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Songkran 2015

When we first arrived in Prachuap, we had only paid for 2 nights because the owner said that for the 13th (what would have been our 3rd night) all the rooms were booked.  You see, Songkran, the Thai New Year (also known as the Water Festival) was just around the corner so many Thai’s were traveling to their favorite vacation spots to celebrate the occasion.  So while for the first day here was simply spent lounging on the beach, the second was dedicated to trying to find somewhere else to be for the night of the 13th.  As we wandered the main road trying to find accommodations for the 13th (and were constantly told ‘no space’) we kept thinking more and more outside of the box with suggestions like “well, if it’s only for that one night that there’s no availability at the Ban Thai Hut, then we can just ask if we can store our bags there and sleep on the beach!  No worries!”.

As fate would have it however there WAS space at our hut, it was just that the price was going to be increased for the nights of the 13th and 14th.  Of course for Holidays they would up the price…  Even though the price hike was annoying, it was really a God-send that we didn’t have to go anywhere because on the morning of the 13th (when we would have had to pack up and move locations) we woke up to an absolutely HUGE thunderstorm that rocked on with lightning and thunder for most of the day.  We kept laughing at the prospect that we had thought to sleep on the beach… Lol!

April 14th was the official day to celebrate the Thai New Year.  However in most places, especially larger cities such as Chaing Mai and Bangkok, they choose to celebrate for an entire week.  Songkran, as mentioned above is also known as the water festival, and is aptly named because for the duration of the celebration days of Songkran people go crazy with water fights!  Buckets of water are thrown on passersby, cars, motorcyclists, bicyclists, basically anything with a pulse (though they don’t target the dogs thankfully!! :)).  If you aren’t hit by a bucket of water, you will be hit by a hose, or a water gun, or by a truck driving by with people in the bed of the truck chucking out water all around.  It’s absolute water mayham!!  I loved it!!!!

There are a couple of confusions surrounding the Holiday however…  Well, the first isn’t a confusion as much as a concern really.  But apparently the number of motorcyclist deaths DOUBLE each year during Songkran because of crashes related to people chucking water on them while they drive!!  I did see a news report from Bangkok this year however saying the death toll was down more than 20% from last year, so that’s good…

Getting into the actual confusion bit about the Holiday; Songkran is the Thai New Year.  Yet on January 1st, their year turns over.  They went from the year 2557 to 2558 on January 1st.  So………..  The question remains in what way is Songkran the Thai New Year?  I have yet to have this explained to me nor to find anyone who actually knows the answer to this (and I refuse to Google it just yet as I’m curious to actually find someone who knows).  What I have heard from some is that Songkran is more of a “last chance” for water “festival” meaning that mid-April marks the beginning of their dry season where not so much rain can be expected for months until the monsoon season hits…  Still confusing is that they also celebrate the Chinese New Year… So essentially it seems in Thailand that they celebrate the Western New Year (January 1st) when their physical calendar year also changes, they celebrate the Chinese New Year, AND Songkran which is their “actual” New Year and/or perhaps just a water celebration before the dry season…  Anyone else confused?

Moving along, the actual day of Songkran (April 14th) was overcast but not rainy and in this sleepy little town of Prachuap, it was rather low-key.  About a 5 minute walk from our place were 5 kids set up on the side of the road equipped with a hose, large buckets, smaller buckets (for use to chuck water) and several water guns.  When there wasn’t any traffic to pummel with water they simply turned on each other or scooped up small buckets of water to pour on themselves, lol!!  It was great fun watching them and all the smiles on the faces of those going by who were hit with water.  And it was even more fun watching the random truck pull up and start a water fight from the bed with the kids on the street.

