Tag Archives: caves

Kos and Bodrum – places to pass through

After my trip around Rhodes, I tasked myself with finding my way into Turkey. I was very keen to see Istanbul but thought it would be nice to take the scenic route. This meant taking a couple of ferries, one to Kos, and the next along to Bodrum.

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Leaving my trusty quad outside the shop I’d rented it from in the early hours I made my way to the port, and found it easy enough to find the right boat, buy a ticket on the quay and jump on board. Several hours and one nap later I arrived at the island of Kos. Quite striking on arrival thanks to the impressive fort built on the harbour side. It also had a wonderful greenness to it that was missing from Rhodes. Even a famous tree, supposedly the tree under which Hippocrates taught students medicine.

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I wasted no time and paid the reasonable price for entry into the castle. It’s probably more impressive from the outside, but still nice to have a look around especially as I had time to fill. There’s nothing in there other than walls, but having a clamber around is entertaining enough. It was easily the highlight of Kos town though, and it would’ve been nice to spend a little more time in there.

IMG_20160830_134507569After leaving I strolled through the town, plenty of tacky looking party bars offering various drinks offers, and lots of restaurants well stocked with English food. Have to admit was a surprise at first, but as the town was explore, more and more English accents were heard. There’s a small Roman amphitheatre out the back side of town, small but in excellent condition and free to have a look at. Worth the walk out if you have some time. A couple other little sights, temples, gates and walls make the town a little more interesting, but only a couple hours after arriving I was ready to head on. I got a tasty breakfast and prepared to wait for the next ferry.

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IMG_20160830_123922437_HDRBodrum also has a castle on the harbour side, but with a much higher price tag I decided to skip it. How different can another fort be? Winding my way through the packed market streets and long lanes of tourist shops hammered home that this was not an authentic Turkish town at all, but a tourist coastal resort. My hotel was hiding on the hill up behind the main strip, quiet but surprisingly big, the rooms were comfortable and it worked well as a base for the couple days I was there.

That evening I strolled down to the waterfront, the over-priced restaurants crowding the edge of marina, but if you head back just one street, the view isn’t so fancy, but the food and the service more than make up for it, not to mention the price. A couple of shops caught the eye, not all the usual tourist affairs, but there’s more than enough places to get lame souvenirs and knock off high street brands. One shop was an agent, selling the local activities, and after collecting some brochures I committed to a boat cruise and a Turkish bath experience, far cheaper than I thought possible, to good to be true?

IMG_20160831_105354743_HDRI’d seen a few cheesy pirate themed party boats, and I made sure to check that I wasn’t on one of those, but promises in Turkey don’t always work out, and after boarding the Barbossa I found a nice seat away from the pumping dance anthems and had a nice read. The boat stopped frequently to let us take a swim, although each stop was very much like the other. Lunch was served and was perfectly reasonable, but the return journey was the most interesting, a stop at a cave, said to be the bathing spot for Cleopatra with cleansing mud.IMG_20160831_161327505_HDRSo pay a little extra and swim inside the dark cave, rocks and mud and plenty other people to trip over as well, smear yourself with some mud and feel the healing effects. Not a life changing experience, but quite amusing. There’s a trough outside filled with the mud, making it nice and easy to cover your whole body, and of course get some selfies as it dries. We were blasted with the hose before we could get back onboard and then the big surprise happened.

IMG_20160831_165850381The dragons head mascot on the top deck starts spewing foam from it’s mouth, almost covering the whole boat. The music is pumped and the boat is now a foam party. A surreal experience and certainly a surprise.

Once off the boat I had my transfer to the Turkish bath, where I bath, got scrubbed roughly by a big Turk and felt pretty good about it afterwards. The whole thing took maybe 30 minutes, and is something that’s well worth experiencing. Perhaps a more expensive and fancy facility would have felt a little slicker, but I do feel as though I can tick that experience off my bucketlist.

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Overall I found both Kos and Bodrum far too touristy for my liking, neither town had anything to offer other than pricey restaurants and souvenir shops. The weather is good though, and I can imagine British people enjoying a week of sun and sand in either easy enough though, but I was glad to be heading to the airport to fly over to Istanbul. The upside though, I got to try my first genuinely Turkish Turkish kebab.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Veitnam Pt10 – Dong Hoi and Phong Nha Caves

Moving on from Hue on the bus got us into Dong Hoi mid afternoon, enough time to find a cheap place to stay, and explore the town a little.

Paradise Cave

ChurchThere’s not a whole lot in Dong Hoi, but it’s a great base for exploring the national park in which there are several amazing caves to explore. The worlds largest cave was recently discovered in this area of Vietnam, including a cavern so big you could fit the Sistine Chapel inside. Unfortunately this cave is highly restricted, and limited to only a few thousand visitors a year, with very expensive trips in through the network. Instead we settled on a couple of the smaller, cheaper options which were a little more suitable for our needs.

Paradise CaveSo, on the day we arrived we found the few bits of interest, including the ruin of the Tam Tao Church, and an archway which is one of the few remaining parts of the original citadel wall. This arch is now more commonly used for serious drug usage, so only go during the day and watch your step, I don’t recommend it at all as it’s small and pretty rubbish looking, but if you must, please don’t wear flip flops. We also found out that the circus was in town, so later that day I checked it out; and was mostly pleasantly surprised. Certainly they did far too much with animals, but it didn’t seem overly cruel. I wouldn’t like to say it’s a good thing in anyway, and I felt bad for having supported the activity. Excluding the animals though I was very impressed with the acrobatics, some impressive pieces of stunt work and well choreographed dance work. The clowns were amusing for the kids I assume, and overall it was a pretty good show, although not as impressive as the show we’d seen in Cambodia.

Paradise CaveBack on a moped again we headed up through the forests and fields towards the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park to explore a few of the caves. The fist of which was the Paradise Cave, a dry cave with a huge cavern just inside the entrance. It features all the expected features, most of which I don’t know the names of. The walkway is useful and doesn’t ruin the vista like many do, but allows for easy passage through the cave, which is actually longer than the Phong Nha cave.DCIM100GOPROThe National Park itself is a lovely place to drive through, quiet roads within the deep valleys with hills covered in trees. We had a little problem with our bike, the petrol gauge was stuck at about 1/3, so we ran out of petrol about three times that day. Thankfully we’re very good at rolling down hills, and after the third time we made sure we filled it up and bought some spare as well. Pushing a moped around is no fun, and driving home in the rain because you were delayed sucks as well

BoatAnyway, the Phong Nha cave is the main attraction for the area, and we found out the hard way that you can’t just drive to the entrance. You’ll need to go down to the docks in the nearby village then rent a boat. The boat is best shared with other people to split the costs, but it’s Vietnam, so nothing costs too much. Once in the boat you’re taken up river to the entrance, and then inside on a semi-guided trip, including a short walking section.Phong NhaWe were hurried somewhat by our guide, while the boats skipper pulled the boat up through some shallows to meet us on the other side. It was a shame to be hurried so, but having seen so many caves in the last couple months we wern’t too concerned. The cave was very impressive and well worth the trip, hard to describe though!

As I said, heading back was raining and that’s something I hope never to repeat. That night we were on the coach again heading to Hanoi with an aim to getting me a visa for China.

Phong Nha Cave

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel