A Swim in the Waterhole Below Klong Chao Waterfall

Within the tropical rainforest of Koh Kood, is a natural cascade with an alluring freshwater swimming hole. The flowering trees drape around the pool and are alive with the movements of countless black and white butterflies. Two ropes hang above the water waiting for someone to leap in. The edges of the pool have a perfect rock shelf at seating level. An ideal place to peacefully float and listen to the constant hum of jungle life.

The waterfall is easy to reach. Most of the journey is paved for easy access by bicycle or motorcycle. The road that leads to the waterfall turns at P.D. Guesthouse. The path continues through jungle and groves of rubber trees. Their stripped trunks and little bowls are a sight of interest for those unfamiliar with the process of rubber tapping.

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The destination is well signed and impossible to miss.

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The waterfall can also be accessed by kayak but expect some hiking where the water shallows close to the waterfall.

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After the road ends it is about a 10 minute walk on a level clear path.

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Enjoy your swim in tropical paradise!

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How to Safely Walk Your Dog in Thailand

IMG_0128In Thailand, a dog has a different connotation than many western countries. A pet dog in Thailand usually is a stray that gets food from a home or store front and therefore casually spends its days lounging around that area. At most, these dogs may get a worn collar, but a dog on a leash is a rare sight. A large leashed Dutch Shepherd led by a white farang (foreigner) is a sight worthy of stares and even photographs.

Many homes, temples, and stores are the place of residence for several soi dogs. Usually they form packs of 2-3 dogs, sometimes more. Even if the home front is fenced, these dogs will simply jump over. They are very territorial and a daily part of life when living in Thailand, especially for pet owners. It can be very intimidating when a pack of barking, high hackled dogs come rushing toward you and your dog.

The fact is, every stray soi dog has been hit, kicked, or had a stone thrown at it throughout its life. These are dogs that have learned the art of survival. Although territorial, they take care not to get injured because this can mean life or death to them. These situations can be smoothly handled if you remain confident and in control.

When traveling down a new street, carry a stick or (my favorite) a water bottle. When a pack of stray dogs come rushing up, use a confident voice and raise your hand as if to throw or drag your stick against the ground. These dogs know a faker when they see one, empty handed threats mean very little to them. Do not yell or get agitated. This will only excite the dogs, and you will lose respect with any local Thais within ear shot for ‘losing face’. This will deter the majority of strays, for those brave few that continue coming (my dog came in heat upon arrival in Thailand), I will give them a splash of water from my bottle. They will never forget and will leave you alone from there on out. I do not actually throw objects or attempt to harm these dogs, a mere threat is more than enough to set boundaries.

If you walk the same area regularly, these dogs will accept you within a few days. Furthermore, stray dogs can have better socialization skills than most house dogs. I don’t fear my dog being attacked as much as the transfer of disease or illness from close interaction. If you are someone who abhors the use of a leash and feels confident in your control over your dog, this is the country for you. Locals who actually do take their dogs on walks usually don’t have them on a leash.

Owners with small or fearful dogs should take extra care in new neighborhoods. I have had a few instances with small shop dogs lunging out and biting at my dog. My dog is now accepted in the neighborhood, and we can walk peacefully around followed by nothing more than a few halfhearted barks. It also helps that Zala is bigger than all the dogs around her. As stated earlier, these strays have learned the art of survival and will not take on a fight without cause, especially with a dog that is a head taller. I will add that my Dutch Shepherd not only scares the local strays but also the local Thais of the area. Keep this in mind when you bring a large dog with you to restaurants and coffee shops.

Although a dramatic change from dog walking lifestyle in western countries, bringing your dog to Thailand can be done if you remain actively aware of your environment and take extra care in reading the dog behavior around you. This experience may actual strengthen your bond with your dog as you will be assuming the role of pack leader and protecting your dog from others. Best of luck and be aware of your dog’s personal tolerance of this kind of environment and always keep their safety first.

Navigating Paris CDG Airport with a Dog

Paris CDG

Paris CDG

An entire book could be written on navigating the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. This article will map only the information I know from personal experience. The thought of finding your way with luggage, a crate, and a dog in tow can be a daunting prospect, especially if you are traveling solo, but Zala and I made it from Paris, France to Chiang Mai, Thailand and I’ll tell you how we did it.

