Every single night we were in Nicaragua last year we were blessed with a beautiful sunset.
It’s that time of year again where we say goodbye to Central Oregon winter and hello to Nicaraguan sunshine. This go around we will be adventuring up around Matagalpa and Esteli before heading down to San Juan del Sur.
I promise to take LOTS of pictures… Steve just got me a new camera for Valentine’s Day, so I’m super excited to take it out and play with it.
This trip is another half play/ half work trip. We will be checking out Finca Esperanza Verde for a possible future yoga retreat then heading down the coast to check out Aqua Wellness just north of San Juan del Sur. This year I will be hosting my second yoga retreat in Nicaragua at Costa Dulce, which I’m super excited about. I love how it feels like you’re at the edge of the world, just you, a handful of other yogis, and the ocean. It pretty much rocks.
I hope to post pictures soon! In the meantime here are a few pics from last years epic yoga and surf retreat.
Sunset on Playa Escameca
Steve handboarding during our retreat.
Kit dropping in.
Howler monkeys… they were so fun to watch while practicing yoga.
Silly group pic… missing just a couple.
Our yoga space at Costa Dulce.
One of the many rooms… complete with the most perfect accessory: a hammock!
Steve and I spent a night in Sepilok on our way to the Kinabatangan River. And I’m so happy we did. We stayed at Sepilok B&B which was adorable AND it had AC!!! Not a whole lot of food options around Sepilok, so we just ate at the hotel. One afternoon one of the guests found a black scorpion in their room, so they put it in a container, so we could all safely take a look. In hindsight, we probably should have asked them to let it go. Also, some type of water snake had made it up to the property and there were a handful of kittens around….so there was essentially always something random to keep us entertained.
The Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary is definitely a tourist trap, but it’s probably the best tourist trap I’ve been to. The orangutans aren’t restricted. They are completely free to come and go as they please. The Sanctuary gives them two feedings a day, so they can forage for food, but there will always be a meal for them. And how can you resist all of the monkeys…. I could have watched them for hours….we were definitely some of the last in the park the day that we went. Here are just a few of the hundreds of pics that I took.
Crotch shot and a meal on the run….still pretty cute though
This little guy was scoping out the feeding platform before swinging down for lunch
He looks like he is completely in love with that piece of fruit
This little macaque was a total opportunist. He knew exactly which orangutans would share their food with him
If you follow my blog regularly you’d think that I’m always going on perfect hikes with perfect weather and going on amazing trips with perfectly planned itineraries, but that is not the case. Often times we will head out for a hike/snowshoe etc. and are not able to get to the trailhead because of snow (or downed trees) or are not be able to find the trailhead at all… we’ll get lost or maybe even find that the trail is burnt or that the valley is so full of smoke you can’t see the nearby mountains. Our tent has been stolen, we’ve had large animals in camp, we’ve ran out of water with multiple miles still left and we’ve spent entire days walking in the rain. Traveling provides a whole different set of uncomfortable situations: not knowing the language or what you’re eating, getting sick, or perhaps spending hours or even days waiting for that bus or plane.
It can and will rain on your birthday…especially if you’re in the Bornean Rainforest…get ready to be soaked… I was happy to be wearing shorts for this boat ride.
These “not so fun,” surely uncomfortable, possibly disappointing, occasionally dangerous experiences are what we learn the most from. We can’t be afraid of the challenge….the only solution is to embrace it. Sometimes embracing the uncomfortable is nearly impossible, especially when you’re frustrated, exhausted and feel like screaming, but if you can do it, if you can stay in the moment, you might find something beautiful, something enjoyable.
A burnt forest means tons of wildflowers… well, after awhile anyway.
Hello beautiful… I’m happy you’re here.
Some of my best experiences were born in uncomfortable moments….finding the lone flower in a burned out forest, sharing a meal of horse intestines with new friends, or rerouting a pre-planned itinerary. By embracing the uncomfortable, the disappointing, the challenging I have found freedom. SO let go of your expectations and find the beauty.
Our friends treated us to a dinner of horse intestine and apricot wine followed by a trip to the love market.
Helped the guys decide on new shirts at the Sapa Love Market.
A mere two weeks into our Thailand trip Steve and I joined a traditional tour with a real tour guide…and honestly I’d probably rate the experience a 5 or 6 on a 1 to 10 scale. We booked our trip with AA Tours in Chiang Rai (it’s on the same road as the clock tower and the BIG electronics store). It wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t unique or adventurous. We did ride on an elephant down the river….moderately entertaining, but once you’ve done it once you don’t need to go again.
