Tag Archives: hangover

Hangover to Koh Ngai (Hai)

The time had come to leave Ko Lanta (Lantaaaah) and do some more Thai island hopping.  Ko Ngai, pronounced “Hai” was the next destination.  Up until this point in our travels together, Anna and I would enjoy drinking nightly and so far had been very tame about it.  No hangovers, no overdoing it, we had been behaving!  A couple of days before we left Ko Lanta, there was a Buddhist holiday for 2 days where booze were not allowed to be sold in any stores.  You could still get them in restaurants however, but in honor of the holiday, we decided to abstain ourselves.

However… The night before we left Ko Lanta, which was no longer one of the holiday days, we went a teeny bit overboard.  I guess you could say we were making up for lost time!  We were due to leave the next morning at 8am for a taxi boat… And we ended up staying up the night before drinking until about 2am, then chatting away until about 4am.  Or maybe it was 5… So needless to say, when the alarm went off at an ungodly hour of the morning (7ish) we were not happy campers!!  The only good thing that we did do was pack our things before falling asleep, so all that was really necessary was to drag our rears to the front office with all our things and wait for the taxi.

While we did manage to make the taxi relatively on time, it was just painful to be awake at all!  I wasn’t so hung over from the booze as I was just grumpy and not feeling well due to lack of sleep.  After a very long delay in picking up more people from other hotels, we made it to the taxi boat and headed out.  All morning it had been sunny, but about 10 minutes into our boat ride it began pouring rain!  The poor taxi boat driver looked miserable in the back getting soaking wet!!  Yet somehow he was still able to light and smoke a cigarette…

Moving on, we made it to Ko Ngai (Hai) probably 40 minutes later.  The taxi boat driver ran us onshore and Anna and I got off.  As it turned out, all the other people on the taxi boat were on an island hopping snorkeling tour, so they were heading to a different island first.  Made me wonder how good the snorkeling would be with all the rain around, but I digress.

We were dropped off on the shore of a cheap place (our request of course) and got settled into one of the bungalows.  Well, it really wasn’t that simple.  Anna and I were both still exhausted and grumpy to ridiculous levels.  We barely spoke to each other all morning, neither of us wanted to make any decisions, everything seemed ugly and miserable.  Everything was annoying.  Everything sucked.  We were just plain out of ourselves.  So at first we had turned down the “horrible” cheap bungalows and tried to go elsewhere but were stopped shortly after leaving by an english speaking local who said that every other hotel/bungalow (literally) on the island was MUCH more expensive… I’m talking into the thousands per night!  So really it was (at first) with GREAT reluctance that we settled into the Koh Ngai Villa.

Food was the next agenda item.  Neither of us was really hungry, but we knew it had to be done.  We wandered next door to another hotel where they served food and ordered.  I found a teeny roach in my soup, and honestly would normally not have said anything (it’s just one of those things you get used to picking out and setting aside when traveling) but because I was so darn grumpy still, I pointed out the little critter to the staff.  Mind you, I still continued eating the soup because, well why not?  And I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of it, I just wanted to let them know about it.  But when the bill came, they said they wouldn’t charge me for the dish (though I tried to pay still) and that they had decided to close down for the rest of the low season because they felt like they were “losing face”… I felt absolutely a million times worse after hearing that for even pointing out the bug!!  It broke my heart!  But certainly they will be back up and running again in time for high season.

It wasn’t until the next morning, when we woke up sober and well rested that we really realized what an absolutely beautiful little island we were on!  The water was clear and warm, and had this gentle current that ran parallel to the shore where you could literally swim in it and not actually go anywhere!  Great exercise!!  The beaches were white and clean and the beach dogs were all so very friendly.  It was quiet and serene and every evening the tide would go out so far that you could walk all the way to the Southern tip of the island to watch the sunsets.  We even ended up really liking our bungalow and “princess bed” at the Koh Ngai Villa!  It’s amazing how your view can shift so easily when you aren’t really yourself!  In any event, I would recommend this island for a visit, though I would also recommend showing up for it sober;)

On to Koh Muk (Mook)

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Monkey Beach Adventure

After having kayaked to Ko Nangyuan on Koh Tao, Anna and I were hooked and made a pact of sorts to make sure and do it again!  Ko Phi Phi Don provided yet another fantastic opportunity to do so.  On our second or third day there, we got up bright and early (around 10am-ish?) and headed out for food and coffee to quench our slightly hung over bodies.  It was probably about noon or one by the time we made it to Lo Dalam beach to rent a kayak so we could paddle our way to Monkey Beach.