It is best to prepare in advance and print out a map of the airport, you can find a basic layout map here. Zala and I arrived via the TGV train. In France, a dog ticket is half the price of your adult ticket, and dogs are required to be leashed and muzzled on the train. I have a 65lb Dutch Shepherd, and I have found that it is easiest to take a seat next to the luggage instead of my assigned seat if the train car (voiture) is crowded. Most trains to Paris are. My leashed dog walked alongside me from the train up until the moment I sent her away as luggage. Do not feel obliged to keep your dog in his/her crate while navigating around terminals and shuttles, you’ll only give yourself a headache and a backache.

The TGV train arrives between terminals 2D and 2F. If you feel like gambling and taking the train the morning before your flight, check online for any ongoing train strikes that may cause you unexpected delays. In my case, there were train strikes the days prior, and I chose to arrive in Paris the evening before my flight. There are numerous choices for hotels around the airport, but the cheapest option, actually within the airport, was Ibis Hotel.

To get to the Ibis Hotel, there is the CDGVAL shuttle that stops at all three terminals. From the TGV station, you need to take the lift up to the 4th floor. From there, simply follow the signs and take yet another lift. The Ibis and Hilton are located next to terminal 3. There is plenty of grass outside of terminal 3 and the Ibis Hotel for pet bathroom breaks. The pet fee for the Ibis Hotel was 5 Euros current as of March 2014.

AirFrance was our airline of choice this trip. AirFrance departures are located in terminal 2F. Going from terminal 3 to terminal 2F with a large dog crate, two duffle bags, and an excited dog took no longer than 20 minutes. A forewarning, trolleys are blocked from going on the lifts that go up and down to the CDGVAL shuttle. This leg of the journey will require extra time and manual lifting if you do not have help. After that, there are the long stretches of walking that the Paris CDG is famous for.

Individuals checking in with a dog will receive their boarding pass after they have paid and checked-in their dog, so don’t bother with the ticketing machines. Dog check-in should be done several hours in advance. My flight was at 1:50, and I checked my dog in at 11:00. To start, check your dog and any extra baggage in at the luggage counter. The attendant will inspect the cage, give you a waiver to sign, and put your baggage sticker on the crate. To my surprise, my dog’s health certificate was never checked. Afterwards, you will need to go to the ticketing office to pay for your dog’s fee (200euros to Thailand) and get your boarding pass printed. Finally, you will need to travel further down the terminal to #5 to drop off your oversized luggage dog.  It took well over an hour before she was actually crated and we said our goodbyes.

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After you have finished with the dog, it is your turn to go through the grueling process of customs. I will mention, yet again, how important it is to give yourself plenty of extra time. My gate was changed from terminal F to hall L. An entirely different hall with a lot of extra unplanned walking to get there! But if you do have extra time, terminal 2 has enough to keep you amused during your wait; including video games, wifi (first 15 minutes are free), and massages.

Upon boarding, there is a waiver to be handed to the stewardess. My boarding pass did not scan properly until I handed this waiver to her. This paper essentially said that my dog’s crate complied with the safety standards of AirFrance. After that, it was smooth flying on a direct flight, and my dog was waiting for me in Z3 oversized luggage at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. See my post on Suvarnabhumi Airport for information on collecting your dog, getting through customs, and catching another flight on a Thai airline.

Flying to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flying to Chiang Mai, Thailand

5 Small Villas You Should See in Italy

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Where to go when you have had enough of the crowds and tourists of Italy.

Saturnia

This quiet little village is located almost exactly between Rome and Florence. Just a couple kilometers outside of the village is Cascate del Mulino, an all natural hot spring. Take in the believed healing powers of the spring while surrounded by Tuscan countryside and end the day with a traditional Tuscan meal in Saturnia. This spring is open year round and is free to the public.

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Murano

This forgotten piece of Venice is world famous for its magnificent glass work. It has all the beauty of Venice, but without quite as many tourists. This small island is only accessible by boat. This is easy enough for those already on the main island of Venice. It is a quick trip away on the vaporetto (water bus). And pet lovers… dogs ride free.

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Moneglia

A small sea level village wedged between high mountains. The city is protected from its large bay by a sea wall. There are numerous tunnels throughout the wall for easy access to the beach. The shocking contrast of mountains and beach not only makes the blue sea reflect a forest green, but one can hike in the mountains in the morning and lounge on the beach in the evening. An ideal location for those who wish to disappear for a while along the top of the Italian boot.

