beach

Bohol Belieber: A Bohol, Philippines Review

Just what does the Canadian pop-star J. Biebs have to do with this blog? Nothing, that is, until I came to the Philippines.

Maybe this is a worldwide phenomenon, but during my ENTIRE time on Panglao Island/Bohol, I heard the song “Sorry” every single day. 

When I think back to that time now it seems as though that song never stopped playing. It was like a jettisoned chapter from 1984 where Orwell's government decides to play some pop song over and over again until even the hipsters (some of whom normally start despising bands when they achieve a modicum of success) start bobbing their heads and mouthing the parts.

You don't need to look the song up…it will probably invade my brain somehow by a quasi meta-transitive effect. It seemed like it was a religious thing after a while. The House of Bieber! Even when it wasn’t playing it was as if some airwave somewhere in the world was being picked up by my brain. Or maybe the song just played in my head. Near the end of the month, I even started to wonder if I was beginning to like it.

Yes, I began to experience the musical version of Stockholm Syndrome.  I really don’t have anything against Bieber, though I don't subscribe to his musical creations; it could have been any song and it would have ended up seeming like someone was taking a drill to my head and injecting an ooze of pain in my head because it was just played so damn much. Don’t worry, this post isn’t about Justin Bieber, it's just that whenever I think about my time there that @#$%@#$ song comes to mind. 

Do I like the song now you may be wondering? I honestly don't know. I'm super confused and need a therapist. 

Initial Impressions

The Tagbilaran Airport

It's a small airport, and there is no long winding air-conditioned tunnel leading to cushy airport hangars with tons of restaurants from the airplane. They place some stairs in the front and the back, and you walk to the airport on the tarmac that would probably blister your feet if for some odd reason you decided against shoes that day. 

As is the case in many countries at small airports you will be immediately bombarded with offers for taxi rides, tours, and god knows what else once you exit the airport. I wouldn't be surprised if someone offered me a kidney at a "special price just for me." It's just how it is. Be prepared to ignore a lot of people. 

The Weather

The nice thing is that on the way to my apartment the air was cool, as though an air conditioner was caressing my skin.

Of course, that was the taxi ride in, and it had air conditioning. 

Otherwise, it was usually hot like a couple of suns making sun love (you're welcome for that odd fiery mental image). When I wasn’t in air conditioning, I could feel the UV rays smashing down on me, browning my skin as if getting me ready to be dished up to the gods as an appetizer. 

So yeah, it was hot and sunny most days; perfect beach weather ya know. By the end of my Philippines trip, I had a nice head-to-toe tan…except for my midsection. So I guess you could say I looked a bit like a very elongated Oreo. I can’t think of a better simile at the moment. 

Another day on the beach - the rough life ya know

Another day on the beach - the rough life ya know

The Air

After a couple of days, I rented a bike from a guy named Winston. His friend also had a cigarette brand name, but I don't remember what it was (it would have been awesome if it was Virginia Slim). As I drove my 125cc cool-as-hell Yamaha scooter through town and around the island it smelled as though people were burning things. This happened in town too, as I was walking, running, or standing there looking lost. 

I found out that it’s because people were burning things. I mean, they were burning everything. I wouldn't be surprised if someone just decided to say "fuckit', let's burn this car, it doesn't work anymore anyway."

The trash burning thing is kind of a turnoff, probably because I wasn't burning things along with them. After a couple hours of inhaling acrid trash pollution combined with the vehicle exhaust that is never-ending you start feeling a bit like cheap cigarette chain-smoker. So my advice is this: when you rent your motorbike make sure to wear a mask, bandana, or even clean underwear (or dirty if you're kinda freaky) around your face, because you don’t want to be breathing everything that is in the air as you cruise around. I think it would be kind of funny to see someone using underwear as a breath mask anyway. Please send pictures if you do this. 

Seriously, please do this and send pictures.

TIP: Unless you like breathing in exhaust and acrid rubbish fumes, cover that schnoz up.

 

It's cool renting a bike because you never know what you may see along the way, even if you do inhale a football field's worth of C02 emissions.  

It's cool renting a bike because you never know what you may see along the way, even if you do inhale a football field's worth of C02 emissions.  

Things Seen or Experienced

Alona Beach

I admit that I have a love/hate relationship with Alona Beach, but overall it's pretty cool. 

The Good

  • The sunsets are incredible. Seriously. They just don’t quit, and every 30 seconds or so change colors. Just when you think it’s about to get dark, WHAM! more color and plenty of light. It’s almost eerie. More than once I thought to myself: if only orgasms lasted this long, people may be happier...but probably not.
At the Bohol Bee Farm restaurant. 

