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Delays In Vientiane

The next day we were picked up by a minivan to go to Vientiane. The journey cost us £3.50 pp. As the minivan pulled up we were both confused and laughed as if to say, ‘Imagine if they put our bags on the roof’, then the driver climbed onto the ladders and asked for us to pass our bags. They actually were on the roof (thankfully strapped in). As we were the final pick-up we were stuck at the back of the van and it was so bumpy you could quite literally feel every twig and stone we’d drive over, I’m still convinced we should have been provided with helmets, to be honest.

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We made it to Vientiane alive… and in one piece. We made some more friends on the bus who were lovely and they didn’t have any accommodation booked so they joined us at our hostel. We spent the day with them and went to do some sightseeing.

We went to Pha That Luang, a golden temple which sits at the heart of northern Vientiane,

The Patuxai, which seemed to be a representation of the ‘Arc De Triomphe’ from Paris,

And an unnamed temple near the Pha That Luang.

It was an enjoyable day in which we were able to enrich ourselves within the Laos culture. We went back to our rooms to freshen up and then went for some dinner with them. The plan was to get some street food, but nothing really tickled our fancy. We went to a restaurant instead which seemed to be where the locals would go. There was a live singer, and the meals were still reasonable price paying a small amount of about £4 for 2 of us.

We wandered around town and then decided to head back for the evening. We sat around and just stayed up talking until we all looked like we were about to fall asleep, that’s when we realised we should call it a night.

Our final day in Laos we were hanging around. We booked a flight to get back to Bangkok because we really didn’t fancy sitting on a 20-hour bus journey when a flight would take less than an hour. It was a little more expensive by about £20pp. We hadn’t flown much and were doing well on our budget so decided that we would treat ourselves and travel via plane. The only problem was the flight was 21:30 so we had to wait around all day.

It wasn’t too bad though because we did some blogging and went to the Lao National Museum. It cost about £1 pp entry and I can understand why. We wouldn’t recommend visiting because it was pretty boring, the museum mostly consisted of photos with descriptions in their own language and whilst we can just about say hello in Lao, we certainly can’t speak it fluently. We were in & out within about 20 minutes but at least we did something with our day.

We attempted to join our friends to the museum but the plans fell through so we ended up meeting them afterwards before saying our goodbyes. It was sad saying goodbye yet again, but unfortunately, that’s all part of travelling. We jumped into our tuk-tuk and was on our way to the airport.

Vientiane airport is tiny, we had quickly checked in, gone through security and was waiting around. James went to check our flight and was walking towards me with an un-amused look on his face – uh oh. We were delayed by 2.5 hours.

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We were so annoyed considering we had paid extra money to travel by air hoping to get there sooner but after waiting around all day, waiting at the airport and then getting delayed we would have been better off just getting a 20-hour bus. What made us laugh was within the flight cost we got a meal included. They made an announcement to inform us we were delayed and that they would give us a complimentary meal and drink. James went off to claim our ‘meal’ and this is what we got

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A custard roll the size of half my palm & a drink. At least they tried I suppose and it’s the thought that counts. 2.5 hours waiting and watching a lot of Orange is the New Black it was finally time to board. We flew with Thai Airways and it was really comfortable, it certainly put Easyjet to shame. It was a big plane with TV’s, cushions & food and for less than an hour journey, I didn’t feel as though I had enough time to get my money’s worth of the facilities. We were on our way to Bangkok, and it was quite a relief to be leaving Laos.

Not So Welcome To Laos

We checked out of our hotel which was called Baan Malai Guesthouse. This was great accommodation in a decent location, the hotel also offered free breakfast which was a lovely incentive.

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We would definitely recommend this hotel – it was a decent price costing us £12.00 per night for the both of us.

The bus wasn’t due to leave until 12:30, we booked our tickets at the Transport Co Ltd. (a couple of doors down from the 7/11 near the bus station). We went for the sleeper bus option as the whole journey took us around 18 hours. We got to the station in good timing and a glamorous double decker turned up, obviously we got our hopes, up only to be incredibly disappointed. A ‘cargo’ bus then arrived – yep, this was obviously our ride. With only a few beds slightly bigger than a single bed which we were supposed to share. Luckily the bus was nearly empty so we had a bed to ourselves. They loaded the bus up with goods to import to Laos and it was almost like we were just an addition to the journey. We couldn’t believe we had to sit on this bus for the next 18 hours surrounded by vegetables and bottles – it was a similar experience to Dagenham market. There was also no toilet. We even specifically asked the lady before booking if there was a toilet on board and she said yes. That’s another thing we’ve learnt, never accept their answer to be a true one.

