Best road tripping – Banff National Park

Staying at Lake Louise for a couple of nights gave us time to explore the area. We had a beautiful clear day when we headed down the Bow Valley and Ice Fields Parkways. Glorious views and we felt lucky the smoke had cleared to give clear skies.

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Bear spotting day 1

We arrived at Great Bear Lodge and after getting an initial briefing from owner Marg we checked out our rooms and the lodge interior. And in no time at all we were getting ready for our first outing. Pre-outing we had a bear safety briefing. No venturing off alone, stay on the floating lodge unless accompanied by a guide. No sudden moves, no loud noises.  We were in not-quite-salmon-feeding season, so trips involve getting into tinnies and cruising the estuaries of Smith Inlet. This was both terrifying and exciting if you are an adventure wimp like me. There were only 10 guests during our stay, so it was two little boats heading out.

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Bear spotting trips happen rain or shine, so it’s good to to have the right outfit. GBL has some serious gear for visitors – warm, camouflage onesie, oilskin pants and jacket, sou’wester (hat). Wear it all, if it’s raining you won’t feel a thing. So for the first trip out, after an early dinner, it was raining. We layered up, but decided not to take camera gear, not knowing what it might be like. Predictably, this was the only outing that we saw bear cubs. A magical experience and a great start to our bear lodge experience.

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Great Great Bear Lodge

Staying at a bear lodge was a particular dream of M’s, so after some serious forward planning (14 months in advance), finally the day arrived! Part of the excitement was our first trip in a seaplane – what a wonderful way to travel. Best way to fly. We were in the smaller plane of two going to the lodge, 5 passengers plus the pilot. We had a beautiful clear flight, landing at the front door of our floating accommodation at Great Bear Lodge.

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Due to various constraints (time and money – the usual), our visit was on the shoulder of the approaching salmon season (August). Bear spotting was likely, but viewing bears catching fish was entirely up to nature. M was just keen to see bears, and I was keen not to get eaten, so we didn’t really care if no salmon were involved in our experience.

When we arrived, there was a lot of hugging and farewelling going on – the seaplane that brings the new guests takes the leaving guests back to port. It all seemed very friendly, if a little excessive, but it was a magical place to land, and thrilling to know we would be staying here for a couple of days.  What a location.

Magic Mashpi

On our second day at Alambi we travelled to the Mashpi cloudforest area, a region about an hour and a half away which is becoming well known for amazing bird life. Next to a very very very expensive lodge, for a mere US$10 you can see an incredible range of birds, some of which are only found in the Mashpi area. Gorgeous day.

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Won’t you take me to/ Monkey Town (Lopburi)

So we did get a little closer to the monkeys by walking certain streets of the old town, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to enter Pha Prang Sam Yot – where the monkeys know they can jump all over you. In our Lopburi experience, the monkeys were mainly centred around the aforementioned temple, and the railway crossing nearby – and surrounding streets. Not running rampant everywhere.

But Lopburi has so much more to offer than monkey encounters, with a number of really wonderful temple sites (ancient and current). And we did a Noom Guesthouse tour which included Ang Sub Lak (the local lake) and the out of town ‘Peacock Temple’ (Wat Weyru Wan) – so wonderful to see some surrounding countryside. The biggest surprise was the really fabulous museum, housed in the old palace. The info panels were informative, in English as well as Thai. Downstairs housed a most impressive collection of ancient jewellery/jewelry. And the information about surrounding historical sites makes us want to return to see more around Lopburi.