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Weekend Surprise Getaway: Hobbit Style

Weekend Surprise Getaway: Hobbit Style

In September, I set up a surprise getaway for my husband. All he knew was that he needed to take the Friday off of work because it would be a three-day adventure. On the Friday of the trip, I woke my husband up with a clue. The clue read:

“You have been chosen to participate in a special quest where you will encounter mystery, surprises, and maybe a dragon or two. There are many riddles you must solve, they lead you to our vacation. Think long and hard to solve the clues, or you’ll never find the location.

First we must get our strength up… with an easy one, I pray. What is the first meal of the day?”

Of course, he guessed the answer right away: Breakfast. The next clue brought us up to Alderwood Mall where I got coffee and he got Jamba Juice for our drive. See the clue in his hand? You can kind of tell in this picture that it’s on parchment paper and burnt around the edges. I made all of the clues in this style. 🙂Clue time!Another clue led us to Home Depot in Bothell, WA. While he had a lot of fun and spent 30 minutes browsing and talking to staff about a garage project he wants to do, he was most definitely confused as to why we were there! Home Depot is one of his favorite stores, so I figured it would put him in good mood and get us on the way towards our destination.

Home Depot

As I promised, we were going to see a dragon or two as part of this adventure! We ended up at The Reptile Zoo in Monroe, WA. There is a “dragon” in one of the enclosures, but there are also a lot of iguanas, snakes, turtles, and an alligator. Bilbo meets Smaug in The Hobbit, so we were definitely going to do something similar.

Iguana!

After the reptiles, the next clue led us across the parking lot to this BBQ bus for lunch.

BBQ Bus

The clues went on and led us towards the destination – a hobbit hole in Orondo, WA near Lake Chelan. Both of us are HUGE Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans, so when I found this Airbnb rental, I knew I had to take a weekend and surprise him. He figured out where we were going about 10 minutes before getting there, which was the plan. We listened to some Hobbit movie music to get us in the right mindset and arrived at the hobbit hole.Tiny House in the Shire, Orondo, WAThere was a bit of a hike from the parking area to the hobbit hole, but we got everything up there. I had to bring a lot of stuff for a two night stay since this rental has no kitchen. I pre-cooked everything, brought cooking supplies and a camp stove to heat it up, and a cooler to keep the food fresh. It was definitely worth it though, I felt like I was in Hobbiton!Tiny House in the Shire, Orondo, WAMy husband brought his new video quadcopter on the trip because I told him he’d want to, and he spent some time flying it around and taking video of the valley. See? He’s totally in his happy place. 🙂Tiny House in the Shire, Orondo, WAHere is the view from the hobbit hole – quite magnificent! As you can tell, no one lives around the hobbit hole so it’s very much out of the way and secluded. It’s also off-the-grid with solar electricity and a propane tank water heater. There is a jug of water hung on the wall that they refill for drinking water.Tiny House in the Shire, Orondo, WAAnd another view from within the house.
Tiny House in the Shire, Orondo, WAWe stayed at the hobbit hole for two nights and I created an entire hobbit meal plan. You know… with breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper. We ate all day and spent time watching The Hobbit Trilogy on my laptop. We then went into Chelan for afternoon tea, and played some games and continued watching the movies.
Tiny House in the Shire, Orondo, WAHobbits love games and so do we. I brought a selection of games and we played a couple of them throughout the day as well as using the chess set that was provided.
Hobbits love games!The hobbit adventure was definitely a success and a surprise for my husband. I can’t believe I pulled it off without spilling the beans! I never can keep anything from him!Tiny House in the Shire, Orondo, WAIn the next few posts, I’ll show you how I created the awesome clue sheets with burnt edges and the hobbit meal plan that I created for our getaway. Please subscribe (on the right side of the page towards the top) if you’d like to see more posts like this!

What do you think of this Airbnb rental? Would you like to live like a hobbit for a weekend?

