Koh Samui – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 16 – 18

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I woke up to see sunrise but it was torrential downpour with thunder and lighting to boot. Around 6AM there was an opening in the sky and turned out nice but it rained on and off all day. Our resort / hotel has a little restaurant called Blue Ginger. They served a breakfast buffet as well as food made to order. We were unsure if it was included or if we needed to pay but it’s included. I had the pad siew and a thai ice tea plus some coconut yoghurt and some other little tasty morsels.

We went back to our room and tried to figure out what are our plans for the day would be. We told the ladies at front desk we wanted to go to Na Muang Waterfall and also coconut harvesting monkeys. Sew helped us book a half day tour real late with Mr Ung’s Jungle Safari – half day for 1300 baht. The hotel drove us down the winding path to wait at the side of the road until our jungle jeep came for us. We stopped off at the mummified monk then went to watch a elephant, monkey and crocodile show followed by a visit to Na Muang waterfalls where we also climbed rocks we shouldn’t have but hey after Paksong, this was a breeze and in flip flops. Our driver stopped at one point and asked if anyone wanted to sit up top above the driver seat so Amy and myself did so and there was no seatbelt so we just had to hold on and hope for the best. It was a fun experience although the rain did pick up a bit and we had to dodge and duck under tree branches. We went to a mountain top restaurant  for traditional thai food with a great view momentarily as the rain kept stopping and going. After lunch, our final destination was the secret buddha garden. It’s such a unlikely spot for it but after you climb through, the main area is stunning with beautiful statues that look like they are performing for you as there are a few off to the side with instruments and then in the river there is that one special statue with a arrow rock in front of it. Very wet but not bad a trip.

We got back to the hotel around 3PM so we decided it was jacuzzi time. We discussed what our night plans would be then Amy and myself went to the front desk and asked to used the free shuttle service to take us down to Lamai beach area and then we would just have to call for a ride home after (400 baht after 5PM). I took a quick dip in the pool by reception. It’s sort of an infinity pool but the view is wonderful so I can’t complain. We changed quickly and off we went to Lamai where we got dropped off at the McDonalds. We wandered the streets around our drop off point and came a little early as they were setting up the night market which isn’t anything special considering we keep going to one everywhere we go with no intention of purchasing anything. It is just a few streets lined with restaurants, shops and bars that screams tourists! We also exchanged more money as Uniqlo and tours were leaving us dry. We took a turn onto a random street and found a path that led us down to the beach and it was a nice view. Swing Bar apparently does nightly fireshows. We walked on the beach for a bit until we found an opening to go up and it was just our luck that it was the street that led us back to McDonalds. We walked a bit more to find a little strip of food stalls. 2 phad thais, 1 fried noodle with seafood, 1 panang curry in total. What they do here is there is a communal food court sitting area and when you are finished with your dish, you bring it back to the stall. We then continued down the road and it is marketed for tourists. There are a cluster of bars with women just screaming and hollering at men crossing and they are dancing and pole dancing-ish. We decided to call it a night and called the hotel for a ride home from McDonalds (400Baht after 530PM).

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We booked another tour today that would take us to Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan tour with Lomprayah High speed ferries  – 1600baht. We got take away breakfast in the morning which we ordered the night before and the boys wanted a lot of food and they sure got it. It was full sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Egg sandwich, grilled ham and cheese, chicken sandwiches plus fruits, yogurt and juice. The hotel driver took us down the hill to an awaiting car and then we picked up a few people and off we went. We were in the waiting area at the pier then got assigned a group with ribbon colours to identify our group. Group orange for the day with John as our guide and #6 as our boat. It took an hour in the boat to get to Koh Nang Yuan where we all disembarked and went snorkelling.

This is where it all went wrong. My Outex case which I thought I secured on tightly was not so secure as water got into it and well I was disappointed in myself for letting that happen – ALWAYS ALWAYS CHECK TO MAKE SURE WATERPROOF CASINGS ARE PUT ON PROPERLY. Plus it’s so much harder to snorkel without the use of 1 arm that is holding the camera. A GoPro will suffice for snorkelling. Lunch was a buffet style being served for an hour or so. I threw all my gear onto the table to be dried out when an onlooker came over and asked me if I got my camera wet and indeed I did. His name was Richard and I think he was Austrian. He is also a Nikon user and had told me that this has happened multiple times to him so he knows what to do. So you need to be counter intuitive by getting fresh water and pouring that into the effected areas. This is to clean the salt water out of your camera as it becomes corrosive and will destroy your camera. Depending on how much has been submerged and how long, you need to rinse it out with fresh water and let it sit for a few days up to a week just in case to ensure all the moisture is gone from the camera before trying to turn it back on as the salt water creates an electrical charge and will short circuit it. So luckily on this little island we were on, I grabbed 3 glasses of drinking water and Richard came over and I handed it over to him and observed. The camera got wet in the battery, memory card and bottom part of the camera but the lens to body attachment was dry so he pour fresh water into the battery and memory card compartments and swished it around then poured it out and from there, just let it dry. Memory cards are resilient and should be able to take the impact of water but of course let it dry out.. same with batteries.

