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.
Monkey Beach Kayak
Monkey Beach Kayak_2
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.
Monkey Beach Kayak_3
Monkey Beach Kayak_4
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. 🙂
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.
Peek at Sairee
Butterfly Garden Free View
Butterfly Garden Free View_2
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.
Looking to Jim’s Bar
The View Entrance
The View Path
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!
Koh Samui View
National Park Island View
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.
The View Bar
The View Bar Patio
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!
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!
When we first arrived in Prachuap, we had only paid for 2 nights because the owner said that for the 13th (what would have been our 3rd night) all the rooms were booked. You see, Songkran, the Thai New Year (also known as the Water Festival) was just around the corner so many Thai’s were traveling to their favorite vacation spots to celebrate the occasion. So while for the first day here was simply spent lounging on the beach, the second was dedicated to trying to find somewhere else to be for the night of the 13th. As we wandered the main road trying to find accommodations for the 13th (and were constantly told ‘no space’) we kept thinking more and more outside of the box with suggestions like “well, if it’s only for that one night that there’s no availability at the Ban Thai Hut, then we can just ask if we can store our bags there and sleep on the beach! No worries!”.
As fate would have it however there WAS space at our hut, it was just that the price was going to be increased for the nights of the 13th and 14th. Of course for Holidays they would up the price… Even though the price hike was annoying, it was really a God-send that we didn’t have to go anywhere because on the morning of the 13th (when we would have had to pack up and move locations) we woke up to an absolutely HUGE thunderstorm that rocked on with lightning and thunder for most of the day. We kept laughing at the prospect that we had thought to sleep on the beach… Lol!
April 14th was the official day to celebrate the Thai New Year. However in most places, especially larger cities such as Chaing Mai and Bangkok, they choose to celebrate for an entire week. Songkran, as mentioned above is also known as the water festival, and is aptly named because for the duration of the celebration days of Songkran people go crazy with water fights! Buckets of water are thrown on passersby, cars, motorcyclists, bicyclists, basically anything with a pulse (though they don’t target the dogs thankfully!! :)). If you aren’t hit by a bucket of water, you will be hit by a hose, or a water gun, or by a truck driving by with people in the bed of the truck chucking out water all around. It’s absolute water mayham!! I loved it!!!!
Water Fight Kids
Water Fight Kids_2
Water Fight Kids_3
There are a couple of confusions surrounding the Holiday however… Well, the first isn’t a confusion as much as a concern really. But apparently the number of motorcyclist deaths DOUBLE each year during Songkran because of crashes related to people chucking water on them while they drive!! I did see a news report from Bangkok this year however saying the death toll was down more than 20% from last year, so that’s good…
Getting into the actual confusion bit about the Holiday; Songkran is the Thai New Year. Yet on January 1st, their year turns over. They went from the year 2557 to 2558 on January 1st. So……….. The question remains in what way is Songkran the Thai New Year? I have yet to have this explained to me nor to find anyone who actually knows the answer to this (and I refuse to Google it just yet as I’m curious to actually find someone who knows). What I have heard from some is that Songkran is more of a “last chance” for water “festival” meaning that mid-April marks the beginning of their dry season where not so much rain can be expected for months until the monsoon season hits… Still confusing is that they also celebrate the Chinese New Year… So essentially it seems in Thailand that they celebrate the Western New Year (January 1st) when their physical calendar year also changes, they celebrate the Chinese New Year, AND Songkran which is their “actual” New Year and/or perhaps just a water celebration before the dry season… Anyone else confused?
Water Fight Kids_4
View from Bar
Water Fight Kids_5
Moving along, the actual day of Songkran (April 14th) was overcast but not rainy and in this sleepy little town of Prachuap, it was rather low-key. About a 5 minute walk from our place were 5 kids set up on the side of the road equipped with a hose, large buckets, smaller buckets (for use to chuck water) and several water guns. When there wasn’t any traffic to pummel with water they simply turned on each other or scooped up small buckets of water to pour on themselves, lol!! It was great fun watching them and all the smiles on the faces of those going by who were hit with water. And it was even more fun watching the random truck pull up and start a water fight from the bed with the kids on the street.
