Author

Celia Corbin

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“This is a place tourists don’t see, but they should. It’s incredible and you won’t forget it.” says a Tahitian-American transplant.

I’ve arranged to meet my local new friend at 10 a.m. We’re running old school, and nobody has a way of getting touch with one another but to stop by and wait until we find each other. He’s running late so I think he can’t find where I’m staying at the Papeete City Marina. I tell him to look for Cocod’iles catamaran with palm trees painted on the side. I’m also feeling fatigue from my early morning insomnia. I want to cancel and begin to close my eyes for a mini-nap, but then I see him wandering aimlessly in my direction trying to find my boat. I wave and finally get his attention and tell him I’ll meet him outside of the marina gate. Coincidentally as I’m leaving, I run into my other friend I met in Apataki a few weeks ago. She mentioned having to do some work on her boat but would try to meet up in time to catch us.

The three of us head over to a parking lot across from the marina and hop into his slate-colored Audi and into the mountains.

Fautau’a Valley is located on the east side of Papeete. It starts off with a fairly easy trail to Loti’s Pool. My Tahitian friend takes out his Bose Bluetooth speakers and begins playing a mix of reggae and pop music as we make our way up the trail. Further along, we learn there are pools where Queen Aimata Pomare IV used to cool off and bathe. We’re about one hour into the hike before we get a brief history lesson from our part-time tour guide as we pass mossy brick Fachoda fort ruins from the French Tahitian war in 1846. We cross over the ruins and continue making our way to the waterfall observing the stunning nature along the way.

waterfall half way point
Natural waterslide and cliff jumping points are on the top of this waterfall.

We finally make our way to the top and are welcomed two freshwater pools. The first freshwater pool has a gentle mini-waterfall that leads to a natural waterfall into the second pool.

first freshwater pool
Ready, Set, Brrrr!!!

I jump in, and my insomnia was instantly cured by the shock therapy of subzero-feeling temperatures. We watch some teens jumping off of several cliff jumping points into the second pool. I’m feeling like a kid and slide down the natural water slide into the second subzero pool. SO refreshing! We climb over to where the large waterfall begins and spend the rest of our afternoon here.

Natural waterslide from one fresh water pool into the next! Pretty fun!
Natural waterslide from one fresh water pool into the next! Pretty fun!

On our way back down, we came across the waterfall from a distance making this a perfect photo-opp! 

waterfall fountain
I’m thirsty!

The hike takes about two hours and to access, you sometimes need special permission from the Papeete town hall, as well as pay an entrée fee of 600xpf (about $5 USD) per person. It’s a hit or miss with these rules and is ever-changing, but we were fortunate enough to enjoy Mother Nature for free and without permission!

 

 

 

Thinking of spending a full 24 hours in Positano, Italy? Here are some of the key things you need to know:

  • This gem of a town on the Amalfi Coast is BIG on lemons. And sandals.
  • If you prefer, you can have your sandals made according to your specifications on any shoe boutique or roadside shop — a nifty boon because you’ll want to walk everywhere… and bet your blisters would take all the fun out of that.
  • The lemons are also quite nifty — you’ll likely wish to be hydrated at regular intervals, and whether it’s through a drink, a cold dessert, or through any number of Italian-style sweets you can think of, the lemons used to make them are reliably refreshing.
  • Strictly speaking, you’re required to walk almost everywhere. But you won’t be complaining much, seeing as the streets, stairways, and flower-draped buildings alone are sights rewarding enough by themselves. There are lots of churches, towers, and out-of-the-way villages to visit too if you’re inclined to spend more than 24 hours in Positano to properly explore them all. Tip: When you get far enough up this lovely terraced town, look to the coast and decide if all that walking hadn’t been worth it.
  • Everyone keeps saying how stunning Positano looks when seen from the outskirts — very few places in the world could equal these stacks of pastel houses that seemingly cascade from the mountains down to the beaches. But has anyone ever told you what the view from ocean-facing windows in any of those houses is like? No? It’s probably ‘cause that’s something best left for you to find out
  • Ah — almost forgot about the beaches. But then again, if you’re planning to spend a mere 24 hours in Positano, Italy, it’s forgivable to assume that visiting Fornillo or the Marina Grande (or both!) is already pretty high up your list of priorities… isn’t it?