At the Bohol Bee Farm restaurant. 

  • The snorkeling can be decent. When you hit the beach from the main road in just go left all the way to the end. You can swim out to where an area is roped off (if you go in the roped off area like I did you’ll get yelled at from a person with a megaphone while sirens go off). I guess it’s a protected area. I just thought it was a misplaced swimming area.

Side note: I have some video that I need to get around to editing, so maybe within the next 5 years or so I'll get something out there so you can have some cool POV Philippines action. (Wow, that just sounds wrong.)

  • It’s pretty safe as far as I could tell. 
  • There are some decent roads to run on if you're into that sort of thing. 
  • Generally, people are pretty cool
  • It's a good place to find some good food, have some cheap drinks, and listen to old grunge covers by a Filipino dude with a seriously good voice. Just hang a right from the main road during dusk and you'll hear it. It's right before the Thai restaurant called "Isis." Yes, it's a rather unfortunate name, but I assume they, like the band Isis or the fictional International Secret Intelligence Service from the ultra-rad show Archer had it before the murderous terrorist organization. Oh, and as my friend Lo pointed out the original name attributed to an Egyptian goddess.

The Not So Good

  • It gets annoying as hell walking around there because every other person is trying to sell you something. I can ignore people, but damn, these guys can be relentless. Used car lots should make this prime scouting territory. "No" is not really part of their vocabulary. “Sir, motorbike sir, sir, island hopping tour sir, sir sir sir sir sir sir sir sir.”
    • You will be offered everything from sunglasses (even if you are wearing a pair, have a couple strung around your neck, are selling them too, they’ll still to try and sell you some), drugs, motorcycles, massages from the massage ladies on the beach, “massages” from girls or ladyboys at night, shoes, taxis, island hopping tours, etc. It gets really old really quick though I try and maintain a respectfully indifferent disposition, politely declining or pretending that there isn't an incessant and annoying human trying to extract money from me.

Recently I've taken to just saying "HI!" really loudly with a half maniacal smile plastered on my face when someone tries to sell me something, or when I can tell they're trying to engage in "sales foreplay." 

What is sales foreplay? Following is an example: 

Person on Street: "Where are you from?"
You: "Norway"
Person On Street: "Ohhhh! Norwegian Wood. You want girl?" foreplay has officially ended and it's selling time now
You: "Ummm, no."
Person On Street: "You need taxi?"
You: "........."
Person on Street: "Where you going?"
You: "HI!"

I've found the "HI!" method to be both fun and 67% effective in deterring them from pursuing anything further. 

  • It's a bit of a party place, which can be seen as a positive or negative depending on your particular disposition.

The Whatever

  • There is a lot of coral and sea urchins once you go a few meters in on the beach, so pack your coral shoes. 

White Beach

I was here for a day. It’s cool enough, and is wider than Alona. Don’t try and walk in a “resort only” zone; the guards will stop you. I kind of felt like straddling the free beach zone with the resort beach zone just to see if I could make an eye twitch, but I don't think I did. I guess this beach just didn’t have much allure for me overall. 

Danao Beach

I’m not sure about the parts of the beach where people actually go swimming. The only part I went to was where sunsets are incredible, but trash is everywhere. It was a terrible beach and a wonderful beach. It was beautiful and it was disgusting. 

danaobeach

 

Bacsilag and Virgin Islands 

These are the main hop islands, that is, they are usually offered together as part of an island hopping tour. Don’t worry, you don’t need to ask around about them. By the time you actually make it to the beach you will have been asked about 20 times if you want to buy one. Be ready to negotiate. I got pretty lucky in that an English couple offered to take me along in their tour that they had already negotiated the price on. Score for me. 

Bacsilag is great for snorkeling. I saw some pretty amazing things out there in the deep blue, however I really wanted to be scared out of my mind by a large sea creature. I was disappointed, but there is still plenty of time!

The Virgin Island is actually a really cool little island for snapping pics. 

The Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary

These little mammals are nocturnal and sensitive. They are incredibly small, (about 4 inches tall) one of the smallest primates on the planet in fact, and can be found only in a few SE Asian islands. Supposedly (I’m going off of this Huffington Post article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/12/tarsiers-threat-humans_n_1143915.html) their eyeballs are as large as their brains and they can rotate their heads a full 180 degrees. Pretty crazy eh?

