Cartagena: Rosario Islands

Our first cruise to the Rosario Islands got cancelled. Today is our rescheduled catamaran cruise. The weather is perfect for sailing today.

Our destination is the Rosario Islands off of Cartagena.

Once on the boat we find a comfortable and shaded spot to hang out for our departure. We don’t need lots of sun exposure so it is enough to just have a good view of the water.

Once everyone has boarded we slowly head out to open waters. Funky music plays at a very enjoyable level. The music is mostly island music. The cruise is relaxing so far.

Once we are further out the blue-green colors are more noticeable. I can even see the reef below.

There are two stops and both have snorkeling. I didn’t try the snorkeling because the gear costs extra and the reefs didn’t look too amazing (I snorkeled in Great Barrier Reef and this couldn’t compare). I am happy just swimming around the boat. I thought it was cool to swim under the boat, something I’ve never done before.

There are people in small boats selling food and drinks at the stops. One guy cuts open coconuts and mixes a myriad of liquids from bottles from the floor of his boat. I reluctantly order this Coco Loco thinking it could end badly but fortunately I only have a happy buzz and don’t get sick afterwards. It is a unique experience watching someone make the drinks on a small dinky boat. I only regret being cheap and not buying lobster from the lobster guy. I’ve read it is supposed to be amazing.

The second stop is close enough to swim to a small beach for those that have some sort of swimming fitness. I saw some getting picked up and dropped off there on jet skis so you may be able to pay someone for that if you are not a strong swimmer. It is challenging swimming back due to the current.

The next couple pictures are taken with M’s go pro.

Our boat out there.

We swim back to the boat and they are serving some great seafood paella for lunch.

Seafood Paella

Beverage purchases are credit only. Many people only brought cash on the boat. I like not having to deal with cash but I only wish we could have paid for it all at the end instead of having to take the card out each time we wanted to order something.

As we head back we enjoy cruising to island music. We feel good, always a sign of a good day at sea. Luckily we didn’t die from our boat booze.

While back in town we stop to have an early dinner at Marzola Parrilla Argentina, an Argentinian restaurant that has some fun décor.

We end up once again at Cuba 1940 where we catch live music.

We head back to our favorite La Cevichería to order the curry shrimp once more and a dessert.

Guava melt with cheese, mint and mandarin juice

There is great people watching from our outside table.

LOL

There are many street performers right near where we eat. We catch “Michael Jackson” for a little while. He is a good impersonator.

Michael Jackson hopping onto a carriage

One very fun thing to watch is the street rappers of Cartagena. A guy will target a sometimes unsuspecting tourist and start following them and rapping along with music (they expect tips for the performance). I spent time trying to avoid these guys but later on M and I teased each other that we would get one of these guys to rap for the other. It is fun to watch when you aren’t the target.

We end up outside a champeta music bar (champeta is a style of island music of Colombia – combination of Colombian chalupa and Afro-Cuban percussive music). The club looks like fun and we almost go in but instead listen outside for a little bit. It is late and we are tired.

We love our time in Cartagena but we are off to Medellin tomorrow.

Cartagena is not a long plane ride from Florida. I’ll probably head back here sometime for a long weekend with friends.

Yogyakarta Food Tour

Jogja fun after the food tour

Last night I was supposed to go on a food tour of Yogyakarta. Instead I set circle K on fire. Tonight I am trying to do the food tour again.

I am attending the Jogja Food Tour. Luckily the weather cooperates and I meet my tour guide at the a white monument in town. I am not the only one on the tour this time, two girls from the Netherlands are also on my tour. I am delighted because they stand out even more than I and they are the ones getting the picture requests while I am around them.

Tugu Pal Putih monument

Meat skewers are first on the menu. We pick out two to try.

To be honest I don’t remember which type I chose but one of them is probably the signature skewer of the region sate kere (made from beef or chicken intestines). It wasn’t terrible and I probably would try it again sometime.

We try some charcoal coffee. Yes, you read that correctly. We drink coffee with a large piece of charcoal inside. It tastes mostly like coffee with only a slight charcoal taste.

As we are walking to our next food location in the popular Malioboro street we make it just in time for a performance of a popular band. The main attraction is the wooden instrument called the Angklung. It produces a unique sound. The angklung plus drums and dancers makes for an entertaining performance. Luckily our guide secures us great viewing spots.

Wow! So much fun to watch.

Jajanan pasar and other sweets

After the music we are off to get some local sweets.

We take a Becak (motorbike rickshaw) to another part of town to try Java’s famous Gudeg.

Gudeg: jackfruit stewed with palm sugar and coconut milk.

Gudeg served with rice, tofu and I forget the other dish.

Jamu

We stop for Jamu drinks: Indonesia’s system of traditional herbal medicine used by many for the prevention and treatment of a variety of ailments. Each Jamu have their purpose.

Our last savory dish is at Soto Sampah restaurant where we try Soto Ayam (Indonesian style chicken soup). It is a great comfort food.

After our soup we walk to the square I visited earlier with the two large trees. The square is lively with games and fun cars you can rent to peddle around the square.

It is corny but everyone is doing it. It is a unique experience.

Here is video of the experience…..

After our little buggy ride we head to the area near the trees. Our guide tells us of a game where if you walk blindfolded and make it between the two trees then you will receive good fortune. It has rained too much recently so we skip that game in order to avoid getting trapped in mud. We did try walking on sticks. I was not good at it but a girl in my group was.

To finish off the evening we try a sweet ginger drink.

Hot ginger drink with pieces of bread.

I am so glad the weather held up. It is a great way to end my time in the great Yogyakarta. I hope to return to this special city one day.

Last days of Ubud

Earlier today I had a great cooking class where I got to cook and sample a few different Indonesian dishes.

Not hungry to eat after my cooking class but I still I wanted to have a night out so I end up at a café that has live music playing.

The band is entertaining with their versions of popular western songs. The drummer and his bench drum is especially cool to watch.

It is a nice night out but I don’t stay out too late.

Little did I know the next day I would get pretty sick.

It appears that I have gotten some gastrointestinal or food born illness. I don’t feel well at all and I don’t leave my room for a day or so except to ask the hotel for these below.

breakfast of champions

A day later I am finally brave enough to try to eat something (but not brave enough to eat the fancy breakfast next door). I head to the grocery store about 1k around the corner. I still feel crappy and my walking is labored. The choices at the grocery store are less than exciting. I buy a loaf of bread plus a couple other things I think I might be able to eat. I carry my stuff back to the hotel. As I am walking back some men start screaming at me. I am confused and irritated. Turns out I was being stalked by a pair of monkeys that were in the process of stealing my groceries out of my bag. I almost have a meltdown at that point. I am sick as can be, can only eat this stupid stale loaf of bread and monkeys are trying to steal it from me. Because of the warning from the men (whom I never thank by the way – angry/embarrassed me!) my bread makes it back to the hotel. It is terrible but at least I am eating something.

I thank myself for choosing Ubud as a location to splurge for the nicer hotel. It is so much better to be sick in a nice comfortable room than a hostel or budget hotel.

Luckily by the next day I am feeling good enough to head out. Unfortunately it is too late to take advantage of some of the other sightseeing things around town. Another city on my to-return list!

I am off soon to travel to Yogyakarta to see a different part of Indonesia. Bye Ubud!

Monkey is not my friend

Last hours in Hanoi

Get a late start to my final day of Hanoi Vietnam. I Want to visit the Ho chi Minh house and sights in the vicinity but I miss the opening hours since they are limited. I end up just wandering around town instead.

One thing I forgot to mention previously is the Hanoi pedestrian street crossing. It takes courage and special skills to cross the street in Hanoi. It seems so intimidating at first but once you do your first couple street crossings then you never want to go back to your old ways. Hanoi is busy. So many people, so many cars, so many motor bikes; plus bicycles and carts on the road. The traffic appears to stop for no one. There are some intersections with cross signals but in most cases you need to do the Hanoi cross. To cross the street you just walk out into the street and maintain a consistent speed. Vehicles and bikes will move around you. If you hesitate or stop mid-way that is when problems occur. It took me a while to get it but I eventually developed the skill.

Example of crossing in busy traffic. See the two men that walk across on the right.

Example of busy traffic. I am in my uber waiting forever in traffic.

More images from around Hanoi

Grand Opera House
I happen to come across a game of shuttlecock? while walking by a park.

Monsoon Music Festival

The walking streets are alive at night. The previous weekend I watched a boxing match from the street at a distance. Tonight I watch an act from the Monsoon Music Festival. I love finding free concerts when I travel.

Beer street

I try my hand at beer street. This is supposed to be the place to try local beers. I didn’t stay out long but I got to experience a little bit of local night life. As I sat outside a bar at a cafe table I watch the constant street vendors and shoe cleaners (will clean your shoes for a fee while you sip your beverages at the bar).

My visit to Hanoi has come to an end. I fly to Hue tomorrow. Even with all the time I spent here, I missed so much. I’ll be back someday.

Asheville Hiking

We were determined to get a hike in while we were in Asheville last June. Our friend suggested that we would like the hike to see the waterfalls at Dupont State Forest.
We lost phone service on the way so were very confused with directions. It made me think that there should always be a paper map as a backup plan. We finally found it and parked the car in a designated free lot.
It started raining just as we arrived. It was nothing hard but a sprinkle. We decided to pack our ponchos and do the hike anyway. It proved to be a good choice. Sure we got soaked but rain kept many hikers away. The falls that were normally packed were not very crowded at all.

We started our hike with a stop at a disgusting porta potty. We had a chance to go to either hooker falls or triple falls. 3 is better than 1 right? We started toward the triple falls.

Trails were nice and mostly quiet.

We came across our first set of falls. They looked kind of small and we weren’t sure how to get closer to them.

We reached the big falls. Above them lies a bridge to get across the water.

We finally found a path to get closer to the one set of falls. It was wet and slippery. It was a bit of an obstacle course to get to them. When we got there we discovered we had them all to ourselves. We decided against getting in the water. Perhaps it seemed like too much trouble at the time.

When we arrived at the next set of falls we noticed people climbing the rocks. When it is a dry day climbing the rocks is probably a much safer activity. The day we were there it was raining and the rocks were very wet. My husband decided to brave climbing them anyway.
Notice me below with my superhero cape ready to save him (hint its actually a poncho).

While he climbs I take in the view off in the distance.

He finally gets to the top.

But then has trouble getting back down. Don’t worry, he eventually made it down.

After the day of hiking we returned to my friends house to clean up for the night. Thanks to her awesome husband she was able to come to dinner with us and have a grown up night out. We decided on dinner at  Bouchon in downtown Asheville. While waiting for our table we shared a bottle of wine.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner with great conversation in the courtyard. I miss being around my friend. We were thrown together in a dorm in college and become close. We have kept in touch throughout the years through all our changes and moves. I definitely don’t call her as much as I should. It was nice to spend some quality time with her again. As a special surprise we found out that Jude Law was dining out at the same restaurant the same night. Too bad we missed or didn’t notice him!

Afterwards my friend took us to listen some local music at 5 Walnut Wine Bar. It was a small cozy bar that fit just right on a weeknight. My friend told me on the weekends people line up on the sidewalk to listen and get in. We got lucky and got stools at the bar. A lovely band was playing soft tunes. They did a cover that I knew all the words to but I could remember the band. After some deep thought I remembered it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
It was a great night.