A Travellerspoint blog

Aruba πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ό

January 2024

sunny 30 °C

Country number 14. The final stop in my 10 month world tour.

I may have never of come to Aruba in my lifetime if it was not for meeting Michael on the first hill of the Camino de Santiago (del Nortè). Funny how life turns out, you meet someone totally new, visit their home in Canada and then also invited to Aruba. Open one door and many others open thereforth.

Outside of the tourist hotspots Aruba is a very beautiful island. I got to see Michael and his wife Dorothy's wonderful home and had some pool time. Then our first stop was a beautiful sunset in the nearest beach to Michael's home and I got to try the local "chill" beer for the first time.


The following day we went for a 15km hike to some caves. Its was pretty hot, dusty and rough terrain but that was part of the magic of the island. In fact nothing to what I expected, it was almost like visiting a prehistoric island with rocks and iguanas running around everywhere. We also saw 4 rainbows this day! I havent seen so many rainbows. Then that evening we had the most delicious steaks cooked on barbecue with plenty of good red wine to compliment.


Next up we did a fantastic mural tour in the south of the island. I could never imagine a small island having such a thriving art scene but it does, and each mural tells a story explained by a local guide. We then went to "Charlie's" a travellers pub with artifacts left by other travellers for decades. A real pub of history and character, even the bar man came out with a large chopping knife that said "complaints department". Ha! We then headed for food at Zeerovers - just wow! Fresh fish and shrimps overlooking the ocean. We ordered so much food but devoured it, so good! That evening we opted for a light dinner at a local piano bar with ab amazing vocalist. The night spiraled with 3 bottles of wine, a couple of rums and even some dancing!


Thank god for bacon and eggs the next morning! Michael and I then hiked up Ayo rock formations and one of the highest points on the island, almost 700 steps! That killed any lingering hangover. We then did some wine and port tasting at the local winery - and shocked, the wines were excellent for such a young winery! The evening proceeded with a trip to "Alfie's" the local Canadian dive bar. Delicious mac and cheese and more good wine!


My final day started with a little hike next to the ocean and a lighthouse. Stunning views and very non touristy. My last few hours we enjoyed some beach time and a Dutch pancake!


Posted by Stereomanic 13:14 Archived in Aruba Comments (0)

Guatemala πŸ‡¬πŸ‡Ή

January 2024

sunny 30 °C

Country number 13. Guatemala & Antigua. Beautiful architecture, towering active volcanoes and delicious smooth rum often paired with irresistible intense dark chocolate. Oh and the coffee! Most of my time here was wondering around the cobbled streets admiring the old buildings with volcanoes all around in the backdrop popping in and out of cafes, wine bars (wine gets cheaper by the glass here!) and "rum houses". In particular Zacapa rum is just heaven, especially the Negra Edition. I had to do a few "tastings" to be sure to buy the right bottle!


Posted by Stereomanic 14:10 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Costa Rica πŸ‡¨πŸ‡·

January 2024

sunny 25 °C

Country number 12. I knew that coming to Central America I needed to visit Costa Rica even if it was just a breif visit.
The first adventure was to hike Poas Volcano - one of the largest active craters in the world. Although the hike I read comes with a risk that you end up in clouds of fog and never see the incredible crater! When I reached the top this was surely the case, thankfully it started to clear after waiting around a while and managed to get some good shots. Not every day you can say you've got backdrop of an active volcano steaming and gargling away! In fact hikers are told not to spend too long up there due to the gases. What an experience! I even got to try volcanic cheese and wine.

Next up I went to visit 2 coffee farms - one that is owned by and supplies Starbucks which is very commercial but an incredible view of jungle and a waterfall. The second one was a much smaller company and I was shown how the coffee is made from plant to cup. I also learnt that light roast coffee does in fact have more caffiene than dark roast, despite the stronger taste. I feel like I've been lied to my whole coffee drinking life! Enjoyed a very good coffee liquor there too.

Along the road back we stopped at La Paz waterfalls and met a bunch of Coati's - cute little racoon type animals that clearly get fed by the tourists frequently!