To be honest, it was cool seeing them, but you really only need about 15 minutes and you’re good. I have to say that I felt like I was encroaching on their territory a bit, and that there were just entirely way too many white westerners wandering around there snapping photos. Evidently it’s gotten a lot better, but something about it all still felt a bit off. 

Evidently some places used to have the Tarsiers in cages, or tourists could be loud and demanding of them. This in turn was a catalyst for the Tarsiers to commit suicide. Yes, they do not like the stress of tourist demands, nor do they like being in a cage. Can you blame them really? 

Loboc River and Nuts Huts

The Loboc River is located on the main island. It’s so lush around there I wouldn’t be surprised if I threw a pumpkin seed on the ground I wouldn’t have a pumpkin in an hour. After I saw the little Tarsiers I was speaking to a Swedish couple who told me about Nuts Huts. No, it’s not some weird sexual thing, but the name is rather unfortunate. Pretty easy to remember though. 

They told me about swimming up the river to a waterfall, which was about 600 meters up from Nuts Huts. I thought, what the hell, sure why not. So I cruised over there and got out the go pro and my waterproof thing with my iPhone. I asked some others who were swimming in there about doing it, and they said they had just been swimming there and to be careful…with a “I’m kind of fearing for this bald white guy’s life right now.” So I swam and soon discovered that I was going against the current. 

About 3/4 of the way there I noticed a group of people just hanging out on a dock. They were just chilling, but they were all dressed the same. I said hi and asked them how much further it was to the waterfall. One dude told me to come on up, and I was grateful because I was a bit tired and could use the break. Then a boat came to the dock. This is where things got awesome. 

You see, Loboc river is renowned for its boat cruises, and it turned out that this is one of the stops some of them make. All those people that were dressed the same on the dock? Well they were performers, and I felt really lucky to be part of it. I was filming it when a lady gestured for me to join the stick dancing while she held the camera. Why not?

It was kick ass, but I had to move on. I had a waterfall to see, and my body wasn’t swimming with me out of the water. This is where the current started to get pretty strong, and I noticed that just my average swimming strokes were barely getting me anywhere. Boats passed me. Two Canadian women passed me on kayaks. I spoke with 2 German dudes who said they did the same the other day, and that the current starts to get pretty damn strong. I couldn’t give up, so I kept going, and going, and going, until I finally made it to an outcropping of rock that I stayed on for a bit. It was like my own island, and boy did the tourists get a kick out of seeing me hanging out on my little island. There has to be a number of “crazy bald guy living on rock” pictures out there in a variety of Asiatic languages. They were super cool though and I invited some to join me. There were no takers, and I was okay with that. It was an exceptional workout, and I’m pretty sure I got an earache for about a week because of it. Totally worth it. 

Oh yeah, the waterfall itself? I’m not really sure it qualifies as a waterfall. That part was anticlimactic, but in all other respects that was just super cool. 

Here's a short video (not the best quality) with the Loboc River Performers:

Super cool...

A taxi tryke swooping past above the Loboc river. 

A taxi tryke swooping past above the Loboc river. 

Sagbayan Peak

Nothing much to say except it’s pretty cool. I didn’t see any other Westerner along the way to and from the place, which was pretty nice. Don’t get me wrong, nothing against my own western self and crew, but it’s always good to have more of a solid cultural experience. 

The view from Sagbayan peak

The view from Sagbayan peak

Chocolate Hills

I’m guessing this is what Bohol is most known for. During the dry season these hills turn brown, hence the name Chocolate Hills. When I went they were more like Avocado Smoothie Hills, which was fine by me. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Avocado Smoothie Hills

Avocado Smoothie Hills

 

Loboc Eco-Tourism Adventure Park

This is a fun place to go and zipline 1 kilometer above the Loboc river. My super cool hot geek friend Lo and I checked this place and CHAP out.

The view from the tram

The view from the tram

Chocolate Hills Adventure Park

You can read up on it, but CHAP is the adventure park with zip line bikes. Yes, you actually have to pedal across a steel line, though it’s not as scary as it may sound. If you want to bring your GoPro you need to have a head strap, which I didn’t have so I left my Session behind. You’re secured really well on the bike, and really all you have to do is pedal. There is no steering involved. At about halfway across I had the sudden impulse and strong desire to go really fast to the other side. It was a whim, but the boys on the other side felt the need to do some polite reprimanding. 

“Regular speed sir.”

“Enjoy the view sir.”

“Remember, normal speed sir.”

I’m pretty sure they told me to go a normal speed about 10 times. On the way back I played nice, but made sure to stop halfway through because my friend Lo was on her way and I thought it would be fun to do a nonchalant “hallo there lovely, fancy seeing you here. What are you doing so high up, I thought you were going to be at your cousin’s fundraiser…” 

When I got back to the other side I believe I received a few more “regular speed sir”s or "you go fast sir”s. There was a Korean couple that were laughing their asses off as they mimicked how fast I was going. They were pretty funny as they were describing it. Evidently it was a bit of a spectacle. 

They have some other things there too like hanging bridge walks and stuff. That was my favorite part because my friend Lo kept on yelling at me thinking that I was making the whole bridge shake on purpose. I was laughing my ass off. For whatever reason there was a group of people below us all dressed the same watching the spectacle. I guess they thought I was doing it on purpose too, according to Lo.


Hinagdanan Cave

Well, I was expecting more. It’s a cave, and it’s pretty cool, but not really all that cool. I think I was in there for 5 minutes max then jetted off into the sunset on my scooter. 

Bars and Restaurants

This isn’t really my forte, but I’ll throw in my 5 cents nonetheless. For the top pics you’re better off just TripAdvisoring, but if you want to escape all the beach bars and just go somewhere to have a chill beer with amusing people, there’s a place just down the road from the Wok Bar. For the life of me I don’t remember the name, and it’s possible I never knew the name in the first place. 

This is where I encountered the following one night: Hans the German who liked to balance glasses on his head, burn his arm hair, arm wrestling other patrons, sing German opera, and generally be awesome. Tom is a good ol' English boy who has an affinity for Belvedere and bought me one with Coke even though I had 2 drinks in front to me already. Then there’s the incredibly crass owner Bob, who will definitely say something that will make you cringe, but I think he’s really just a stand-up comedian on duty at all times. Plus he does not shy away from buying drinks for the patrons (I had to walk home that night). Then there’s Bob’s girlfriend Geraldine, who is calm and collected. There are 2 servers there, Karen and Cherry Mobile. Karen is very nice and cool. Cherry (obviously not her real name) is a jokester and has very absolute thoughts on God. Anyway, at the end of the night, I paid 2 dollars, that’s it. Go there, it’s cool. I wish I knew the name of it. They have reggae on Thursday nights. 

Oh, I definitely recommend checking out the Bohol Bee Farm restaurant as well.

Interesting Tidbits

Tally

How many times I heard the word sir: 4,352

How much car exhaust inhaled: the equivalent of 459 cigarettes, though that's probably being modest.

How many stray dogs: infinite

How many times I was offered a massage: 139

**these calculations were done by writing down the first number that came to mind, which is of course 99% accurate.

End of Post

OK, that's about it for now. I really wish I could adequately describe all my experiences, but until I have a full-time camera crew who knows how to use decent equipment, this kind of thing will have to suffice.  I'm going to put together another post about essential things you should know when traveling to the big PH, as well as a review of Palawan.  

Thanks for reading!  

A Taste of Brazil (I feel like we kissed and separated too soon)

I don't feel qualified to write about Brazil because I was only there for a wink, and only visited an incredibly small area of it. I suppose you could liken it to renting a car and just sitting in it, or perhaps paying for a prostitute and just holding hands with him or her. 

I'm going to write about it anyway, because internet. 

For those of you who don't know, Brazil is the only country in the Americas where Portuguese is the official language. 

Things You Need Before Kissing The Great Green Earth of Brazil

  • Passport
  • Tourist Visa
  • Speedo

To enter Brazil you (US citizens anyway) need to have a tourist visa, which is around $160. You can start at the US government site http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/brazil.html and go from there to get your visa going. What it boils down to is you need to fill out some paperwork, prepare the paperwork with an oddly cut picture (it can’t be an 8-year-old passport photo), set up a meeting at the embassy, and go to the embassy and get that visa. My friend and I didn’t have our itineraries printed out, but it turned out ok with just having the itinerary on the smartphone. Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions, and I can give you my two cents.

Initial Impression of Brazilians:

  • They are Accepting, as in, after a few minutes of hanging out you’re pretty much a part of the family. 
  • They are Fun. They are hands down just fun people. I like fun. I love fun. Brazilians know fun. 
  • They are Energetic. They do things, they work hard. They know how to party. I like to think that my vibe is like their vibe. 
  • They don’t mind when an American like myself proclaims to be an official Brazilian during a U.S. vs. Brazil drinking game. 
  • They are Totally Fucking Rad

First stop: Itamambuca

We stayed at this really rad house owned by an ex-Playboy bunny (not really relevant but an interesting fact). It’s a pretty isolated but nice little community. In fact, as far as I could tell it was just about as safe as Kansas though I can’t prove that. *Not including the part of Topeka where Westboro Baptist savages are. It's extremely dangerous to be in close proximity to them because there is a high probability that you'll become unfathomably stupid. 