Day 3 in Iceland: Volcanic Veins Tour

Day 3 in Iceland: Volcanic Veins Tour

For our third day in Iceland we went on a “Voclanic Veins” caving tour with Extreme Iceland. This was my second favorite part of the trip! It started out with an hour long bus ride in which the tour guide pointed out what we were passing by and told us stories. He let us know that many Icelanders still believe in invisible elves that were a part of their belief system hundred of years ago. People paint doors on rocks all over the Icelandic countryside!

Anyways, after an hour of fun stories, we arrived here:

Volcanic Veins Tour, Iceland| Reflections of Happiness

And descended into this cave:

Volcanic Veins Tour, Iceland| Reflections of HappinessThe tour was quite fun. We had helmets, flashlights and gloves to protect us and make it so we could see. I definitely bumped the ceiling a few times and there were moments where we had to scramble/roll through a section no more than 2 feet high. Volcanic Veins Tour, Iceland| Reflections of HappinessIn the very back of the cavern, our tour guide had us all turn out our flashlights and stand very still for a period of a few minutes. We let our eyes adjust and realized that they wouldn’t every adjust because we were in “total darkness.” Of course, our group being awesome started talking about how this could be a great title to some sci fi movie. Then once we turned on our lights and started moving again…
Volcanic Veins Tour, Iceland| Reflections of Happiness …we found this totally alien looking sculpture hanging from the ceiling!Volcanic Veins Tour, Iceland| Reflections of Happiness

The cave portion of the day actually didn’t take all that long, but it was so fun to explore and see an actual lava tunnel.

Part of the reason why I loved this tour company was  the tour guide and his stories. On the way back, he had us stop at a fish bone drying farm (at least that’s what I called it.) Apparently they dry the fish/bones out and then grind it up into powder.

Fish Bone Drying Farm in Iceland | Reflections of Happiness Fish Bone Drying Farm in Iceland | Reflections of Happiness

After a short break when we returned (since it was only 1 pm), we went out into the city to explore. We went to the church in town and took a peek inside. If you pay a small fee you can go all the way up to the top of the tower! There was quite a nice view from up there.Reykjavik Church | Reflections of Happiness

We had dinner reservations at a very nice restaurant called Fridrik V, which I’ll cover in another post. While we waited for the reservation, we went to a museum that all the tour guides thus far had told us to visit: The Icelandic Phallological Museum. I’ll let you figure out what is displayed there… but the picture below will help you understand our reaction to all the various specimens from many different animals. Ha!At the Phallic Museum in Iceland

Day 2 in Iceland: Golden Circle Tour

Day 2 in Iceland: Golden Circle Tour

On our second day, we did the Golden Circle Tour with Icelandic Guided Tours. I will admit that this was the hardest day of our four days in Iceland – all because it was pouring most of the day and we were soggy the entire time. It was a bit hard to stay cheerful. That being said, I loved seeing the sights and we managed to have some fun. The tour company was also fantastic: great tour guide and small tour group.

 

Here is my husband standing on two different continents! It’s a lovely fake lava floor below him…Golden Circle Tour, Iceland | Reflections of Happiness

This is the first of the waterfalls we saw. It’s much tamer and smaller than the second one!Golden Circle Tour, Iceland | Reflections of HappinessThis first waterfall was beautiful however and we all were able to walk very close to it.Golden Circle Tour, Iceland | Reflections of Happiness

Then we went to the whole point of the tour: the geyser! I managed to capture this awesome image:Golden Circle Tour, Iceland | Reflections of Happiness

The geser only goes every 5-10 minutes, and it was freezing. We almost gave up to go back into the warmth of the bus before this happened.

