Morocco

Morocco was such a dream. It reminded me of Nepal in that, when people ask me what I liked about it, my answer is “Everything”.

The food, the culture, the beauty, architecture, and people – it’s all so good.

We stayed at a lovely Riad in Marrakech, that I can’t suggest enough. The team their was incredibly helpful, and truly went above and beyond in helping us to make the most out of our trip.

while in Marrakech, we would go out into the winding streets of the medina, and get lost. it was easy enough to find our way back to the riad each day, because these dizzying streets all circle around one giant life-filled square. This square holds snake charmers – eager to lay a cobra across your shoulders, hundreds of people selling goods, or henna tattoos, leather goods, tea, oils – it’s very touristy, and very overwhelming. Not in a bad way, just in a “wow there is so much to see and take in” and much like all rivers lead to the ocean, all these streets lead to the square. so once you figure out where you are staying in regards to the square, you can wander all you want.

Although we couldn’t get enough of bartering and shopping for beautiful moroccan goodies, and eating on rooftops overlooking the city, we did decide to leave Marrakech.

we drove 8 hours away, through miles of empty desert, the high atlas mountains, and countless beautiful cities and villages. We ended up at the cusp of the Sahara desert, where we jumped on some camels, and rode to our campground for the night. We stayed beneath the brightest starry sky, laughing, dancing, and singing with our bedouin hosts. This experience was one of my favorites of my life – we were there with three other groups of people, two German brothers, a group of cheerful Japanese girlfriends, and a French family. We couldn’t communicate, but we all shared the most beautiful night being brought together by our hosts as we held hands dancing around the fire. It was incredible.

My favorite memory from that night was scurrying up a massive sand dune with Jordan, to sit and watch the sun disappear into the horizontal line miles and miles away. Our legs were aching from the camel ride, but we didn’t let that stop us.

Morocco was magical. I can’t wait to go back, and I encourage anyone and everyone to consider visiting that beautiful country.

Portugal

Portugal was sort-of-in-the-middle of our 6 week, 7 country trip. At this point, we had been traveling for awhile, and were reasonably tired. The place we stayed was the perfect cure for that. It was rejuvenation, relaxing, and so beautiful. We were treated like royalty.

We stayed on the coast in the Algarve, and honestly, we didn’t explore enough. But that was totally okay with both of us, because we were so ready for relaxing days with zero sight seeing, train connections, ordering food in a different language, or walking miles and miles through beautiful cities. So instead, we soaked up the calmness, and natural beauty that is the Algarve.

I would love to go back and experience more of Portugal, but what I did experience, I loved. The relaxed vibes of coastal living, the beautiful scenery of the cliffy coasts, and the most beautiful turquoise waters, all combined to make our time in  Portugal some of my favorites. The amazing massage + facial I got while there also helped me fall in love ;)

Seville

The most lively and colorful of cities. I am a pretty lively and colorful person myself, but Sevilla was so intensely alive, that I spent most of my time sitting at cafes watching the city and soaking it up as if it were a movie, or song. Like something I didn’t have enough energy to take part in. The people are so beautiful. Like, 100% I just sat there with my jaw on the floor as these stunning Spanish women would walk by. If I were a very bold person, I would have been chasing them around begging them to model for me. But, instead I sat eating my food, and sipping on sangria just watching the beauty of the people and the city living life all around me.

One of my favorite things we did in Spain, besides enjoying Tapear, was exploring the Alcázar of Seville. It was such a magical place and I strongly suggest visiting it if you ever find yourself roaming the streets of Seville.

The colors of the city are perfect. You are surrounded by yellow and pink and it constantly feels like you are watching a golden sunset. The streets are alive with the beautiful people living life. Spain is  such a vibrant place, and I am glad to have been!

Brugge

Brugge. What a magical place. The frites, the waffles, THE CHOCOLATE! So many delicious treats to enjoy while walking along the most charming, quiet streets. Being in Brugge is like being in a beautifully preserved midevil town. It’s a wonderful mixture of both modern feeling, and rich in history and culture. We were there for a weekend, and fell head over heels in love with the city, and wandering the streets. We watched In Brugge, (as it was the only dvd at our airbnb) and LOVED it. Brugge is so small, so when watching the movie, you see so many of the landmarks you saw that day. Plus, it’s an amazing movie. My other favorite part was climbing the Belfry of Brugge. Seeing the gorgeous insides of the clock, and the breathtaking views from the windows of the Belfry was well worth the long climb up. I wish I had more specific suggestions of where to go, but Brugge is the kind of place that sort of guides you through it’s streets without much need for any type of guide. I loved my time there, and strongly suggest visiting if you are ever in Belgium!

