Tag Archives: jungle

Elephant Trekking

The morning of our tour started out interesting.  Long story short, Win (who set up our tour on the ferry ride over from Phi Phi) didn’t alert the tour people that we needed a pickup and the women at the hotel (the first unfriendly people we had come across on the entire island) weren’t at all helpful.  In fact, we were even yelled at for not making the reservation through them!  But, eventually we were able to get a gentleman from the hotel to help us call the elephant trekking people to let them know we were scheduled for a tour that day.

We were at least a half hour late from when our tour was supposed to start, but when the pickup came for us the employees were very apologetic for having missed us.  And once we arrived to the tour location, the vibe was so chilled and relaxed that you could immediately tell that even though they had tour “start times” they really didn’t pay that much attention to them!

Instead of starting with the elephant trekking, we went off on a guided hike (on foot) through the jungle to the bat cave and waterfall.  We started with the bat cave and while it wasn’t that deep to walk through, the most impressive thing about it was that there were trees growing just inside the cave and the trunks of the trees had grown through the roof of the cave!  Also there was a very large mushroom (magic??) growing deep inside the cave beyond the point of light reaching, which I’d never seen before either!  The bats were teeny and so freaking cute!!  Every now and again one would stir and fly around a bit or simply stretch its wings then curl back up for a nap.

After the cave we walked to the waterfall, which unfortunately due to lack of rain was rather lackluster.  However, it was still quite pretty and due to the heat of the day felt very nice to stand under the water to cool off!  The best part about the waterfall were the cleaner fish AND a cleaner shrimp!!  After cooling off under the waterfall Anna and I stood around in the shallow areas of the waterfall pool and watched as the fish surrounded Anna’s feet nibbled away.  None of the fish were interested in my feet until suddenly I felt a little tickle on my pinky toe and looked down to see a cleaner shrimp nibbling!!  He was just adorable to watch as his little front pincers hacked away dead skin around my toe:)  I could have stayed there all day getting my free shrimp pedicure, but alas it was time to head back and hop on an elephant:)

When we had first arrived to the elephant area, another couple were coming in from their elephant trek and one of the people was sitting in the “saddle” while the other was riding on the front of the elephant… I wasn’t sure if this was allowed for everyone to do, but I was going to ask anyway!  I was informed that it was ok to sit on the front of the elephant, but I had to properly, meaning I had to sit as far forward as possible on the elephants neck so that the sensitive area would not be damaged or strained.  We climbed the stairs to a platform and first I mounted on the head (essentially) of the elephant while Anna got on in the saddle.  I asked if I was sitting forward enough to which the trainer said “more forward”.  So I pushed forward.  “More forward” he said again, so I moved further forward…

Now, I’ve been a horse back rider for over 20 years, so I do know my way around riding horses and the feeling and sensation of that, so I figured it couldn’t be THAT different to ride an elephant… I was wrong!!  You literally had to sit so far forward on the neck so that you were tucked directly behind the elephants ears and all you had in front of you was the head of the elephant and then the ground.  You would think that with the size of the elephant’s head, that it would give you comfort of not falling off, but seriously, once on top, it really isn’t that much space!  The safe space on the neck is so far forward and so narrow that it was hard to feel 100% comfortable about not falling off.  I had to keep my palms flat on the top of the elephant’s head to help with balance and her movement was so foreign that I had to hold on for dear life with my thighs too!

About half-way through the trek Anna and I switched places (with the trainer again telling Anna several times to “move forward” before continuing on) and what I found amazing was we both had similar stories in that every time either of us felt like we were losing balance to the left or right, the elephant would flatten her ear against our leg as if she was holding us steady!  Throughout the ride her ears were constantly flapping around to keep the mosquitos and flies off of her, but the minute we felt like we were losing balance in either direction, the corresponding ear would stop slapping and it would snap shut around our leg for a couple of seconds until we were back in balance, then they would resume their regular fly swatting action.  Absolutely amazing!!!

That experience was one of the most amazing I’ve had.  And again, while I was a bit reluctant at first to sign up for the tour because of not knowing how they treated the animals, I can say with assurance that these elephants are well taken care of and loved.  The trainers were constantly loving on them in one way or another, none of the trainers had a hook prod that you often see at other elephant places, but rather they only had a thin bamboo stick, which they used as walking sticks for themselves more than anything else.  They never once struck an elephant and during the trek, they walked behind the elephants simply chatting amongst themselves.  If the elephants stopped to grab a bite to eat, the trainers would say something to them, give them a pat, and wait until the elephant was ready to walk on.  They were all so chill, comfortable and good with the elephants that it was amazing to see.

