Monday, July 31, 2006

Cusco - La Ciudad - Peru

The Place: Roughly 3300m above sea level in the south of Peru, the town of Cusco is home to the Incas who still work the fields, herd the llamas and alpachas and speak their native tounge "Quechua".

Some features: The old town has many steep cobblestoned streets with steps leading high up to different parts of the town.

Stumbled upon a festival celebrating 'La virgin del Carmin' the day after its day of independence. Was told this is not the virgin Mary but catholic and relevent only to Carmin near Cusco. Banners and ornate icons of the virgin were being carried above the heads of the locals.

Stumbled upon festival no.2 the next day. This was a well organised celebration of independence day which involved military marches, shots being fired, flags being raised, political speeches and marching bands (many, both young and old).

Walked to the top of one hill to stand by the 12m statue of Cristo Blanco.

Took a horse ride to see some inca ruins close by. Included Puca Pucara, Saksayhuamen (sexy women heh heh) and a Quechuan temple of water.

Strange observation: The old quechuan women here are teeny and, wearing top hats and puffy skirts, carry large loads from their fields into city centre. No idea how these women of about sixty descend the hills on foot into the city and then return up the hundreds of steep steps again after their wares have been sold.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Santiago - Chile

The Place: In the centre of Chile, I landed in it's capital Santiago wearing my Thai Coke shirt, boardies, and slops only too find what should have been obvious ... It's freezing in Chile! And my efforts in spanish? ... por nada! In the attempt to try and get transport, and arrange accomodation, and order a meal my eyes went cross-eyed and my spanish ... probably stayed with my warm clothes in England! I couldn't see the mountain because of the clouds and rain so I caught up some sleep (after 30 hours of travelling).

Some features: Woke up to clear skies and stepped outside not knowing what to expect!

Terraza Neptune - (an old fort where they fire a noon gun daily) gave me my first breathtaking discovery - the incredible view of the Andes, powdered in white, staged high above the city.

Plaza de armes - is surrounded by centuries-old churches and other buildings. Walked into 3 churches all of which had a service going. On the sides people visit the confession boxes, or cross themselves while praying to the huge and incredibly ornate icons of Mary, baby Jesus and other saints. Outside the churches smaller icons are sold on the street.

Mercado Central - famous for its busy fish markets and many surrounding restaurants. Having wondered through the market with many spanish invites to restaurants I picked one and successfully ordered a delicious meal of Reineta fish in castellano (Chilean Spanish).

Next I visited two art museums, Museo de Bellas Artes and Museo de Arte Contemporaneo. Chilean artists rock! They're really creative and original! Liked Pablo Dominguez' work.

After a coffee at Cafe Tomodachi Chillout I was wondering what next to do in Santiago Centro. While walking I saw a hill in the distance with a large statue of mother Mary. This chance find ended being a major attraction. Took a funicular (like a pulley tram)up the hill (about 485m) to the Mary statue which has yet another fantastic view of the city and its mountain. Following that a cable car (teleferico) which offered more moutain views from the other side of the hill. On my return the sun had set and now Mary was lit up for all of Santiago to see. The city lights looked awesome from up there.

Supper in the vacinity of the lively and bohemian part of Santiago - Barrio Bellavista made me proud. Award winning sentence - "un otro copa vino tinto per favor, estoy finito, esta delicio pero demasiado grande para mi¨" OK dont check my grammar, the waitress understood, yay.

Strange observation: People dont beg at the robots here, they juggle bowling pins for the stopping cars! There are loads of jugglers everywhere!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Kanchana Buri - Thailand

The place: Back to central Thailand for the last of our Thai adventures. Near Bangkok, inland, lies Kanchana Buri.
Some features: Went to Tiger Temple got to see and touch some magnificent beasts. The temple or sanctuary is very controlled so tourists are guided by the hand to get a photo taken by a select few tigers (not as adventurous as it seems, but awesome to get up close to them kitties).
Took a day trip which included the 7 tier Erawan waterfall which has many beautiful rock pools and waterfalls. Particularly impressive is the colour of the mountain water - turqoise and clear.
From there, Hellfire Pass museum. World war 2, the Japanese made 200000 asians and about 50000 POW's build a 415km railway track in +- 2 yrs which included rock cuttings in the mountain made by hand held equipment. 90000 asians died and 12800 POW's died in that time due to the brutality of the Japanese and severity of the conditions.
Saw Krasae caves (where bodies were stored) and took a ride on the Death railway train along a portion of the track still in use. Checked out the Bridge over the river Kwai (also part of the infamous rail project).
Took a Thai cooking course at apple guest house (hilarious as it was run by a lady boy) and useful, I can now make green curry!
Stayed in a floating house on the river Kwai at the River guest house. Very cool, the whole house bobs up and down as the floating disco's (Thai people singing awful karaoke on a disco pulled by a mini tugboat) pass you by.
Strange observation: Offerings ranging from milk, coke, incence, golden stickers, a lei of flowers, or little meals are offered to the shrines around Thailand (either a little buddha, a 4 armed elephant (Ganesh), or little house/temple shrines, which are in almost every second house, shop, hotel, tuk tuk, bus, tree - you name it!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Koh Tao - Thailand

The Place: Diver's paradise - Koh Tao used to be closed to non divers in peak season. We stayed at Noks place and Tiang Og beach.

Some features: In both places our room was right on the rocks next to the sea, in Tiang Og our balcony was suspended over the sea. This is a really beautiful island and not very busy either (apart from the PADI dive resorts). We did some snorkelling and rock jumping at Nok's place. Tried lit poi for the first time at night on the beach in Tiang Og. Enjoyed the beaches!

Strange observation: While swimming in the rock pools I saw some fish sun-tanning on a rock (which was being regularly washed over by the sea). I thought at first that they were washed up there and stuck on the rock but when I crept closer to them they all rapidly started hopping off the rock (about 15 of them).

Koh Pangang - Thailand

The place: After the party it was time to kick back, relax, and enjoy some chilled time on the beach. We spent some time at Baan Panburi, Chomlaklum and Haad Yao on Koh Pan - Ngang.
Some features: Renting a scooter to check out the other beaches of the island. Having an authentic thai massage on the beach of Haad Yao. Relaxing in a hammock to read.
Strange observation: That squishy thing you step on every now and then in the water - its a sea slug/cucumber.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Full Moon Party - Koh Pan-Ngang - Thailand

The Place: Haadrin beach on Koh Pan-Ngang for full moon party-till-u drop!! Having spent a relaxing day on the beach practicing a bit of poi, napping in the afternoon and getting some Thai red bull into the system - we prepped ourselves for a big night out!
Some features: The full moon party was awesome! The setting is a beach lit up by many beach club lights, fire shows, neon tattoos and glo stick clad party animals! Long tail boats bob about the shore having taxied the partiers from all about the island. The full moon lights the sky and the beach is littered with people. The drill thumping of a mix of rave music from the length of the beach sets the beach into its all night rhythm.
The People: Mostly beach goers painted head to toe in neon paint and tattoos, some in a dance trance, some passed out on the beach and some enjoying a bit of it all! All drinking buckets (a plastic beach bucket filled with a coke/sprite + red bull + whisky/vodka).
The experience: We paced ourselves well and having had a bucket or two walked the beach, watched some of the amazing poi and beach fire limbo dancing, danced beach style sokkie (heh heh) and soaked up the atmosphere till 4 in the morning.
Strange observation: A party where ANYTHING goes. Mother's close your childrens' eyes.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Krabi - Thailand

The Place: To complete the circle from Phuket and Phi Phi, we found ourselves on the mainland once more in Krabi. Having saturated our beach appetite on Phi Phi we decided to opt for another jungle adventure . . . with a difference.
Some features: No elephants nor bamboo rafting, this time kayaking through mangrove forests to secret lagoons (secret from the unpaying tourist). We ventured past monkeys who clambered on our canoes (and us), through caves, to monkey inhabited beaches and past the human bones of old vikings until reaching the sea.
Krabi also offered a fantastic place to stay where we jammed with the locals (drums, guitar and the egg (egg shaped shaker that is!)) singing both Thai and western songs.
We also enjoyed a stroll on its beautiful beach and excellent Thai cuisine. I'm now a Thai Green curry with Chicken addict.
Strange observation: Thank you in Thai is "Korp kun". If you're a male "Korp kun kap", a female "Korp kun ka" and if a ladyboy "Korp kun ha".

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Phi Phi Ley - Thailand

The Place: Next to Phi Phi Don Island (where we stayed) there lies Phi Phi Ley. On our second day in Phi Phi we took a ferry round the two islands (Don and Ley).
Some features: 1st stop - Maya beach (where 'The beach' was filmed). Very beautiful - we only stopped to take a pic. 2nd stop - around the corner from Maya is an incredible stop for snorkelling - many tropical fish. 3rd - Monkey beach where the many monkeys pose for the tourists, also snorkelling. 4th - Bamboo island - The feature of this island is that it has the most clear and turquoise water I've ever swum in - fantastic (and good snorkelling too).
Strange observation: If you drop a flipper it sinks. Cost of flipper 500 baht. Memories in Thailand - priceless.

Phi Phi Don - Thailand

The Place: Arriving on Phi Phi Island is like discovering paradise island! It has by far the most amazing beaches I've ever laid eyes on. I think I spent the first hour saying 'Wow' and then just staring at the view.
Some features: The ferry ride from phuket was awesome, you got to see the Phi Phi archipelego sticking up out of the blue ocean like toes out of bath water. Phi Phi is rustic, laid back, surrounded by bamboo huts, beach sand roads, palm trees and full of young tourists - no dodgy old men with thai ladies! It's an island for books on the beach, kayaking in the sea, wading in the shallow warm water and cocktails on the beach.
Slightly on the different side: Though the vibe is rustic and relaxed, there are a few bars, one of which offers the chance for tourists to try there hand at Muay thai. Low and behold, Anneli got challenged by a canadian tourist. She accepted the challenge and heh heh what a fight!! It was brilliant and Anneli beat the crap out of the unsuspecting challenger! (It was all safe though - they wore head protection and all) Anyway bets were made and the crowds were well entertained!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Phuket - Thailand

The Place: Down south to the beaches! Phuket is a mix. On the one hand the beaches are great, and on the other hand its a real city club vibe. In Phuket we stayed on Patong Beach which is really commercial. It's lined with deck chairs (not a space in between) and there's loads of parasailing, jetskiing etc..
Cool features: We made good use again of rent-a-motorbike! Yeah! So much fun, we took a scooter to the other beaches of Phuket(much less commercial)starting with our frisbee fruit breakfast (cashews, fruit, and yoghurt mixed together on a frisbee) on Karon beach, had a swim on the amazing Kata beach, lunch at Kata Noi (incl. famous banana pancakes), then trip to view point (where you can see the beaches on our trip), body surfing at Nai Harn beach, sundowners at small view point, then back to Patong beach.
One highlight was in the evening we were scooting to Karon beach at 1:45am looking for a place to watch world cup when we got caught in a shower. We were soaked to the bone but managed to dry off enough with the wind from the drive before sitting down to watch the game.
Strange observation: I was shocked to see the amount of middle aged men with young thai women, and walking the city its just show girl/strip & pick-up joints. We found some cool places to go out though, played some pool, watched some live bands and caught some footy (at 2am over here - saw France beat Portugal).