Road to Hana

I set out to experience what I have heard AMAZING things about: The Road to Hana. I unfortunately had two work calls I had to take first so I didn’t leave the hotel until about 1030am. I was expecting traffic and that’s pretty much what I got.

I hit some traffic right at the beginning of Hana highway, but that was mostly just little town that caused people to drive slowly. Once out of the town, the speed limit dropped to 30 and basically stayed that way for the next 30 miles. Often times the speed limit would drop to 15 mph to take curves more carefully or stopping completely to allow traffic from the other direction proceed. Much of the drive is spent waiting for oncoming traffic to clear a bridge as they are all 1 lane.

The views were beautiful, lush and green vegetation made the 2 hour drive (each way) worth it. Many people dropped along the drive to get out and swim or hike – but there were so many people stopping there was no where to park so I just drove straight through on the way there. I holkeed up my gopro to the windshield inside then realized I was going slow enough I stopped and hooked it up outside on the side mirror.

I made it to Hana and turned around to head home. About 15 minutes before I made it to Hana I noticed a sign that said “lava tunnel .” I stopped at the lava tunnel on the way back – it was interesting, not what I thought at all, but interesting nonetheless.

I hit the road back to the hotel, stopped a few times to take pictures and enjoy the view. I arrived back at the hotel around 4pm. When I got back I went to meet up with Mike, Amy and the girls for dinner. We spent a little time on the beach but couldn’t decide on dinner so we parted ways and I went to read and order room service, while they went to their little restaurant on their property. The day ended amazing with some fancy macaroni and cheese along with onion soup and of course beautiful views from the balcony!!

Just go chasing waterfalls

Wow. I am exhausted writing this tonight. We hit the road in an attempt to get to Hofn. Our first goal was to get some Petrol. About 20 minutes into the drive, we found the petrol station – however, it was broken!! The owner came out to try and help and basically in his body language and Icelandic language said it was broken.
So we continued on our way. We put another petrol station in the gps and we found one that was much better than the one we were going to. It had a grocery store right next to it (apparently this is common), but it also had a yarn store across the street (win for Lauren!) So we filled up the half a tank for about $45, got some yummy bread and snacks and hit the yarn store. I guess I should point out that we found out there was a MAJOR storm heading our way and we were hoping to make it to Hofn, where we had a reservation for the night. At this point in the day (around 1030am) it wasnt all that bad. From the Secret Lagoon to Hofn should have been about 5 hours. 
Ok, back to our drive. We were listening to a podcast and Lauren noticed a waterfall off to the left. We decided to stop and see it, why not, we are on a road trip to see as much of Iceland as we can!! Well, we werent the only ones, turns out its a pretty big waterfall stop for tours and such. We had to pay for parking and then got to walk the area and check out the waterfalls. We are starting to realize that people and their snow pants/water proof pants are smarter than they look. There was an opportunity to go into a cave area, but you would get soaked. I was willing to go in, its just it was way too busy and people were just hanging out on rocks to wait their turn. So instead we headed back to the car to continue on our way. It was a beautiful stop!!

On the road again….our next stopping point was Vik. Our hopes was that we could make it all the way to Hofn still, but time was ticking and we were getting ready for the worst. Again…Lauren noticed a waterfall off to the left, so of course, we had to go. And guess what?? You could climb to the top!! So we had to climb. I promise you Lauren would NOT have climbed if I hadnt been there, but Im glad we went up. It was INSANE. The wind had picked up by this point, like dangerously so. The rental car lady had warned us to hold our car doors when we get out, and she wasnt kidding. None of the insurance covers doors going the wrong way, so we had to hold on carefully. We bundled up in rain jackets, sweaters, gloves, scarves, etc. and took to the stairs. LOTS AND LOTS OF STAIRS. We made it to the top, took a couple pictures and then headed down. Im not sure I can describe the wind enough for anyone who wasnt there to understand, but maybe my Aunt and Uncle in Florida would, hurricane force winds and all. On our way down a gust of wind knocked a girl off the stairs (parts only had rope hand rails) and she screamed. Luckily, her fall was all of 2 feet into grass, but still, thats how strong it was. We hustled back to the car to warm up and continue on our way.

It was about 230pm at this point. The reality that we wouldnt be making it to Hofn today. We were discussing options of things to do when we came upon a parking lot on the right side of the road. Lauren realized this was the DC3 plane that I have wanted to see this whole trip!! WOOHOOO!! I didn’t think we would make it!! And it looked so flat to get out there, I was even able to talk Lauren into coming with me….until we got out of the car!! Then the wind WHIPPED!! And the frozen rain pelted, and she went back to the car. And I, ran to the bus that charged you $27 to take you out the 2.5 miles to the plane. And let me tell you, best $27 I have spent, because the wind was so intense. Lauren said when I came back she didn’t know if I was going to get to see the plane because the weather was so crazy. When the dropped us at the plane, we had about 2 football fields to walk to get to it. There were only about 15 of us total there, and about 40 people who were crazy enough to walk the whole way. The wind was intense enough that it almost knocked me over at one point. And when you lean into the wind so you dont get pushed over its perfect, until the wind just stops and you almost fall over in the opposite direction!The DC3 plane was eerie. And weird. No one died during the crash landing. It was a US Naval plane, all 5 members survived the crash. Rumor has it the pilot switched to the wrong fuel tank and ran out of gas and they had bad weather so they crash landed. Anyway, the plane is just sitting there on a black sand beach. Nothing around for 2.5 miles (the parking lot now). I loved this place. I am so happy I got to do this!!

