Spanish Travels: Part 3

Welcome back my darlings! I know what you must be thinking… she left us for two months and now she’s hitting us two posts in one week! And yes you are correct, when the motivation strikes and the workload finally minimizes you bet I’m going to take advantage of it. So let’s get back to the story!

After an amazing few days in Malaga and saying goodbye to our AirBnB host which was more like a cool aunt, we made our way to the beautiful city of Granada. Granada is a city where people are great, the architecture is spectacular, the views amazing, and where the bees will win the fight you for your food (more on the bees later).

The great thing about Granada is that if you are already visiting Malaga, then Granada is just a short bus ride away. So purchase that bus ticket and let’s get going. My best friend and I had only two full days to enjoy this city and man did we pack in a lot. On the first day our first stop was Basilica of San Juan de Dios. As someone who has seen so many religious buildings in my travels, this one in left me particularly impressed. Honestly, I don’t understand why this place doesn’t get more hype. According to Lonely Planet, this historic basilica was built between 1737 and 1759 and is known for this beautiful baroque decor. This place was true perfection with its gold embellishments and fresco paintings. As if this wasn’t reason enough to visit enough, let’s get into the spooky factor. Anyone who knows me by now, knows I am still not over the fact Halloween is over. I live for the spooky factor and this basilica had just that. With the dim lighting, deep tones of red and brown, and human skulls on display (yea you heard me right), it was certified spooky. Add in the random doors that are painted over and bolted, and we are having a good time. Time to get spooky!

After our spooky adventures and visiting Granada Cathedral, my friend and I made our way in search of Palacio de Dar al Horra. One thing I loved about Malaga and Granada was the Islamic influence found all over the two cities. This palace was a prime example of this. It is a 15th century palace which was the home to Aixa, the mother of a Moorish sultan named Boabdil. For those trying to find this palace, note that its entrance is hidden in an alleyway so be sure to ask some locals to point you to it to avoid wandering aimlessly like my friend and I did.

After finally got our lives together we found the place we were looking for and man were we grateful. It was like finding water in the desert, once we found this place. The Palacio de Dar al Horra has phenomenal views which overlooked the city below and its greenery. Due to it being one of the lesser known attractions in Granada, my best friend and I had lots of space to move freely throughout the residence and admire the Spanish- Islamic architecture. After some time, it was time to move on to El Bañuelo (Arab baths).

According to Go2Alhambra website, it is the oldest and best preserved Arab public bath in Andalusia and dates back to the 11th century. It was not only an important place to wash up, but to maintain social ties. When entering the chambers, take a moment to admire the striking pillars and arches. As you look above you, it is here that you will fall in love. Above your head, light filters in from star shaped cut outs in the ceiling. It truly makes for a magical experience.

After this it was getting late and we were getting hungry, it was here I was about to lose a battle to a swarm of bees. As we went on the hunt for food, we stumbled upon the Paseo de los Tristes. The Paseo de los Tristes is a street full of life and adventure with shops and restaurants lining the walkways and musicians performing in the great outdoors. This walkway is situated below Alhambra palace and so while you are enjoying your meal and entertainment, one only needs to look up to see the magnificent fortress complex we would be visiting the next day. It was almost a perfect ending to the day, until the bees came to attack. My first mistake was that I ordered honey glazed chicken. After getting a few bites of my meal, the bees honed in on the scent of sweetness and sure enough they began to arrive. As my best friend and I tried to gently shoo them away, they were not giving up without a fight. Eventually, it was too much and I had to surrender my meal to them. It’s a sad day when you’re a grown ass woman who can’t stand up to bees. I’m telling you though, those bees were something else. My best friend swears one bee even tried to breakdance in front of us just to gloat. So do yourself a favour, head down to the Paseo de los Tristes, but for the love of God do not order the honey glazed chicken. You’ll thank me later.


Stay tuned for our trip to the Alhambra Palace complex and my adventures in Barcelona.

Spanish Travels: Part 2

It’s been awhile and man have I missed you. But like some relationships in your life, sometimes you just need some space. That is not to say that I have given up on you, but rather I have been off pursuing a diploma in college. That’s right, your girl is back in school! As a result, my time has been occupied with assignments, but I can never forgot you. How can I? You are the one who has allowed me to keep this dream alive. By reading my posts, you the reader has kept me going. So thank you and let’s continue where we left off, shall we?