After lunch, we went back to snorkelling and wading in the waters before we hopped back on the boat to sail 10 minutes to Koh Tao where we would jump from the boat into the water to snorkel for an hour. It was beautiful which all the giant rocks with shells, coral and fishes! The ride back was brutal as it was so choppy and then the rain came down and they didn’t put down the plastic windows so we all got drenched and it was the coldest I’ve been all trip especially because i was still in a bikini with a wet towel wrapped around me. We got home and I showered right away and then we ordered in from Blue Ginger and ate on the ground together watching Hong Kong Open – Badminton. By 9PM I was ready to pass out and so I did.

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We didn’t set an alarm that morning and gradually awoke around 8AM for breakfast. My stomach had been dying since we reached Koh Samui. It’s either everything is catching up with me or that there is something that I am eating that doesn’t react well with my stomach. Also dehydration is playing a large part.

We decided to put the jacuzzi to a different use – laundry. We took the shower gels and shampoo and loaded it up with our laundry. Why not right? it’s hot water, big enough that we can actually wash everything at once and also has jets (we used for a second before things started blocking the jets) It’s beautiful weather so we just hung everything out to dry. 

We arranged with the hotel to take a free shuttle at 11AM to drop us off at Central Festival Mall – Chaweng and walk about 10 minutes behind the mall to the beach. The beach was bright and we planted down where we got on the beach because it seemed to be the least populated at the time. Andrew rented a surfboard and took to the waves for about 2 hours. A group in front of us brought a volleyball but alas no nets around. Adam and myself peppered for a bit in the shade but got too tired and a few digs that i went down on my knees for actually hurt. After Andrew returned from surfing, we walked back onto the main street that we entered the beach from just behind Central Festival. We walked up and down a bit and  found ourselves at Onion Big Horn for a late lunch where I got a mixed fruit shake (80baht) and chicken pad thai (90baht) – both were delicious and decent price!

By the time we finished eating, it was already 330-4PM and we were to get picked up at 5PM from Central so we contemplated dinner options – McDonalds, buying food or getting groceries to cook back in the kitchenette back in the villa. We ended back at Tops Supermarket where I picked up a crab meat & seaweed bun, pineapple bread and taro bun (74 baht) and Adam and Amy purchased ingredients to make a penne seafood rose which they made tons of so we shared. But before anything else, we returned to the villa, collected our dry laundry, dropped off our things and headed to the pool for sunset. Adam and Amy were cooking their meal when all of a sudden the breaker blew leaving us in the dark momentarily as we got a staff member to come and aid us in our situation. Power went back on and dinner was made. We sat on the floor of our villa with pillows like the night before and ate as we watched tennis – Wawrinka vs Murray at the Barclays ATP. After that, Badminton doubles to end the night.

Itinerary – Southeast Asia – 2015

1104-2815 Southeast Asia

I travelled with 3 friends (Amy, Adam & Andrew) with guest appearances from new friends – Yu Ling, Lixin, Emily & James who joined us in Hanoi.

We travelled 5 countries (USA, Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia & Thailand), 15 flights in total of 23 days.

 

Included in this itinerary are also some helpful tips from a Canadian travelling overseas.

Vaccinations to get:

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Thyphoid

Malaria Pills prescription

 

THINGS TO KNOW:

Vietnam

-Vietnam Visa – $19.99USD ($27.16CDN) – http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/

-$45USD on arrival

-1 photo

-stick to MaiLinh & Vinasun Taxis – make sure it is metered.

-1USD = 22.000VND

– keep your bags close to your body and on the side opposite the road as tandems on motorbikes can grab them as they pass

-Hello – xin chao – (sin jao)

-Goodbye – tam biet

-Thank you – can on (gam on)

-yes- da (yahh)

-no – khong (calm)

 

Laos

-Laos Visa – $42USD

-1 photo

-1USD=8150kip

-Hello – Sabaidee

-Thank you – khawp jai

-Goodbye – la khawn

-yes – Jao/dooy

-no – baw

 

Cambodia

-Cambodia Visa – $30USD

-1 photo

-1USD=4000 Riel – But they use USD everywhere here but not USD coins. If they need to give you change smaller than USD bills, they will give you Cambodian Riel.

-Majority of people speak english

-Hello – surs dey

-Goodbye – lia suhn hao-y

-Thank you – aw kohn

 

Thailand

-Thailand Visa – No Visa required!

-1USD=35.7 Baht – or alternatively 100 baht=$3USD

-Chiang Mai – around 630AM – monks alms giving

-Hello – sawatdee-ka(female)/krup(male)

-goodbye – baai baai

-thank you – kop kun ka

 

Now onto the itinerary. We didn’t accomplish everything on this itinerary but I left it in as some are ideal things to do, places to go, places to eat etc.