As soon as we stepped foot on Lo Dalam we were approached about renting kayaks by a local shop worker.  The price for the day was 600 baht.  This price wasn’t out of the realm of what we were expecting to pay, but being the bargain seekers we were, we tried a couple more places first.  The third place we stopped by was the winner.  The woman (whom I’d guess to be the boss) had that feisty vibe that reminded me of Mol from Mol’s beach bar on Hin Wong Bay (Ko Tao).  We asked her how much the kayaks were, and she said “200 baht per hour”.  We replied that we wanted to rent one for the day, to which she gave us a quizzical look, checked her watch, looked back at us and said “for the day??”.  Lol!  We had to laugh and give that one to her!  I’m sure most people renting kayaks for the day would have in fact rented them in the morning, but alas there we were mid-day.  She gave us the kayak for the bargain price of 400 baht and away we went.

The crystal clear water of Lo Dalam bay was so calm and almost lake-like that the paddle just around the corner to Monkey Beach took very little effort and time.  Once there, the only thing to really watch out for was the boat traffic!  Dozens upon dozens of tour speedboats were coming and going with numerous tourists aboard, all coming for the snorkeling and monkeys.  A quiet beach this was not!!  The snorkeling was also ok, but not the best of the bunch really.  The monkeys of course were adorable and lovely and amazingly patient as tourist after tourist shoved their phones and iPads toward them on selfie sticks.

After several hours of literally baking in the sun, we decided to try to get to yet another beach that was located across the Lo Dalam bay.  We skirted around tour boats and out into the open sea we went!  While the sea looked to be quiet and calm from our perspective on Monkey Beach, it wasn’t quite the correct story once we were actually out there…  Lets just say that Anna started to feel a little sea-sick and we both started to question whether it was really smart of us to continue on.

We opted for the “Safety first” route after making it probably 3/4 of the way.  But seeing how the waves were crashing violently against the cliffs ahead and not wanting to potentially be part of those waves doing so, we headed back toward the sanctuary of the bay waters.  We didn’t quite make it until sunset on the kayaks, but instead simply went to the Sunset bar for drinks to toast the setting sun. 🙂  Anna took a picture of a kayak in the sunset (while we sat comfortably drinking) and we pretended that was us in spirit. 🙂

On to Ko Lantaaaah

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Ode to Water

Refreshing and cool, clear and crisp,
Water should always be at the top of my list.

It’s just what the body hungers for first,
And for workouts or hot days, it’s the best to quench thirst.

It satisfies and nourishes in so many ways,
You’d think it’s what I’d reach for at the end of my days.

Alas, I must confess that instead what I do
Is reach for water turned into a brew.

It’s always the same: “Just one for today”
But as soon as it’s consumed I get carried away.

As the cans begin to stack and the fun buzz begins,
The memory of the hangover starts to sink in.

And though I am reluctant and try to not care
I know in my head I better prepare!

Guzzling some water at first is a chore
As the plain taste suddenly seems a bore.

But as the beer buzz is gently washed away
And sleep comes comfortably to bring a new day,

I think just how good that water did taste
And the miracles it worked in avoiding the next day being a waste!

Leaving Sangkhla

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Crazy Kanchanaburi Nights

From my other posts about Sangkhlaburi, it’s probably easy to tell that it is a teeny little place and while it has a lot of the necessities, it lacks quite a bit as well.  We have no proper grocery store here.  The market is where you go for meat, veggies and fruit (which personally I prefer anyway) but for other necessities that are generally found in a grocery store, well, we have a place called CJ’s that has the basics and believe it or not, if it’s not in CJ’s, the other “grocery store” in town is 7 Eleven… Yes, 7 Eleven!

Kanchanaburi in contrast has proper grocery stores and even stores comparable to Sam’s Club or Costco.  They also have proper pet and vet stores where supplies are easily found for the shelter.  As some items were starting to run out at the shelter, it was time for a run to Kanchanaburi to stock up.  I went along with 2 other girls from the shelter for a weekend getaway.  We drove there in a truck lent to us by another gem of Sangkhlaburi, Dr. Mays, a dentist in town and avid animal lover and made the 212km trek to Kanchanaburi mid-day a week ago on Saturday.

J, one of the three on the trip, drove.  She is from the UK so was used to driving on the left and had amazingly picked up the Thai driving style as I had several mini heart attacks along the way dodging in and out of traffic along the road.  Due to traffic we arrived later than anticipated and missed the vet supply office hours.  So we simply headed to our hotel, took showers in warm water (there is no warm water in Sangkhlaburi for showers unless you shower in the middle of the day when the water has been heated up by the sun), put makeup on for the first time in a month and a half and headed into town.

