Ko Lanta

There is only one boat a day from Ao Nang to Ko Lanta and it took an hour longer than reported. Of course it clashed with Molly’s nap time and she decided to use us as human climbing frames for the duration. As soon as we got into the Tuk Tuk she dozed straight off. Typical.

Our room wasn’t ready so we thought we’d head to lunch. Within 10 minutes of being there Molly had knocked her chin on the table edge and her nicely healed cut had reopened. There were tears and blood a plenty but fortunately a very lovely Norwegian nurse came to our rescue, she rushed back to her hotel room for her first aid kit and completely worked her magic. I will never be able to thank her enough. It doesn’t look as bad as first time around however it has limited our activities on Ko Lanta as I’m determined to keep it dry so the scab heals and it doesn’t get infected in the tropical heat. My heart hurts so much for Molly, who has been an absolute trooper (and within tens minutes was ‘miaowing’ at cat pictures), it’s just horrible and stomach clenching seeing your precious baby hurt.

We managed to get out for dinner on the beach, there was no sunset and there was a torrential downpour. It actually was a relief and quite therapeutic hearing the rain come down onto the wooden hut.

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Our initial troubles did not end there. At 2am there was an incredibly loud noise coming from the bathroom (Molly’s bedroom). A leak! Water was gushing through the wall. We tried phoning reception, no one answered and so we hop footed it over. It is advertised as 24hr…no one was about. We located a security guard who was absolutely comatose and we needed to shake him awake. To cut a very long story short, he spoke no English (and we do not speak Thai) and couldn’t not locate any telephone numbers etc, at 3:30am we were finally given keys to a new room!

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We started the day afresh, breakfast followed by a nap for the sleep thief and some R&R time on the stunning Long Beach for us. Marcus took a massage and I managed to finish my Ruth Rendell.

For dinner we went to a beautiful chilled restaurant again on the beach when Molly was spoilt by the staff and the kids corner and we enjoyed the acoustic music. We ended up eating here a lot during our stay.

As mentioned previously we’re unable to do what most people do on Ko Lanta – beach time – due to the open cut on Molly’s face – so we decided after careful research to go elephant trekking. I’m still unsure on the ethics of whether it’s fair but the elephants did look like they were very well cared for and looked happy with lots of food. Of course the sleep thief pulled it out of the back and was asleep within minutes of climbing aboard!

We met a lovely English family on the beach who had three children. Molly and her new found friends all got a long so nicely and played and shared toys and it was great meeting another family to share stories of the trials and tribulations of travelling with small people! Molly even got her first kiss on the lips from their little boy who was the same age! Holiday romance eat your heart out!

We definitely ended Ko Lanta on a high after our rocky start and can’t believe we’ll be in Bangkok tomorrow after a one night sleep pit stop back in Ao Nang…just that boat journey to overcome first…

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25th February – 1st March

Krabi (Ao Nang)

Molly managed to finally succumb to sleep just as we were pulling up to Anata Burin, our hotel in Krabi.
It has a weird vibe, the layout of the pool and lounge area is quite odd and there are a lot of people who have nothing better to do than stare. Still least Molly gave them something good to look at as she frolicked with all the inflatables in the water.

The beach is very pretty, sections of the shore are filled with long boats which take people to nearby islands. You can see the limestone rocks jutting out of the sea and it makes me excited for our transfer across to Ko Lanta in a few days.

We happily sneak into a nearby hotel as it has a fabulously air conditioned kids room as well as a great pool full of slides and toys and adjacent playground. We had lunch there one day and Molly chowed down a huge fillet of fish and chips.

The heavens did open on one day, and nothing beats tropical rain – warm and refreshing. Most people ran for cover but we took it as an opportunity to cool off – Molly thought we were crackers and quite perplexed by our squeals of delight! There was also a beautiful lightning storm in the evening as we were walking home which reminded me of nights in Austria.

