At each new destination, I try and find some sort of event or excursion that I have never participated in before, something that makes me a little bit nervous, but something that I have to do because I know I will regret it if I back out.
I looked out the window at the Cessna 172 and could hardly believe they were going to let me co-pilot this thing!
Being from the East Coast of Canada, it made me realize it was such a small world when I learned that the pilot I was flying with was actually from Montreal, only a short distance away from where I’m from!
We walked out on the runway and over to our plane where we did all of the ground checks together to make sure everything was a go.
Okay, so it turns out that I was a terrible co-pilot, and flying a plane is actually really difficult….
The best part was how low we were flying over the city, so we were able to see the KL Tower and Petronas Towers up close!
I learned some of the rules of the air, experienced take-off and landing from the cockpit, took control of the plane while we were in the air, and kept my official one day membership card from the day I got to be a pilot.
What types of excursions/events have you attended in a new place?
Iceland’s tourism has been booming lately. I think every other person I speak to has gone or is planning a trip in the near future.
Here are some recommendations if you’re planning to go:
An incredible sight, indeed! Our trip was in July – so we didn’t experience any darkness in Iceland. If it’s on the top of your list, I suggest going closer to December, you’ll get a great view of the lights.
The benefit to going in July was that it wasn’t too cold, we had sun almost every day, and we could visit attractions anytime we wanted. Having 24h sun meant you didn’t have to hit up all of the attractions during peak hours, we sometimes found ourselves sight seeing alone during the “night”.
Rent a 4×4 and drive the Ring Road!
You can do the ring road in about a week, I’d recommend 8 full days, with travel on either end if you don’t want to feel rushed, but we did it in 7. Having a 4×4 is key because there are a lot of places you can venture off the ring road.
If you only have a few days stopover, just spend your time exploring the first few items of the following list:
Spend a day in Reykjavik
It really is a beautiful city, and a great way to start the trip off. Grab a beer and sit on a rooftop patio, walk down to the waterfront, and visit the Hallgrímskirkja Church.
Visit the Blue Lagoon
I know, it’s so popular and “touristy” but hey, you’re a tourist. This is a must-do, no question about it. This geothermal spa has to be one of the most relaxing places I have ever been. The blue water is filled with silica, algae, and minerals, and your skin feels brand new after you get out! (Note – your hair, not so much, put some conditioner in before you go.)
We got the comfort package and found it was perfect. It includes a towel, a silica mud mask, an algae mask, and a drink. I highly recommend this package at a minimum because the algae mask was my favorite part.
Remember, you need to prebook this – it gets busy! We didn’t realize this, and we ended up with a really late booking, but it worked out really well because it was a lot less crowded, if I went again I’d definitely go back for a late evening appointment.
Sleep in a Bubble!
Especially if you’re here to see the Northern Lights!
Go Ice Climbing
At the very least, do a glacier walk! It’s well worth paying for a tour, the guides are amazing and they take you to some incredible spots that you would likely never venture to on your own.
Chase Waterfalls and Sheep!
My top favorites were Skogafoss, Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, Svartifoss – My camera died for this one
Sólheimasandur Plane Crash
It was a rainly, windy, cold 4km walk, but it was such an interesting sight to see. Plane wreckage on black sand beach. A very unique photography location! You used to be able to drive most of the way down, but they have fenced it off now so you do have to walk down, so bundle up.
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon and Diamond Beach
Both are sights to see! No one was really at either of these locations when we went, and we almost decided not to go. This is right on the ring road, so I highly recommend making a quick stop to see. And diamond beach is just across the road.
Ride an Icelandic Horse
Fun Fact! Once their horses leave Iceland, they’re never allowed to come back, even the ones that are sent for races, so they’re very careful on what ones they choose to go.
Thinking back, I can’t believe how much we did in 7 days.
There are a ton of things to see and do, and every time I put an activity in, I remembered something else. I can’t wait to go back, there is still so much to see and so much to do, we barely ventured off the ring road!
I checked off a list of cities to visit while backpacking Thailand, and Krabi was number 3.
Although Railay is not an island, you still have to take a boat over because the location of the mountains blocks off any possible land route. The boat ride is only about 15 minutes, cost 400 Baht, and leaves every hour from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
I debated on a day trip to Railay versus staying there for a few days, and I know now that even if I had planned a day trip I would have stayed anyway.
Because how can you not stay in a place like this:
I haven’t yet mentioned the world renowned rock climbing… Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert to try it out. Many people of different skill levels were there, they have everything from beginner to expert routes, and they’ll put you on routes based on your skill level, and they’ll let you try some harder ones if you want to give it a shot.
My guide really pushed me into doing a route that I really didn’t think I could do which involved shimmying over a tough overhang, it felt incredible to conquer it!
Another hidden gem of the Railay area is the viewpoint lookout and the lagoon, both involve a bit of a sketchy vertical climb.
The viewpoint – Took us about 15 minutes to get to, and it was relatively difficult.
The lagoon – Took us about about 20 minutes to reach, it was more difficult than the lagoon hike, and we are faster hikers.
Many people didn’t trek to the lagoon as they found it was too far, after the vertical climb up, you basically climb vertically straight back down, so it’s a long round trip for those not used to strenuous hiking. I had read that there was a rope at the end but it was still extremely difficult to get down to, so we were just going to just check it out and see, however my update is that they actually have put in ladders to get down, so it’s really not that bad!
We climbed it barefoot because we didn’t want to ruin our sneakers. Everyone we passed thought we were crazy! The funny thing is we actually enjoyed the climb a lot more with no shoes – the rocks and roots we were climbing up were very smooth, they honestly didn’t feel real. Being able to grip the smooth surfaces with our whole foot made it easier, I would not have wanted shoes on!
The lagoon was completely EMPTY when we got there, it was such an incredible sight, and the fact that no one was around made it even more beautiful. We got in the water and we yelled to hear our voices echo throughout.
We finally trekked back up to the viewpoint, which was relatively easy after the lagoon, and signs pointed us in the right direction. The viewpoint was also no disappointment.
I plan to go back in the future and spend a lot more of my time rock climbing.
Overall, I’m so happy I took a chance on Railay!
Because we had an early flight out and wanted to visit the Emerald Pool, Hot Springs, and Tiger Cave Temple, we wanted to get to Ao Nang. In hindsight, Krabi Town would have been a better base as a place to stay.
We hired a driver for the day, as we felt it would be too far for us to scooter. We decided on the following day trip:
Emerald Pool first – we wanted to get there early because we heard it gets quite crowded in the afternoons
Hot springs second – we wanted to experience these before climbing up to the temple, as we didn’t think we’d want a hot bath after the climb
Tiger Cave Temple – a 1,237 step climb (or so they say, it was ACTUALLY 1,260)…
Emerald Pool was this stunning clear, cool, turquoise, water, I have never seen anything like it!
Picture to come!
The hot springs were REALLY hot, especially on our poor burnt skin. We still got in and after a minute or so it was enjoyable to sit in.
Finally, the last stop! We suffered up 1,260 steps. Two stray dogs climbed just in front of us and they would stop and wait for us every so often, taunting us, and our slowness… they put us to shame.
FOR NEXT TIME
I will DEFINITELY revisit Railay Beach!
I’m glad I went to Ao Nang, but I will likely not revisit.
If I had to have chosen one of the two, I would have chosen Railay Beach.
What do you do if you only have two days in Bangkok?
YSJ –> YYZ: 2 Hours
YYZ –> PEK: 13 Hours
PEK –> BKK: 4 Hours
Time Change: 11 Hours
And so worth it! Especially since I had slept 10 hours on the second haul…
After a 45 minute cab ride and some twisting and turning down little side streets, we found our hostel, and it was time to get some sleep.
Woke up nice and early for a free breakfast, which was delicious! The orange juice was smooth and sweet, and the fruit was freshly cut.
We wandered around to find our way back through the side roads, through little restaurants and markets, and finally emerged out onto a main road, where we hailed a cab.
I had read about a many different floating markets we could visit, some sounded quite touristy, and others were quite far away, so we decided on Talin Chan, which was only about 10km away.
Once we pulled up we noticed there was actually a very large local market we could walk through before getting to the floating market, which was an added bonus! The smell of spices filled the air as we walked through the main entrance.
After slowly sauntering towards the other side, we found tons of boats lined up cooking incredible food!
After exploring, grabbing some snacks, and taking some photos, it was time to head to our next destination.
Grand Palace & Wat Pho
There was no doubt in our mind that we were in the right place. High white walls surround the entire palace, officers stand guard on all sides, and a huge crowd funneled at the main entrance.
As most know, you can’t visit a temple with your knees or shoulders exposed, so I was wearing a long skirt and had a scarf to place around my shoulders, and Nick had long shorts and a t-shirt on. Despite this, we were denied more than once…
Attempt Number 1: Nick’s knees were exposed, so we had go to purchase pants.
Attempt Number 2: My scarf covering my shoulders was not acceptable, off to buy a shirt.
Attempt Number 3: Success!
The funny thing is that all the vendors nearby sell elephant pants and shirts, so EVERYONE inside the palace was decked out in elephant clothing – I have to say it was one of my favorite parts.
As soon as we got in, we were amazed by the detail and time it must have taken to build such a temple consisting of not only one masterpiece, but many.
End of Day 1 – We grabbed some ice cream and headed to find some supper, still jet lagged, it was time to get some rest!
4 a.m = RISE AND SHINE!! – Not actually, but it was difficult to sleep still being on Atlantic Canada time so I was wide awake, but I tried to force myself to go back to sleep for a bit.
Today we really wanted to get lost! The perfect place to get lost in Bangkok is in the small side streets of China Town.
China town was amazing, there was lots to see and buy! We also took our first tuktuk here. I highly recommend it if you want to stay around town.
Oh, and I almost forgot – on our way over, we accidentally stumbled through the amulet market, which a was pretty cool mistake!
We were very satisfied with our two days, especially with the tiredness we weer experiencing mid-afternoon.
Our flight out to Phuket was at 7 p.m., so unfortunately, we had to head to the airport!
For Next Time:
We agreed that if we had more time we would have likely ventured outside the main city. If we had one more evening, we would have gone to check out the sky-bar.
I’ve noticed 5 million star hotels popping up all over the place lately and decided to try one out. Just outside of Reykjavik, our accommodations for the night were simply a giant plastic bubble. How incredible is that?
The bubble structure is kept inflated by a slight over-pressure from a noiseless ventilation system. It renews the air inside 2-7 times the volume per hour to prevent humidity, and the system has heating elements with a thermostat so the bubble stays warm – even in the middle of winter!
We pulled up to an adorable little house to meet the host. After following her down the road and off into the trees, she led us to our bubble. We were so excited we didn’t listen to a word she said as we ran around it taking pictures and poking it.
We grabbed all of our stuff from the car and piled it up next to the entrance.
Now, how do we get in this thing without letting all of the air out?
We unzipped the front, and the entire entrance way collapsed onto us and all of our stuff as we fell to the floor laughing, but also somewhat concerned we had just deflated the entire thing.
Processed with Snapseed.
While fumbling around on the floor underneath all of the collapsed plastic, we found the zipper that allowed us to get into the bubble. Before unzipping it, taking into consideration what had just happened, we zipped up the outside zipper before undoing the inside zipper – and there we had it! The entrance filled back up with air and we were INSIDE!
So to summarize:
Step 1: Unzip entrance zipper
Step 2: Step inside the deflated part
Step 3: Zip up the outside zipper
Step 4: Unzip the inside zipper
Naturally, after figuring all of this out, we had a photo shoot.
Processed with Snapseed.
Processed with Snapseed.
Processed with Snapseed.
The bubble created a serene feeling that nothing is between you and the rest of nature. I highly recommend this experience to anyone that enjoys outdoor exploring.
Unfortunately, there is no aurora borealis in the summer months in Iceland, and therefore we did not get that experience. It is now something I plan to go back in the winter months for.
Recently, I went on what has become a popular annual trip with friends to climb Mount Katahdin in Maine, USA and whitewater raft the Penobscot class 5 rapids! However, the rafting story is for another post, another day.
So Mount Katahdin is the centerpiece of Baxter State Park with an elevation of 5,267ft (1,606m), and it has a very interesting intimidating feature – a tail called “Knife’s edge”. I assure you, the name is NOT misleading.
This specific trail is not for the faint of heart as portions of it span no more than a foot from side to side with steep drops on each edge. The 1.1 mile scramble starts from the summit and stretches over to Pamola Peak.
The views are indescribable the entire way across. Katahdin has a bowl-like shape that you can really appreciate as you slowly make (crawl) your way from peak to peak, however you may need to briefly pause here and there to truly appreciate it and not fall off the edge…
Should you decide to make this great climb
I learned the hard way that a parking pass is required, and you must show up by 7a.m. or they will give it away to someone that showed up on time! We arrived at 7 on the dot, which I certainly don’t recommend trying to do. They only allow 35 cars into Roaring Brook parking lot, so purchasing your pass online 14 days ahead of time is your best bet to ensure you don’t miss your day of climbing!
My favorite route on the mountain starts on Chimney Pond Trail. It’s a relatively easy trail that leads up to the base of the mountain, as you can see below:
Next up – Cathedral Trail! This is a relatively shorter trail at 1.5 miles, but don’t let that fool you. It’s pretty much a straight shot from the base of the mountain to Baxter Peak, and it’s very much a scramble. This trail isn’t sheltered by any trees so pack some sun screen if you’re heading up on a nice day.
After some lunch at the summit, the moment we have all been waiting for, it’s time to embark onto Knife Edge trail. CAUTION: If it’s rainy and windy, this is a trail you should avoid, as it becomes an extremely dangerous trail in which several people have died or been seriously injured attempting it in inclement weather.
Here’s an idea of what I’m trying to explain:
Finally, after a quick stopover at Pamola Peak, it’s time to head down. At this point it has already been a long day, but it’s not over yet.
It’s quite a ways down, but eventually you hit the beginning of Chimney Pond again and you know you’ve completed the loop. Congratulations!!
I recommend visiting Mount Katahdin to any regular hiker. There are many different trails to suit your needs, and Chimney Pond never fails as a beautiful less strenuous family hike if you’re short on time or not ready to climb to the peak. They also offer lean-to camping, which I haven’t experienced personally, but I’m certain it would be a beautiful spot to camp out before a big climb.
We stayed at Big Moose Inn Cabins – which is only 8 miles from the gate, and it is the last available accommodations that offer electricity and plumbing before you get to Katahdin, so we opted for the luxury “camping” this time :).
Things to bring in your day pack
Long sleeve/wind breaker for the summit
Small medical kit (bandaids, blister relief, etc.)
At least 2.5 liters of water
Lunch and snacks that include protein
A beer for the top!
Trail Summary of my favourite route
Chimney Pond Trail (3.3 Miles – easy/moderate hike)
Many travelers experience the aches and pains of an upset stomach, and not only in Bali.
When your body experiences a change in diet, it may react negatively, and you could end up bedridden for a few days. Although curable, it’s extremely unfortunate having to waste a few days in bed when you’re traveling. It will put you behind on plans or cause you to miss some sights you’ve traveled far and wide to see.
Precautionary Measure Are Key:
Dukoral – an oral vaccine that usually does not require a prescription most, it will help prevent an upset stomach due to E. coli.
Wash your hands – Always. Especially after handling money and before meals.
Hand sanitize – Keep some on you at all times in case there is no where to wash up.
Avoid food and beverages that are more likely to be contaminated, such as:
Under cooked meat
Tap water – Always ICE OUT! A lot of places use tap water to make their ice
Food and beverages to stick to:
Anything boiled or deep fried
Fruit that you peel yourself
Choosing a spot to eat:
Ask other tourists at your hostel where they ate
Walk around and look for a busy spot, chances are they have good food and it’s fresh
Don’t purchase meat from street vendors. I rarely purchase from street vendors, but when I do I ensure they’re cooking it right in front of me
If it doesn’t taste right, don’t eat it! It’s not worth saving a buck if it’s going to make you sick, find something else.
Protein Bars – Bring some with you for when you can’t find somewhere to eat right away, or you end up with a meal you don’t feel comfortable eating. It will hold you over until you find other food.
You could take all of the precautions and still end up with Bali Belly. I was SO CAREFUL in what I chose to eat, but I still ended up in bed for a full day. I was completely drained.
If You Get Sick:
Go to the doctor right away – even if they don’t speak English, you can hold your stomach and they’ll understand what to give you. I ended up with tablets I had to take twice a day for 3 days.
Get hydrated – drink tons of bottled water and put hydration tablets in it (I always bring hydration tablets when traveling)
Rest up – It’s unfortunate to miss time out and about, but at least take some time to get a solid sleep in. I drank as much water as I could, took a Gravol, and slept for a solid 14 hours before I felt any better. I would have felt sick a lot longer if I tried to push through it.
Imodium – 2 tablets right away and one in the morning if you can’t get to a doctor.
If you’re traveling for more than a month, slowly introducing your body to more and more local food should help your adjustment without getting you sick. Avoiding anything that might make you sick is worth it if you’re only traveling for a few weeks.
Enjoy your travels, and I hope you don’t experience Bali Belly, or something of the like!
“Go on and do it! People will say no, and I’ll tell you why they say no, it’s not to hurt you it’s not to stifle your dream, it’s that from where they see it, it’s too scary.” – JD Lewis
One of the most memorable days of my life was the day I set out to hike the Great Wall of China.
Words can not express how beautiful it was at HuangHua Cheng (“The Wall of the Yellow Flowers”), and I would highly recommend it to anyone planning a visit, here’s why:
No Crowds – This section of The Wall was shut down to the public several years ago, however locals have ‘opened’ up a few routes. This section stretched several kilometers and not a single other person was in sight.
Not Too Dangerous – Although some parts of The Wall do not have railings, you are not required to hike across any parts that are damaged and very dangerous. In my picture, I am crossing to get to a view spot (which was kind of sketchy) but that is not required on this hike. I do recommend some solid footwear such as sneakers/hikers! Some parts are quite steep slopes with no stairs, they could be slippery and tough to climb up on a rainy day.
Incredible View – From the water down below to the mountain ranges you can see The Wall stretch across your entire view! I can not describe how much appreciation I have for how breathtaking it was.
Inexpensive – Our day trip from Beijing cost approximately $45 USD each. It was about an hour each way. Our driver spoke great English and told us some amazing facts on our way. He hiked up to the beginning of The Wall with us to show us where to go, then left us to meet him at the end. We hiked for about 4 hours, but a lot of the time we were taking pictures and sitting enjoying the view.
If you’re planning a visit to the Great Wall, don’t aimlessly wander over to the most touristy spot. Take some time to plan out an alternate route, find a less popular spot to visit – you will not regret it!