I will say since being in Sangkhlaburi, I don’t think I’ve seen myself in a mirror except maybe two or three times.  So needless to say, once in a bathroom with a mirror in it, it was almost surprising and shocking to see myself, lol!!

We headed out and first had a drink and shared a pizza at Bell’s, then went to the Lady Boy bar for some more drinks.  Surprisingly the other volunteer (K) who tagged along for the weekend getaway after only 4 beers was already quite drunk!  Normally she can hold her own, but for some reason not on this night.  In any event, since there was more drinking to be done for myself and J, we continued on to the Monkey Bar for another drink.  Then…. Well… though I had stayed away from the “get drunk for 10 baht” bars during my last time in Kanchanaburi, we ended up stumbling into there as well…

In all fairness really it wasn’t myself or J stumbling, it was only K.  Jo and I had a delightful time taking shots and sipping on buckets of booze while K kept excusing herself to the bathroom to vomit… Joy!!  Since J and K had been to Kanchanaburi several times before for these types of excursions, they inevitably made friends with some of the locals, including a tattoo artist with a shop in front of the Sugar Member bar, just across from the 10 baht bar.  The night continued with lots of drinks, conversation, and many bathroom breaks for K.  She ended up going back to the hotel early and passed out outside the room on the lounge chair (since she didn’t have the key) while J and I continued to party until 4am.

Amazingly I woke the next day feeling great!  K and J, not so much…  We had to move rooms around noon (they put us in the wrong room the first night) so everyone was up in semi-good spirits around 11.  We jointly decided the best remedy for our hangovers was to have a yummy pizza yet again, though this time we were each getting our own to soak up the liquor, lol!!  We checked out Bell’s again (they seriously have a really good pizza!!) all craving the deliciousness we had the night before but to our dismay learned it didn’t open until 5pm!!

The idea was in our heads already however, and there was nothing to change it.  We were bound and determined to starve ourselves all day until Bell’s opened again!!  It seriously turned into a bit of a torture game and that day was the longest day I can ever recall!!  One would ask “what time is it” and learn it was 12:15… Then what seemed like forever later another would ask again the time only to learn it was 12:22 😦  The day went on like this with time slowing down just to mock us and as we didn’t have anything else to eat, the hangover symptoms started to even creep up on me!

What does one do to stave off a hangover??  You got it!  Drink more!  I caved around 3:30 and went to the bar at the hotel with K and proceeded to drink three White Russians.  Yum!!  It was definitely just what I needed to tide me over until Bell’s opened!  5pm FINALLY rolled around and we went for our indulgent meal of pizza with mushrooms and ham.  After dinner, K said she wanted to get a tattoo.  I, the night before, after meeting Joe the tattoo artist said I wanted to have him draw out a tattoo for me that I’d been thinking about for 7 years now.  So I tagged along…  J (the smart one) went back to the hotel for an easy night…

Well, of course since the tattoo shop was in front of a bar, we just had to get a bucket of booze to share!  I chatted with Joe about what I wanted, describing the design that I saw in my head and he set off to work as K and I got progressively more inebriated I kept checking back in with Joe every half hour or so to see how the design was coming along, giving input where needed.  About 2 hours later the design was done!  I really was thinking to just pay for the design and get the tattoo later, but then I started thinking “why not get it done now??”… Or maybe it was just the booze talking, lol!!  In any event, I bit the bullet and got it done!

It’s still a work in progress as I want some shading done on the moon and a Japanese word written in the space between the moon and cherry willow tree, but nothing another trip to Kanchanaburi can’t fix 😉  I will say I was quite impressed with Joe as when I said I wanted a Japanese word written in he said “I don’t speak Japanese” (he’s Thai) to which I replied “Google translate!” to which he replied “are you sure??”.  He got me to thinking and I’ve decided that until I find someone who speaks fluent Japanese, and someone who is trustworthy, I won’t do the lettering.  I’m not going to lie, the tattoo was quite unpleasant to get!  I thought the booze would numb me up a bit, but no luck there:(

In any event, after I got my tattoo done, K got one as well even though Joe strongly advised against it since he deemed her too drunk to get one.  Eventually he relented and gave her the tattoo and after a bit of drama over her paying him for his services (she only had a quarter of the money it cost and instead of going to get more money from the ATM in front of 7 Eleven, she wandered INTO 7 Eleven and proceeded to read the wording on every package of items sold in an attempt to avoid (?) having to pay… Once that was sorted out and she finally paid Joe, we wandered back toward the hotel and passed out around 4am… again… lol!!

The next day we rose (K with a hangover) and finally got the vet supplies bought.  We stopped at a REAL grocery store to stock up on goodies not found in Sangkhlaburi (coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and tabasco sauce for me) then headed home.