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I managed to sneak in a massage – the best yet!!! Hurrah, I finally took one where it felt like a normal spa and not a brothel – well done Thailand! Hoping to for one more before we come home!

We’ve really enjoyed our time in Ao Nang yet can’t quite believe how close we’re getting to home time!!

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22nd-25th February

Ko Samui – Chewang

Ko Samui we’re baaaaaaack! In a different resort this time; we’re staying in Chewang which is a lot bigger and closer to the airport.

Samui Beach Residence Hotel is owned by a very chatty Frenchman and has a whacky pond in reception where¬†Molly loves watching the fish. There is no swimming pool but we’re only 200m from the beach which is fun, especially for Marcus as he is kept fully entertained by Molly’s beach toys.

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It’s incredibly hot, probably the hottest temperatures we’ve faced. There are a lot of sunburnt people walking around so we’ve been extra careful in staying out of the sun, especially as Marcus he’s had a touch of heatstroke. Slightly concerned about our next stop, Krabi, as the online weather reports suggest it’s going to be even hotter on that side of the country!

It was just a short visit back in Samui where there isn’t much to report at the best of times. It’s not a place i’d rush back and visit.
Before long we were back at the prettiest airport In the world, sweating like sweaty mcbetties and on our way to Krabi. Quick mention re: Bangkok Airways who are fantabulous – landed sooner than expected, free airport lounge, food on board, kids pack for Molly (plus the kind airsteward gave me extras for our next flights!), comfy seats, soft play area in Samui, good wifi etc etc, fully recommend! BA you buggy losers – take note!

20th-22nd February

Ko Phangan (or however you spell it)!

The high speed catamaran took a choppy 30minutes to reach Ko Phangan, home of the famous full moon parties. We’re staying in a ‘new’ hotel which is undergoing a soft opening before its fully finished in April. We saw a lot of different rooms and buildings before settling for a wonderful spacious room with a garden view. Molly is very happy as it has a fancy tv where she can watch Peppa Pig – (and I managed to finish watching La La Land).

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The complex is huge with four pools and we came across a perfect Molly sized play area where she spent ages going up and down the climbing frame and slide – couldn’t be happier!

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Our hotel resides on sunset ‘beach’, there’s not much sand but the evening views are tremendous.

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We walk to sunrise beach during the day, this is where the full moon parties happen and there’s long stretches of sand – not much shade though!

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We’ve had some tastier food here which is very much needed. There is a bit more choice and the pad Thai is particularly good.

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Molly is in her element as there are a lot of dogs and cats roaming about – plus we’re being sucked dry by the mosquitos – this island is not short of nature!

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Ko Phangan has be so different from what I expected, in such a good way. I could have easily spent more time here. We’re travelling back to Samui by a different boat company from our outbound journey – takes a little longer but both piers should be closer-wish us luck!!

17-19th February

Ko Samui – Lamai

We flew down to Ko Samui on Valentines Day. Molly must have known it was an important day as she decided to not do her usual sleep on the flight and instead devour Marcus’ in flight chocolate brownie – along with a strangers to whom she sat next to!

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We didn’t reach Lamai until evening so we checked in and snuck out for a cheeky cocktail to celebrate.

We spent our days in Lamai lazing around the pool, reading (I particularly enjoyed Gillian Flynn’s, Sharp Objects) and sunbathing. Molly’s cut did open up again, but she took it on the chin – literally ;). As she’s being so brave we bought her some beach toys where we got ‘oh wow’ on repeat for a good five minutes :).

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Marcus also got his hair cut for the first time since this trip – and a beard trim – he looks like a new man!!

Molly also turned the big 18months here and she celebrated with a good boogie!


We wandered down to the beach for the sunset, which as beaches go, not that spectacular. The night market was also very missable-hopefully have more luck in Ko Pangnan where we’re off to next!

