UNESCO

Argentina: Wandering in Cordoba, 20 July 2016

Cordoba

My only full day in Cordoba. My hotel isn’t exactly in the centre of town, but it was probably a 15 min walk to the heart of Cordoba, where the Jesuit block is located. Cordoba was founded in the 1500s, making it one of the oldest Spanish colonial cities, and the architecture reflects that.

Cordoba

I don’t have much to contribute to the conversation on Cordoba, but it’s a pretty lively town that makes it perfect for walking. Nice architecture, many passage ways for exploring, and a rather compact city centre are some of the pluses. I wanted to check out the Jesuit mission, but the number of bugs biting me stopped me in my tracks. I did go to the Colegio Nacional, which is pretty cool. They maintained the colonial facade, but updated the interior of the building.

Cordoba Wandering around for food was quite a challenge. I was initially inclined towards trying their local fastfood, but then the lines turned me off. I ended up exploring the various passage ways, letting various sign boards posted outside to guide me. I wound up at a cafe that surrounded a fountain, and had a ham sandwich with fries. Tostados con fritta, Cordoba

The rest of my day was spend dealing with logistics like changing money, and figuring a way to the airport for my flight the next day.

Cordoba

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Argentina: Bussing from Rosario to Cordoba, 19 July 2016

Terminal de Omnibus, Rosario

The only grand plan for today is to get from Rosario to Cordoba. The older I get, the less I can deal with longish bus journeys. I used to be ok with 12 hr bus-rides, but these days, even the 6ish hours bus ride seems a bit much. And because I value my comfort more than anything else these days, I opted for a noonish departure, which means the bulk of my day is spent on the bus.

Terminal de Omnibus, Rosario

The Argentina bus system is pretty easy to navigate online. I used Omnilineas to check the departure times. Thankfully, buses from Rosario to Cordoba are fairly frequent. As this wasn’t an overnight bus, I opted for the semi-cama, which features quite a bit of recline, and the chairs were arranged as 2 by 2s. The bus ticket was about 460 ARS (~30 USD), and comes without any service. For more information on what the different classes mean, do check out this page, so you may select a service that works best for you.

Plusultra (Semi Cama) bus from Rosario to Cordoba

Cordoba is the first city of Argentina, and is home to one of the oldest universities in the world. The Jesuit missions in Cordoba are also a UNESCO world heritage site. Arriving at 7pm, I got a glimpse of these older buildings, but I was too tired to explore. I simply went to the mall that’s beside my hotel, grabbed some food from the food court, and passed out for the night.

Plusultra (Semi Cama) bus from Rosario to Cordoba

Plusultra (Semi Cama) bus from Rosario to Cordoba

Plusultra (Semi Cama) bus from Rosario to Cordoba

Categories: Argentina, Bus, UNESCO | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Uruguay: Montevideo to Colonia, 13 July 2016

Colonia Del Sacramento from the lighthouse

Our grand plan today involved getting from Montevideo to Colonia. Colonia is a UNESCO World Heritage site that was built in the 1500s as a Portuguese town, and a fortification of sorts. It’s about 3 hrs by bus from Montevideo, and 1.5 hrs by a fast ferry from Buenos Aires.

The night before, I checked online, and seeing that buses run from Montevideo to Colonia 20 past the hour almost every hour, I decided to just wing it when we get to the bus station. At around 11.45 or so, we checked out of the hotel, and got an Uber to bring us to the bus station (we were running out of Uruguay Pesos, and didn’t want to change more). It was a longer-than-expected 20 min ride, because there were traffic diversions.

We arrived at the bus ticketing counter at 12.05, got the last two seats on the bus by the lav (argh!), and hopped onto the bus by 12.10. Sitting beside the lav isn’t ideal, but it does beat waiting another hour for the next round of buses. We paid 330 per person for the 3 hour bus ride, and with that, we spent the last of our Uruguay Pesos.

The bus ride was uneventful, and rolled by the bucolic Uruguayan countryside. It made several stops along the way. It probably pays to do more research than we did, and find out which bus offers the most direct route, because our meandering bus ride took about three hours. At around 3.30 or so, we arrived at the Colonia del Sacramento bus station, which is across the street from the ferry terminal.