This is the second of the waterfalls:
Golden Circle Tour, Iceland | Reflections of Happiness

I don’t remember where this was… but you can tell how cold my husband was while on this walking portion of the tour! I image that it’s much nicer when you either have a parka or it’s not raining with wind chill.Golden Circle Tour, Iceland | Reflections of Happiness
Iceland is just so incredibly beautiful. We met some folks who were doing the whole ring road over the course of 2 weeks. They rented a car, got an itinerary from a tour company, and were going on their own all the way around. Sounds so interesting!
Golden Circle Tour, Iceland | Reflections of Happiness We returned from the tour at about 5 pm and were starving. We walked around until we found a restaurant we liked the look of called Le Bistro. I remember the meal was fine (it was okay but nothing special)… but this chocolate mousse was divine!!
Le Bistro Restaurant, Reykjavik, Iceland | Reflections of Happiness

In  all, our Golden Circle Tour day was well worth it, but I can’t wait to try it again the next time we visit… if the weather improves! The next post will cover Day 3 in Iceland: Volcanic Veins Tour.

Day 1 in Iceland: Blue Lagoon

Day 1 in Iceland: Blue Lagoon

At the very tail end of our Around the World Trip, my husband and I took a four-day stopover in Iceland. If you haven’t heard, Icelandic Air makes a nice stopover where you can spend extra days in Iceland at no extra charge for your flights. They basically treat it as a layover rather than a new flight. We decided to spend four nights in Iceland and fill up the days to make the most of it.

(By the way… our Around the World Trip was 8 months ago! I’m terrible at getting these finished. Soon, I promise!)

Iceland is very expensive. If you choose to go, be prepared to spent money of hotels, rental cars, excursions and meals. Since we were going to do excursions every day, we opted for a car and driver from the airport rather than a rental car. It also made it easy since our flight landed at 2 AM. There are not many hotels in Iceland and if you do, you will end up spending even more. I highly recommend a guesthouse – you can find many options on TripAdvisor. We stayed at Our House Guesthouse (which are currently rated as the #3 place to stay in Iceland on TripAdvisor) and had a marvelous time. They’ve just switched to having an up charge for breakfast, which they didn’t have when we booked the room, so we ended up getting breakfast for free. Breakfast consisted of cheese and meat, fruit, croissants and milk/juice/coffee. Very simple, but I highly recommend it unless you want to go spend just as much (or more) buying your own breakfast from the grocery store!

We slept in our first day in Iceland and had a mid-day pick up to go to the Blue Lagoon. I figured that it was a “must see” place, and a perfect way to spend our first day here, since we’d be so tired from the flight and the rest of the trip. The blue lagoon is pretty cool, but expensive. I wouldn’t recommend spending extra on massage or other add-ons.. just pay for entrance into the lagoon and enjoy water and steam. Also, be sure to explore the walking path outside the entrance to the Blue Lagoon (that part is free).Blue Lagoon | Reflections of HappinessWe were both bundled up and fairly cold still as we wandered around. It’s hard to pack for both 100+ temperatures and 30-40 degree temperatures in one trip and still fit it into a single suitcase per person! We probably could have had an extra layer of clothes to make our excursions a bit more comfortable.Blue Lagoon | Reflections of HappinessIsn’t the water so cool looking?Blue Lagoon | Reflections of HappinessIt’s just so blue!Icelandic Flowers | Reflections of HappinessEvery once in awhile, we also found these small flowers. It’s amazing that they’re growing through the rocky patch and in the cold temperatures!Blue Lagoon | Reflections of HappinessIn all, the Blue Lagoon was worth it for us so we could have a nice break before starting the real excursions the next day. There are other lagoons around Iceland that are free, but we didn’t get to check any of them out.

After the Blue Lagoon, we came back to Reykjavik and went to Kol Restaurant. We enjoyed a 5-course meal and mocktails, which ended up being well over $100 USD. As I mentioned earlier… Iceland is expensive. Another meal we had a few days later was $75 for just entrees. Anyways, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Kol Restaurant.Photo Jun 07, 6 03 03 AMI can’t remember what all the dishes were (I need to learn to take pictures of the menu as well as the food!) I believe this is white asparagus:Photo Jun 07, 6 13 01 AMSome kind of raw fish:Photo Jun 07, 6 30 40 AMAn entree fish dish:Photo Jun 07, 6 52 14 AMAn entree meat dish:Photo Jun 07, 6 52 26 AM

Dessert:Photo Jun 07, 7 08 59 AM

This was the end of our first day in Iceland. In the next post, I’ll talk about day #2 – the Golden Circle Tour and Le Bistro Restaurant.

Baha’i Pilgrimage – Part II

Baha’i Pilgrimage – Part II

If you missed the first Baha’i Pilgrimage post  I wrote last week, please click here. Starting where we left off:

Our pilgrimage group visited the archives building the next morning and saw original tablets written by Baha’u’llah and other items of significance to the Baha’i Faith. It was very cool to see the artifacts and clothing that was actually used and worn during that time. We also spent time that day walking around the Baha’i World Center.Baha'i World Center | Reflections of Happiness

Baha'i World Center | Reflections of Happiness

Baha'i World Center | Reflections of Happiness

Baha'i World Center | Reflections of HappinessWe took the remainder of the day to rest before leaving for Bahji at 9 PM for the holy day celebrations for the Ascension of Baha’u’llah. We spent our time socializing and drinking caffeine, praying at the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, and visiting the Mansion of Bahji and the room that Baha’u’llah passed away in. Just before 3 AM we made our way to chairs outside in an arc around the Shrine of Baha’u’llah. The program, full of quotes and prayers, lasted about an hour. Following the program, all the people in attendance at the event (probably 700 to 800 people – all the pilgrims and those serving at the Baha’i World Center) circumambulated Baha’ullah’s shrine on the circle path in silence.

The next day of our pilgrimage was a free day, so we slept in and rested most of the day while also spending time at the Baha’i World Center. The following morning, I was so happy to meet up with my husband’s friend who’s currently serving in Haifa. He and his wife had us over for breakfast and we met their two kids. We were dropped off back at the Baha’i World Center where we met up with other friends and headed to Akka for a walk and then went to the Junayn Gardens and back to Bahji. I took way too many photos in both of these locations. Here are a few of my favorite flower pictures:Junayn Garden, Baha'i Faith | Reflections of Happiness

Junayn Gardens, Baha'i Faith | Reflections of Happiness

Junayn Gardens, Baha'i Faith | Reflections of Happiness

Gardens at Bahji, Baha'i Faith | Reflections of HappinessGarden of Bahji, Baha'i Faith | Reflections of HappinessThe next day of pilgrimage was another early start. We got to the bus around 8 AM to go to the House of Abdullah Pasha in Akka. This was the house where The Bab’s body had been taken and hidden before he was enshrined at the Baha’i World Center. It was great to wander this huge house and see how they lived. The photo below really makes me laugh. It was in the courtyard of the house and it most definitely looks like a surprised face!
Akka, Baha'i Faith | Reflections of Happiness

The next day, we took a walk on the Arc Path at the Baha’i World Center and learned more about all the various departments that run World Center. There is so much happening every day!

Baha'i World Center | Reflections of HappinessBaha'i World Center | Reflections of HappinessBaha'i World Center | Reflections of Happiness

Baha'i World Center | Reflections of HappinessOn our last day of pilgrimage, we visited Bahji for the last time and said farewell to all the other pilgrims. It was a wonderful trip and we’ve made many lifelong friendships. I can’t wait to go visit a few of them!Baha'i World Center | Reflections of HappinessOur pilgrimage truly was incredible. There are no words to describe some of the emotions and experiences I had. I can’t wait till our next visit!Baha'i World Center | Reflections of Happiness

 

Baha’i Pilgrimage – Part I

Baha’i Pilgrimage – Part I

IMG_0530.JPG

The reason we went on our around the world adventure was to go to Haifa, Israel for pilgrimage. Just like pilgrimages for other religions, the Baha’i pilgrimage is a time to pray and meditate in holy places for the religion. When deciding which dates to go, we quickly agreed to visit Haifa in the end of May because the pilgrimage would be one and a half days longer due to the holy days (The Declaration of the Bab and Ascension of Baha’u’llah). Our one year anniversary also fell within the dates of the pilgrimage, which we thought was very special.

