Gadabout's Corner

Bird of passage

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Things to do during Winter in CAPE TOWN, South Africa

Cape Town is surely many people’s dream paradise, especially surfers, hikers, backpackers or lovers (a honeymoon, maybe). It offers a great variety of services, from budget hostels to beachfront luxury villas.

Visiting Cape Town or Kaapstad in Afrikaans during Winter is actually quite nice. It’s not that cold, except the sea that’s always a bit cold. You could still do everything that you should when in Cape Town, like surfing, shark cage diving, whale watching, sailing or visiting wineries. If you don’t mind a bit of light rain then we are good here. Plus, it’s a lot cheaper and also less packed. If you’re not sure what to do during the trip, then you might wanna keep reading. 😊

Firstly, getting around is really easy, you could just walk or use the MyCiti Bus. You’ll need a bus card for that, which you just add some credit into the card, tap and go. You could get the card from many places, like the Airport. I got mine at the Cape Town Tourism Office on Burg Street.

Actually, I wanna talk a little bit about their Tourism Office. They are really helpful. I went to Cape Town with no idea about what I should do and see. Fortunately, one of the staff introduced me to Baz Bus, which offers really cool tour services around South Africa for great prices. Tours are specifically designed for backpackers. These services were amazing and I also met loads of cool people as well.

Things you shouldn’t miss when in Cape Town:
  • District Six
    • Muir Street Mosque
    • District Six Museum
  • Bo-Kaap
  • Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
  • Signal Hill
  • Lion’s Head
  • Table Mountain
  • Chapman’s Peak

Firstly, I’m going to kick it off with things you can do around the City Bowl, which is the central business area of Cape Town. It’s packed with history, especially at District Six. The district is the result of discrimination, where only white residences were allowed to stay and the others were forced to leave. It left the district abandoned. Years later, Nelson Mandela returned the district to everyone but some areas are still visibly abandoned. You could just walk around the area, visit the District Six Museum and Muir Street Mosque to know more about the story.

Not far from District Six Museum, stands the Castle of Good Hope, which is the oldest building of South Africa. It’s a good place to relax as there is a small kiosk that you could grab some warm drinks. I had my breakfast there, with the view of the castle’s garden in front of me. Tea and food was warm, perfect for the winter morning.

A bit further from the castle, you’ll find the colorful neighborhood of Bo-Kaap. You’ll notice the cobble stoned streets once you’re in the area. It’s a good place to walk around, take pictures with them colorful doors and houses. Also, check out the Nurul Islam Mosque there as well.

The next stop is Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. There is so much to see in the area. So, if you wanna fill up your tummy first, definitely check out the V&A Food Market. It’s an international food complex that sometimes plays live music as well. Otherwise, have a walk around the harbour, get the bird-eye view of the town from the Cape Wheel, shop at the mall or book yourself a ticket to visit the Robben Island.

Robben Island was used for the isolation of political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. Apart from history aspect, it’s the kingdom of African Penguins as well. On the island, you can take pictures, but for personal use only and tripods are not allowed.

Now for those who like mountains, camping and hiking, Cape Town is your place. There are many peaks and mountains for you to conquer. We’ll go from North to South and the first one is the Signal Hill (Lion’s Tail). You could just drive up the summit through Signal Hill Road. It’s great for the city’s view and the Atlantic. I also spot couple of campers there as well.

Otherwise, the one next to it is the Lion’s Head. The walk up to the top is only about an hour. So, it’s quite nice.

The next one, the landmark of Cape Town, Table Mountain is a must. It’s called Table Mountain simply because of its flatness. You could get up the top by either hiking or by using cableway. By hiking, there are many routes to choose, depending on how long you wanna spend and how fit you are. Though, a spot that you shouldn’t miss is the Devil’s Peak. The view is crazy! You just gotta see it by yourself.

Moving on to the Chapman’s Peak. This place gives you both the view of Hout Bay and Noordhoek Beach. To get here, you could simply take the Chapman’s Peak Drive and you’ll find many hiking trails up here as well.

Between Chapman’s Peak and the stunning Noorhoek Beach, there is a really cool place called Monkey Valley Resort. It offers a really sweet stay. Hidden among the trees of Milkwood Forest, with the view of the beach; each rooms are designed with massive windows for the infinite view, farmhouse kitchen and stone fireplace. It’s just really cool! 😎

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Cape Town’s shorelines, from North to South:
  • Sea Point Promenade
  • Clifton
    • First Beach
    • Second Beach
    • Third Beach
    • Fourth Beach
  • Camps Bay
    • Witsand
    • Glen Beach
  • Hout Bay
    • The Dungeons
    • Hout Bay Harbour
  • Noordhoek Beach
    • The Dunes
    • Wreck of Kakapo

About half an hour walk from Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, close to Green Point Lighthouse, you’ll see the start of Sea Point Promenade. It’s really nice to walk along the Promenade as there are many different beaches, some are smaller and some are rockier.

Though, if you are looking for a bigger scale beach, then definitely check out the Clifton area. Here, there are 4 beaches, from First Beach to the Fourth Beach. For surfers, the First Beach has the strongest and the Fourth Beach has weakest waves. The Third Beach is the smallest one but it’s a very busy beach. This place is awesome and beautiful!

For divers, you might wanna check out Camps Bay. Here, there is a famous dive site called Witsand. However, this bay is also good for surfers, especially for those who like a bit of challenge. At Glen Beach, it’s one of the harder beaches to surf as the take-off area is quite small.

The next stop is where I spent most of my time while in Cape Town. It’s Hout Bay! It’s the place for big wave surfers who wanna ride the 14-metres Dungeons. The place itself is beautiful and colorful, with cute fishing village and Hout Bay Harbour.

Lastly, it’s the one we’ve talked about for a bit, the Noordhoek Beach. If you want to relax, then this 8 kilometres of peacefulness is your place. You might wanna visit The Dunes, take a horse out and enjoy the ride by the beach or explore the Wreck of Kakapo.

What else?
  • Cape Winelands
  • Cape Peninsula
    • Simon’s Town
    • Boulders Beach
    • Cape of Good Hope

Apart from Cape Town itself, you could also explore the area around it as well. I’d recommend few places. Firstly, Cape Winelands is the region where many famous wines are made. Wines are sooooo cheap and sooooo tasty! By the time you’re having lunch, you’d already be tipsy. It’s a joy! 🍷

Apart from the beauty of wineries, you could also join the search of South African’s Big Five. If you are keen on spending a day with animals, you could book yourself a day trip and head to Worcester. I’d recommend horseback safari because it’s a lot more exciting. Otherwise, try any styles of Game Drives.

Most importantly, since you are in Cape Town, you have to visit the Cape Peninsula. To do so, you might wanna start at Simon’s Town, which is a Navy Base Town.

There is a cute history here too. It’s about Just Nuisance, which is the only dog enlisted in Royal Navy because he was a loyal dog that always travelled with seamen by train. He was enlisted as a Royal Navy so that he could travel freely on the train. He was somehow a moral booster for the town during the World War II. His statue is by the town’s main street.

Another cuteness here is the African Penguins at Boulders Beach. The place is so cute! What penguins live by the beach of blue water? This place is so heart-warming. 😍

Next, you should definitely visit the Cape of Good Hope. To explore the whole place, which is also a Nature Reserve, you could just drive around, hike or go around with bicycle. I did cycling and my companies were some ostriches, baboons and couples of deers.

You might wanna stop by the Cape Point first because it’s higher than the Cape of Good Hope so it offers a greater sight of all peaks and ocean. The view from the lighthouse is the best! You also don’t have to worry much about the weather, all the walking will heat you up but the wind won’t let you sweat.

The final most important stop is the Cape of Good Hope. It holds so much history and the area is stunning. The shore is great for taking pictures and to be there is just great!

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Attractions in MAE HONG SON

Mae Hong Son is a province up in the North of Thailand, known to have thousands and thousands of curves climbing up the mountain. It’s a bit colder up North on these mountains, which is good for when the heat becomes too much.

  Tribal kids

Top 5 Places to Visit in Mae Hong Son

    Tribal sisters

  1. Pai
  2. Tham Lot Cave
  3. Huay Nam Dang National Park
  4. Ban Rak Thai Village
  5. Pang Ung Reservoir

MHS is not a popular destination but there are many tourists and people are falling in love with it. The reason is because Mae Hong Son houses such an amazing place like Pai, which people think it’s another big city in Thailand. It isn’t. It’s just a small fun town hiding in between the valley.

I. What to do in Pai?

  • Ride the curves
  • Enjoy the Walking Street
    • 6.00 p.m. – 10.00 p.m.
  • Trek the Pai Canyon
  • Cross the Memorial Bridge
  • Relax at Tha Pai Hot Springs

Just within Pai alone, there are already so many things to do and see. Firstly, expert drivers will enjoy the road around Pai, especially bikers as it’s very challenging with all the sharp curves and steep hills. Don’t worry if you can’t drive or if your skill is not there yet, because there are many public transportation services taking you in and out of Pai.

The best street in Pai is the Pai Walking Street because there is everything. There are cheap food, bars, pubs, karaokes, restaurants, cafes, souvenirs shops and more. There are always a lot of people, selling interesting ideas and designs. This is an opportunity for you to absorb the culture, because there is live street music in different languages mainly Thai and English. There are also mini shows of Thai music and dances. It always has a very groovy mood here.

But if you want more excitement, definitely visit the Pai Canyon or Kong Lan. It’s good for trekking as there are narrow and elevated paths of different sizes and heights. There is no actual safety and the time you might end up spending there is around 3 hours so definitely bring a bottle of water. There is a small Pembok Waterfall in the area as well.

If you want a bit of an edgy vibe then check out the Pai Memorial Bridge. You are allowed to explore as much as you want on foot, which is a must as the wooden floorboards with gaps and holes are very interesting and also look great in pictures. There are bamboo rafting services taking you along the river as well.

Lastly for Pai, you should go to Tha Pai Hot Springs and relax there for few hours as there are many ponds filled with natural mineral water. These ponds have different temperatures for all preferences. There are also beautiful walking paths, with views of clear water and trees. However, if you want a bit of privacy, there are several private spas nearby too.

II. Tham Lot Cave

About 20 minutes driving from Pai, there is Tham Lot Cave. It’s a cave system with loads of stalactites and stalagmites in different shapes and forms. They also create rooms and halls for this cave system.

To explore the cave, there are local guides that will take you into the cave using bamboo rafts. You’ll be flowing along Nam Lang River that is filled with schools of Mahseer fish. They genuinely paint the river pitch black. You’ll also be welcomed by the distinct smell of bats and you’ll spot them if you look up to the ceiling of the cave.

The guide will also show you around the cave system and you’ll be able to spot some evidences of settlement like potteries and teakwood coffins in various spots as the cave used to house cave-dwelling prehistoric tribespeople from over thousand years ago.

III. Huay Nam Dang National Park
  • Viewpoints
    • Sea of Fog
    • Doi Chang
    • Doi Kio Lom
  • Waterfalls
    • Huay Nam Dang
    • Mae Yen
  • Hot Springs
    • Pong Dueat Pa Pae

Huay Nam Dang National Park is massive and it lies between 2 provinces; Chiang Mai and MHS. There are several facilities and camping areas throughout the park, including Lom Doi and Hill Pine Camp.

MHS

The best time to visit Huay Nam Dang is during winter as you’ll be able to witness the Frost Flowers and the Sea of Fog during a cold, early dawn. To get the most epic view of the Sea of Fog, you’ll have to be above them, so Doi Chang and Doi Kio Lom are best viewpoints. They are also great to watch the sun rising behind these mountains’ peaks.

Within the area of the park there are several waterfalls, but the one that you shouldn’t miss is the Huay Nam Dang Waterfalls. There are a total of 4 levels, waiting for you to explore.

Mae Yen Waterfalls is also great, especially if you want a bit of adrenalin. Here, you could enjoy a 4 hours of white water rafting, which the starting point is at the Ban Bang Pa Kha and you’ll finish at the Ban Sap Kai.

However, when the weather becomes too cold, you could always stop by the Pong Dueat Pa Pae Hot Springs. There are 4 big pools for you to relax and pamper yourself.

IV. Ban Rak Thai Village (Mae Aw)

Ban Rak Thai Village holds many history. Firstly, it was settled by a Chinese Nationalist, which explains why there are so many evidences of Chinese culture, including the people, architecture and food. There are many tea plantations and various types of Chinese tea for you to try, while relaxing at the lakeside. There are also many local shops that sell dried fruits and wine because there are few breweries in the village.

This village also used to be the controlling point for jade trading and army camp. There are evidences of these history throughout the village, which can be explored by walking as it’s only a tiny village with a lake in the middle. 

There are several homestays and camping areas, with great viewpoints for those who want to spend the night, watching stars and learn more about the Thai – Yunnan culture.

V. Pang Ung Reservoir

Not far from Ban Rak Thai Village, Pang Ung has one of the best campsites in Thailand. It used to be an opium plantation ground of hill tribes, which later turned into a Royal Project aiming to help those people by convincing them to switch to other plantation, like coffee.

The campsite is in the middle of pine forest by the water reservoir. There are many things to do and see here, such as admiring the misty morning, bamboo rafting by the lake, stargazing at night, horse riding, feeding the royal black swans, purchasing local products and trekking to the Nam Yot Cliff.

 

 

 

 

 

Chilean Patagonia: Torres del Paine and the Southern Andes (part 3)

patagonia 8

This is the last part of our trip to the Tierra del Fuego. We are getting so close to the Antarctica that I hope if I stare good enough in the right direction, I will be able to see that white continent.

We just left Torres del Paine National Park and now we are moving to Puerto Natales, which is where we disembark from our ferry. I’ve already mentioned that it’s better to see things if we travel by sea and the one I’d recommend is Navimag Ferries. They provide several routes and choices depending on your preference. I departed from Puerto Montt, travelling down, seeing loads of stuff for 3 days and disembarked at Puerto Natales. The price was 550 USD per bed and that already includes food. The facilities are really convenience and clean. There are shared bathrooms and toilets as well as the kitchen and other common areas like bar and dance floor. You might experience some seasickness as we have to navigate pass the areas where the surface of the water is really naughty, but there are medication service that will help you. Staffs are really nice and the food is really good as well.

Puerto Natales
  • Last Hope Sound (Última Esperanza)
  • Eberhard Fjord
  • Milodon Cave (Cueva del Milodón)
  • Navimag and Navy pier

Puerto Natales is a small waterfront town, with piers that bring people from every corners. It’s very classic, with old and colorful houses along the lakeside. One of the signature of this port town is the Última Esperanza, which is a spot to watch the sunset, flamingos and take cool pictures with old, ruin piers that reaches into the body of the water. It’s suitable to bike there along the shore of the Eberhard Fjord or treat yourself with another boat ride, which will bring you closer to waterfalls and animals. On the way, you will be visited by fellow sea lions as well.

You should also visit a cave that triggers the giants mysterious of the Fire Land. I’d recommend spending time around and inside Milodon Cave until it opens you to the great green scenery.

patagonia 5

You could also spend time relaxing by the pier, either at Navimag pier or if you want a bit a beach then there is the Navy pier for you. Also, if you are looking for a nice place to stay and relax, then you might wanna check out Remota Patagonia Lodge.

Punta Arenas
  • Magdalena Island (Isla Magdalena)
    • Penguins
  • Rey Jorge Island Natural Sea Park
    • Whale watching
  • La Cruz Hill Viewpoint (Mirador Cero de la Cruz)
  • Nao Victoria Museum (Museo Nao Victoria)
  • Punta Arena cemetery

A bit below Puerto Natales, Punta Arenas is one of the biggest city in this area. It has an airport, which you can fly back to Santiago instead of travelling back by sea. It’s the base for Antarctica expeditions in which you can buy tours or cruise trips from town centre. There are many islands in this area and one of the most known one is the Magdalena Island. It’s where you can get close to the Magellanic penguin colony. The other one is not as known , but you can spend time observing wild mammals like whales. It’s the Rey Jorge Island National Sea Park.

You could also go to La Cruz Hill Viewpoint that will allow you to see the whole city and it’s a great picture opportunity. And if you are interested in navigation history, then you should check out Nao Victoria Museum. Inside, there is the replica version of the first ship that successfully circumnavigate the world. However, if you want to know more about the history of Punta Arenas then you’ll want to go to Punta Arenas Cemetery. This place is known for their trimmed cypress trees that decorated the whole place.

patagonia 15

Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego
  • Porvenir
    • Cerro Mirador
  • White lake (Lago Blanco)
  • Camerón River
  • Navarino Island (Isla Navarino)
    • Puerto Williams
    • Los Dientes Circuit
  • Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos)

Tierra del Fuego is a very remote island, again owned by both Chile and Argentina. It’s so remote that it’s only a boat ride away for the Antarctica. The main town of this Fire Land is Porvenir. There is not much of the scenery to see, but there are loads of history awaited to be discovered as well as many animals. To have the best look of this town, you will have to go to Cerro Mirador. It’s the viewpoint this town can offer.

There is a great spot on this island that will allow you to spend time relaxing or fishing. It’s at the Lago Blanco. Here, you can catch yourself some fish and cook them fresh on spot. However, another body of water that you shouldn’t miss is the Camerón River. Again, you can spend time here, catching wild fish. But that’s not all, you could also stay at the Estancia Cameron Lodge and experience the whole Tierra del Fuego culture. There are many activities provided for fellow travellers, such as fly fishing, trekking, kayaking and bird watching.

To get yourself even more down south, you might want to stop at the Navarino Island. The main port of this island is the Puerto Williams, which is the southernmost inhabited settlement of the world. It’s a beautiful port city, with lots of boats and ships passing by or stopping by. It’s also decorated with white mountain range. It’s really peaceful and cold. I have to mention the cold. However, the beauty and what’s await allows us to easily forget about the weather.

You can easily get here from Punta Arenas via Transbordadora Austral Broom. Apart from taking you to Puerto Williams, there are other services as well, such as trips to Magdalena Island.

Just outside the town, if you are experienced and you are prepared, you might as well get yourself into one of the hardest hiking trail in South America. To complete Los Dientes Circuit, you will have to spare around five days, but you will definitely love what you see. The trail of the circuit is over 50 kilometres, so get your blood pumping.

Further from the Navarino, there sits the end of America. Cape Horn is reachable by sea and plane, but I would suggest the sea, even though it takes longer to get there. When you arrive there, you will see the sign that marks this legendary spot. It says “Armada de Chile, Alcaldia de mar, Cabo de Hornos.”

And finally, we are here, the end of this continent. We can’t go any further without having to move to Antarctica, in which I’m sure all of us would love to and we will.

 

 

 

 

 

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