Amsterdam

We spent such a short time in Amsterdam, I really feel silly writing anything about it. It was like taking a tiny bite out of a huge multi flavored wedding cake. What I do know is, Jordan and both want more. (I mean more Amsterdam, but I will say yes to cake, too)

The crooked, oddly thin buildings give the city a slight Tim Burton feel. The city is totally walkable, but with these curvy tiny streets, and the spiraling canals, I never could get my bearings and was perpetually, pleasantly lost.

There were so many adorable restaurants and juice places that I was dying to hop into, and an equal amount of rad looking retail boutiques. So I really need to go back to get brunch and shop, all in a super charming, super chill city.

 

Like I said, we were there for a very short time, so I don’t have many suggestions. But, I do have one very strong one – eat at Blue Amsterdam

 

Blue Amsterdam 

Blue Amsterdam has the most spectacular views of gorgeous Amsterdam. we went at sunset, and were blown away by the setting. The food was really good, and they had great healthy options, that were y u m. The prices were very reasonable, and the staff were super kind. We were there on Valentines day, and it was the perfect spot for a romantic dinner.

 

We also made sure to go to the Van Gogh museum. I love Van Gogh, so it was really fun for me to get to read more about him, and see how is art progressed. As far as museums go, it wasn’t my favorite. I would only suggest making the effort to go if you are a big Vincent fan.

 

As always, my favorite suggestion will be get lost. It’s something every traveler says, but for good reason. Heading out into a new city with very little in the way of a plan, is my favorite way to get a good fee

Paris

I have very strong feelings about Paris. I am in love with the city. And I really mean that when I say it. Not in the way I love Boston, or Morocco, (I REALLY love those places, too though) but in a soul crushing, ache-for-it when you are away, type of love. The same feelings people talk about having in the beginning of a relationship? that’s how I feel about Paris. But there is a very particular part of Paris that I fell in love with.

It isn’t the Eiffel tower, or really anything in the 7th arrondissement.

The 4th and the 3rd are where my heart beats fast, and I get butterflies as I walk along the streets in the Marais, or along the bank of the Seine with the sound of the bells of Notre Dam Cathedral singing in my ears. Ahh I want to be there right now. I swear there is magic in those streets – especially early in the morning. When I was there in February, we would wake up and walk along the almost empty streets, and something about it is intoxicating and addictive. I. am. absolutely. hooked.

Paris appeals to me for other reasons besides the pull it has on me – the fashion and style there are amazing, the culture and history, the food and wine, the people and the language – it’s all so beautiful and mesmerizing to me, and I love to be immersed in all of it.

But, I think Paris is an easy place to go to, and completely miss the magic. It’s a tourist haven – people from all over the world flock there because – it’s Paris. SIDE NOTE: To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to love Paris for that very reason. If I were to choose a place to be in love with, it would be somewhere more exotic, and less visited. But I fell in love with Paris. I fell so hard, and I want to share with you how that happened, so that if you are so inclined, you can see the Paris that I love and ache for, and see if the magic speaks to you as well. So below, I’ll be sharing my opinions and tips about enjoying Paris. I am no expert on Paris. I’ve only been twice, and have spent a total of 20ish (too lazy to do the math SORRY) days there. But, I adore it, and would love to show you why. So here we go! Abby’s opinions all over the place!

 

USE THE METRO

you will miss out on a lot of time and money by failing to utilize the metro. Time spent walking a million miles, or money spent on taxis and ubers could be better used on baguettes, wine, and admission to the Louvre. So use the metro. I downloaded the app Paris Metro Map from Mapway, and it was great. you just type in your closest metro station, then the one you want to go to, and it makes a list of any changes you need to make etc. so that you don’t get lost. I took screen shots of different variations of what we might want while out, that way if we didn’t have wifi we would be set. But honestly, we find the metro to be so easy, that we only used the app once or twice. But I know many people find the Paris Metro to be difficult and confusing, so download the app just in case you fall into that category.