After our trek we spent, I don’t even know how much money, buying bananas for the elephants to nibble on as a thank you.  Of course a gazillion pictures were also snapped and lots of loving and praise was given to the beautiful beasts.  It was an experience I won’t ever forget and feel so grateful to have been able to do.  Thank you Anna!!!

On to Hangover to Koh Ngai (Hai)

Back to Thailand

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Kamikaze Cockbox

In my previous post I’d mentioned how the bungalow Anna and I chose to stay in on the island of Koh Phi Phi Don had a few unwanted guests…  It was in fact our first night there that “the event” occurred that made us question staying there any longer…  Personally, I can handle a cockroach or two with no bother.  However, Anna fears them like I fear spiders and in understanding that, I can’t simply brush her fear aside but rather must respect it.

After returning from the beach and exploring the town of Phi Phi Don, we arrived after dark to our bungalow in the jungle.  Knowing that there may be “beasties” as Anna calls them, I approached the bungalow first turning on all lights to check for any critters (hopefully not seeing any spiders in the process as well!!).  With no cockroaches in sight, I called the all clear for Anna to come on in.

As I sat on the porch with my tablet (the bungalow was very hot inside and had yet to cool off from the days heat despite the fan blowing) Anna, who just came out from a shower and was in the bungalow changing, let out a yelp and ran on the porch in her towel announcing that she’d spotted a cockroach on the churning fan.  The fan in the bungalow was mounted on the ceiling and gently rotated around the room at varying angles.  As Anna remained on the porch in fear, I went in to investigate…

At first I didn’t see anything on the fan as it gently rotated about.  I thought perhaps she’d just seen an odd shadow that appeared to look like a cockroach, but nothing else.  I kept watching as Anna persisted that she’d seen one.  Nothing… I still didn’t see a thing.  I persuaded her to go back in the room and get changed as there was no cockroach there.  But as she started to go in and I was going out, once again she spotted it.

Sure enough, a cockroach just over an inch in size became visible on the INSIDE of the fan between the churning blades and the wire mesh across the front of the fan.  Now there was an issue… The fear essentially was that at some point as the cockroach skittered along the wires of the fan, it would be catapulted out somewhere in the room at a great speed from the force of the fan…  What to do, what to do…???

As Anna paced on the porch, I turned the fan off hoping that when the blades stopped the roach would figure out a way off the fan.  It perfectly contentedly stayed on the fan however changing course here and there making its way along the wires and rim of the fan, showing absolutely no signs of going anywhere.  I tried hitting the fan with items to knock the roach off but the fan was mounted too high on the ceiling for me to get anywhere near reaching it.  I waited as the roach made its way to the edge of the fan where the gaps between the wires were greatest and in that instant turned the fan on full blast to try to force it out with the wind from the blades to absolutely no avail… Seemingly we were at a complete standstill.  There wasn’t anything to be done.  All the while that I was inside trying to get the roach, Anna started referring to it as a kamikaze cockroach since she was sure it would come flying out of the fan at any second…

However, with no other feasible options in sight to get the roach out, I coaxed Anna to come back into the bungalow to at least get her clothes so she could change in the bathroom.  I agreed of course to stay in the room with her while she got her clothes together in case the roach suddenly did make a ground floor appearance.  I positioned myself directly under the fan with my open tablet in hand going about things I wanted to look up while Anna gathered her clothes.  She kept making references to the kamikaze cockroach and how it would surely get her.  Staring at my tablet I started to chuckle at Anna and how dramatic she was being when within a split second, the roach suddenly dropped directly on my tablet!!!

I let out a scream just from the surprise and shock of the catapulted cockroach suddenly being on my tablet and subsequently flung my tablet to get the roach off of it.  Anna, having heard my scream and then seeing the roach being flung off my tablet in (ironically and unfortunately) her direction went absolutely ballistic!!!  She started letting out a series of long and loud scream as she tried in vain to get away from the roach as it skittered across the floor directly to her and toward the bathroom.  All the while I was furiously trying to brush the roach away from running toward her, but it just kept on trying to get past her to the bathroom!