Colonia Del Sacramento

We walked some 15 min or so to the fortified town of Colonia, the site of the UNESCO World Heritage site. The area has very clear signage, and maps are located around the little town, with different points of interest. While the +1 was climbing the fortifications and jumping over mud puddles, I just took it easy as I was getting increasingly hangry, not having eaten a thing the whole day.

Despite my increasing hangry-ness, we decided to climb up the lighthouse for a bird’s eye view of the Rio de la Plata and the town of Colonia.  As a very tourist-y town, Colonia takes you can pay in Argentinian Pesos or Uruguayan Pesos. Uruguayan Pesos offer the best rate, but if you aren’t looking to go change money, Argentinian Pesos will be accepted at a shitty rate. The lighthouse was kinda nice, but we wouldn’t recommend it for taller people. It did get to be quite a squeeze with visitors, even though the ticket vendors do manage foot traffic. We had a bit of trouble getting to the top, because it is pretty hard to climb to the top with a bag. We had to relay our bags up before climbing up. I’d still recommend hiking up, though.

Santa Rita, Colonia Del Sacramento

After the lighthouse, I was done. By this point, all I wanted was to sit down and eat. Unfortunately, a lot of the restaurants in the square were closed, because the day trip tourists have left, and so many restaurant operators make the decision to close shop. We had to walk to the edges of the square to find a restaurant that had a kitchen that was still operating. We wound up at Santa Rita (the +1 said they have bad reviews on Google, but whatever – beggars can’t be choosers).

Salmon Skewers from Santa Rita, Colonia Del Sacramento

They started us off with a bread course. We had salmon skewers and ordered a Santa Rita paella. We thought the salmon skewers were great. I thought the Santa Rita paella was so-so, but given how hungry I was, I couldn’t care less. It was perfectly edible. We also enjoyed a sunset by the restaurant. The dinner set us back by $50 for two of us. As our hotel was some ways from the town of Colonia itself, they also called a taxi for us to take us to our hotel.

Sunset in Colonia Del Sacramento

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Morocco: Casablanca – Marrakech, 28 December 2015

Marrakech

In the morning, I took the train from Casablanca to Marrekech. I got to Casablanca Voyager train station by the Casablanca tramline (7 DH). The trip was about 19 min. The schedule posted on Seat61 is slightly outdated (states that trains leave 20 past the hour), but worked out in my favor (they left 50 past the hour), because I was a little bit late to the train station. I tried to get a first class ticket, but they weren’t selling them, so some money saved (90 DH). They seem to be using the newer trains, which are faster – the journey took a little over 3 hours. While waiting for the train to arrive, I popped into a cafeteria by the platform, and got myself a 20 DH sandwich. Sitting on my roller carry-on, munching on my chicken sandwich, while waiting for my train, all was right with the world.

Boarding second class was quite a mad house, but after walking through a few private cabins, I managed to find one with some empty seats, with the other seats filled with some lovely ladies. It was a very pleasant 3+ hour ride from Casablanca to Marrakech, whereby these lovely ladies just stuffed me with chocolate wafers!

Pulling into the very modern Marrakech train station, it seemed like yet another tourist death trap, with taxi drivers approaching tourists to offer taxi rides. I decided to try walking to the Le Meridien N’Fis (it’s about 1.5 miles from the train station). Eventually, I did get picked up by a taxi driver, who was out hunting for tourist meat, but I negotiated my rate to 15 DH.

After a short rest at my hotel, I ventured to the Marrakech medina, which is about a 20 min walk from my hotel. The medina was quite the adventure that I did not emerge from. I did not pick up a map, nor did I have GPS on my phone. What transpired in the next 5 hours was me just getting very, epic-ly lost.

Marrakech

Things started off well enough. I located the Koutoubia Minaret. I moved towards the outer limits of the medina, and stopped off at a nice snack store, which sold a crepe-like pastry filled with potatoes and spices. It was 7 DH for one, with a cup of tea. I finally made my way into the medina, and that’s when the craziness began. At every corner of the medina, there’re generally young men standing around, offering to bring you around, or offering to practice English/French/whatever. Well, avoid them – if they accompany you, there’s a good chance they’ll be demanding money from you for their ‘services rendered’.