14th-17th February

Bangkok…round 1

Leaving Cambodia is just as difficult as getting in! The airport check in desks had crashed and there were A LOT of angry people. We stayed calm until we got to the front and were told we were over our baggage allowance by 6kg, we took out a load of weight and transferred it over to our hand luggage but it was still over and they wanted to charge us $40. We stood our ground and somehow they allowed us to take our main rucksack on as hand luggage??! A quick move of toiletries into the holdall and we were off to passport control where all kinds of Cambodian telling offs were given! I have no idea how but eventually we took off with only a tiny delay! Hurrah!!

We took a gamble and used a metered taxi to our abode in Bangkok, as the hotel wanted to charge a small fortune. It paid off as it worked out ridiculously cheaper than what we would have been charged. Our luck changed for the worse as within a few hours we were at Mission Hospital Emergency room. Molly tripped down a very small step onto a very hard floor and split her beautiful little chin open. There was a lot of blood and due to the heat and the width of the cut we thought it best to be checked over by professionals. We were in and out so quickly and I can’t emphasise enough how amazing the staff were, from the reception, nurses, doctors to pharmacists, I can’t thank them them enough. Molly was an incredibly brave soldier and I hope we don’t have to darken any more hospital doors, no matter how good the service was.

We started the day afresh and took a Tuk Tuk to the Grand Palace. The streets were full of mourners dressed in black on their way to pay respects to the Thai King who recently passed away at the end of last year. Marcus and I were very impressed with the respect and loyalty the Thai people have for their royal family. It turned out the new King was also in town which meant the temple with the Emerald Buddha (which is enclosed in the same grounds) was closed so we decided to leave it for another day…

We visited the nearby Wat Pho, home of the reclining Buddha. It was an incredibly peaceful place to walk around in and I was really pleased to visit this temple after ten years and find it just the same as my previous visit.

From here we took a boat across the river to the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun). Again, I visited this temple on my previous visit to Bangkok, yet this has changed. When I was last here you could climb quite high up. Unfortunately now it is scaffolded and you’re only allowed up to the first level. Still, Molly was in heaven with all the steps and we had difficulty in trying to hold her back from climbing!

For lunch we headed over to the MBK shopping centre as we heard the food court was pretty famous! Before we knew it Molly was the new owner of a rucksack and two t-shirts – so much for the shopping ban! The food was good though – we went for Korean – the best fried chicken I have ever tasted!

For dinner we headed onto the backpacker ‘paradise’ of Khao San Road. I managed to find my old hotel, now derelict, which was very strange!

 

In our sensible attire we headed back to the Grand Palace the following day. It was extremely busy and full of Chinese coach trips which did slightly spoil the atmosphere due to the shoving!! The Emerald Buddha resides in Wat Phra Kaew, a tiny little statue full of great importance.

We walked over to the Golden Mountain and took it in turns to climb the 344!steps! The view was great as it was a lovely clear day.

We’ve all very much enjoyed our first taste of Bangkok, yet looking forward to venturing down south for some R&R. Ko Samui we’re coming to get you!

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11-14th January

Siem Reap

We took what has to be up there with one of the shortest charter flights in the world. The Lonely Planet guide book let us down with our hotel choice and Marcus in particular is not impressed with our dated abode.
Our success continued with a mediocre dinner, however we soon rectified this by crossing the river and walking around the lively streets and markets whilst stopping in pub street to partake in some happy hour beverages.

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Siem Reap is the home of Angkor Wat and before going to the real temples we took a morning jaunt to see the miniature models made by a very talented man and housed in his garden. Molly loved roaming around pretending she was Godzilla. All of her monster antics wore her out so Marcus and I stopped for a smoothie and attacked booking.com with gusto trying to finish booking some flights and hotels for our constantly changing itinerary.

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For lunch we dined at Red Piano – a ‘fave’ of Angelina Jolie’s when she was filming Tomb Raider. Molly was as good as gold so we treated her to a new t-shirt from the market – such a lucky girl.