Finally, it managed to make it to the bathroom and went between the floor tiles to the outside and after a few seconds of calming herself, Anna and I both started to laugh hysterically!!  What made the whole thing worse is we were both now standing inside the bungalow in full view of the front door, Anna still in her towel, laughing our rears off as the man from reception came tearing up the path to our doorstep asking if everything was ok!  Bless his heart for coming!!  He seriously must have thought we were being murdered by the initial look on his face, which turned disinterested rather quickly as we tried in vain to explain that it was “just a cockroach” that we were screaming at and then laughing at hysterically!  He wasn’t amused…

Luckily that was the end of our odd entertainment for the evening and after that night, we didn’t have any further cockroach events so we stayed in those bungalows for the next 3 nights of our trip to Phi Phi.  However we did rename our bungalow the “kamikaze cockbox” from that night on.  It was a combination of the words ‘kamikaze cockroach’ for the above event and ‘hotbox’ since that first night was absolutely boiling inside despite the fan!  The kamikaze cockroach prediction came true after all!

On to The Quiet Sides of Phi Phi

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Koh Phi Phi Don

We arrived to the beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi Don (pronounced pee-pee, not fee-fee) early in the afternoon, just in time for the heat of the day!  As the numerous tourists and locals collected their bags and disembarked from the ferry, heading for the island toll (20 baht per person to “enter” the island) a few things about the island became immediately apparent.  First off, the views of this island were absolutely spectacular with steep cliffs jutting out from crystal blue and green waters.  Second, this was DEFINITELY a popular tourist destination, even in low season.  Third, the presence of cats on the island was immediately noticeable (seriously cat lovers would be in absolute heaven!!).  And finally, despite having several walkways winding through and around town, there was no motor traffic… No cars, no motorcycles, not even bicycles!

Koh Phi Phi Don is the larger of the Phi Phi islands, the smaller being Phi Phi Ley, which boasts the famous Maya bay (made famous by being the location where they filmed “The Beach”).  While it is possible to find plenty of accommodations on Phi Phi Don, it is not possible to stay on Phi Phi Ley (camping is also not allowed there!).  Another little fact about Phi Phi Don is that in 2004 a tsunami devastated the island with waters rushing in from BOTH sides of the bay.  It has since recovered, but still unfortunate it happened.

Since we hadn’t booked accommodations in advance, our first task was to find somewhere.  We passed numerous tourist shops near the pier entrance that offered to assist us in finding a place, but we simply ignored them for the time and headed off on foot to try to find a place on  our own.  We walked aimlessly down one of the walking paths and eventually ended on the beach of Loh Dalam bay.  Instead of being sensible and turning around however, we continued on along the beach with our backpacks in tow sweating our rears off trying to find somewhere.  The scene on the beach was a rather confused one.  On the one hand the bay and surrounding beauty was absolutely stunning!!  On the other, loud party music thumped through the air, ruining the serene nature around.

None of the accommodations along the beach (or rather people who worked there) were helpful in any way in getting us information on where to go or even how much their places were.  They simply kept sending us off in different directions to “reception” that ultimately lead us back to our starting point.  Frustrated, tired, hot, hungry, thirsty and sweaty we decided to go back to the pier to the tourist offices and ask for help.  The tourist info shop had a huge variety of accommodations advertised from the very reasonable to the extremely expensive!  I had previously looked up potential places to stay on the island via Travelfish, so I knew of at least one reasonably priced place to stay (space permitting).

As mentioned on Travelfish, the Phutawan Bamboo Resort was one of our available options for cheaper accommodation.  As described by the Travelfish post the resort was located a bit from the main town and up a steep hill.  It was the cheapest of our options (400 baht per night) so we thought, why not?  We booked at the tourist shop then waited while an employee came along, threw our bags into a trolley cart, and started heading through town.  We walked at a rather clipped pace following our guide through town, around the bay and finally up and up and up and up the hill to a parked tuk-tuk.  From there we were thrown into the back of the tuk-tuk and were escorted the short distance further up the hill to the bungalows.

At reception we were shown to our bamboo bungalow (which ended up not being in Phutawan, but rather right next door to Phutawan in a place called Phi Phi Hill Bungalows)…  While the Phi Phi Hill Bungalows were technically livable, it was also quite apparent why they were so cheap.  Put quite simply in the words of Anna: “beasties”!!  While they weren’t immediately apparent, the bungalow did have quite a few cockroaches that also lived there.  Thankfully for me, no spiders, but unfortunately for Anna, cockroaches!  She fears cockroaches as I do spiders, so at least we had each others back in case of either appearing.  Also, since we were properly in the jungle, mosquitos were also out and about in large numbers at dawn and dusk.

On the whole, Phi Phi Don was a strange mix.  My favorite article about the island was a post I found on Travelfish (click here to read) that not only hit the nail on the head in its description of the place but was also hilariously witty to boot.  In addition, the article also provided great ideas for our future activities on the island.