CHOOSE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD CAREFULLY

This can make or break your trip. Paris is made up of 20 arrondissements (or neighborhoods) that spiral out from the center (close to The Louvre). My first time in Paris (shoutout to Laura Elizabeth for being my travel gf that trip!) we stayed along the outskirts in the 18th. It was lovely, and we had zero complaints. But on that trip, I discovered the île Saint-Louis – a glorious island in the middle of the Seine. It is connected by a bridge to the island that holds Notre Dame cathedral. These islands are so calm and romantic. Everything is perfect, and you basically will never here a negative word about île Saint-Louis from me. BURY ME THERE PLEZ. I personally think that the 3rd and 4th arrondissements (where île Saint-Louis is) are the best places to stay. Clean, quiet, romantic – PERFECT. But close by in the 11th is where I am told the youths hang out. We walked through the Bastille area (the 11th) one night, and it was definitely a party vibe – so if you prefer dancing all night, that area may be for you. The Eiffel Tower is in the 7th, and I wouldn’t suggest staying there as it is so packed. And since the metro makes it so easy to get around, you don’t need to worry about being close to the Eiffel Tower. I definitely suggest doing your research, and finding out which arrondissement will be best fro your tip, then hop on airbnb, and make it happen.

MY FAVORITE SPOTS TO EAT

HolyBelly

it’s this amazing spot with the best breakfasts. Hash browns, eggs, the best beans ever – it’s just REALLY good.

from the website :

Is it an American diner? Definitely not. We love diners but we have no pretensions to be one. If anything Holybelly is really close to a Melbourne style Café in the sense that we specialise in delicious food served from 9am, good coffee and friendly service.” That gives a good vibe of Holybelly. You feel very at home there. It doesn’t feel exclusively french, or american, or any other label. It’s more of a breakfast spot for humans, which is a really lovely feeling. That + the amazing food, friendly service, make it a must eat. Another bonus, everyone speaks english there, so you can stop trying (and failing in my case) to communicate in french for an hour or so while you eat the best food ever. I suggest their chai latte which is heavenly, and their Holy Baked Beans which are magnificent.

HolyBelly 19 rue Lucien Sampaix 75010 Paris

St. Regis Cafe –

This cafe is in my favorite area in Paris. it sits almost directly across from Notre Dam Cathedral, and so whilenvisiting, you can take the Pont Saint-Louis and run right into it. (then after eating, you can enjoy my favorite island – île St. Louis) the breakfasts here are said to be incredible – unfortunately, we never tried, but the menu looked promising. They have a very sweet hot wine there that was lovely on a snowy afternoon, and we ate dinner here TWICE because we liked it so much. They have an english menu available, and the food was fairly priced, and very yummy.

St. Regis Cafe 6 Rue Jean du Bellay, 75004 Paris

Temps Des Cerises –

Jordan found this gem when we were going out to dinner with Jasmine + Brandon of @betheplebeian.

It is a tiny place in the 4th, and when we walked it, it was filled with locals. There wasnt’ an english menu, so we relied pretty heavily on our waitress. She was very kind and helpful, and the risotto with scallops + the onion soup were both unforgettable. My favorite things I ate while in Paris. It was fun being surrounded by locals, and really enjoying some french cuisine.

Temps Des Cerises 31 Rue de la Cerisaie, 75004 Paris, France

HOW TO SAVE SOME DOUGH – BY EATING IT!

ha ha ha omg aren’t I cleaver? But seriously, almost every morning, Jordan would go down the street and grab us a fresh baguette. we would usually scramble some eggs, and have cheese, olives, a baguette for breakfast. it was very very cheap, amazingly delicious, and very filling. We usually wouldn’t be hungry or need eat again till dinner. So to save on cash, I definitely suggest indulging in some yummy, inexpensive breads for some meals.

LEARN SOME BASIC FRENCH

I mean, this is pretty much across the board for everywhere you go. Just because english is spoken it lots of the countries we go to, doesn’t mean we can be jerks and just go in with no knowledge of how to say thanks and hello in said country’s language. It will take you like 1 week of light study to learn the things you should know, so just do it.

