How to travel with only your carry-on

I love traveling and I will seize the opportunity to travel every chance I get! Because I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit, I like to think that I am starting to get quite good at it. One of my favourite travel talents is that I am now something of a packing ninja. So much so that I have two long (3+ weeks) multi-destination trips under my belt, across South-East Asia and a road-trip around California, armed only with my carry-on… How did I manage that? Read on for my packing ninja top tips!


Many people don’t believe that it’s really possible but there are so many benefits of only traveling with hand luggage. For us, it was necessitated by some extremely tight connections – any checked luggage simply would not have made it with us to Los Angeles (one of our connections was only 45 minutes! I like to live life on the edge…) But whether it’s ease of transportation or just less hassle and waiting around at the airport, whatever it is that motivates you to try traveling with carry-on just go for it and embrace the simplicity!


Traveling with only your carry-on. The Barefoot Angel shares her 7 golden rules to help minimize your luggage and maximize your travel experience. 

Lists – 

This style of packing only really works if you’re super organized. Because of your smaller luggage space you can’t just throw everything in and hope for the best. Lists will be your best friend. 

Think carefully about the items you want to take and how well they pair together. You’re going to want your shoes (3 pairs max – one pair trainers, one pair flip flops and one pair heels or smarter sandals) and handbag(s) to go with as many different outfits as possible, for example. Curate your travel wardrobe carefully. Think about items that can be layered, mixed and matched, worn more than once. Include versatile items that can do double duty – scarves, sarongs and kimonos are great for this.

Write a list of everything that you want to pack and then edit it down. This will better help you visualize exactly which outfits to bring. 

Remember also that you’re probably going to find a few super cute items while you’re on your travels which are always a lovely souvenir and also a chance to switch things up a bit if you’re tired of the things that you brought with you. 


Wear your bulkiest items on the flight – 

I like to travel in super comfortable athletic wear, which is practical for two reasons. Firstly, as already mentioned, it is super comfortable which is exactly what you need for a long flight. Secondly, they are usually the bulkiest items that I am taking, my trainers, my sweatshirt, my jacket (if I’m taking one), my big scarf. By wearing these instead of packing them all it saves some serious packing real estate in my luggage. 


Luggage – 

Choose your luggage carefully. I like to use a structured cabin-sized wheelie case and then a duffel bag. The case is my hand-luggage and then the duffel is my personal item. My little handbag will then go inside the duffel when we board the flight. (Bonus: the duffel bag doubles up as an excellent large day bag/beach bag once I reach my destination.)

This system works for me because I can rest the duffel bag on my wheeled suitcase and I don’t have to carry it everywhere. To make this even easier I use my super dorky, but infinitely practical, bag bungee. (Note: this might look like it came straight out of an infomercial or an irritating sponsored post on Instagram, but people actually come up to me in airports and ask where I got it from, it really is useful!

Always research your airlines luggage policy to ensure that your carry-on will comply and that you won’t be forced to check-it at the gate (totally defeating the point of the whole exercise!)


Traveling with only your carry-on. The Barefoot Angel shares her 7 golden rules to help minimize your luggage and maximize your travel experience.


Packing Cubes – 

I’m only going to say this once – you need to invest in some packing cubes, or use gallon ziplock bags as an alternative. I am a packing cube convert (and I will try to convert everyone else!) I now cannot travel without packing cubes. My favourites are these ones because they are super durable, and these ones because they have a  cute cactus print. Not only do they help save a ton of space when you compress down all your clothes, but if you’re super organized when you pack them they mean that it is really easy to find whatever you need without tearing your bags apart at every destination.

I use one cube for active wear and casual day-wear, one for dressier items, one for underwear and swimwear, one for toiletries (more on that later), one for dirty laundry and one for tech items. When I’m looking for something I just grab that cube and leave everything else neatly in it’s place. It’s life changing. 

I also have little bags for jewelry and prescription meds – it’s like a Russian doll for bags inside my case… 


Roll – don’t fold – 

Speaking of packing, make sure that you are rolling your clothes instead of folding them. I am sure that you are aware of this already but rolling your clothes reduces the space that they take up as well as minimizing wrinkles – win, win! 


Traveling with only your carry-on. The Barefoot Angel shares her 7 golden rules to help minimize your luggage and maximize your travel experience.