In the capital San Josè I met with a friend, Katherine, who showed me some of the bars in town. We enjoyed a cool little dive rock bar and a craft beer factory! It seems that the Costa Ricans like their cheese so we were able to make up some decent cheese boards along with one of my favourite reds (Apothic) overlooking the city lights.

I read that Costa Rica has 900 species of birds, more than the US and Canada combined. However, Zoo's are actually banned in Costa Rica, so the best place to go and see wildlife is at rescue centers which are set over vast km's of jungle like terrain and many of the birds and animals are roaming freely. A chance to see the native colourful toucans and parrots, hilarious naughty monkeys, very lazy sloths, wild cats and hundreds of iguana's! (Plus the odd dinosaur).

On the last day we went to lunch in a restaurant that was once converted from a house owned by the late Christopher Reeve, so obviously had to get a photo of Superman!

Posted by Stereomanic 00:39 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Mexico πŸ‡²πŸ‡½

December 2023

sunny 30 °C

Country number 11. Oh yes it's a 26 hour flight from The Philippines to Mexico. Strangely not as bad I was expecting, but did get SOME jetlag....

Mexico has been on my top 10 places to visit forever, and it slots in at number 43 on the all time list. So its taken me a while to finally get there! One of the main reasons is I LOVE Mexican food. That and the passion, the music, the colours, I guess more similiar to South Anerica vibes than North American. Of course watching the Narcos series also spurred me on to finally make this trip happen. I also didn't want to do a typical 2 week all inclusive hotel in Cancun. So here is my 5 week Mexican story....

I flew into Cancun via Seattle, and my old school friend (Ollie) was already waiting for me. He had come over from London to travel Mexico with me for 3 of the 5 weeks I'm there for. First thing to do after a 26 hour flight? Cold beer, Tacos, Tequila and some beach and pool time! Perfect.


Chichen Itza
One of the seven wonders of the world. A pyramid built in a scared city of temples. The whole area is huge, a lot of ruins now but you can imagine the sheer size of it all. Had to come and visit this whilst on this side of Mexico, doesn't disappoint.


Playa Del Carmen
Just a few days in Cancun and then moved down the coast to Playa Del Carmen. A very lively costal town, so many bars and restuarants and the streets cut onto the beach. Ollie got stung by a jelly fish so I opted not to go in the water! Haha. We had a couple of pretty crazy nights here, definitely the place for some good nightlife. We had some amazing Tacos, Burritos and Waffles here. Damn Mexican food is just too good.


This wasn't on my original plan but Ollie suggested we go. And glad we did! This town was a lot more rural/local/somewhat hippy vibe to it. In the town there's small fun bars to be entertained with by night. Then by day we hired bikes and went down to the beautiful beach. Which is so nice it is almost covered with bars you have go into to use the beach.
In Tolum we had one of the funniest nights. There was a 2 hour power cut, people outside with flash lights, walkie talkies and firework sounds (that I joked were guns). We had a knock at the door and jumped out of our skin and went up to the door ready to take on the cartel.....no... it was just the room service we ordered prior to the powercut. The hotel still managed the pizza and beer delivery with no power!! Phew.


Ollie and I were keen to try another city before heading straight to Mexico City so we chose a Puebla. Overlooked by a huge volcano it's an amazing view from the plane. It feels like quite a fairly quiet town but there's lots of amazing architecture and little bars and restuarants to explore. Puebla also has the oldest library in the America's some 500 years old with books in there predating that! That was an experience in itself. We also found a 100 year old pub that sold an interesting raison based liquor that had a piece of goats cheese inside the glass. Delicious! Needless to say we had a fair few...we also ate "Mole" for the first time, chicken with a chocolate sauce! Yes it works! (It's not sweet as you think)