So on the whole, as an overview of the place, while the physical beauty was undeniably stunning, the party scene was annoying.  The beaches in front of the bars were littered with straws, cigarette butts, cups and beer bottles which was also rather unpleasant. And again, the seemingly non-stop party music was out of place to me.  Anna and I kept complaining about the noise pollution and then started joking about how “old” we must be getting in wishing they’d turn the music down, lol!!  It wasn’t until we hiked to the other side of the island and to Long beach that we found the quiet and beauty we sought.  More on those locations later, but first I have to share the most humorous event that happened while we were on Phi Phi Don…

On to Kamikaze Cockbox

Back to Thailand

Eating Bat and The View

Many days after my morning Muay Thai Kickboxing workout I’m left exhausted wanting to do little more than just relax with a book or have a massage.  The best remedy for my sore body (especially my feet) however is to walk.  I really have to rev myself up for the task however.  Especially since the walking includes doing so during some of the hottest hours of the day.  Usually I head to Hin Wong for a snorkel or Sairee to just hang about but this time I thought to check out a new route.

My initial plan was to head to Jim’s bar.  Located high up on one of the hills nearby, it seemed like it would be a nice ‘goal’ place to walk to and to be rewarded in the end by a cold drink and hopefully a beautiful view to boot.  Armed with my plan I headed out toward Hin Wong bay but made a turn at the top of the hill toward Jim’s bar instead of heading down to the bay.  The walk there wasn’t altogether unpleasant.  Though there were bits with a 20% or 30% grade to them, the majority was variable enough to cut the monotony of just walking uphill.  Bits of the path were concrete while other bits were only dirt and gravel cut through with erosion from storms.

Though it is possible to make the trek with a motorbike or an ATV, I prefered walking.  First because of the exercise aspect, but most importantly because of the condition of the unpaved bits of the path.  They really were quite treacherous and while during my hike up I didn’t notice any accidents, on my way back down I witnessed 2 rolled motorbike accidents (one with injuries) and heard from another person that he’d witnessed 3 as well!  But I’m getting ahead.

It felt like I had been walking for hours!  No one was in sight except the occasional random passing motorbike and the sun was beating down hard on my skin.  I took appropriate breaks here and there to chill in the shade and have some water or take pictures of the local wildlife (I spotted a water monitor!!) and though I was absolutely dripping in sweat to the point of all my clothes being soaked through, I trudged on having no idea how far or close I was, yet determined to get there.  Eventually (after going up the 30% grade bit of the path) I made it to a little bar.  It turned out to be the Butterfly Garden!  That was good news for me since Jim’s bar wasn’t too far beyond that. I stopped for a sugary tea to replenish a bit of energy then continued up the hill to Jim’s.

I was surprised that Jim’s wasn’t that far at all from the Butterfly Garden since on the map they seemed to be a bit further apart.  It literally was just up the hill from the Butterfly Garden.  While it was a cute little bar, no one was there and the views were simply of the surrounding jungle.  So instead of sitting and staying, I opted to check out a bit further along the path.  There were signs for the Mango View Bar and another place simply called The View Bar.  One was down the path to the right, the other to the left.  I chose the right path toward The View Bar and about half a km later, I’d arrived to one of the most stunning views of the island I’ve seen so far!  You could see just about the entire island including the National Park islands to the South of Koh Tao, a bit of Koh Samui to the SW and even the mainland of Thailand!

So stunned by the beauty of The View’s views, I took a seat on the patio and ordered a drink.  I learned from the owner that the place had only been open for 5 months now, the deck I was sitting on was only a month old and the bar itself is the highest bar on the island!  There was only one other couple there when I first arrived which gave the atmosphere an even more peaceful and beautiful appeal to it.  I met Suay (beautiful), the local squirrel who would pop in every time it was hungry for some fruit.  He ate out of the owners hand but unlike other squirrels I’ve seen, he didn’t live in a cage.  He simply came and went as he pleased 🙂  He did come over and sniff my toes at one point during his search for some more food, but sadly my camera didn’t reload fast enough to capture the shot 😦

I spent hours up there sipping on drinks and chatting with people as they came and went and was reminded just how international Thailand is.  Within the few hours I was there I met people from Spain, South Africa, Norway, Germany and the States.  Quite an impressive mix!  In any event, the day was moving along and it was time for me to start heading back along the 3.5km path back to my place.  As I came back into view of the Butterfly Garden however I was coaxed into staying for “just one drink”.  “Have a beer, kick up your feet!  Free view!” the Thai’s were calling to me.  And though I had been kicking up my feet for several hours I thought, why not?  So I settled in for a beer and started chatting with the locals who owned the place and a tourist from Canada.