Toiletries – 

Just don’t take ‘em! I hate traveling with toiletries, apart from the fact that they take up a huge amount of space, I also then worry about bag explosions. I try to take as few as possible with me. This is especially important when you are traveling with hand luggage since (a) you have limited space and (b) all your liquids need to go through security separately in their own clear bag. I carry a few travel-sized mini essentials (toothpaste, moisturizer, sunscreen, perfume, face wipes etc.) along with my day-to-day make up (7 items) and then I rely on the fact that either my hotel will provide the necessities (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion) or that I can pick them up when I reach my destination. 

Note: I carry all of my travel toiletries in my smallest clear packing cube and have never (touch wood) had any trouble taking them through security. But, for that one TSA agent that I will likely one day cross paths with, I make sure that all my liquids will fit inside one of their baggies should they need me to. 


Minimize your electronics and tech gear – 

I am probably still guilty of taking more tech gear than I need but I am getting better. One of the things that has saved me on recent trips is my travel charger (I have it in white) – with multiple usb charging ports it enables me to charge all my devices on the one interchangeable plug. 

Dual-head charging cables are also really useful – this one charges my iPhone, my kindle and my Apeman underwater camera

Lastly, my kindle is one of my favourite travel companions enabling me to take my whole library with me, while taking up hardly any space! 


Traveling with only your carry-on. The Barefoot Angel shares her 7 golden rules to help minimize your luggage and maximize your travel experience.


So there we have it – my 7 golden rules for traveling with only your carry-on. Totally do-able! Do you think that you would be tempted to give it a try? Which top tips do you have for me to try next time? 

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Serafina Beach Hotel, San Juan: A Review

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

This is the last post in the Puerto Rico series (for now…). If you missed them, you can read more about our adventures and all my recommendations for Old San Juan, Condado and elsewhere in Puerto Rico here and here


In my last post I had given you a teeny sneak peek into the gorgeous hotel we stayed at, but I really felt that it deserved a more comprehensive review, as we had such a lovely time there. So, without further ado, here’s my full review of the Serafina Beach Hotel, Condado.  


First up, if I’m completely honest, I kinda wanted to stay here after seeing JetSet Sarah’s beautiful Insta-stories while she was staying. That’s one of the things I love most about following other travel bloggers, all the top tips and first-hand accounts! 

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

As I discussed in my previous Puerto Rico posts, I had been itching to get back over to San Juan, post-Maria, and see how the recovery efforts were going. One of the reasons I was so excited to stay at Serafina is that it is the latest resort to open, brand new since the hurricane and an important step in bringing much needed tourist dollars back to the area. I was not disappointed. 


Set on the right on the beach in Condado, Serafina Beach Hotel has ocean-front rooms as well as rooms that look over the lagoon. We had opted for a lagoon-view room (price peeps, they are a bit cheaper) but next time I would definitely splash out for an ocean-view room. The lagoon views are not without their own charm but once I saw the spectacular ocean views from the pool, I sorta wished my room had the same. 

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

Our room was large and really comfortable. Decorated in white, grey, teal and sea foam greens it really incorporates the water views into the room and is very calming. This is further accentuated by the use of natural wood tones and the magnificent floor to ceiling window, which really helps to bring the outside in. There is a definite beach house vibe. It all looks clean, bright and modern too, which I appreciated. The mini bar was fully stocked and had some tasty little treats, although I was somewhat disappointed to find that there were no in-room tea and coffee making facilities. 

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

 The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

Downstairs in the lobby was more of the clean and simple blues and whites with interesting lighting features and quirky pieces of decor. The lobby area has a bar and a small but well curated clothing boutique with some really beautiful pieces. But drawing you out of the lobby, and practically running outside, is the spectacular view of the pool and ocean. 

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

 The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

Go through the revolving glass doors and out onto the pool deck to find the pool bar which serves coffee, cocktails and light bites. Pull up a lounger and enjoy uninterrupted views across the infinity pool and out to the ocean, watch the pelicans fishing as you sunbathe, it really is a beautiful location to wile away a couple of hours.

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

And when you start to get peckish, just head next door to aMare restaurant. The restaurant shares the stunning ocean views and the outdoor patio area is a beautiful place to dine. 

