Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

I love this city way better than Hanoi, the annoying capitol. People are nicer, and there’s so much to see.

A friend of a friend, Catherine, met up with me in Saigon. She is one of thirteen children, a Texas sweetheart and great fun.

We walked to the Ben Thanh Market which has tons of places to eat, fresh produce and souvenirs. Pushy vendors try to sell you anything you look at.  The chicken we got was excellent.

History time, off to the War Remnants Museum we went. It was super propagandist, but it was still pretty interesting. The Agent orange display was heart wrenching. Many generations were affected by chemicals that were dropped on Cu Chi to kill all vegetation so we could identify where the tunnels were. Exposure to this chemical caused health issues for generations to come. Baby’s were born retarded or without limbs.

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After the depressing display, we checked out the Bitexco Financial Tower, which is the tallest building in Saigon.  We made it just in time for happy hour on the 52 nd floor which is where they have a helicopter pad. It was night so we got a good view of there city all lit up. There were two other rooftop bars we checked out after, but the Financial Tower was by far the best as far as view and atmosphere.

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The next day we had to check out the Cu Chi tunnels and the Cao Dai Great Temple in Tay Ninh.  First we went to the Cao Dai Temple and arrived just in time for a service. Local attendees dressed in all white and some elders wore colorful robes. The music had traditional Vietnamese string instruments and pipes and a chorus. They worship the divine eye which knows all. They believe that there are 36 levels of Heaven and 72 planets. Number one being the closest to heaven and 72 nearest to Hell. Earth is number 68. Lol!!

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The Cu Chi Tunnels were next on our itinerary. I got to climb in one of the original entrances, which was super compact.

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We also got to crawl in a tunnel which made me feel claustrophobic about half way through. This tunnel was made bigger so tourist could fit and experience what it was like. During that time the Vietnamese were very tiny especially because of their diet. I wouldn’t be able to fit if it were any smaller.

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Back to the Viet Cong’s diet, they only ate potatoes to fill their stomachs, so eating an American soldier dog wasn’t out of the question. Americans used dogs to sniff out the tunnels because the entrances were camouflaged as ant hills, which were everywhere.  Sometimes a dog would get caught in a booby trap or would pass away. Soldiers would leave the dogs and the Vietnamese would eat the dogs. As you know, they still eat dog to this day.

They sure knew a thing or two about booby traps:

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We checked out a night market and got an excellent Vietnamese meal!

After we grabbed ice cream and ate it at the park where young teenagers hung out on their motorbikes and people played badminton. Two Spanish ladies, who just arrived to Saigon, approached us asking in Spanish where we were staying. They didn’t speak a lick of English, but we managed to tell them en espanol where to go and how much we were paying.

Tomorrow we head to Phnom Penh, Cambodia via bus.

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Mui Ne, Vietnam

This place is known for their fishing, sand dunes and kite/wind surfing.

Stayed at Xinchao with two lovely British girls that I met on the bus ride down from Nha Trang.  This hotel was super nice and had a pool 😉

Fishing boats = great sea food!!

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I walked along the beach after we got all settled and ran into a French guy I kept on running into. We walked to a delicious seafood restaurant where I got fresh shrimp, lobster and squid fried noodle.

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The next day, I went paddle boarding. It was so windy and choppy I barely went anywhere. Now I understand why its a great place to kite/wind surf. It was a good view out there because I could see the kite surfers up close. 

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Sand Dunes:

The fairy stream goes through the red sand dunes and has a little waterfall at the end.

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While walking through the stream I got offered to ride an ostrich for 100,000 Dong. I easily talked him down to 50,000 Dong (about $2 USD). After talking the price down and encouragement from the British girls I hopped on. Wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be until the owner ran and yelled behind the ostrich making him go faster.

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After that we went to the white sand dunes where you can rent a quad and ride around. I decided to sit that one out because I couldn’t talk them down in price and I’ve done it before in Pismo Beach, CA and got stuck a bunch of times and didn’t want the hassle. One of the British girls foot got ran over and her calf got burned by the exhaust when they were trying to get unstuck. She was such a trooper though and good thing we were with a Dutch Nurse who cleaned it for her.

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You also have the option to “sand board” which is more like sand sledding because you are given a flimsy sled that you cannot stand up on. I skipped this as well. It was too expensive and there were tons of people.

Instead of having a bear rug, why not have an alligator rug???

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That night we went to a place that had live music. Luca Mendoza, a Philippino, played the guitar and sang. He was pretty good and it was hard to understand the lyrics. Lol

I am off to catch a 1:30 AM bus to Ho Chi Minh City where I will meet a friend and we’ll go to Cambodia together 😉

Nha Trang, Vietnam

I got in at 6 am then found my hotel sao mia, which had a really nice dorm room. I would stay there again!