In all honesty, I was a bit worried that when I woke that morning I would be a bit regretful about getting the tattoo.  But when I thought about it, I had no regrets.  No butterflies or tight feeling in the stomach when one thinks of something they wish they hadn’t done.  It’s still a work in progress of course and it still has to fully heal (the wrinkles will dissipate) but I’m happy I’ve got it:)

On to Spay Camp and Elephants

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Sangkhlaburi New Year’s: Human Version

New Year’s Eve day started as it normally does as a volunteer at the Thai Animal Sanctuary: feed dogs, clean enclosures, medicate/change bandages, walks, play time, shuffle dogs around, lunch, finish whatever daily project that was scheduled, night feeding, workout, shower, dinner time!

Instead of having to prepare our own meal for dinner however, we were invited to Sai and Charlie’s place to dine for New Year’s.  Sai and Charlie, a Thai-British couple, are one of the many gems in Sangkhlaburi.  Just about every morning they drop off a dish of rice and chicken, with bits of egg in a chicken broth so we can mix a bit into the morning bowls for each dog.  For Christmas they made a huge vat of a similar soup with the added bonus of veggies for all 60 dogs in the shelter.  They made so much that each dog had their own large bowl of Christmas breakfast, instead of just a bit mixed in with their normal kibble.

Dinner With Sai and Charlie
Dinner With Sai and Charlie

We were all looking forward to the dinner and even planned to eat less during the day to save room for what we knew would be a feast.  But as we all know, getting there is half the battle!  In our defense, there were 7 of us and only one bathroom in the volunteer house, so needless to say trying to organize that part alone became a bit of a task.  We arrived about a half hour late with all 4 porch dogs (Noodles, Nipper, Balua and Piglet) who weren’t actually invited but just thought they were. 😉  The dinner spread was a delicious and impressive display of Thai cuisine.  From the soup, fresh baked WHEAT bread (if you’ve been to Thailand you know how hard it is to find anything other than plain white bread, especially in small towns!!) fried egg with veggies, and a spicy pork on rice dish to dessert.  We dined like Kings and Queens over great conversation and lots and lots of laughter.  We even learned how to say Happy New Year in Thai (Suk San Wan Be Man Ka) after about a hundred failed attempts, but finally got it down:)

We stayed a couple hours then headed into town to the school soccer stadium for the muay thai kickboxing competition.  All I had anticipated was just that: a ring set up for Muay Thai.  What we walked into was so much more!  It was seriously like a full on carnival or circus (minus the animals)!  Neon lights lit up the stadium in every direction along with tent after tent selling food, clothing, fried insects, flip-flops, underwear… You name it, they just about had it!

As we had arrived a bit late for the start of the muay thai kickboxing we were only able to see a couple of fight rounds.  The competition was going on for 5 nights (New Year’s Eve being the second night) and each night featured a different age group.  New Year’s Eve night was for the youngsters (they looked only about 6 years old!!) to the teens.  I can’t tell you how impressive the fights were!  First were the teen boys who wailed and kicked and punched eachother until a brow was split open and after only 2 rounds the fight was called.  Next up were the little kids whose heads didn’t even make it up to the top portion of the ring!!

Before each fight the competitors walk around the ring with a little hop in their step, kinda like a little dance, to each corner and bow.  Next they go to their corner and have their headdress removed and are rubbed down with deep heat oil, which is sort of a liniment oil to slick their skin making it harder for their opponent to get a good grip.  Then the fight is on!  Those little kids wailed and kicked and fought their little hearts out!  When the bell rang to signify the end of the round, their coaches would come in and sweep them up into a bear hug and gently shake them up and down.  It seriously looked like they were getting a nice cuddle after each round, but really what the “hug” was all about was to help stretch their spines.  Then they got a very thourough rub down with cold water, had their arms and legs stretched out a bit, then off again to fight.  The boys lasted through 5 full rounds until a winner was called.  So impressive!

The kids fight was the last for the night, so we wandered the rest of the field checking out the various tents and their goods for sale, then headed to the other stage set up on the field.  We hung out watching traditional lanterns light up and float into the sky, decorating the night with extra stars, and the various traditional Thai dancers up on stage.  The hours passed with drinks in hand, the company of good friends and the entertainment all around.  Then about 10 minutes to midnight the Mayor of the town got on stage to give a speech.  Of course it was lost on all of us, but it sounded like it could have been interesting.

About 7 minutes to midnight a bottle rocket from the stage shot straight over our heads directly to another stage area where it struck and lit up a huge firework display!  I’m not going to lie, I was kinda freaked out by the bottle rocket launching above us because at first I thought it was rogue.  But once I realized it was actually a planned launch, all was well.  The first firework display went on and on showering the earth with white sparks.  In the center glittered what I assume to be “Happy New Year” in Thai.