We watched this activity for several hours drinking beers and chatting in between.  At one point I went back to the hut for my camera and saw some guys painting each other up with some festive paint (a new part of the Songkran tradition apparently) and after asking if I could take their picture, they proceeded to give me the blessing of slathering some paint on me too 🙂

Back at the bar where we were drinking, we met a couple for the UK who had been living in Prachuap for a while, and they invited us to “the wall” for some more drinks.  The Wall is literally the sea wall along the main road of Prachuap on the South side of the pier that splits the bay.  We had yet to go to that side, so took the opportunity (in our already quite intoxicated states as we had missed eating breakfast and lunch) to go.  We hoped in the bed of the truck and headed over to the wall.  I was furiously trying to take pictures along the way and totally neglected to think about the prospect that while the Songkran celebration was quite docile along our little local strip of the bay, it would potentially not be the same on the other side of the pier where it was known to be more touristy.

Just as we pulled up in the heart of the area we had to stop in the road because of traffic.  It was then that I realized how much celebration was going on and tried to as quickly as possible to put my camera away when I was hit from head to toe with a bucket of ice-cold water!!  Yup, they don’t care what you have on you, what you are wearing, what precious things you have that you may not want to get wet; if you are out and about, no matter your state, you will be soaked!!  They even have special bags they sell for phones and tablets so you can take pictures but keep them dry, lol!!  I was soaked and my camera also got hit through, but in the spirit of it all (I was warned it could happen) all I could do was laugh and enjoy the great cheer!  But needless to say the picture-taking came to an abrupt end!!

We got some more drinks and I purchased a roll of toilet paper to dry my camera with and simply sat on the wall chatting for hours!  The conversations lasted long after the sun went down until we were past the point of being in any way sober and were then in desperate need of food!  We parted ways with our “wall” friends and headed to find food and pass out accordingly.  Good times!  Another Happy New Year it was! 🙂

On to Wat A Cave!

Back to Thailand

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Loch Lomond (Conic Hill)

Though there was lots of drinking throughout my trip to Scotland (and Glasgow was no exception) I was at least countering some of the calories I was ingesting via beer in the form of hikes!  As Anna is also a big fan of hiking, we set off for Loch Lomond to take on Conic Hill!!!  Markie also joined us for the day of fun!! 🙂

Now, while we are fans of hiking and walking in general, we aren’t necessarily the most organized of people… Real hard-core hikers are prepared in advance.  They pack the necessities, make sure they have the right shoes, get up at the rear of dawn to make it to their destination so they can get in a good hike before lunch.  Yea…. this was not us at all!!  We woke around 10, made our way out of the house maybe around noon?? Left in jeans and random everyday-use sneakers. Then went to get Markie, headed to Conic Hill to climb the “mountain” (it’s really just a hill!!) got some candy bars and some water at the little store at the base of the hill, then headed on up!  Actually, had it been completely up to Markie, we would have just stayed at the base where there was a little restaurant and had some whiskey and beer instead of climbing at all (he was like “you were serious about hiking??” lol!!).  So after convincing him that yes, we really were going for a hike, we headed off!

Though again we kept calling our hike “a hike up a mountain” it literally was just a hill.  The climb was not tough or really that steep, just cold and quite windy at the top!!  The more movement we made though the warmer I felt (of course from circulating the blood) but the second we would stop, I would freeze!!  It only took about 45 minutes to get to the top at a very leisurely and relaxed pace.  The view from the top was splendid as you could see all across the Loch and each of the little islands in the Loch.  Sadly, that particular Loch is quite popular for parties in the summer and such… I say sadly because apparently there are a lot of deaths that occur in that Loch due to people getting too drunk, then getting on their boats or trying to swim or what have you… And because of the currents/depth/clarity/size of the Loch, it’s more like people just go missing… The bodies aren’t always found:(  In fact, not that long before we were there, a news report had come out that a foot had washed ashore on one of the beaches on the Loch… Joy!!  It was thought to be from a case years before of a child that had apparently drown, but the body was never found…

Another interesting thing to note about Loch Lomond for those seriously into hiking and camping out during hikes… It is the start of the West Highlandway which is a 4-5 day walking camp route!!  It is quite a popular route and in fact even as we were coming down off the Hill, we passed several younger people with their backpacks, yoga mats and wee tents strapped to them.  Obviously they were off to tackle the West Highlandway!