It was then that the local said they were going to have a barbecue.  And the main meat of this barbecue??  Locally caught and freshly killed bat… Yes bat!  I LOVE bats!!!  Ok, not in the eating sense but I love those cute little critters!!  I’ve loved them since caving in college and have always adored their little furry faces!  So when he pulled out the bodies ready to be put on the barbecue, I couldn’t believe it and figured there was NO WAY I’d eat a bat!  Alas, after 2 beers (why not have 2 when you’ve already had 1??) I thought, yea, I could try some bat!  The meat was very tough and quite hard to pull off the bones but it was flavorful.  I only had one wing however as I started to feel a bit guilty for having eaten one of the cute critters, but at least I tried something new.

I ended up staying for another couple of hours at the Butterfly Garden having beers (3 in total, I promise!) chatting with people coming down or up the road, heckling them to stay for some bat, doing some Muay Thai play fighting with one of the locals who then invited me back everyday to practice with him for free, and sadly witnessing 2 motorbike rolls (one resulting in a nasty road rash injury).  After my 3 beers however, the sun was really starting to set and it was definitely time for me to head back down (I still had 3km to go!) before it became pitch black.  I thanked my new Thai friends for the bat and conversation, and headed down the quickly darkening path back toward town.  I won’t lie that I kept thinking how idiotic I was to have waited so long to go back down as the path became darker and darker.  But, all’s well that ends well, and my hike down the hill was thankfully without injury!

Sun setting
Sun setting

I made it to the bottom of the hill just in time to see one of the most stunning sunset skies I’ve seen since being on Koh Tao.  I wish the picture I took did it justice, but really it doesn’t.  Unfortunately my camera doesn’t take night shots well at all!! 😦  All in all, it was a beautiful day full of unexpected people, experiences and breathtaking views all around.  And on top of being thankful I’d made it back home in one drunken piece, I was also so very thankful that I’d made myself get off my duff that morning and make that hike in the first place.  I will definitely have to go there again!

On to Muay Thai Kickboxing Training

Back to Thailand

Things to Love about Thailand

I’ve been traveling in Thailand now for over 5 months now, so I thought perhaps now is the best time to break out with a few things I love or at least find the most interesting about Thailand:)

It will be a working list and isn’t in any particular order with the exception of the first one.  🙂

#1: NO SHOES!!!
I absolutely adore how before entering any building, home or place of work you must first remove your shoes!  This goes for just about every place, with the exception of some grocery stores (though no one would squawk if you didn’t have your shoes on) and with some restaurants as well.  But for the most part (including in the vet clinic where I volunteered) you have to kick off your shoes before entering.  I will admit sometimes it’s a pain to do so (if you are wearing anything other than flip  flops) but otherwise, the no shoe rule is my favorite cultural behavior and one that I will be using wherever I end up for good:) I love, love, LOVE it!!

No Shoes
No Shoes

#2: Nature
The diversity of the landscapes here are extraordinary!  From the beaches to jungle to islands, mountains, rivers and lakes, Thailand seems to have just about every kind of terrain one would want to find.

#3: House Geckos
I just adore these creatures!  They are simply a much larger version of regular geckos and they are quite beneficial to have in the home since they take care of the majority of other insects in the home (including spiders, yay!!).  They also make the cutest and most interesting sound.  They start off with a quick series of chitters, then make a series of staccato sounds in repetition.  When I first heard their sound I thought I was crazy because it sounded like they were saying “F you” in slow repetition.  However, I’ve come across many other travelers and very-well-spoken-in-English-locals who have also pointed this out, so I guess I wasn’t as crazy as I thought, LOL!

#4: Animals
I know I just wrote about the geckos, and they technically would qualify in the animal section as well, but I just love those little buggers so much that they got their own section.  However, I do also adore the large variety of other kinds of animals here in Thailand.  From elephants, street dogs and cats, variety of monkeys, flying squirrels, regular squirrels, lizards, birds, the diversity is so rich!  You just never know what you are going to find!  The sea life is also beautifully diverse and lush!  From corals to sting rays, sharks, nudibranchs, sea cucumbers, and a huge variety of fish, it’s amazingly impressive!