 

November

5-7 – Ho Chi Minh

8-10 – Hanoi /Ha Long Bay

11- Luang Prabang

12-14– Pakse

15-17 – Siem Reap

18-21 – Ko Samui & area

22-25 – Chiang Mai

26-28 – Bangkok

 

FLY – YYZ->IAD; IAD->EWR; EWR->HKG->HKG->SGN – United

11/04-05 – Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam

HOTEL: Hosen 2 Hotel – 4A Thi Sach, Ben Nghe Ward – District 1

 

11/06 – Ho Chi Minh

-Noon – Amy lands

-Nhu Lan Bakery – 50-64-68 Ham Nghi St. Dist.1 – Best place for Banh Mi – fresh & delicious – pork banh mi

-Visit Old Quarters

-Ci Chi Tunnels

-Ben Thanh Market

-Rooftop bars – OMG, Broma or Glow, Rex Hotel Rooftop garden (where American soldiers used to hang), Chill Skybar

 

11/07 – Ho Chi Minh

  • Mekong Delta Tourism – AG Travel – Mekong Delta – Day tour – Cai Be floating market – Tan Phong Island – ($50USD)

(http://www.classytravelvietnam.com/tours-options/vietnam-day-trips/mekong-delta-1day/)

-5AM start

 

FLY – HO CHI MINH -> HANOI – $58.35 – 945AM-1150AM – Vietnam Airlines

Hanoi, Vietnam

11/08 – Hanoi – Arrival

HOTEL: Hanoi Royal Palace Hotel 2 – 95 Hang Bong Street, Hoan Kiem District

-Yu Ling & Lixin Chan joins us – staying at same hotel

-Meet Emily & James at Hanoi Street Food Walking tour – $23 USD/pp– 6PM 74 & 76 Hang Bac Street at Kim Tour’s Building – (http://www.hanoistreetfoodtour.com/walking_street_food_tour.html)

 

11/09 – Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

-Sun Legend Cruise – 2 day (2 days, 1 night) tour –$143.45USD/pp- 8AM pickup from Hanoi

-Hanoi – Tuan Chau – Luon Cave – Ti Top Island – Sung Sot Caves – Hanoi  (https://www.halong-bay-tours.com/junks/superior-cruises/sun-legend-cruise-2-days-1-night.html)

 

11/10 – Ha Long Bay

-Sun Legend Cruise – 2 day tour – 5PM Drop-off to Hanoi

– HOTEL : Hanoi Royal Palace Hotel 2 – 95 Hang Bong Street, Hoan Kiem District

-Dinner – Quan An Ngon – 18 Phan Dinh Phung – which was a slightly higher end version of street meats but better service

 

FLY – HANOI -> LUANG PRABANG – $172USD – 1030AM-1130AM – Lao Airlines

11/11 – Luang Prabang, Laos

-HOTEL: Apple Guesthouse – Xatikhouman Rd 01 / 05 Xiengmoun Village

-Check in – 2PM; Check-out:11AM

-Apple Guesthouse is picking us up and dropping us off at airport $25USD RT

-Kuang Si waterfalls (there are also black bears!) – need to take tuktuk or motorboat to get there. Entrance is 20,000kip ($3.23CAD)

-Dinner option -Utopia – Restaurant – Beach Volleyball

-Dinner-buffet street – 15000 kip – fill your bowl as high as you can for 15000 kip – beer and bbq meat extra

-Nightmarket

-morning market – opens at 5AM

-Mount Phousi – Sunset – $2.50USD entry – might be crowded

-530AM – Alms giving – no flash photography, women – don’t stand up, keep covered

 

FLY – LUANG PRABANG -> PAKSE – $184USD – 1040AM-1220PM – Lao Airlines

11/12 – Pakse 

-HOTEL: Salachampa Hotel – Lakmeung Village, City Center – right across the street from green discovery office

-Bolaven Plateau Falls & Coffee Plantation

-coffee shops: Bolaven Café, Delta, Sinouk

-Lunch – Vida Bakery

 

11/13 – Pakse, Laos – Tree Top Explorer at Jungle Hotel Paksong – Dong Hua Sao National Park

(http://www.greendiscoverylaos.com/eco-excursions/champassak/champassak-zip-line-canopy-walk/item/354-tree-top-explorer) $240USD/pp

  • 8AM – Meet at Office (Green Discovery – Sales Office – No. 10 Rd & No. 46 Rd) – Store our luggage in the Office. Drive an hour to Tree Top Explorer at Jungle Hotel Paksong (Paksong); hike 1-2KM to site
  • stay overnight.

 

11/14 – Pakse

-Tree Top Explorer

-4-5PM – Drop off at office/hotel

-HOTEL: Salachampa Hotel – Lakmeung Village, City Center

-Dinner option – Champady – restaurant off the main st – good pad thai; passion fruit and strawberry shake are amazing.