When I last left you, we were in the beautiful city of Malaga, admiring its botanical gardens and caves which are said to be filled of treasure. This was not the end of my journey in Malaga, however, but rather there was two more whole days in this beautiful city! So let’s get into what it is we did during the rest of our trip.

  1. Alcazaba de Malaga
    This beautiful fortress dates back to the Hammumid dynasty in the early 11th century. It’s name meaning “citadel” in Arabic. The Alcazaba is built on a hill in the center of the city and what makes this fortress so astounding is that it is not only a visual representation of Arabic influence and power, but of Roman influence which came centuries before. Adjacent to the Alcazaba one can see The Roman Theater which predates the fortress and is a relic of its era. As someone fascinated by history, I am always amazed by the footprint those before us left behind and the Alcazaba is one of those footprints you will not want to miss.
  2. Castillo de Gibralfaro
    Now, if you are already visiting the Alcazaba then chances are you will buy a joint ticket to check this fortress as well. After walking up a hill for what seemed like eternity and taking stops to enjoy the view of the bay (and so my asthmatic self wouldn’t collapse), we finally made up to the top of the hill and reached the Castillo de Gibralfaro. Upon reaching the castle, my friend and I walked along the castle walls and enjoyed the green shrubbery this castle was adorned with. It was a nice little stop, but if you are someone who struggles with uphill climbs, I would advice you to take a tourist bus or taxi to reach this destination. Trust me, you will thank me.
  3. Museu Picasso Malaga
    Now, I’m going to be real with you that this museum is great if you actually like Picasso. If you are like me, who never really understood the whole cubism thing, you may want to skip out on this place as it tends to be overcrowded and is quite pricey. For all you Picasso lovers out there, rest assured there are a lot of sculptures and paintings to make your heart fill with joy. As an added bonus, the architecture of this museum is absolutely beautiful and with my best friend dressed to impress (seriously this girl is a straight up model) , her photos came out amazing! So Picasso lovers out there, go see your boo. But for the rest of you all, maybe think twice.

4. Playa de la Malagueta
And finally, just relax. You’ve worked hard. You’ve killed yourself saving up for this trip and it is time to stop running around and just enjoy the beautiful weather in Spain. Vacation is not always about running around like a chicken without head, but rather it is about being in the moment. And so, sink your feet in the sand and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin as you close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the waves hitting the shore. This is why you came to Spain! And so, on our final day in Malaga, this is what we did. Breathe in…. breathe out. This is happiness.

Travelling in Portugal: Part 2

After traversing the streets of Lisbon and Sintra it was time to head on over to Lagos, Portugal to continue our adventure. Lagos is a town in the Algarve region in southern Portugal known for its precarious cliffs and gorgeous beaches. And so, it was only natural that when we arrived our first stop was Praia do Camilo. As we descended the sandy steps, we were greeted by a golden sandy beach and beautiful aquamarine waters. While the slightly chilly Atlantic water took some getting used to, it was the perfect remedy for our tired aching bodies and the scorching heat.


After soaking in the sun and stuffing our faces at the beach bar, we strolled around the small town where small market stalls were situated near the beach offering souvenirs and apparel. After this, an Uber took us to one of the main highlights of this gorgeous town: Ponta da Piedade. One thing to note is that while we did use Uber while there, it is not be relied on in this beautiful town as there are few drivers which results in incredibly long wait times or the inability to book an Uber to reach your destination. Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to end up walking to the bus station when you’re running late. The unexpected happens and that sometimes means walking the streets of Lagos with one sandal on and regretting the fact you wore a black sweater in 30 degree heat. Trust me on this one. Walking on the barefoot on the pavement is far from comfortable. Save yourself the stress and get the number of the local taxi.

Now, where were we? Ah, yes Ponta da Piedade. If you want to experience the full extent of Ponta da Piedade’s beauty consider booking one of the many boat tours found in town. In doing so, you will be able to get a better look at all the hidden coves of these gorgeous cliffs and rock formations while cruising the sparkling waters. Don’t want to spend money on this? Fret not. Head on over to the viewpoint instead where you will still be able to admire the beauty of the cliffs and their assortment of colours. Nature truly is a force to be reckoned with and these cliffs are a testament to that with its various shapes and sizes sculpted by the elements.  Staring down from the top of these cliffs will leave you in awe while simultaneously giving you goosebumps as you stare down below from the sharp precipices at the unforgiving waters below.