It was here in the parking lot once I was back that we changed our Airbnb to tomorrow and were on a mission to find a place to stay tonight. That actually wasnt the easiest thing to do. We were about 20 minutes from Vik and most of the hotels and Airbnbs were sold out for tonight. Luckily with 4 different apps we were able to find a place called The Farm House. It was 7 minutes from the plane parking lot. And let me tell you – we won!! This is a win for us. We got a great room, private bathroom (many of the places available did not have that option) and a kitchen. We checked in and the host recommended we hustle to go get food if we wanted to (it was now 4pm) because the roads would be closing soon – ya know hurricane force winds and all. So we “booked” it (at about 50kph) and got some pasta (duh), crisps, cheese, sauce, and a 7up for me. When we got back we cooked up our yummy food and enjoyed a hot meal in for the night! After dinner we played Sequence and I got killed again. But it was fun to learn a new game!

Shhh….it’s a secret lagoon

Man oh man did we sleep good. I woke up in the middle of the night with an aching back, but thats pretty normal at home, so nothing unexpected. We basically slept until about 930 this morning – it was great. We packed our bags and hit the road for the start of our ROAD TRIP!!

First stop – Tomato Greenhouse Lunch. Sounds a little strange, but man that was a great lunch. Basically it is a green house that grows tomatoes – 70% of all of Iceland’s tomatoes come from them. Glad Lauren decided to make reservations because it was a crazy place by the time we left. We opted for the unlimited “Famous Tomato Soup.” The soup was pretty much just tomato puree, and it was fabulous. So good!! It came with unlimited homemade bread as well, and I was full after 4 slices and 2 bowls!! They had tomato beer, tomato, unique blood mary’s, tomato ice cream, tomato pie – all things tomato!! We only had the soup and bread – everything else was a bit scary sounding. Anyway, you are eating IN the greenhouse! Its active and while we were there people were trimming the vines. It was so cool! We saw the pollinating bees they use and saw their pretty looking honey too. 

After lunch we wandered to their horse pastures. They were so funny looking – all fuzzy and then it looked like their tummies were shaved. (We found out later thats where they start molting from).

After lunch we ventured off to Bruarfoss falls. It was supposed to be a quick hike to the falls – turns out you have to park much farther away and it became a 4.4 mile round trip hike!! But it was pretty and it was nice to stretch our legs. Just an FYI I have no boots and it was fine, but almost every other person on the walk was in boots, some even in snow pants….

After our much longer than expected falls hike we headed to the Secret Lagoon. I guess I should say it was earlier in the day we started to get worried because we hadnt heard from our Airbnb host. I had messaged him yesterday and today was still radio silence. Right before the hike I decided to email Airbnb because we needed to check in today and still had no information on this place. After our hike we realized he had a message from him. While I glanced over it, the main thing I gathered from it was that we needed to be near the Secret Lagoon. And since we are now Lagoon addicts we decided to head that way!. 

The Secret Lagoon was much different than the Blue Lagoon. Lets just say you get to see more of people than the average person desires. When entering lagoons they want you to shower – naked – before you get in them. So yesterday it was put your suit on, go into shower stall, take your suit off, shower, put suit back on, and enter lagoon. Today it was strip down naked and go shower then put your suit on and head to the lagoon. I LOVE clothes. I dont really need to see myself or anyone else naked – ever really. Anyway had to figure out a way to do it. It was tough, but we got it done. The lagoon was much smaller than the blue lagoon but much more quaint and quiet. We really enjoyed the atmosphere at the Secret Lagoon. We met some sisters and chatted with them while we were floating around the lagoon. 

The sisters gave us lots of ideas to check out on our Southern Icelandic drive. They have a Glacier lagoon and another glacier you can climb on (all for a fee of course). So we will be checking out lots of stuff on our drive!

We were at the lagoon for a couple hours and we decided to head out and grab something from like a gas station for dinner (They have gourmet gas stations apparently). When we got outside we went to put the Airbnb in the gps and planned to stop on the way….turns out we are STAYING AT THE SECRET LAGOON!! Our Airbnb had a problem apparently and they put us at the Secret Lagoon guest house!! And what makes that even better is that we get to go back to the lagoon in the morning FOR FREE!! Woohoo!! So we are enjoying our night by Lauren kicking my butt in Monopoly!!