It was an especially meaningful trip for my husband since it was the first time he returned to Haifa since he was thirteen. He had been in Haifa throughout childhood. Coming back and seeing the places he grew up was amazing. It was heartwarming to see his reaction to each place we visited.

We stayed at the Apartment G38, just a short walk from the Baha’i World Center. I cannot say enough good things about the apartments. We had a kitchenette, free laundry in the basement and the owners were very receptive. They even gave us a cell phone to use while we were there! Best of all, the bus for our pilgrimage group made a stop right outside the apartment every morning, so we didn’t have to walk to the Pilgrim House.Baha'i World Center, Haifa, Israel

We checked into the apartments in the afternoon and took a quick rest before walking up the hill to the Baha’i Pilgrim House to check in for the Declaration of the Bab celebration. We had some extra time before the event started, so we walked over to the shrine where The Bab’s and Abdu’l-Baha’s remains are housed. We spent about thirty minutes meditating and praying in the rooms. It was incredible – I felt so at peace and filled with love the moment I entered the shrine.

Shrine of the Bab - Baha'i Faith

Baha'i World Center

We then went to the refreshment period before the program began. It was quite fun to meet all those new people and some of them even recognized my husband from his childhood! It was so interesting because we’d meet someone, they’d read my husband’s name tag, do a double take, shout/cry, hugs all around, and then they’d figure out that he was now married, and there’d be shouts/cries again and hugs all over again.

Anyways, eventually the program for the Declaration of the Bab began. I was having a little trouble staying awake, even though my mind was totally engaged with the program. I realized partway through that it might be a low-blood sugar thing because we forgot to have dinner! I don’t do well without snacks, and it had been a full eight hours without anything. Whoops. It was a good reminder, however, to bring snacks with me every day. After the program, we walked back to our apartment, ate a snack and went to bed; ready to get up early the next morning for the start of pilgrimage!

When we went to check in the next morning, we ran into one of the other pilgrims we met the night before. We checked in together and asked to be placed in the same group. (I’m glad we did, because our pilgrim group was a lot of fun!) The orientation was simply a video and then all the pilgrims went to the shrine to hear the Tablet of Visitation be read. After that, I stayed for nearly an hour to pray on my own. It was funny to me because when I left, I didn’t realize so much time had passed!

For dinner that night, we went with some new friends to the Allenby Restaurant. Allenby Restaurant is my husband’s childhood favorite restaurant. I think we ate there 3-4 times in the week and a half we were in Haifa. It actually was very good; their lemonade is amazing! Best I’ve ever had. Food at the Allenby Restaurant, Haifa, IsraelOur second day of pilgrimage was spent in Bahji. Bahji is where the Shrine of Baha’u’llah is, as well as the Mansion at Bahji, and acres of beautiful gardens. When we arrived, the Tablet of Visitation was chanted in Persian and it was so beautiful. I spent time in the shrine thinking about many things: my husband and I, some friends who had recently been married, other friends who had just had a baby, other expecting their second child, and so on. After exiting the shrine, I walked a large path (the circle path) with a new friend. The path took about 20 minutes to complete and it was wonderful to get to know someone new.
Path from the Bahji Visitor Center to the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, IsraelA portion of the Gardens at the Shrine of Baha'u'llah in BahjiThe next day was a long day, but a wonderful one. We first visited the prison city of Akka, where Baha’u’llah was kept for a period of his life. We visited the prison cell and prayed; walked the city; and visited the House of Abbud where Baha’u’llah’s family lived for many years. The caretaker at the House of Abbud gave us all tea and cookies, just like Baha’u’llah’s family would have if pilgrims came while Baha’u’llah was in the prison. Within the prison where Baha'u'llah was kept in Akka, Israel.IMG_0512.JPGLater in the day, our bus was very late to take us to the second part our excursions for the day. It was 104 degrees and we stood in the shade for nearly two hours before the buses arrived. Apparently, traffic can be a real issue in Haifa. We were all relieved when the buses finally showed up and we were taken to the Garden of Ridvan. The garden is surrounded by water, filled with fruit trees and flowers. We were able to eat oranges and take as many as we wanted with us!Garden of Ridvan, IsraelAfter our snack at the Garden of Ridvan, we went to the Mansion of Mazra’ih, which was another site where Baha’u’llah and his family lived for a period of time. The house was beautiful, and so were the gardens. Mansion of Mazra'ihFlowers at the Mansion of Mazra'ih, Baha'iMansion of Mazra'ih, Baha'iWe finished the day by returning to the Mansion of Bahji for a few hours and then getting some much needed rest.