And with that friends, we concluded our visit in Lagos. After heading back to our AirBnB and then grabbing a quick meal, we were onto our next adventure.  Portugal had welcomed us with open arms but alas it was time to leave its comforting embrace and discover all that Spain had to offer.

Travelling in Portugal: Part 1

Growing up in Canada and particularly in the areas I attended school, I was constantly surrounded by Portuguese people. After seeing photos of their hometowns and hearing the experience of various coworkers and old classmates, I decided that a trip to Portugal was long overdue. And so, in mid-August of last year I decided to head over to Portugal’s beautiful capital, Lisbon.  Below I will break down all the things to do in Lisbon and its surrounding areas.

1. Tower of Belem

Want to visit a 16th century tower once used as a lookout to protect Lisbon? Look no further than the Tower of Belem. Situated at the mouth of the Tagus River, this beautiful 16th century tower offers beautiful architectural design and instagram worthy backgrounds. If you are planning to head there during peak season (July-August), do yourself a favour and buy your ticket in advance to enjoy everything this little tower has to offer without the two hour wait. If you have time, make sure to visit Jeronimo Monastery complete with beautiful gardens and more stunning architecture.

Tower of Belem photos 

Jeronimo Monastery in the background 

2. The Berardo Collection Museum

While we unfortunately did not have the chance to visit the museum as it was closed during our time in the area,  this museum is a must with works from Picasso, Bacon, Warhol and many other famous artists. If you’re looking to save a couple of dollars, visit the Berardo Collection Museum on Saturday when it is free all day to the public. After your visit, relax on the museum’s terrace and enjoy the sweet sunshine.

3. Bairro Alto

Hey there foodies and cocktail aficionados, don’t forget to check out Bairro Alto before you leave Lisbon. This eclectic neighborhood has got your back for all your food and drink needs. Want to enjoy a night out without frequenting a nightclub? Check out PARK bar in Bairro Alto. This bar was recommended by our Uber driver and is a rooftop bar that is situated on top of a parking garage. It will make you feel like your sneaking into a speakeasy during prohibition.  With beautiful views of the city and great drinks it cannot be missed. To make the most of your visit to PARK bar, arrive early to get a great seat with a view as this place fills up fast!

Not the best view from PARK bar, but the only photo I took that night 

4. Day trip to Sintra

During one of my days staying in Lisbon, we made a day trip to Sintra. The trip is easily accessible via train which can be taken from Rossio station or Estação do Oriente. If you can, consider making this a two day trip as there is so much to see and so little time. Our two main stops during our visit to Sintra was Castelo dos Mouros and Pena National Palace. Castelo dos Mouros is a beautiful medieval hilltop castle and a UNESCO Heritage Site which will offer you the refreshing mountain air that us city folks are always grateful for. After this, head on over to Pena National Palace, a beautiful colourful masterpiece and also home to an immense national park. Have more time in Sintra? Visit Quinta da Regaleria estate in Sintra. While we did not get a chance to see it, the photos I have seen from acquaintances who have gone are phenomenal. It is truly like living in a fairy tale. Before heading back to Lisbon, take a moment to sit down and enjoy a glass a wine at one of the many restaurants with a view overlooking the city. Nothing better than sitting down and enjoying a glass of sangria after walking all day long.

5. Day trip to Portinho da Arrábida or Cascais

After a long night partying in the city of Lisbon, our final day in Lisbon was spent in Praia do Creoro (Portinho da Arrábida); a beautiful beach situated in a national park in the small town of Setubal. With crystalline waters surrounded by magnificent limestone cliffs, it was absolutely spectacular. Be sure to make the most of your visit by arriving early and hiking the beautiful park. For those who are not renting a car,  consider visiting Cascais instead which is more easily accessible by transit routes. While it does not offer the amazing lush green landscape of Portinho da Arrabida, it will be the little beach getaway you need away from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon.

Whatever you end up doing friends, know that Portugal is the hidden gem you wish you knew about sooner. With its pristine beaches, gorgeous architecture, delicious food, and friendly people there is so much to love about this great little country. But the adventure is not over yet, stay tuned for my next stop to Lagos, Portugal where there is more fun in the sun to be had. Until next time!

Six More Tips and Tricks for Your Next Holiday

Hey guys,

After spending some time talking to one of my closest friends about my experiences travelling, I realize that my tips and tricks did not end with my previous Top Ten post and so I here I am continuing to share my wisdom. Whether you are a solo traveler or travelling with a group of friends, let me help you navigate your way around the world.

1. Download an offline map on your cellular device before heading abroad

During one of my first trips abroad, a friend I was with had downloaded an offline map to help her navigate the country we were in. Before this, I never knew there was such thing as an offline map and was astounded by this information. And so, my advice to you is to consider downloading one before taking off. With the rise of technology these days, there are a wide range of offline maps available.Not only do these maps offer the lay of the land but are also able to give you directions on how to get to and from places. My app of choice: Maps.Me. What makes this app superior to the rest is it is your one stop shop for offline maps spanning the globe. Thus, if you are planning on visiting multiple locations on your trip simply download the app and the offline map for each country and you are ready to go!  No flipping through multiple applications on your device!

2. Get an external battery case/pack for your phone

We all know that dreaded moment when you’re travelling and having fun, and suddenly your phone dies. Not only are you now left with no means to capture the scenery that surrounds you, but you have also lost your means of communication and means to navigate the city (offline map mentioned above). The solution: an external battery pack.  For those wondering where to purchase such things, Amazon offers a broad selection, as well as your local Costco, or electronic stores. While I am guilty of not having an external battery pack, I have in more than one occasion kicked myself because of it. As a female traveler, it definitely provides you with a peace of mind when traversing the streets abroad.

3.  Heading to a country that doesn’t speak your language? Don’t fret. Google Translate is coming to your rescue…most of the time. 

If you are heading to a country in which you are worried about travelling to due to the language barrier, do yourself a favour and download the offline official language of the place you are visiting. Now while we all know that Google Translate isn’t perfect at translations, something is better than nothing. If the country your visiting has an entirely different alphabet, do not abandon ship. Rather, if you find yourself lost in a foreign country, visit a tourism office, hotel, or currency exchange business where more often than not there will be someone who speaks English.  So, take a breath, calm down, and look around for the following establishments. Do not let your fear of the language barrier keep you from travelling. If I can do it, so can you.

4. Opt for shorter tours rather than lengthy week long tours 

My advice is often to do as I say, and not what I do. And so, while I am incredibly guilty of purchasing longer tours,  it is not the most time efficient means to see all the sights in a country. The reason being is usually on these tours you spend a lot of time on buses and/or boats and have shorter periods of times to check out the cities you are visiting. That being said, the positive aspects of week long tours is the sense of comradery that is created among travelers. During my travels, I have participated in two group tours and while I do wish we did have more time checking out certain sights or were able to arrive earlier, I would not change my decision to go on a group tour.  That being said, if you are more concerned with seeing sights then consider opting for shorter tours instead and doing more individual travel.  In doing so, will maximize your time visiting the sights on your list while having a taste of the comradery among travelling strangers.

5. Do not let fear stop you from travelling alone 

As I mentioned in my previous posts, after my friend unfortunately could not join my tour in Greece I made the decision to head to Greece alone.  So how did I survive?  Just breathe. Travelling alone, especially as a female was absolutely terrifying. As I sat there boarding my flight, all I could think about was every goddamn news headline about violence towards women across the globe and atrocities committed to us. Do not let that fear stop you. Now let me ask you something? Wherever you live currently, Have you not faced unpleasant experiences and found yourself in dodgy areas every now then? And yet, here you are. Breathing and living.  Do you spend every waking minute of your daily life fearing everyone who shares a sidewalk with you? No.  So, take that leap of faith and head on out there. For those who are afraid of getting lost, consider doing your first solo trip with a tour group (I know I’m contradicting my previous point here). The website TourRadar allows you to compare and purchase tours across the globe run by various tour operators.  I have had nothing but positive experiences using them and would highly recommend utilizing their services. Want to bite the bullet and go completely solo? Consider staying in hostels.  Whereas hotels can often leave you feeling isolated, hostels are great in that you will meet other travelers like yourself who you can easily bond with. Furthermore, many hostels offer a variety of tours and events to help you mingle with travelers and make friends abroad. Whatever you decide, just take the leap and go for it!

4. Looking for suggestions and a free place to stay? Check out Couchsurfing.

This platform offers travelers a space to ask locals questions about the best places to visit in the country they are travelling to. Not only this, but as the name suggests Couchsurfing  provides a platform for travelers with a shoestring budget to meet locals willing to offer a place to stay for little to no cost.  The great thing about this app is as more people stay with these hosts, references are added to their profile to ensure they are a safe and good host. While I have not used the following app, I have met many travelers abroad who rely on this app and have had great success.

5. For the love of God, get travel insurance.

I know, I know. What are the odds that something will happen to you while on vacation, right? Well as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.  And so, do yourself a favour and get yourself some travel insurance. You never know what will happen while zip lining cloud forests, hiking mountains, and visiting sanctuaries or simply walking down the street. Although I only had to use my travel insurance once while abroad it was at that moment I realized how important my insurance was. Furthermore, nowadays many travel credit cards already include travel insurance with them so consider getting a travel credit card to save yourself some major bucks. Those looking to get some serious protection? Look no further than WorldNomads. While many travel insurance companies only offer protection in regards to basic activities, trip interruptions, and personal belongings, WorldNomads can be customized to protect you during all your adrenaline fueled activities.  Whatever travel insurance company you choose, stay safe my friends!

6. Bring an extra credit card with you and inform your bank of your travel plans

Now, here is the thing.  You never know what might happen when you go on vacation and sometimes that might mean that one credit card you didn’t think would get lost or stolen is now out of your possessions.  As a result, you are now left with only the spending cash you brought with you and no emergency fund. As a result, I strongly urge you to consider bringing two credit cards on vacation. Before doing this, however, make sure to inform your bank of your travel plans. I know a lot of banks nowadays state this is no longer necessary due to them being able to recognize your patterns of spending but take the two extra seconds and let them know. As someone who was told two days before a trip that my credit card has been compromised and I was almost left without a backup plan, trust me when I say you will want one.







Costa Rican Adventures: Part One

After my travels in Asia, my plan was to delve directly into my trip to Spain and Portugal. However, after my most recent trip to Costa Rica, it seems only right that I start with Costa Rica instead. The reason for this switch is simple. You see, as someone who often encourages others to see the positive things in life, I found myself in a slump. I was in other words, not practicing what I was preaching. And then, came Costa Rica. Prior to heading to Costa Rica, I knew very little about the country other than it was absolutely beautiful with its lush green rainforests, sandy beaches, and exotic wildlife. This was the reason I had hopped on the plane to Costa Rica, but what I had fallen in love with even more was the Tico way of life encapsulated by the term “Pura Vida.”

This popular term used in Costa Rica, translates to “The Pure Life” or “Simple Life”. It is a saying to represent a relaxed view in life, a reminder to go with the ebbs and flows of life and focus on the little joys and not let the negative moments bring you down. This is not to say that Ticos do not experience hardships. After all, it is still a developing country with poverty to be seen in many places but the lesson to be learned from Ticos is to make the most of your situation. And so, my goal for these posts about Costa Rica are simple. What I hope to do is provide an accurate depiction of my time there, how this “Pura Vida” lifestyle was evident in everyday life and how the people there are some of the kindest individuals you will ever meet. And so, without further ado, let us delve into my time in Costa Rica.

Day 1 (San Jose)

I have mentioned various times that what Canada lacks (especially in the big city) is that we have forgotten how to communicate with one another. While Canadians are known to be polite, politeness should not be seen as synonymous with friendliness. We will more than happily help you with directions but beyond that, Canadians have become wary of strangers. Remaining closed off within their own microscopic friend groups and suspicious of when strangers start random conversations with you. Costa Rica was the entirely opposite as the story that will unfold will reveal.

After arriving in San Jose and settling in, my time in San Jose was primarily limited to looking for restaurants and getting dinner. After some research on my friend’s part, we discovered that establishments with the name “Soda” which is Costa Rican for diner, offer typical Costa Rican cuisine on a budget. And so, we began our hunt for these diners. After passing many overpriced American restaurants, we finally found our saving grace “Soda Yogui’s.” If you have the chance to head down here, you will not regret it. As mentioned, Ticos are not afraid to make random conversations and are generally very welcoming. Our server at this diner was just that. Not only were we blessed with great service but great conversation. One thing I love about the locals, is how reassuring they are when you attempt to speak Spanish. As someone whose Spanish could use some work, it was nice to not feel embarrassed about messing up. As we ate our dinner, we spoke to the waiter about language, his name, and he even helped us work on our Spanish speaking skills and in return he showed off some of the few words he knew in Mandarin (the friend I was travelling with was Chinese). This was my introduction to Costa Rica. While I was not a fan of San Jose, as big cities have never been my favourite, the experience that day at the diner solidified that this trip was the right choice and that helped ensure our vacation started off on a positive note. As we finished our dinner and bid our farewells, we headed back to our hostel and went to bed to prepare for the real start of our vacation tomorrow. Next destination: Quepos.

Day 2-3 (Quepos)

The next day, we were off bright and early to Quepos via public transportation. If you are a budget traveller like myself, the good thing about Costa Rica is the affordability of bus routes to get to different cities and towns. The cost to get to Quepos (8 USD). Quepos was a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of San Jose, and is home to the magnificent Manuel Antonio National Park (a quick 30 min bus ride from the main bus station and costs about 50 cents). Something about travelling is that you need to be prepared for the unexpected, always. Upon arriving to Quepos, my friend and I decided that walking up to our accommodations would be perfectly fine. It was definitely not fine. With unpaved roads to our accommodations, we struggled to drag our carry on suitcases up the road. Dripping in sweat, we had vastly underestimated how rough the road was and after not even walking 1/3 up the hill to our accommodation, we were exhausted. Luckily for us, the gods were on our side. As from the moment we decided that our decision was a poorly made one, a shuttle van from another hotel drove up the road and offered us assistance. Despite being wary , we accepted the help, and thank God we did. After entering the car and getting a lift we realized we had a very long way to go. This genuine act of kindness with no expectation in return only validated that I had made the right decision to come to Costa Rica. As we hopped off the van in front of our accommodations and thanked the driver a multitude of times, he simply turned to us and said “Pura Vida” and wished us a great vacation.

After settling in, we headed out to enjoy our first day out of two in Quepos. For those wishing to visit Manuel Antonio National Park, my advice is to go early as the park closes at 4 pm with the last admission being at 3 pm. Due to it already being almost 2 pm when we arrived at the National Park and figured out where the heck to go to buy tickets to enter the park, we opted instead to head to the beach right beside the national park. And so, we made like the Ticos do and decided to go with the flow and hang out on the beach instead. Although the weather did not hold up for very long, after our very long and sweaty journey to arrive at our hostel, relaxing on the beach was the perfect way to spend our first day in Quepos. Sometimes things happen for a reason, right?

After lounging at the beach, it was time to head back to avoid the real storm that was about to hit and so we went on a hunt to grab some food. Looking for good food in Quepos ? Check out Soda Sanchez, not only did I have incredibly delicious quesadillas but it also became our saving grace from the storm. One thing to be mindful of Costa Rica, be prepared for all types of weather. While it may be sunny when you head out, you may be caught in a heavy rainstorm. With a front row view of the storm, we enjoyed the sounds of the torrential downpour under the safety of the restaurant. After finishing our food and the storm passed, we headed back to our accommodations where we met some great travellers from the United States. One thing I love about travelling, is how it eliminates barriers and brings people together. As we sat on the terrace, we spoke to our fellow travellers who had done the hikes in Manuel Antonio that day and who offered great advice on navigating the national park. We discussed our work situations, laughed about our similar predicaments, and gushed over the beautiful sights they had seen that day. It was a great end to the day, and in making conversation we not only relished in our shared experiences but were armed with how to make the most of our time in Quepos. It may have not been an action packed day, but it was a perfect day! Life was good!

The next day, after being told to wake up early to see the sunrise I was up at 5 in the morning in preparation. I eagerly awaited for the sun to rise and for hues of pinks and orange to fill the morning sky. I waited and waited patiently, however the cloudy morning had other plans for me. Despite the lack of an epic sunrise, the peace was worth the early morning wake up. What I did get to experience instead was the birds beginning to awaken, the fresh morning air against my face, a frog resting on the terrace, and just being able to immerse myself in nature for one suspended moment in time. With this peace of mind it would set my friend and I up for our grand adventure hiking through the national park.

After eating a quick breakfast and taking selfies in front of the Quepos sign, it was time to hop on the bus to Manuel Antonio National Park. Once arriving to Manuel Antonio, we paid our 16 USD entry fee for foreigners to enter the park. Want to know which will give you the biggest bang for your buck? They are as followed: Sendero Mirador, Sendero Perezoso, and Sendero Playa Gemelas. For those wondering whether to get a guide, the choice is yours. For a budget conscious traveller, we opted out of the guided tour and were content with our decision. That being said, if you want to see animals high up in the trees (specifically the sloths), guides are your biggest chance of seeing these creatures as the guides are equipped with telescopes to see these creatures. The downside to these tours is they often only take you on the main trail, and as a result you will not have a chance to go on Sendero Mirador and witness the beauty from the top. The choice is yours, but regardless of what you choose the park is worth the visit. My advice, go early and avoid the crowds!

As you walk through the park, you will run across monkeys, sloths if you’re lucky, raccoons, crabs, and various kinds of birds and reptiles. Furthermore, the trails are well designed and informative providing travellers with information regarding the flora and fauna in the park, explaining defense systems of plants, animal habits and diets, and uses of plants found in the park. Walking through the park felt a little bit like being in a nature documentary with the guided signs acting as commentary on the sights around you. Our favourite hike was the Sendero Mirador trail. Coming off the main trail of the park, this trail leads up to the highest point in the park to a stunning viewpoint of the beach below. While it does require a bit of fitness to hike up, there are a few benches along the way and it is a hike that is worth the struggle. Make sure to head all the way up to Punta Serrucho for the best view in the park.

After reaching the top of Punta Serrucho, the view was breathtaking. As we reached the top of Punta Serrucho, due to it being fairly early there was only a few people at the top and as a result we could appreciate the view in silence. After taking photos, we talked to a couple of friends who were seated on the bench next to us. One who was working in Costa Rica and discussed the life there, reality versus people’s perceptions of Costa Rica, what we did and how we knew our travel buddy, and had in depth conversations about holistic medicine. We discussed briefly about cultural differences between Americans and Europeans (the girl in question being French) and it was so great to just sit down and have a calm conversation with random strangers. A point in our conversation which stood out most was in regards to photo taking. Whereas, we took multiple photos to get the right angle, the French friends pointed out playfully that the photos were set up to make us as the focal point rather than the scenery. As a running joke, when another tourist came by, one of the Frenchies was asked to take a photo of said individual and asked “do you want a lot of landscape or a lot of you,” to which the four of us broke out in hysterics. It was nice to have an honest conversation and be made aware of something we don’t always realize. While there is nothing wrong with encapsulating the moments you experience with photos, it was a reminder to let the moment take priority over an instagram worthy photo and so we did just that. We sat down, relaxed, laughed, and just let the sun beam down on us while admiring the picturesque greenery, sunny skies, and crystalline waters.

After relaxing at the viewpoint for sometime, we carried on our adventure where we ran into hermit crabs and various lizards scurrying through the park before finally heading to Manuel Antonio Beach to soak up the sun and rest our tired achy bodies. It was a great way to reward ourselves for the long hike. With the sun beaming down on our bodies, the warm sand beneath our feet, and the sound of waves crashing against the shore, life was good.

Something important to note is for travellers heading to the beach, be wary of the monkeys and raccoons, who have learned to steal backpacks for food. While we did not experience any issues, I did witness some monkeys looking for food on the beach in the distance. Luckily for us, we were not bothered on that day.

As our beach day came to an end, we headed back on the trail to the exit where we witnessed a whole bunch of capuchin monkeys hanging about the trees. It was a phenomenal view and one I was most grateful for.

After leaving the park and grabbing a bite to eat, we headed home with the satisfaction that our time spent in Quepos had been thoroughly enjoyed. You know you’ve had a good day, when you sing in your room not caring who hears and that is exactly what I did. So my advice to you, is that if you are visiting Costa Rica make sure to include Quepos on your itinerary and soak up every moment of happiness and joy while there.

Thailand Travels: The Grand Finale

So, the last time we spoke you probably thought we had moved past Thailand as we had gone to Cambodia. Well, my dear readers you are quite mistaken. After our visit in Cambodia had concluded, it was time to return back to The Land of Smiles. Our next stop on the Thailand tour: Phuket.

Now here’s the thing, if you’re headed to Phuket during the New Years, take my advice and stay near Patong Beach or Karon Beach. The reason being is if you choose to stay in Phuket town, it will be very, I mean very deserted as it almost altogether shuts down for the holidays. That being said, just because you shouldn’t stay there does not mean you shouldn’t visit it. For those with children out there, this one is for you. The town is not only decorated in colourful buildings, unique graffiti art, but is also the home the Phuket Trickeye Museum, perfect for the kiddies. The museum is filled with optical illusions and is a perfect way to tire out rambunctious children. After the museum, its time for the adults to relax. Check out the China Inn Cafe for a cute garden oasis with delicious food at great prices. In short, Phuket Town is the perfect relaxing start to your stay in Phuket. After Phuket Town, head on over to the Phi Phi Islands for an island paradise before finishing off your stay near Karon or Patong beach.

Phi Phi Islands

And so, the next day, we headed towards the docks and boarded a boat to the Phi Phi Islands. This group of islands is truly a backpacker’s paradise. The small island is full of stalls selling scuba lessons and on the dock there are several boats to be rented to check out the famous Maya Bay (from the movie “The Beach), Monkey Beach, and Viking Caves (you pass by the caves, no cave exploration here ) and finish off the day with some snorkeling. And so, on the first day that is exactly what we did. After deep frying ourselves in the sun it was time to go on this boat tour to check out these sites. I’m going to be real honest, in that if you aren’t a fan of the movie The Beach, Maya Bay is going to look about as interesting as any other beach. Furthermore, please note going to Monkey Beach does not guarantee you will monkeys. Shocking, eh ? That said, if you are still determined to see the monkeys there are many people who have seen them. Unfortunately, myself as well as another unfortunate soul I met on my travels, were not so lucky. And so, my advice to you is this. If you are anything like myself, skip the Maya Bay and Monkey Beach tour and just enjoy the beach on the Phi Phi Don. Participate in some of the underwater activities such as the scuba diving and I assure you will not be disappointed. In addition to the multitude of water sports, the island is full of small stalls to buy cute trinkets and delicious food. Want to know a good place for drinks and appetizers ? Check out “The Beach Bar” , the bar is decked out is glow graffiti art and offers board games while you eat. Quesadillas and Jenga , together ?! Anyone who knows me, knows that place was practically made for me. Furthermore, a trip to Phi Phi would not be complete without checking out the viewpoint.

I should warn you that to reach this viewpoint, it requires quite a bit of physical fitness. As someone who works out casually, it was still an arduous trek but the view…. worth every moment of suffering.From the top, the whole island spreads out before you, pristine greenery enveloping the beautiful shimmering aqua waters. It was this moment I enjoyed the most during my visit to the islands and I was glad we had stayed the extra few hours to have time to do. Monkeys or no monkeys, Phi Phi was breathtaking.

Phi Phi viewpoint

Return to Phuket – Patong Beach

After enjoying the island paradise, it was time to return back to Phuket where we could spend the remainder of our trip. For those who are looking to party, Patong Beach is the place to a be. However, be forewarned that partying here is no joke and it is an all in event. Thus, for those with children I recommend staying near Karon Beach which not only is a much cleaner beach but a quieter one. Whatever lifestyle you live, Phuket has got you covered.

Now before we conclude this journey, it would be an injustice to not mention my trip aboard Simba Sea Trips. This was an all day boat adventure in which we visited coves, allowed for snorkeling, canoeing, cave exploration, a visit to Phang Na Bay (James Bond island), and lastly a visit to Koh Panyi ( a fishing village built on the water). Out of all my adventures in Thailand, this and my time at the elephant sanctuary were in a close tie with one another. Whereas cities like Phuket have lost alot of authenticity due to becoming a large tourist hub, especially the area around Patong beach, Koh Panyi was there to bring an authentic experience back. A village isolated from everyone else, it thrives on its on ingenuity and fishing and what struck me as fascinating was whereas many parts of Thailand practice Buddhism, Koh Panyi was majority Muslim.The biggest sign of their ingenuity is the village itself built on water and a floating soccer stadium (you heard that right). After being immersed in a tourist hub for a few days, Koh Panyi was the perfect experience to get back to basics. In addition to this, the tour included a canoeing trip which allowed us to be immersed with nature, the only noise around us, the sound of paddles wading through the water. This day trip away from Phuket was the perfect way to end our trip and a day I will never forget.The people in charge of the tour exceeded all expectations and left me with nothing but fond memories.

Final Thoughts

My final day with Simba Sea Trips was the perfect way to end my long arduous journey through Asia. During my time in this great continent, I learned so much not only about its inhabitants but myself as well. China taught me to appreciate the incredible differences between cultures and taught me to do my part to help eliminate these barriers even at the expense of being uncomfortable with speaking my second language. It taught me to be open to new things and foods, and allowed me to experience the joy in rising early and enjoying time just being present. In Thailand, I learned to fall in love with life again and immerse myself in another culture’s celebrations and religious beliefs. Thailand also taught me to take a moment to appreciate everything in life and the beauty around you and I fell in love with its landscapes. And lastly, Cambodia. Being in a country that less than half a century ago was torn apart by massacres and seeing their resilience, taught me to evaluate my own problems in my life and recognize the things I have the power to change and the things I cannot and to keep a positive outlook even in the face of adversity . It was a life-changing experience and a trip I will cherish forever.