Marrakech

Being in the medina is like a corn maze. My initial game plan was to try and use the minaret as my guide, but in the medina, you can’t see anything. Also, a lot of the stores looked rather similar, so that wasn’t helpful. After a while, it seemed like I was just going round and round and round. My hotel provided a complimentary entry (otherwise, 40DH) to the Maison de Photographie, which offers great views from its rooftop. Eventually, I located it with the ‘help’ of a ‘student’. The rooftop is excellent for a bird’s eye view of Marrakech, and if you love taking photographs, it’s an amazing spot for sunset photography of Marrakech.

Marrakech

After leaving the Maison de Photographie, I wanted to check out the Djemaa El-Fna, and have my dinner there. I was trying to follow the signs, but at some point, I lost it, and wound up just walking round and round the medina, and ended up in some residential neighborhoods. Eventually, after some two hours of walking around, I finally managed to find an opening, where I spotted the Koutoubia Minaret, and made my way to Djemaa El-Fna, which is beside the Koutoubia Minaret.

Marrakech

The Djeemaa El-Fna is packed! There are dancers, acrobat acts, food vendors, and arcade-like games. I just went to the first stall with grilled meats, and settled down to a dinner of beef skewers (30DH, but they charged me 35DH). I was overcharged for some mysterious reason, but was too tired to argue with that. After an excellent dinner, I walked back to my hotel. The medina is actually a fun experience, but do take a map, or it could turn into quite an exhausting walk! It is also generally more manageable, if you don’t react as strongly to tourist scams as I do – I just hate getting ripped off.

Marrakech Marrakech

Costs

Transportation: 112 DH (7 + 90 + 15)

Food: 42 DH (35 + 7)

Accommodation: 4000 Starpoints

Total: 150 DH + 4000 Starpoints (15 USD)

Marrakech

Categories: Morocco, Travel Mishap, Travel Scam, Uncategorized, UNESCO | Tags: | 1 Comment

Morocco: Rabat, 26 December 2015

Rabat

I arrived at the Rabat International Airport sometime after 5 pm, probably closer to 6 pm. The passport control was a little bit slow, but not out of control. I probably cleared it within 30 mins, and after changing some money (1 USD = 9.6 DH), I spotted the airport bus parked outside, and was good to go. The rate at the airport is pretty fair, and the exchange doesn’t charge a commission.

Getting In

You should see an airport bus across the street from the airport. It costs 20 DH to get from the airport to the Rabat train station. It probably took about 30 min. If you want a drop off along the route, you could probably ask. From the Rabat train station, I took a taxi to my hotel Mercure Rabat, which is located in the residential quarter of Hassan (10 DH). The bus also stops in front of the tram line, so if you are on that tram line, you can always just hop on the tram (6 DH per trip, or per hour, sorry, was too lazy to read the whole thing in French).

Getting Around

I mostly used the tram system to get from my hotel to the medina. There are a couple of stops in front of the medina. I found this to be a painless way to get around Rabat, and it is cheap (6 DH), and hassle-free (i.e. no rip-off taxi drivers). The main sights in Rabat are also quite walkable – for instance, it wasn’t too much of a walk for me to go from Hassan Tower to the Kasbah.

Rabat

Rabat

After check-in, it was getting a bit late, so I pretty much just wanted to get some food from the souk before retiring for the night. Man, it was really crowded. I think I suddenly became very aware of how much I stood out, even in the crazy crowd. Apparently, being a single, East Asian female really makes you stick out. I started to be extremely aware of my surroundings.

Regardless, hopping on the station, Tour Hassan, it was about two stations to Bab Chellah. There, the glorious smoke from meat on the grill was epic, and I wandered towards it. I wound up getting a grilled chicken sandwich for ~15 DH. I’m pretty sure I got the foreigner tax, but whatever, it was pretty tasty.

Rabat

I strolled down the street, and eventually wound up in the souk. I am generally not much of a shopper, so while souks are interesting for me to see, generally, I really have no observations about the goods on sale. I did eventually wander into another Shwarma place, and ended up with a shwarma sandwich with fries (25 DH). My best description of the souk is, a Southeast Asian night market. If you enjoy something like that, this is for you.

Rabat

After walking the equivalent of one tram station, I walked up the street towards the Rabat train station – I figured I might as well check out some of the train timing, since my plan is to take a train into Casablanca the next day. There are some cafes along the street, and dividing the main road is a tree-lined pedestrian boulevard, which seemed popular with families. I do find the café culture to be very manly – it’s mostly males lounging at the chairs, sipping their coffees/teas, and looking on street life.