There are only two seasons in Klaten, and that is the dry season or the wet season. You’ll find that even during the wet season, you’ll want to take a dip and get out of the Klaten’s sometimes unbearable heat. There are usually two fees, a local entrance fee, and a foreigner entrance fee. The foreigner fee is usually about double what it costs the locals. Don’t get too bent about the price. It’s just the way it is and not really breaking anyone’s pocket in the long-term. You’ll also have better days the sooner you come to terms with this.

Here are three places to keep you cool during your stay:

COKRO:

One of my students (at the time) took me here. It’s basically a water park where the water source comes from a well. There are several sections of this mini water park to break up the fun.

Lazy River: there’s one area (my favorite) where you can rent inflatable tubes and lazy tube around the “river” (it’s more like a hundred meters in length by a five meters in width.). It’s shallow enough to stand in but deep enough for you to relax in.

There are also vendors in this section with blankets set out near the river. For a small fee, they’ll watch your belongings so you can freely enjoy the water park. If you get hungry, they also sell things like iced tea and refreshments, instant noodles, and other local snacks.

Waterslides: Adjacent to the lazy river are a couple of pools with decent sized waterslides. It’s fun coming here and being a kid. Sometimes the water doesn’t run as freely, so you have to give yourself a little nudge to keep going at a faster pace.

Tipping Well and Playground: This area is mostly intended for children, but fun watching them. Next to the kid’s pool is a water playground where kids run around and besides that is a tipping well that kids loved hanging under. It was a well from above that continually has water slowly filling up. Once it fills up, it tipped over gallons and gallons of water onto the kids and then resumes upright to its filling position again.

Entry Fee:

15,000 rp for 1 local + 1 tourist

5,000 rp to watch our bags

5,000 rp per tube rental

 

PONGKOK:

Pongkok

Pongkok is a cold water spring where the locals swim and snorkel. It consists of a sandy bottom with random treasures such as a random bicycle and many varieties of tropical fish. The spring gets to no deeper than 6 feet, so overall a very safe place to get cold.

Pongkok 2

You can rent or bring in your own snorkels, and it’s a place where many families come to hang out.

Entry fee: 13,000 rp

 

ROWO (LAKE) JOMBOR:

Here we have a lake more intentionally used for fishing than for swimming but nonetheless recommended to me by the locals (depending on who you ask). I was never daring enough to challenge myself against the fresh water fish and fisherman, but it’s there as an option!

rowo 1

If you’re not keen on swimming, it’s nice just to walk around and enjoy the views from either above on a hill or listen to some of the music jamming from the waterfront in which I decided to take.

rowo 2

Entry fee: 5,000 rp

Parking fee: 2,000 rp

Food/Drink: 3,000 rp (iced tea) 10,000 (cup of noodle soup x2)

 

DRESS CODE:

One thing you need to be especially mindful of when traveling to Klaten is modesty. I was completely unaware of the cultural differences and assumed they might be wearing full body swimsuits instead of bikinis. Once I arrived with my host family, I quickly realized how wrong I was! Growing up and living most of my life in Southern California, bikinis and swimwear were a normal thing, but the women here were covered from head to toe in long pants and long sleeves. This was a culture shock for me, even with it being my 3rd country and again after my 21st country.

Long story short, I ended up swimming with my sundress on. Not because my host family asked me to, but because it was how I felt most comfortable blending in.

After that, I started wearing my yoga workout pants in the water. It’s lightweight and quickly dries making this a perfect multi-use item for long-term travelers. They seemed to be okay with me wearing a tank top, but that’s only because they knew I was a foreigner. If I were local, it would be frowned upon.

 

Just about every traveler dreams of going on a European vacation at least once in their lifetime. And Italy often figures prominently in many of these highly sought-after itineraries.

Much like Spain and Greece, this boot-shaped nation is hundreds of years old and boasts a long and colorful history. The latter has, in turn, resulted in centuries’ worth of breathtaking architecture, art, and sculpture — and of course, one of the most celebrated cuisines in the world.