We drove about 3 hours to the Laos border, went through immigration and Visa control and then we waited about an hour for our bus to drive back around to get us.

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We had arrived in cloudy Laos and still about 15 hours left of the journey. We were ready for some more sleep. The journey was going pretty smoothly until we came to a halt – there was a huge pile-up of trucks, it was then that I thought we had done a toilet break so I asked the driver and he just pointed outside. There were 2 lovely Korean girls on the bus with us and they also needed to go. So there I was, peeing on a highway with a stranger holding a towel up to cover me at 8pm at night – I felt like a top traveller. After about an hour we began to move again and we stopped off for dinner after a bit more driving.

Travel sickness started to kick in but I decided to just overdose on travel sickness tablets. We both surprisingly managed to get to sleep (although I probably just drugged myself) and then we were woken up at 6am by “LUANG PRABANG” being screamed in our ears. We hopped on a tuk-tuk and was taken to our Guesthouse, the dreaded Guesthouse. We clambered through the door waking the poor Receptionist up, we followed him to our room. We were greeted by ants in the bed and all over the floor – not the kind of greeting we desired. We told the man and allowed us to move rooms and it was insect-free! We crawled into bed for a few more hours before then going out to explore the area.

We went out to get some food at a small cafe and then walked around for a while exploring. The cafe we went to was called Indigo Cafe where there is a rooftop bar you can doss around in whilst enjoying a nice refreshing drink. The first day didn’t consist of much, just looking around and booking a day tour for the following day.

That evening we went to a bar called Utopia and it’s apparently the ‘place to go’ and we can completely understand why.

Hosting a chilled-out vibe with fantastic views across the Mekong River – we could have stayed all night. As expected drinks are slightly more expensive but you pay for the views.

We walked back to our guesthouse and got some sleep ready for the tour the next day.

We had booked a tour to go and see the *** waterfall. We went to the booking office and was picked up by the minivan and off we went. We drove about an hour out of town and made it to the waterfall. When walking in there is a bear sanctuary to see which is a great addition.

We continued walking up to the waterfalls and then went for a swim.

It was so unbelievably cold it felt like the Ice Bucket challenge all over again, it was quite literally breath-taking. After swimming around for a while we discovered there were fish in the water that clearly thought your feet were food. We practically got a free fish pedicure.

We had about 3 hours at the waterfall which was more than enough time to enjoy our surroundings. The entrance price for the waterfall was 20,000kip (about £2.00) which included the bear sanctuary. For the whole tour (being taken there & back and also the entrance fee) we paid around £5.50 pp.

The rest of the day we just chilled around and visited the night market that evening

The next day we had a productive day of booking our journey to Vang Vieng, catching up on the blog and also doing some research for future journeys. Despite doing a lot of research that day we said we would walk the Mount Phou Si which is renowned for its fantastic sunset views. We got there at 5 pm and sunset wasn’t until 6:50 pm but we wanted to claim a good spot.

It was truly spectacular and the views were out of this world. About 10 minutes before the sun went down, a massive herd of tourists stood in front of us. It was a shame but we still got to see unreal views.

The evening quickly came around, we went to our regular street food stall (which was super cheap and delicious).

We went back to the not-so-lovely guesthouse and got some sleep. After a lot of debating which company to use to book to travel onto Vang Vieng, we stupidly booked with our hotel. As I get bad travel sickness with the roads out here we wanted a bus rather than a minivan. We even paid a little bit extra for a bus. The Receptionist told us that we would get a bus ticket off the tuk-tuk driver who is going to be taking us to the bus station. We got onto the tuk-tuk and we were taken to a minibus. We were so annoyed because not only did we pay extra, but our Receptionist blatantly lied to us!

Tip: If anyone is travelling to Luang Prabang, AVOID Mano Guesthouse at all costs. As you can see we had nothing but trouble from them!