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Loreto

A magnificent glowing dome protected by high walls perched atop an olive grove hill. This pilgrimage sight is the believed home of the Virgin Mary. Regardless of your religion preferences, Loreto will entrance you with its beautiful town center, unusual niche of Virgin Mary trinkets, and unique basilica.

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Aosta

This small alpine town has made its mark on the map with its surprisingly large daily market. Nestled in northern Italy, it is located close to the French/Swiss border making it a popular destination for Italy’s neighboring countries. Come here for cheap Italian fashion, Roman ruins, and fresh alpine air.

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Exploring the crags and crannies of Saint-Raphaël

St. Raphaël basilica

Notre Dame de la Victoire Church

Saint-Raphaël is not commonly recognized as ‘French Riviera,’  but it is indeed part of the Côte d’Azur. It is a lovely place for those seeking some room to breathe among the train loads of tourists that seek the summer beaches of France’s Mediterranean coast.

If you arrive in Cannes and discover, like many others, the inflated prices and scam artists that follow densely populated tourist destinations are not for you. St. Raphaël is a 20 minute train ride from Cannes. These train tickets can be purchased with no preset time, so you may leave town on a whim if you wish. Dog tickets are 50% of your ticket price. Train ticket machines have an English option, but those traveling with a pet must purchase their ticket from an actual ticket teller. There are designated English booths for those who don’t have a firm grip on the French language. It is about a 2 minute walk from the Gare de Saint-Raphaël-Valescure train station to the beach.

Along the

Along the Sentier du Littora footpath

Clean public beaches with showers stretch all across the city front . These beaches do not allow dogs, but this rule seems to be disregarded and poorly enforced. St. Raphaël is very well groomed and maintained. Never was there an overflowing trash can, and shady street venders seem to be ran off for the most part.

What makes St. Raphaël special is the Sentier du Littora coastal footpath; a winding trail woven among jagged red coastline rocks. It is connected with homemade bridges and in some places the steps are even cut into stone. This trail can be precarious as times, but the hidden coves and its mysterious (presumably man-made) stone port are well worth the effort. The trail starts at the edge of Port de Plaisance, and it is walled off at Plage de la Péguière although it is said this trail extends for an additional 6 km.

Plage de la Péguière is a sand beach with public showers and a small sandwich shop. It is approximately 5-6 km from the head of the Sentier du Littora trail. It is the perfect place to relax in the sand after exploring the crags and crannies of St. Raphaël’s unique coastal trail.

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Quiet cove along the

Quiet cove along the Sentir du Littora trail

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 For more information on dog travel in France click here

Sand wine, Raw carpaccio, and Salt mines: The Medieval City of Aigues-Mortes

Aigues-Mortes is located in the beautiful Camargue. This unique Ramsar protected wetland is a delta that feeds into the Mediterranean sea. Driving down the highway there are ancient indigenous Camarguais horses tugging on dry grass to your right and not-so-pink flamingoes standing in a lagoon to your left.

Salt mines of Aigues-Mortes

Salt mines of Aigues-Mortes

Camargue horses

Camargue horses

Aigues-Mortes is a medieval walled city kept in nearly perfect condition. It is one of France’s hidden gems, and it does not have many foreign tourists. Its revenue comes primarily from French families on holiday. This is the ideal location to have a true French experience.

Tower of Constance

Tower of Constance

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The wine famous to the area is Gris de Gris (sand wine). It is a rose wine and, to date, my favorite French wine.

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This trip I paired carpaccio with my favorite sand wine. Carpaccio is traditionally made with thin slices of raw beef served with parmesan shavings covered with olive oil. I found the carpaccio and parmesan combination to be rather delicious and the olive oil certainly makes it go down easy.

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Aigues-Mortes is very pet friendly. Pets are seen throughout the cobblestone streets, and they are welcome inside most cafes, restaurants, and stores. Zala and I stayed at Hotel les Templiers. It is centrally located within the walls of Aigues-Mortes, and the beautiful stone building holds true to Aigues-Mortes medieval style. The owners are laid back and friendly, and they even have a resident bulldog that lounges around.

Street of Aigues-Mortes

Street of Aigues-Mortes

Make sure to take time to explore the fascinating niche of medieval shops. They supply the most authentic collections of medieval costumes I have ever seen.