We took a gamble and booked a random Tuk Tuk driver off the street for our adventure to Angkor Wat. It paid off! Mr Mony was perfect, a true gent with fab English and super knowledge of the temples. We ended up using him several times during our Siem Reap stay and fully recommend him to anyone coming here.

We purchased a 1 day ticket in the end as they’ve handily increased the prices to just under 100% as of 1st Feb!!! The ticket does allow you entrance from 5pm the day before – so we made it to the main Angkor Wat temple for sunset! It was very busy but great to do a recce before our full day.

We left the hotel at 4:30am, Molly was so excited to be allowed to get up rather than shushed back to sleep like usual! It was pitch black, eerie, yet strangely romantic being amongst crowds of people all waiting for the same natural spectacle. It didn’t disappoint. The purple hue of the sky mirrored over the water lily pond and we were soon entering the main temple as the first visitors of the day.

Molly loved walking around Bayon, scrambling after the cheeky monkeys and pointing to all the gigantic faces on the walls.

Molly and I were not allowed into Baphoun, she was under 12years old and I dared to have my shoulders out – sacrilegious!! Marcus said it was incredibly steep with amazing views of the grand entrance.

We walked through a wooded area to see the Grand Palace and around the Elephant Terrace (mum – you’ll be pleased to know Molly’s elephant impression is coming on leaps and bounds!) before hopping back onto our shady Tuk Tuk and heading over to Ta Phrom.

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Ta Phrom is the temple set in the jungle where the architecture battles to hold its ground over the huge tree roots. We saw the most amount of excavation here. It’s also the home of the set for the original Tomb Raider. Neither Marcus or I have seen the film but agreed it would have been a great location (and I tried my hardest to do my best Lara Croft impression).

For such an early start we were dead on our feet, Molly had teared around the temples at amazing pace for such little legs and only managed a short 10 minute snooze as she was too excited to miss out. She still didn’t want to sleep once we were back at the hotel so we took her back to the Red Piano where she could devour a kids meal and be cuddled by all of her adoring fans, the lovely staff.

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A good night sleep was needed by us all and we all woke up feeling refreshed. Well, Molly woke us at 5am and then preceded to bed hog my mattress and sleep until gone 8am!!
We headed out of town for a ridiculously hard course of crazy golf. It was so much fun! Molly snoozed in the shade and Marcus thrashed me – although I blame my phobias, the noisy cockerel and butterfly’s putting me off my stroke!

We headed back to hotel for a bit of well deserved R&R. We took a dip in the roof top jacuzzi and I headed over the road to the ‘spa’ for a massage – I swear the place was a brothel – I have never felt so unrelaxed in my life! A final dinner and a farewell drink in The Red Piano and we waved Cambodia goodbye. I’m so pleased we ended the country on a high – although the airport shenanigans on our departure put a stop to that but I’ll save that for another time! X

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7-11th February

Phnom Penh

We didn’t have the best arrival in Phnom Penh. There was a fair amount of traffic on the outskirts of the city and Molly had reached meltdown point nearing the end of the three hour drive. The taxi driver could only stop in a congested part of the road away from the hotel and as I clambered out holding Molly and some of our bags $40 fell out of my pocket without me noticing. Marcus made me feel even worse about the situation which didn’t help proceedings! A little time apart, a venture to soft play equals a fresh start. The soft play was in a tall building called Kids City with a different zone on each floor; laser tag, go karts, science/discovery, climbing walls etc – fortunately Molly was only big enough for the toddler world! I can see how parents could end up spending a fortune here!

We decided to head to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda on our first full day. The weather was scorching, I had to wear trousers and a t-shirt (no shorts/vests allowed) and within minutes we were sweating. Once we arrived we realised it was ridiculously expensive to get in and the full sun was doing nothing for Molly. We cut our losses and headed back to the hotel by Tuk Tuk where we could strip off, nap and restart the day. The Grand Palace in Thailand awaits!