-Dinner – Daolin

 

FLY – PAKSE -> SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA – $135USD – 1PM-2PM – Lao Airlines

11/15 – Siem Reap, Cambodia

-HOTEL: Secrets Pavilion Urban Boutique Hotel – 120, Angkor Night Market Street, Steoung Thmey

-Nightmarket

-11PM – Meet with Andrew

 

11/16 – Siem Reap

-Landmine Museum – $5USD – hours drive from nightmarket

-Phare Circus (http://pharecircus.org/) – 8PM – $18-35USD/pp

 

17 – Siem Reap

-Angkor Pass – 1 day $20USD; 3 day pass (requires photo) $40USD

-Angkor Wat – Sunrise ($20USD) Bantey Kdei, Phimeanakas, Ta Phrom, Angkor Thom, Bayon.

-Dinner option -Sojourn Boutique Villa – Destination Dining – $60USD – 3 course menu in a traditional stilt pavilion over a lotus pond including transport

-Dinner -Damnak Lounge Fine Dining – Junction of Oum Khun and 14th Street -7 Course Khmer signature dinner – $30 pp + tax

-Dinner option -Lilypop – 020 Taphul Road, Siem Reap 17259 – cheap and good – freid rice, banana shake, fresh spring rolls

-Dinner option -Marum – Between Wat (Pagoda) Polanka & Catholic Church, #8A, B Phum Slor Kram – 5 course menu – $15 – crispy grasshoppers

-Siem Reap Brewpub – 05 Oum Khun St – local craft beer

 

FLY – SIEM REAP -> KO SAMUI – $270USD – Bangkok Airways – 125PM-240PM Siem Reap-Bangkok; 335PM-440PM Bangkok-Koh Samui

11/18 – Koh Samui, Thailand

-HOTEL: Sandalwood Luxury Villas – 211/7 Moo 4, T. Maret

-Free Airport shuttle!

-Relax, unwind and roll into your pool (http://ca.hotels.com/ho442701/sandalwood-luxury-villas-ko-samui-thailand/)

-Chaweng area – Central Festival – Mall and nightmarket

 

11/19 – Koh Samui

– Take in Koh Samui

-Secret Buddha Garden – Route 4169 (ring road) at Baan Saket – 80 baht pp

-Mr Ung’s Jungle Safari – 1300baht

-Lamai beach area

 

11/20 – Koh Samui

-Day trip to Koh Tao & Koh Nang Yuan – Lomlahkkhim High Speed Ferries – 1600baht

-Snorkel & Speedboat

 

11/21 – Koh Samui

– Day trip to Ang Thong Marine Park (Bowl of gold) – closed the month of November =(

-inspiration for the movie “The Beach” w/ Leonardo DiCaprio

-scuba diving, snorkel, kayak and beach

-Beach day – Chaweng Beach

 

FLY – KO SAMUI ->CHIANG MAI – $209-ish CDN – Bangkok Airways – 1020AM-1210PM

11/22 – Chiang Mai, Thailand

-HOTEL: Green Tulip – 85 Samlan Road – 18400-183372013 (http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Green-Tulip-House/Chiang-Mai/18400?dateFrom=2015-11-22&dateTo=2015-11-26#facilities)

-Tiger Temple

-Sunday street market – Nightmarket – 4-5PM-11PM – the market starts at Tha Pae Gate and goes all the way along Ratchadamnoen Road until Wat Phra Singh in the center of the old city (about 1.5 km). This is the place for souvenirs, t-shirts, artwork, hand made items and just about everything in between.

-Siam Rice Cooking class – 800 baht – evening session

-Chang Phueak (ช้างเผือก) – food stalls – where the locals eat – Thaicowgirl – khao kha moo – 30baht – stewed pork knuckle

-Mon Cham – garden/viewpoint/resort/restaurant with 360 view over surrounding valleys – no fee to enter and wander

-Kad luang – 100 year old market next to Ping River – where hill tribes sell their crafts

– Sat/Sun flea market – Starts at the intersection of Kaew Narawat and Bumruang Road on the east side of the river

-THC Rooftop ba – 19/4-5 Kotchasarn Road, On the 3rd Floor, Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

11/23 – Chiang Mai

-NOT AVAILABLE =( Elephant Conservatory (http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/enp/en/visit-volunteer) – Pamper a Pachyderm – 6000THB

-1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand Office Hours: 07:00-17:00 Mon-Sun (GMT+7)

Blue Elephant – Thailand Tours – One Day Chiang Mai Elephant bathing & riding bareback + Whitewater rafting + Longneck Tribe. 830AM pickup – 630PM drop-off – Mae Rim, Longneck Karen & Big ear Kayor Hill tribe village, Muang Kud Valley and raft along the Mae Tang River, Makha Elephant Village – 22000THB – 4c pp – BRING CASH TO PAY ON SPOT! (http://www.blueelephantthailandtours.com/package/tour-detail.php?id=107)

-Coffee shops:

-Akha Ama – Ahka Hilltribe Coffee – Hussadhisewee Road Soi 3 in Santhitham or Rachadammoen Road near Wat Phra Singh

– Graph Café – one of city’s best coffee – nitro cold brew coffee on tap -9AM-1PM – Rathvithi Soi 1

-Mao Coffee – mao gafaae – drunk coffee -8AM-5PM – Kankhlong Chonprathan Road heading south towards Hang Dong