Mexico City
As we arrived and literally stepped into the door of the hotel we were staying in, everyone was evacuated to the street due to an earthquake, a 5.0... but we didn't actually feel it. However Mexico City does in fact have daily earthquakes but many do not even get registered, it was quite a welcome! And my second earthquake of the trip!
Thanks to a recommendation, one of the highlights I wanted to do in Mexico was a hot airballoon ride over the Teotihuacan pyramids. It really was quite something. 4am start, but so worth it. I've done something similar before in Egypt almost 20 years ago, this experience was really up there with it. Somehow, they can get the balloon right up close to the pyramids almost touching it. Breathtaking. We then got 3 hours to walk around the pyramids and temples below.
Mexico City is huge, and takes quite some time to get around and traffic is crazy. It took 1 hour to drive out to the pyramids and then 3 hours to get back into Mexico City. So we kept things as simple as possible, enjoyed a castle and museum in a nearby park and the following day went to Frida Kahlo's house. Which is a must. Huge beautiful house, lots of her original furniture and ornaments, a few paintings, drawings and diaries. That lady went through hell. Her ashes are also in the frog like urn in her bedroom. Very cool experience.


Puerto Vallarta
Having done some of the east coast of Mexico at the beginning of my 5 weeks here I decided I should try to do at least one city on the west coast and opted for Puerto Vallarta. From its gorgeous beaches, stunning sunsets and almost guaranteed good weather during December it was a good choice to settle for a couple of weeks over Christmas. Although full of Americans and Canadians on vacation there was quite a funny English stye pub and with a city full of little bars and restuarants there's never a dull evening. There's also lots of hikes in and around which take you to hidden beaches, and a long promenade of interesting looking statues! Happy sunny Christmas and a good way to see out a year of travel in 2023.


Last stop of my 5 week Mexican tour. I really like Guadalajara, it's a lot more laid back and not so busy as Mexico City. Lots of great street art, Cathedrals and food! My favourite was "Torta Ahogada" aka drowned sandwich which seems to be on every street corner. Pork belly submerged in a tomato, chili and cumin based sauce. Then add your extra spice, far right on the spiciest is dragon's breath. Didn't disappoint! I also ate "Birria" stewed goat in garlic and spices. Often served by street venders in the morning as its seen as the perfect hangover cure. I was wondering which sauce was burning my mouth off and turns out its actually the broth.

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Posted by Stereomanic 15:37 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

The Philippines πŸ‡΅πŸ‡­

November 2023

sunny 33 °C

Country number 10 this year: The Philippines surprised me a little bit. I knew it was a group of islands, I didn't realise there are over 7,000 of them. Some people had mentioned it's somewhat dangerous, well sure some places are but the majority of the tourists hotshots I never felt in danger at all, the complete opposite. The Filipinos in fact wonderful and very funny people. English is spoken all over so they get our humour too. The food I had heard mixed reviews, but actually its incredible. I spent almost a month here, and really I wish I could have spent 3 months. There is a lot to do, and just an awe inspiring place.
Whilst here there was a 6.8 magnitude earth quake off the cost in the sea, didn't impact where I was fortunately. There was also bog talk of typhoon at one point too. But neither of these events seem to bother the locals. If anything they laugh it off, it's normal for them to have natural disasters. Incredible really.

Part 1: Cebu, Bantayan Island, Virgin Island & Malapascua Island
Sometimes you look at photos of places and you think....this is probably just good camera work, or a good filter. Is the water really that blue? Well yes it is. In fact I felt sometimes the camera doesn't do it enough justice. Beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, and the sunset on a sailboat...just wow. πŸŒ…

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Part 2: Manila, Puerto Princesa and El Nido

Took a flight to Palawan and started in Puerto Princesa then up to El Nido which is arguably one of the big tourist hot spots in The Philippines. For good reason. There are multiple island hoping options (across 45 islands) and there really isn't a bad one. Any of the tours will guarantee you places in this part of the world that will simply take your breath away. From the towering limestone mountains to hidden and secret beaches in coves. What an incredible country.
Most of the island hopping involved beautiful fine white sand beaches with lots of places to snorkal and see amazing multi coloured fish and other colourful creatures that live in the corals. The big lagoon is pretty spectacular. You hire a canoe and spent and hour and a half floating around this majestic deep blue and bright turquoise water surrounded by massive tree-covered limestone cliffs.


Posted by Stereomanic 11:05 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

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