We took another Tuk Tuk to Wat Phnom, a beautiful Buddhist temple north of where we’re staying. It resides on Phnom Penh’s only ‘hill’ – fun carrying the buggy up all of the steps!! We came across more monkeys much to Molly’s happiness. These ones were cheeky and attacked a couple of passing tourists!

We walked south along the unimpressive river stopping off at the gaudy Wat Ounalum – so much gold – I loved it!

We cooled off in the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club), one of my favourite bars so far! The staff flocked towards Molly and they all wanted to serve us. Before we had even ordered our drinks, a sliced apple was given to her and she sat so happily munching away – it was incredibly restful and great to enjoy the view of the all the goings on at street level and gave us a chance to take in all of the famous photographs inside.

We jumped straight into the pool on our return – for once I was the first one in – too, too hot today!

Marcus found a great Japanese in the Bassac district. It was super cool and very hip – perhaps not the most Molly friendly of places as the chucked chop sticks around and managed to turn the lights off in the whole restaurant!! We soon made a move after polishing off some delicious gyozas (as food is SO expensive in Cambodia we were unable to beat our PB of 60 gyozas in one sitting like in Kyoto!).

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We walked to Tuol Sleng early in the morning to take advantage of Molly’s first nap. When planning the trip I thought Marcus and I would visit these historic sites solo and leave Molly with each other, however she’s been so well behaved (most of the time) and if we time things correctly she’s easily portable and we can hide her with the sun shade/let her sleep through anything we don’t want her seeing.
Tuol Sleng was once a high school, when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 they turned it into a secret torture prison and interrogation centre. We listened to the informative yet harrowing audio guide as we walked around the buildings where unfathomable atrocities took place. There were only 7 survivors, two of which were there on the day we visited selling their books.

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Our next stop was Choeung Ek, the killing fields. We passed on the audio guide and instead made our way around slowly taking in the mass graves and the central memorial dedicated to the hundreds and thousands of people who were so brutally murdered.

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Back in the city we stopped for another mediocre lunch, gristly chicken anyone?! Molly certainly wasn’t impressed and decided to kick off. Neither of us could pacify her, in stepped the waitress who calmed her down straight away and took her on a tour of the bar and showed her off to the kitchen staff – I’m tempted to go back and ask whether she wants to move in with us?!

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We stopped at the Russian market to buy a holdall as the cot bag has got a couple of holes and we’re not sure how many more flights it can handle. Marcus was incredibly impressed with my haggling!

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We finished the day with some tasty ice cream and more Japanese for dinner – a different restaurant this time – far more Molly friendly and a lot more authentic!! ARIGATOU GOZAIMASU!!

I can’t quite put my finger on whether Phnom Penh has impressed me or not. It’s certainly a city of two halves with extreme poverty and affluence. There doesn’t really seem to be a central hub and I fear it lacks a little in atmosphere.
Our final stop in Cambodia is next where I’m eagerly anticipating exploring Angkor Wat and the neighbouring temples. Fingers crossed they live up to the hype and my expectations!!

(3rd-7th February)

Kampot

We took a private taxi to Kampot. From Sihanoukville it usually takes just over two hours, our driver did it in an hour and twenty minutes! Lewis Hamilton eat your heart out. It was great driving through the countryside, and nice to see a bit of ‘real’ Cambodia.

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We chose to stay in the ‘Magic Sponge’ hostel purely for its name (and the fact it was $28 a night with a tv that had Kodi!). We were warmly welcomed by William the owner – who was like he had just stepped away as an American game show host. His knowledge was incredible and he made us feel right at home.

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Straight away I realised Kampot was my type of town as locals wore their brightly coloured Pj’s out and about as daywear. I’m having massive withdrawal symptoms from my dressing gown aka second skin even in this heat!

Our first stop was an emergency nappy dash, fortunately the closest supermarket had a good selection – a close call as we had none left! I thoroughly enjoyed being in my first proper supermarket, the shelves were immaculate and I could have quite happily spent hours in there perusing the aisles.