Rabat

After checking out the Rabat train station, I hopped onto the other tram line (they have two in Rabat), and went back to my hotel for the night.

Note about buying tickets on the tram

If you know that you are going to need a couple of them, you might want to buy them in advance. You don’t save money this way, but their machines can sometimes break down, or just hang. So, buy tickets when you find a machine that’s working, so you won’t be stuck in a situation where you are at a station, and cannot buy tickets.

Rabat

Costs

Transportation: 42 DH (20 + 10 + 12)

Food: 44 DH (15 + 25 + 4)

Accommodation: 68 USD (stayed at a 3-star hotel, regretted it)

Total: ~ 77 USD (for convenience, I’m just using the 1 USD = 10 DH conversion)

Categories: Morocco, Travel Tip, UNESCO | Tags: | Leave a comment

Portugal: Lisbon, 24 December 2015

Lisbon

Money

I somehow survived the overnight in Madrid without changing a single Euro. But now that I am in Lisbon, I did need some Euros. Since it is the holiday seasons, and my trip in Europe is rather short, I didn’t have too much time to compare prices, and just sucked it up, by changing my money at the airport. I got a rate of 1 USD = 0.86 EUR. There were no fees. For what it’s worth, when I went by the Western Union at the Russio train station, the rate was 1 USD = 0.93 EUR. I am not sure if they charge fees for doing the change. But if you have some time, it might make sense for you to change a minimal amount at the airport, and change more money when you get into town.

Getting in

Getting into Lisbon via public transport is easy. The airport is connected to the metro system, and it takes about 25 mins to get into town. The metro system has machines for you to buy their ticket (Viagem, 0.50 EUR), and there’s an English menu. You have a few options, you can choose to do a pay-per-trip (I think it’s 2 EUR). In my case, I knew I was going to hit town right after check-in, so I bought a day pass (6 EUR for 24 hrs). It probably took all of 30 mins for me to hit my hotel, since I had to change to the Blue line, and exit at Parque station. The metro stations are actually pretty cool – there is a lot of public art in the different stations. Parque station had a nautical theme, with some ghoulish sea creatures.

After dumping all my stuff at the hotel, I headed back to the metro station, and from Parque, it took about 5 mins to get to Baixa-Chiado, which is the tourist-y part of town. Walking down the Rue Augusta, I hit the tram station in front of Praca do Comercio. The timing was perfect, as I saw Tram 15 pull into the tram station, so I made a quick dash, and hopped onto the tram. The tram ride from Baixa to Belem probably took about 15 mins or so. It was one of the modern, un-sexy trams, but had greater capacity for passengers.

Lisbon

I was hoping that the Jeronimos Monastery would be open, but unfortunately, it appeared closed. The cathedral part of it was open, and I think it is home to many of Portugal’s greats, poets, etc. Architecture was pretty gothic. The sad thing about many tourist attractions is that it’s hard to find peace even in sights of worship. Once the selfie stick comes out, it all goes to hell. I did sit in a pew for a little bit. I’m guessing this place is more of a madhouse in the summer months.

The neighborhood of Jeronimos is pretty nice. There are many large squares and parks around, so if you want to hang around after visiting Belem Tower, the monastery and museums, it’s not a bad spot to grab some pastries, or have lunch.

Lisbon

On the way back, I managed to get on one of the older trams, which is included in the day pass. It was a slow ride, obviously, but I’ve always liked standing behind tram drivers, and seeing the city from that viewpoint. I do find the haphazardness of Lisbon to be charming. I am guessing that navigating those crazy hilly streets on a daily basis would be a bitch, but for a 48-hr whirlwind tour, it is actually quite a bit of fun! After ending back in Praca do Comercio, I decided to explore Baixa. Well, if you are into shopping and tourist traps, it’s not too shabby. I did really want to eat, but I couldn’t bite. I think every fiber of my being resists walking into a tourist trap.

After strolling around for a bit, I eventually wound up in the Confiteria Nacional. They have a fun ticket system, where you grab a ticket, and wait to be called before you get your pastries. It seemed very popular, and claim a century-old history. I can’t understand Portuguese, so I didn’t do the ticket thing. But they do have a little snack/cafeteria thing on the upper level, which is less busy, and offers some amazing views of Rossio Square. I went with the patented pointing method, and got myself a Portuguese egg tart, and a latte for 2.40 EUR. I also lucked out, as a lady vacated a prime window spot, so I colonized that, and did some reading for an hour.

Lisbon

Lisbon

After an early dinner, I decided to just stroll around, and ended up walking up Chiado, much of it was closed due to it being Christmas eve. As I slowly moved down Chiado, and ended up on a tram stop, I saw tram 28 (a recommended tram) pull into a tram station. I had designated it for the next day, but what the heck? I jumped onto the rather empty tram 28, and enjoyed the ride, as it wound up Alfama neighborhood. I enjoyed how closed in the buildings are, and how narrow the streets are.

Lisbon

It being the holidays, the trams are actually on shortened service, so before I knew it, I was making my way back to town on foot (I was actually waiting for a tram down, but after 20 mins, I gave up, walked from station to station, and before I knew it, I was back in town). The leisurely stroll probably took about 40 mins. The stroll down was actually quite easy and enjoyable, but some poor tourists were actually making their way up, and one lady was actually walking up the uneven streets barefoot, while her husband carried her heels. I hope their accommodations aren’t too far up!

Lisbon

Costs

Metro Day Pass: 6 EUR

Coffee Break: 2.40 EUR + 3 EUR

Dinner: 4.30 EUR

Accommodation: 27 EUR (I stayed at a 4-star hotel)

Total: ~ 43 EUR

Categories: Airport, Portugal, UNESCO | Tags: | Leave a comment

Panama: Casco Viejo, 06 September 2015

Casco Viejo

After the complimentary breakfast at my hotel, I walked towards the Iglesia El Carmen subway station. According to the subway map, the closest metro station to Casco Viejo is the Cinco de Mayo station, so that was where I was headed. The subway ride was pretty simple. Tap in card, $0.35 deducted from card, and the trains (3 carriage) came by every 5 mins or so. It was a Sunday, they weren’t empty, but they weren’t like sardines in a tin can packed either. To get to Casco Viejo from the Cinco de Mayo subway station, locate the Av Central exit. When you get out, you should see a freeway overhead. Cross the street under the freeway, and just follow the street. You will see Hotel Stanford at some point, and then you’ll see a pedestrian street. That’s Av Central. Just keep walking down Av Central and you will hit Casco Viejo. At this point, maps on boards, and tourist signs will show up, guiding you the rest of the way. An alternative way would be to follow under the freeway after you exit the metro station. Take a left after you exit the metro station, and follow the freeway. That way, you will hit the Fish Market, before Casco Viejo. Just keep in mind that it would involve crossing some rather large lanes of traffic on this route. Av Central features quite a bit of graffiti and street life in Panama, so, despite all the warnings on Wikitravel, it might still be worth your time walking down. #graffiti

A UNESCO world heritage site, Casco Viejo is the old town of Panama City. Erm, I don’t know what to say, except think 1600s Spanish architecture? It is a nice tourist-y spot with lots of cafes, restaurants, hostels, hotels, which would appeal to tourists. Think red brick streets, plazas, and old churches. It is quite different from the rest of Panama City, for sure.

I planned on spending my day working at a nice cafe, so to that end, I got lured by the Casco Viejo website, and wound up at the Casa Sucre Coffeehouse (they accept credit cards, and have free wifi). They feature coffees from the Boquette region, and are slightly pricey (about ~$0.50 more than their competitors), but it’s not a bad spot to hang out. It used to be a nunnery or something, and their tiled floor are (mostly) originals from the 1800s. I wound up spending more time than I intended, thanks to a tropical downpour in the middle of the day. But, can’t complain. I got an iced latte, and liked their coffee. It has a bold flavor, without being acidic.

Casa Sucre Coffeehouse

When there was a break in the downpour, I headed towards Cafe Coca-Cola, a budget (it’s really not that cheap, though it’s cheap relative to some of the things on offer in Casco Viejo) cafe, and one of the oldest in Casco. To date, i am not sure what Panamanian cuisine really is. The menu looked very much like diner food, complete with a Aunt Jemina and Maggi Ketchup on my table. Cafe Coca-Cola also has quite an interesting clientele – mostly older men? I definitely felt rather conscious as the single female diner there. I wound up getting a 1/4 fried chicken (5 USD). Nothing much to report there. Cafe Coca Cola

After my main meal of the day, I headed to Unido Coffee Roasters, which is housed in the premises of the luxurious American Trade Hotel. Unido Coffee Roasters is this hipster cafe, now with three branches in Panama City. They also feature unique beans from Panama, and are pricier than Casa Sucre Coffeehouse (iced latte – 4 USD). They either don’t have wifi, or it wasn’t working, but they do take credit cards. My iced latte had a nice clean, strong flavor to it, and wasn’t acidic either.