So, if you happen to find yourself en route to one of the most coveted travel destinations in the world, what should you do first?

Walk Around the Trastevere Neighborhood

Rome might be off-putting to some, what with its overpriced tourist traps and scam artists that seem to be lurking around every corner. If Italy’s capital city makes you feel the need for some extra room to walk, run, or even hop around in, look no further than the old Trastevere neighborhood.

Located a bit further from the capital’s bustling city center, this old neighborhood’s relatively quiet cobblestone streets are a nice reprieve from its tourist-oriented counterparts. Once you’ve gotten your fill of undisturbed brisk walking or even jogging, you can even stop in at one of the local eateries for a cheap but yummy bite.

Climb Florence’s Most Famous Building

If you have a taste for heights (and the adrenaline rush that often comes with scaling them), and you aren’t the least bit claustrophobic, go all the way up to the top of the Duomo in Florence.

The climb up this dome-shaped structure will not only get your spirits rising (pun unintended), but it will also give you a splendid, all-encompassing view of the city dubbed “Rome’s little sister.” As a bonus, you’ll also get a glimpse of the wonderful feats of architecture and engineering that went into building this structure on your way up.

Drive the Amalfi Coast

Channel your inner-daredevil and go for a drive along the Amalfi coast. Italians have quite a reputation for being among the world’s most reckless drivers and nowhere is this more apparent than on the treacherous road snaking its way along the Italian coastline.

If you’re brave enough, you can rent a car and attempt to navigate your way around this rather dangerous highway. If you actually value your life (but still would like to experience that roller-coaster like thrill of riding in a vehicle that appears to go over the edge in any minute), you can also hitch a ride with a local and then hang on for dear life, while enjoying the view of the picturesque coast, of course.

Pizza in Napoli

Grab an honest-to-goodness slice of Neapolitan pizza in its birthplace. Naples is widely credited as the very birthplace of the bread and tomato-sauce combo that has captured the hearts of people all over the world. It would be a crying shame to visit Italy and not sample this delicacy in the way that it was meant to be eaten.

Besides, after all that traveling, you’re sure to need all that extra energy that only a slice of pizza dripping with cheese and carbohydrates can provide.

Bangkok is one of the top destinations in Southeast Asia. Here you will find everything you need to know about transportation from the airport, SIM cards, accommodation, and how to pick a neighborhood. 

FROM THE AIRPORT:

The most efficient and least expensive way to get into the city is to use the BTS Skytrain. Otherwise, you can take a taxi which costs you about $40 USD.

You should be able to pick up a SIM card from the airport. DTac covers more area and cheaper but spottier in the city. True carrier is biggest but centric to big cities.

TRANSPORTATION:

Line, Tuk Tuks, Motorbike taxis, taxis, and trains. Uber is available but not reliable. I dealt with many cancellations from my drivers after waiting 45 minutes to pick me up and because they couldn’t find me, canceled my ride. This happened from several different locations.

ACCOMMODATIONS: 

Like any big city, you can use many different booking platforms. I prefer using Agoda for hotels, HostelWorld for hostels, and AirBNB for something unique.

Tip: HostelWorld sometimes offers the same accommodations as Agoda. Try comparing prices between the two. HostelWorld is often less expensive and doesn’t charge any booking fees. This may be because their audience is often budget travelers.

NEIGHBORHOODS:

Picking the right neighborhood can be intimidating. You definitely don’t want to pick a special deal from a hotel provider only to find it’s in a desolate area on the wrong side of town from where I want to be.

My Strategy:

Step 1: I first tend to look up neighborhoods on AirBNB. They offer a great platform that describes each of the neighborhoods. Am I looking for my hipster crew? Will I be there more on business? Or am I looking for a place centrally located to all the tourist attractions? Check out AirBNB first and read up on the different neighborhoods.

Step 2: If you’re not feeling AirBNBish and want to stay in a hotel, I then look up Agoda and search by location based on the categories listed and reference my AirBNB list. Once I find a place I like on Agoda, I cross-reference with HostelWorld to see which has the better rate. 9/10 times, HostelWorld always saves me a few dollars.

