Tag Archives: hikes

A Real Gem

I’ve debated several times whether to actually give away the location of this next place we traveled to (are still are after a week, with no plans to jump up and leave just yet)…  I honestly can’t believe it hasn’t been discovered more!  While there are a handful of Europeans living here, foreigners are a very uncommon sight.  Thai tourists and locals (of course) are the ruling majority.  It’s just my kind of place to really feel like a part of the culture and life!

We bought tickets for the mini-bus to this gem of a place from Hua Hin, and though were told it would only be an hour wait for the bus to arrive, it turned into almost 2 before we even got on.  And when we did get on, the bus was so full that literally 2 of the passengers had people sitting on their laps, all the seats were taken AND 3 people had to stand (rather uncomfortably by the looks of it) in the aisle of the bus.  Essentially a bus equipped to seat 14 passengers had 19 PLUS our huge travel bags (which are about the size of a small human).  Luckily within the hour or so however people started exiting the bus, so space opened up a tiny bit to at least allow everyone to have their own seat.  I suspect that the bus was so crowded because of the upcoming Holiday of Songkran.

Once we arrived, we set off on motorbike taxis to a place called Ban Thai Hut, where we were told had cheap accommodations.  We settled on a tiny hut complete with a bed, bathroom, fan and TV (which we’ve yet to actually plug in or turn on) just a short walk across the street from the beach.  The place is absolutely darling, and while very rustic (there are some parts of the room we fear to put too much weight on just in case the floor falls through) it has been suiting our needs quite well.

Prachuap Khiri Khan is the name of this adorable town.  It consists of 3 semi-circular bays separated by jutting hills and islands.  Farthest to the North is the little Ao Noi bay then the Prachuap Khiri Khan bay and finally Ao Manao.  Each location offers so many outdoor things to do that it just boggles my mind when the locals say tourists only stay here for a couple of days because “there isn’t much to do”.  Seriously??  They have a Wat inside a cave in Ao Noi, beautiful beaches on all three bays, hikes to a Wat on the top of a hill in Prachuap, a hike to another tiny Wat at the top of another hill (Khao Lommuak) which gives the highest panoramic view of the entire area, plus snorkeling (I still have to check that out myself!) and within driving distance several day trips could be planned to surrounding National Parks!  There is so much to do around here that when you add in days to just relax and beach, you would need at least a week to get it all done leisurely!

But I digress…  This place really is darling though!  I would recommend it over and over but hope that even when it does get properly discovered, the integrity of the place as it currently is doesn’t get destroyed.  The weather is always delightful (though admittedly quite hot), the beaches are never overcrowded, the beach water is deliciously warm and refreshing and there is a ridiculous amount of fun sea life to play with (hermit crabs, clams, sand dollars, etc).  Seriously, what more could one ask for?

On to Songkran 2015

Back to Thailand

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Scots in Italy??

The reason I had been traveling through Europe so fast was so I could make it back to Italy by mid-October… I got news while in Berlin that Anna (my neighbor in Costa Rica who I visited in Glasgow) and her friend, and now my new friend Morna were coming to town for the week!!  Yay!! But, that meant to push the gas on the pedal for my other travels.  Hence, after visiting the Neuschwanstein Castle I booked it via train through the Alps back to Florence to prepare for their visit:)

Preparing for their visit is really just code for stocking up with lots of wine, lol!!  I believe during their visit, my dad got 20 liters of wine and between the two of them, they probably went through 12-13 liters… LOL!  But hey, I can’t blame them, they were in Italy for crying out loud!  If you aren’t going to enjoy yourself while here, why bother at all?

I met them in Pisa and we stayed the first night and the next day doing all the tourist stuff, i.e. getting a picture taken holding up the tower.  Morna didn’t want to get in on that action, but we got her later when we were in the top  cupola of the Duomo in Florence cupping another dome of Florence… I Should now mention that all the pictures in this post were taken by Anna and her camera.  Gotta give credit where credit is due:)

In any event, our time after Pisa was spent hanging out at my dad’s place eating delicious home cooked Italian food; getting tipsy on wine and beer and chatting about good times both past and present; taking hikes in the National Forrest to Vallombrosa and Secchieta; going into Florence about 3 separate times trying each time to get into the Duomo but failing until our last try (which we then ended up walking to the very top for a panoramic view);

Going to see Michelangelo’s David, of course!  (the picture below is of my favorite part of David… (no, not THAT part;)))

My favorite part of David
My favorite part of David

Making a wish at the porcellino;

Wishing on the Porcellino
Wishing on the Porcellino

And staying after dark in Florence to watch night life a bit.

Night Artists
Night Artists

Probably the most humorous time for me was the hikes… The first day we went, not more than 3 minutes after we left the house it started to pour down rain.  Did we turn back?  Naw, it was just a bit of rain and we were SURE it would stop soon.  Thankfully I had brought an umbrella and poncho “just in case” since it was a bit cloudy, and while I caved and took out the umbrella for shelter after about 10 minutes of walking in the rain, Morna and Anna were still braving it with the light jacket/sweater they brought for the walk.  About 20 minutes later they were drenched!!  They took the poncho, which was large enough to share and onward we went.  Along the way we spotted several deer!!  And that was probably only because the deer figured “no human in their right mind would hike in this downpour!”  They were wrong, lol!!