Once the first display started to peter out, the next display was shot off.  Hundreds of brilliant fireworks shot into the sky with every color possible!  I was mesmorized by the show of lights and the glitter of the lanterns still dotting the night sky behind them.  We were so close to where the action was that the ash from the fireworks rained down on us, sometimes even getting in our eyes and gawking mouths, lol!!  I was just in absolute awe.  It was one of the most impressive New Years displays I’ve seen in a while.  Especially considering how small this town really is, it was just awesome!

Knowing we had 60 dogs to feed the next day, I opted to head home to sleep (after a brief impromptu game of football using a balled up jacket as a football much to the amusement of the Thais) while the rest of the gang (minus one volunteer) proceeded to get hammered once we got back to the volunteer house.  Needless to say myself and the  volunteer who didn’t drink were up bright and early while the other 5 volunteers weren’t even able to get out of bed until about 3pm New Year’s Day, and even then were useless because of their hangovers, lol!!  For once I was actually glad I wasn’t the one who was drinking, lol!!

On to Sangkhlaburi New Years: Dog Version

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Ephesus

We had a full day at sea between Dubrovnik and Ephesus and it was spent full of a variety of activities (working out, pool time, Bingo!, etc.).  It was quite relaxing and the day seemed to zoom by.  When the night came around, my sister and I stayed up at the bar chatting and drinking the night away.  She woke the next day just fine… Me on the other hand, I was a wee bit hung over.  We had a scheduled tour to get to however so as we approached the port town of Kusadasi, it was time to buck up and sober up!

Our tour was to the Virgin Mary’s house (where after the crucifixion of Jesus she escaped and lived in hiding from persecution by the Romans) and to the ancient Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus.  We met for our tour abroad the ship then were all escorted out onto the tour bus and off we went.  We were each given a little welcome package including a pin of the eye of Turkey for good luck, a bottle of water (I really needed that!!), a postcard and a little ceramic container with an impression of the Virgin Mary on the front and a cork top.

We were also issued little headsets so we could hear our tour guide throughout the tour as we wandered around.  I had seen other tours use these before and always thought them a great idea.  However, after actually having used them, I’m not so much a fan.  The reason being that the guide was many times speaking about things way ahead of where I physically was (I was lagging a bit with my crazy picture taking) so I would hear her explain something, but it wasn’t until 5-10 minutes later that I’d catch up to the area where the information was relevant.  Just goes to show that even with those little headsets you still have to keep up with the guide!

Leaving Kusadasi, we drove up the winding mountains of Turkey, past the large golden statue of Mary, watching the terrain turn from almost rugged, drier land to lush green forest land.  It somewhat reminded me of being in New Mexico, driving from Albuquerque to the mountains of Santa Fe in the summer time.  We arrived at Mt. Koressos, the site of Mary’s house.  The house was originally discovered because of visions that Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (a book was later published about her visions) had of the Virgin Mary and her home in hiding.  Searches ensued to find the home seen in the vision and was indeed found as described by Blessed Ann Catherine Emmerich.  Today the home is a shrine for both Catholics and Muslims who flock to see the very simple but functional home.

Outside the home a church has been set up and today people come to pray and even hold regular masses.  The home itself has been visited by several popes and has been blessed by them during their visit.  Outside her home, three taps of spring water exist, Holy Water, for visitors to drink, bathe, or fill up their little ceramic containers:)  I filled mine up, and though we weren’t supposed to drink from the ceramic container, I took a sip figuring it could only help with the hangover:)  Further along the wall from the Holy water were hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of cloth, each with someone’s prayer or hope or dream written in scores of different languages and tied onto the wall.  It was quite powerful to visit this site.  It is also a beautiful setting and a feeling of calm and peace is very present there.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside her house, but my favorite bit on the inside was a very faint and almost unnoticeable chalk drawing on the wall, just before the exit that seemed to be the face of, what looked to me like Jesus.  I can’t be 100% sure that it was Him (that’s how faint it was) but it made me wonder the history behind that.  I loved the simplicity of it.

From Mary’s house we were escorted back on the bus and down the hill to the shopping area (Genuine Fake Watches!!) just outside the ruins of Ephesus.  Ephesus was an ancient Greek city that long ago was actually a port town!  It is the same Ephesus where Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians (thanks mom).  It was founded in the 10th century BC but was devastated by an earthquake in 614 AD.  The earthquake strike along with the harbor slowly silting up by the Cayster River declined the cities importance as a commercial center and was eventually abandoned (Thanks Wikipedia!).