I, sadly, only had a chance to sample breakfast and lunch at aMare, but I was thrilled with the delicious looking Italian menu. Breakfast has a great selection of the usual favourites (I opted for the avocado toast because it’s delicious/I really am that basic) along with some combo breakfasts if you’re feeling a bit hungrier. 

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel 

When lunch rolled around I struggled to choose between all the Italian classics, I really needed more lunches there! I eventually chose the ‘linguine alle vongole’, as it has been a long-term favourite and I so seldom find it on the menu. (The ‘cacio e pepe’ and the ‘porcini e arugula risotto’ only narrowly lost out though! And what about trying the ‘black truffle and champagne risotto’?? Mamma Mia! Got to stop now, making myself hungry again…) 

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel 

Service in both the hotel and restaurant was friendly and attentive. The staff are quite a young crew, in keeping with the ‘Social, Sexy, Serafina’ vibe they are cultivating. I see from their social media that they have started various events including sunset yoga and other ‘Serafina Happenings’. I am excited to get involved. 

The Barefoot Angel | Island Lifestyle and Travel Blog | Travel Guide | San Juan Puerto Rico | Serafina Beach Hotel


If you are looking for a fresh vibe in San Juan with chic style and distinct South Beach feels, Serafina Beach Hotel is for you! I know that I can’t wait for my next visit! 




San Juan, Puerto Rico – A Travel Guide

So, in my last post I took you through all my top tips and recommendations for what to do and where to go in Old San Juan. In case you haven’t already, you can read more about it all here. Today we’re covering the wider San Juan area and my favourite spots in Condado, Isla Verde, Ocean Park, Santurce and beyond! I have been coming to Puerto Rico for years, it is one of my favourite places to get away from it all, but I still seem to find something new every time I visit! Sadly a few of my long-term favourites have closed since the hurricane but there is still so much fun to be had!


Eat and Drink: 


Santaella (Santurce) 

Puerto Rican fine dining at Santaella is such a treat. Home to renowned Puerto Rican chef, Jose Santaella, this restaurant aims to showcase the very best of Puerto Rican cuisine and sources many of the ingredients from the local farmer’s market. Very popular (be sure to make a reservation) this restaurant is a bustling and busy, leafy oasis in the heart of Santurce. Santaella serves up truly delicious Puerto Rican dishes with a specials menu that changes daily. Portions are generous so be sure to share some of the fantastic starters with whomever is lucky enough to be dining with you, and try to save room for dessert. 


Blonda (Condado) 

I take brunch very seriously (is there a certification in brunching? Because I’m almost certainly qualified!) and this place is seriously good. Huge (!) portions (the ‘Famous Blonda Breakfast’ (not pictured) is obscene!), extensive menu, a selection of different mimosas (orange, raspberry, guava, ginger, passion fruit, grapefruit, mango and acerola to mention a few) including an option to sample 4 smaller glasses for $15 (sold!!), what’s not to love? Try to get there by 10:00 am for the best chance of getting seated quickly (no reservations on the weekends) or expect to queue for a table. 


Kasalta (or ‘The Obama Cafe’) (Ocean Park) 

Made famous by (you guessed it) Barrack Obama’s presidential visit in 2011, this large bakery/diner is very popular with Puerto Ricans and packed at the weekends. Stop in for breakfast, join the queue, order from the huge menu of local favourites (you can order exactly what Obama had, if you fancy, but personally I like the Mallorca con jamon, queso y huevo) and then jostle for a seat at the busy communal tables. 


Ceviche House (Isla Verde) 

Slightly off the beaten track but worth the trek/Uber is the Ceviche House. As the name suggests, it’s famous for it’s Peruvian fish dishes. Great for lunch or dinner, try to make a reservation – if you can – or expect a wait for a table. Choose what sort of fish/seafood you want and order pitchers of sangria. 




Serafina Beach Hotel (Condado)

On our most recent trip to San Juan we stayed at the Serafina Beach Hotel in Condado – truthfully I have so many pictures and so much to say about this hotel that it probably deserves a post of its own. So, for now, I will just say that I highly recommend it… [Read my full post here


The Condado Vanderbilt (Condado) 

San Juan’s premier 5* hotel, for old school glitz and glam you don’t get much more luxe than the Condado Vanderbilt. Think lots of marble and gilt and impeccable service.