Chiang Mai Adventure

My, hotel is amazing. I slept super well, even though I woke up at 4am  I lounged around until about 830 then got ready for the day. I get a buffet breakfast here and it was huge. Both Asian and western breakfast was served  I can’t fathom eating stir fry for breakfast again so I went with the western breakfast of mini pancakes and corn flakes. Their orange juice almost tastes like tang and orange juice mixed together but it’s just their yummy oranges!!

I looked up the Doi Suthep trek and from my hotel it was about 8.5 km. I started walking with the intention of hiking up and riding a cab down, but about 2km into my walk through town I was so hot. I decided to attempt one of the red truck rides. It’s a low riding truck that has a cover and benches in the back. Usually its about 30 baht ($1) for a ride. I was going to call for one on the Grab (uber) app and while it was loading one pulled up honked it’s horn and asked where I was going. I told him and he said ok. I got in back and there were two girls already in there. They were from Slovenia. We were going to somewhat the same place. Katarina and Ania were awesome.

We decided to venture together and threw both our original plans out the window for the random fact we were now doing it together. We road another red truck to the top of Doi Suthep to the temple. We followed the group of tourists up a couple stairs, turned right and saw a WHOLE LOT MORE STAIRS. The only way to see anything was up, so up we went. Tourists have to pay 30 baht to get in so we paid and headed in, after catching our breathe first.

Temple was usual for most I’ve been to now, but it’s about 1100 meters above Chiang Mai so the view could be good. One of the girls at the elephant park told me it was a hazy view though. And she was right  we got to the lookout point and couldn’t see the actual city, disappointing for sure. We did this thing where there are sticks in a cup and you shake it around until just a single stick falls out. What that stick means is your fortune. I got a great one.

We hung around for a bit longer, Katarina did a handstand in the middle of this wooden awning thing. We decided to go find the waterfalls. I read I needed to download an app called maps.me to help with the trail. Great idea because in the end it was a savior. Where the app told us to go, there was a Do Not Enter sign with “contact park staff” below.  So we went to find the information booth. Told them where we wanted to go and they sent us back to where we came from,  clearly that was a waste of time sign.

The hike was 95% down hill and jungleous!! Exactly what I was looking for. The map showed 2 water falls, for about a 4km total trip down. We had to climb over fallen trees, under some branches, it was great.

And it was all in the shade, protecting us from the extra heat of the sun. We found this random awesome tree and made a picture stop. As we were leaving a lady approached me and asked if we were going to the water falls and if she and her son could follow, so they did.

We made it to the first set of falls and ran into another two guys (Tamas and Danny) who were also heading the same way we were. We chatted for a bit, took some pictures and then it started to rain.

Since I had the app, and we were all trying to go the same place, everyone stayed together and followed what the map said.

We ran into a small waterfall and Katarina decided to get in the water for a picture. By the time she got out it was raining significantly more so we continued on our way down. We started seeing placards with information on them and knew for sure we were going the right way. We made it to the “entrance” of the hike, but the way we came was from the “do not enter” sign. So we don’t know where the actual park trail takes you!!

The final water fall was great, and it was pouring at that point. We took a group selfie and continued down. The walk to the start of the park was another 4km away, but at least it was paved. We saw a red truck and asked if he’d take us down, at first he said no, but came back a minute later with 100 baht per person. We decided to walk  because we knew we were getting ripped off. As we were walking a truck approached us from behind and offered to let us sit in the bed for the ride to the end of the park. We were so happy!! We all jumped in. They let us out at the park entrance and I gave the guy 20 baht. He tried to give it back to me, but it was so nice to have that 3 minute ride down. He and his wife then said they were going into Chiang Mai and offered us another ride!!We had about a 10 minute ride in the back of a truck down to the red truck stop. We were all so grateful!! We thanked them and then all hopped into a red truck to head to our hotels.

We decided to meet up again for the night market. We met at 7 pm at the Hard Rock (I had no idea they had a Hard Rock). All of us may back up and had some dinner at the street market and then walked around the night market. They have some pretty good knock offs so Katarina was trying to haggle for me (she’s a pro she says). It didn’t work on the lady so we left, but Tamas and Danny went back and got her down to almost half!! I am now the proud owner of a knock off Supreme Louis V wallet, in red.

We hit up the Irish pub after and had drinks (even I did!!) and chatted for a long while. We were all looking pretty tired so I said let’s go get foot massages. We tried to haggle the price since there were 6 of us, but no one budged. We struggled to find 6 chairs together anyway so we went to two massage parlors next to each other and all got them at the same time. They all loved it!! We hit another bar across the street before it closed at midnight, parted ways (half went one way, half went the other), hit up 7-11 (Thailand is obsessed with them) and all went back to our hotels to crash. We are all going to be down in the Phuket/Phi Phi/Krabi area so we will attempt to meet up again.

Best day, by far, in a long long while. This, my friends, is why I travel, to meet people from all over the world, who like me, want to go all over the world.