Our WONDERFUL guide did know alot about the local culture and we happened to be there during their New Years preparations… it’s essentially a giant party, complete with spouse-swapping and binge drinking. From what our guide told us they spend a week preparing and a week recovering.
Here’s the little village we hiked to.
Our guide did get us up to the village before the other groups…awesome… and we had some tea with one of the local women. None of the villagers seemed interested in entertaining any farang (Thai for foreigner), so once we cooled down from our trek up to the village we headed back down the hill through some farmland and a bit of jungle until we reached an extremely cold waterfall. Steve went for a dip, but I preferred to stay dry and warm.
After the waterfall it was a short hike back to the truck. From there we went to another local village where many of the adults were working on rebuilding someone’s home after a fire nearly burnt it down. But the kids were running amok and I was able to snap a couple of fun shots of them acting like maniacs.
Kids will be kids….I remember pushing my brother around in a wheelbarrow.
And a couple of them looking sweet…
Big brown eyes
And we still weren’t done. After the third village of the day we headed to a “hot” spring….it was more warm and sulfuric, but we went for a dip anyway. After 20 or so minutes we were ready to go…it had been a LONG day. We were picked up from our hotel super early, so we could meet up with the boat transportation that took us up the river to the elephant village and it was now getting dark and we were ready for a cold beer.
Honest opinion: Skip the day tour. You will be much more happy if you book a multiday trip instead of being rushed along from activity to activity. Steve and I did part of our day trip with other people and part of it just the two of us…which was both good and bad. Our final guide when it was just us was really awesome, but there was always some confusion in the transfer of us between the earlier guides and we were often left to “wait” without much direction or even the name of our next guide. So get ALL of the details before you head out and be clear about what you want and expect.
After the long bus journey from Ayuthaya to Chiang Mai Steve was itching to rent a scooter, so I obliged and we decided on a route up to Doi Suthep and beyond. We were surprised by the presence of so many hawkers selling trinkets, scarves, snacks and drinks and children demanding baht for photos. Lines, lines and more lines….it’s slow going and you’re constantly being bumped and jostled. Tourists pay a fee (I don’t remember how much) and if you’d like you can buy an offering from one of the vendors.
Doi Suthep…just a few kilometers outside is sheer madness…yes, it’s a holy place, but it’s a profitable racket too….Hurry up and line up!!!
Even though the hawkers tainted our first impression of the temple the architecture was beautiful and it was interesting to see people practicing their religion, but it was also disturbing to see all of the camera wielding tourists taking their pictures.
Just as guilty as the others I also snapped a few pictures.
Architectural detail at Doi Suthep.
Just a few of the many Buddha statues at Doi Suthep.
Remember that reference to Buddha Disneyland I made earlier….you better get in line to say your prayers and make offerings…and don’t forget to walk in the correct direction!!!
I was trying to get a picture of the interior of the temple, but it’s quite difficult to take pictures when a monk is blessing you with holy water by flinging it in your general direction and this monk (out of the picture) must have thought I needed a lot of blessing because it kept coming my direction.
You can only take my picture if you give me candy or Baht…naughty little girl!!!
After spending the morning at Chiang Mai’s equivalent of a Buddhist Disneyland, complete with child hawkers and the occasional hustler, we were tired of the tourist trap and decided to make for the hills.
Buddha sculptures at one of Ayuthaya’s many ruins.
You want me to do Wat? Oh yes, here’s a good idea lets cycle to EVERY one of Ayuthaya’s Wats… I’m sure it will only take a couple of hours. NOT!!! It’ll take more like 9 very hot and very sore hours of riding in the tropical sun….mind you, we did take a few detours and got a little lost (as in…on the road to Bangkok..oops!). I’m a white girl and the Southeast Asian sun made me feel like I was being fried in a vat of vegetable oil. In hind sight it was still pretty fun….but it’s now three weeks later and today was the first day that I’d even considered putting a bike between my legs.
Lovely ruins in Ayuthaya
One of the many wats scattered around Ayuthaya.
I liked sweaty Ayuthaya….which when pronounced correctly sounds more like “UTI” but more lilting and not quite as painful (barely). Ayuthaya lacked the throngs of creepy old men, coked out 20 somethings, and the painfully stereotypical tourists that plague Bangkok’s Khao San Road and Royal Palace.