Acacia Boutique Hotel (Condado)

For a more budget-friendly option try Hotel Acacia, a short walk from the main drag in Condado, Acacia is clean and comfortable with a large hot tub and pleasant cafe called Niche. Their sister hotel (Windchimes) across the street also has a swimming pool that you can use. 


Do and See:


Relax at the beach – 

It would be a shame on your Caribbean holiday if you didn’t hit the beach for a little bit. Condado/Isla Verde/Ocean Park are all located along the ocean front and are popular with kite-boarders, stand-up paddle boarders and other water sports, you can rent water sports equipment or participate in tours through companies like VIP Adventures. Or, if you’re looking for something a little bit more laid back, and staying in one of the many beach front hotels (like Serafina or the Vanderbilt), you can pull up a sun lounger on the beach by your hotel and still be only footsteps away from a really good cocktail (priorities people…)


Salsa dancing –

Santurce (where Santaella is located) is a neighborhood in San Juan that really comes alive after dark. If you had been to dinner at Santaella you’ll be right in the thick of it, if not there are plenty of little bars and food stalls around to grab a bite. Busy bars line the streets surrounding La Placita, the salsa music is loud and it’s not unusual to find couples dancing in the streets. 


Hire a car and explore Puerto Rico – 

Within easy driving distance of San Juan there are several fantastic Puerto Rican sights that are well worth taking the time to do. Here are my personal favourites: 


Cueva Ventana – Head out towards Arecibo to visit Cueva Ventana. Involving a relatively gentle hike and then a climb down into the cave, please wear appropriate clothing and consider your fitness levels (suitable for older children). All that exercise is worth it though when you descend down into the cave and see the view opening up in the side of the valley and the lush greenery. Watch out for the bats! 


Arecibo Observatory – While out in Arecibo you should pay a visit to the Arecibo Observatory. Famous for a few reasons (it was the world’s largest radio telescope for over 50 years) but you’ve probably seen it in the climactic scene of the Bond film ‘Goldeneye’ (Bond and Alec Trevelyan engage in a fight on the antenna overhanging the huge dish at the end of the film). As well as the view from the top, and the Bond-themed photo opportunity, there is also an educational science centre that is great for kids and adults alike.  


Horse-riding in the jungle – In the foothills of El Yunque National Rainforest is Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park where you can go horse riding through the forest. Suitable for beginners or slightly more advanced riders (the husband is a complete riding novice, whereas I rode a lot when I was younger), all levels can enjoy a couple of hours, at a fairly sedate pace, exploring the forest and out to the banks of the Mameyes river where you can cool off (and drink the water) with a quick swim. 

If you are a bit more of an adrenaline junkie and fancy something that moves a bit faster they also offer ATV tours through the rainforest. In order to keep both the husband and myself happy we compromised on a horseback tour in the morning and an ATV excursion after lunch.  (In case anyone was wondering, I’m really outstandingly bad at driving an ATV…)


So, there we are, this is by no means an exhaustive list as there are literally so many things you can get up to in Puerto Rico. But I look forward to updating this post after more Puerto Rican trips and new adventures, and as I discover even more of the hidden gems. 


Have you visited Puerto Rico? What else should I be putting on my list of things to do?? 


Old San Juan, Puerto Rico – A Travel Guide

Living on a very small rock often requires a trip to somewhere slightly larger in order to maintain your sanity! As much as we love our little slice of paradise, occasionally you need to go to a place where nobody knows who you are… 


Only a 30 minute flight away is neighbouring Puerto Rico and a taste of the ‘big city’, with malls, highways, historical sites, museums, art galleries, cinemas and the occasional concert tour (even Madonna has toured here). 


I have visited Puerto Rico, in particular San Juan, a number of times during my years in the Caribbean – sometimes with the husband and often with my girls. 


After category 5 hurricane Irma hit us and then category 4 hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, life has been a little different and I was desperate to get over there and see how they were getting on! Finally I got the opportunity to visit this weekend and spent a happy couple of days getting my fix of Puerto Rican food, culture and hospitality. Sadly a few of my favourites have closed since the storms (physical damage and then a slow tourist season has made for really tough times in the hospitality industry) but I was thrilled to visit some of my old haunts and make new favourites on my trip this weekend! 