DONT SIGHT-SEE YOUR TRIP AWAY. JUST LIVE

There is soo much to do and see in Paris. I haven’t come close to doing and seeing everything I want to see. Two trips isn’t enough! So do your research and know going in what is important to you. But while we are talking about, can I make a few suggestions? Yes? Great!

-Don’t miss the Louvre. I did the first time I came cause I was like “blah I don’t get most art. I think I will be bored” fast forward to me openly weeping in the Louvre while staring at what is basically a polly pocket from ancient Egypt. You guys, we ALL get art like this. Winged Victory, and the Venus rocked my world and changed my heart. I think the Louvre is for everyone. SO DONT MISS IT. But also be aware that you can spend 5 hours in there and miss 75% of the art because it is just. that. big.

– Be intentional with how you first see the Eiffel Tower. When I went with Laura Arbo, we booked a Fat Tire bike tour, and this is their job, so it was amazing. My first intro to the Eiffel was breath-taking and I loved it. When I went back with Jordan, we took the metro and just walked to see it, and came from an angle that was way less magical than the Fat Tire entrance. Jordan was far less impressed and enamored than when I first saw it. BUT IT DID SNOW while we were there which was all kinds of special and amazing. But that is irrelevant to my point which is – book a Fat Tire tour. They are the most lovely company, and chances are you’ll end up friends with your guide, and they’ll give you amazing tips to enhance your trip.

– Get lost in The Marais. Just pick a day where you wander around these gorgeous streets, soaking in all that is Paris. Duck in to different shops and cafes, shop a little – and then thank me later. My favorite days in Paris have been days when I just lived. Nothing on the itinerary but experiencing the city, trying my best to blend in.

Well that’s it! I love Paris, and I hope you will too! If you want a link to our airbnb, or have any questions, please feel free to email me! I love talking about Paris, and sharing some of the little knowledge I have about the most amazing city on earth. Bonjour!

Golden India

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India was full of life – full of color, flavor, and life. It is the most overwhelming place I have ever been. From the buildings to the food and everything in between, India is busy.

We were originally going to spend our time in India in Delhi, but after our airbnb was cancelled days before our arrival, we decided to go to Jaipur instead.

the capital of India’s Rajasthan state, Jaipur is known as the pink city because of the architecture. And there is a lot of pretty pink architecture, so the name totes makes sense.

It’s a really lovely place, especially in the old city. Our morning there, going through jewelry and leather shops and drinking chai tea from the shop owners was one of the highlights of our trip. One of the kindest people I met in India gave Jordan and me bracelets after graciously giving us chai and said “now we are friends”. This was actually a really great day, because that afternoon we went to Elefantastic – for this experience alone, you want to go to Jaipur.

At Elefantastic, the sweet elephants happiness comes first. They each have their own large home and a human family to look after them 24/7 – they get baths daily (which they love) someone pets and loves on the everyday – it’s basically the same life my cats have, minus the bath. The fact that these elephants are treated well is apparent in the way they interact with you. From the moment we were introduced to Soku (our elephant for the day) I could feel how happy and content she was. The other elephant we spent the day with was a pregnant circus rescue. She seemed less sure of everything, but Soku, who was born into this magical life on the Elefantastic farm, seemed to help guide her through the days activities.

We spent the first hour feeding and petting our Soku, and it was easily one of the best hours of my life. When I would hug our kiss her trunk, she would press back – it was so incredible having the opportunity to connect with these massive and incredible creatures.

after feeding her, we were invited into a home down the street to be fed ourselves. The best Indian food ever was served to us in a home filled with pets. Bunnies and puppies lounging in the corners while we dipped our fresh bread in dahl and chatted with the toddler who lived there.

After a lunch that filled us to the point of bursting, we went back to paint and bathe our elephants – the paint was an all natural stone paint that is 100% safe for the Elephants.

During Soku’s bath, we climbed on her back, and she proceeded to take water in her trunk, and then blow it right into my face. over, and over again! J and I were laughing so hard, and I think the joke that “I clearly needed a bath” was made no less than 10 times.

After that we went on a sunset cruise on Soku – we rode bareback, and she showed us some really lovely views, and some less lovely views when she felt it was her duty to scare off some stray dogs who were scavenging the bones of a dead animal. ew Soku. ew.