#5: Kind & Honest People
The people are generous and kind, patient and welcoming.  I have yet to run into a rude local here and though I’ve heard from other fellow travelers that it all depends on where you go, in my opinion and experience the people have been nothing but kind.  In addition to the generous and kind nature of the people here, they are also very honest.  In particular when it comes to money.  I’ve been other places where I’ve handed over too much money (from being tired or just not thinking the correct exchange rate) and they’ve gone on their way with the extra money in hand.  Here, there have been several occasions where I’ve handed over too much and they immediately return whatever over I’ve paid, even if it’s just a single baht!  I’ve gotten so comfortable with their honesty that there have also been several times when my mind wasn’t working properly to understand how much I owed in Thai that I’ve simply held a bunch of bills and let them pick what they needed.  I love that kind of honesty as it makes one feel more comfortable in their surroundings!!  Now, that’s not to say some people won’t try to overcharge you for something (cab ride, etc) but if you ask upfront what something will cost, they stick by it.

#6: No sleazy men
Traveling in Latin American countries, one thing I had to get used to that also really annoyed me at times, but just had to learn to ignore, was the cat calls, whistles, stares and hissing sounds (they literally sounded like snakes to be honest) men would constantly make toward any female as you walked by.  Here, no such behavior exists!  The men are much more respectful in that way and even to the point where I sometimes wondered why I wasn’t getting any looks from locals, and it simply is because their culture, unlike others, is to not display emotions of affection in any way in public.  Hence, no cat calls, uncomfortable stares or hissing sounds!

#7: Packaging with plastic bags
This one I personally struggle with from the environmental perspective and really wish they would cut back on their use of plastic bags, but I do also find it interesting and entertaining how they package to-go food or drink items.  Coffee, sodas, rice, soups, and more are packaged in a plastic bag tied off with a rubber band for take away.  Other items like rice and pad thai are put in styrofoam containers, so it’s one evil for the environment versus the other… While I can understand the simplicity and ease of using plastic bags, I wish in general they would cut back because they insist in using a ton of bags for very few items.  I’m always refusing bags (as I generally bring my own or just don’t need one) but you really have to be on the ball to say you don’t want a bag as they are very quick to snatch one out.  The straws also drive me nuts (though technically from the hygienic perspective it’s better) as they will give you one for each can or bottle purchased (including for beers) so if I walked in and bought 2 bottles of water and a soda they would put in 3 straws!

#8: Built to last
Another thing that really impresses me about Thailand is the construction of their homes and buildings.  Yes, there are several homes that are made entirely from bamboo and other wood (though bamboo is a very highly resilient wood to begin with!) but many homes, stores and general buildings are built to a very high quality standard and are built to last!  It’s amazing watching them construct a home or other building because their scaffolding is simply rickety looking pieces of wood that you wouldn’t think would hold people walking or working around them, yet the finished product is brick and concrete with tile throughout.

#9: Muay Thai
Whether it’s enjoying an evening out watching fights or joining in training yourself, Muay Thai is entertaining, engaging and a real real-kicker!  Granted not all fights are created equal as some are much more entertaining or gruesome than others, but all the fighters have a real sportsmanship about them that isn’t as easily found in countless other sports.  What I love the most is the fights where it’s evident that the competitors are friends.  They encourage each other between fighting rounds but when the bell goes off, all bets are off and “may the best fighter win” kicks in.  Another thing I love about Muay Thai is the sense of tradition and culture.  The fighters respect the ring, the judges, their opponent and their God.  The more I train in Muay Thai, the more I understand the fights as I watch and questions I had before while watching fights are now answered because of my own training.  I won’t go into that here, but will in a future post for sure!

To be continued…

Back to Thailand

Capurgana, Colombia

So we made it!  “Smuggled” into Columbia through the San Blas Islands on a sailboat captained and crewed by what Nicki (my German companion on the sailboat) so eloquently named “modern day pirates”.  That they were indeed, modern day pirates!!  We actually arrived and docked in the water on the Panama side in a little inlet that had the teeniest towns nearby.  From there a local took all of our things and put them in a little motor boat, squished us all in (we finally got to get our shoes back, mind you!) and motored us around the inlet bend and into the Colombian side of land and dropped us off at the dock of Capurgana, Colombia.

The first thing I remember thinking about this place was how colorful it was!  It was so Caribbean and the vibrant colors of each building just added to that cool Caribbean vibe of “come as you are and chill, man”!!  Just adorable and quaint and just the place that was needed to go and relax after the onboard adventures of the previous week on the sailboat.

We all disembarked from the little motor boat on the dock and went our random ways to find hostels/hotels for the night.  I chose a place not too far from the dock and stayed the first night in a room fit for several people (though I was the only one) then moved to a smaller, better suited room on the second floor for the next week.  Now, one must remember that after being on the sailboat for 6 days certain things hold true… First and most important, I had to get my land legs back!  Even though we had been on land for little bouts throughout the week on the sailboat, my sea legs were still well intact.  Hence why I chose to stay for several days in Capurgana… Not only because it was so vibrant yet chill, but also so I could fully recover from the crazy sailboat tour we had just come from.