Next week’s Travel Tuesday post will be about the second half of our pilgrimage!

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Travel Tuesday: Jaffa, Israel

Travel Tuesday: Jaffa, Israel

After leaving Thailand on our Around the World Adventure, we flew to Israel for Baha’i Pilgrimage in Haifa. I happen to have a cousin who lives in Tel Aviv, so after landing in Tel Aviv, she picked us up to spend the day with us before seeing us to the right place to catch a ride on a public sherut (like a small bus) to Haifa.

We went back to her place and met her husband and some of her kids, took showers, and then headed out to Jaffa.Jaffa, Israel: Reflections of HappinessJaffa is an ancient port city, and is one of the oldest parts of Tel Aviv. It’s famous because of it’s association with certain biblical stories like those of Solomon and Jonah, but today is a place that you can wander and see street artists!Jaffa, Israel: Reflections of HappinessWe walked through the streets of Jaffa by the water and found a lot of really cool architecture.Jaffa, Israel: Reflections of HappinessThere is also a wonderful view of downtown Tel Aviv!Jaffa, Israel: Reflections of HappinessMy husband got excited by the boats, of course! Right around this area was a space that has been turned into an art gallery. There was some really interesting art by students in the area as part of the free exhibit.Jaffa, Israel: Reflections of HappinessWe also enjoyed watching this fire guy walk across broken glass… and then drop his flame throwers. 🙂Jaffa, Israel: Reflections of HappinessLastly, these street musicians were awesome! Really great music – I think we watched for about 10 minutes and were totally entranced.

Jaffa has a really cool feeling to it – it was fun to walk around for an afternoon. There also seemed to be a few restaurants around, but we didn’t try any of them. If we go back, I’d love to try some of the restaurants and explore Jaffa a bit more.

Travel Tuesday: Last Pictures from Thailand

Travel Tuesday: Last Pictures from Thailand

Some of my favorite pictures from Thailand didn’t make it into any recap posts, so I’m going to do a picture post with my favorites, all of which happen to be from Koh Phi Phi!

Empty reservoir with the view of the ocean:Favorite photos from my trip around Thailand | Reflections of HappinessView from Phi Phi point:Favorite photos from my trip around Thailand | Reflections of HappinessView from town:Favorite photos from my trip around Thailand | Reflections of Happiness

Scuba diving:Favorite photos from my trip around Thailand | Reflections of Happiness

Snorkeling to the island and walking from the backside of the island to where “The Beach” was filmed:Favorite photos from my trip around Thailand - the cove on the other side of the island from where "The Beach" was filmed!| Reflections of Happiness

Delicious crepes with banana and nutella: Thailand treat - a crepe with nutella and banana! | Reflections of Happiness

Gorgeous sunsets:

Favorite photos from my trip around Thailand | Reflections of Happiness

 

Travel Tuesday: Elephant Adventures!

Travel Tuesday: Elephant Adventures!

Last week, I began to talk about our Elephant Day Trip we took from Bangkok. I covered the part leading up to the elephants: floating markets, River Kwai and lunch. Today, I’m just going to share a few photos from our Elephant Adventure!