As soon as I could I booked it to the beach for the sun rise. Tons of locals were swimming because they don’t like to be in the sun so they swim early in the morning.

Then I went to book a snorkel tour that I was too late for so I did another tour that included snorkeling, visiting a fishing village and aquarium visit. I meet two Australian girls that were fun.

Snorkeling was OK…


There was a huge eel…

Fishing village…


Karaoke on the boat with a live band (the boat crew)…

I met a bunch of English guys that I ended up watching the Murray v Djokovik tennis match. They were crazy over Murray winning because Brittan hasn’t won this match for like 50 years.

It was a quick visit; now I’m off to Mui Ne.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is known for their tailoring, so I went to get a dress made. Didn’t turn out so great, so if you go make sure you get a recommendation from other travelers!

The beaches were nice. It is an easy bike ride away. An Bang was more chill so I liked that one the best. They had cute little boats.

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The downtown area is really cute, but the shops are pretty much all the same.

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I got a mango banana smoothie that was the best one I’ve had so far in southeast Asia! I also got squid which was super good!!

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Cao Lau, a local specialty, was a really good dish! One of my favorites so far.

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Don’t spend more than 2 days here!

Now I’m off to Nha Trang! Peace out!!

Phong Nha Ke, Vietnam

After Halong Bay, I back tracked to Hanoi to catch a sleeper train to Dong Hoi.  No one spokes English at the train station so there was a lot of sign language to get to the correct train.

My car had a young couple on the two top bunks and a business man on the bottom. He was super nice and communicated with me via Google translator. He also bought me a soup with raw eggs that we cracked and put into the soup. It was so good!

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When I woke I met a Canadian who has lived in Vietnam since 98 and an Irish couple. I shared a cab with them to the Phong Nha Farmstay, which has a beautiful view of the mountains and rice patties. There’s a little pool I took a dip in with some other Canadian girls that were celebrating Canada’s anniversary (July 1st). These girls bought motorbikes and started in south Vietnam and are working their way up north (opposite of me). They have gnarly scars from motorbike accidents and burns from their exhaust, but they will not quit and they are very determined to met their goal to make it to Hanoi. They are pretty incredible! Not many guys finish their motorbike trip!

The Farmstay didn’t have rooms available, so I stayed at Pepper home stay with the moto Canadian girls. They have a very open dorm room with a rice toilet. Ya that’s right instead of flushing you just cover it with rice shells. Lol.

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Yim, the owner is an excellent cook. Don’t judge me, but I tried dog that she prepared. I love dogs and it was really hard for me to get myself to do it. It tasted like roast beef.

That night there was a spectacular lighting storm above us. I’ve never seen anything like it. There were several different lighting bolts going off at different times. I snagged a picture from one of the Canadian girls because she got the best shots.

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The next day I rented a bike and rode around on the dirt roads. All the kids yell “ello” when i passed. They would try to stop me so I’d play with them.

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I rode over a river and went to the pub with cold beer. The owner kills a chicken prepares it on a BBQ. It was delicious

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The best part of Phong Nha Ke was a Tulan cave trek tour. This was no joke. The group trekked through the jungle and rock climbed to get to two caves.

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All geared up and ready to go

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One of the river crossings

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Entrance to the first cave

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Some rock climbing

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In the water

Inside there cave there were tons of bats squeaking and they would fly right by my face when I was swimming in the water.

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Tons of waterfalls in the caves

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There was a lagoon right outside of the first cave. This is where we had lunch and went for a swim.

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Lagoon break

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Jumping into the water

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Second cave had many limestone formations. We had a steep latter to climb down.

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Opening to the other side

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Huge spider eek!!

On the way back it started to rain, which made it so beautiful and cool.

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We saw an iguana on the way out.

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Iguana

This is the hugest web spider I’ve ever seen!!

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We made it! Beer time!

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Ryan (US), Glyn(UK), Daniel (US) and me

The next day i will head south to Hoi An.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

3 day/2 night junk boat tour/cruise in Halong Bay.

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On the deck of the boat

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On deck of the boat

Day 1: Hanoi to Halong Bay
The room and bathroom were nice.

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Visit Surprising Cave – this is very touristy, but was pretty cool to see the cave and all the limestone formations.

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Kayaking – the water was dirty and there weren’t that many caves to go under as promised.

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Swimming off the boat – this was my favorite. I got some exercise and a woman from a fishing village came up on little boat and sold us beers while we were in the water. The cruise ship was selling canned beer for 40,000 Dong which is $2 USD and the lady on the little boat was selling for half the price.  We’re not allowed to bring the booze on board because that’s how they want to make money, so we were safe drinking in the water 😉

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Left to right: Jon(UK), me, Levi, Eddie(Canada) and Henry (UK)

Squid fishing off the boat after din. I didn’t catch any, but some of the boys did. They squirted ink all over there deck.