After getting settled in the first afternoon of our arrival (oh and of course getting our entrance stamp from immigration, which was closed for the first several hours we were on land so had to wait a while to actually be legal in the country) Nicki and I headed around town to find a cup of coffee.  Now, honestly I’ve never really been a big coffee drinker in the States.  Maybe because all the famous blends and roasts come from places like Costa Rica and Colombia.  Or rather especially Colombia… So we thought it would be quite easy to find a place that sold coffee since we were afterall in one of the countries that was best known for their production of coffee… No.  Not at all. It literally took us the better part of an hour, plus going into dozens of stores before we actually found a place that begrudgingly made us a cup of coffee!!  And to boot, it wasn’t even anything that special.  Apparently, as we came to learn quickly, coffee in Colombia is served only at breakfast and is really not available at any other time!  Ok, now perhaps I really shouldn’t generalize for ALL of Colombia, so I will just say for sure in Capurgana:)

Anyway, all in all the time spent in Capurgana was quite nice.  One day was full of hiking through the surrounding jungle, others just wandering the small town watching and experiencing life.  The evenings were spent passing time with card games with friends from the sailboat.  Oh and one afternoon was spent watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in England (just to give a time stamp of when I was there:)).

To be honest, though I knew I had to move on, I really wasn’t looking forward to it.  The only way out of the town was either on a teeny tiny plane literally fit for two people and luggage (that could not weigh more than a certain amount) or to take a motor boat from Capurgana, across the bay to Turbo, then catch a bus to the next destination.  After having spent so much time in the simplicity of life, between Puerto Viejo, the San Blas Islands and now the tiny town of Capurgana I wasn’t looking forward to getting back into the “hustle” of the faster life.  Honestly, I don’t even recall vehicles in town, only horse drawn carts.  That’s how isolated and simple Capurgana was.  No roads actually lead into it, only a small airstrip and dock for boats connected this small Caribbean town to the rest of the world.

Alas, I did have to get back on the road again however and booked my trip out of Capurgana via the boat.  Nicki, the Aussies and the British fellow had already or were soon also getting on with their travels too.  We each went separate ways.  Though I had wanted to go to Cartagena, Colombia, oddly enough I had gotten an email from my brother saying he was in Bogota for work.  So I altered my plans to try and catch some time with him in Bogota and opted to head first to Medellin.

 

On to Travel from Capurgana to Medellin

Back to Columbia Quicklinks

Favorite things…

Again, because I lived in Puerto Viejo for an extended period of time, it’s hard to recall everything, so on this page I will simply mention my favorite things about Puerto Viejo and why I lived there for as long as I did…  The below is in no particular order..

Cabinas Garibaldi

  • Absolutely my favorite place to live!   Just down the street from Tasty Waves in Cocles beach, Cabinas Garibaldi was absolutely fantastic!!!!  I can’t say enough about this place!!!  They have short and long term rentals available and the family that owns the land and properties lives on site!  Mancho (aka Martin) is the son of the elder woman Dona Rosa who originally owned the place.  Martin along with his mom and wife take care of the property and no one messes with Martin!  He once noticed someone trying to break into one of the bungalows and he chased him down with a machete in hand!  No one since that event has tried to rob any of the places in Cabinas Garibaldi since:)  Why do I love the place so much??  Simple: private apartment with kitchen, bathroom, hot water, WiFi, across the street from beach (literally) all for about $260 a month!!!!!  The people were fantastic, my neighbors were great!  Dona Rosa even did our bed laundry weekly… just superior and super place!!!

 

Wildlife

  • Howler monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins,  toucans, sloths, agouti, iguanas… Literally everywhere you looked nature was alive and beautiful around you!!  Puerto Viejo literally was the perfect blend of beach and Jungle right at your finger tips… The nature there is just so captivatingly beautiful and alive!  So splendid!

Beaches

  • Just north of Puerto Viejo was playa negra, the black beach, and as you moved into town the sand turned white all the way down the coast line to Manzanillo, the town furthest south in Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast.  The sands were wonderful and the water was always warm!!  Great snorkeling and scuba diving areas too!  Only word of warning: beware the currents as they could be quite strong!  Oh and lots of great surfing for those who enjoy either surfing or watching the hot bodies of surfers;)

Riding Bikes

  • Everything was accessible by bike or public bus!!  I never for one second missed having to drive a car anywhere!!  I loved simply riding around town, to and from work, etc on a bike!  And for those times where I needed to get out of town, public busses did the trick.

