Tag Archives: traveler

Prachaup Khiri Khan, Thailand

After spending three months in Southeast Asia, Prachaup Khiri Khan was one of my favorite places to visit. The small city, along a series of crescent shaped bays, is a perfect place for a solo traveler in Thailand. The laid-back feel, beautiful beaches, adorable monkeys (as well as some naughty monkeys) and a modest travel scene create an unparalleled atmosphere. It takes just a half day train ride from Bangkok to reach this paradise and it’s absolutely worth it!

I sort of stumbled on this location while researching hikes in preparation for visiting Thailand. I read about an amazing trek up Khao Lommuak that offers a magical view of the surrounding bays and islands. Unfortunately the grounds are only open to the public on special weekends and holidays, none of which occurred during the time I would visit Thailand. However, after reading a little about the adjacent town, Prauchaup Khiri Khan, I decided to visit anyway. The proximity to the sea, as well as multiple national parks was really attractive and it seemed less crowded than Hua Hin, the busy tourist town to the north which has similar features.

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Every night offered a watercolor sunset along the bay.

If you ever get to this part of Thailand, you must visit Kui Buri National Park! Seeing wild elephants was an experience I will remember forever. For about $30 (round trip taxi and entrance fee) myself and a few ladies from my hostel traveled to Kui Buri National Park. Once there, with guides in a truck, we played “hide and seek,” driving slowly with binoculars glued to our faces. The deal is that you pay to go into the habitat along a few dirt roads and if any elephants are spotted the trucks will pull over to let you observe (from a safe distance, for you them). If the animals can’t be spotted, that’s just bad luck. They are respected as natural beings and never forced out for visitors and you must keep a distance of at least 100 meters  (no elephant selfies). Patrons are allotted a few hours but many trucks will stop the tour after one or two sightings, thinking that guests have gotten their money’s worth. Fortunately, some of my companions were really outgoing and kind and somehow talked the staff into giving us our full three hours even though we saw a lot of elephants in the first hour. I’m glad she was so smooth because it was one of the best nature tours I’ve ever done and I didn’t want it to end. Also, after visiting a few national parks in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, this one was one of the most professionally run and the staff seemed to really like what they were doing and dealing with foreign visitors (that’s not always easy). No outside guide is needs to take you into the park in order to get a full experience, fees are upfront and simple, facilities clean and customer service is great.

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Elephant family in Kui Buri National Park.

Animals can also be found much closer to the city; adorable, natural monkeys live aside the gorgeous Kao Lom Muak. The Dusky Langur monkeys are small and shy but will show themselves to visitors. Their location provides some protection to them as their status is close toThey are found specifically in Wing Five of the Air Force Base where visitors are allowed in for free, one passport required per group. . This is adjacent to Ao Manao Bay, one of the cleanest beaches I saw in Asia. It is very much worth a visit to just run around in the sand and sea without worry of bottle caps or sharp trash. I was able to bike to the spot from my hostel in 20 minutes.

Now a bit of a warning: beware of the naughty monkeys in the northeast area of the city around “monkey mountain,” another hill with a temple on top, formally known as Khao Chong Krachok. The view of the islands and bays from “monkey mountain” is great but the monkeys living on it are a little creepy and aggressive. They are mostly known for stealing flip flops off feet and taking food – nothing horrible – but their waste litters the site and some are very obese and loaf in the center of stairways or sun shelters. They are known to some as the “bad” monkeys, while the Dusky Langurs are the “cute” monkeys. Maybe it’s not a fair label but it’s worth confirming which kind of monkey you will encounter while exploring the city. The “cute” monkeys will not steal your items or scratch you.

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A Dusky Langur

As with Kanchanaburi, Prauchaup Khiri Khan had a lot of solo travelers but this town attracted much more people in their 30’s – 50’s. This constantly shifting group of people were great to explore with and get to know. The city isn’t exactly out of the way or challenging to reach for foreigners but most of those visiting all had a lot of time devoted to seeing Thailand or the region. Some had awesome stories (one had biked there from the Netherlands!) and great advice about things to see and do throughout the country.

I absolutely never felt alone and met a lot of people at Safehouse Hostel. We went on bike rides along the bay (all day rentals are everywhere for about $2), ate delicious and spicey dinners ($1 – $3) or out for Thai Whiskey and music.  No matter where you stay everything in the city is in walking distance. The experience in Prachaup Khiri Khann was the perfect balance of fun and relaxation. Although I was not able to visit them during my visit,  both Khao Sam Roi National Park and Namtok Huai Yang National Park are realistic day trips from the area and provide even more opportunities for nature and exploring.

All these wonderful things made staying in Prachaup Khiri Khan of the best experiencesI had in Southeast Asia.  Originally, I planned to stay just two nights but extended my time into four. I wish I could have stayed longer! If I visit Thailand again I will have go back.

Thank you for reading!

Ruby

 

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Bikepacking Spain: Andalusia

Spain is one of my favorite countries – the amazing array of cuisine, music, language, art and traditions. Each region has a distinct culture and history, making exploring the country a rich experience. The natural side of things is just as diverse; Spain is home to lush forests, winding rivers, rugged coasts, natural sandy beaches, expansive savanna, snow capped mountains, an island volcano, and even a desert. On top of that, most of the country is at a high altitude, which, combined with the Mediterranean climate, means very strong distinct seasonal changes.

I wanted to travel Spain by bike in order to cover more ground than a hiking trip but also remain in close contact to my surroundings. Although I have visited many times before, I had never made it to Andalusia in the southern area of the mainland. After looking at a few sample itineraries pulled from commercial cycling tours (I do this a lot – a great way to get a template), I decided on a route hitting major historic cities (Seville, Córdoba and Granada) and mixing in a variety of landscapes (orchards along rolling hills, curving river valleys, arid plains full of cacti, rugged mountains and maybe even some snow in the Sierra Nevada). Sticking with about 80 km a day, I would have the freedom to stop and linger in a place, wander a bit off course and keep enough time to camp and hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains all in eight days time, a realistic international vacation length for an American. The route gains about 2,400 meters in elevation, the bulk of that on day five, the second half of the leg between Córdoba and Granada.

Seville to Córdoba

I took off from Seville where I arrived the previous evening. One night was enough to eat a delicious dinner, walk about the old city center and get to know a few other travelers in my hostel. I departed from the beautiful city in early afternoon after zipping around the old quarter for sightseeing by bicycle before a Friday tourist crowd began to build. Seville is very bright and cheerful with a classic historic area, picturesque narrow and crooked streets and a massive bull fighting arena. The most interesting place for me was the Plaza de Toros, the famous bull ring and museum. I’ve visited much of Spain over the last few years yet haven’t seen an active bullring. Within the building, sits the Museo Taurino, a small museum decorated with old posters and images of past events and I enjoyed the photographs and artistic renditions of bullfighting.

The Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza

As predicted getting through the suburban build up of Seville was a bit of a pain using roads suitable for a road bike. However, once out of the city, the 90 km route to Palma Del Rio felt easy on the legs and pleasantly flat, winding through farm fields and orange groves the entire way. Cacti grow aside the dusty roads along with colorful wildflowers adding some variety to the scorched fields. The area reminded me very much of southern California.

Many of the fields looked empty but I eventually passed a large orange grove in harvest with workers filling massive bins. Many wore a plain blue baseball cap to protect from a strong May sun. By early afternoon the air was thick with serious heat and my white t-shirt was soiled from sweat the dusty air. After battling to keep dry and warm in Portugal, Spain felt entirely different and like a whole new world.

My camping spot for the night was supposed to be in a park near Palma Del Rio. However, after arriving to the site around dusk, I found that camping was no longer offered and the park closed. Due to fatigue I just spent the night wild camping on a river bend just outside of the city. I had no interest in roaming around looking for guesthouses so late an in a transitional season.

Castillo de Almodóvar del Río.

Day two continued from Palma Del Rio to Córdoba after lazily drinking coffees at a cute cafe in the city watching elderly people out on walks, playing dominoes on picnic tables and just enjoying their Friday morning. After an hour or so resting in the town I started back along highway 431 headed straight to Córdoba.

It was foolish to start the day so late and I ended up feeling the heat quickly. Inland Spain doesn’t have a lingering spring like Portugal and leaps right into summertime heat. At round three in the afternoon when the sun was strongest, I noticed a bright blue baseball cap in the ditch near the road. I stopped to pick it up and gave it a once over and noticed what looked like some paint stains and minor use but it looked clean enough to be my new cap! My previous hat was lost to the sea winds between Sintra and Lisbon a week earlier and I very happy to shade my face with my harvester cap.

Some very friendly goats decided to investigate my bicycle.

Not long after, looking into the distance I was able to make out a very steep and high hill with a castle almost cartoonish in its size and appearance; it looked like something out of a movie. As I cycled closer a very well-preserved castle with Moorish details came into view. I decided to check it out and take a break to lunch in Almodóvar del Río. Through a brief conversation with the local townspeople, I found out the castle is 1,300 years old and got some major retouching about 700 years ago. The good condition of the structure has allowed it to be featured as setting for some television shows.

About 25 kilometers after my lunch break I reached Córdoba and went directly to one of the many squares for cake, coffee and people watching. Afterwards began a very difficult and long ascent to Los Villares Park for a night of organized camping. Only nine kilometers out of the heart of the city, the road to the park was incredibly steep and took any remaining energy I had left. I reached the hilltop park at about 9 pm and felt immense relief seeing cars in the parking lot and a small lit building. However, I was a month too early for camping season! The night workers were very kind and said that since I came all the way up on bicycle and darkness was fast approaching, I could pick a spot in the park for the night free of charge. Although that meant no amenities like a shower or a bathroom after the park closed at 10 pm, it was a welcome comprise. The park looked like a gorgeous place to explore and I tried to see as much of it was possible before heading back down to Cordoba the next morning.

A shot from historic Cordoba.

Spain ended up being a tricky place to camp on-the-fly: sometimes “camping” signs with tent icons really meant a site just for RVs or caravans. Many campsites with full websites online didn’t have information about when their season would begin or had possibly never been updated since the previous summer, making it seem open for business. Overall the camp accommodation scene felt a bit disorganized, especially coming from Portugal, where every location was up and running and any campsite located on major mapping apps were in fact campsites. I wrongly assumed camping and outdoor sports would be more common in May before the brutally hot Spanish summer set in. I ‘d recommend planning to stay in guesthouses, hotels or some other form of accommodation in this area in April and May.

I enjoyed grabbing a coffee and just walking the streets and seeing the Moorish-inspired building details in Granada and Cordoba.

Córdoba to Granada

After spending a full day wandering Córdoba and successfully camping (yay!) in El Brillante, actually in the city, it was time for a two-day challenging ride to Granada. Approaching Granada was like entering a magical world. For the first several hours of riding, olive tree fields hug close to the road and go on as far as the eye can see. The terrain slowly changes from flat to dramatic slopes with sudden sharp peaks. On these peaks usually perch fortresses and castles with little medieval towns below. The white red-roofed buildings sit in crooked rows along streets softy coiling around the hill. Highway 432 route passes many of these picturesque towns-Alcaudele, Alcalá al Real, Espejo, Baena. Only in Granada would I hear the term “pueblos blancos” used to describe these places, which apparently makeup a tourist route of sorts, connecting the major cities of Andalusia. I had no idea to expect this kind of scenery and really enjoyed the surprise.

The enchanting Sierra Nevada mountains are visible from far very away and provided a sort of motivation for the toughest part of the trip. It did take a while for me to notice them because snowy white peaks against a very bright sky create an illusion of jagged clouds. It is a strange visual but when you know to look for mountains, it becomes clear. The area between Cordoba and Granada is beautiful and it’s a lot of fun to just ride while enjoying the view.

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Scenes from a wonderful few days in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The feel of Granada was unique among the Spanish towns. The “old town” is fairly spread out so although the entire neighborhood is dependent on tourism, there is no claustrophobic feeling or huge crowds like the old parts of Seville or Barcelona. There is a small shopping area in the center but it’s less youthful and trendy than Madrid, so there’s a bit less madness. I fount it clean, inviting, relaxing and characteristic of much of Spain, and especially Andalusia.

I initially passed through on the way to the Sierra Nevada but would return to Granada to close out the journey. The first three nights in the area were spent up in the mountains at Los Lomas sitting about 500 meters above Granada near a large reservoir with a wonderful view. Cycling up was tough but very much worth it. The area was just beautiful, refreshingly cool and near a nice network of hiking trails (some going deep into the mountains). Camping for a few days provided a bit of rest and recharging after five days of cycling.

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An archway in the Alhambra. I highly recommend a visit if you are near Granada.

After a few days it was time to go down to the city and see some sights. Andalusia is full of Moorish architecture but Granada is the single best place to see these buildings, along with many courtyard gardens and quaint homes along little streets winding up the hillsides. Even the adorable hostel where I stayed had an open central courtyard! In Granada I really took it easy. I spend a day visiting Alhambra, a palace with an amazing display of 14th-century Moorish architecture located on al-Sabika hill. I normally don’t do things like visit the inside of palaces, temples, etc. but I had a feeling this would be special, dazzling and different. The Alhambra was just lovely and each area had detail and color to appreciate; the visit took a long time and was a great experience.

Two days in Granada went by quickly and thus brought an end to a wonderful journey cycling through Andalusia, Spain.

Thanks for reading!

Work Holiday Visas for U.S. Citizens

Whether an experienced traveler or a newbie, obtaining a Working Holiday Visa, sometimes known as a Work and Travel Visa, can be the key to making a long-term travel opportunity affordable. Visa holders are legally allowed to work in jobs (under certain conditions) while they make their way through a country. The obvious benefits are having income while traveling, the opportunity to network and gain new skills, more intimate access to the local community through co-workers and other relationships built while working, and more time to immerse yourself in the culture of your country of choice.

Basic requirements vary but generally include: a U.S. Passport valid for at least 6 – 12 months past your exit date, a return ticket, be in overall good health and proof of health insurance, not have minor dependents and be able to prove a basic level of savings you can dip into during your stay. Unfortunately, US Citizens get the short stick in the developed world when looking at Working Holiday Visa opportunities; we have established programs with just five nations. We are eligible for Working Holiday Visas in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.

Australia

Who hasn’t dreamed of visiting Australia? This huge country requires a lot of time to properly explore and a Working Holiday visa is a great way to make a visit budget-friendly. This visa will allow a holder to work for up to six months with each company.

Main industries: Tourism, agriculture, construction, skilled trades and healthcare.
Application fee: Free
Length: 12 months
Age Restriction: Age 18 – 30*
*Applying at age 30 and entering at age 31 after a visa is granted is acceptable

Visit the Australia immigration page for complete information and to start the process.

Ireland

Current and recent students can spend a year working in the gorgeous Emerald Isle, the only European destination on this list.

Main industries: Tourism, some engineering fields, healthcare, IT, finance/business.
Application fee: About $350
Length: 12 months
Age Restriction: Age 18+ Must be currently a post-secondary student or have graduated university in the past year.

Visit the Ireland immigration page for complete information and to start the process.

New Zealand

A beautiful country! A work and travel set up is ideal for the adventurer looking to maximize their stay while on a sporty holiday in The Land of the Long White Cloud.  I personally applied and was granted a visa. I felt the process was fast and no-nonsense. It’s completely uneccessary to pay an agency to do this for you.

Main industries:Tourism, hospitality, agriculture, skilled trades and healthcare.
Application fee: Free
Length: 12 months
Age Restriction: Age 18 – 30*
*Applying at age 30 and entering at age 31 after a visa is granted is acceptable.

Visit the New Zealand immigration page for complete information and to start the process.

South Korea

Forested mountains, beaches, castles and metropoles – Korea has everything.

Application fee: Free
Length: 12 months
Age Restriction: Age 18 + Must be currently a post-secondary student or have graduated university in the past year.

Visit the South Korea immigration page for complete information and to start the process.

Singapore

Singapore is the most competitive Working Holiday Visa open to U.S. Citizens – only 2,000 are granted each year. Be prepared and do your research beforehand to improve your chances of getting accepted.

Length: 6 months
Age Restriction: Age 18 – 25 Must be currently a post-secondary student from a recognized institution.

Visit the Singapore immigration page for complete information and to start the process.

A word of warning: Work and travel visas are best for someone comfortable with change, casual employment and open to doing work in a field that may be unfamiliar.  Although technically most of the visas listed here make one eligible to work a contract or “regular” job on non-permanent basis, these are tough to get. Keep and open mind and be aware your realistic opportunities are in tourism, hospitality or jobs that are seasonal in nature.

Central Europe: Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia 

After four weeks traveling around Central Europe I finally found time to share what I’ve been seeing and doing. My plans have undergone numerous changes, most notably skipping the Tatras, but I have been having a great time with most days spent hiking or wandering cities. Either way, a lot of time spent outside!

I avoided coming to this part of Europe before because the language is really different from what I know and have studied. However, like most languages, you start to notice patterns quickly and it’s not impossible and depending on what you’re up to, your vocabulary might work across a few borders in the region (Vodopad is used in multiple languages in central Europe for the noun waterfall, pivo/piwo for beer,  and good sounds similar, so greetings like good morning, good day etc will sound similar). I would advise against relying on a general translation app, like Google for more than individual words because it’s incapable of changing grammar structures so a full sentence will come out a little weird. Young people are always helpful as the younger a person is the more likely it is that they will have studied English or had some informal exposure to it. There seems to be very low expectations for travelers’ Polish, Czech, Slovak or Croatian language skills but per usual, a good rule is to learn how to say please, thank you, hello, goodbye, yes and no.  I noticed that culturally, the people in Central Europe appreciate a modest and polite traveler; if they interpret your behavior as condescending they will not do anything for you, even if they are someone who would generally helps strangers.

I haven’t run into any safety issues. I see less other women traveling alone in these areas than Western or Southern Europe but we cross paths from time to time. For the most part getting around is easy using public transportation apps. Actually, I’m really impressed with the public bus networks of Poland and Czech Republic! It’s possible to stay in one central location and take a bus, quite cheaply, to any number of national forests, national park or other nature areas. Sometimes it takes one to two hours but the time goes quickly with a book or at the end of the day, just recovering. This is a great service and you see all kinds of people out hiking or biking – because wonderful natural areas are so accessible! What a dream it would be if I could do this at home and hop on a bus in Minneapolis and end up 40 miles away at one of the Minnesota state or regional parks! 

August was a heavy hiking month with about 400 kilometers covered in three countries. Forest, wetlands, mountains and sandstone labyrinths were my playgrounds. All the hiking meant an excuse to try a new beer almost every night and a wide variety of traditional and contemporary fusion dishes. My favorite things included blueberry ice cream and roasted duck.

Adršpach-Teplice Rocks National Park in Czech Republic is full of gorgeous blue lakes and sandstone formations (I loved the polar bear rock). This was one of the most crowded natural areas I visited but it was definitely worth seeing. I visited on a day with on-and-off rain which made all the colors of moss and lichen throughout the park pop.

View from the top of Sněžka (1602 m) which is the highest mountain in the Czech Republic. Located in Krkonoše National Park which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve it offers sweeping views over both Czech Republic and Poland. The mountain range and park offer numerous (and absolutely free) hiking opportunuties and I covered about 75 kilometers in three days on the lovely trails.

Enjoying the view after a 1,000 meter ascent. Turning 30 at the end of August meant an interest in abusing my knees and hips while they were still “young.”

A view of Cesky Krumlov, UNESCO Heritage Site and the number two tourist destination in Czech Republic. A very beautiful and charming city with a castle set on a winding river. This was the perfect setting for relaxing outside after a long day of hiking the nearby wood trails.

The castle tower in Cesky Krumlov with beautiful coloring and ornate reliefs. It apparently has the nickname “Birthday Cake.”

A picture from the Wawel Castle grounds in Krakow. I have avoided this city in the past do to its popularity; I feared it would feel very crowded. The old town is heavily trafficked but there is much to see, do and eat while still feeling like you’re getting a modern, authentic experience. The older parts of the city are nice for wandering and have a rich yet disturbing history.

A view of Bratislava Castle. I spent a long weekend in Bratislava, Slovakia and found it to be more enjoyable than some of the other major cities I’ve visited. Notably the smaller crowds, cleaner streets and very efficient public transportation. History blends perfectly with modern urban life here. Also the surrounding forests are a nice place to spend a day getting lost on foot or cycling.

Right now I’m in Croatia waiting out a long rain spell and recovering from 19 hour travel marathon to arrive at Plitvice Lakes National Park. I’m beyond excited to visit this park and share the experience.

Thanks for reading!

Spain: Castilla-La Mancha, a Road Trip

After spending a week in Spain with a friend and driving through Castilla-La Mancha on the way from Cuenca to Valencia, I’m so excited to share the beautiful journey. This trip was the first time I drove outside of the U.S. and although I found the cities nightmarish to navigate, the empty mountain roads were an absolute pleasure to drive!

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View of old Cuenca

After two great nights and far too much wine in old Cuenca, it was time to head for Valencia, starting along highway 2105 in a flamboyant orange Captur. The clear day offered amazing views from the winding road which looks down on the Rio Júcar gorge. The first stop, about a twenty minutes into the drive, was Ventano del Diablo. From this perch one is able to see the jewel colored river and impressive rocks that make up the river gorge. We missed all this during our extremely foggy and cloudy hike the day before. Between Villalba and Uña are several breathtaking views of the river and covering this route definitely set the tone for the day.

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Ventano del Diablo

The next break, not much further along, was Embalse de la Toba. Here you can get a closer view of the water while hiking on the rocky banks. It was a pity to visit the area in November, as it would have been a perfect location for dipping toes into the water to cool off on a hot day. The white, read and brown shades in the sides of the gorge contrasted beautifully with the cerulean blue water and green trees, and eagles soaring high above.

After the short break we continued through Serrania de Cuenca, a nature preserve that includes several towns. The road had many bends and steep grades do it needed to be followed slowly. As we went we were treated to views of dense pine forests, dramatic cliffs and rock formations, cute little farms, old villages and snow capped mountains in the distance. There was one magical moment when, with sun shining full, light snow fell down onto the road. We did not encounter anyone else during our stops. This made the experience feel more intimate, as if the landscape was a special place of our own for exploring at a leisurely pace.

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Rio Jucar

All the opportunities for exploration in the area could be enough to keep a visitor busy for a week and would be heaven for a backpacker or cyclist. Over the course of the trip I had been moved by the beauty of the mountains and forests we encountered but this day was even more special. I don’t believe I have ever experienced such dramatic change in flora, fauna and weather than the wonderful way between Cuenca and Valencia. I am so thankful for the experience. Each time I visit Spain I learn more about then nature and culture. Even now i know some day I will be back and find something even more amazing.

Thanks for reading!

San Francisco (Part 1)

The Golden Gate Bridge from Chrissy Field East Beach.

Hello from San Francisco! I’m on day three of a long weekend and my first trip that is part work and part play. For two nights I’ve been staying downtown in the Financial District and making it out to eat some great dinners in the Jackson Square (such a variety of cuisine styles can be found here!) and Chinatown areas. I love diving into the very distinct neighborhoods, all offering their own version of San Francisco. On night one my boss took our work group to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory (in a narrow Chinatown alley). We tried a few samples and see how the cookies are made. Interesting fact: The cookies get their shape from being folded over twice while still warm, not from a mold. It was a really fun thing to watch. “Naughty” fortune cookies were available to buy in bulk so I helped myself to what I thought would be a humorous gift to friends. However, upon opening one of these cookies I saw that the fortunes didn’t make a lot of sense and if I could get a meaning out them they were still PG – not the level of sassiness expected. Edit: The bag of cookies was obviously too large to survive the weekend without getting crushed in my luggage so most of them ended up being nice snacks at the hostel.

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Sticker art in Mission.

I’m super excited to have found a hostel (Green Tortoise) in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood,so for the first time ever I will stay in an American hostel. I’m wondering if it’s similar to the hostels I’ve used abroad and if I will pick up any friends for the weekend.Edit: I befriended South American and Australians also traveling alone and we had great fun visiting a neighborhood beer bar, taste-testing and comparing San Franciscan coffees and exchanging travel stories and dreams. I’m so glad I got to know them.

I’m trying to look big, like a redwood.

Today centered around a visit to the beautiful Muir Woods. The National Monument,, more than 100 years old, is just fifteen miles from the city,depending on where you start. I probably could have cycled here but chose to drive; conditions were a little wet and I have heard cell service isn’t so great in the park and many visitors end up trapped and unable to call for taxis and other rides. I suspect all this is true, as I saw TWO functioning pay phones near the Muir Woods parking lot. The park visit was a nice hike along the Lost Trail and really being in awe of the towering and aromatic redwoods. The light rain helped to give a colorful pop to all the plant life and may have scared some visitors away. The entire hiking route was very peaceful and empty. I only saw two other hikers.

Tomorrow’s plan is to march up Telegraph hill for the views, then down to Chrissy Field East Beach and then up to the Golden Gate Bridge and maybe beyond if my feet aren’t destroyed. The weather is gorgeous and this city feels very safe. I’m really excited to see what the weekend brings.

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Keeping warm and dry in the boat.

Edit: I also did some whale watching, leaving with a tour from Monterey Bay (above Monterey Canyon). This was one of those things that I though could either be really cool or maybe kind of lame. I’m glad I took the chance because it totally rocked. We saw a pair of whales and they came to “play” with the boat. It was beautiful! The chilly temps and drizzle did nothing to take away the shine of the whales. The drive out to Monterey was enjoyable and the ocean geography make this place a much better option than the tours leaving from San Francisco proper. Unfortunately I have no pictures to share because I was so happy with watching the whales in real time and didn’t want to miss anything fiddling with a camera. I have an extremely solid stomach and found the more powerful waves to be a little fun but I would not recommend this kind of trip for just anyone.

Thank you for reading!

Ruby