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Lunch and dinner were surprisingly very good! We had excellent seafood and pork spring rolls we made ourselves.

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Day 2: Halong Bay – Cat Ba Island

Levi left to Cambodia and I stayed longer on the boat. I’m officially on my own 😀

I took a local boat to Lan Ha Bay where Monkey Island is located. Two monkeys fought over tourist food in a small tree and fell to the ground. I was really close to them so I ran away because I didn’t want to get in the middle of it. Swimming was fun.

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Next we went to Nam Cat Island for lunch. This place was really nice. It has about 20 bungalows on the beach and there are like three other beaches you can swim to.

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The bungalows were fully booked, so I took a ferry back to the boat in Halong Bay with all new people. But hey i got a room to myself 🙂 This group was pretty young and fun, but I still missed all the people I met on the boat the first time. A ducth girl that lives in Amsterdam, Sharon, was by far my favorite! Really fun to talk to.

I went kayaking and swimming to another island before I went back to the big boat.

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On the way back i spotted Pencil rock, I wonder when it will fall over:

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I discreetly bought two beers through my room’s window from another little boat. Hey I saved $2 bucks. That can go a long way in Southeast Asia

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Day 3:  Cat Back Island to Halong Bay to Hanoi
Cooking class while cruising back to the port. We made fried spring rolls. So easy, I want to make at home. Ingredients: rice paper, ground pork, carrots, cucumber, mushrooms, cooked rice noodles, eggs.

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Biking around Cat Back was supposed to be included, but somehow I didn’t make the list. Good thing I didn’t go because two guys told me it was lame and not worth it. I did get a refund for it. Only $5usd, but hey it was worth asking for money back.

Hanoi, Vietnam

I wasn’t even going to bother writing about Hanoi, the city I like to call hannoying.

Hannoying has the craziest drivers I’ve experienced so far in Southeast Asia. They use their horns for everything and anything and run red lights and hope for the best. Locals walk right into you and taxi drivers yell at you if you don’t use their services. 12:30 am is the public curfew.  Beggars beg for you to buy something from them.

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Good thing I’ve decided to find the good in every place I go even if i don’t like it. The upside simply came from two encounters I had at the Hoan Kiem Lake.

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I walked to the Lake and sat on a bench alone. A 17 year old Vietnamese boy approached me and asked if he could practice speaking English with me. At first I thought awe man here we go, this has to be some sort of a scam, so the first thing I asked was why do you want to practice English? He replied that his school doesn’t teach English very well. That made me a little more comfortable, plus he was a youngen. He spoke English pretty well and asked what a few words meant. In return, he helped me with my Vietnamese pronunciations for hello, goodbye, excuse me and thank you. Edwards is his English name and when telling me his name he said it was like the Edward in Twilight. I told him I was team Jacob and he laughed, so I think he got the reference. 

The second encounter occurred when another Vietnamese guy approached us and was speaking Vietnamese to Edward. He asked if he could practice with me too. Edward politely got up and said now it is his turn if you would like. I can’t remember his name because it was hard pronounce. He spoke pretty well and was asking all sorts of questions. He is majoring in finance so when he found out that I was in accounting he asked what the big 4 accounting firms ask in their interviews, because one day he’d like to work in America for one of them. He was big on trying to sound American, he said he wanted to have an American accent.

Another good thing was Bia Ha Moi beer, which is a locally brewed beer and the pho wasn’t bad. I really like the pho back home because there is more meat in it and it includes tripe.

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The Woman carry produce with two rattan baskets and a pole that crosses their shoulder. They cook on the ground on the sidewalks.

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So glad to be leaving to Halong Bay for a 3 day 2 night junk boat cruise.

Luang Prabang, Laos

The visa to Laos was fairly easy to get from Chang Khong. It was $36 USD.

Slow boating it to Luang Prabang on the Mekhong River. It is a two day boat ride. With cooler stocked with beer and lao whiskey we boarded our slow boat.

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Large lush Green mountains line the river with the compliment of colorful long boats. Stationary fishing poles with nets are set up on the rocks that line the river. Loud vortexes swirl in the middle of the river in some places. These can pull you under and drown you, so no one swims in the river.

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Our night stop is at Pag Beng. It is a super small town. Tons of people greet us at the dock to try to have us stay at our hotel or to carry our luggage for money.

3 Canadians, one American and a Brit make up my new friends. We ate and had some beerlao and shots of tiger loa whiskey.

Huge bugs with big wings start to fly up from a tree right outside the restaurant. There are tons and the local children swing and them and try to catch them. Easily caught in my hand, I throw one at an Australian boy.  He freaked out as it flew into his face. I’m really good at making friends, here’s a bug for your face! 😉

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Next day we head to Luang Pra Bang on a bigger boat. I gladly welcome the rain and allow the rain droplets to sprinkle on my face.

