to go in the morning to avoid the midday sun. View Point two is worth the extra climb too.

view-point

5. Pad Thai in Bangkok
Specifically from Thipsamai! A restaurant not far from the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, this restaurant opens in the early evening each day with people queueing from as early as 2pm! You can’t book at this restaurant and they only have three items on the menu, shrimp pad Thai served in omelette, shrimp pad Thai and vegetarian pad Thai, the food is cooked outside where you can watch the chefs work. The place is absolutely packed to the rafters, and locals even pay students to wait in line for a table for them! Make sure to try to orange juice too!

4. Night markets
One of my favourite parts of Thailand, the more locals the better! You’ll find everything you could possibly need here and at bargain prices (3 handbags for £2.50!) as well as some damn good food! Shop around and don’t be afraid to haggle, the stalls nearest to the “entrances” to the markets are usually more expensive.

3. Long Boat Ride
These boats are found at most beaches with the guys waiting to take you out on the water. Chat to a few and get some prices and set off sailing! This was by far my favourite mode of transport in Thailand. So stripped back, but so amazing. Almost every boat had life jackets if you are a little nervous on the water, so ask for one if you feel better.

long-boat

2. Maya Bay
The setting of The Beach, if you have watched this film you know why you should visit. We visited the bay twice, once on a speedboat tour and once again on a long boat. Pulling in to the bay will give you Goosebumps (imagine Pure Shores by All Saints playing too!). There are no words to describe this place, I’ll let the pictures show you and I promise there are no filters or photoshop here!! I personally recommend visiting on a long boat (if you’re staying on Phi Phi Don) and paying the fee to dock the boat, you get as long as you want then and can beat the crowds. We went at about 8:30 in the morning and there were very few people there. Perfect for the classic “jumping in the air” facebook profile picture.

maya-bay-2

1. Elephant Sanctuaries
As I’ve mentioned before doing your research is so important here, a camp may claim to be cruelty free while allowing you to ride the elephants and making them perform. Really take your time to make sure you don’t do anything you regret and really make the most of your time with the animals. Just being in the presence of them is overwhelming, watching them interact with each other and letting them interact with you. You’ll end your day tired, soaking wet, and covered in elephant snot but there’s nothing like it. There is a huge conservation park about an hour north of Chiang Mai with lots of camps in, do some reading and see what level of interaction you want with the elephants. Some of the rescue camps don’t allow you to get too close to the elephants as the elephants have a bad past with humans. If you’re not into diving in with both feet somewhere like this might be good. If you don’t mind climbing in the water with them and washing them then there are plenty of camps there that will let you do this. This is an amazing experience so make sure you enjoy your day!

elephants 3.jpg

Please share anything that you think I missed so I can add it to my list for next time!