We eventually made it to Vallombrosa all cold and quite wet.  Thankfully there was a teeny bar on the side of the road:)  We had cappuccino’s, a sandwich, some wine, beer, some more wine and beer… Then shots to warm up a bit more (we were still chilly) then another shot or two until it was starting to get too late and dark to walk back down, so we called my dad to pick us up, lol!!

The second day of hiking was much less wet, but still cold and windy!  We did make it all the way to the top to Secchieta (where we had planned to go the first day) and once again at the end of the trail, what was there to meet us??  You guessed it, a bar!  We brought our own lunch that day so we just purchased some cappuccino’s, two wines and a beer:)  We behaved that day knowing we had to walk down but not entirely… You see, along with sandwiches for lunch, we also packed about a liter and a half of wine to sip along the way:)  We did behave on drinking it however because we barely cracked into it until we were heading down:)  Ah, good times!

More Florence pictures- notice the very artistic pictures on the Ponte Vecchio done by Anna:)

The three of us posing as stereotypical Italians (Mamma Mia!)

Acting Italian
Acting Italian

On to Venice

Back to Europe

Füssen

Getting to Füssen was seriously a bit of a battle and a lesson in patience!  It is a teeny town located in the South of Germany very near the Austrian border.  I was able to book a train ticket from Heidelberg to Pfronten-Weissbach, and from there a bus to Füssen via my favorite travel site (rome2rio.com).  In total, there were 4 connections with about 5 minutes between each connection… Perhaps I should have looked into longer connection breaks between each stop, but thinking that Germans are known for their precision and timeliness, I figured 5 minutes would be no problem at all!

I was wrong.  The train from Heidelberg left on time, but when I got to Stuttgart there was a delay of 15 minutes.  Which in turn threw off my connection in Ulm… And my connection in Kempten, which made me miss the bus in Pfronten-Weissbach… Instead of arriving for the bus at 3:15 I had arrived a bit after 6.  I must say that the train from Kempten to Pfronten-Weissbach was the cutest thing I’d seen!  It only had 2 little caboose (cabooses??) and was like a commuter train for the little town in the area.  Just adorable!

The cute train to Pfronten-Weissbach dropped me and a few others off at a little bench on the side of the road.  Great, now what??  Thankfully, as mentioned a few other people had also gotten off at the stop so I was able to ask where the bus stop was.  I was shown by a very nice lady and I made my way to wait.  It was just around the corner and according to the sign I had missed the last bus by 5 minutes or so and the next one wouldn’t be coming around for another hour!  Hmmmm…. what to do….

As miracles would have it, there was a bar just across the street:)  I wasn’t about to stand out in the cold for an hour, no sir!  Plus, I had had just about enough of the “hurry up and wait” game that I had been playing all day since leaving Heidelberg!  It was time for a little unwinding with a beer.  I went across the street and walked in to find a teeny bar with the bartender and an obvious local who kept trying to speak with me, yet I kept having to shrug my shoulders and shake my head to signal that I didn’t have a clue what he was saying!

About a half hour later two more locals came in, one of which spoke a bit of English:)  I had explained I was waiting for the bus which then erupted the bar into a conversation on whether the bus would show up at all!  According to the locals, because we were in such a teeny town, buses ran whenever they felt the need to and not necessarily when they were scheduled to… Joy!!  All I could think at this point was that I really didn’t care!  I had a couple of beers in me and thought, well worst case I would find somewhere to stay for the night, then make my way to Füssen the next day.

I made it back to bus station a few minutes before it was due to arrive, and thankfully about 10 minutes after it was due, it did show:)  I was in Füssen about 20 minutes later and to Suzanne’s B&B, which was located around the corner from the train station, about 10 minutes after that.

Suzanne's B&B
Suzanne’s B&B

Suzanne’s B&B is a lovely place.  It is run by Suzanne (originally from Chicago if memory serves) and her husband.  Part of the home is their private residence and the rest has been turned into a B&B.  Suzanne had a bit of a no-nonsense edge to her but was very accommodating both with information about the area and recommending ways to get to my next destination.  I paid more than I was hoping to, but being last-minute I lucked out that I was able to find anything at all.  The room was comfortable with a private bathroom and breakfast was included, so really I’ve no complaints:)  And best of all, it was only a bike ride away from the Neuschwanstein Castle:)

I ended up spending 3 days and 4 nights in Füssen filling my days with hikes, a visit to the Neuschwanstein Castle, enjoying some Oktoberfest celebrations in the evenings and a day just relaxing/continuing to recover from the crud I’d caught.  I will say the nature surrounding Füssen is just beautiful!!  Especially with the colors changing on the trees and the color of the water in the lakes and rivers, it was just amazing!

On to Neuschwanstein

Back to Europe

 

 

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

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