We saw tons of ancient ruins,beautiful wats, and even human remains. And we ate the best Pad Thai we’ve ever had. Our guesthouse was decent enough….our bed was huge, the sheets were pretty clean, the shower was cool and the price was right. And Grandma gave me hug when I wished her a “good morning.”
Details, details, details.
Ruins in Ayuthaya
More ruins in Ayuthaya
The details and architecture of the wats was truly impressive and seemed to defy gravity, but obviously time and the asian sun had taken their toll. With well over a hundred pics of wats and ruins it was hard to get the motivation to sift through the pics to pick out the best.
Cycling around turned out to be a great way to see the wats, the Portuguese settlement, and the countryside….We even saw a rice farmer hack up a snake that was slithering across the road….we tried to figure out why, but he didn’t speak any English and we don’t exactly speak Thai.
Didn’t I mention human remains earlier??? Here they are…loads of remains buried at the Portuguese settlement in Ayuthaya.
Off of the island you can find these beautiful (and flat) roads that will take you through rice paddy after rice paddy.
After too many close calls on our kamakazi bike ride I was ready to toss the bike into the back of a Tuk Tuk and say “F%&k it!!” but I didn’t….and I survived.
The light at the end of the tunnel.
BJ’s Guesthouse (200 Baht) was right off of Soi 2 on the island. Upstairs rooms were more atmospheric, but we took the downstairs room for the gigantic bed and the cooler temps.
The train to Ayuthaya from Bangkok was probably 80 Baht, more or less, for second class seats, but it’s even cheaper if you go with the locals.
Bike rentals were 30-40 Baht for the day.
We were given a printed map (free) from one of the TAT offices that showed where all the wats and other sights were located.
Since Steve and I are leaving in just over a week I figured that now would be a good time to share how I prepare for a long-haul flight.
We hate the long-haul flight, but unfortunately it’s necessary when traveling to to the other side of the globe. It’s got to be my least favorite part of traveling…maybe even worse than dealing with visas. Anyway, I’ve done tons of them and I’ve gotten quite systematic in my planning for them. Here are a few tips for surviving your next long-haul flight and staying sane in coach, so hopefully you won’t arrive to your destination a hot mess.
1. Comfy, breathable clothes that you can layer. I like to wear leggings layered with a tunic or dress…so I don’t look like I just rolled out of bed, left the gym, etc. and a cardigan. Don’t wear anything too tight…it will constrict circulation, increasing your risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis and could possibly cause digestion issues and abdominal pain.
2. A scarf or Pashmina…it can keep you warm when the AC is cranked up or double as a pillow. Need some scarf inspiration, check out fashion blogger Wendy Nguyen’s video. So many great ideas to revamp the same old boring scarf. She really has some great ideas.
3. Comfy Slip-on shoes. You’ll be able to breeze through security without dealing with laces. Plus, they pack flat…and if you get the right ones they’ll be super comfy too.
4. Water bottle. Whether you take an empty one through security and fill up on the other side or buy one once you’re past security you’ll be happy you have a water bottle. The hydration will save your skin and your ‘tude.
5. Catch some sleep….and I’m not talking about the melatonin or Ambien induced type or drinking until you pass out…the last method will only lead to being brutally hungover for the final hours of your flight. Pack a pair or two of earplugs, an eye mask and an inflatable neck pillow to make your sleep as comfortable as possible.
6. Entertainment…Keep your waking hours as pleasant as your sleeping hours and pack multiple forms of entertainment: Kindle, Ipad/Ipod, book, and/or a magazine or two. My husband likes to pack an extra set of ear buds…so he can give them to the obnoxious kid playing video games at full blast while the rest of the plane is trying to sleep. I love this idea.
7. A Carry On “Personal” Bag. Make sure it has enough pockets to keep you organized, if it has a zipper that’s an extra bonus. I’m taking my Courier camera bag as my carry on personal item on our upcoming trip…it doesn’t look like a camera bad, it’s really sturdy and has enough pockets to stow important documents, sunglasses, snacks, etc and it fits nicely under the seat.
8. Snacks. With all the in-flight cuts this is even more true now than it was 10 years ago. Pack a snack…you, your travel buddy and your neighbors will thank you.
9. Mini personal hygiene kit. I always pack a mini toothbrush/paste (like the Colgate Wisps), some face wipes, tissue, chapstick, hand sanitizer and moisturizer. A couple of minutes freshening up in the bathroom will help you feel less grimy, and if you’re like me probably less irritable too.