-Ponganes Espresso & Coffee Roasters – high quality coffee – 9AM-430PM – closed Wednesdays – 133/5 Rachapakinai Road

 

-Clay Studio Coffee in the Garden is also often known as the terracotta garden – iced matcha green tea -8AM-6PM – Prapokklao Road Soi 2

-Natwat Home Café – brunch place with lots of light -Tue-Sun – 7AM-430PM – 330/2 Charoenrat Road

-Kanjana – all time fav for expats – pad thai – 7/2 Ratchadamnoen Rd, Soi 5 | -Ratchadamnoen Rd Soi 5, Chiang Mai, Thailand

-Dada Kafe – healthy food – vegetarian kaow soi – best in city – 20/1 Ratmakka Rd | Phra Singh, Chiang Mai, Thailand, +66 53 449 718

-Khao Soi Khun Yai – Sri Poom Rd, Soi 8, Mueang – 10am-2pm – grandma’s chiang mai noodle – best khao soi in the CM

-Cyclo Resto – Unit 28 No 6 Cach Mang Thang Tam Street | Ben Thanh Ward, District 1 – 11AM-10PM – set menu 5 dishes – hidden in an alley near the roundabout

-Ru Pho Bar – 27E Tran Nhat Duat, Ward Tan Dinh, District 1 – 10AM-10PM – (need to go upstairs) stir fried pho & noodles –

 

11/24 – Chiang Mai

-Doi Suthep – Wat Phra Tha – Wat Palat – hidden temple and trail lined with monks’ robes tied to trees

-Yi Peng – Paper Lantern Festival

-Wat Chedi Luang – Three King Monument & Thapae Gate – Thapae Gate has biggest but most touristy

 

11/25 – Chiang Mai

-Sing Prasert Gym – Muay Thai – Bamrunburi – 400 baht for 2 hour session

-Loy Krathong – Water lantern floating festival – http://theakyra.com/chiang-mais-loy-krathong-festival-of-lights-2015/

– Chiang Mai has a beauty contest as well that is preceded by the Loy Krathong parade that begins at Tha Pae Gate the first evening of the festival. The temples also feature their own private celebrations where the devotees release khom loy and float their krathong and they welcome visitors to share in this deeply intimate event.

-Tha Phae Rd / Praisanee Rd / Chaoroen Prathet Rd and Thanon Charon Mueang – epicenter for paper lantern festival

 

FLY – CHIANG MAI -> BANGKOK – $73CDNpp – Air Asia – 125PM-245PM 

11/26 – Bangkok, Thailand

-HOSTEL: D Hostel Bangkok – 103 Boonsiri RD., San-Chao-Por-Suea Phranakhon – 92912-184551778

-Goto Gate 8 for taxi cabs – metered and cheaper than other cabstand outside of arrivals gate.

-Thimpsamai Phad Thai – best phad thai in Bangkok – phad thai w/shrimp wrapped in a thing layer of egg – 313 Th Maha Chai | Banglamphu, Bangkok +66 (0) 2221 6280 – 90baht

-Rama III Memorial – pretty

-Khaosan Road

-Nahm – San Pellegrino’s world’s 50 best – try jungle curry w/ pia chorn, pandanus moodles w/black sticky rice, tapioca & coconut cream- Nahm, Metropolitan by COMO, 27 South Sathorn Road, Tungmahamek, Sathorn, Bangkok, Thailand, +66 (0) 2625 3388

 

11/27 – Bangkok

-Grand Palace – 500baht

-Wat Pho – 100baht

-Chinatown – Yaowarat – how the city looked years before – essence of what Bangkok was. Visually beautiful to walk through.

-Siam Paragon – Asia’s largest mall

-Talat Rot Fai – Train market – more of a locals – hipster market – Friday and Saturday nights

 

FLY – 710AM-BKK->305PM-NRT; 610PM-NRT->1240PM-DEN; 205PM-DEN->533PM-ORD; 710PM->950PM-YYZ

11/28 – HOME TIME

 

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Tamarindo – Costa Rica – 2015 – Day 5-7

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Farmers market – Tamarindo Feria. Local farmers market with local produce, handmade crafts, fish etc. That was the so called plan but when we made it to the area by the Backpackers Hostel, there was no market in sight except for signs. I guess it was closed for Easter. We walked the beach from Langosta back to our hostel then decided because it was only 930AM that we would do all day rentals and surf. We rented for $10USD including rashguards from Johan at our hostel and off we went. The waves were pretty tiny and not consistent when we got out unfortunately. The best I results for my ride was a slight crouch or riding on my knee. We surfed for about two hours then headed back since we got tired.

After lunch we stayed in for a bit to avoid the sun. Around 330PM we went back into town to grab groceries and when we got back Johan was actually leaving to head into another city to meet up with his family for Easter dinner so our surf plans got canned. We took another break from the sun for a bit before venturing to the beach to watch the sunset. Such a disappointing sunset that reminded us of the colour dot on old tube televisions. We bumped into Caribbean guy (sorry I can’t remember his name but ;et’s call him E). He was trying to convince us to go out clubbing and he convinced us.