Note: I do not receive any affiliate payments by recommending these companies.

FOOD CULTURE:

Bangkok has an amazing food culture. You can find all sorts of cuisines from street food to fine dining. There are also many great cooking schools if you wanted to learn how to cook Thai food. I took a cooking class through (website) while attending TBEX (travel blogger conference) and it was some of the best food on my trip.

IMMIGRATION:

You get 30 days for free as a US citizen but getting a longer visa wasn’t too difficult for me to obtain. There was a Thai consulate in Los Angeles, where I used to live, and I got a 90-day visa pretty easy before my arrival. It cost me $60, and they hang onto your visa for 24-48 hours upon approval. When it’s returned, you have a Thai social visa occupying one full page in your passport.

Wedged between two more popular countries in South America, Uruguay proves itself worthy as your downtown destination. Uruguayans take pride in their beach-lined coasts, rich culture and history, and tourist attractions. But more than that, this country offers visitors an exceptional experience. Here are four ways to explore Uruguay. 

PARTY ‘TIL YOUR HEART’S CONTENT

Parades and parties never hear the last call in Uruguay’s capital city, Montevideo. It hosts the longest Carnaval celebration in South America, lasting a full forty days. You may dance and sing-along with the natives in Desfile de las Llamadas, an all night long parade. This parade is usually accompanied by the drumming of the candombe, a historical instrument in Uruguay.

HAVE FUN UNDER THE SUN

Primarily known as a summer beach destination, Uruguay’s beaches do not disappoint. Punta del Este is the home of some of the best beaches in Uruguay. Usually visited by celebrities and wealthy vacationers during late December to February, it simply is the perfect place to soak, swim, and relax.

Tourists looking for white sand beaches with astonishing vistas can find them at Punta del Diablo. A five-hour bus ride from Montevideo, this is the ideal place to go for a walk at sunset, enjoy the sea breeze, and breathe in clean air. You may even go surfing and kite-boarding with Punta del Diablo’s strong waves and winds.

TAKE LONG WALKS

Uruguay has stunning land areas too. Visitors can take a long walk and just be one with nature at the Parque Nacional Santa Teresa. This park sprawls over a 3,000-hectar area covered with about 2 million trees and traversed by 60 km of high trails. Flora and fauna originating from various regions around the world can also be found in this park. Another tourist attraction inside the park that has a historical significance is the Fortaleza de Santa Teresa that lies quietly on top of a hill.

RIDE LIKE A GAUCHO

For visitors looking for a laidback adventure, Gauchos in Estancias are there to help. Estancias, mostly found in the interior of Uruguay, give the tourists a chance to experience the tranquility of the country. It offers old farmhouses to stay at, horses to rent and take on guided tours on the beach or in the forest and learn new skills such as cattle herding.

Uruguay may not yet be recognized as a top tourist destination, but it will surely leave you speechless with everything it has to offer. Progressive, striking, secure, and culturally refined, Uruguay is a diamond in the rough. Looking for your next downtown destination? Perhaps it’s time to say “Hola, Uruguay!”

 

It was a long travel day waking up at 3 am in Melbourne to catch my connecting flight in Sydney at 9:50 am to Auckland. I was pretty nervous I was going to miss my flight to Auckland because I was cutting it so close with a different airline. Jetstar is infamous for being late, but I took a chance because I knew it was the first flight of the day and I really had no choice since I was dealing with computer stuff over the last few days.

The timing ended up working out perfectly and I arrive into Auckland in the early afternoon. The airport is much smaller than I remember for being a big city in New Zealand. I didn’t see an area I could buy a SIM card, but in a way, I didn’t want to either knowing I’d only be around for 24 hours.

I had the option of taking the Skybus to the city and then catching a bus from there to my Airbnb but I was feeling lazy having my heavy dive bag. I couldn’t reach my host because the wifi was weak at SYD airport. So I had to wing it and hope he was home. I kept asking the taxi how soon before we’d get there. The cab was WAY more than I thought at about $100 NZD, about $70 USD. Ouch!

