Costa Rica (late, late, late post)

April 25, 2017

Wow it’s already April and I haven’t written a blog post since November. Which, I should have because I visited another country that month! This time I decided to dabble in Central America with my boyfriend. We flew into Liberia Airport in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. After being re-inspired by reading my blog posts from my Europe travels, I decided again to tell you about my amazing trip to Latin America.

Thursday, Nov 3

Today would be a day of constant travel. Our first flight was to LAX, where we would catch another flight to Liberia. Nothing newsworthy went on during our flight other than EFF AIRPORT FOOD. I’m starting to learn how to travel smart and that means downloading movies to my iPad ahead of time, since Southwest doesn’t have any person TV’s we’re all used to in those luxury airlines. We arrived in Liberia around 9-10pm, they’re only an hour ahead. I arranged a taxi with my AirBnB host, which was nice actually since the hecklers outside of the airport were a bit intimidating and annoying, trying to probably scam us with a ride to our destination.

Our driver didn’t know much English, I tried to tell him “thank you for waiting” since our flight to Liberia was delayed a bit and we got there later than we’d hoped. All he could say in response to us was “pura vida”, that was the first time I would hear the Costa Rican infamous moto, but I was confused as to why he was saying it as a response. (Note: come to find out later, it can be used in response to things like “how are you” and is more of a term like “no problem” or “my pleasure”.) We were exhausted on our ride to our hotel but we couldn’t help but notice the Costa Rican driving: although it was dark, we saw that most of the main roads were only one way; if you were going slow you would be passed very quickly; Costa Rican drivers are really good at stopping on a dime and navigating their roads; the non-paved roads are very bumpy (since it’s the rainy season and littered with potholes); and these drivers are very confident even though it’s stormy as hell, hard to see, and rainy AF (that’s ‘as fuck’ if you’re an old fart reading this).

We finally got to the AirBnB (Hotel Mamiri) an hour later: the host was very gracious and stayed up even tho it was well passed 12am. Our BnB was nice with two stories and air conditioning. However, the boyfriend didn’t like it since the sheets were musty (a smell we could not escape since it seemed like they didn’t wash the sheets and since it’s always humid/damp in the tropics it probably wouldn’t be washed out) so we didn’t sleep in the sheets the whole time we stayed there–one, because it was hot, and two because the stench was really that bad.

Friday, Nov 4

We woke up super early today to meet our tour guide for our excursion. Randall from Shaman Tours greeted us bright and early at 6:30am (remind you, we probably went to bed at 1am) and informed us of the long trip to the Rincon de Vieja national park. This day was our activity day where we would be doing zip-lining, horseback riding, hot springs and innertubing down the river.

[Tip: We were recommended this tour company by a travel blog called MyTanFeet. If you ever go to Costa Rica, we definitely recommend checking out this blog & using this tour company. You can find reviews on Shaman here.]

First off, horseback riding. Luckily we just missed the rain, all that was left was a slight mist that eventually cleared up so we could see patches of sunlight! We had a relaxing horse ride in this national park that was absolutely beautiful. Everything is green and lush and just beautiful scenery. Our tour guide Randall was waiting for us at the end of our horseback ride to take us to our next activity which was INNER TUBING! This was quite awesome actually. We started off in this big group and were instructed to hold on and paddle when we get stuck–that was it in terms of instructions, the rest was up to the river to take us where we needed to go. It was probably the funnest activity, the rushing river took us on little rapids and waterfalls all while we looked up at the thick canopy of trees above us. When we got to the end, Randall yet again was waiting for us at the bottom and even helped carry my inner tube up the hill (A1 service if you ask me).

After our first two activities, it was lunch time. We were the first people to get to lunch and had a great table in the corner at the edge of the patio that overlooked their amazing property. We ate delicious “comida typica” or their traditional food of rice, beans, plantains and some sort of meat.

We then went zip lining through this lush, green forest and over ravines of water. It was such a cool experience. Randall also took us to a waterfall that was gushing with water (because it was the rainy season and had just rained). During the dry season, you can usually swim at the base, which we unfortunately couldn’t do.

Lastly, we finished our activity day at the hot springs. These natural hot springs are heated by the volcano and the pools are situated on the edge of a river. We took a mud bath that was heated by the volcano that was supposed to cleanse our skin. Overall it was very relaxing and extremely beautiful.

On our way home it was raining again. It took us over 2 hours to get back to Tamarindo and we were exhausted. Since it was raining and it gets darker earlier, we went to a delicious Mexican restaurant called Green Papaya, that had the most delicious enchiladas I ever had. We went back to our hotel and passed out.

Saturday, Nov 5

Today we slept in a little, woke up in time to have complimentary breakfast at our BnB. I had the breakfast tipica while JM had pancakes. We had to check out quite early but it was no problem since our other BnB has a flexible check-in time and was right around the corner. The Beach Bungalows was by far better than the first BnB, and it was so freaking adorable. We had our own bungalow (there were 5 all together on the property) with an open kitchen and pool in the middle.

Our host, Niko, was a Frenchman expat who decided to live in paradise with his wife and set up this beautiful bungalow BnB. Each bungalow had it’s own relaxation pad underneath the elevated living space, where you could sit on the lounge chair or hammock. He sat us down once we got there and gave us important information about Tamarindo, things we could do, places we could go and which restaurants were the best. It was superb hospitality right from the start.

After settling our luggage we grabbed some towels and headed to the infamous Tamarindo beach. The town we were staying at, Tamarindo, is famous for it’s beach. It’s good for surfing, swimming, relaxing…etc. There were a lot of restaurants that lined the beach–we ended up settling on one and relaxing on their beach chairs. Someone from inside gave us a menu and explained that all drinks were “buy one get one half off”, their “happy hour price” which is basically all day, every day. We hung out there for a little, played on the beach for a bit, then decided to check out the town, since we hadn’t really explore the place. Wanting a little snack, we settled on this cute plaza with cheap food & a pizzeria. Pizza sounded good (and we could split it), plus it was cheap.

After walking around for a bit, we just relaxed the rest of the day. We ate again at this restaurant called the Beach Shack or something like that, drank more and just absorbed the Tamarindo Town.

Sunday, Nov 6

Today we woke up, ate a great breakfast prepared by lovely Alice, one out of the two workers that worked at the BnB. She made us this delicious breakfast torta: egg on refried beans with salsa/tomato sauce over a fried tortilla. IT WAS AMAZING!! We had time to kill, so we went to the beach and wait for our sunset cruise, which would start at 1pm.

We met at the beach for our sunset cruise called Blue Dolphin Cruise. One couple that was staying at the same bungalows as us actually booked it for the same day & time as we did. They were a really sweet couple from the East Coast; the husband even offered us some coconut that he bought off a vendor on the beach. Once on the boat, we found out that one of the groups that took the same Rincon de Vieja adventure tour on the same day as us were also on the SAME sunset cruise. It was a great atmosphere. They played great music, had unlimited drinks (the dolphin especial was their house cocktail, I had about 6 of those) and brought us out to this amazing private cove. Once there, we could either take a kayak, stand up paddle board, or snorkel gear out to the “reef” area. I was a bit disappointed because it was pretty muggy out in the water and the guys were yelling at me to stay away from the rocks (the only area where there were actually fish). I had to assure them that I was a great swimmer and I could swim confidently. [Plus, I was in the don’t-give-an-eff mode since I was probably 4 cocktails in by this point].

After being docked for about an hour, we set back to Tamarindo. On our way back they had a buffet full of food where you could make tacos and nachos. I was so hungry too since I swam for a long ass time. I made friends with the group who also did the adventure tour the same day as us, and they were really nice people from Austin! As we were coming back, the Captain & crew started to salsa and play Latin music. Drunk me was having fun watching when the Captain grabbed me and started dancing with me. Drunk me didn’t know if I was in rhythm or really how to dance like that, but I obliged and tried to dance. The sun started to set and it was an amazing spectacle to see out on the water!

We said goodbye to our new friends, headed back to the BnB, took a nice warm shower and ate at our favorite place: the Green Papaya!

Monday, Nov 7

We booked a second day trip with the same tour company, Shaman Tours. Randall arrived at our bungalow bright and early (630am). Today we were doing the “Hanging Bridge Tour”, a hike/canopy tour of the amazing protected land of Tenorio national park. First off, we stopped at an amazing waterfall at Llanos de Cortes. We were the first people there (because it had to have been like 8am or so) and the only people there. The waterfall was gushing with rushing water because it was the rainy season. It was so perfect since it was quiet, pristine, and intimate!

We stayed for about an hour and were back on the road. It took us about another hour to reach the park. Randall was great, stopping at places to see if there were sloths/howler monkeys and grocery stores so we could get something to eat. Once we got to Tenorio Park itself, we realized it would be a relatively easy/short hike (which was so nice because at this point we were so tired from all our earlier activities). The park was beautiful & picturesque. What made it even more unique were these suspended hanging bridges, where we would be in the canopy, admiring the view. We didn’t see any animals unfortunately, but it was still so serene and beautiful.

Of course, my annoying-ass had to ask Randall if this was normal, not seeing any animals & all. So, he was determined to find me a sloth (or a monkey at least). On our way out of the park, Randall kept an eye out. He stopped at a tree on the side of the road where the slots normally “hang” out (hahah see what I did there). He took out his huge telescope and found us not only one, but two sloths on the tree!! I was so ecstatic to finally see a sloth, especially in the wild.

On our way back, we were given an option for lunch. It was either to go to a “Restaurante Tipico” where they serve authentic Costa Rican dishes OR to go to a Tilapia farm, catch our own fish, and have it fried fresh to eat. Our choice was obviously the tilapia farm (1, because we’re Filipino & can’t say no to fried fish and 2. who doesn’t wanna catch their own fish?!). Ok, so it wasn’t really that hard to catch a fish because you first would bait it in a small pool where they’re raised and then keep throwing in your line until you caught them. This particular fish farm was so adorable! It was family-owned with all generations in the house. We met a little boy named Ian, who was three years old. His mom was the cook and his older brothers were the waiters.

Randall accompanied us to lunch, he caught his own fish & everything. They asked us what kind of flavor I wanted for my smoothie (I got mango, obvi). The first course they brought out to us was this savory fried plantain cup filled with refried beans. IT WAS SO DELICIOUS! Then…our tilapia came out and HOLY EFF WAS IT AMAZING!! I wish I took a picture of it (I thought I did but I guess my camera wasn’t on all the way). I guess it’ll just stay ingrained in my memory forever.

Our bellies were full and we were headed back to Tamarindo. I was so freaking tired on the way home (plus a full-belly) that I kept falling asleep and snoring. JM had to bump me constantly bc my mouth was wide open & I looked like an obese, drunk man after a night at the bar. I’m not sure how we ended this night, but we probably drank again or just passed out really early because we were tired.

 

Tuesday, Nov 8

We woke up again for the delicious breakfast from Alice. The same couple that was on the sunset cruise with us were also eating breakfast. We chatted with them and they suggested we go to Playa Conchal (literally translates to Shell Beach). They said that the water over there was amazing, crystal blue like Hawaii, and they snorkeled and ate lobster prepared on the beach. It sounded great & our host, Niko, said that he could get us a cab there for cheap (which ended up not being as cheap…). We didn’t have anything planned that day so we decided to check it out.

We were dropped off on the beach and told the taxi driver to pick us up “a las cuatro”. We had the whole day to spend there, and it was so freaking beautiful. The water was turquoise blue and the beach was made out of millions of crushed shells (although later we come to find out that the WHOLE beach used to look like that but because of tourism & the gov’t deciding to use them for construction, only a tiny section of the beach is truly all made out of shells). The boyfriend & I set up camp under some trees for a free shady area–hecklers were asking if we wanted to rent chairs & umbrella for $20 the whole day, but we politely declined. The rest of the day we just hung out, went into the water, and literally soaked in the sun. We didn’t do much but we didn’t need to, we just relaxed and really absorbed the environment around us.

We started to get hungry and we were a little late asking the guy, who was going around to the different tourist on the beach, for some food. He told us he sold out of the lobster, but that he had freshly caught Red Snapper. This was the best choice for us anyways since neither of us like shellfish. We bought two cervesas (Imperial is the beer of Costa Rica) and the Red Snapper was delivered to us. LET ME TELL YOU, THAT WAS THE BEST-TASTING FISH I EVER HAD! (Freshly prepared fish, the fish the day before was fried not grilled, so there’s a difference…I think). So fresh, cooked so perfectly, and we ate it sitting on the beach with beer–it can’t get any better!

Finally, we were picked up and brought back to the hotel (it was $20 one way to the beach then $40 on the way back!!!! SUCH A RIP OFF!!). After another shower, we wanted to get happy hour drinks before our dinner reservation. Our host made reservations for us at Patagonia, this upscale Argentinian Steakhouse. Jon-Mykal and I split a plate because, we don’t eat a lot and we knew it was going to be expensive. After that we went back to the BnB and drank the night away.

Wednesday, Nov 9

Today, we woke up with the sad, sad reality that Donald Trump won the election back in the states. Glad to be in a different country when this news broke, we sorrowfully headed down to the kitchen for breakfast. Nothing like Alice’s delicious breakfast torta & international talk couldn’t fix (it didn’t actually fix it but it helped lessen the tremendous defeat we were feeling). We were checking out that day, so we hastily ate, packed, got ready. Our next host wouldn’t be picking us up until 1pm, but we had to check out by 11am.

With time to kill, we walked around Tamarindo looking for non-touristy pasalubongs (Tagalog for souvenirs). That proved difficult since Tamarindo is a very touristy town and we were touring in the off-season so no one wanted to give us discounts. On this ominous day, since finding out that Trump was the new leader of our country, there were actually optimistic locals who wanted to talk politics to us. This one lady manning a souvenir shop explained that both of the candidates were a bad choice. She was saying that this is a great opportunity for people to band together against the greater evil. It was a nice perspective to speak to intelligent locals who know their shit, don’t knock you for being American, and realize that there are solutions to problems.

We needed this healing, in a way. Talking it out with people from other walks of life and perspectives gives you a better understanding and acceptance of the situation. We, after all, can’t really do anything about the situation other than accept the circumstances and try everything in our power to resist.

Since it was lunch time, we wanted to get some food before going to our next hotel. We opted for the pizza place again since it was cheap and just enough food for the both of us. Headed back to the bungalows, we waited for our host to pick us up. Felipe showed up at our hotel in his white pickup truck. He had a cute little doggy in the back. We gave our hugs to Alice & Edwin (the other employee there) and even Pepito (the resident gato who was so friendly).

Me and JM squeezed into his small truck. Blancita (Blanca), his pup, was riding in the back when Felipe explained why he had his dog. She apparently is very attached to him and was able to escape her lead & fence at their home, he ties her in the yard on his way to pick us up. The next thing he knows she’s chasing him down the road and he had no choice but to pick her up and bring her along. She doesn’t even like being in the back of the truck, and Felipe was worried that she would jump out of the back into traffic. As most of you all know, I love dogs, so I said I didn’t mind if she sat in the front with us. So all of us–me, JM, Felipe, AND Blancita–are all squeezing into this very small pick up truck.

Felipe let us know that we were going to a very remote area of Playa Grande (which is a protected national park) and that there wouldn’t be food options near by. So we stopped at a supermarket while Felipe got gas to get our dinners for the night. We opted for sandwich making ingredients for our dinner/breakfast in the morning (we’re only staying one night). After what seemed like the longest, bumpiest road ever, we finally made it to the Pipe Hotel.

The Pipe Hotel is amazing! Felipe made the space all from scratch–he was an engineer from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, probably the most westernized city in CR. He didn’t like his life in the city so he moved to Playa Grande (which is just a 30 minute car ride from Tamarindo & a 5 minute boat ride), bought a plot of land, and created the Pipe Hotel. What’s unique about this hostel are the pipe beds. These huge industrial pipes were recycled and made into sleeping pods. Each pod can hold 1-2 people & there’s just a bed and a small rack inside. The Pipe Hotel has 6 Pipes but only one other person was staying there (it is the off season after all). His name was Grant, a young 18-year-old from Washington and a pro wake surfer. He was here to surf, since is a great surfing spot. Felipe is also a beach bum with a great community of friends who are also beach bums.

We had a lot of time to kill–we were away from the city and in a remote area. So the only thing to do now was to explore the beach, that was literally in our backyard. Playa Grande is a protected area and beach so it’s very quiet and remote. Turtles, like the  endangered large Leather Back Sea Turtle, lay eggs at this beach. Since they’re endangered the beach is off limits to big tourist companies/hotels. JM and I spent a lot of time at the beach, just taking in the incredible scenery. The amazing thing about traveling to CR during this time was it was the tail end of the rainy season, which means…everything is green!! We only caught rain once and that was the first/second day we were there. So fortunate to have missed the rain but get all the benefits of the after effects!

After watching the sunset with Felipe, Blancita & Taco (his other pup), JM and I went to make our sandwiches! Grant was hanging out in the common area so we had a conversation…all night. He shared his Cuba Libre’s (rum & coke in a can) with us and Felipe came to join us. We had a really good night just sitting around talking for hours on end. People here also don’t have any reason to stay up late. They wake up and go to sleep with the sun because most of their work is done when the sun is up. Unfortunately, we were only staying here one night, I wish we were staying here longer because it was one of the BEST NIGHTS WE HAD! Hostel-type accommodations are definitely more my pace, especially when we’re not traveling with a lot of people. You can meet some great people from all over in these types of hotels.

Anyways, we had to sleep early since our cab was going to pick us up early to go to the airport.

 

 

&&& Thursday we left. Nothing much notable there. So that was my trip. I loved Costa Rica, everything about it. Now I know why a lot of expat’s go there. If you ever go, I would recommend going to the Guanacaste Province in November or December. I went in Nov, and it happened to be great timing. There was some showers but not a lot, not too touristy, and very green & lush! I plan on going back one day and spending LOADS more time there. Anyways, pura vida!

Here are some pics of our adventure! The video that I made will be on the next post!

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Mud baths on our adventure tour!

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The waterfall was gushing so we couldn’t swim.

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Riding horsies apart of our adventure tour!

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The natural hot springs were right next to a rushing river.

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Tamarindo beach

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On the Dolphin Sunset Cruise with my Dolphin Especial! I would later lose an earring that day because it fell off in the water *cue Kim Kardashian’s iconic I lost my diamond earring in the ocean scene*

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We were the first and only people here! The water fall was also gushing, but the water was SOO COLDDDD.

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Hanging Bridges tour with our tour guide Randal!

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RANDAL FOUND US A SLOTH! This is a picture taken on the inside of a telescope! It’s arms are in it’s head.

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I “caught” a tilapia from the fish farm, then had it fried!!

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Playa Grande– see how no one is on the beach, yeah we saw maybe 5 people during the 3 hrs we were out there.

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The Playa Grande sunset & last night of our trip. IT. WAS. AMAZING!!

Paris and Berlin

These past couple of days I have been solo traveling around Europe. Since it’s my first time in Europe, I have to see the most popular destinations. I want to get out of my comfort zone and do things that are memorable and expose myself to different cultures and ways of life.

Sunday, August 16

Today was my first full day in Paris. Despite my awful AirBnb, which I’m requesting a refund because that place was a piece of shit, I got up pretty early to explore this infamous city. My first stop was the catacombs, something I really wanted to see. But, when I got there I noticed that the line was a tad long, and when I say a tad, I mean wrapped around the whole block and back up. Because only had a day here. I decided it wasn’t worth it, since the line was going to take a good few hours. I headed to the Notre Dame, another place on my itinerary. I looked at the building, it was so cool and reminded me of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Gargoyles, you know classic cartoon/movies I used to watch as a child, naturally. After spending sometime in that area, going on Love Lock Bridge and seeing the book sellers by the canal, I decided to take a Big Bus tour, since Paris is really only good for sightseeing and museum hopping.

The Big Bus tour was ok. I mean they drive you around to all the important places in Paris, which is better than walking on foot to all of those places. Nothing was really interesting other than learning about the history of the buildings and of France. After spending two hours on the bus I finally got off at the Louvre. It was crowded (like every place in Paris that day). I wanted to see the Mona Lisa, she was cool. The building itself had some great architecture and design inside. I found Napoleon’s Apartment to be quite interesting, but for some reason I was not feeling Paris. The people are unfriendly, there’s nothing quite interesting other than the art, and it’s incredibly crowded.

After the Louvre I went to this plaza where a cluster of violinists were playing some great music of popular classics. I decided to eat at a café overlooking this plaza, which was quite relaxing and nice. After that I walked along the Tuileries Garden before I finally decided to go in (which was only about 7-8pm). I guess I’d had enough of the overrated city.

Monday, August 17

My flight to Berlin was at 1pm, so I left the awful apartment quite early. It is very true what people say about the French, to put it in light terms, there assholes LOL. I knocked out on the plane because I guess that’s a normal thing for me now. When I got to Berlin I of course had to buy a Bratwurst first thing out of the airport. I then took a train to Alexanderplatz, a central station in Berlin. I met a really nice guy from Saudi Arabia p, studying chemistry in Germany. He could speak 4 languages (Arabic, German, English, and Spanish), which definitely put me to shame. I only know one language, which is also the problem I’m America, so embarrassing. Most of the people I meet can speak like 3-4 languages. Anyways I finally made it to my hostel, which by the way has a bar in its reception area and a pretty big one at that.

I had a tour at the Riechstag building at 745, their most famous building. Here I toured the dome, a really big glass dome that sits on the very top of the building and overlooks most of Berlin. There was an audio guide that narrated the political history of this building and the surrounding areas. After this short tour I took a walk around and saw Bradenburg Gate. By this time I was exhausted and went back to the hostel to get an actual decent night of sleep.

I’m going to stop right here, since this is probably a really boring post to write and since I don’t have any pictures to illustrate it’s probably an even more boring post to read, sorry yall I’ll add what I did today (Tuesday) on another post, since this was actually a really great day in an awesome city.

Paris

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A really cute farmers market that was right outside my apartment.

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Berlin

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Reichstag Building