I was there for the wedding of my friends Josh & Carol, who gave me the opportunity to say things and lead the thing in a very non-traditional way. When the video comes out, you gotta watch it because it’s pretty awesome. Josh pulled off something that only a handful of people could. It involves a Tuxedo speedo in case you were wondering. 

A word of advice: if you go to this beach during the week they don't have the standard "perigo" signs up. On the weekends, they have signs up warning beach-goers that the tide, in certain places, is as dangerous as walking into a Westboro Baptist church. A couple of my friends had some close calls out there in the merciless blue, to the point where one legitimately had the thought "so this is how it's going to end..."

Some pics from my time there:

 

Second and last stop: Rio de Janeiro

I honestly wasn’t planning on going to Rio de Janeiro, but then decided that since I was only 2 hours away that it would be morally reprehensible not to. So my married couple friends Jaidev and Steph and I took an overnight bus from Ubatuba to Rio. Ubatuba is the closest city to Itamabuca. There were some concerns from our Brazilian friends about taking an overnight ride, cuz God bless em’ they didn’t want us to get our stuff jacked. It turned out alright though. I’m pretty sure the clothing I wore the next day was mine. 

Like any city Rio has a decent transportation system and has allowed Uber to operate there. I used Uber a couple times and it was exceptional in both instances. For those of you who are worried about the safety of using Uber in Rio, worry no more! I mean, always use common sense and all that, but it’s pretty damn legit. The subway is pretty great too, and most of the time plays a cool little song after the words “mind the gap” are spoken. When I tried to record that little tune they didn’t play it, so if anyone can record that and send it to me I’d appreciate it.

It was too cloudy for me to catch Christ the Redeemer, but it was still rad doing the other standard sightseeing things like Sugarloaf mountain and all that. If you’re short on time like I was, just do the TripAdvisor top ten and you’ll catch some cool stuff. When I was there they were already setting up some Olympics stuff on Cococabana beach. 

So that's that. Next up: Buenos Aires. 

Costa Rica 2 Weeks In

There is a lot going on! 

Before getting into the trip details, check this out:

1) I found extraordinarily awesome and cheap travel insurance via the website Squaremouth. It was only $193 for a year and is fairly comprehensive.

2) You can get a permanent address with US Global Mail or something similar like Scan Mailboxes. I went with US Global Mail. 

3) Before going to another country, I recommend you:

  • Find out if you need a vaccine
  • Determine the visa requirements
  • Find a place on Airbnb
  • Get a plane ticket after determining where you’ll be staying so you can hopefully fly to the nearest airport. This doesn’t always workout because you can often save a lot of cash by flying into a major international airport. 
  • Try to find a cheap-ass plane ticket
  • If the country you’re staying in has visa requirements and you need to show next country flight information (either return flight or flight to your next country) then get that next plane ticket. 
  • Print out your passport
  • Make sure you have transportation figured out
  • Ensure you’ll have cell service and Google Maps
  • Get Google Translate on your smartphone
  • Bring some ginger capsules with you for gastro-comfort if needed
  • Have credit cards/debit cards ideal for traveling. I use Charles Schwab and Etrade for ATM withdrawals (no fees), and Barclay/Chase travel cards for credit cards (again, no fees). 
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • No ATM fees
    • Earn some travel points while traveling
  • Call your credit card companies and make sure they know you will be traveling
  • Know the fundamental customs of the country you’re going to
    • What things are just completely rude?
    • What things are expected?
  • Know the crime level
  • Know at least a bit of the language spoken there (even if it’s just “please” and “thank you”)
  • Make sure there is coffee. If not, avoid at all costs. 

Okay, on with the details. 

On the flight there, the stewardess handed all of us documents to fill out for customs. This is expected when you’re flying into another country. What I didn’t expect was 2 documents, one of which I thought the stewardess called “family.” 

Word to the wise: you need both documents.

  • One is used to present to customs
  • The other is used to present to the people who check your bags before you’re allowed to exit the airport.

When I arrived at the airport I immediately went and pulled some cash from an ATM. DO THIS instead of using the currency exchange services; they will charge you for it. 

I stayed in San Jose the first night, but it was too late to explore, and to be brutally honest I’m not that interested in the city itself. It’s the rest of Costa Rica that I wanted to see. I took a shared shuttle to Playas Del Coco, and it’s ridiculously lush all around. Costa Rica is truly beautiful. 

Notes on transportation:

  • Public buses only take cash, there are no tickets that you can buy. I imagine you can purchase something in a fancier bus loaded with other foreigners, but I don’t mind being the only gringo on a public bus. It can get pretty crowded, fyi. 
  • Getting a rental car here is interesting. The first time I tried I found myself about 20 kilometers outside of the city walking along the highway to see if the rates were all the same. 

Here’s the story with that. 

I thought I’d struck gold. I found a great deal on Kayak to get a rental car for $1 per day. I took the bus up to get it, and found out that in Costa Rica you can expect the following 2 things just as much as you can expect death and taxes:

So instead I found out that I would have to put down between $900 to $3000 for the deposit, and pay the liability insurance. Okay, I was naive to think that I could get a rental for $1 per day, but it’s all good. I was determined to figure this rental situation out because I wanted to go wherever I wanted in the country, whenever I wanted to. 

That’s when I discovered Economy Car Rentals. They were able to offer comprehensive insurance for a decent price, and their deposit was only $750. Believe me, $750 is the absolute cheapest I could find.

Playas Del Coco

It's an interesting area. If you happen to visit I recommend checking out The Monkey Farm. The name sounded a bit odd to me at first because it made me wonder if they were farming monkeys in cages with the intent to create a monkey empire to do their nefarious bidding. 

This was not the case, however, and I found that they provide a sanctuary for monkey troupes. They're all about sustainability and have a no frills setup that is endearing. 

Check out their video here: 

You'll find that Playas Del Coco, while a tourist destination, isn't quite as touristy as other places in Costa Rica. The place where I'm staying is surrounded by locals going about their daily lives. The narrow streets are filled with people walking, riding bikes, riding motorcycles, riding scooters, riding motorized bicycles, riding bicycles with children sitting on the frame, riding motorcycles with any number of things (children, construction materials, etc). It is also filled with dogs, cars, trucks, more dogs, some cats, and more motorcycles. There are probably more dogs running about than you're imagining right now. If aliens landed in Costa Rica they might mistake dogs as the dominant species.

The street I'm on is a bit like a large sidewalk where anything is allowed to pass through. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if a small airplane was rumbling down one of these roads. Not all roads are like that mind you, but the roads by my apartment are.

When I'm driving here I just always expect to see someone on any road, so try to be pretty careful when behind the wheel. On the highways expect to see people walking and riding their bikes along the side of it. Hell, I was one of those people during my debut with CR rental cars. 

Just yesterday we drove past someone sitting on the side of the road facing away from it, and there was no shoulder on this road. 

The Beaches So Far

Coco

On Coco beach, expect some major humidity and heat, at least in the month of October. I just expect to sweat a lot all day. It’s like having an outdoor sauna that you don’t have to pay for! The water is by no means cold, so when it rains it feels a bit like heaven. I also have a hard time getting my water cold enough in my apartment. It’s a small price to pay my friends. 

It’s certainly not the best beach in the world. It’s just not really taken care of that well, but it’s beautiful in its own right. Also, there is an outlook that you can go to where you can get stunning views of this horseshoe beach. 

Ocotal

Playa Ocotal has beautiful black smooth sand with a gold tint. The water is fairly clear on the north side of this beach. Watch out for strong undercurrents, otherwise the water is fairly easy going. 

Neither Coco or Ocotal is good for surfing. 

Brasilito and Conchal

Playa Brasilito is adjacent to Playa Conchal, and seems to be okay for surfing, but we really didn’t see many people at this beach at all. It was mainly a place to start from to get to Playa Conchal. Why? Because Playa Conchal is made of seashells instead of sand, and the waters are crystal blue. It’s truly beautiful. 

Tamarindo (aka Tamagringo)

There are a lot of what appear to be Americans here. It’s a surfing mecca, and (obviously) heavy with tourism. On a Tuesday afternoon in late October, that beach was filled with people. There were tons of surfers either adeptly navigating the waves or just learning how to stand up on the board. 

Josh Bolinger and I rented a board each at Banana Surf School, which is located on the main strip parallel to the beach. We loved this place because the people there didn't try to sell us a billion things we didn't need or want. That day we must've looked like tourists who wanted to spend a bunch of cash on stuff. Expect that if you go to Conchal or Tamarindo. 