I don’t know that I’d normally choose a Chinese man as my Airbnb host but he said he was gay-friendly so I thought he might be pretty outgoing. I arrive at an apartment in a very residential neighborhood and it’s not as centrally located as I thought. I tried ringing the intercom but no answer. The taxi driver allowed me to use his phone and my host just got to the gym but said he’d turn back around. He arrived after 10 minutes and let me up to his apartment. It was on the second floor, and he helped carry my dive bag upstairs.

His place is clean, but I wasn’t as excited as I was about my stay in Melbourne. He shows me my way around and said he’ll be back in a couple hours. I get settled and noticed he had a bathtub. He didn’t mention where the hot tub was so I opted in for second best. I don’t remember the last time I had a hot bath outside of the massage I had recently at my Bali hotel, but it was really hard to relax at the Bali spa because I wasn’t sure how long was appropriate to stay after a massage.

I forgot to buy shampoo because I was trying to reduce weight in my bag and so I figured he wouldn’t mind if I used his. The water was piping hot and I just laid there soaking. I exhale long and hard. This feels amazing. I wish I had a bubble bath, but it’s good enough. I lied there thinking about my last few months on Flores Island and how exhausted my body really was from all of that hard laborious work. Being a divemaster is almost slave work, or maybe it was the company I was working for being overly demanding. Who cares. It’s over and now I’m in beautiful Auckland for a day, but I’m almost too tired to explore.

I let the water run out of the tub and then turn the shower on washing the rest of my body a second time. I turn the water off and see a squeegee off to the side and decide to be nice and squeegee the ½ glass door that covered the shower area.

The lights are still off in the apartment so I decide to venture out. I hate venturing without GPS. I guess I don’t hate venturing. I hate getting lost and like being efficient with my time.

There weren’t many close walking options to restaurants but Yang said there was a Japanese restaurant across the stop light. I decide to go there since it’s dark, wet outside, and I’m feeling lazy. I read a few reviews on Google about their service and food. It didn’t seem too impressive and rated 3 ½ stars out of 5 but I decided I’d go with it anyway.

I arrive and ask if I could take a seat at the sushi bar. She said they were full with reservations but had a place for me outside if I wanted. I accepted and she said she’d even put the heat lamp on. I started with a ½ dozen raw oysters and an assortment of sushi. Both were okay but not anything worth mentioning. I also requested a large hot sake. I didn’t feel like getting fancy tonight. Usually, I’d pair it with an Asahi but it was $8 and didn’t seem worth it when I could get a 6 pack for that in the States. I am still hungry and order some of the pork belly. It was okay. Then I ordered a plate of rice and minced chicken to go. I ask for one more saki while I wait for my to-go order. The food eventually comes out and I ask for the check. I ask a second and third time – eventually saying that if I didn’t get the check in two minutes I was going to walk out. That was after 30+ minutes of waiting of course. I understand all the reviews about the service. Needless to say, I finally got my check. This was the first time I acted in a very Western manner. If I were in SEA, I probably wouldn’t have said that. Funny how we acclimate to what we’re accustomed to.

After dinner, I walk back home and into my room. I hear the TV on in the living room and try being social with Yang. I ask him if there’s a place I can pick up wine around the area. He suggested a local convenient store next to the Japanese restaurant and then a supermarket about 10 minutes walk away. I decide to make the run and stop by the first store but they didn’t sell alcohol so I walked to the market about 10 minutes away. I was a little buzzed from the sake so it was a fun dancing sort of stroll. I get there and decide I was going to drink Porter Ale instead of wine. I pick up a bag of nuts for a late night snack as well.

I get back to the apartment and Yang is still there. I sit at the dinner table and try sparking up a conversation asking him if he’s from Auckland. He then tells his story how he’s from a small tribe in China. Fascinating. He has a Kiwi accent. He then shared his story about how he always loved learning English from middle school and kept practicing and getting great at speaking it. From that opened up opportunities for him to Bangkok and then his friends eventually brought him to Auckland where he’s been for the last long leg of his life. He gets a call in the middle of our conversation. He’s speaking lower as if he didn’t want his conversation to be heard and then excused himself into his room where he stayed the rest of the night. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was his boyfriend. I continued to listen to his Chill sessions music playing from his super large 70” flat screen. Then I decided to go back to my room and put on a movie via Amazon Prime (rental) and called it a night.