Cafe Unido

After coffee, I headed back towards my hotel. One of the more intriguing questions for me is – where are all the Panamanians on Sunday? After a short rest at my guest house, I decided to walk towards the Multicentro Mall. I think I saw more people in the taxi line at the Radisson Decapolis, and at a church on the walk to Multicentro, than all my time spent at Casco Viejo. It’s always interesting to know where people choose to spend their weekends.

Also, as a side note on those who love gaming. Things do change rapidly in Panama – Veneto was kinda empty when I visited on a Saturday evening. But when I went to Majestic at Multicentro, there were a whole lot more people playing.

Costs:

Subway: 0.70 USD

Coffee: 7.80 USD

Dinner: 5 USD

Accommodations: 5000 Hilton points

Total: 13.50 USD

Categories: Cafe, Panama, UNESCO | Tags: | Leave a comment

Olympic National Park, USA: Camping at Lake Crescent, 17 – 18 July 2015

Some kind friends invited me on an overnight camping trip to the Olympic Peninsula, a UNESCO world heritage site because of its biodiversity. We left Seattle at around 7 am, and hopped on the 8.50 am ferry from Edmonds, for the 2 hr drive from Kingston to Lake Crescent, arriving at Fairholme Campground close to noon. Camp sites (88 total) are available on a first-come-first-served basis. Although the sign outside indicated that it was full, be sure to drive in and check, as it was not updated, as was our experience. When we drove in, we found some availability. You can check out the different camps and their facilities in the link above (Fairholme Campground).

How securing a campsite works at Fairholme Campground:

There are three ‘loops’ of campsites, and located near the wash facilities is a board where you can check for availability of campsites, and how long campsites are reserved for. A blank space indicates an available campsite. The board is not completely authoritative, so the best thing you can do is to walk/drive around, and see if a campsite is indeed reserved. After you choose a campsite, fill out a little slip, and pay the fee ($20 per night).

Campsites differed greatly in size. The larger ones were snapped up pretty early, and because there were four of us and two tents, we also needed a largish campsite. After driving/walking around for a bit, we found a sufficiently large campsite on Loop C. I highly recommend Loop C. Loop C is the furthest away from highway 101, and some of the campsites are actually beside Lake Crescent itself. The only downside to Loop C is that it is a walk-in site, so you cannot drive/park your car right beside your tent. As long as you do not have too much stuff or have enough muscle, that should not be a great challenge. The views from the campsites on Loop C are priceless, and really worth the extra walk/work.

The ones by the river are numbered 81-88, I think.

Lake CrescentAfter eating a sandwich lunch at our campsite table, we headed to Hurricane Ridge, which is some 1.5 hrs drive from Lake Crescent. Hurricane Ridge offers gorgeous mountain views, and sound views from the lookout, which is a short walk from the visitor’s center. There is also some wildlife to be spotted – we spotted a deer. After our short walk in the short loops at Hurricane Ridge (we had a lil two year old trekker), we drove back to the campground for a dinner by the fire pit. I tried to wake up before sunrise for a blue hour shot of Lake Crescent, but well, I slept through it. Oh well. Nevertheless, it was amazing to wake up to bird song, and a picture-perfect turquoise lake. Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane RidgeLake Crescent

Lake Crescent

After breakfast at the campgrounds, we decided to head down the Peninsula to check out some of those glorious beaches. We passed by the town of Forks, which is now famous for its association with Twilight and had brunch at a diner.

One of the more unique things about the Pacific Northwest Beaches are their driftwood and black sand. I have been to Kalaloch a number of times, but every time I do go there again, I get reminded of how beautiful it really is. We stopped for a bit, and let the little tyke have some fun digging in the sand. The sand has an awesome texture – fine grain. For some reason or other, there were lots of dead jellyfish and crabs, which washed ashore as well. As we neared late afternoon, we started our drive back, passing through the town of Aberdeen, which is the birth place of Kurt Cobain. I’ve never done it, but apparently you can do some sort of Kurt Cobain tour if you are in Aberdeen. We mostly stopped for food, because the little tyke wanted to be fed.

All-in-all, a nice little weekender! Kalaloch

Costs:

Edmonds to Kingston Ferry: $29.65 ($13.65 for vehicle & driver + $8 per adult passenger. Tip: I usually drive this route in reserve, because you do not have to pay passenger fares from Kingston to Edmonds – You just have to pay the vehicle fare, saving $8 per passenger)

Camping: $20

Gas: ~$30 (335 miles. cost depends on your gas mileage, but at 30mpg and $3 per gallon, works out to this sum)

Parks pass: $20 (though not all areas require a pass)

Views/experience: priceless

Total: ~ $100 

Categories: Beach, Camping, Nature, Travel Tip, UNESCO, USA | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Indonesia – Komodo to Labuan Bajo to Bali, 30 June 2011

Final day of the boat trip, captain Mat brought us to our last snorkelling site, which is also known as R poo bay, because he pooped in the bay the last time, and the water current changed directions, bringing the poop to the rest of the crew (resulting in a mad scramble away from the floating poop). A man of tradition, he repeated it once again. Thankfully, the direction of the water current didn’t change this time round.

After the morning snorkel (which I did not join), Captain Mat bested himself. It’s really a shame he isn’t a chef or something – he made us ayam goreng kecap manis (fried chicken with sweet soy sauce). It was delicious and we cleaned up the plate. All in all, an excellent boat trip!

After landing in Labuan Bajo, we had about an hour to kill before our flight, so we headed to the fancy Tree Top for some ice cold beer. It was decently-priced and had a good view of the harbour. We didn’t climb to the top. (and you probably shouldn’t if you plan on getting pissed drunk)

Getting back to Bali, we were pretty much just left with time for dinner (after a VERY, VERY welcome shower after three days of not bathing). We went to Poppies Lane and had Mexican, concluding our little expedition to Komodo.

Our boat to Komodo

View of Labuan Bajo Bay from Tree Top

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Indonesia – Komodo Island, 29 June 2011

We woke up bright and early to a spectacular sunrise, and the bats returning to the caves, after their little night adventures. After sunrise, we were well-fed once again by Captain Mad, before setting off for Komodo at probably about 7 or 8 am. Who knows. It wasn’t a long boat ride, but we arrived in Komodo soon enough. The park was still relatively empty, though there were about two other boats parked at the jetty.

We got off, and following R’s advice, we went on the medium trail. On a previous trip, R was convinced he almost lost his life going on the baron trail, and they didn’t see anything either. There was quite some things to see on the trail, like deers, and various trees, but I guess it was slightly disappointing, as we were not really there to see those. You go to Komodo to see Komodo dragons, right? The downhill descent was once again breath-taking, as we got a great view of Komodo Island bay. Nonetheless, no dragons, just more deers.

We did almost leave Komodo without ever seeing a Komodo dragon. But just as we were about to leave and board our boat again, a dragon sauntered out, and parked itself near the kitchen. It definitely caused a lot of commotion, as we were not the only ones who wanted to see a dragon. There were other groups there who had also gone for the bust of a hike. One of the cool things that did happen was we saw how the park ranger used his flimsy-looking stick to hold off the dragon, by poking it at the neck. It ain’t pretty, but it sure is effective!

After we were done with our two hour hike, guess what? It was still early in the morning. Captain Mat brought us to the Red Beach, and the snorkelling nearby, and we jumped into the water to cool off. Post-swim/snorkel, we had some lunch, played more minimum, rested some, and snorkelled some more.

My main impression of this boat trip was not really the Komodo and Rinca hikes, but the snorkelling. In many ways, this was like our Philippines trip, just that this time, we are spending three days on board the boat. I didn’t think I would like it, given my obsession with taking showers and having clean bathrooms, but it did work out. The snorkelling was sensational, and not being around way too many people was very enjoyable. I did wish I had an underwater camera with me to share the underwater beauty. With the good company, this was definitely a great trip.

Thanks R for organizing!

Sunrise in the Bat Cave Bay

Komodo Island Bay

Komodo Dragon spotted me

Sunset at our second docking spot

Categories: Boat, Indonesia, Nature, UNESCO | Tags: | Leave a comment

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