This post focuses purely on Old San Juan, you can read here for my suggestions on Condado, Isla Verde and other areas of San Juan and Puerto Rico… 

Featuring suggestions at a variety of price points, here are my top tips – my things to do, places to eat, where to go and what to see in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico:


The colourful buildings and cobbled streets –

One of my favourite things to do in Old San Juan is just to take a wander through the squares and streets. The colourful Colonial buildings are beautiful (I always like to pick favourites and imagine which one I would like to live in) and there are painted murals and bits of street art dotted around too. Stop for coffee, sit outside and people watch. There are lots of little coffee shops and bars where you can sit and pass the time, opportunities to rest your legs after lots of exploring, or ‘shopping breaks’ as I like to call them. 


El Morro and Castillo San Felipe del Morro –

Get up to the top of Old San Juan, take a stroll along the old fort walls and explore the castle ramparts. There are beautiful views of the ocean and locals ride their bikes and run along this stretch of the city – sometimes families will come up at the weekend to fly kites. 


Marmalade – 

My favourite restaurant in San Juan (if not the world) is Marmalade restaurant. Their tasting menus with wine pairings are a treat for the eyes and the tastebuds. Inventive, unusual and always with impeccable service. 

This is not a budget meal, but worth every cent – tasting menus start at $55 pp for three courses and go up to $85 pp for six courses. I recommend opting for four ($65) or five ($75) courses depending on your budget to give yourself the opportunity to sample lots of their dishes.  Save it for a special occasion, dress up and enjoy it.

Top tip – try the Global Warming cocktail pre-dinner, your margarita-based libation has a large ice cube made of chili water, the longer you take to drink it, the hotter it gets. 

Rosa de Triana

For a more budget-friendly meal, head to this delightful little tapas restaurant. Ask for a table outside in their little courtyard, lit with fairy lights for a really charming dinner experience. Most of the tapas dishes cost between $8-$12 so you can order a few to share. The tapas is traditionally Spanish, rather than Puerto Rican, and really delicious! 





La Taberna Lupolo – 

After your meal walk off your food with a climb up the hill to La Taberna Lupolo to avail yourself of their extensive beer menu – reading like a wine list there is a huge variety of lagers, bitters and IPAs all inventively named (yes, ‘Kilt Lifter’ I’m talking about you). This time I tried their rum punch, but even that was beer-related as it included hop oil! 

El Batey

A little hole in the wall dive bar – the interior of El Batey is completely covered in graffiti making for some interesting photos. More eclectic than the artwork are the regulars, stop a while and hear some stories. There’s a pool table and a jukebox and it’s right around the corner from Rosa de Triana, so if you went there for dinner this would be a natural spot for your post-dinner drink… 



El Convento

Not just a hotel but a piece of San Juan history, El Convento is known for its beautiful but quirky rooms. It also has a gorgeous tiled courtyard restaurant which serves excellent tapas for lunch and is well worth a visit, even if you decide to stay elsewhere. 

Hotel Casablanca – 

If you’re a fan of a cheap and cheerful, unique boutique hotel, this one is for you. Moroccan inspired decor with silver walls, four poster beds, lots of mirrors and tiled sinks can be found in the rooms – while downstairs in the lobby is decorated with giant chandeliers, huge orchids, original artwork and the film ‘Casablanca’ playing on a loop. Located right in the thick of it on Calle Fortaleza, street noise can be an issue. If you’re planning on any early nights keep this in mind and opt for an internal room (no windows means not street noise).  


Old San Juan is full of little boutiques and galleries, all of which are well worth exploring, but here are a couple of my personal faves. 

El Galpon

Selling genuine Panama hats, cigars and local artwork and with some of the best and friendliest customer service in the whole of Puerto Rico, stop in here if you want a quality sun hat that will last. 

(My El Galpon panama hat)

Pure Soul Boutique –  

Great fashion, jewelry, accessories and even some bath and body products can be found in this pretty little store, at Pure Soul Boutique. 


Salsa – 

When I think Puerto Rico, I think Salsa and nowhere is better to dance the night away than the Nuyorican Café just off Calle Fortaleza. Featuring live salsa music and a host of local dance partners just waiting to teach you the moves… 

Visit the art galleries – 

Old San Juan has a host of galleries and boutiques showcasing local art – but my favourite is Galeria Botello. Featuring sculptures and other artwork by Angel Botello alongside various international artists. 