We walked over with E and he filled us in more about his life. He was born on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, his brother lives there, he works in a surf shop, lived in Belgium with his ex girlfriend, learned English on the streets. We went to a bar club called Elbe! and his friend Mateo joined us. It was 2000 colones entry with unlimited drinks with your plastic cup. The music at the beginning was old, American and Euro music that no one should even dance to. It started to pick up when they dropped Blackstreet – No Diggity and that’s when the dancing started.

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One more full day to go with no plans. We went for a beach walk in the morning. The hostel has cleared out because everyone had gone back home after Easter except the actual tourists. It’s a ghost town now. I don’t understand how it’s so humid. Johan finished work we joined him to Playa Avellana to surf. He drives this sweet white land cruiser and strapped boards above. Playa Avallenas is about a 30-45 minute drive away from Tamarindo and also is where Lola’s restaurant is. It is a restaurant located on the beach which features Lola the pig. The waves are massive here and the beach is beautiful but a large portion has rocks at the base. Johan and Sarah surfed while I got out my waterproof bag and shot from the end of the last ripple in the water because the waves were aggressive and I can’t multitask shooting and staying a float. We stayed until sunset and Johan had some cool moves. But there was this one kid that was just killing it. As we got back to the car, Johan’s friends gave us these huge fresh coconuts that made it so much better. Good to make friends with locals.

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Woke up early to catch our tour bus. Today with Tamarindo Shuttle and Tours we did a 9 activities in 1 combo. $130USD for shuttle, activities such as zip lining, rappeling, rock climbing, buffet, horse back riding, tubing, sauna, hot spring and volcano mud bath. Gustavo was our tour guide who lives outside Tamarindo.

Some facts about Costa Rica:

-CR doesn’t have an army because they are a poor country so when they had a Panama president, he declared it’s too expensive to keep an army and put funds towards education.

-Nicaragua on the other hand has an army but education is poor but Panama has the canal thus economically they are better off.

-There are only two seasons in CR – rainy or dry. It actually gets more humid in rainy season. The caribbean side is very different from this side of town. Huge African population lives there so a much different culture, food, music etc and they speak patois.

-Coffee was the biggest income after tourism, 1820 is one of the best coffee brands.

-There are 4.2 million people on Costa Rica and 2 million of that live on San Jose.

-Guancaste is the province.

-Tamarindo is only 20 years old so they don’t have any schools there. The closest school is 4KM outside of Tamarindo. It’s now one of the most popular places in CR.

-Okinawa is the best place in the world for the longest living. CR’s Nicoya has the highest number of people over 100 years old. It’s hot here so they sweaty out all the toxins and live a simple life but even the 100+ people are still active.

-There are 9 major volcanoes with 5 active but there are many mountains and hills undiscovered so there are actually 121.

-There is one highway that if you go one direction, it will take 1 hour from Liberia to Nicaragua border and the other direction, 3.5 hours. If you go in the same direction to Nicaragua, 5000 miles to California. The roads are tough but they are building a highway to go 50KM both directions.

Old Woman’s Corner is the name of the volcano we visited. The legend from many moons ago is that only Indians use to live on this area and the princess fell in love with an older person from the enemy tribe and got pregnant. The chief (her father) threw the guy into the crater, when the baby was born, the princess was so love stricken she threw the infant into the crater to be with its father. The princess roamed the land collecting herbs for medicine.

There is an energy plant that harnesses all the steam from the volcano that powers the country.

We did a breakfast pit stop at Peri grocery store then back on the road for about an hour and half. Our first activity at Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin was zip lining. It was fun but I truly believe Whistler, BC has this place beat. Along the course of lines (they were short) we had a chance to rappel down then climb up the wall. The best part of the zip lining was swinging upside down – spiderman style. During the tour, we met this lady named Olivia who was originally from Brazil who now lives in Los Angeles but is in Costa Rica with her husband who decided to go surfing so she took this tour on her own. She became our buddy for the day. Our tour bus had a few families from America but one particular family had two whiny, sensitive irritating boys named Liam and Max.

After the snake farm, we were taken by a school bus to part-take in white water tubing with another bus full or two of other people. We grabbed our huge tubes and walked down to the river. We rode the Colorado river which at this moment is at low tide making the whole thing take an hour and half instead of 45 minutes. It was so much fun except for two things: low tide means the water is low enough that when we hit the rapid, our bottoms hit the rocks hard and because it was so dry, the trees and forest caught on fire easily. Closer to the end of the tubing, the forest was on fire and we could feel the intensity of the heat as well as the debris of ash falling from above into the river on us. My hair smelt of a campfire. When we made it to the very end and had to walk up with our tubes, there were fires right beside us that we could touch or stepped on if we weren’t careful. If this was North America, this would for sure be cancelled for being unsafe. We got to the top and dropped our tubes off and literally the whole forest was white and ash by this point making it hard to breathe. The ironic thing is that as we were trying to escape, we were stuck behind a gasoline truck in the middle of this forest fire.