Even with that mildly frightening, fully gross display, this day was absolute perfection.

A day loving on an elephant is a day well spent.

When I think of India, I think of that day. While we were there, we also got to take a road trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, and that was amazing too. But the day that started in the Old City with street chai and kind leather shop owners, and ended with a sunset ride on a perfect elephant – that was my favorite day in India.

p.s. bonus! a video of our trip is right down there.

p.p.s. upon arriving home, I realized I had far fewer photos than I thought I would have, and I think that is due to the fact that I was too busy fully experiencing every moment of this trip. That thought really makes me smile.

Nepal

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When we were in Asia, we visited 4 countries and several cities. Nepal was the third country we visited and my overall favorite.

We have been home for a few weeks, but we hit the ground running when we got back, so I haven’t had a lot of time to process things. But looking through these photos I got butterflies in my stomach, because I was remembering Nepal, and Nepal was magic.

The food was amazing, the people were astoundingly kind and beautiful, and the city, and the mountains were breathtaking. J and I loved being in Nepal and were smiling and giddy almost the whole time we were there (except when at the airport, cause that place was wild – not in a good way, and when I was sick. cause duh)

We started our time in Nepal by staying in Patan Durbar Square in the city of Lalitpur in Kathmandu Valley. I’m so glad we stayed there because it was so beautiful – we had a view from our third story window of the square, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From sun up to sun down people were coming to visit the square – tourists coming to photograph the temples and palace, locals coming to worship in a temple that tourists and their cameras can not enter.

It was busy and alive and the mix of people in traditional nepalese clothing with modern tourists walking around these ancient buildings made for a great atmosphere that was perfect to watch or be a part of.

There were people selling pashmina scarves, and wooden carved figurines, and several restaurants on the rooftops surrounding the square. They served traditional Nepalese meals (heaven) and orange fanta and would let you sit for hours before delivering your bill. It was really peaceful and the kindness of the people made it feel like a restorative city.

Our days were spent visiting different spots in the city, like Swayambhunath (aka monkey temple) where we were surrounded by hundreds of monkeys whom are all considered to be holy. The monkeys can climb and play wherever they want. It was one of the top 5 best days of my life, getting to walk around and watch them play and just live their normal holy monkey lives. When I have children, I want to take them there so they can experience the magic of that place.

We walked a lot in Lalitpur, as there was a petrol shortage and therefore an inflation in taxi prices and an almost complete disappearance of running cars.

And that meant walking through narrow streets crowded with people and motorbikes and a few cars that definitely shouldn’t fit on those tiny streets. To be perfectly honest, I was more frightened walking down these little streets in Nepal than I was riding our motorbike in Thailand, and my toe got smashed between two motorbikes and nearly ripped off, so that’s really saying something. It was especially thrilling at night when you would not only hear the honking of approaching bikes and cars, but also see the lights. Sometimes I would just close my eyes and hope that we wouldn’t get hit because it was too close to watch without freaking out.

After our time in Kathmandu Valley, we went to Nagarkot and stayed in a musty mildewy room on top of the mountain. I read that if we had a clear day, we would be able to see the Annapurnas – I was obviously overjoyed. We never got a clear day, but I woke up every morning before sunrise (despite being very ill) and waited hopefully, bundled up in a huge fleece blanket, for the sun to rise and for everything to be clear so that I could catch a glimpse of the himalayas.

Nagarkot was the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most, and it was really disappointing to not get a clear view of the mountains. That disappointment was made worse by the fact that every day I got a glimpse of the mountains, and it was breathtaking and amazing each time. They were so big and didn’t look real because of their size (it should be noted that one day, I will go back to Nepal and go on a long trek where I will be guaranteed a view of the himalayas. Now that I have had a little taste, I must go back)

On our final day as we were leaving Nepal to journey to India, one of the flight attendants made an announcement that we would have a perfect view of the Annapurnas on the right side of the plane. Luckily, that was the side I was sitting on. So to finish out our trip to Nepal, I got to stare at the most amazing mountain views and dream about going back and trekking with the beautiful people of that beautiful country.

I can’t wait to go back.

Phi Phi Islands


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Before I can properly tell you about my magical Sunday, I have to back track to my less magical Saturday.