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There was a street market with tons of trinkets to buy.

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The next day, Levi and I both have major A.D.D. Once we’ll be looking for a book store then we’ll change directions to check out something else. We are just overwhelmed with everything. Food and puppies are just a couple of examples of our A.D.D. escapades.
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After wondering the streets in the rain, we stumbled upon a bar called Utopia. We had heard people talking about it previously, so we decided to check it out. This place has a cool outdoor lounge with mats you can lay on and take in the view of the muddy Mekong River. We order some Beerlao and some lao food. The loose parts of the hillsides would slide into the river.
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After that we played some beach volleyball court that was right by the bar. There were about 4 Lao guys that were really good. They were really short, but man did they have hops like you wouldn’t believe. They can get on top of the ball and kill it. This was really fun and it was a good workout.
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At night this town closes down at 11:30pm. Woow that’s early, right? Not to fear, everyone heads to the local bowling alley to continue the party. Locals play barefoot, so we did too.
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Hanoi is next on our itinerary. Flight was super quick and nice!
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Pai, Thailand

Major backpack community. Views are breathtaking. There are tons of cool bars.

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We got a free motorbike rental for an hour to look for a place to stay. Check out the gas station we stopped at for gas.

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Paiburee is where we landed. It says hostel on the big sign, but there were separate hut guesthouses. The A/C didn’t work well and there were tons of bugs. Thank god for my 50% deet spray!

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We motorbiked up one of the mountains and pulled over and hiked up to a beautiful view of the mountains of Pai.

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On the way back we stopped by a random river and crossed a bamboo bridge to rice fields. Bright red dragon flies hovered over the water and beautiful butterflies flutter around.

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Red dragon fly

Next we went to the Muang Pang Waterfall. There are three pools/levels. You can sllide down on the second and third level. I did the second level. The limestone slabs of rock were very slippery when wet. There was a local boy, about 6 years old, who instigated people to go down from a high point, which was really scary.

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Bottom of waterfall

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Butterfly hanging out at the waterfall

On the way to the waterfall,  woman would gesture with their hands and lips in a smoking manner, basically letting us know we can buy weed from them.

Next we Mini-bused from Pai to Chiang Khong. It left at 7pm and we didn’t get there until 2:30 am. We were told we’d arrive at 12 am. The hotel is right on the river where you can take a slow boat to cross to Laos. It will take two days.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

A lot slower paced, food here is really good. They are known for their vegetarian dishes.

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The red eye train ride from Bangkok to Chiagn Mai was rough. I slept on a top bunk and it was super rocky. I didn’t sleep a wink. Note to self get a bottom bunk next time! In the morning I went on the bottom bunk to take in the beautiful view of jungle.

We stayed at Baan Jaja the first night because the Awanna House wasn’t available until the next night.  I really like both places. Awanna is cool because it has a pool and a roof top deck you can hang out on.

We rode scooters to Mae Rim, which is north of Chiang Mai. After being lost for about 30 minutes and going back and forward on the rode 3 times, we finally came to our destination, Tiger Kingdom. It was about 5 pm, which is when they were super active and playful. If you want to be able to lay on the tiger you should go earlier in the day when they are sleepy.

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There were about 7 – 3 month old tigers in one cage. They were just beating each other up! Their paws were so big it reminded me how big they will get. Levi and I were allowed in the cage to pet them.

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The scariest part was going into a cage of 6 large tigers! Very intimidating. There were 4 handlers that would keep them in check by hitting them with a stick and making a Ceaser Milan “sstt!!” How that works, I have no idea! Its gotta be the training!!  A big one stared at me and I slowly stepped behind the handler. I swear it want to leap and play with me or maybe eat me because their feeding time was right after we got out of the cage.

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My favorite tiger was cross eyed. You never knew who or what he was looking at.

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After this experience, I realize this would never happen in the US. Too many lawsuits waiting to happen.

The next day we checked out the elephants 🙂

I rode a baby elephant in a river. Did I forget to mention I bathed him in the river and got to jump and stand on him? To top it off it was raining which made it so much cooler. We got a lot of time with the elephant because all the other tourist didn’t want to get wet. They missed out majorly! I think they had fun watching us try to balance on the elephant and of course falling into the water.

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I felt his tongue when I fed him bananas. So gross, but so cool at the same time.

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We also rode a big one and we got to fed her.

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There was a little baby elephant that the mother was very protective of. This little guy tried ramming me into a tree, he’s pretty strong.

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Go with Noi Nid Happy Toure Service, their half day elephant trek. It was an awesome experience! you can arrange to be picked up with Am Cool Travel. Lek will help you out. She speaks good English and is really helpful.

Next stop is Pai(4 hours north of Chiagn Mai). It is time to take my malaria pill because I will be in Laos, which has a low-risk malaria zone, in 2 days.

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