The next morning I wake up around 8:30 am and pack my things. I make myself a coffee and see Yang. I tell him I’ll be out between 11-11: 30 am. I guess he has someone coming in at 2 pm. I finish up earlier and call an Uber just before 11 am and decide to leave early. He helps me carry my bag and that was that. A very polite and also a private guy.

I never bothered to plan out my travels from the beginning. Maybe I was still feeling a little burnt from my last job where planning for others was a huge role I played. So by the time I hit the road, I just decided to wing it. I didn’t put together a budget. I didn’t set a time for how long I was going to be gone. Instead, I said I would just go with the flow according to my comfort level and see how long it lasts me. It’s more fun that way, right?

I can hear all the Type A personalities disagreeing with me right now.

I didn’t set any goals or budget because I wanted to see what level of comfort I couldn’t live without. What I learned is that I’m not in my twenties anymore and some luxuries are now very important to me – like having a nice meal and a bottle of wine – or finding a comfortable short-term apartment during parts of my travels to offset some of the sometimes annoying shared living. I learned that I had gotten too comfortable to some of the modern luxuries that as much as I tried to be a responsible budget traveler, I just wasn’t being real with myself. I had a nice job with a nice apartment in the city and that is something I have become accustomed to. Maybe because I know how great some things are means I don’t want to continue missing out on those things just because I want to prove I know how to be a budget traveler. Sure, I can rough it from time to time but the reality is that I don’t always want to! It’s not a rat race to see who can go the longest but instead, a personal journey of oneself and I don’t feel guilty that this is the traveling style I choose.

What I learned about myself is that I like getting mani’s and pedi’s abroad. I want to get my hair done. I want to buy a new dress to feel pretty. I like my down comforters when I travel. I want to buy that better than the average bottle of wine and complement it with cheese and charcuterie. I do like roughing it when it’s for the sake of adventure, but that’s about it!

Malaysia is proud of its diversity. Not only is its culture and heritage a rich combination of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European influences, but its biodiversity is also something that lures visitors from all over the world. Beaches, forests, lakes, and mountain trails all abound in this beautiful nation.

It is no wonder that adventure travelers have a myriad of choices in Malaysia. They will never run out of exciting things to do. Here are the top three places that adventurers will surely love when travelling to this Asian destination:

GUNUNG MULU NATIONAL PARK

This magnificent park in Sarawak is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors can go on jungle hikes, trek into caves, ride a raft in the river, and do home stays with native tribes.

It is home to the largest network of caves in the world. Deer Cave is the largest cave passage that has been discovered in the world thus far. It is home to free-tailed naked bats. Clearwater Cave is the longest underground river system in South East Asia. The marvelous Sarawak Chamber is the largest underground cave in the world.

Mulu is also home to stunning karst formations called ‘The Pinnacles,’ a formation of limestone rocks that jut out like razors. Hike on a 2.4 kilometer trail that’s 1,200 meters steep to enjoy wonderful views.

MOUNT KINABALU ON THE VIA FERRATA

Climbing GunungKinabalu (Mt. Kinabalu) is challenging enough with its elevation of 4,096 meters. The world’s highest Via Ferrata (iron road) is also located on this mountain in Sabah. The highest point on the route starts at 3,400 meters and takes the climber to a height of 3,800 meters. Traversing the Via Ferrata is not for those with a fear of heights. Climbers will be walking on vertical surfaces and crossing valleys on cable lines. This death-defying route has steel cables that can hold up to 3,000 kilograms of weight.

TAMAN NEGARA NATIONAL PARK

Located in Pahang, Malaysia, this park is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Visitors are truly amazed as they trek or take a boat ride through the dense forest that contains amazing flora and fauna. Being about 130 million years old, the diverse and complex ecosystem never fails to amaze visitors.

These are only the top three adventure places in the diverse and beautiful Malaysia. There are many more places to discover, which makes this tropical country a great place to visit.

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