10. Get up and move around…we’re not meant to sit in cramped spaces for 10, 15, 20 hours.. Walk the aisles and do some stretching, it will make you feel human and reduce your chances of deep vein thrombosis. Compression socks may also be a good idea, although I’ve never tried them, so I cannot vouch for how good they are. CNN Travel has some good ideas for gentle in-flight yoga, although people might think you’re crazy if you’re doing Warrior III in the middle of the aisle.
11. A pen/ journal. Entertainment (hangman anyone?), exchanging info, and filling out those annoying immigration/customs forms.
Did I forget anything? Leave some advice for other fellow travellers.
I’m not gonna lie…Steve and I are leaving for Asia in just over 2 months and I am starting to feel overwhelmed. There is so much to do before we leave…itinerary and budget planning, getting vaccinations (because I still don’t have all of mine), selling off the wedding stuff, selling the car and figuring out exactly what to pack and what to pick up on the road.
My backpack’s first trip out of the country. My backpack made an excellent chair while I waited for the van between Tulum and Sian Kaan Biosphere.
We’re realizing that we are both in need of new packs…mine is only 5 years old and it’s starting to fall apart; it’s ripping at the seams and missing straps. What on earth do you pack for 6 months abroad when you’ll be doing everything from trekking to Everest Base Camp, summiting Mount Kinabalu, exploring cities and ruins throughout SE Asia, scuba diving in Sipidan, Malaysia and island hopping across Indonesia. With a 6 month trip every ounce counts, so I don’t want to pack any extras.
I packed everything I needed for a two week vacation to Roatan in a daypack (the maroon and grey one on the right…Steve’s stuff is the pile on the left)…now I need to do something equally amazing for our upcoming trip; I need to keep my pack light and keep my husband, the chronic over-packer, from packing his whole life into his pack.
Plus we’ve gotta close up shop here…put everything in storage and get the dogs ready for 6 months with “Grandma.” Pre-order all of their food and set up a boarding plan so my mom can get some time away from the monkeys.
So here is my plan for achieving sanity and getting shit done.
The view from our “private” beach at Laguna de Apoyo.
Yep, you sure can and we did. The Moon Guidebook for Nicaragua has basic directions for walking and has more information for visiting the lake’s restaurants and hotels.
Being the young an adventurous type we walked… from Granada…a very long, hot walk. First, we had to walk through Granada’s cemetery, past the tombs of the rich and beyond the unadorned graves of the poor.
Our walk through Granada’s cemetery begins.
Beautifully sculptured tombs in Granada’s cemetery
Statue of a saint facing the mountains surrounding Granada, Nicaragua.
Where the less prominent families of Granada are buried.
Then we followed the dirt road on the northeast side of the cemetery (I think it was the back right corner) all the way until the end and then hiked down a cattle path to a teeny, tiny beach that we had all to ourselves…well, until a farmer showed up to water his cows.
The road to Laguna de Apoyo.
My travel companion had jumped into the crystal clear lake with all of his cash and passport in his shorts, and had laid it out over a log to dry when the cows showed up; instead of stealing my friend’s cash the rock wielding farmer began chucking rocks at his cows. Love the Nicaraguan people.
Deep blue Laguna de Apoyo. The bottom of the crater is the lowest spot in Nicaragua. The lake has tons of endemic species and offers scuba diving.
Moo….these cows interrupted our sunbathing and swimming, but kept us giggling all afternoon.
Walking to the lake definitely provided a more interesting and cultural experience, but if you would prefer something more predictable hop one of the local buses out to one of the restaurant, beach combos on the other side where you can lay on a dock and sip Toñas all afternoon.
Farmer taking his horses to water at Laguna de Apoyo near Granada, Nicaragua.
Typical home on the walk to Laguna de Apoyo.
I personally was thrilled with the randomness of our little adventure; we met a farmer…and his cows, we hitch hiked half the way to the lake crammed into the back of a Jeep with about 5 other people, had a perfect little beach to ourselves, watched a farmer run his horses, explored the cemetery where some of Nicaragua’s presidents are supposedly buried and had a chance to see the real Nicaragua as we walked past rural homes.
If you’re walking stuff your day pack with plenty of water and snacks, ask for directions (people might think you’re crazy; we got some pretty weird looks) and allow an entire day.