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Travel Diary – Phuket Part 1

We’ve been back from our Phuket holiday for a week already and we have so many wonderful memories and photographs from our 8 night holiday.

I’ll split my diary up into sections since we packed so much in. I think it’s too much for one Blog Post.

Day One (Tuesday) – This was going to be a big tiring day since our flight wasn’t until 5 minutes to midnight and Brisbane Airport is a 3 and a half our drive away. First stop was dropping Minnie off to her doggy accommodation for 10 days. She seemed really happy to be back to the Pet Resort and ready to make some new friends. We continued up the Coast, stopping at Robina Shopping Centre to spend some of Alice’s birthday gift cards. After that we dropped in to my dear Uncle John and Aunt Sheila in Brisbane. They are so very special to me and I hope they know just how much we love them. Uncle John reminds me so much of my Dad who I only knew for 18 years before he died suddenly. I hold Uncle John so close to my heart as he’s the closest thing I have to my Dad.

We then caught up with my beautiful cousin Cate for dinner and she took us to a fabulous Thai restaurant to get our taste buds ready for our adventure.

Checking in at Brisbane Airport was super easy and we had about 3 hour wait for our flight. We flew Singapore Airlines and the first flight was around 8 hours to Singapore where we had a 4 hour stopover before our next flight. The plane was comfortable and the girls were excited to have their own screen to choose from hundreds of movies, tv shows and music. We were well looked after by the air hostesses. We all tried to get a bit of sleep and arrived at Singapore around 5.30am (Singapore time). There’s so much to see and do at Singapore Airport with gardens at each Terminal. We caught the sky train between terminals and visited the Sunflower Garden, Orchid Garden and Butterfly Garden. The new Jewel space is now open but the huge inside waterfall doesn’t start running until 8am so the girls did a quick trip back there before boarding our next flight to see it running. It was so beautiful.

Day Two (Wednesday) – The flight from Singapore to Phuket is only 1 hour 45 minutes and when we finally arrived hot and tired, we were surprised that our booked transfer wasn’t there to collect us. There had been a mixup with the flight times changing but they sorted it out very quickly and we were taken by mini bus to our hotel with a family who had travelled from Kalgoorlie, WA. It took around an hour to get to our hotel and there was so much to look at along the way. Lots of traffic, shops etc. I’d forgotten how good it felt to travel to another country and experience all the sights and smells. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

We stayed at the Horizon Karon Beach Resort and Spa which was a nice hotel and were greeted with cool towels and sweet lemongrass drinks. Our room wasn’t quite ready so we went for a walk to have a look at the beach which was only a couple of minutes walk away. The water was warm and it looked so pretty. There were sunbeds, umbrellas, massage stations etc on the beach. We walked around a few streets to get our bearings and look at what types of shops and restaurants were close by.

After we settled in to our room, we went to the pool for a couple of hours. There were two pools in our section of the hotel with a waterfall separating them and a swim up bar which the girls were excited to try out. We had buffet breakfasts and dinners included in our package so we didn’t have to worry about food much.

Day Three (Thursday) in Phuket was a rest day, we spent the morning in the pool and then booked the free hotel shuttle bus into Patong (the main tourist area around 20 minutes away) to check it out. We had 3 hours to explore before the shuttle bus back to our hotel. We walked along the beach and were surprised at just how busy the place is. There’s so much going on and so many people – a far cry from Tabulam! We walked down the famous Bangla Road which I’m sure is a completely different area at night time but maybe not suitable for girls Alice and Lucy’s age. By daylight it was fun looking at all the shops and bars etc. We found a big shopping centre and wandered around in the cool air conditioning for a while.

Day Four (Friday) we had booked to go to the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary in Paklok. It is claimed to be the first and only ethical elephant sanctuary in Phuket which was why I chose to visit this one. There are plenty of others to visit but this one stood out to me as having the least interaction with the elephants and viewing them as much in their natural environment as possible. The sanctuary have 9 rescued elephants who had led a hard life in the tourism or logging industry prior to their rescue. They now live in the jungle owned by the sanctuary and are looked after 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by their Mahout, care as well as veterinarians. We watched a video of what horrors these poor animals had been through in their previous lives, with one being chained to a tree outside a temple all day every day and only fed when visitors gave donations. She was brought to the attention of the sanctuary by tourists and her rescue was put in place. You can still see the scars on her ankles from where she had been chained. She now wanders happily and has put on weight from eating regularly. Others had marks on their backs from riding saddles and some were blind. It was beautiful to get up close to these incredible animals and hear their heartbreaking stories. We were allowed to feed them watermelon, bananas and cucumber and then we walked through the jungle viewing them as they went about their daily activities. They do have enclosures where they sleep but during the day are free to wander as they please. We had a delicious vegetarian lunch at the sanctuary before heading back to our hotel.  I made a little video of our morning spent with these beauties here