Caribe del Sol

  • Located just outside my house in Cabinas Garibaldi (aka Anna’s front yard) was the best restaurant Caribe del Sol!!  Great Italian cuisine and local casado menu!!  The floor of the place was all sand so it felt as if you were just dining on the beach with a view of the beach while not getting soaked by sea spray:)  The people were great and actually I just heard that the owner of the place married his long-time girlfriend (my friend as well) and moved to the States!  So hopefully the place is still as tasty as I recall it being!

Caribe horses

  • I spent some time riding with the Caribe horse club and loved every second of it!   You just simply can’t beat the views from horseback and the places you can get from the seat of a horse!  Great jungle and beach riding on safe and fun horses!!

Dogs, dogs and more dogs!!

  • Ah, I LOVE animals!!  So to live in a place where all animals basically were wild and free, I absolutely adored it even more!!  You see, while each dog had an owner, they were allowed to run free daily and do whatever they pleased!  Run along the beach, beg for food, run rampant on the streets, etc.  At night however, they all always seemed to simply disappear since most had an actual home where they would stay at during the night.  Or if the owners were going into town, the dogs would accompany them and chill with them in town before turning in for the night!  Each dog had their own personality and name of course, and you literally greeted them as if they were people wandering around town!  Now of course, this kind of life for dogs while great was also rough… Many did get hit by cars, damaged by other dogs, get mange attacks, etc. and they were treated as dogs, not necessarily as family members as we tend to do in the States.  So if an animal was injured, they wouldn’t necessarily be taken to the vet.  It was just part of the jungle life!

“Jungle”

  • Ok, now the following is not in any way intended to be racist, so I don’t want to hear about people complaining about it being so!  If anything didn’t work well or wasn’t quite working as it should, it was called “Jungle”… For example, the pool table in Tasty Waves was called a “jungle table” since it wasn’t quite level.  “Jungle coffee” referred to coffee made in the morning that had floating ants in it because I forgot to put the sugar away in the fridge! (First time that happened I was appalled!  Second and subsequent times I simply scooped the little buggers out and enjoyed my coffee:) Plumbing issues? “Jungle plumbing”…. you get the point!

Lazy Mon Sundays

  • I’m sure I’ve mentioned somewhere else already how every night was a different businesses night to draw in the tourists and crowds.  Well Sunday night was dedicated to the Lazy Mon hostel and restaurant almost smack “downtown” Puerto Viejo.  It is basically an open-mic night where people can come to perform.  Truth be told, it’s really more of a usual crew that come and perform for the tourists and my absolute favorite part of that show is the fire show!!!  Several men and women dancing to music while twirling various objects on fire!  Absolutely mesmerizing and was always a thrill to watch!!

A REAL community

  • People took care of each other in Puerto Viejo in a way that I hadn’t yet experienced.  People supported each other, their businesses, causes, etc.  You really couldn’t get away with much!  If you were a bad customer, didn’t pay your bill (many places allowed locals to run tabs and pay at later dates) or tabs or tried to screw someone over, everyone heard about it immediately and you would be shut out just as fast.  Of course not every society is perfect, but the people were always friendly.  People would look you in the eye and say good morning to you daily (imagine!!)!!  The sense of community there was brilliant.  You felt as part of something, and you did your part to take care of others as they did for you

Ahora…

  • “Ahora” in Spanish means “right now”… This is a very general term in Puerto Viejo and really Costa Rica in general… If you want something done or are waiting for the bus and ask “when will xyz happen?” and are told “hora”… that could be anywhere from “now” to two weeks from now… if you are told “ahora” it could be anywhere from “right now” to about a day from now… Love that relaxed nature!!

STREET MEAT!!!

  • I don’t know what the heck they do to their meat but MAN, I absolutely LOVE street meat!!!  Mind you, the street meat vendors only come out on the street as the sun starts to set because lord knows it’s way too hot to stand over a BBQ in the heat of the day, and luckily they stay open until the wee hours of the morning for all those stumbling out of the bars in search of something yummy to eat.  Basically they only sell chicken or beef on a skewer.  Sounds super simple, I know, but the spicy sauce they put on it is absolutely to die for!!  You can get it extra spicy or just regular spicy (I always got it extra spicy!!)!!  And I promise this basis of critique on the food is not because I was always drunk when eating!!  There were in fact several times that I went into town just to purchase a couple skewers of street meat spicy chicken for my dinner completely sober!!  My mouth is salivating at the very thought…

 

On to Characters in Town

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