Rent a bicycle –

For when you want to do more, see more, explore more and cram more into your day! What better way to get around the old city, but with a bicycle. There are a few bike rental places around, either rent the bicycle for the day or even take one of the guided bicycle tours – find out more here.

Have you been to Old San Juan? Do you have any tips or suggestions for me to try out next time I visit…?


The Elephant in the Room – Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary

So, I guess I need to start of by addressing the elephant in the room… I am painfully aware that I haven’t blogged for 249 days… To anyone that is new here (welcome!), when I left off on September 4th I was bracing myself for Hurricane Irma and naively assuming that nothing too bad would happen. Needless to say that wasn’t quite the case. 

Unfortunately, I still find it very hard to read or watch anything hurricane-related, and the idea of writing about it has been a source of a lot of anxiety for me. Maybe one day there will be a hurricane post, but it certainly won’t be today. I’m sorry. Anyway… enough of the metaphorical elephant, can we talk about literal elephants now?? 


We recently got back from the most wonderful Asian adventures (more on these to come!), comprising four countries, six cities and a good few bucket-list items checked. One of the ones I had most been looking forward to was visiting the elephants in Thailand! And it certainly did not disappoint… 

Chiang Mai was the last city on our itinerary, and I had patiently been waiting for our elephant encounter. I knew that I wanted to find an ethical elephant sanctuary, with no riding, tying up or stress for the elephants and fortunately Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary delivered the exact elephant experience we were looking for. 


Lanna Kingdom is about an hour’s drive North of Chiang Mai. We were met by our friendly guide bright and early at our hotel and we hit the road, stopping along the way to gather up the rest of our group. (Lanna Kingdom restrict their groups to less than 15 people so that the elephants don’t get overwhelmed and so that each visitor can get some time getting to know the elephants.)

We arrived to Lanna Kingdom and quickly changed into the more elephant suitable attire that they provide (you’re going to get wet and muddy, in the best way possible, so keep that in mind!) all the while marveling at the five magnificent creatures just strolling around. 


Each of the elephants has their own mahout and you are introduced to the elephants with them. We had arrived just in time for breakfast so first on the agenda was handing them their corn and bananas. We also received a quick but informative briefing about the  sanctuary and the elephants themselves, a little about their background and characters. All of their elephants have been purchased from logging camps, riding camps or circuses and many of them still bear the scars and the branding from their previous homes. It is fantastic to know that they can live out the rest of their days safely at Lanna Kingdom. They all have big personalities (excuse the pun) but none more so than the baby of the bunch, little Lanna, sooooo mischievous – you couldn’t help but feel for her mahout as she lead him on a merry dance around the property, charging around and generally misbehaving as only a little elephant can. 


After feeding the elephants (a bizarre experience that I can only liken to trying to post food into the nozzle of a very wet vacuum cleaner) their bananas (be sure to remember to say ‘di di’ (good girl) when she takes one). We then headed down to the river to start bathing the elephants. The schedule at Lanna Kingdom is pretty fluid, the same items need to get done every day, but they are somewhat lead by the elephants and what they’re in the mood for. 


We also helped out making the elephant ‘medicine balls’ – just three ingredients, these are needed to keep our favourite pachyderms ‘regular’. Banana is muddled with sugarcane and sour tamarind in a large pestle and mortar before being scooped out and fed to them. The sweetness of the sugarcane and their favourite bananas help to make the sour tamarind (the key ingredient) more palatable. 


Lastly it was mud spa time, definitely the messiest but probably the most fun, the elephants head to the water hole so that you can rub the mud into their skin, which is necessary to keep their skin healthy.


There’s always time for a water fight too…

Before heading back into the city there is just enough time for lunch! Delicious vegetarian pad Thai and slices of fresh watermelon we’re waiting for us. All the tasty food smells proved a bit too much of a temptation for baby Lanna and she squeezed herself into the enclosure in order to try and steal some watermelon. 


We opted for the half day tour and we found that was the perfect amount of time with the elephants and still allowed us time to explore Chiang Mai. The cost of our tour was B2,500. More about the tour options available can be found on their website here

(If you’re not already following me on Instagram, why not? Find lots of our Asian travels there)