We had a buffet style lunch serving some Costa Rican food which was tasty especially the ribs in the sauce and star fruit juice. The chicken was tasty but slightly undercooked. From there, we ventured out on horseback. I got stuck with a dud house who didn’t go fast at all. The horseback riding was fun except for the fact that the wind was brutal picking up all the dust. That is one thing I especially hate about Costa Rica right now is that it’s so dusty and windy everywhere – my poor eyes. We got off the horses and went over to the natural hot springs. You cross this suspension bridge that can only take two people at a time. When you get down the last steps, you enter an area with a mud painting station and paint mud all over your body and then let it dry and stay on for 10 minutes. You can either use the river or the showers to rinse off the mud before going into the hot springs. Obviously I take the river to rinse off which was a little cold but refreshing however the rocks were slippery. There are multiple pools you can soak in and they vary in hotness. I actually finished off looking to the river for it’s coolness over the hot springs. Two hour ride back to Tamarindo. We made dinner – pasta with tomato sauce and tuna .

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Woke up on my own at 530AM. Took the only working bike out around 645AM to see if Tico Cafe was open to grab beans. I had read reviews about Tico selling the best coffee in Tamarindo and locally sourced and proceeds go back to the farmers. When I arrived, they had just opened before 7AM and I looked up to the trees and saw about 4-5 howler monkeys screaming. The shop is small but quaint and the staff was very helpful as she explained that Don Pupas was a local brand that made a really good espresso bean that was full bodied, creamy and hint of chocolate (6000 colones) and I also grabbed cashew nut butter 4500colones. The bike ride was so enjoyable with a stop along the way back to the skatepark which I wish I’d actually stopped by a few days back when there were skaters to take photos.

Got back and ate breakfast with Sarah and lexi the dog who is so friendly. Brought our stuff down and said quick goodbyes.

At the airport, we went to pay our exit fee of $29USD then fill out the exit form and proceeded to the check-in luggage line and were second and third in line because we came so early that the desk wasn’t even open yet. The security check was quick and easy and the airport is small. I wandered a bit and in the end probably spent more on snacks here than the entire trip on food but the coffee and chocolate are so good.

NOTE- BUY FOOD AND SNACKS BEFORE REACHING THE AIRPORT AS THE PRICES A SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER.

In all entirety, I spent under $1300CAD this whole trip which is probably just a little bit more than a regular flight to Costa Rica.

Pura Vida.

Tamarindo – Costa Rica – 2015 – Day 3 & 4

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This heat is killer. I decided to go for a morning bike ride for about 30 minutes then came back because I was a little dehydrated. It’s nice ride though because it’s so quiet in the morning. It’s a low of 24 with 63% humidity. It’s weird to say but I miss Toronto’s ugly March weather.

We stayed at the hostel for a bit in the morning then booked a tour for the day. Estuary and mangrove boat tour for $35USD. We walked into town as only one bike there was available. We went to check out prices for surfboards and rash guard rental and to get sunscreen. We rented from Kelly’s Surf for half day at $5USD including rashguards and lockers. I got a long board. I decided to leave my flip flops in the locker. Big mistake. The cement and sand were terribly hot and I burnt the bottom of my feet. I literally ran through the parking lot and beach to the water. I haven’t surfed since 2010 and I wasn’t that good to begin with. I struggled to even stay afloat at first but managed after a while. I did catch a few waves but I grabbed the tiny ones. Sarah ventured off further and did great. The waves here are barrels which don’t really go anywhere. There were some amazing waves I tried to catch but found I was always staring down a person who was in front of me in the water so I’d have to bail. It’s getting busy because of Holy Week and the waters are full. Holy Week is family time and hundreds to thousands come from San Jose to Tamarindo to have a mini vacation. I gave up after two hours because there wasn’t a safe path to surf. We walked back to the hostel but forgot again to purchase water. Ate lunch and hid from the sun for a bit. We met a group of 4 French Canadians who came down here to setup a hostel in Nicaragua and they drove all the way down from Quebec stopping over in Tamarindo to purchase boards.

We hid from the sun some more before making our way to the end of Tamarindo beach to catch our boat for our tour of estuary and mangrove with Emiliano aka Shaggy. The family that was suppose to take this tour cancelled so it was just us 3. He was a great guide who told us the history of the national park island and the mangrove trees. The white mangrove trees are the only trees the howler monkey’s eat because the the red are too salty. These monkeys are also vegetarians. Apparently they are around 69 crocodiles in the water we surf and swim in. We spotted a few more today. Shaggy guided us through the islands and pointed out other things then we arrived at our end destination of the monkeys. It was cool to see them but man the bugs sure love me and in this instance, wasps. We hopped back into the boat and Shaggy cut open a pineapple for us and we fed the little hermit crabs.