Cheap Airlines for Large Breed Dogs

A compilation of cheap, pet friendly airlines for big dogs.
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Please check often for updates

Airlines with a flat rate are the best for flying a large dog. Always check before purchasing your ticket if that airplane will accept dogs in the hold. Transfers sometimes add an additional charge. Beware of purchasing a ticket with multiple airlines. You must confirm your pet reservation and price with each airline individually. Some airlines have temperature and flight time restrictions for dogs.

Check the IATA standards for dog crates here

Where to buy a dog crate that meets IATA standards:

USA

France

**These rates are for dogs as checked in baggage.

Airfrance

Dogs over 6kg/13.2lb and up to a maximum weight of 75kg/165.3lbs combined weight (Dog + Crate).

Metropolitan France: €20

Within Europe or between Europe and North Africa or Israel: €75

Between France and Pointe-à-Pitre, Fort-de-France, Cayenne, Saint-Denis (Réunion): €55

Everywhere else: €200

KLM

Maximum weight of 75kg/165lbs combined weight (Dog + Crate)

Crate cannot be larger than 292 cm/115 inches (l + w + h)

Metropolitan France: €20

Within Europe: €75

Between Europe and Israel, North Africa: €200

Everywhere else:€200

If layover at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport lasts 2 hours or more: +€150

Lufthansa

Rates are calculated by crate size

Maximum 60 x 45 x 40

Within Germany: €35

Within Europe: €50

Everywhere else: €70

Maximum 80 x 55 x 55

Within Germany: €70

Within Europe: €100

Everywhere else: €150

Maximum 125 x 75 x 85

Within Germany: €150

Within Europe: €200

Everywhere else: €300

British Airways

On board Open Skies flights

€125

**I have heard British Airways only accept dogs coming from pet travel agencies. I have yet to verify this information.

Exploring Fabulous Florence with a Big Dog

Florence’s true Italian name is Firenze. Nestled in beautiful tuscany, it is the home of the Renaissance.

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Dogs are loved and welcome in Italy. They are allowed inside most cafes and restaurants, but it is always polite to ask first.  Usually Zala received better service than I did, in one restaurant she even got her own dish of cheesy pasta.

This pizza man spent the evening tossing Zala ham.

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A popular place to visit in Florence is Palazzo Vecchio. It is located close to the Arno River. It is one of the more crowded areas of Florence partially because the Uffizi gallery is located here. The Uffizi gallery is known for its long waiting line and large collection of Renaissance paintings. The gallery opens at 8:15, and I suggest starting your day there. There is little to no line during the weekdays at opening time. Tickets are given with a designated time frame to enter and tour the museum. Here you can see many well known classics including those done by Leonardo, Botticelli, Raphael, and Caravaggio. After you’re done, take a stroll across Point Vecchio. It is a stone Medieval arch bridge with (mainly jewelry) shops clustered along the sides.

Now, what about Michelangelo’s statue of David?

There is a replica at Palazzo Vecchio. Be sure to get all your photos done here because no photos are allowed of the real one located at the Galleria dell’Accademia. This gallery is small compared to the Uffizi or Louvre but worth your time. Down the corridor leading to the statue of David, you will walk past Michelangelo’s unfinished commissions. They are known as the Unfinished Slaves. In these larger than life mixtures of rough and smooth, Michaelangelo’s unfinished figures are twisting and straining to get out of their marble confines. The gallery ticket is worth every penny just to see these marble prisoners.

The Duomo is an impressive sight to see, but it is also packed with tourists during the day. It is best to view the Duomo and the Baptistery in the morning or evening; you will want an up close view of the bronze doors of the Baptistery. Reading up on the history of these famous doors is well worth your time.  I do not advise anyone to order food or drinks near the Duomo or Palazzo Vecchio. You will be met with low quality for a high price.

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If you want to see more renaissance green and white architecture, go to Basilica di Santa Maria Novella. It is located by the train station. There are less tourists in this area. This is the only church I have come across that actually charges an entry fee.

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Dogs are not allowed inside Basilicas or Museums. I felt comfortable leaving Zala outside. I usually found her surrounded by dog loving Italians repeating “Ciao bella (Hello beautiful).”

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Around the corner from the Basilica is the Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. It is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. The interior is beautiful and well preserved with a fascinating history on its survival. The pharmacy now specializes in perfumes, creams, and soaps traditionally made and of very high quality. And as Dr. Lector said, ‘one of the best-smelling places on earth’. I was actually asked by the staff to bring my dog inside the pharmacy because ‘she looked sad’ outside. Feel free to bring your pup inside to explore the scents and wonders of the Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.

