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Valladolid

Prompted by Michael, on Mastodon, I’m reminiscing about that special boozy day in Valladolid.

We’d been in Mexico for a few days, slowly making our way down the eastern coast of Yucatán, enjoying the beaches and the food, but it was time to move inland. We were heading to Valladolid.

We drove out tiny Chevrolet for a few hours, and parked at what would be our home for the next few days, a cosy hotel near the center of town. We would use this as our base camp, and from there explore the city and a few other spots around it.

Chichén-Itzá, Rio Lagartos up north, Izamal and Mérida, all within driving distance. I’ll leave that for another post.

After all that sightseeing was done we still had a day left in town, so we decided to visit another cenote. We’d had a lot of fun at the previous ones close to Tulum, seemed like a perfect way to relax and end our stay in the city before moving on to Holbox.

We had a recommendation from a friend who had been in the area, so we decided to spend some time at the one he’d been to.

Enter Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman.

The hacienda is close to town, a bike would be ok, but it was too hot and we had the car with air con, so why complicate things ? We drove there, and were not impressed by the road. It’s mostly a dirt road or, better, a dirty dirt road, but this only lasts for a little while, and you’re soon leaving your car at the parking and stepping in.

Ticket wise we were presented with two options: pay a smaller fee and get access to the cenote, and you can sit at the pool for as long as you want, but are only allowed a shaded spot if there’s no one with a premium tier ticket, or just get that other ticket, still very cheap, and you can have unlimited shade, cenote, and the whole ticket cost can be used at the bar, for food and drinks.

We were planning on staying there for a while, and have lunch anyway, so we ended up getting the costlier one.

First things first, the cenote. Our previous ones had been open ones, a bit like a pool with some cave parts thrown in, but this was a huge pit. Like a chimney, light filtering in from above, but wide, with crystal clear water, and a big swing to dive in from. We loved it.

It was too hot outside, but the temperature here was perfect, the water cool, and the place near deserted. It was still early in the morning.

A few jumps later and we moved to the pool. We had the pool to ourselves, and the water felt like soup after the cenote dives.

We sat under one of the umbrellas, still unaware we’d be spending most of the day there.

We asked for a couple of Modelo beers. Time to start redeeming that ticket cost. Beer was cheap, so the tickets would go a long way.

We would drink a bottle, go into the pool, come out, drink another, go into the pool, … you get the idea.

Some food as ordered. Some margaritas as well.

I started Shazaming the music, it was an amazing playlist, perfect for the occasion. We still listen to those from time to time.

Down to the cenote again to cool down. But the pool was still our own private pool.

We felt (and this might have been the beer talking already) like Mexican millionaires, enjoying our hacienda, with a caring staff that kept bringing us food and beverages.

After a while we were both in the pool, lounging about, and one of them would walk by and casually ask “Dos más ?”. “Sí, por favor. Gracias.”

Other guest were arriving by now, but still not too many. Most were Mexicans living in the States, back for a vacation, meeting their families and having a good time around the pool, talking about life with the gringos. Everyone was happy to be back home, and the mood on the pool was full of good vibes.

Guess what ? We had a couple more beers, and then had to wait for hours until I was legal for the drive back to the hotel.

It turned out to be one of the coolest days in Mexico, and cool days in Mexico are very easy to come by!

Back Home.

We’re back in town and I’m already missing these past few days.

It was amazing. Tiresome, but amazing. The girls are awesome, I feel lucky and blessed every single day. Here, or anywhere else.

Yeah, I know how you feel…

Lagos, Day Two

Lots of driving around, but ended up at the same place as yesterday: Meia Praia.

Went to Sagres and Ponta da Piedade, and Alvor (yuck!), but tinyMovieStar is always asleep when we get somewhere, so we just keep going…

She’s getting spoiled, and we kinda love it.

Lagos, Day One

We made it. Took us a bit longer than it would with no baby but, on the other hand, we now know ALL the service areas on the highway. All.

Beautiful weather, as usual around here, and a lot more tourists than expected.

Beaches not crowded. Nice.

The Wedding Day

One of the stops we made during our extended honeymoon was Bali. I had been only once, for a single night, on a layover to another, more remote, island. That had been years before I ever thought I’d go back, and at the time I was working, so that’s a story for another day.

We both knew we wanted to go there, but we didn’t want to spend time in the crowded areas. We did what the cool kids were doing and booked Ubud. Turns out there’s a LOT of cool kids, and Ubud was a little too crowded as well, although still very enjoyable. But we needed to find a quieter place, and MovieStar had picked Nusa Penida, a small island not far by speed boat.

Not sure how things are today, but at the time there were not a lot of places where we could spend a few nights on that island, and one jumped at us: Batan Sabo. It looked amazing, relaxed and comfortable. We booked it, and a couple of emails were sent back and forth, setting up a transfer from the dock and other smaller things. Turns out the owner was a very cool and respected photographer on the archipelago! We didn’t know it yet, but he would be the most gracious host, and the proverbial cherry on top of an amazing stay.

The island is beautiful, and on its way to becoming an influencer magnet, so things might be different now. The cliffs are superb, and it’s easy to understand why they attract so many of these particular travelers.

Moving on… we arrived and it soon became apparent we had picked the right place.

Pande Heryana welcomed us to his small cottage, decorated in standard hipster style, and soon we were laughing together, while we ate delicious food and he played the guitar for us. We talked photography and life, tourism and opportunities.