We wandered down to the river front and had a delicious lunch in Veronica’s where we tried chicken kebabs in a lime and pepper sauce – Kampot is famous for their pepper plantations. I got attacked by mozzies which was a little annoying!

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We burnt off the lunch in a playground which although Molly enjoyed, like much of Cambodia we’ve travelled through, was covered in litter so we didn’t stay too long.

People in Kampot love the stinky fruit, durian, and have a giant statue of one on the main roundabout which did make me chuckle! Handy for a point of recognition when walking about however.

Back at our hostel we had a round of mini golf where they had a perfect Molly sized putter. I got a couple of hole-in-ones and thrashed Marcus! He didn’t launch his club in a rage this time!!!

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Our second day in Kampot was so hot I genuinely thought the road was melting underneath us. We had many a strange look from locals as we walked in the full sun whilst they sat and watched the world go by under parasols. We saw their ‘Olympic Stadium’ (a grungy football pitch), the large water lily pond, and the shady riverfront.

We stopped for lunch at a cute warehouse called ‘Espresso’, the food took an age to come like it has done in the rest of Kampot (sums up this sleepy laid back town) and Molly slept. She was very excited to wake up in the toy corner! The Australian owners had a little girl called Matilda and one of their employees also had a girl, Paji, both two and a half and before long all three were playing nicely – when Matilda wanted to share her toys!!

We watched the sunset over dinner at Rikitikitavi and enjoyed some great food and cocktails – plus they had a highchair for Molls. She wasn’t best pleased about being contained but we very much appreciated not having to chase after her for a change.

We hired a Tuk Tuk for the day which was amazing! Molly and Marcus were particularly excited for the adventure. Our first stop was to see the salt fields. Although there was currently no salt forming (our luck!) they were spectacular to see and one of my highlights. We drove through rural villages full of malnourished cows and shacks. The red dirt tracks threw up mountains of dust which will do nothing for Marcus’ cough.

We arrived at ‘La Plantation’ an organic pepper farm. For some reason it reminded me of Jurassic Park!! We learnt so much about pepper farming and were surprised to find out just how much is hand picked and sorted. The guides were amazing and their English was top notch.

We continued onto Kep where we had lunch at the infamous crab market – the food was very ‘meh’ – if only I ate crab!!!

On the way to the beach Marcus started bouncing on the spot – MONKEYS! Molly was hysterical and was shouting ‘ooh ooh ooh’ waving her hands under her armpits, pointing with glee and interchanging with ‘narna narna’! It was a fab end to a great day.


31st January-3rd February

Koh Rong Samloem

We took a remok (tuk tuk) into Sihanoukville town to catch the speed ferry to Koh Rong Samloem. Sihanoukville town is quite a dive but we managed to find all the toiletries we had run out of – excluding nappies!! Molly there’s going to be a lot of bum free time! Too soon for potty training?!

The journey to Saracen Bay was choppy, somehow Molly fell asleep on me which distracted me enough from my seasickness. The beach bungalow was beautiful. We had a lot of trouble finding accommodation before arriving and were subsequently incredibly pleased to find it wasn’t a shack!!

We soon found a harmonious routine of eating, playing, sleeping. Although the first night Marcus and I were both slightly creeped out by the bugs and strange noises!! Getting eyeballed by a lizard as we unrolled our mosquito net didn’t help matters!

We trampled through the jungle to reach the other side of the island – Lazy Beach. It was recently voted one of the worlds top beaches by National Geographic. It certainly had a relaxed vibe but we personally preferred our side of the island.

All in all our stay in Saracen Bay has been heavenly. Watching Molly roam around nudie doodie on the beach running in and out of the sea without a care in the world will always be a perfect memory. My only sadness is the lack of wifi which meant I was unable to sing a happy birthday to my mum! So a big, belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY JILLBO! Missing you all xxx

(27-29th January)