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_Today we went to the Dante Elephant Reserve.  We woke up at an unGodly hour (7:00 in the morning) and got picked up by Mr. Big (yes, like the chocolate bar) and he drove us to the reserve.  In the car with us was a guy named Richard, from Holland.  Richard sat in the front with Mr. Big, Mom and Dad were in the middle and Allegra and I sat in a makeshift back seat that was the trunk. There was zero leg room and the seat was six inches off the floor of the SUV.  When we got there the first thing I did was climb out of the back and stretch my legs because they had fallen asleep for so long in the car that they were probably in a coma.  I massaged my calves for a second and then looked up and that is when I saw the elephants.  They were actually bigger than I was expecting and they were doing what elephants do best: eating.  I could see about six in total but Mr. Big told us that they had a total of eleven elephants and one was a baby.  First we . . .

 
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Bangkok was our first major Asian city in our travels so far.  I think we all had different expectations before arriving.  I was prepared for a densely crowded, dirty, dangerous place where we would have to be super militant as we navigate the streets.  Well I was absolutely wrong.  Yes it was crowded and polluted but the city had a very friendly and safe atmosphere about it.  Bangkok is a city of 12 Million people which is half of Thailand's population.  When we arrived at the airport, we did not have a hotel booked, but we read a good review in the LetsGo Thailand book the gave us a name and address of a hotel in downtown Bangkok.   The key to getting a taxi was to make sure it was a metered taxi, which meant that before we got in we had to make sure the driver knew we wanted to pay the metered rate, not a pre-negociated price.  As it turns out the Hotel was better than expected because the price was right and it was close to the river and walking distance to the palacial and temple grounds.  Yes!  We successfully found a decent place to stay and paid the metered rate for our taxi ride into town.
      The first thing we decided to do . . .


 
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On Jennifer's recommendation, we had an amazing late afternoon / evening kayak trip with a local outfitter called John Gray's Sea Kayak Adventures.  Basically our day was spent kayaking into various Hongs that surround Phuket.  Hongs are a Thai word for lagoons in the centre of a small island, made by the top of the island eroding until a hole is left in the centre, like a donut.   The hongs are surrounded by steep cliffs and are accessible via "tunnels" that can be paddled only during low tides.  We were paired up and each assigned a specific guide to paddle us into these often narrow caves that reveal their hidden gems to the motivated paddler.  Hopping on our canoe, Birch and I excitedly took in the scenery.  Tom our guide paddled us beside these steep cliffs that surrounded the lagoons with Carolyn and Allegra and their guide close at hand.  We entered our first . . .

 
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We were off to Thailand, specifically Phuket which was our first stop.    A friend of Carolyn's from high school, Jennifer, invited us to stay at her Villa while we were in Phuket.  Arriving at the Villa was spectacular.  We arrived at night and were shown to our respective rooms - absolutely gorgeous!  - a real luxury after travelling in a Jucy Camper Van for 6 weeks.  We were served a late snack and waited for Jennifer and her husband Fergus and son Cameron to arrive later that same night.   It was great to meet them all and quickly catch up before heading to bed.  The next day we . . .