Boring Bus Journey To Chiang Rai

We left Chiang Mai ready to go to Chiang Rai. We bought our tickets and went to the bus station ready to catch our 11:00am ride. It wasn’t an overly exciting ride, just your average bus journey. We got dropped off and first impressions we weren’t overly won over. It was very quiet and there wasn’t a lot going on. Luckily, we were only there for 2 nights and only staying there as a stop off. On the first full day, we thought that we would go and see the White Temple, and we are very happy that we did. *attach photos*. Tip: We got the local bus there for about 45p each. We would advise doing this rather than paying a tuk tuk for about £10. This saved us a lot of money and was a better experience travelling with the locals.

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We arrived at the White Temple and it truly was a beautiful building with so much detail.

We walked around for a while and then stopped off for a delicious smoothie before catching the local bus back to the main town of Chiang Rai. That afternoon we chilled out in a cafe whilst we were supposed to be working on the blog again. I say ‘supposed’ because I didn’t get much done due to the puppy eyes from below my feet. Another adorable dog I wanted to take home. We got talking to another couple from Switzerland where we found ourselves giving them advice and tips. We were like a tourist information centre. The evening quickly came around and we were craving Italian, I literally would have traded a limb for one of my mums’ spag bowl dishes. Instead we settled for an Italian Restaurant although it wasn’t anywhere near as nice as how I imagined.

We went for a wander around the market and bumped into the Switzerland couple where we walked around with them and then went to play a game of pool. There was quite a strong language barrier at times, but yet we all still managed to have a laugh. That’s one of the beauties of travelling, no matter the difficult language barrier sometimes, you still manage to enjoy others company. They went to go and get some dinner so we left them to it and we went back to the hotel.

The following day we were due to get a bus to Laos so we had an early night ready for our full day of travel. Tip: make sure you do sufficient research because we actually had to stay in Chiang Rai an extra night because the bus didn’t run every day. This was just a boring day of chilling around doing nothing but eating until the following day when we could travel to Laos.

The Rollercoaster Bus Ride

We jumped on our minibus at 12:15, we saw Lauren and Ollie squashed right in the back with the bags looking ever so cosy. We started to drive and the journey was shocking, yet again we felt like we were on a rollercoaster. The driver was clearly very eager to get to Chiang Mai. Nearly everyone on the bus was feeling sick and had bags over their mouths, and then we did a stop off and all I could hear was people being violently sick. Everyone looked a dirty shade of white but luckily there was only about an hour and a half left of the journey mostly on straight roads. Everyone was so relieved to get off the bus and I’m not surprised.

We walked to our hostel (we stayed at Mandala Guesthouse again because it was perfect for us). We dropped our bags and all went for some lunch and then for a splash in the pool.

We decided that because our room had a kitchen/seating area we would grab some drinks and enjoy them before going out that evening. We had a lot of fun and ended up playing the game ‘Heads up’.

It got to the point that we were laughing so much our bellies hurt & James ended up crying on the floor. We finished our drinks and went to get some Pad Thai from the Street Food Market. We asked just for ‘little spicy’ but it was so spicy our eyes were watering. We were only given chopsticks to use and it was an embarrassment watching the guys attempt to use them. It was quite literally the blind leading the blind. (Sarah forgets to mention the little tantrum she had when she couldn’t work hers!)

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We grabbed some beers from 7/11 and walked around whilst looking at all the different stalls.

We then went to a bar called ‘The Playhouse’ where they had a beer pong table and myself & Lauren were still pretty cocky that we won at pool so we challenged them to a game of beer pong. Unfortunately, us girls were losing miserably so we just gave up. But we then played pool after and GUESS WHO WON?! – THE GIRLS, AGAIN. I’ll be honest, they won ONE game, but so did we and that’s all that matters.

We had an incredible night and was so happy that we met them both. The following day Lauren & Ollie were due to leave to go to the islands, so it was an emotional time for us saying goodbye. Everyone was slightly hungover and we felt so sorry for them having to sit on a plane. We said our goodbyes but agreed that we would try and meet up again at some point. Meanwhile, we had a chilled day of sitting around the pool and catching up on the blogs because a certain couple totally distracted us the previous few days (only joking!).

We went out that evening for some street food before heading back to the hotel. The following day we had booked a tour to go to Doi Inthanon National Park, the highest point in Thailand. We woke up, grabbed some toasties (obviously) and was picked up at around 8 am. The group seemed to be pretty boring, nothing like Ollie & Lauren. The first stop was the Wachirathan waterfall which was massive. We managed to get some great photos.

The mist felt so refreshing I didn’t think I was going to get James to leave. We then went to the Karen Hill tribe village. They showed us where the locals make the clothes and explained that the single ladies would wear white until they get married then they have to wear another colour – the tribal lads must love that, they can spot their prey from a mile off. We were then allowed to walk around the village for 20 minutes but we didn’t make it very far round because there was a bundle of puppies who just wanted attention. This was like our dream – a village of puppies

James practically had to drag me away from them because I could have quite easily stayed there with them forever, I was their new mummy now (i wish). Back in the minibus, we drove to the Doi Inthanon (highest point of Thailand). We were pre-warned that it was going to be chilly but oh my god, it was freezing. Going from about 32 degrees to 14 degrees was a shock to our system. It was like going from Australia to England in the space of 20 minutes. It then started raining and that was when we really felt at home & it almost felt like we were in our natural habitat again. Luckily, we had our rain macs which were a saviour. We had a little Rainforest tour to start with before heading up to the highest point.

The highest point was a little disappointing but we were told that it wasn’t a major viewpoint but at least we can say we’ve done it. We began to head back down the mountain to have some lunch. We were sat next to a couple who clearly was never brought up to share. We had a buffet style lunch where food was just put on the table and everyone helped themselves. The couple next to us sure helped themselves! They had their hands on the rice first and helped themselves to a plate full of rice each. After that, there wasn’t enough for one person let alone another 3. We actually had to ask for more. Inconsiderate. Before turning up to lunch our tour guide started saying that we will be having snake soup for starter. She started to laugh so we thought it was a joke. Completely forgetting that comment we were presented some soup, I tucked straight into it. Then I pulled out the bits of ‘meat’ and realised that our tour guide wasn’t joking. I had been eating snake soup. Yuck!

We had finished our lunch and went to visit a small market which was the final part of the tour. It was a pretty small market all selling the same items. But it was nice to go and see. Back into the minibus, we made our way back to the hotel. We had a great day, although it was a shame we didn’t have better company. Oh well, guess we will just have to put up with each other. We had a pretty low-key evening, just an early night before departing for Chiang Rai the next day.

Moving Onto Pai

Before heading off to the next destination we had heard mixed things about Pai so wasn’t sure what to expect. We got a bus ticket with Green Terminal Travel for about £4 each, it was about a 4-hour journey and we were pretty nervous to step foot on the minibus when we had read many negative reviews about the route we had to take. The journey has around 720 bends in the space of 3 hours (I know this from research, I didn’t sit and count every bend), so if you suffer from travel sickness like I do then it’s not the most enjoyable journey.

We arrived in one piece without being sick and made our way to our resort and it was so peaceful we felt like we had to whisper and tiptoe around. It felt like a meditation resort. There was a decent size pool with a slide where we could release our inner-child.

Unfortunately, our hotel was 7km out of town because the agency we booked with lied to us. However, our hotel offered a free shuttle bus but the times weren’t brilliant so we had to schedule our day around the shuttle time, we waited until 6 pm and went to check out the small town of Pai.

We headed straight for the street food which was delicious and a friend of mine recommended to try the Lasagne which was lovely although not overly traditional. At that point of time, I really didn’t care because it was glorious. It reminded us of our mum’s dish (not as good, obviously).

We walked around picking at different food stalls; Pai would not be a good destination to visit if you are on a diet. Our first impressions of Pai were that we loved it, it does, however, give off a ‘hippy’ vibe and there are many people with dreadlocks and walking around without shoes. The final time for the shuttle to get us from the town was 9 pm which isn’t very late, especially for nocturnal youngsters like us. We got picked up and taken back to the resort.

We woke up and went for breakfast and it was the most amazing breakfast we have had!

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With a beautiful view overlooking the rice fields and munching on honey waffles and fruit, all we could think about was you, poor souls, soon to begin your day at work (sorry). We rented a moped that day and drove to the Land Split which is crazy. You don’t have to pay to enter but there are locals that give you food and drink and ask for a donation. We gave them some money as they gave us a drink which was called Roselle juice. It’s a juice made from a flower and has many health benefits, it tasted like strong cranberry juice. We chilled in hammocks and enjoyed our drinks before hopping back on the moped.

We then drove to Pam Bok Waterfall which was filled with travellers swimming and playing music.

The next day we had booked a day tour to go and see some popular attractions (Kiu lom Viewpoint, Lod Cave, Sai Ngam Hot Spring, Mor Pang waterfall & Pai Canyon). It was an incredibly long day but very enjoyable with fantastic company. We got talking to a couple who lived in Sheffield and they made the day tour even more enjoyable. We drove 2 hours up the mountains to see the viewpoint only to be greeted with nothing but fog. There was no viewpoint but at the time we just laughed it off.

We then made our way to the cave which is a story to tell. We had to be paired into groups of 3 (me, James and another man) and we were taken through the cave by an older lady carrying a lantern. It was a great experience but required a lot of energy which we didn’t have because we were woken up at 4 am by inconsiderate morons (I would use foul language but I’ll keep it PG). We were led to a Bamboo boat which didn’t feel overly sturdy especially for us when we have been eating toastie after toastie. I thought it was a great accomplishment that we managed to make it on the boat without falling into the water, we sat down and I heard a splash. I turned around, glanced at James and his face just dropped. I hoped and prayed it was just his cheap Primark sunglasses and then he said, “it was my phone, I’ve dropped my phone”. We started to drift away and James just said to me “it’s okay I’ve lost it, it’s gone”. I shouted at the lady and told her to take us back basically performing sign language because of the strong language barrier. We started to go back and they began searching for his phone in the shallow water and someone handed it to us…. still working perfectly fine just slightly smelly. I will never let him live it down because I constantly nagged him not to keep his phone in his pocket. And now I can proudly say “I told you so”. But back to the cave, it was fantastic.

We carried on down the waters and saw thousands of bats flying up in the cave and as any living creature needs to poop, they had to do their business somewhere, that somewhere happened to be over us. I grabbed a towel from my bag and sat with it over my head whilst James sat there with our bag over his. The people that drifted passed us laughed and how we looked, but they didn’t realise that they were about to be pooped on like there was no tomorrow!

We had finished in the caves and drove to the Hot Springs which was rather pleasant. The water was like bath water although not overly clean.

We chilled in there for about 30 minutes and then dried off and jumped back on the bus ready for the Pai Canyon. We drove about 1 hour to the Canyon and the views were incredible.

We took a spot and waited for sunrise but it was too cloudy for us to see any sunrise so we all agreed that we would just call it a day. Sunrise or no sunrise it was still worth seeing the Canyon. We got dropped off at our resort and agreed with our new friends Ollie & Lauren that we would meet up that evening and grab some dinner together. They were also heading back to Chiang Mai the following day so we agreed that we would book the same bus ticket and hotel.

It got to 7 pm and we met up with them and walked into town, we grabbed some food, booked our bus ticket (only cost us around £3.30pp) and then wandered around. We went and sat in a bar and played some pool. We played girls vs boys and they were so overly confident and cocky that they were going to win but they lost!! Not just once, but twice. I & Lauren were obviously over the moon and made sure we rubbed it in their faces A LOT. Girl power! It got to 9 pm and we had to catch the shuttle bus back to the resort (they wound us up saying we actually had a curfew). We had a great day and were so happy to have met them, another great couple. We were looking forward to spending the following day with them on our journey to Chiang Mai.­

The Rest Of Our Days In Chiang Mai

The next day the plan was to go to the Grand Canyon. We set our alarms nice and early, supplied sun cream all over and went to leave when we saw the weather was absolutely chucking it down with rain. No chance was we going to leave the hostel with weather like that, let alone drive a moped in it. We were so disappointed but just agreed that we would do it the following day as the weather forecast was due to be better. We pretty much wasted a whole day because from 8 am until about 3 pm it was constantly raining. We expected to have days like that where our days don’t go to plan, but it gave us time to catch up on writing the blog etc.

As soon as it had stopped raining we eagerly left the hostel and went to explore around the area. We took a slow walk around the town and that evening went to a back street where we got some food. We sat in a street food market and enjoyed a Pad Thai each & enjoyed a refreshing beer.

We enjoyed our meals thoroughly & enjoyed the fact that we didn’t get charged for our beers – bonus! We went to a bar afterwards and had a soft drink whilst I whopped James’ bum at pool (I will make sure I remind him of that moment for the rest of my life). Commiserations.

The following day we were due to go the Grand Canyon, again. This didn’t happen as unfortunately, I was ill. We had to move hotels as we only booked for 4 nights. We said goodbye to S.K Guesthouse 2. All we would say is it’s a great hotel in a great location, however, be sure to get a room with air-con and don’t cheap-out like we did.

We had to shift ourselves from the bed, pack up our bags & make our way to the new hotel. We got there about 9:30 am and had to wait until 10:45 am to check in. When it was time, we were taken to our room and it was lovely and spacious (just what you need when you have massive bags that take up a quarter of the room). Our new hotel was called Mandala Guesthouse which is perfect for us in a great location.

We relaxed for the day so I could rest up and focus on getting better. By the end of the day, I was feeling 100% better so we went straight out for some dinner and then headed back to our cosy hotel.

The next day we woke up nice and early and decided we would hire a moped and drive to the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. We agreed to do this rather than the Grand Canyon first because it wasn’t as long a journey compared to Grand Canyon and James wanted to get some practice on the moped. We hired our bike with a company called Bamboo Bikes where you can hire a bike for the day for as little as 99THB (about £2.70). We went for a slightly more expensive one (about £4) because we were going uphill so required a bike with a bit of power.

James tested driving it around the backstreets first and with all due respect to James – it was scary to watch, to say the least. After getting used to it we ventured out and began our nerve-racking journey to the National Park. We got 10 minutes away and got pulled over by the Police – brilliant start. Feeling slightly uneasy and nervous, we obeyed every word as quickly as possible because we really didn’t want to imagine what life inside a Thai police station would be like. He asked James for his driving licence, feeling 100% confident he handed it over by which we knew it wasn’t going to be that simple from the stern look in the cop’s eyes. Here we go. We were informed that we required an International Driving Permit, we were completely unaware of this and just assumed that our normal driving licence was sufficient enough but of course not. We got fined 400 baht (luckily only about £8) and were given a slip which gave us permission to ride the bikes for 3 days. We were more than happy to hand over the money rather than being put in handcuffs and taken to the police station. It was still so incredibly annoying considering how many people don’t get pulled over but yet within our first 10 minutes we did. But hey ho, all part of travelling I suppose.

The journey was a lot of fun and going uphill into the mountains was incredible- we felt like we were part of a movie. We went straight up to see Wat Phra That Doi Suthep,

As you can tell this was massive and the views from the top were surreal

We stayed up for about an hour and stopped in a cafe for a while whilst we embraced the views before continuing to explore the mountain. We hopped back on our moped and rode back down the mountains to discover the Doi Suthep Waterfall. Unfortunately, we had to pay to enter which was 100THB pp (just over £2) and then another 20THB (about 50p) for the moped. It was fantastic to see although we wouldn’t recommend paying to see it considering there are many other free waterfalls in Thailand.

We had enough for the day so we returned the bikes and went to our hotel to make ourselves look (and smell) presentable again. We decided we would have a night in so we headed to 7-11 (the BEST supermarket in Thailand) to get some toasties. I feel like we could dedicate a whole post to these toasties because they are out-of-this-world! I don’t want to bore you so I’ll keep it short, but they are just unreal. We had 2 for dinner along with some snacks, don’t worry mum/s we had a fruit juice so we did get 1 of our 5 a day. A chilled night in went down a treat and we definitely needed it!

The following day was by far one of the best days of our lives! We took a drive to Grand Canyon Waterpark. This isn’t your everyday ordinary waterpark, it was an old quarry filled with water covered with inflatables. We paid only 350THB pp (nearly £8) to get in and we could stay there for as long as we wanted. We stayed for about 3 hours but we could have stayed so much longer but we wanted to get back before the traffic started to build up. I’m going to let the photos/videos do the talking and I’m sure you will be able to see how much fun we had!

We would 100% recommend going here, it is perfectly safe with staff members scattered all around & I guarantee you would not leave the park without a huge smile on your face (unless you don’t like water, but then I guess that would make you stupid for going to a waterpark?! At the end of the day, James safely drove us back to the hotel where we had a quick nap and headed out for some drinks. We had the best day and a great evening to top it off.