Most weekends the school lays on some kind of event or excursion, and this Saturday morning we got up far too early to climb the Indian’s nose – a mountain overlooking Lake Atitlan. After about an hour and a half of lung busting climbing, we reached the summit and were treated to this spectacular view.
We arrived in Guatemala City a few days ago, and came straight to La Antigua Guatemala – also known simply as Antigua. It sounded like the perfect place to relax & explore whilst the jetlag subsided, having flown directly in from Madrid.
Another reason we chose to immediately travel the two hours straight from the airport was that Guatemala City is not such a friendly place. It seems tourists are advised not to go out after dark due to the risk of robbery (and worse) and too many travel warnings about the one place led us to devise our swift exit strategy.
Three huge volcanoes dominate the horizon around Antigua, although at the time of writing in early October, the peaks are unfortunately almost constantly covered with cloud.
Although we’ve been more than content to wonder the cobbled streets soaking in the atmosphere and visiting the plethora of art galleries and restaurants, there are plenty of day trips that can be undertaken from here. From horse riding, to climbing the volcanoes (one of which is still active), Antigua Guatemala has been a fabulous beginning to our trip. We’ll be publishing an additional video and a podcast we made in Antigua shortly.
Price-wise we were a little surprised by the expense of accommodation and food in Antigua – simply furnished double rooms, with a shared bathroom cost between US$20 and US$30 a night. We’re under the impression though that with it being the ‘cultural centre’ of Guatemala, things should be considerably cheaper when we reach Lake Atitlan.
This weekend we hired a mini-van and drove from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon National Park – one of the oldest National Parks in Thailand. Doi Inthanon (2,565m) itself is the highest mountain in Thailand and is also known as “The roof of Thailand”.
Due to its elevation, Doi Inthanon offers a wide variety of ecological habitats, and is therefore home to a significant amount of plant and animal species. There are supposed to be nearly 400 bird species (the highest number of any national park in Thailand), black bears, and various different monkey species.
On the lower slopes of Doi Inthanon, near the Karen hill tribe village of Ban Sop Had, are the Vachiratharn waterfalls (named after the Thai Prince), where the river Vachiratharn tumbles over a granite escarpment. We were treated to an amazing view when we arrived here as the water vapour caused by the water cascading over the rocks had formed a striking rainbow – see the photo above.
It was rather cool at the summit (13 degrees C), and there isn’t a notable view from the summit itself, but there are a couple of interesting walks you can do, including the Ang Ka nature trail walk. ‘Ang Ka’ means Crow’s Pond in Thai, and it is considered the highest natural water catchment in Thailand. These walks are particularly interesting as the trees are covered in hanging moss and lichen giving them a unique character.
On the way down the mountain, we stopped at the two Chedis built in honour of the King and Queen of Thailand. It was from here that we got the best views of the surrounding countryside (see photo).
A few friends of ours have previously visited Doi Inthanon from Chiang Mai, and they had told us that they saw relatively little from the summit, as for much of the year the mountain is shrouded in mist. We may have been lucky – or it could have been due the time of year (November) – but the weather and views were superb, helping to make it a really memorable day trip. Highly recommended but check the weather first!
Doi Inthanon is located about 2 and a half hours’ drive South-West of Chiang Mai. Head down highway 108 towards Chom Thong then follow the signs to Doi Inthanon. Foreigners pay 400THB entry to the national park, and residents/Thai people pay 40THB. It is possible to stay the night in cabins at Doi Inthanon National Park – more information on the park and accommodation can be found on the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation department website.
You may be interested in seeing the video of Koh Lipe we made whilst there during this Christmas trip.
This is where we’ll be heading on 23rd/24th December if anyone is at a ‘loose end’ for Christmas… I went to Koh Lipe a couple of years ago, and it is well worth the journey. It’s absolutely stunning.
Koh Lipe is a small island that is part of the Tarutao National Marine Park located in Satun Province.
Satun is a small province in the south of Thailand that borders Malaysia, facing the Andaman Sea. The province possesses renowned picturesque islands with verdant forests and mountainous land. The majority of the locals are Chao Lay and speak a dialect unique to their culture. It is located 973 kilometers from Bangkok and occupies an area of 2,478 square kilometers with 80 kilometers of coastline.
Most tourists head out to the pristine islands of Tarutao National Marine Park. Its landscape is full of underwater peaks, excellent beaches, calm and peaceful coves, jungle and mangrove swamps. Snorkeling can be found at Koh Lipe (Lipe Island), while neighbouring Adang Island has stunning primary forest with mountainous terrain and waterfalls.
Quito was a remarkable city. The second highest capital city in South America, after La Paz in Bolivia, it quite literally takes your breath away. I discovered this the hard way, leaning against a wall and seeing stars whilst running around town for an hour trying to find us a guest house before dark!
At an altitude of 2,850 metres, the climate is relatively comfortable, with warm days and cool/cold nights.
The main attraction of Quito, providing it with its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the ‘Old City’. The heart of the old Spanish colonial centre is Plaza de la Independencia from here it is easy to wander through the many cobblestone streets and explore the rest of the old city on foot. The photo pictured above shows Plaza de San Francisco, and the famous church and monastery of the patron saint of Quito – San Francisco – constructed by the Spanish in 1553.
The new city, especially La Mariscal district on the other hand is not quite so pleasant, with frequent reports of pickpockets and robberies at night. I stayed there for a week whilst doing some work, and generally made sure I was back in the hostel before dark.