We were pummeled and thrashed by the waves, and Josh had better luck than I when it came to riding the waves, but it was hella fun. We’re going to be going again today, but to a different beach. 

Inland trips so far

It was truly an adventure going inland and through the mountains. All of a sudden I found myself on extremely bumpy and pot-hole ridden gravel roads that winded around mountains. The views were stunning. I had to stop every ten minutes it seemed just so I could try and capture some of the beauty. 

To give you an idea, here are a few of the pictures snapped:

 

Volcano Arenal

So beautiful, so rad, and the air is cool. I stayed at Arenal Essence, a boutique hostel, which was superb. 

Monteverde

Initially I was going to go to the could forest reserve, but I made it there late and didn’t want to pay the $20 to get in. 

I was kind of recovering from having eaten something that didn’t sit well with my stomach too. I don’t know if it was food or the fact that I drank a SHITLOAD of tap water the night before. I suspect the latter, so I’m playing it safe with bottled water from here on out, forever and everywhere. 

The food is delicious here, though, and I recommend getting a nice breakfast with fried plantains. 

Volcano Poas: I drove there but didn’t see it because it was covered in clowds. Oh well!

Also, for some reason I’m waking up ridiculously early (like 4 am). I guess this could be because of the fucked up roosters who start their morning routine at 3 am instead of when the sun is rising. More than that though, it just gets dark early as hell already. At around 5:20 is sunset, and 5:45 it is straight up dark. So I’ve been going to bed early so I can get a real early start to the day. It's a new life, and it beats the hell out of cubicle life, for real.

Until next time amigos.

- Jeremy

NorCal (Northern California) - Tech Mecca, Beautiful, Expensive

I had initially scheduled the trip out to the Bay Area to work remotely at my now previous company’s office. I had the flight booked already, so I was ready to go out and explore, enjoy, and catch up with old friends. Special thanks to Blaise and his roommates for letting me crash at their pad in Mountain View. If it weren’t for them I would have much less money because holy shit things are expensive out there. 

Fyi, I'm not affiliated at all with the companies linked to in this article. 

August 15, 2015 - Mountain View, Palo Alto

In any case, the first night I was there my friend and I went to a really great little restaurant called Lyfe Kitchen. I totally recommend it if you’re health conscious and all that. After that, some Thai tea hit the spot, sans “bubbles” for myself. 

August 16, 2015 - San Francisco

The next day I went into the “City,” San Francisco that is, and met up with some old friends for food and beer. Just so you know, people living outside of San Francisco in the bay area call it the “City.” No-one says “San Fran” evidently, which is disappointing because I really like saying “San Fran.” 

The restaurant we went to was called Jasmin’s Cafe. It was a pretty cool little place that had Korean and Mexican food. I opted for Bulgogi because I had no idea what the hell it was, and it turned out to be delicious. Btw, Bulgogi is marinated beef. We then headed over to Zeitgeist, a very chill beer garden. It kinda felt like I was back in Austin, for one because it was anomalously warm that day, and two because it had an eclectic crowd more on the tatted up and pierced side. In other words, it didn’t feel like the kind of place a Lamborghini driving Yuppie might frequent, but who the hell knows, it’s San Francisco! I had 3 King Leopold Belgian Stouts. They were delicious but strong, so I had to walk around for a few hours before I knew I could drive home. Ahh and nothing like paying for parking in a garage. 

Tip: just park your car on a street up by Golden Gate Park, then walk, take Uber, or rent a bike. There are “2 Hour Limit” warning signs everywhere, but when I asked a local they said they’d never seen anybody ticketed or towed. I guess the police have bigger things to worry about. I tested this out on my last day there, and my rental car was just fine. 

August 17, 2015 - Santa Cruz

The next day I decided to cruise across some mountains over to Santa Cruz. Initially, I thought about surfing, but then I remembered that I needed to save money, and it was not warm. I had just come from over 100-degree heat in Austin, so anything below 80 degrees felt fairly brisk. It turned out to be pretty rad anyway, as I found some great marking by the main beach. The main beach there, as far as I could tell, was called Main Beach. Neat right? 

Tip: Bring your own towel if you’re going to the beach in a touristy part of a place. 

I didn’t bring a towel and went into a few shops looking for one. I did find a few, but they were all 25-30 dollars, so I said screw it. 