First, I want to say: I thoroughly enjoyed our time with these lovely, intelligent creatures. I’m glad that my research found an organization that seems to be treating them right – we saw no signs that the animals were mistreated. If you’re going anywhere that has an experience with animals, please take the time to do the research to ensure that the animals are treated with respect and love!Elephant Adventures in Thailand! | Reflections of HappinessWe arrived at the elephant camp and everything seemed to be just fine. I had done a little research before we went to learn more about elephants and I found that elephants flap their ears for one of two reasons:

  1. They are hot and trying to cool off.
  2. They are expressing their joy and excitement.

Elephant Adventures in Thailand! | Reflections of HappinessWe first took an elephant ride around the forest, and our elephant seemed happy enough (it wasn’t a terribly hot day, so I assume the ear flaps were from happiness.) It was fun, but not super exciting. The excitement happened next!

We got bareback onto a pair of elephants and they made their way down to the water. It was rather terrifying for a moment because the path was fairly steep. I had to hold myself up so I didn’t tumble forward and off of the elephant. We eventually made it into the river.
Elephant Adventures in Thailand! | Reflections of HappinessWe spent nearly 45 minutes playing with the elephants in the water. They tossed us into the water off of their trunks, splashed the water around us and used their trunks to shoot water at the human who wasn’t riding them. It was absolutely incredible to play with these elephants; they truly do have a sense of humor and laugh when they are amused! Elephant Adventures in Thailand! | Reflections of Happiness

Travel Tuesday: Floating Markets and River Kwai

Travel Tuesday: Floating Markets and River Kwai

Before leaving Thailand, we took a one-day excursion out of Bangkok called “Extraordinary Elephants Day Trip” with Bangkok Day Tours. It was such a cool experience and full-day, that I’ll break it all down into two posts. Today I’ll be covering everything except the elephants.

I researched 3-4 excursions with animals in Thailand, and this was the only one that I was okay with. You have to be so careful when thinking about an excursion with animals – do you ever really know how the animals are treated? After careful research, the other options were not something that I wanted to support. From reviews, it seems that the Extraordinary Elephants Day Trip was mostly positive – people on Trip Advisor were saying that it looked like the elephants were fairly well treated. I’ll speak more about our elephant experience in the next post.

Today, I’ll be discussing the rest of the adventure. The total price of the excursion was about $300 total for the two of us. While it was a bit pricey for Thailand, it was an amazing deal! We were picked up at 7 AM by our tour guide and driver in a decked out Sprinter van and we were the only ones. They were our private tour guide and driver! The van was incredible: the seats reclined completely flat, we had air conditioning that we could control from the back, a water chest, bag of snacks and more.

After about an hour and a half, we arrived at the floating market. Our tour guide Molly taught us how to bargain and what to expect. She told us to that if we wanted to buy anything, we should only buy a few items on the floating market, because we’d have a better opportunity to make purchases later.(null)The first thing that we purchased (at about 9 in the morning, mind you) was a coconut filled with coconut ice cream for my husband. It was delicious!(null)There were a ton of tourist floating in the river, but there were also locals, such as this guy:(null)And this monk who didn’t look too happy:(null)We floated for about an hour and bought a few things including a mask for my parents and some saffron. Afterwards, Molly took us over a bridge and to the street market. Speaking in Thai, she spoke with each of the merchants we visited with. She basically said “we don’t have time to haggle – what is the Thai price?” We bought fun souvenirs like pants for myself with elephants on them, artwork and some wooden kitchen spoons. Molly did a great job. The artwork was 1/2 the price with her help than the price we were given on the water while haggling!
(null)After we finished the market, we were taken to the River Kwai, about an hour and a half away. We went to the Floating Restaurant before heading to the Bridge. The restaurant was delicious and quick: a buffet with almost every traditional Thai entree that you could want. They also had delicious dessert.(null)Here is the view of the bridge from the Floating Restaurant:(null)And then here is a photo from on the bridge:(null)One of the best things about this excursion is that, in addition to telling us history and talking about where we are, Molly would take my camera and take pictures of us everywhere.(null)After walking along the bridge over River Kwai, we got back in the van to head to the elephant part of the day… which will be continued next week!

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