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Belize, Caye Caulker, Central America, Go Slow, island life

Top 10 Reasons why YOU Should Go to Caye Caulker NOW

Caye Caulker offers sun, scuba, sailing and seafood, so if the winter blues are bringing you down, you can stretch your budget on this little Belizean island. The best time to travel here is now until mid-April. Here are a few suggestions on what to do, should you even feel like getting out of your hammock…
1. You can master the art of gracefully getting into and out of a hammock.
2. You can spend your whole day watching Pelicans dive bomb for fish. (Trust me, it doesn’t get old).
3. You will become an expert on the weather, learning how long you have before an impending shower, where to take cover and how long said shower will last.
4. These afternoon showers are the perfect excuse for a nap.
5. You can eat lobster, fresh grilled fish and ceviche EVERY night for under $25.
6. You will learn to walk down the streets, avoiding potholes, puddles, bikes and golf carts, and not minding the spray of sand and gravel that dries on the back of your legs.
7. You can snorkel and dive iconic places like the Blue Hole, or just jump off your pier.
8. You can scout out the best spots for sunset and watch for the green flash on a nightly basis.
9. You can befriend the lovely locals who offer to carry you over puddles, warn you when showers are coming and stop you on the street just to say hi.
10. You can island hop your heart out, stopping at idyllic spots like Half Moon Caye.

Or you can do absolutely nothing at all! Just remember whatever you do… Go Slow!

Around the world travel, Backpacking, island life, long term travel, Southeast Asia, Thailand, Travel, Uncategorized

Ko Phi Phi… ahhhh bliss


The journey from Krabi to Ko Phi Phi is a two-hour boat ride, and fortunately we are blessed with calm seas and blue skies. We make one stop at a small island to pick up some more passengers en route, but we don’t even dock. We just pull up alongside two longtail boats filled to the brim with people and backpacks. We watch as workers haul the bags from one boat to the next, and I think to myself how happy I am that I carried my own bag from dock to boat. While the boatsmen have this practice down to a “T,” I can’t help but wait for a big splash.

We pull into Phi Phi harbor and it looks like paradise. Now, this is what I pictured when I dreamed of Thailand’s islands. Phi Phi became a top travel destination for westerners after The Beach was filmed here in the 90s. That will give you some visual reference. As we near land, we see little bungalows dotting the cliffs, overlooking the harbor, and giant limestone rock casts jut out from the sea.

On our ride boat ride over to Phi Phi, we made a reservation for a hostel. The lady on the boat gave us some brochures to flip through, and we found one that would work for us and fit within our budget. Note to all travelers- don’t ever do this. Most of the time when traveling you don’t really need a reservation unless you’re arriving somewhere quite late and you don’t want to schlep around looking for a place. If you have the time to find somewhere once you arrive, this always makes more sense, seeing as you can look at a room and then make a call. So, we made a bit of an amateur mistake!
We, unfortunately, booked a 2-night reservation at Parichat guesthouse, which we immediately renamed Parishit. The room had seen better days. It was musty, paint was peeling off the walls, the bathroom floor was stained an off-white color, and the air conditioning unit sounded like a lamb “baaahing” every time it oscillated. On a more positive note, we had air conditioning and were close to the beach.
We decide to rough if for two nights and ditch our bags and get out of the room. Just steps from the guesthouse, we see a signpost for the “viewpoint,” so we set out to explore. After about a 40-minute vertical hike in 100–degree heat, we start to wonder if we are possibly heading in the wrong direction. Things aren’t always signposted very clearly in Asia, and the answer you get when you ask anyone how far anything is, is “not far.” We decide to turn around, and pass a couple of hikers on our way down who point us in the right direction. After about another 30-minute hike through the woods, and literally rock climbing for the last 5 minutes, we arrive at the viewpoint. As hot, tired and frustrated as we are, the views are worth the hike and the accidental detour.
From atop, I get a sense of the size of the island. To walk from one side of the island to the other takes no more than 7 minutes. Given this, you can understand why the tsunami of 2004 was so destructive. Not one structure on Phi Phi island was left standing. It is devastating to hear this, while looking down at where all the destruction occurred. 
After taking in the views and resting for a few minutes, we fortunately find the steps back to town…yeah- we missed those before! We head over to the beach to laze for the afternoon and enjoy some cold beers after our long, hot hike.
Our second day on Phi Phi turns out to be gray and overcast, but we still manage to get some beach time in and befriend an American bartender, Nancy, and her Thai boyfriend Hank, and their 2 chihuahuas, Otis and Pappie, who keep us amused for the afternoon.
On our third day, the sun is shining and we are strolling through the little main town area. After walking by the same dive shop about 3 times, I decide to bite the bullet and see how much a half day of diving will set me back. Phi Phi is one of Thailand’s more expensive islands, so I was debating on waiting until Ko Tao to dive, but I can’t hold off. We book to go out that afternoon, and I get 2 dives in with no regrets. We see 5 black tip reef sharks and a hawksbill turtle on the last dive – just awesome. In addition to this, we have decided to step it up on the accommodation front and bid adieu to Parishit and move across the way to Phi Phi Casita. The beds actually have clean white sheets AND blankets! Luxury, I tell you!
Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bali, Beach, Bucket List, Indonesia, island life, long term travel, Southeast Asia, Travel, Travel Wishlist


Ahhh, Bali. I understand why people come here and never leave. Pair a BEAUTIFUL island with affordable food, activities and entertainment and chill laid back people, and you have Bali. Not to mention it’s also the most temperate place I’ve been so far. The sun is hot, but the humidity is low and dies down fully at night, so on the back of a scooter you can still feel a bit of a chill.

We arrive in Bali late, but have plans to meet up with friends for the evening to celebrate Amanda’s birthday. We are staying in a town called Legian at the Hotel Jayakarta (a bit of luxury before we begin the hostel circuit). Legian is your typical beach town, but just next door is the town of Kuta, which is a bit like Ibiza’s sister. It’s also the site of one of the bombings of 2004. As you enter the main strip, they have built a memorial to commemorate the people from all over the world who lost their lives. Despite the party atmosphere, I take a minute to reflect and pay respect.

We spend the evening on a Kuta pub and club crawl, and consume numerous $2.00 Bin Tangs. But, we refuse to let a little hangover cut into our beach time the next day. We secure some spots on the beach and spend the day sunning, and sipping pina coladas to cure our ailments. Add to that some noodles and soup for $.50 from the local street vendor and we are feeling A-OK by happy hour.

The following day brings more of the same, although I had promised myself that I would attempt surfing while in Bali. A friend had told me this was a great place to learn because the waves aren’t too big. So I find Rudy, the beach-chair seller cum beer vendor cum surf teacher. I venture over to him and he yells, “Elena., what’s up?” I negotiate surf lessons and board rentals for me and my two friends.300,000 Rupiah for three boards and a two-hour surf lesson for all of us. That’s about $30 USD. Rudy gives us surf shorts and carries our boards down to the water’s edge. We’re all feeling a little anxious but excited. He gives us about a 2-minute demonstration on land of what we need to do. It basically goes like this. “Ok, so you get on board and you paddle, paddle, paddle, and then you catch wave, and ‘poof,’ you pop up.” So we all demonstrate back to him. He obviously has all the faith in the world in us (or doesn’t really care) because the next thing you know we’re all out in the water, boards in tow, bracing the waves coming towards us. Now, I’m pretty comfortable in the water, but sometimes the waves would catch the board and swoop it right away from me- good thing we have ankle straps!

After getting out far enough to catch some waves, Rudy helps me spin the board around get centered. As I lay flat on the board, I turn my head around to see the wave coming toward me, approaching faster and faster. Rudy yells to me, “Paddle hard Elena.” I paddle hard and go to pop up on the board, and just as quickly fall right back in, the wave crashing over me. Take two, same story. At this point in time, hair is plastered across my face and I’m thanking Rudy for supplying me with a surf shirt or else all of Legian beach would’ve have been getting a bit of a show.

I realize I’m doing something wrong, and I tell Rudy I need help knowing when to pop up. “Ok, Ok Elena. You paddle hard. When I yell “POP” you pop up.” This sounds like a good plan, so we get the board turned around, he slides me to the back and we watch as the wave approaches. I start paddling and just as I feel the force of the wave and a bit of a lift, I hear Rudy yell “POP!” I jump up and I’m riding my first wave. Ok- it’s brief, but I’m doing it! Throughout the next hour it is more of the same, but I catch about 4 good waves, and that is enough to make me happy…and sore. What a work out. It’s like doing sets of push-ups and crunches until your muscles start to shake. And we all know there’s only one cure for that… A one-hour full-body massage. So I find Wyen, a little lady who has been stalking us the all day, and I make myself comfortable on a beach chair. One hour and $10 later, I am in a happy place. I have just enough time to head over to Ku-De-Ta, a beach resort in Seminyak, to catch the sunset.

Here, we meet up with one of my old colleague’s friends, Eduardo. He takes us over to Jimbaran Bay to sample what they are best known for… their seafood. After selecting a 1kg fresh snapper, we head to the beach, kick off our flops and get comfortable at a table on the beach. We toast our Bin Tangs. Behind us waves crash on the beach and in front of us, authentic Balinese dancers put on a traditional performance.  The garlic and lemon-roasted snapper comes out from the kitchen, and Eduardo tells me I should eat like a local…with my hands. So we tuck in, and every bite is better than the one before.

From here, we are all in the mood to go out, so we venture out to listen to a Reggae bar. It is still early in the night, so things aren’t quite happening yet, but as it gets later, we find ourselves making our way back to Kuta…we have been sucked in.

I wake up feeling pretty rough, but I know this is no hangover. I have been suffering from pain in my sides over the past couple of days, but I thought little of it. Now, it has turned from a dull pain into a sharp pain that is hindering my movement. Is it the surfing? Too much time in the sun? Not enough water? Too much beer? The street food? Well, I can’t let it slow me down. We have a day trip planned to Ubud, a town that sits about 1 ½ hours north of Legian. Bill, our Balinese tour guide, picks us up at the hotel at 9am, and we begin the trek to Ubud, stopping along the way to look at batik stalls, silversmith shops and art galleries. We have lunch overlooking a rice paddy field and stop at a waterfall on the way home. On the way back to Legian, Bill is telling us all about the rest of the island: treks to volcanoes, tours to Lombok, diving in the Gilli Islands. I feel torn. We only have one night left in Bali, and I feel like I need to stay at least another two weeks to see the rest of the island. I assure myself I have the time to get back before the end of my trip, and I know I’ve said this before, but I WILL be coming back to Bali- on this trip, not the next one.

We get back to Legian just in time to pick up some Bin Tang and scope out a place on the beach to catch the sunset. Rudy is out here again, doing his thing, selling beers to the other tourists soaking in the last rays of the day. “Hey Elena,” he says to me. It makes me smile. It makes me forget about the pain in my side… We sit and watch the sun drop, and then watch as the sky goes from the blue of day to a brilliant display of pink, orange and yellow, and then dark. The end of another beautiful day in Bali.