I took some pictures of the sea and sea lions then went down to the water. 

sleeping sea lion

Main beach is cool. There is a boardwalk with restaurants and shops, and right behind the beach is an amusement park with rides and games. I walked among the amusement park people, then went across some train tracks with a sign overhead that said not to walk there because it was an active track. I don’t advocate doing it, but I definitely did it. You gotta be careful, as there are some gaps there that drop straight down. It would be bad enough to lose a sandal, but even worse to lose a life or limb. Anyway, I went this route so that I could hit up Seabright Beach. I brought my GoPro and tried to capture some Sea Lion footage, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t get any. Ho-hum. 

 

August 18, 2015 - Los Altos, San Francisco

The thing about being in Silicon Valley is that you really don’t escape the tech industry. I mean, it’s pretty much the ancient Rome of tech, so it’s understandable. Case in point: I went into a cool little coffee shop called Red Berry Coffee Bar in Los Altos to get some work done. There was a large table in the room on the second floor that had a number of ladies in their 40’s-50’s, and what were they talking about? Business, tech, funding, etc. etc. It was like they were having a board meeting for an awesome company already in existence. And you know what? They very well could have been, because Silicon Valley motherf$cker. 

That night I went into the city by train and took Uber once I arrived over to a place called Lion Pub. It had a very cool ambience, and it was great being able to catch up with an old friend/colleague whom I adore. I had a basil gimlet x2, and it was f*cking amazing. 

August 19, 2015 - Pacifica, Cupertino

My new roommates told me that Pacifica was beautiful and that it had an extravagant Taco Bell. I decided to go, but not for the Taco Bell..I gave up that heart stopping addiction a while ago. 

It was gorgeous. I parked for free next to a pier and golf course so that I could walk to Mori Point. It was overcast and cool at first, so if you go I recommend bringing a jacket. In fact, that calls for another tip.

Tip: Bring a jacket if you’re going to be in or near San Francisco, or if you’re right on the Pacific. It can get cool here my friends, and I'm not just talking about the hipsters. 

When you walk the trails, you’ll notice some that veer off and follow the coastline much more than the wider trail. There is also a sign that reads “Unmaintained trail, proceed at your own risk,” or something like that. So of course I had to take that trail. I don’t recommend it if you aren't into walking close to drop-offs into jagged abysses, but it really afforded some damn awesome views. 

Mori Point is rad, but you can keep on going past it (I started hiking north of Mori Point) and catch some really stunning views. 

Mori Point Pacifica

 

That night I went in and met up with some more homies from the old days in another life at another company in Cupertino. After that, it was time to send Blaise off to New Jersey/Iceland. I wasn’t literally going to ship him anywhere; that would be pretty weird, but it makes me wonder if he would be game if I asked him to give it a try.

August 20, 2015 - South Lake Tahoe

When I was about 14 or 15 the family took a vacation in our blue minivan over to NorCal. 

As part of that trip, we went to Lake Tahoe, but man I was in my “I’m too cool and morose for anything beautiful” stage, and just wanted to listen to Metallica in my headphones, which is what I pretty much did. 

Because I completely missed out on Lake Tahoe the first time around I decided to take a road trip. Let me tell you: it’s dark chocolate caramel for the eye. I snapped a LOT of pics there, and though I wasn’t planning on it, I took a dip in the clear crisp water. If you have a chance to go, go. I stayed on the cheap at the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel, which turned out to be pretty damn decent. I didn’t gamble or drink, but instead just kind of walked around a bit through the casino maze. Sometimes all that is needed after a day of driving and running around part of a lake is a good salad and a comfortable bed. Hell, the bed doesn’t even need to be that comfortable at that point.

 

August 21, 2015 - San Francisco

I was considering going over to Yosemite, but since two people had recently gotten the plague there, I decided to go back to the city, because honestly you never have quite enough time there. Also, WTF, the plague?

I was going to go to the Twin Peaks to get some good views of the city from high up, but it was overcast so I threw that idea out and went over to Golden Gate Park. This was another attraction of the city that I had been to, but really never experienced fully. It’s pretty great and reminded me a lot of Oslo for some reason. I guess because it was very green, overcast, and chilly. 

I parked on the east side of the park, and walked most of it, but got off on 36th and went up to Balboa to get some things done at a coffee shop called La Promenade Cafe (http://www.lapromenadecafe.com/). It’s pretty sweet, with a cool atmosphere and bookshelves with…books. 

I’ve been to NorCal a number of times, but this was probably the best trip because I had time to just explore and experience it without being a morose teen or there on business. 

You can see all notable pics from my NorCal trip here

I hope your life is stupendous right now, and if it isn’t, you keep your head up and see things with proper perspective. 

- Jeremy Nickel