Tag Archives: nature

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.¬† ūüôā

#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…

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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!! ūüėȬ† 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:

San Jose

I should start by saying that I really didn’t have a plan.¬† None of this trip was planned exactly.¬† The farthest I ever got with “planning” was that I was going to sell everything, quit my job and travel out of the Country.¬† But that was it.¬† Seriously, nothing¬†beyond there.¬† So when I landed in the San Jose airport (located in Alajuela) I didn’t have any further idea of where I was going to even sleep that night or what my next move was…

Many would find that crazy especially since I had the time to figure it all out, but in my mind I was just interested in the experience and the challenge of having to figure it out as I went along.  I have always done my best work when thrown into the deep end of the pool and in a way, planning to NOT have a plan was my own personal ocean:)
Walking out of the airport I was immediately ambushed by tons of eager faces and voices all asking “Taxi???”.¬† I turned them down and asked someone nearby where the bus station was instead.¬† My thoughts were to get out of San Jose immediately and get out to a more typical Costa Rica town: more nature, less city!¬† As I made my way toward the buses I suddenly thought “well, one night wouldn’t hurt and I could use it to get my barring”.¬† So I headed back to the taxis and met a couple of other people who were asking if I wanted to share a cab to San Jose.¬† I took this as a sign that ok, I could stay one night in San Jose!

In retrospect, had I really understood that the airport was in Alajuela (which I did have a foggy memory of my brother telling me that, yet it somehow wasn’t solidified in my mind) I would have just gotten a taxi to downtown Alajuela…

In any event, about a half our later we were in San Jose and had dropped off my two taxi buddies at their various locations.¬† The taxi driver then turned to me and (all in Spanish) said- “where are you off to?”¬† I replied that I had no idea, but asked what he would suggest?¬† I stated that I wanted somewhere cheap- the cheaper the better in my mind!¬† He politely stated however that he would much prefer I stayed somewhere a little more pricey, but it would be in an area he considered safe for a single traveler.¬† I acquiesced and was taken to a little B&B near the downtown area.

After settling in I spent the rest of the afternoon getting lost and trying to get directions on where downtown actually was!¬† I ran into a few people on the street who I trusted to ask questions of and they assisted me very kindly- but each person also emphatically told me to either get back to my B&B prior to the night-time or take a taxi back.¬† “Muy peligroso” was what I was told.¬† Mainly because the drug addicts come out at night and petty crimes apparently aren’t unusual in San Jose.¬† Though there are crimes everywhere, I took the locals advice to heart and made sure I was back at the B&B by 6pm (yes, it gets dark here by 6pm everyday, year round!).

San Jose was a bustling, constantly moving city!¬† There were people everywhere!!¬† In the markets, hanging out in the parks, moving on foot or in their cars or on bikes going to their destinations.¬† Movement everywhere you looked!¬† Buildings weren’t very tall but they were everywhere all squished together as far as the eye could see, thus blocking any real view of the beautiful nature that surrounds the city.¬† McDonald’s, Quizno’s, Pizza Hut and other U.S. food chains were also everywhere!¬† I hate to admit, but as I was getting a little tired from all the travels and walking around all afternoon, I did drift to a Quizno’s for dinner.¬† The shame, I know!!¬† But crowds and areas with lots of hustle and bustle tend to wear me out fast and it was nice to get a little food that I could relate to, so to speak.¬† I knew there would be plenty of time to taste local flavors and I was certainly looking forward to that, but for the time I was happy with the Quizno’s.

After my bite to eat I did a little internet research at my B&B for Volcan Poas.¬† My cousin, who is a “seasoned” Costa Rica traveler said it was a good day trip from San Jose, so I decided to check out what was available there (hostels and such) for a trip the next day.¬† I found a few hostels online and took down their information so I could look them up once there.¬† I also had to get the bus situation understood because San Jose has 4, yes 4 different bus stations all in different locations from one another.¬† Depending on where you want to go to, that decides which bus terminal you need to show up to.

As I settled into the B&B to sleep, a huge thunderstorm settled in overhead… Now for those of you who know me, you know that I absolutely ADORE thunderstorms!!! In fact, so much that whether a place has thunderstorms on a fairly consistent basis is actually a deciding factor for me on whether I will plan to live there or not.¬† I know, I know- sounds absolutely nuts picking a place to live based on thunderstorms, but hey, I follow my passions no matter what form they take!

On to Volcan Poas

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