Friday afternoon in Karon there is a night market held at Karon Temple which is about 10 minutes away from our hotel. We decided to catch a taxi as the walk would take about half an hour and it was too hot. We wandered around taking in all the sights of the street food vendors and clothing stalls. The girls bought some clothes and we ate some banana and Nutella pancakes which were awesome! We stopped at a fruit stall and ordered fruit shakes each – they’re so good, just like a Boost Juice but much fresher and cheaper. The best thing in hot, humid Thailand.

More adventures will continue in the next Blog Post.

A busy two months

Two months between Diary entries and we’ve been very busy as usual. The term has flown by. Both girls competed in their school cross country with Alice placing 4th and Lucy placing 2nd. They both then went to compete at Zone level with Lucy getting a Reserve spot. She was very excited when the call came through that she could compete at Diocesan (equivalent of our Regionals in a Government School). She ran a personal best and came 16th. She was so happy with that result and we were extremely proud of her.

Casino Beef Week was held in May and Lucy competed in the Beef Week Cup girls’ soccer team. They played against other Primary schools in the area and got to the Grand Final which ended in a tied score. She also participated in the Saturday afternoon street parade with the school ‘Junk Drum Band’ and Alice walked with other students from the school. It’s such a fun, busy afternoon.

They both competed at their Athletics carnival last week and came home with a few ribbons to show for their efforts. They were very happy with their placings. Alice came first in long jump, third in 100m, 200m, 800m and the relay team. She also came 4th in a Divisional race. Lucy came first in 800m, second in 100m, 200m and third in the relay team with Alice. They will both head off to the zone carnival next term but I’m not sure yet what races they will be competing in.

Last Saturday night was the Lismore Lantern Parade which is always a fun night out. It’s held around the Winter Solstice each year and this year Lucy was drumming with the school’s ‘Junk Drum Band’. It was a lot of fun watching and cheering her and her school on.

They were then up nice and early on Sunday morning to celebrate their First Eucharist (First Holy Communion). They’ve been preparing for it with school and they loved dressing up in pretty dresses and feeling special for the day. Usually children do it in Year 3 but since we’ve only just started going to a Catholic school, we really hadn’t had an opportunity before now. Linden unfortunately had to work but I made a special day of it with the girls and took them out for a nice lunch in Lismore.

This month has also seen us celebrate Alice’s 12th birthday. I feel like we were eating cakes non-stop for a week or more with cupcakes to send to school, test cakes for her birthday and then the actual birthday cake. I did have a few fails but she was happy with the end result. We took a few of her school friends to the roller skating rink for a little party. They all seemed to enjoy themselves. At least I hope they did.

We’ve only got two more weeks of term and then it’s school holidays. We are really looking forward to the break and have a trip to Phuket planned. It will be so good to get away from the Winter for 8 days or so. I think that’s everything caught up with what we have been up to for the past two months. Until next time x

Everyone loves a Waterfall

School holidays are almost at an end and seem to have gone way too quickly as usual. The end of school term was another busy one and I ended up with a few little health issues that concerned me. High blood pressure, chest pain, headaches, earache and just generally feeling unwell for a few weeks so I decided to take myself to a Doctor to be checked out. I was a bit worried when the Doctor told me she wanted to monitor my blood pressure for a week and then possibly refer me to a cardiologist.

We had a couple of days break in the first week of the holidays, travelling to Dorrigo and Bellingen and visiting lots of beautiful waterfalls and a bushwalk through the Rainforest Centre at Dorrigo. We stayed the night in Bellingen at the quaint Federal Hotel and ate dinner at a delicious Middle Eastern restaurant called Za’atar. The girls were a bit disappointed we weren’t going to the pub for Chicken Schnitzel and chips but we convinced them to try the tasting plate and I think they were surprised how much they enjoyed the food.

It really is a beautiful part of NSW. There are lots of lovely shops to explore and the waterfalls and walks are lovely.

After exploring the area, we drove to Taree and spent 2 nights with Linden’s Aunt. I read books, the girls swam in the pool and helped Linden work in the garden. It was just what I needed to relax and get my blood pressure back down to a healthy range.

I have been back to the Doctor and thankfully my levels seem to be going okay at the moment – two weeks off work, school and kids activities have probably helped. It seems I get myself worked up and stressed and need to learn ways to relax which is easier said than done. She mentioned finding time to do things I love and I really struggled to remember what I used to love to do. It’s so difficult to find any ‘me time’ and there are really not many options here. I find I’m always so busy with working and driving the girls here and there that I have really lost myself these past few years. I think my mental health has taken a battering as well as my physical health.

I’m hoping I can turn a corner and start to feel better soon.

Birthday Surprises and Waterfalls

Things have settled down since the fire in February and we’ve been so grateful for a little bit of rain to help things green up around the area. It’s lovely to see the paddocks back to a healthy colour and a bit of water running in the river again.

The girls have had a great few weeks at school with assignments, homework and the Cross Country last week. They will both represent the school at Zone next term and are looking forward to it. We’ll have to do a bit more practice over the holidays to keep their fitness up.

My mum turned 80 last month and she had a couple of weeks of lovely surprises. My dear cousin Claire surprised Mum with a visit, travelling all the way from London without Mum having any idea. From what I hear, there were tears and swear words but they had such a lovely time together. I decided to surprise Mum as well with a quick weekend trip. The girls and I flew down to Sydney and we had so much fun catching up with family. We had lots of café stops and shopping. We even managed to get Claire into the ocean one afternoon. I haven’t laughed so much in a long time and I think we all needed the break. I just wish she didn’t live so far away. The last time I saw Claire was when she was my bridesmaid almost 14 years ago.

Yesterday, we decided to have a device free day and headed to Minyon Falls to bushwalk to the base of the falls. We haven’t been before but it’s been on our ‘to do’ list for a long time. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much water at the Falls but it was lovely to spend some family time doing something we haven’t done in a very long time. The walk was very scenic but got difficult at the end where there was no track and we had to scramble across big rocks to get to the base of the Falls. The water was too cold to swim, even for our little mermaids but they enjoyed the day. My poor old body is feeling it today though. The most physical activity I have done in months.

School holidays are coming up soon and we are planning a short trip to Dorrigo, Bellingen and then onto Taree for a couple of nights. We hope to do some bushwalking around Dorrigo and along the Waterfall Way and just generally explore the area. We’re also looking forward to seeing Mum again in the 2nd week of the holidays.

Bushfire, Devastation and Loss

As you have probably seen on the News, our town of Tabulam has been affected by an out of control bushfire this week.

Here’s a little insight as to what has been happening this past week. Some photos are Linden’s that he took while he was at work.

I was at work on Tuesday and we were advised a fire had broken out around 10km west of Tabulam on the Bruxner Highway. The Highway had been closed and we had to make alternate arrangements for some of our students to get home. We had very little information about the fire or how bad it was. By the time I left work, it had travelled very quickly towards Tabulam, through the Aboriginal community of Jubbulum which had to be evacuated. The fire kept going down Chauvel Road towards the river, where houses, sheds and equipment were lost. It jumped the river at the Racecourse (2km from our home) and the town had been evacuated.

Linden was recalled into work to help with evacuations and I was told to wait at the bus stop where I collected the girls from their school bus and wait until it was safe to return home.

Around 6.30pm Linden told me I could go back home. The smoke was so thick and there were so many people unable to get back to their homes, either due to the fire being too close or the highway being closed. I opened the house up to whoever needed a safe place and we had about a dozen people waiting until the highway was clear for them to head back to their homes.

The next day the smoke was still chokingly thick and I decided the best place for the girls and I would be at work/school as the fire was nowhere near there. It’s been a very scary and stressful week with flare ups and more houses lost in the area. There have been times when I didn’t know exactly where Linden was and unable to contact him. I’ve been concerned about friends who are now in the area where the fire is burning but I know they have a good evacuation plan and the fire crews are looking after that area.

We have had the helicopters refuel at the town oval and that’s been exciting to watch, especially the ones with the water buckets. Elvis the water bombing helicopter has been here doing an amazing job as has the fire retardant planes. Fire crews from NSW and QLD have all been working around the clock to contain the fire.

A recovery centre has been set up in our local hall to drop donations for all the people that have either lost homes or been evacuated and unable to yet return. The girls and I took a delivery of items over on Saturday afternoon and the volunteers in there are such hardworking, selfless people. I’m so impressed by the community spirit.

I have read there have also been deliveries of hay for the farmers who no longer have food for their livestock.

The last update I had seen was that the fire was being contained so I am hopeful that things improve soon. Though the hot and extremely dry conditions will continue this week. We are in desperate need of some rain.

Our town is not currently in danger but surrounding areas still are. The fire has turned away from town, moved back up to where it started and is burning around 15 minutes West of Tabulam. The many fire crews, pilots, emergency services and community recovery centre have been amazing. We can’t thank them enough for what they have done. We all hope this nightmare is over soon.

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