For sure had it been actually warm weather I could see being interested in doing something like that… But you all already know how much of a complete wimp I am in the cold!!  Good times!  In any event, once we made it back down, to reward ourselves we just had to stop in for a pint and some whiskey to warm up!!  Since Anna was driving though, she could only have coffee… poor thing!!  Don’t worry though, she caught up to us later that evening once we ditched the car! 🙂  We hung out for a couple of hours enjoying our beverages then headed back to town for the evening festivities!

Almost forgot!  On the way back we actually stopped in to visit with Anna’s dad for a few moments where we were scoffed at each time we called “Conic Hill” a “mountain” 😉  Obviously we were trying to sound tougher than we actually were and her dad knew better!!  Lol!!!

On to Lochgoilhead

Back to Glasgow

Back to United Kingdom

Bar Fights and Store Fights

This really was quite humorous because though I’ve never been one to pick a fight or even be involved in a fight, my time in Glasgow is somewhat known for being riddled with fights!  No real violence was involved though so perhaps a better term would be altercation… It just seemed like everywhere we went one sort of altercation or another broke out!!

Quick example: first day I was there, we went out to the Horseshoe bar, which is most famous for having the longest continuous bar in Europe!  Another quick funny here, while Anna is a local Glaswegian, she knows nothing really of Glasgow!!  She kept trying to tell me all this interesting facts about Glasgow, but would only tell them half-way!  “This ceiling (Central Station ceiling) is the largest glass ceiling!!” She would say… Ummmm…. ok…. The largest glass ceiling… where??  In Glasgow? Scotland? Europe??  Turns out (after a Google search) that it is the largest glass ceiling in the World!!  Impressive after all!  And she tried to tell me about the “longest continuous bar” but again didn’t know the rest of the statistic (longest continuous bar in Europe) and at first she named the wrong bar!!  It took another of her friends to straighten her out, lol!!

I digress… Anyway, we were in the Horseshoe bar enjoying some beers when all of a sudden the very drunk woman at the table next to us turned and said… Well, I will just write out the conversation for simplicity sake:

Drunk lady: “How are you doing in the future?”

Us: “Uh, we don’t know, we haven’t been there yet”

Drunk lady: “Ugh!  Nevermind. F off!!”

Us: “Wow, F off??  That wasn’t very nice!”

Drunk lady: “I wasn’t trying to be nice!”

LOL!!  Seriously!!  I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or well, actually I did just laugh!  Though it was really annoying as we were just there minding out business then suddenly had to deal with her lunacy!  And the friend that was with her was even worse!  She wasn’t near as drunk and kept laughing every time her drunk friend said something to us, then would turn to us and say “sorry girls, she’s just drunk, she doesn’t know what she’s saying” only to go back to laughing with her drunk friend!  Strange!!  Needless to say we left shortly after.

The store fight was again just a confrontation more than anything.  We went in to buy something and when it came time to pay, the price was 2 pounds over the actual price shown for the item.  I was paying with my credit card and spotted the increase in price so asked why it was 2 pounds more expensive.  Now, we were a wee bit drunk at this point, so perhaps I asked in not a nice way… But the clerk said it was a credit card fee.  To which I said that was bollocks and outrageous because all other stores only charge up to 60 pence for CC fees!!  Then I said he should have told me about the charge instead of just charging so much extra!  Anna was chiming in too, and I think he just got irritated with the two drunk girls challenging him, so he kicked us out of the store… I threatened to dispute the charges on my card, didn’t sign the slip for the charge and stormed out.  I didn’t end up disputing the charge because I did take my purchase with me as we left, so disputing the charge would have felt like stealing…

So yea, there you go!  There were some other altercations but for the life of me, I just can’t think of what they were exactly… LOL!  Obviously they weren’t that interesting to recall…