Overall it was a nice afternoon outing not directly in the sun. We made it back to shore in time to watch the sunset. We bumped into the 4 Canadians again on the beach and had a friendly chat before all of us went back. Power went out for a bit then we made our dinner -a salad with lettuce, chickpeas, avocado, corn, cheese and apple. We let our dinner digest a little then went back into town. We haven’t been able to stay up past 10PM so we went for a walk and explored a little more. This town is seriously all beach, surfing, outdoor activities and eating. I’m happy with our choice in hostels because it’s so quiet and away from the activity. So many people everywhere because of Holy Week. At night, the main area fills with tourists who want to party as well as locals here to have a good time. If you want to party every night, this place is for you.

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Got up at 7AM and biked to town to try to grab coffee beans at Tico Cafe which according to Tripadvisor had the best local Costa Rican coffee. I biked out and it was actually pretty empty in town in terms of the cars that lined the streets the night before. I made it to Tico to find it to be closed for Easter weekend – Semana Santa and will reopen Monday.

A very lazy day spent on the beach and hiding from the sun. I went back out around 230PM for a bike ride but the bike handle came loose so it was very difficult to steer. I decided to take a different path which led me up a hill to hotels and tennis clubs then beach down I went towards the main grocery store because I was hoping to catch a few riders at the skate park but nothing. Hung out some more in the shade then around 5PM we returned to the beach to catch last light and catch the sunset. Each sunset is different. A voice called us from behind asking where our surfboards were. It was Johan who we met earlier from the hostel. He had ended his shift and wanted to catch the last waves for the day and pulled out all sorts of tricks.

Johan started surfing at 13, has been living in Tamarindo for 13 years. He originates from a town close to the Panama border. Johan runs the tour shop for the owner who is Danish that only lives in Tamarindo for half the year. He works 26 days straight with 4 days off a month but when he finishes work, he is able to just cross the street and catch some waves. He introduced us to the Caribbean guy who is a surf instructor on the main strip who also lives in the hostel.

Tamarindo – Costa Rica – 2015 – Day 1 & 2

0331-040715 – Tamarindo, Costa Rica

My co-worker found an amazing deal on Air Canada Vacations for a flight deal of $385CAD roundtrip for a week. We tried our best to spend as little money as possible during this short getaway so we also purchased groceries and made majority of our meals.

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We flew with Air Canada and the flight was pretty smooth. 5 hours. It’s bloody humid in Costa Rica – Liberia and area to be more specific. We booked Tamarindo Shuttle and Tours for our airport shuttle then on the road we went for a half hour-hour drive. We stayed at Tsunami Surf Hostel at the end of the main strip. We met Omar the manager once we arrived and paid for the room in cash because they charge $13USD for credit card. We are room 27 all the way at the back; private room with two beds with a/c and ensuite.

We threw our stuff down, changed quickly and went straight for the beach. Across the street from our hostel was a hidden entrance to the beach. We walked a bit and then found a spot to plop down but the wind was brutal and the sand would hit you so hard in the face. I think Hawaii ruined beaches for me.

After a little taste of the hot sun and humidity, we ventured the streets and found a grocery store and a bank. 20000 colon is only roughly $50CAD. We also booked our one-day 9 activity tour with Tamarindo Shuttle and Tours for Monday (040615) for $130USD. We walked back to our hostel and around this time it was only 3PM but felt so much later. Our hostel is on a big plot of land and features an open kitchen and lounging area so we hung outside and had mangoes from the mango tree in the yard.

We decided to head to the beach to watch the sunset and boy it sets early – it started to set at 6PM. We stayed on the beach and watched the sun go down then wandered back onto the main street.

We ate dinner at Nari. It’s a beautiful restaurant that is built around a tree so it looked like a giant tree house with these beautiful lanterns. We both got oven cooked pizzas. I got the Hawaiian BBQ Chicken pizza ($15.20USD) and it was so tasty.

We grabbed a huge jug of water and went back to the hostel. There aren’t any lights that lead up to our room except for one very dimmed lantern. The shower is very basic and there is a little space to put your shampoo but it you knock it down then it will fall down the hole/drain. The knob to turn on the water has no temperature setting so it’s rather cold with not much of a water pressure and if you touch it with a finger or thumb it shocks you. We both fell asleep before 10PM.

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The hostel has bikes we can use so around 8AM we went down to the main strip to see if the bank was open. It was not. Rode back to the hostel then rode back out when it opened at 9AM. Rode back to the bank to be told we need our passport to convert our money. Rode back to the hostel to grab our passport then rode back to the bank. We ended up getting groceries at the closer supermarket but it just wasn’t the same as the further one we went to the day before by the bank.

We got enough food to last us breakfasts, a few lunches and maybe dinner. We decided to loaf at the beach for a few hours before we had lunch. There was an alligator sighting that made people clear out of the water. We left the beach because it started to get hot. We made ham and cheese sandwiches then hung out on our porch out of the sun because it was just too intense to be out in. Around 2-230PM we decided we needed to go back out to the beach. Another sighting of the alligator cleared everyone out of the water as the alligator was swimming really close to shore.

We went back to our hostel to grab money and off we went to purchase groceries at the further grocery store. We got back, showered then used the kitchen to make dinner. We made pasta with tomato sauce, zucchini and tuna.