The island is really small, and although it has more than a few spots that are very much worth a visit, Pande spends a lot of time on the big island, shooting couples on honeymoon and a few weddings as well. Tourism was growing on his native island, we wasn’t sure how that would turn out, a bit scared it would ruin the authenticity of the place, but he decided to open the cottage with his brothers, and have a go at the hospitality business.

First night on the island and we were already loving it.

Morning came and we were getting ready to have breakfast, and Pande told us there would be a wedding in the family in a couple of days and that he would like to invite us to attend the ceremony. He insisted, and so did his wife.

I only had one shirt that I thought would be appropriate, and he said he would help us with that as well. We shouldn’t worry.

How many times would we be able to attend one of these weddings in our lifetime? I would say none, or, if we are very lucky, one. We were very lucky.

Two days later I picked up the camera, put on my best shirt, and the traditional headwear and skirt, movieStar was helped by Pande’s wife, Prima, and off we went.

We were treated like family, with the little ones looking at us with curiosity (my beard is an amazing ice breaker), the older ones pushing food into our mouths, just like home.

Flowers were offered to multiple gods, and we tried to understand as much as we could, and answer as many questions as possible. They were as interested in us as we were in them. It was one of the most gratifying days of the whole trip. It was amazing to be able to interact with them on that level, and the memories we brought home are still very alive. We still talk to them from time to time, checking in on their family, and they now do the same with our new tinyMovieStar.

In the end, that’s why we travel.

Kuang Si

Yesterday I posted a photo from Kuang Si, and the reactions were so nice I thought about posting a few more. That is a very special place indeed.

From my notes while we were there:

The town is very small, so you’ll search entertainment around it, and entertainment we found. Kuang Si falls are a must see. Really. We were hoping to find yet another waterfall, and were blown by this one. It is an amazing place. The size, the amount of water that comes down the mountain, the fact that you’ll be going up a huge stairway while the water is coming down, the view from the top, everything made this THE waterfall.

The town is Luang Prabang, Laos. Two years later that waterfall it’s still one of our fondest memories from the whole trip.
We had arrived in Luang Prabang a couple of days earlier, and our first night was spent at the only hotel we hated on the whole three and a half months of the journey. We stayed at dozens of hotels while on the road, and this was the only time we left the hotel and moved to another one. Luang Prabang was not an instant hit with us.

Our new hotel, thankfully, was a lot nicer, and the staff made it even better. We couldn’t have found a cosier place. We would be even happier a couple of days later, when rain started pouring down, and wouldn’t stop for days. We were pretty much stuck inside, and it was great we’d found such a nice place. But moving on…

The town, as I wrote at the time, is really small, and you’ll walk from end to end, slowly, in no time. There are plenty of temples to visit, and the market is worth a visit, both during the day and in the evening. Good for a meal too. But this is one stop where we hadn’t done our homework, and booked way too many days in town. There are a lot of cafés, and restaurants, but we felt the place overpriced. Very overpriced.

The town’s name has a certain ring to it, you start dreaming as soon as you hear it, and we had our hopes really high. UNESCO World Heritage Site. We hadn’t been disappointed by a UNESCO site so far…

Early early morning with the monks, another walk around, another temple, the museum, and you’re pretty much done. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, but we were coming from Mandalay, and Chiang-Mai, and Angkor… You get the picture.

That brings us to the waterfall. As I said, homework not done, we were going on the allure of the name alone, we asked the nice man at the hotel’s reception what he thought would be worth a visit. He immediately said Kuang Si. We briefly pondered if we’d go straight away, or the following day, and decided to just go. Transportation was arranged for an hour later.

(Lucky pick, as the following day a storm arrived, and we couldn’t do it anymore.)

We were on the road for 30 minutes or so, and got to the ground level at the waterfall. You pay a small fee and go in. The area is bigger than we expected, and we quickly started seeing families having fun and swimming around. It looked nice, but not the big waterfall we expected. We kept walking and realised there are a lot of pools along the way, some shallower, others allowing a small dive from a tree branch or a rock on the edge of the pool, some with faster water flow and out of bounds. It was starting to look like we had come to a very nice place indeed.

We kept walking up the hill. Happy, wet, people were coming down the track. A couple more minutes and we finally found it! THE waterfall! It was there, right before our eyes, and it was the most beautiful one we’d seen so far. It was magnificent.

We spent a good time gazing at it, getting some photos, taking it all in. This is what we’d came here for.
And then we spotted people coming from a little track on the side, so I talked to one of them and asked if there was something else to see. And there was. You’d go up a steep stairway and a few minutes of light climbing, and you would reach the top, they said. They pointed to the place where the climb started, and off we went.

How many times can I write ‘amazing’ in a post ? Because I feel like writing it in every sentence! We were very fortunate with the amount of water on that day, as I’ve read it’s not usual to have so much of it, and waterfalls don’t really work without water, right ?
It was cold, and came down fast, it’s hard to describe the feeling, we were laughing and smiling all the way up.

When we made it all the way up, the view was spectacular.

And a few other pool to try out. We’d lost count by then, but you can have a dip in a lot of pools at this place!

We dried ourselves, walked all the way down, smiled at the people bathing and just having fun, and stepped outside for a beer (me) and some fresh water (movieStar wife) before heading back to Luang Prabang.

We had decided to give it another try. Luang Prabang, on the other hand, decided to give us rain. Until the day we left.