Today only about 25% of the city has been excavated and it is only in the past 100 years or so that excavations have been taking place!  It was amazing to hear about how modern the people of that time really were!  They had indoor plumbing, a library, a theater, a brothel (the foot and heart imprint could be found throughout the city leading the way there) a gymnasium, there was even evidence of surgeries having been conducted!  Pretty much anything you could want in a city was there and everything was so stylishly done in marble or brick!  At least in my mind, it’s hard to envision civilizations from thousands of years ago being so modern.  We like to think with our technology that we are so much more advanced than people were back then… After visiting these ruins, I’m really not so sure!

From the ruins we were taken to a very touristy spot where there was nothing but shops and food and a little play depicting the days of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony enjoying some gladiator action between soldiers (no lions involved;)).

Cleopatra & Marc Anthony
Cleopatra & Marc Anthony

We had some kebabs, drank some beer then it was back to Kusadasi for a demonstration on how the famous Turkish rugs are made.  The presentation was fascinating and the store owners very kindly provided us all with some refreshments during the showcase of the rugs.  According to the store owner, making Turkish rugs is a dying art.  Not many people know how to make them or are trained to make them any more.  In an attempt to get people trained again in the art, the government got involved and developed a program that allowed stay-at-home moms to learn the art.  They were then allowed to work from home on the rugs:)  Love it!!  I had no idea how intricate each rug could be!  One silk rug we were shown had a million knots per square meter!!  Absolutely incredible!!  My sister ended up buying a very lovely rug after some hard bargaining, then we were off on the streets again, wandering around checking out the Kusadasi for more gifts and things to buy, then back off to the ship.

On to Santorini

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Huntly

It wasn’t terribly far, nor a bad bus ride over to Huntly.  To my disappointment later I realized that Huntly wasn’t technically inside the Highland area at all, but rather about half way between the highlands and the coast…  There was another place I was looking to go to -Tomintoul- that I know for SURE was in the Highlands, but it was only accessible by bus on Tuesdays and that would have meant about a week killing time in other areas nearby.  Tomintoul sounded appealing simply because first it was in the Highlands and second it’s the highest point of the Highlands… Getting there is half the battle though!!  In any event, Huntly was a simple quiet and quaint little place.  When I arrived however the weather was not quite cooperating as it had been so far.  It was wet and cold and simply dreary!!  Very Scottish normal weather I’m sure, just not what I had been used to thus far.

When I arrived I was dropped in town center square.  Since I of course didn’t have a planned place to stay for the night, I wandered toward the tourist information center in the square… It happened to be closed and looked as if it would only be open when whomever worked there decided to show (I love small towns!!).  There was a little map in the window however that marked a few spots for B&Bs/hotels.  I made a mental note of them and started heading in their direction.

Mind you, there was a hotel in the town square itself called Gordon Arms, but I figured being THAT close to the center square, it would probably be too expensive!  So I wandered off down the road in the cold and the mist and found the first place of interest.  No vacancy, but the nice woman did refer me to another potential place.  So off I went back down the road, down the side street, straight on till morning, and found the next lovely place.  No vacancy… Hmmm… I really didn’t take Huntly to be THAT popular a destination, especially since there was no one on the streets or no other signs of life really aside from the Hotel owners/workers and some shop employees along the way!

I asked once again about any other place potentially open, but sadly no.  So I wandered back to the square and in the opposite direction from where I went before and found another place. No answer… At this point it looked like I could be running out of options… So I wandered into the Gordon Arms hotel holding my breath at the potentially huge sum of money I would have to pay for the night.  The hotel clerk greeted me but asked me to hold for a minute.  When he arrived ready to check me in, he asked “Are you staying at the hostel?”??

The HOSTEL????  You have a HOSTEL here???  Sure enough, just around the corner not a stone throw away was the Highlander Bunkhouse!!!  A hostel for all the crazy cheap backpackers like myself:)  Yay!!!  Oh and best part too of the hostel, only a few steps from the pub!  Double yay!!!  So I paid for a night and settled in to my room.  I was the only one in my room, which was great, so it was like having a private though there were several other people staying in the hostel.  At this point I really wasn’t sure how long I would stay in Huntly.  There was certainly much to do there- several castles to hike to, lots of whiskey distilleries to tour, etc, etc. But with the weather being as it was… Well, let’s just say that it just didn’t inspire much of any sort of effort on my part!!  So if the next day had the same weather, then I would go.  But if it cleared up or showed some promise of clearing up, then I would stay!