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There are numerous cheap accommodations to be found in Florence. I use hostelworld.com to find most of my accommodations in Europe. Rule of thumb, hostels do not accept pets but hotels do. When a site does not state their pet policy or they only accept small pets, call and ask anyways. Many will make an exception for a large dog. You will get a better response (and sometimes price) if you start out in the speaker’s native language. Even if it is simply, “Ciao, parli inglese?(Hi, speak english?)” and “grazie(thank you)”. Zala and I stayed at Hotel Genzianella. It was cheap, clean, and it had free wifi. The staff is friendly, and they will automatically give you a map and share their local knowledge with you when you check into your room.

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And don’t forget to try a Tuscan Steak. Preferably with my favorite pasta, gnocchi (Italian potato pasta) and of course, paired with a good Italian red wine.

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Bologna: The best street market in Italy

If you ask an Italian where to find the best weekend market in Italy, they will tell you Bologna.

Piazza Maggiore is the place to go in Bologna to find street musicians, roasted chestnuts, beautiful architecture, and the famous Fountain of Neptune.

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The massive weekend market is close to the railway station. By bus, stop at Stazione Centrale. Most bus lines converge here. Above the market is a large circular park that is an excellent place for your pup to run around and you can look at all the large statues while your dog lets off some steam.

Standing at the Stazione Centrale bus stop you will see this piece of sculpture ( shown below) with stairs leading up on either side. This will take you to the park. On the opposite side of the park, you will be able to look down on the market. You can’t miss it. The market is full of cheap leather coats, boots, and bags. Plus all of the most recent Italian clothing styles. And a variety of other cheap products that will interest everyone in the family.

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The in-city buses have ticket machines inside of them so bring some change with you. I brought my dog on the bus without a problem. Passengers will appreciate it if you put a muzzle on your dog.
Feel free to ask questions or leave comments.

Dealing with Fleas and Ticks While Traveling

On the road or in the woods, here are some options for those times you have limited resources.

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Fleas

Dogs

There are numerous options available such as flea collars, powders, shampoos, sprays, and spot on products. These are globally available. Not near a store? You can make a natural deterrent out of boiled lemons. Let them set overnight and spray your dog the next morning. This is a deterrent not an eliminator. It will make things manageable until you have access to something better. Tea tree oil is a deterrent also. Rub this inside your dog’s collar and create your own version of an all natural flea and tick collar.

The best way to spot fleas is to roll your dog on their belly and lightly run your hand over your dog’s lower abdomen. You will likely see fleas scurrying away in the hair. Fleas also leave behind a gritty black residue that is easiest to spot on your dog’s belly where hair is scarce.

Humans

Fleas don’t survive well on humans. This doesn’t stop them from giving it a try and taking a few sips off of you.

Shower daily, wash your clothing and bedding, and, if you have access to one, a vacuum is your best friend. Suck those wily parasites off anything you think they and their eggs can hide inside. If your dog tolerates it, run it down your dog a few times (it’s also great for removing dead hair). Tea tree oil is my homeopathic cure all solution. It minimizes itchiness and also is a natural antiseptic. So if you have over scratched a bite, this will serve a dual purpose while you are on the road or in the woods.

Ticks

Dogs & Humans

Tick hooks and picks work best.

If you do not have one, smother the tick with dish soap or vaseline. Give this a minute or so. The tick will loosen its hold in its attempt to get air. Grasp the tick with tweezers close to the skin. Be careful not to detach the head from the body. If it does detach, it is best to dig out the head immediately. I have found from experience usually the heads will fester like a zit and can be popped out a few days later. I do not advise leaving the heads in, but don’t panic if you are unable to find it. No tweezers? Lay a piece of duck tape on the tick and pull the tape in a smooth motion. This is a last resort and not as effective as the above options. If you have no other tools, this is more efficient than using fingernails.

Yes, using a hot needle/match may also work, but good luck getting your dog to hold still while you attempt to press a smoking hot match to his/her body.

After you remove the tick, be sure you kill the tick. Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not die after you remove them. Once a tick is full of blood, they hit the ground and procreate. Easy solution; place the body in a piece of scotch or duck tape. Killing the tick by decapitation may expose you to the blood inside of it. This may not be a healthy option if this is someone/something else’s blood.

Helpful tip, not only does tea tree oil serve as an anti-itch agent and antiseptic, but it also is a deterrent to ticks.