On to Necropolis & Heelers

Back to Glasgow

Back to United Kingdom

Starry Starry Night…

After a night of drinking in town, two friends and I headed home via bikes (the only way to travel in my book and the easiest through town) and I ended up having to send the below message to friends and family the next day…
**CAUTION**
STAR GAZING MAY LEAD TO SERIOUS INJURY OR DAMAGE!!!!
ok, perhaps not JUST star gazing… let me correct that:
STAR GAZING WHILE INTOXICATED MAY LEAD TO SERIOUS INJURY OR DAMAGE!!!
eh, ok that’s also not quite entirely correct… however:
STAR GAZING WHILE INTOXICATED AND RIDING A BICYCLE MAY LEAD TO SERIOUS INJURY OR DAMAGE!!!
yup, that’s the right and complete version of the story!  Really I’m fine, so no real worries.  just a few scrapes and a bruise that just about has it’s own heartbeat. but no broken bones and nothing that won’t heal in a weeks time.  Thankfully my angels were keeping an eye on me:)
Good times…!!!

Manuel Antonio

All the way down to Manuel Antonio I chatted up with the two fellow travelers, henceforth known as “B” and “A”.  They were from the States and were traveling friends down in Costa Rica for vacation.  Together we made our long journey through a long lay-over in Puntarenas and a drive through Jaco (which has been recommended to me by several people who have previously visited Costa Rica but locals have said not to travel there and frankly consider it one of the scars of the Country because of the large party and drug atmosphere there) and finally arrived late in the afternoon to our final destination of Manuel Antonio.

Upon exiting the bus (a small 15 minute and 250 colones ride from Quepos) we were instantly “attacked” by several people trying to get us to go to whichever hotel or hostel they worked for.  Backpackers are targets for these workers who get commission for every person they bring to whatever hotel or hostel there is in the area.  At first we were quite reluctant to follow the advice of the individuals who met us as most looked drugged out and some reeked of alcohol.  Nonetheless, since it was a backpackers hostel they were recommending to take us to, we followed.

We were led to the Costa Linda Backpackers, about a 500 meter walk from the beach and a 300 meter walk to the Manuel Antonio National Park and after checking out the accommodations decided it was a nice enough place to stay for the weekend.  We had also agreed on the way down that we would share a room while staying there to cut down on our costs.  For the first night we were able to score a private room with a private bath for $15 per person, but as this room was reserved for the next few nights, we had to move to another private room with shared bathrooms for $10 per person per night for the remainder of our stay.

Despite the initial sketchiness of the place, this area turned out to be one of the best places I had visited so far.  But I am getting ahead of myself…

As it was late in the evening with the sun already starting to set, there really wasn’t a ton to do except, well what else but get drunk!!  Ok, one other little factor played into our decision to leave the exploration to the next day, and that was that within an hour or two of us arriving there a fantastic thunderstorm erupted!!  So since we were bound to stay under shelter by a beautiful storm we opted to stay in the restaurant that was just at the entrance and part of the Backpackers to toast the day and the beauty around us.  I really don’t recall how much beers were at this location, but I do recall them being cheap as we had several rounds that night toasting the lightning and thunder as it clapped and struck around us and chatting the night away.

As all the drinkers out there know, once you get started the inevitable million trips to the bathroom begins.  I had not yet “broken the seal” but had need to at one point and borrowed the keys to our room so I could use the bathroom.  I happily made my way into the room, went into the bathroom and even though I was the only one in there, I closed the door to the bathroom…

BIG MISTAKE!!!  Or well, perhaps really it was much better that I did as you will soon learn… You see, behind that door on the wall was (no joke here) a spider with a leg span of about 5 inches!!!  I know that as an arachnophobia our memories and stories tend to make these fearful creatures out to be much larger than they actually are, but in this case I’m not exaggerating!  And this wasn’t one of those large daddy long-legs with large leg spans but teeny bodies… No sir!  This one had a long but slender body!!

So there I was, one hand on the button of my pants, my eyes focused steadily on the spider, my body frozen in fear.  Thoughts began to pass through my drunken brain… “What do I do?!?!?!”… “Perhaps I can just pee really, really fast then tell someone about it when I leave cause I really, REALLY need to pee!!”.  The showdown continued for probably another 30 seconds like this with me staring at the spider and the spider staring back… I was about 2 seconds from just peeing really fast then leaving when the spider moved a single leg about 2 millimeters to the right.  And that’s all it took, I was out of there!!  I flung the door open and ran as fast as I could to the exit of our room, out the hall and back to my friends at the table who were still chatting along happily.  I sat for a moment wringing my hands waiting for a moment to interrupt their conversation.  Then I shyly told them that we have a HUGE spider in our room and that I need it removed immediately!!!  I of course told them too that I was arachnophobic and was sorry to make such a deal out of it, but it had to go!  “B” got all excited as he was quite interested to see the large arachnid (Lord only knows why!!) and he said he would go take care of it.

While he was gone, “A” and I exchanged stories of fears, which for privacy purposes I won’t reveal hers here but I will say it was quite an unusal one!  We continued to chat until “B” finally came back and said “sorry it took so long, I first wanted to get some pictures of the spider, and then it took quite some time to get him out of the room as it kept trying to bite me!”  Thankfully he didn’t go into too many other gross details of how he removed the spider but as my relief for knowing the spider was out of the room set in, my now even more extreme need to pee returned!!  But before even thinking of returning to the room, I had to know exactly where the spider was taken too…  “B” then informed me that since it was so hard to get it out, he was only able to get it as far as the hallway… “I’m sorry, WHAT?!?!?!?!  You mean it’s in the HALLWAY right OUTSIDE OUR ROOM?!?!?!?!”  This made me even more paranoid and though I really didn’t want to have to go back to the bathroom, my body was telling me otherwise.  So I begged “B” to come with me and walk ahead of me to the room just in case the arachnid was in the hallway or on a wall of the hallway on the way to the room.  Such a nice person he was as he acquiesced and allowed me safe passage back to our room so I could finally relieve my bladder:)

The night continued much happier and arachnid-free from there as we continued to fiesta the night away until we all finally crashed and slept soundly.  We awoke to a stormy morning the next day and therefore opted to wait to go to the National Park until the next day when we hoped the weather would cooperate.  After breakfast and taking a picture of a “cute little guest” (see below picture) we moved into our new hostel room (private room with shared communal bath), met a local lizard who was always hanging out in one area and whom I fondly named Miguel, and generally hung around waiting for the storm to recede.

“A” had to get to a bank for more money, so about mid-day when the rain finally stopped, we all headed on a walk back up toward Quepos where the only ATMs were found.  Along the way we spotted several Capuchin Monkeys making their way across man-made ropes that stretched from one side of the road to the other.  These ropes are part of the “Children Saving the Rainforest” project and can be found throughout Costa Rica.  When electrical wires were first being erected to provide electricity to various areas, the monkeys thinking they were useful items to climb across to get to where they wanted to go, would often get electrocuted and die when they gripped them.  This was quite a large problem in the beginning, but it was quickly remedied as the “Rainforest” group stepped in with their fantastic idea of providing safe and non-electrical passages for the monkeys to use.

After our walk back up into town and a nice lunch and beer, we headed back to Manuel Antonio and A and I spent the rest of our afternoon “butt surfing” in the ocean!!  Now for those who don’t know what this is, Butt surfing is where you sit in shallow areas of the beach and allow the coming waves to toss you around the shallow beach as if you were simply a grain of sand.  It really is quite amazing the power of the Ocean as we literally were tossed and pushed and pulled and pommelled by the tiniest of waves!!  Due to the anywhere from small to large rocks and pebbles on the beach however, at times it was quite painful!!  But still fun nonetheless:)

Our night was spent again with good food, good conversation and company, and of course many great beverages.  If our hopes were to come true, the next day would be a sunny one so we could visit the Manuel Antonio National Park.

Back to Costa Rica

Pictures of Puntarenas and Manuel Antonio (including Costa Linda Backpackers Hostel and critters of the area):