In any event, after settling in it just happened to be about beer o’clock… So I headed into the pub for a pint!  Now, K and I have had a few chats before about how great pubs are just from the perspective of being able to meet locals fast and chat them up on things to do in their town!  This pub was… well… a tiny bit different, but not at all in a bad way!!  I wandered in and at the bar were 6 men.  Literally as I walked in it was like the room silenced and all heads turned to see who was coming in… I wasn’t sure if that meant that the regulars were all already there so they simply weren’t expecting anyone else to come in, or if they were an unfriendly type, or what really…!!

I sheepishly walked over to the side of the bar (trying my very BEST to seem confident and not sheepish at all!!) sat down and asked the bar maid, who suddenly appeared from around the corner for a beer.  And that was basically all it took!  Within a few minutes it was like I was just part of the gang.  They asked questions of me, I of them, and it we were all best of buds in no time!  Everyone was buying everyone else drinks and the festivities just went on like this for hours!  As the evening went on, more and more people came and went, which really gave me the distinct feeling that this pub was probably one of the only ones in town as well!!  Funnily enough, the 6 original guys who were in the bar (and then another 3 that came in later) weren’t locals at all.  They were simply contracted workers who were staying in Huntly to work on wind turbine projects near Huntly.  So they weren’t able to give me much information about the area and what to do (nor could the barmaid as she had just recently moved there too) but after a few drinks, I lost interest in that kind of information anyway!

I will say that at least I did behave myself!!  I cut myself off at a point, got some food and went to bed so I wouldn’t be hung over the next day!  Generally, well, I do like to drink and have quite a hard time moderating myself… But I guess as I get older it gets a little easier as the impending thought of the hangover is enough to make me stop with the booze and start with water!!

I bid farewell and thanks to my fellow bar mates for the night and headed to my hostel.  The next day unfortunately had the same dreary and cold weather as the day before.  So true to my word I packed up and headed to Inverness.

On to Inverness

Back to United Kingdom

Manuel Antonio National Park

The next morning thankfully turned out to be a sunny one and we prepped ourselves for the Park.  As mentioned in the last post, the walk to the National Park was only about 300 meters from our hostel.  As we walked toward the Park up ahead in the Park trees a bunch of the tree tops began to rustle and a deep, penetrating roar could be heard coming from the rustle…  It literally reminded me of a scene from Jurassic Park with a T-Rex about to emerge from the dense forest, roaring as it did!!  It was a little unnerving until I was informed that it was only a Howler Monkeys making the noise and that there was nothing to fear.  When we arrived at the entrance (about 8am) there were already a ton of tourist groups lined up in various places getting their troops together to enter the Park.  B, A and I purchased our tickets (again $10 for tourists though this time I paid with colones and paid less than $10… perhaps it was because of the current daily exchange rate that the Parks do pay attention to) and entered the Park.

A few things we were told through the grape-vine about the Park prior to entering was #1 do not hire a private tour guide as many other tourists do this so you can always “bum” in their tours by simply looking where their tour guide is pointing to find something interesting and #2 go off the beaten path when possible away from the rest of the tourists and you will be guaranteed to see much more!

Keeping that information in mind we set in our walk without a guide.  Both pieces of advice above came in great handy as alone the main path of the Park several tour guides had already set up shop with their binoculars on tripods pointing out insects and crabs to their hired tourists or pointing high in the trees sharing interesting information on a particular plant or tree.  Luckily for us, B was a botanist (there is actually a more accurate name for his title, I just can’t recall what it is… Sorry B!!  But I do know that his work involves cataloging every species of plant and tree!)  and he knew just about everything there was to know about every plant so in a sense we already had a fabulous guide for that portion.

We made our way along the path sighting many spiders, a scorpion eating a wasp, a variety of crabs hidden in a variety of clever places, a toucan (YAY!!!) and lizards!!

At a certain point we came across a point of crossroads where we could either go straight, right or scootch our way around the “closed” sign of a path to our left… Well of course we chose the path to our left!! 😉  The path was closed because it hadn’t been groomed recently, but it didn’t bother us at all.  We made our way up the path to a quiet area where no sounds except that of nature could be heard.  It was amazingly blissful!!  So quiet with only the sound of the wind rustling gently through the trees.  It is quite an amazing thing to stop and just listen to the beauty of nature!!  We stayed there for a bit taking in the sounds until some new sound caught my attention high in the trees.  Of course curiosity took over good sense as I followed the noise only to spot my first Howler Monkey!!!!!