On Saturday, J and I decided to go to the beach. It was a lovely sunny day in Rawai. We got on Nina (our motorbike) and drove the 5 minutes it took to the beach. Upon arrival, we collided with a parked bike. Luckily both bikes were totally fine. Unfortunately, my foot cushioned the blow between the two bikes.

I was instantly in huge amounts of pain.

Long story short, I now have a fat blue baby toe I’m referring to as “Baby Blue Beard” who may or may not be broken.

So that was Saturday, and the biggest problem with a possible broken toe that I could see was that we had booked a tour on a catamaran to go see the Phi Phi islands. I was very much so looking forward to this, and with the weather being so unpredictable, wanted to make the most of what I knew was going to be a beautiful day. So we went and I wobbled around and swam with only mild pain. Did it cause Baby Blue to brighten in color? Yes. But ahh who cares.

Now to the fun stuff.

Sunday – such a dreamy day. The weather was as perfect as I knew it would be, and the tour was spectacular. We went with Blue World and Mike was so kind and wonderful. We stopped at several beaches and saw the most beautiful fish while snorkeling. Several times we would find ourselves surrounded by hundreds of bright yellow fish the size of my palms. It was so magical swimming through the water with them.

One of my favorite parts was seeing a 4ft black tip shark, and swimming above him for as long as I could (he was a much better swimmer. It’s probably Baby Blues fault) he was so graceful with his movements. It was such a wonderful sight and again made me so sad about how misrepresented sharks are. They aren’t eager to eat you, contrary to popular belief. But they are like the ballerinas of the ocean. I was so in awe of him while I tried to follow wherever he was going.

Another high light, besides just the indescribable natural beauty of the islands, was finding a family of Dolphins. There were several babies in the bunch, and they were so cute jumping whenever their mothers did.

The whole tour was one breathtaking sight after another. The most stunning waters, gorgeous cliffs, and soft white sands. It was a day we will never forget. I love days like that. I want to collect a thousand days like that.

I wish my photos more accurately depicted how lovely it was. Either it can’t be captured, like a unicorn, or I was too mesmerized by it to do it well. Either way, I have failed to fully show you what my eyes were soaking in yesterday.

If you ever get a chance to visit Phi Phi – do it.

elephant rides + rawai beach

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today was a day I got to check something off my bucket list.

Riding an elephant.

I would like to start by telling you this elephant’s name – but I can’t because I couldn’t understand what the guide said when Jordan asked. And there was no reason to ask the question again, because I am miserable at understanding Thai. Boo Abby, boo.

What I can tell you about El (let’s just call him El) is that he had a TON of personality. All the other elephants would smile and raise their trunks for photos when prompted – not El. El was usually either trying to knock down a tree to eat, or climbing off the path. He hardly ever listened to the guide, and was consistently tearing trees apart to eat them. At first, this was mildly frightening as we were being swung to and fro by his quick tree-eating movements, but as time went by, I gew to LOVE El’s rebellious attitude. He walked much slower than the other Elephants, and was just an overall mess (in the best way)

Enough about sweet El. Onto the ride.

As I mentioned before, the first part of the ride was scary. It consisted of Jordan and I holding onto the our seats for dear life and gasping at every movement. El was huge. And powerful. And unruly. So it was scary. But as we got used to the movements, we started to enjoy the scenery. The golden sunlight spilling through the tree, butterflies the size of my hand flying all around us, Kata and Kata Noi beach in the background – it was all so lovely and relaxing. The thrill of being on an elephant combined with the chill surroundings made for such a lovely experience.

Near the end of the ride, the guide asked if we wanted to ride out of the seat, and actually on El. Bareback. Jordan respectfully declined, and I jumped out of my seat. If I had thought things through, I might have not jumped onto dear Els back so quickly. Because riding bareback on an elephant is actually quite scary. Every massive step my big friend took felt like I would be flung from his shoulders. I managed to stay seated for the rest of the ride, and am in retrospect SO GLAD I did it, but gracious it was scary.

But a good scary. I was smiling the whole time.

The rest of this lovely sunny day was spent eating pizza at our favorite restaurant in Rawai, and watching the long tail boats on the beach. Such a wonderful day to be alive and riding elephants.