Water Fight Kids_6
Water Fight Kids_7
Water Fight Kids_8
Water Fight Kids_9
All in Good Fun
Water Fight Kids_9
We watched this activity for several hours drinking beers and chatting in between. At one point I went back to the hut for my camera and saw some guys painting each other up with some festive paint (a new part of the Songkran tradition apparently) and after asking if I could take their picture, they proceeded to give me the blessing of slathering some paint on me too 🙂
Back at the bar where we were drinking, we met a couple for the UK who had been living in Prachuap for a while, and they invited us to “the wall” for some more drinks. The Wall is literally the sea wall along the main road of Prachuap on the South side of the pier that splits the bay. We had yet to go to that side, so took the opportunity (in our already quite intoxicated states as we had missed eating breakfast and lunch) to go. We hoped in the bed of the truck and headed over to the wall. I was furiously trying to take pictures along the way and totally neglected to think about the prospect that while the Songkran celebration was quite docile along our little local strip of the bay, it would potentially not be the same on the other side of the pier where it was known to be more touristy.
Water Fight Kids_10
En Route to The Wall
En Route to The Wall_2
Just as we pulled up in the heart of the area we had to stop in the road because of traffic. It was then that I realized how much celebration was going on and tried to as quickly as possible to put my camera away when I was hit from head to toe with a bucket of ice-cold water!! Yup, they don’t care what you have on you, what you are wearing, what precious things you have that you may not want to get wet; if you are out and about, no matter your state, you will be soaked!! They even have special bags they sell for phones and tablets so you can take pictures but keep them dry, lol!! I was soaked and my camera also got hit through, but in the spirit of it all (I was warned it could happen) all I could do was laugh and enjoy the great cheer! But needless to say the picture-taking came to an abrupt end!!
En Route to The Wall_3
En Route to The Wall_4
En Route to The Wall_5
En Route to The Wall_6
En Route to The Wall_7
En Route to The Wall_8
En Route to The Wall_9
En Route to The Wall_10
We got some more drinks and I purchased a roll of toilet paper to dry my camera with and simply sat on the wall chatting for hours! The conversations lasted long after the sun went down until we were past the point of being in any way sober and were then in desperate need of food! We parted ways with our “wall” friends and headed to find food and pass out accordingly. Good times! Another Happy New Year it was! 🙂
I will fully admit that one of the big things that put Thailand on my map of places to visit was because of the Tiger Temple. When I first heard about it and saw pictures from a customer at my workplace I was in absolute awe! You mean you can walk beside, pet and sit with REAL tigers???? I was sold!! I wanted to be a part of that!! I had heard things like; there is a Temple in Thailand where monks live and care for the tigers; the tigers are fed cooked meat so they don’t look at humans (raw meat) as being a food source; the tigers are docile and are pretty much exactly like house cats, except much larger. A Tiger Temple was even featured as one of the locations where they went in The Amazing Race during the first season. I was highly intrigued!!
Then I started doing research… There isn’t just ONE tiger Temple in Thailand. They are a dime a dozen (here in Kanchanaburi you can barely walk 10 feet without seeing a sign for a tiger tour). Tour groups are taken daily to the various Temples so that each tourist can have a “genuine” experience with the tigers… I should have figured. After really looking into it, I can’t help but wonder whether these “Temples” aren’t so much about the benefit of the animals as they are simply another way to bring in the tourist, essentially exploiting the tigers along the way. I’m not saying the tigers are mistreated. I doubt they would be since it is such a popular tourist attraction. What I am saying is tigers are by nature wild. As much as I love the fantasy of being able to chill along side a tiger, I would much rather have a genuine encounter (much to the fear of my family I’m sure) in the wild (where tigers really belong) with one than to stand in line, wait my turn and get my picture taken with a “tame” tiger.
I’m not sure how these Temples began. Perhaps the first did originally start as a place where tigers that would otherwise die in the wild were taken in and cared for. Then perhaps from there it evolved into the circus it is today? I’m not sure. But I now know I don’t want to be a part of that.
For all the animal encounters I wish I was able to have, I certainly won’t if it’s at the potential exploitation of the animal. That is why I didn’t take an elephant ride in Ayutthaya. I’m always very wary of how the animals are treated before paying to be a part of an activity with them, though I did buy a basket of food to feed to them (since the food was going directly to them). There were several elephants off giving rides to tourists down the street and back and three remained at the main location without any harnesses on, but tied by their foot with a chain to the hitching post beside them.
It was hard to see chains around their legs, but here I will play a bit of the devil’s advocate. As a horse back rider, we tie horses up with halters and a lead lines to keep them in one place. We don’t tie a leg of course nor do we use chains in tying a horse, but I had to wonder if since elephants are soooo much larger, if chains are just the equivalent to a cotton or nylon tether to a horse? Elephants are highly intelligent however so I also wondered why they would need ties at all to stay within an area? And again, since I’m not educated enough on the proper treatment of elephants and whether these ones were properly cared for, I didn’t agree to a ride, just a direct feeding to them.
In Ayutthaya they also have a place called the Elephant Kraal and the Ayutthaya Elephant Village, right next to the floating market. I did think to go check them out, but thankfully read up on some reviews first… This review was also confirmed by a couple staying in the hostel who had personally gone to see it. First the floating market is nothing but a tourist trap. Second, they said that the elephants look stressed and unhappy, that they made the baby elephants do tricks that were unnatural for an elephant to do and third they also had TIGERS that they kept in small cement cages with their legs tied to the edge of the cage. The couple said the tether was so tight that it was cutting into their skin. Absolutely unacceptable!!!
Soapbox time… Though it may not make any difference (because most people are too much into their own needs to care) I urge people NOT to support any cruelty to animals and subsequently do NOT support places or people who treat their animals in foul ways. The best way to get them to stop is simply to not support them. Unfortunately many of these kinds of places open up because tourism drives them. Since they have animals native to their lands that many other places in the world consider exotic, many places make a buisiness out of exploiting the animals so tourists can get up close and personal with them so they can show off to friends and family back home on what they got to do with a wild animal. If we don’t support these businesses, they can’t survive. The drive will die off and those who exploit animals for profit will no longer make money.
As I write the above rant, the only concern that comes to mind of course is: What will happen to the animals themselves? I don’t have all the answers. If I could wave a magic wand I would have a place of my own (or enough money to support a place) that would provide safe and natural habitats to abused, mistreated and exploited animals. Somewhere where they could simply be. Sounds like a zoo, I know, but what I envision would be just large expanses of land where only the injured/unable to live in the wild would be in enclosures so they could be properly cared for. The rest would roam free. Until then, all I know is step 1 is to not support places like the above mentioned or any other. And if anyone out there has better suggestions, I’m open to hearing them 🙂
I do hope there are genuinely good places here that really care for their animals, as I am interested in volunteering. Whether that means shoveling shit, or any other nitty gritty “gross” job necessary to benefit the animals. So far I haven’t found any yet but hold hope that they are here somewhere…
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.
I arrived in La Fortuna the next afternoon and headed to the hostel I found on the internet called “Sleepers Sleep Cheap”. The word ‘cheap’ of course caught my eye immediately when searching for somewhere and the reviews seemed good enough.
About 100 meters south of the bus terminal, I arrived at the hostel which was set back a little from town than most of the others. For $10 a night, I got a private room with a private bath, hot water and breakfast! I paid for 2 nights and proceeded to get settled in. Honestly I don’t have any negative words for the hostel. It was a very basic set-up and nothing fancy by any means, but it was cheap, my room was clean, the staff were very friendly and accommodating, and the breakfast area had one of the best views in my opinion… I will later divulge what that view was;)
Now, I wanted to state my opinion about the hostel before writing about this bit: interestingly enough, weeks later when I was in Bocas Town (Bocas del Toro), Panama, I met a couple who just happened to stay at the hostel at the same time that I was staying there! But they had a very different opinion of the place… Though they did agree it was cheap, they said they believed they had bed bugs and that their door wouldn’t close all the way so all sorts of critters would come in during the day and night. Their room wasn’t clean and they weren’t that thrilled with what was served for breakfast (toast, eggs, fruit and coffee). So, I guess it just goes to show you that not everyone’s experiences are the same!
In any event, after getting settled in it was about time to eat something, so I found a local soda that was recommended and that was just down the street from my hostel and had a fantastic fillet de pollo casado! I absolutely love those casados!!!
Waiting for my meal to arrive, two guys whom I had met on the bus showed up so we dined together. I spent that evening wandering the streets of La Fortuna with them, drinking beer in the central park. Since we had all arrived in the late evening, there really wasn’t much time to get our barring of the area, so at this point none of us really knew where the famed volcano was. Sitting in the park drinking, it became a little bit of a game trying to figure out where the volcano actually was. If the volcano had been active, it would have been quite obvious, but alas the volcano was dormant while I was there. And mind you, it had been dark since before dinner, so there wasn’t any way to see around us…
The next morning I rose early determined to check several things off my list. First off, I wanted to do a tour of the volcano and perhaps the hot springs and second I wanted to go to the famed La Fortuna waterfall and finally, I wanted to get a plan in place on where my next destination would be. Even though the purpose of my trip to Costa Rica was not to be a tourist, one really can’t help but do a tour or two once here! They can be pricey, that’s for sure but I did a lot of tour “office hopping” prior to settling on the final place to book at. And since it was the off-season, there were more deals available than not.
Red Lava, a tour office located at the bus terminal offered the best prices and most unique tours. Through them I booked a tour of the Arenal volcano that was 5 hours long, including a nature hike to a waterfall (not the La Fortuna waterfall but another one), a history of the Arenal volcano and finishing off with a night dip in a natural hot spring. I also booked for a Jeep-Boat-Jeep package that would get me from La Fortuna to my next destination of Monteverde via, well you guessed it: a jeep, a boat and a jeep:)
It was mid-morning by the time I got all my bookings complete and since my volcano tour wasn’t going to start until 2pm, I opted to spend my time in between by going to the famous La Fortuna waterfall. Since my motto on spending money was “the less you spend now, the more you will have later” I decided to walk to the waterfall, located inside a National Park, instead of taking a bus directly to the entrance of the National Park… I really should have just paid the darn $8 for the bus!!!!! But oh no, I decided to keep that money and hike there myself instead! Afterall, it was a paved road to the park so I figured a little exercise would do me some good! I have no idea what the temperature was outside, but the sun was shining and it was definitely humid! I had my little personal bag with me so I could bring my camera for the trip and take plenty of pictures. And I was off for my hike…
About 8 kilometers (about 3 of which were straight uphill- the end 3 of course) later I arrived to the park entrance red-faced and completely dripping in sweat. In fact I was so saturated with sweat that both my t-shirt and breathable pants were completely soaked through!! My bag, supposedly waterproof, even began to soak in some of my sweat so that the inside contents became damp! The very first thing I did when I got to the park entrance was go to the bathroom and practically bathe myself in the sink with my clothes still on! Thankfully I did have along with me my vapur water bottle and therefore was hydrated the entire way, but I still had to refill it twice before ever leaving the bathroom because of my extreme thirst!! People were looking at me like I was crazy, but all I cared about at that point was that I had made it!!
But then, I glanced at my watch… it was noon… there was NO way I was going to be able to actually get to the waterfall and back down to town by 2:00 for my volcano tour:( You see, I had made it to the park ENTRANCE but the waterfall itself was still about a kilometer deep into the park. And tack on the fact that if I wanted to even try to see the waterfall I would have had to pay the $10 entrance fee, well, it just didn’t make much sense at that point to even try for it. So I decided to simply head back down to the town, perhaps get a bite to eat and make it in time for my tour.
The walk back to town was much nicer!! All downhill with a little breeze to boot! The little breeze did wonders to dry my clothing on the walk down and by the time I made it back (about 1) I had just enough time to grab a bite to eat at the soda where I had dinner and get ready to meet my tour.
Oh and I promised I would divulge the breakfast view from my hostel… It was indeed the volcano!!! I had been staring at it all morning during the first morning while enjoying breakfast yet never realized I what I was looking at, lol!!!