Such amazing creatures!!  These small, black monkeys with faces so familiar in human features and hands even more so familiar are just an incredible sight to take in!!  They travel in troops usually anywhere from about a dozen to a dozen and a half!  There is only one alpha male of the group and the rest are females or young males and it’s also pretty common to find a new mom in the troop as well.  Their hands and feet, as well as the underside of about the last 6 inches of their tail do not have any fur on them so they can easily grip surfaces.  The roar of the alpha male can be heard from great distances around!  I have since found out that they only roar early in the morning or to announce to another approaching troop that they are coming too close to their territory, or if rain is approaching!

As I gazed above me in wonder, they simply gazed right back wondering what it was I was up to!  I of course took a few photos and kept my voice low as I called my friends over to see them as well and then we continued up and up and up the path again passing many other lizards and even an Agouti or a Tapir that ran off too fast to take pictures of (hence why I’m not entirely sure which it was exactly… but it was definitely a land mammal).  The path ended on a platform at what seemed like the top of the world!!  Though it wasn’t a 360 degree view, it was still magnificent!!  You could clearly see the bay below and the jutting rocks that formed it, as well as a little cave carved into the rock, as well as the land clear south of us all the way to what we speculated to be the Oso Peninsula!!

After several pictures we headed back down the path to the main portion passing many other tourists who had also opted to take the “unbeaten” path.  Now sadly, it was about this time that the batteries in my camera started to fail… I was able to get a picture or two in, but then would have to shut the camera down, take the batteries out to rest for several minutes then reload them and pray they would work again for a few more pictures!!

There are about 5 walking trails in the Manuel Antonio National Park and we ended up taking each of them to their various destinations.  Along another path of interest, we came across a tourist and his young son.  They were surrounded by a large troop of Capuchin Monkeys!!  The Capuchin monkeys are most famously recognized from their white faces and black bodies, as well as their “star” quality.  They can be seen in movies such as Outbreak and the Hangover Part II, as well as in the TV show Friends.  Now I don’t advocate the use of wild animals for our entertainment, nor was I thrilled about the scene we had encountered.  Despite the Park rules that warned to NOT FEED THE ANIMALS this father was blatantly ignoring them as he and his young son continued to offer the monkeys a variety of fruits.  While it was quite an amazing feeling to have so many monkeys coming at you and around you in every direction all trying to get their piece of fruit, I opted to remove myself from the center as I do not agree with feeding wild animals, and this next bit is part of the reason why: At one point the young son was trying to offer one of the monkeys a piece of fruit.  The monkey was quite reluctant to simply take the piece of fruit from the boy’s hand, so it didn’t.  The boy, probably too young to understand the wrong in his behavior and not being told otherwise from his dad, continued to push his arm forward toward the monkey, trying to entice it to take the fruit.  A few moments later, the monkey had had enough and literally slapped the outstretched hand of the boy away and screeched!!  The father finally stepped in and told the boy to no longer feed the monkeys and they headed away.

Wild animals are wild folks, and should remain that way!!  We have no business interfering with their nature and even less business trying to tame them.  Ok, I’ve said my peace on that topic for now… moving on!

This particular path ended at a magnificent lagoon-like beach!!  Unlike the black sands of Manuel Antonio beaches in the “city”, this beach had white powdered sand!!  Hermit crabs were everywhere by the hundreds as well as a variety of crabs once again.  Sadly, myself nor my two companions had realized there were beaches in the Park to swim in, so none of us had our suits on to be able to swim!!  So for all of you out there who are planning to visit the Park, please take that bit of advice as your #3 lesson:)

We hung around this beach for a bit wading around the water and taking pictures (camera battery pending) and then started to head toward the exit.  The exit path went right along another large and lengthy beach portion that once again made me “tisk” at myself for not thinking to bring a suit.  Many tourists were lined on the beach taking in the sun and enjoying the water.  We even spotted some caper bandits (i.e. raccoons) going through some tourist bags that were left on the beach for some goodies they could eat.

All in all we had already spent about 4 hours walking around the Park, so each of us were ready at this point to exit and get something to eat and of course a cold brew.

When we reached the exit, we were greeted by a few men with little row boats.  Indeed the only way to exit the Park (unless you were willing to walk ALL the way back to the main entrance) was to cross a little river, too deep to wade through (another reason the suit would have come in handy!!) for $1.00 a piece!  With no other real choice we all paid and took the maybe 15 meter boat ride back to the “main land” and headed back to the hostel.

The rest of this day was spent simply relaxing, enjoying good food and of course some good beer on the beach!!  It was quite a nice ending to a fantastic Park day!  It was during this afternoon that B, A and I shared our plans for the next day.  “A” had only a few more days in Costa Rica and planned to spend them in Montezuma (on the tip of the Nicoyo Peninsula).  “B” opted to spend his remaining days in Costa Rica in Manuel Antonio, and I planned to continue heading South to Uvita.

Back to Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park Pictures: