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Sheltered Nook On Tillamook Bay (Bay City, Oregon USA)

4 Case Rating
Location Sheltered Hook is in bay city right on Oregon coast about 77 miles west of Portland, thru the stunning Tillamook forest. Small coastal town within a bay with fresh sea air. The famous Cannon Beach is only about 30 minutes drive up the coast. The small town of Bay city has a handful of restaurants and bars. 101 route north is one of the most picturesque coastal roads in the world and runs thru here. Room Wanted to experience the popular Oregon concept of a tiny house for one night. They have some in Portland but double the price and heard the Oregon coast is better place to go. The tiny cabins at Sheltered Nook is so cosy & functional. Far better than staying in any hotel & far cheaper. As you enter the home, there is a small veranda that accommodates a decent gas barbecue & two outside seating for eating. It is covered and cosy at night for smokers displaying the lighted coloured bulbs at each house. Inside is initially an open plan kitchen & living room with small stair case leading to two double beds upstairs. Very low ceiling but does have some cosy windows behind your pillow. There are plenty of sockets & lights. The living room has a sofa & arm chair with a nice warm soft blanket. It that faces this really nice visual fireplace heater, creating a mellow ambience. TV is cable with plenty of channels, DVD player is also offered with plenty of DVD’s on offer for free to rent at reception. There is also a table to pull out when dining for 2. The full stocked kitchen offers an oven, microwave, huge fridge & a decent coffee pod machine, with creamers, milks and was really nice. Also a kettle for tea lovers. Inside the refrigerator they include a breakfast basket containing an apple, homemade egg bake to heat up, yogurt & a pastry. Quite tasty and generous of them given the rate they charge. The main bed room is at the back & has a super comfy bed thanks to premium mattress topper & decent quality bedding. Flexi-reading lights, sockets & bedside table either side. Overhead fan & electric heaters that worked well. It is quite a small room that the large kind size bed take up most of it. Bathroom has a shower that worked well and they offer small bottle shampoo & body lotions with plenty of towels. It’s all in wooden decor & really has all the amenities that one would expect at your own home. Loved it very much and would certainly come back. Especially enjoyed relaxing at night watching the digital fire place. It is also secure with a peronsalised pin code access to each home. Facilities They offer free parking & have a super fast free WiFi. Each box is within each home. The reception as mentioned has DVD's and some other drink items available. Staff Staff couldn’t be more welcoming with personal explanation of home & area. They were really helpful. Overall a very nice concept & very reasonably priced for what you get.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Xinzheng, Zhengzhou, China
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Van Riper’s Resort (Sekiu, Washington State USA)

3 Case Rating
Location Van Ripers resort motel is in the idyllic fishing village of Sekiu. Located just beyond Olympic national park of which is 30 minutes drive away to the edge of it. Unless your fishing one of the few reasons to be here is if you are enroute to Cape Flattery - amazing spot (45 min drive) of which is the most northern western point in mainland USA. About 1.5hr drive away is Ruby beach, also stunning. Port Angeles, the closest main town with ferry service to Canada is about 1hr 15 drive & Seattle is around 4 hours. There is a diner in the village but not much else except relaxing scenic view of the coast and Vancouver Island. Chilled spot & from the room you can hear the seagulls & enjoy fresh sea air. Room The motel room consisted of two rooms, a simple bedroom with quite a firm smallish queen bed along with one bedside table, lamp & a random chair. Facing bed is a non-flat screen cable TV on wall. The bed was ok but bedding was felt old along with everything else, however it was clean, slept ok but wouldn’t describe the bed as initially comfortable. The other room is a kitchen area with a table for 2. An old style electric oven with utensils and tableware. In addition a microwave, filter coffee pot, a fridge & two sinks - one for kitchen & other to use for bathroom. Bathroom was tiny with simple shower cubicle & toilet. They offer just a small soap. However water was hot and worked well. Since you are in the middle of nowhere & mainly for fishermen who have their boat here, it’s ideal for self catering. Despite the age & lack of amenities in bathroom, the room had a great ambience & character with a somewhat Twin Peak vibe going on. Especially enjoyed listening to the seagulls & sea air thru the bedroom window as I fell asleep. Facilities The motel is simple but does offer adequate working WIFI. The reception is in a store shop where you can buy coffee, some snacks but it is mainly supplies for fishermen & Campers etc. The staff mentioned they can arrange rental boats out but stated the guest mainly bring their own. Plenty of space with free car parking. Staff Staff impressed me with their relaxed and flexible attitude. Despite check in closing at 8, I called them & explained that due to delayed flight & 5 hour drive that I wouldn’t make it until 1130pm. The guy kindly left my room unlocked for me to enter when I arrived & we did the check-in in the morning before I departed. It is unlikely I will stay here again since I saw the nearby sights I had planned. However I would recommend those looking for a cheaper place to stay closer to Neah bay & also Ruby beach. Seems like a great fishing spot as well.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 280 Front St, Sekiu, WA 98381, USA
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Australia – Bunya Mountain Wallabee (Bunya, Queensland)

Tanzania – Kilimanjaro (Stone town)

Tanzania – Kilimanjaro (Zanzibar Airport)

Tanzania – Lion (Zanzibar Airport)

Tanzania – Mount Killimanjaro Elephants (Zanzibar Airport)

Namibia – Fish River Canyon (Windhoek)

Japan – Mount Fuji (Tokyo).jpg

USA – Waimea Valley (Oahu, Hawaii)

Killing a Day At The Mountains Near Los Angeles

Every time I visit LA my return flight is always at night, therefore with the hotel standard check –out times, there is always a whole day to kill until my return flight. With so many 24 hour visits, in last few years I have been hiring a car and exploring.  Prior to this website launch, I drove around Hollywood and had a few great meal and drinks in Malibu at Moon Shadow, saw Venice beach, saw Santa Monica, even drove out to Santa Barbara and San Diego. One thing has always intrigued me though; this comes from having a window seat as you fly in to LAX – that large mountain range in the east that really shows how huge LA is really is in terms of space. USA-Los-Angeles-Mountains_From-Aircraft Please note these picture were not taken during this visit as they show snow capped mountains, which wasn’t the case. USA-Los-Angeles-Mt.Brady_Mountain-Range_From-Aircraft I know it’s where the locals go Skiing in the winter, making LA the all-round place beach and Ski possible lifestyle. So I decided on this trip to spend my free day before my evening flight and check these mountain out. Some small research indicated Mt.Brady was the closest place to go and it is where the highest peak is. Looking at cities to stay nearby it seemed the city of Chino was a good location to stay, really because the road the hotel was located on leads directly all the way straight up to the Mt.Brady Road. Chino is famous for its Prisons. The city has the typical US atmosphere of a new city, large lots everywhere of main highways with super markets, large stores etc. Rather dull and no as such like walking main town area (like Santa Barbara), at least that I could see it seemed everywhere you need a car. It was a long drive from LAX, around 1.5 hours away. I hired, well choose the Jeep Renegade, I wanted a SUV to get up the mountain. It was ok of which fortunately had an excellent sound system so I was entertained for my driving experience with my music. So the next day I woke up late as shattered since I flew from London, via Manilla. I put Mt.Brady in the GPS and off I went. It took about 30 minutes until I got closer to the mountains, even in Chino, whilst looking at google maps it looks relatively close to the mountains but during the day light, the mountains seemed miles away. Mt. Brady road I heard is the road to the peak where my objective was to have a beer at the Top Of The Notch Restaurant (insert link) ; the restaurant on the top. So the road winds and turns through the dry California terrain, which shows scattered thin forest and dry rocky lands. You drive thru some tunnels and the road is quite fun with some stunning landscape scenary en route. USA - Mt.Brady-Road (California) USA - Mt.Brady-Rd-View (California) Eventually you arrive at the town of Mt. Brady. This small little town consists of a post office, restaurant, small store and information centre. The wooden cabin style buildings look unchanged for over 50 years, it gave a feeling of going back in time which was nice. So I stopped at the visitor information centre where I got my Mt. Brady magnet and was clearly directed by the enthusiastic old man as to where this top of the mountain restaurant is and ski lift. He even was encouraged to show me all the hikes to the top. Beyond Mt. Brady town, is when the road becomes the most fun, it winds with tight incline up bends round and round, and this is when the x4 wheel drive SUV really coped well. I mean any car would have got up there as this was spring with dry roads but I am not sure about small cars in the winter. There was a lots of road signs warnings of ice and mandatory chains on wheels so if you come in the winter prepare for this. The roads are quite tight, with not much places to stop, but if you’re lucky and no one is behind you you can stop and get a photo out of the window. Finally, I made it to the ski lift. There is a small porta cabin with car parking of which just sells clothes so was pleased I got my magnet in Mt. Brady town as there is nothing in the way of souvenirs at this place. This is where you have the option of hiking up there (3.5 Miles) or be like me and be lazy (also I was against time) and take the ski lift. The ski lift costs quite a lot I thought, round trip $25. But it was fun and worth it, if you don’t want to hike. USA - Mt.Baldy Ski Lift Sign (California) I love ski lifts, since never skiing before I am new to them and love how you just hang there.  It's my 2nd time, last time was in Krasnoyarsk Siberia and the route up to the restaurant takes about 15-20minutes. It was the end of April and warm in the car parking area, so I thought nothing of staying in t-shirt and boarded the ski lift but as I ascended I noticed how many people coming down on the opposite side had coats and wrapped around there face, a couple different people coming down screamed to me "bro its freezing up there" I guess highlighting the fact I as in a T-shirt only and yes the higher I got ascends the freezing winds lent chills thru my body. However not much I could do now, but anyone going up I would highly recommend a hoody even in summer, as its this high wind that is freezing. USA - Mt.Brady Ski Lift (California) As you see in the above picture the landscape is kind of unusual, its obviously so dry from the drought that has been damaging this state, but it’s like very rocky, dusty with the odd pine tree, bush here and there. There are walk ways below as I watched some of the hikers doing the various routes, some easy, winding but longer routes with slower incline and shorter like below the ski lift that had high inclines, I saw a few doing this one from my lift, they looked experienced both of which had climbing sticks. Either way when you get up it looked as though you will be tired and this I would not say is for the non-healthy un-recent exercised like myself. Also not for young children. Arriving at the top you land right by the restaurant, the people that warned me were right it was freezing up there a wind that blows freezing ice chills- even the ski lift guys have scarves covering their mouths with overhead hoodies. I even noticed on the mountains nearby snow still existed in patches and there I was in a T-shirt. USA - Mt.Brady Ski Lift (California) I headed straight to shelter to the famous restaurant ‘Top of The Notch’ after looking at the signage outside, confirming that it is over 10,000ft now.   A map shows the route to the actual summit is about 3.5 mile walk away, I was disappointed I didn’t have time and a jumper to do this but it simply was too cold to stay outside for more than 15 minutes. The Ski lift going up was painful enough and I was dreading the descent with winds ploughing face on at you. USA-Top-of-the-notch-restuarant mountain map (California) The restaurant is sort of bar cafeteria range. It’s simple, nothing special really just the view being the highlight and all the bar food reflected very high calorie junk food, burgers, hot dogs, the sort of food you would find at a dive bar. The bar tender explained people don’t want salads after they have climbed 7 miles, they need high calorie food to retain their energy. Overall a burger will set you back $14 and appetisers like fries are $8 so it’s not that cheap but to be fair you in a unique location and the price reflects that. Apparently a cafeteria is usually in operation but wasn’t when I was there. Other than the bar/restaurant there is not much else, some sort of shop with hoodies (I was tempted but at $45 I thought they were over priced). There was no staff at the shop either and sort of seemed not in operation as all clothes were disorderly. I wasn’t sure what to eat so went with the bar tenders advice and took chilli cheese fries. It was a mess to eat and quite heavy but was enjoyable with a beer. USA - Chilli-Cheese-Fries Mt.Brady (California) So I finally achieved my objective and had a beer outside looking over the view, which was stunning. [gallery type="slideshow" link="none" size="full" ids="5862,5863,5864"] After my beer, it was time to be brave and head back down on the ski lift. Certainly it was a struggle in the T-shirt but hey the view was so amazing that I just absorbed the atmosphere and allowed my arms to freeze up. Obviously the lower I got the warmer it became so once down at base, it was fine to be in a t-shirt. USA- Mt.Brady- Ski Lift Down On the drive back down the mountain I noticed more things like this awesome looking bar called Buckhorn Lodge, shame it was closed as it had a real old authenticity about it. Looked like an interesting place to stay if I ever came back. USA-Buckhorn Lodge-Mt.Brady Rd (California) At one point on the drive down I stopped for a photo, which really showed the different landscape ground from the top, which incidentally isn’t snow but rock and rumble to green pastures and forests. USA - Mt.Brady Landscape Photo (California) So that was Mt. Brady. Worth it for a day out of LA if you’re staying in the city and want some time out from the glitz to see some nature, as well as Ski if your there in winter. Don’t expect the Rockies, in Colorado but nonetheless a fun drive up, amazing view and interesting landscape. It was a day well spent finally seeing those mountains. If you’re like me and need to get to LAX after expect 2-2.5 hours’ drive at the least from the bottom of the Mt. Brady road.  This maybe because I did this at 5pm in rush hour. My GPS back to Alamo car rental in Inglewood took me off the interstate for some reason on to Slauson Avenue for 7 miles taking me thru the cities of Vernon (the smallest city in the LA metropolitan area) and Huntington park. Avoid this road if you can as so much traffic and took 1 hour to do 7 miles since so many traffic lights. However, it was interesting an area of LA that is far from the glitz, factories, poverty & derelict buildings. With the Sun slowly going down, it did feel a bit like the movie ‘Training day” as I drove past these neighbourhoods. USA - Slauson Av. Huntington Park City (California) This area of LA seems like the Mexican part of the city as there is so many taco places and shops in Spanish. It was interesting to see; making the wait in traffic I suppose better than be gridlocked on the interstate. I liked this Alloy place that I drove past. Overall a nice day out and made my flight to Manilla. USA - Miranda Tyres- Huntington Park City (California)  

A Few Days in Koh Samet

So with a friend visited me recently and wanting to visit an island with 'least hassle of travel' from Bangkok. We decided on the weekend short stay island retreat favored by Bangkokians : Koh Samet. I am aware there are other cheaper ways to get there but to observe in my friends request we took a taxi from basically close to Sofitel on Sukhumvit road. This after some negotiation with the diver came to 2000 baht. The taxi agreed so long we paid the road toll fees (less than 150 baht). Others wanted 2500 but he had a SUV so was more comfortable.  We left about 2pm thinking it would only take 1-2 hours not 2.5-3 which it did, but this is the main road to Pattaya, so did have quite heavy traffic. As we drove we figured we needed to get to Bai Phe port by 5pm for the last ferry. So the long drive was uneventful until we did a rest stop somewhere enroute the road to Pattaya that had the biggest amount of shops & restaurants, I've ever seen at any rest stop. Thailand - Drive Rest Stop (Pattaya) It basically had housing and a market with all kinds of foods including fast food options. It was after this that the ever so quiet taxi driver perked up. We joked maybe he took something or just drank x2 super strong Thai redbulls, but the very mention of Ladyboys he launched into this crazed state of laughter doing ladyboy impressions and noise examples - it was incredibly entertaining and the very word 'ladyboy' would spark him off again, he was quite funny. We finally arrived at Ban Phe port & he picked up this large lady, 'look my fat friend' hs says laughing. As predicted this lady was a planned interaction to take us to her speedboat desk in which she offers direct speed boat to the hotel on Hat Sai Kaew beach. It cost 600 each both ways, you share with others and the journey is half the time of the ferry. However the ferry only costs 50 baht but at the same time it doesn't drop you off outside your hotel. At the same token, the island we later found out is so small that one end from port to other probably takes 15 minutes. Ferry Vs The Speedboat Thailand - Ferrry Crossing (Koh Samet) Thailand - Speedboat Crossing (Koh Samet) It was quite funny speeding past in the ferry where the speed boats really does go up/down quite hard against the waves yet no life jackets are given. The ferry plods along slow and smooth & you see everyone wearing life vests. However there was an impressive sunset as we travelled across the 25 minute journey to the island. Thailand - Sunset Crossing to Koh Samet (Koh Samet) We finally arrive at the Hat Sai Kaew Beach and the speed boat drops you about 5 metres from the beach edge - so expect to walk in sea a little bit. Though staff at the hotel will meet & greet you taking your bags to reception. There were some issues with hotel but basically if your wanting twin beds don't book the Thai traditional cottages. The bellboys made us laugh as we got to our room he took us to the balcony and pointed to some building and said 'girls in this bar' we kinda of laughed but same time I felt embarrassed that obviously we looked the characters that would be interested in the seediness to make him say this. Anyway the hotel had banging house music playing in this late afternoon and we watched some really impressive fire shows even from a 10 year old doing the hoop hoop with a ring of fire. It was impressive. Thailand - Friendly Bar Fire Show (Koh Samet) After having a beer at the hotel we continued to explore the night life. Hat Sai Kaew is the main beach for night life, though in comparison to other islands its more of watered down (just like the cook tails) chill beach as less than a handful of bars existed. It has some good and bad points- the sand is lovely & powdery, it's fairly clean. The sea on the other hand is full of boats though there is a dedicated swimming area. The sea was hot cloudy & the odd piece of plastic floats up to you. There is no real swimming just jumping the waves. Jet Ski’s, Para Gliding and boats are all in this beach - which is probably why the sea itself didn’t feel that clean. The general Island vibe felt much more for Thai's & Chinese groups, we white farangs were at such a minority with the occasional Russian couple that it was quite interesting. Not judging but it was obvious it's not a farang island. Some of the general interaction and lack of effort with service reflected this. It had an air of Thai snobbery and in my opinion out of 6 islands I have visited in Thailand- it was the coldest or at least Thai’s working there were not that warm and hospitable. Our hotel bar was probably appeared to be the best night spot as it had lots of seating, plenty of bean bags, seating on layered levels that face the sea. It’s a whole neon experience at night. The only issue the live DJ music, likely directed to the young Thai crowd. Terrible EDM David Guetta dribble or hip hop so badly mixed that the DJ just flips the fader without any skill. It was ok for a few drinks but the music gets annoying very quickly. We ventured down the beach to explore further, we found basically Chinese/Thai restaurants that didn't look too appetizing or inviting to the none part of these groups. Though seats were taken there wasn’t the usual vibe of staff outside pushing you to try their food.  We did though found a cool bar called 'friendly bar' it had those floor Thai pillow triangles & was very chilled out with a tiki hut bar. They also had a fire show. Thailand - Friendly Bar Fire Show Instruction (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte This was the only bar where we actually chatted to people, we met a group of Lithuanians, an Irish man & really cool Thai bar tenders. Though when we saw lights further down the coast asking what kind of bars are there, the bar tender response 'you don't go there it's only gay bars'. By no means are we homophobic but we took it that he didn't want to leave his bars. Thailand - Friendly Bar Tender (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte Thailand - Friendly Bar (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte The next day I woke up early and observed the very chilled out Sunrise where monks were walking down the beach. Thailand - Hat Sai Kaew Sunrise (Koh Samet) This was the nicest point the beach got, very relaxing and no boats in sight. Thailand - Hat Sai Kaew Sunrise by Sea (Koh Samet) That day we sunbathed, the sun and sea are so hot that back to the room for AC refreshment is much needed every hour or so. There were lots of traditional beach chairs. Thailand - Hat Sai Kaew Beach Day (Koh Samet) Thailand - Hat Sai Kaew Beach Chairs (Koh Samet) This evening we actually noticed a street as my friend had to go to pharmacy it's quite a small street with two 7/11 directly facing each other, massage places and restaurants. Occasional shops but not much else. This is where we noticed that people can hire mopeds (350 baht full day) or golf carts (1000 baht full day- with some strong negotiation). We decided there and then to explore and get a golf cart. We also realized after a bit of a bar crawl that we had arrived at the so called girl bar, the bellboy had pointed out- since this was 50 metres from hotel not on beach side. Thailand - Girl Bar (Koh Samet) What a weird place, the pool table is what attracted us to it. The place has a moody bar tender that looked exactly like Mr. Miyagi (from the movie Karate Kid)) but the beers are cheap. There was a closed room that we were both initially afraid to go in. So we remained outside, Thai girls just linger about but speak no English. Its cheap but its got a weird vibe. Eventually I ventured into the room and it was just tables of guys and girls with only thing seedy were the whole room was lit up in UV lights but no seedy undressed or anything like that. My friend returned to this bar the next night while I had an early evening kip and he said, he eventually was brave enough to venture into this room, he said karaoke was being played but in the most weirdest description. He said the people weren't actually singing but miming to the only song karaoke songs that were being song. Very strange. Our next day was golf cart today we had no real idea about this island, it didn't look big but we were determined to do one end to the other. Though we were worried these battery charged carts would last. Thailand - Golf Cart Driving (Koh Samet) Well the drive was interesting up and down hill with signage % declines showing up or down so at least we knew what to expect.  The golf cart almost near stops with our weight on the uphill yet uncontrollable on the downhills, with the steering being  hardest thing I've ever experienced. Coming down hills with foot on brake was pretty scary as the cart just swerves about- clearly the bearings if they have them couldn't handle the speeds down with two full size blokes in it. So we ended up at the end of the island at a place called Ao Karang it had some pathway through foliage saying 'view sight' .We came across some people leaving, we asked what's down there and the British guy's response was basically 'it's just a few rocks mate'. Thailand - Ao Karang (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte Thailand - Ao Karang Above (Koh Samet) So then we decided we needed a beach so we looked on Google Maps to the nearest beach  and came across a resort called Paradee Resort. It looked rather fancy and we could feel it had a vibe not open to non guests, so as a blagger goes we said we were meeting a guest here for lunch. Security escorted us to reception whom then got escorted to restaurant, told if I want to walk anyway else to let the staff know. I decided to go and check out the beach Ao Pakarang & Ao Kiew Nanok walking past a nice pool with a huge sign saying guests only (we were told we couldn't eat at beach despite tables set up & pool bar). I checked out the beach and the waiter had clearly come to tell the lifeguards that I wasn't a guest so I quickly returned to the bar. It looked like a nice place but very Thai snobbery. We decided against lunch, had a beer and continued our drive to the next beach place. It was probably the nicest beach on the island and if you’re a Paradee resort guest it’s all yours. Thailand - Paradee Resort Beach (Koh Samet) Thailand - Ao Pakarang Beach (Koh Samet) We continued down to find Samed Villa Resort and decided to check out that beach: Ao Wai. It had one or two resort with a chargeable pool option (300 baht) but it was nicest beach we saw on the island that you could access. It had like nice trees (not palm) leading over at the edge of the beach so you could get some shelter. Lunch was pretty good and staff were really polite - this seemed like the chilled secluded beach for couples and people wanting to mediate etc. as only one boats and cleaner sea - though still cloudy. Thailand - Ao Wai Beach (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte Thailand - Ao Wai Beach 2 (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte We decided to continue on after some time lazing about and swimming in the sea. The next place was called Ao Wong Duean , it attracted us to it due to a big foam party sign on the main road so we followed it down a lane to see if anything exciting was happening. I have to say the golf cart despite its simple looks can handle off road deep sandy condition driving quite well. Thailand - Ao Wong Duean (Koh Samet) This beach was bigger with multiple resorts, curved but again many boats. There are a few bars and resorts and we stayed for a drink. This seems like the beach was more chilled than ours, but probably more boring as well. The resorts certainly looked better. Again we left and we drove past the so called 'gay bars' which weren't so and one bar in particular between the two beach’s (ours next along)  had a neon paint wannabe full moon party vibe to it. We later went here and it was the only place with energy watching all the young backpackers drench themselves in neon paint so they could dance to crap EDM music under a blue neon light. As my friend said it was lively but the music was painful, Steve Aoki type stuff (sorry for those that like it but I prefer more underground stuff like Sasha). Thailand - Neon EDM Bar (Koh Samet) Back to the golf cart, we had to return but there was two more places to visit- my friend was adamant there was enough battery power but I wanted to risk so we drove to the only beach on the sunset side, a beach called Ao Phrao. Here there is security as it seems this is the place the top rate premium resorts. You can't enter with any vehicle unless it's the resorts one. There was some parking for motorbike but the security guard had discrimination against the golf cart, we didn't really understand why but he wanted us to park it right up the hill close to the dangerous road edge. There is a cliff with a view point above that showed a nice sunset shot. Anyway this beach was nice , it was an opening between two large hills one of which we took a photo from & was very nice. The resorts looked nice and we sat and brought the beers we had from our minibar. Unfortunately due to the evasive golf cart hirer we had to bring it back by 6, so our time there was short. [gallery type="slideshow" link="none" size="full" ids="5843,5844,5845,5846"] Our last stop was the wharf, which is only 500 meters from our beach Hat Sai Kaew. I was told magnets would be there as I needed a Koh Smaet one, alas no luck. But I did find an awesome shop on the walkway from the town to Hat Sai Kaew Beach. Thailand - Wharf Pier (Koh Samet) Upon returning that was it we had seen the whole of Koh Samet. I decided to chill at the beach & had a watered down Mojito and watched the sun set on my beach which was ok. It had a nice vibe. [gallery link="none" size="full" type="slideshow" ids="5848,5849,5850"] In my opinion, it's ok but resorts are more expensive than Koh chang. The island is definitely aimed at the Thai market and overall we found a slight attitude from Thais to us, perhaps they thought we were perverts from Pattaya having a break (well I thought anyway). The place though is pretty dull there is not much to do and though the beaches are nice I don't think I would take say future guests staying in Bangkok with me there. To put it simple it's boring the sea is not that clean the night life is annoying EDM music, why can't they have reggae or chill out. There are simple no excursions to do either unless you return to the mainland (or hire a gold cart). We also thought it was expensive place to visit, drinks are a rip off and I would advise if your visiting to not order cocktails as they are most definitely watered down. However, for a few days of sun out of the big bad city of Bangkok it was relaxing. Our taxi driver back wasn't as exciting but he did have a dvd pull down TV, just shame we didn't have any DVD's to watch.

36 Hours on Palawan Island

I was very lucky that I was given a schedule that enabled me to visit the beautiful island of Palawan, voted number one island in the last few years from Travel surveys conducted by travel magazines: Conde Naste & Travel + Leisure. However as usual my time was very short, 2 nights but with awkward flights meaning I had 36 hours on the island in total. Unfortunately, the 8 hour drive to the most spectacularly beautiful spot of El Nido, mainly responsible for the awards, was not possible. After some research & finding out that Palawan island has what they call the 7th nature wonder of the world : Puerto Princesa underground river, which is about 2 hours away. I decided to stay at the closet place to it, a small village called Sabang. The best place in my price range was a large resort called Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa in which they provide the 2 hour one-way van trip from the nearest airport Puerto Princessa International Airport) for 500 peso shared but they do offer the opton of a private van, in which I used on the way back. That costs 2800 pesos but negotiable with taxi drivers in area to 2000 pesos. The sunset drive thru the city of Puerto Princessa was interesting, a very clean city compared to the likes of anywhere else I’ve seen in Phillipines especially Cebu. However the drive though becomes progressively arduous after about an hour when the road has at least 100+ tight turns thru the mountains. I found it fine in the front seat, but recommend motion sickness tablets, if you dred such a journey. That's the basic problem with Palawan, it's big and nothing beautiful is near the airport so long transfer times are required to the beautiful spots. There is though a small airport at El Nido (ENI) where small propeller (ATR’s) fly to, currently only Air Swift fly’s there from Cebu and Manilla. So I arrived at the Sheridian resort in Sabang to a warm welcome & confirmation they had booked my underground river tour. (Please note you need a permit in which can be got in the city of Puerto Princessa but the hotel will process this if you email them in advance with your passport. Highly recommend you do this if your stay is short like mine- since a limited amount of permits are offered per day so it make take a few days to process if you just arrive and do it there & then. Next morning I wake early and firstly enjoythe beautiful grounds and sunrise of the location I am at. Philippines - Sabang Sun Rise (Palawan) The underground river tour starts early at 730am in the hotel lobby. A group of about 12of us were briefed in the lobby about the process, the two boat rides, waiting time & warning of monkeys attacking you if you have plastic bag or smile - in reality I only saw one monkey so don't be too concerned just don't smile, as showing teeth is a sign to them that you want to fight. We walked over to Sabang wharf & waited there for about 45 minutes dealing with the bureaucracy as they have re-register every visitor- though staff do this, you just sit & wait & watch the van loads of tourists doing the same thing coming from all over Palawan island. It didn’t seem staying at the closest major resort next to the wharf had much priority or difference in price from staying in the city of Puerto Princessa & doing it as a day trip. You just can wake up a bit later and don’t have that terrible drive both ways in the day. Philippines - Sabang Wharf (Palawan) The first boat is really cool, you go at an enjoyable speed & able to see the landscape of Palawan from the boat- which includes the sleeping giant - a mountain shaped like a man sleeping. Philippines - Sleeping Giant Mountain (Palawan) You then arrive at the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park on a beach before walking into the jungle a bit and again some waiting while they install audio kits. This is a result of the river experiencing a huge bat decline, which they relate to noise so there is no talking inside the river therefore this one ear piece audio does the tour for you. After this you walk thru some jungle before you see the lagoon area where the cave entrance is and paddling boats are. Philippines - Underground River Beach (Palawan) Philippines - Underground River Sign (Palawan) Philippines - Underground River Entrance (Palawan) So the UNESCO world Heritage cave river consist of 5.1 miles / 8.2km though you only travel thru 1.5 miles meaning the tour, in which cost me as part of a group; 1,800 peso actual inside cave time lasts about 20-25 minutes. Birds are flying small bats are everywhere but they never flew into you or boat. Many mentions of not looking up with mouth open for reasons of dropping bat urine. There are some very alien wall structures, on which you are not allowed to touch as it damages them. It's a relaxing boat ride, but they cram you in & as a big fella I found the boat uncomfortable though luckily I got front seat. The tour explain rock formation shapes that look like food & even they have found what they describe as the face of Jesus Christ. The guide in your audio goes into much detail about different parts of the cave such as St. Pauls area which is the largest open cave area, apparently based on the London cathedral that early explorers described it as. Overall it's very interesting but it is a relief exiting the cave as it can feel a little claustrophobic at times. One of the annoying things is the boat paddler handles the light and he moves around frequently which makes it hard to film as you will notice on my you tube video. I would recommend bring a nice powerful torch like a LED tactical tactical flash light. I wish I had brought mine but didn’t think of it at the time. After disembarkation I was lucky enough to see this huge lizard called Asian Water Monitor in which looks like a baby Komodo dragon but it is not harmful to humans. Unfortunately, the minute he spotted me he legged it so ended up with a poor shot. Philippines - Asian Water Monitor (Palawan) So back to the wharf where the tour ends. Here your find some amazing fresh fruit juice stalls which was great before I headed back to Sheridian Resort to relax and sunbathe, though 30 minutes in April (the hottest time) on the boiling hot beach sand sent me to my room for an hour after nearly suffering sun stroke- yeah it's that hot. The beach is clean though as is the sea but you it is cloudy. There is many boats chugging along to the river tour, which isn’t too noisy but it affect the otherwise idyllic ambience. Philippines - Sabang Beach (Palawan) So my second tour occurred a few hours later, the mangroves & zipline. I was so tired I decided on chill out & do mangrove tour first. The highlight though was my transportation to the sight - an original 1942 American world war 2 jeep picks you up on the beach & drives you to the sights- it is awesome. Philippines - 1942 WW2 US Military Jeep (Palawan) Philippines - 1942 WW2 US Military Dashboard (Palawan) The mangrove tour includes a paddler & tour guide, the tour guide emphases at the start that they are volunteer in which I got the assumption that get ready to tip at the end - no problem. The tour is very relaxing you just go deep into swamp land with huge roots shooting out of the small river occasionally seeing small Gold Ringed Cat Snake circled up on tree I which the guide will spot for you. They sleep during the day circled up on branches but it’s not something you want falling in your boat. Philippines - Sabang Mangrooves Tour(Palawan) I got to climb up on this huge mangrove tree as a photo opportunity and that was fun.. The guide also explains the trees and on the way back of the 30 minute boat ride, the paddler and guide sing a song for you, about preserving the natural habitat- it was a bit cringe to me but nice for a family with kids. They were really nice people though and I found the paddler in particular more interesting talking about the Japanese occupation during WW2 and how the locals hid in the Jungle. Philippines - Sabang Mangrooves Tour Guides(Palawan) After this an adjacent bridge follows signs to the zipline which then leads to a 10 minute walk down the beach before you climb a steep hill which is quite tough for the unhealthy and the path seems to go on forever thru the jungle, about 25 minute walk from entering the beach. I guess no one really does the zipline twice because of this. At the Zip Line you have 2 options sitting zipline (500 peso) or superman zipline (750 peso) which is lying flat - highly recommend the latter as the sitting down one I noticed people were spinning around a bit. The superman is so amazing it like you are coming to land as you launch of a mountain side over the sea to the island. It was awesome - again see my video to view it. Philippines - Sabang Zip line (Palawan) After all this my body aches from jet lag plus climbing the zipline mountain so straight to the hotel spa, which I was incredibly impressed with. The masseuse fully unknotted my back, I used the Sheridian Spa which is more pricey than the open beach ones but it was meeting an excellent standard. After I did what would become my favourite thing to do on Sabang, lying in the hammock between trees listening to sea & watching the sunset was about the most relaxing thing I've done in a long time. I could of slept there that night. A stray dog joined me underneath. Philippines - Sabang Beach Hammock (Palawan) Next morning before my lunchtime departure, the hotel was kind to offer me a snorkeling tour following some advice I offered their corporate marketing management. The snorkeling tour as a private boat is costly at around 3000 peso. You get taken with one of the hotel guide and snorkels by private boat to a random small island with small amount of coral surrounding it. Philippines - Sabang Snorkeling Island There you board a floating bamboo hut and you launch into the sea from it. Initially as you see in my video there is the odd fish all small & not as special as I've seen in Fiji & Indonesia but the nonetheless the guide caught a sea turtle, which I felt seemed a bit harsh to pull him out from under the sea rock as it was struggling, he looked scared so I told him to eventually let it go. I also saw prongs of a lobster poking out if the coral sea terrain & finally I actually found Nemo which was awesome highlight to end my video on. It was fun and overall worth a snorkel the people at the place also swim about on the look out for you in which was helpful. Back to hotel & off to the airport completed one of best 36 hour visits anywhere I've been to. Tiring but well worth the fun. Sabang offers a good amount of activities & Sheridan resort was so chilled out - they even have outdoor movie night by the beach. I would say for short visits to Palawan without enough time to El Nido, Sabang is an excellent alternative. Hotel website link: http://www.sheridanbeachresort.com Please check out the first Travelman video which films my experience.

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