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Costa Rica – The land of pure living

Welcome to Costa Rica

Soon after you enter Costa Rica you will see and experience the unofficial law of the land, “Pura Vida”.

Pura Vida means pure living and it oozes through everything in life.

From the capital of San Jose to the surf city of Tamarindo you will see Pura Vida imprinted on almost every imaginable thing. It is used for expressing anything good. In everyday speech it means excellent or great or whatever similar expression you prefer.

Describing an atmosphere or painting a picture using only words can be quite challenging. The feeling you get from walking down an unfamiliar street, different from everything you know, or the sensation you get from overcoming an obstacle, be that climbing a mountain or taking your first successful turn on a snowboard, is hard to describe and can only be successfully relayed if the recipient has had similar experiences. Regardless of this, I’ll still try.


The most obvious result of the Pura Vida mentality is the abundant amount of drugs. Within hours of arriving to Costa Rica the distinct smell of weed hit our noses (me, my brother, niece and nephew), the first day, a guy clearly drugged up on heroin, started talking to us (very friendly) and within 24 hours we were offered free cocaine by a staff member at the hotel we were staying at. Getting drugs in this country is not a problem.

Pura Vida – take it easy and relax

Another very pleasant aspect is the way everyone talks to you. People walking the street greeting you with “”Ey mon, welcome to Tamarindo – come by tonight – its reggae night at the mermaid”, leaves you with a feeling that somehow, every night is reggae night at the mermaid. You can easily talk to someone if you want to, there’s always someone on the streets and you won’t be left alone for long.

A good example is when we were taking some surf lessons. When learning something new it can be quite hard to remember the instructions you were told and the result is you get angry or confused and forget all of them altogether. My brother experienced this and the result was that the instructor just told him to “relax man – pura vida. You’re confused, amigo. Just take it easy and be patient, you’ll learn my friend, don’t worry.”

How to relax the Costa Rican way

In many western countries, the way you really relax is at your home, either with some good friends, your family or alone. Preferably with some good wine, a blanket, some Netflix or a movie. It obviously varies from person to person but generally speaking, relaxing doesn’t involve physical activity or talking to people you don’t know. Talking to strangers requires preparation and a mind set for socializing.

In Costa Rica relaxing means hanging around your favourite spot talking to everyone who passes by.

You’ve got the surfer who spends his whole life at the beach doing nothing but surfing at day and partying at night. The way he survives financially is by teaching other people how to surf and as such he is set for life. Maybe when he is older he opens a surf shop and hires younger surfers as teacher. Surfing is his life and he enjoys every day of it. No need for excessive materialism.

On the other end you’ve got the street vendor. He spends most of his days on a street corner talking to people while selling his goods. He is not like a cashier in a western supermarket who does his or her job at $8 an hour and just wants to be done with it, so the actual part of life enjoyed by the cashier can begin in the evenings and weekends. No, this guy likes what he is doing and when he feels like he’s sold enough for the day he goes home and probably enjoys some divinely tasty food made from fresh vegetables. Naturally, it’s homemade.


Costa Rica is a poor country and it sets its limits. You can’t get an expensive car and you can’t travel to the other side of the world on a trip like the one we’re on now. Many things that we westerners consider necessities are not available to the average Costa Rican and for that reason alone many people wouldn’t want this life.

On the other hand, though, from my limited experience, they don’t need it. The focus of Costa Ricans lies on something completely different. The things that make them happy is much more basic. Good food on the table, a family that loves you and a roof over your head is a good start – combine that with some good waves or similar and you’ve got what you need.

Denmark, where I’m from, often prides itself on being the happiest country in the world – and on many lists, we are. But Costa Rica also scores high and even ranks #1 on this link for example. The one that ranks Denmark #1 is the world happiness report and in my personal opinion it is the more thorough list.


Nature alone Costa Rica worth a visit. Without trying to sound too much like a Wikipedia page, I’ll list a few of the things that make this country remarkable.

Although a small country, it contains more than 5% of the worlds biodiversity and 25% of the country is protected as national parks and similar protected areas. It has volcanoes, rain forests, beaches, mountains, rivers and everything in between making it a haven for adventurers and nature lovers alike. Alligators, pumas, sharks, sloths and nose bears can be found here along with a myriad of bird species. The 10.000 colones note even has a sloth on it!

In conclusion. I’m sure you’ll like it!

Koh Ta Kiev – Where the boat leaves from

  1. Applying for a Myanmar (Burma) visa in Bangkok
  2. One night in Bangkok
  3. Visiting Rural Thailand – enjoy the silence
  4. Sleeping in a monastery on a mountain top in Hpa-An, Myanmar
  5. Overview of tourist hotspots in Myanmar (Burma)
  6. Naypyitaw – The official capital of Myanmar
  7. Being sick on the road
  8. The End of an Era – I’ve Sold My Motorbike and Left Vietnam
  9. Cambodia – First Impressions
  10. Koh Ta Kiev – Where the boat leaves from
  11. The Future of Sihanoukville, Cambodia and the Surrounding Areas
  12. What Were We Thinking (and other ramblings)

Update: I’ve written a post about the future of this area. Have a read: The Future of Sihanoukville, Cambodia and the Surrounding Areas

As I’m writing this I’m listening to “Zac Brown Band – Where the Boat Leaves From” and it couldn’t be more spot on. It’s uncanny how this song just is this place.

Koh Ta Kiev is a small remote island off the southern coast of Cambodia near Sihanoukville. It’s a small island and currently has about 50 people on it, including staff. My and I lodged ourselves in a jungalow at the last point on the southern bay.

View from the Bungalow

On the other side of the island, about 45 minutes of walking through dense jungle path, you have the treehouse which literally has treehouse like bungalows. Except for a fishing “village” which has no permanent shops, those are the only two places open on the island now and with no permanent residents it’s not a busy place. The boat arrives once a day IF there are any people coming in and IF the weather permits. Not a given these days as we are in low-season / rainy season. We were 3 coming in with the boat and that’s a lot apparently. The next day, 4 left and none came, leaving us with a grand total of 4 guests including us.

Untold unstirred beaches ripe for exploration

There is no WiFI *gasp* and the only place to charge your electronics is in the bar in the evening. They turn on the generator to get some lights but only in the bar. If you want lights in your bungalow they’ll provide you with some candles. But then again what do you need your phone for? It’s truly one of those islands you just go to, to get away from it all – “you can take your worries and dump ’em in the blue ocean”. During the day they have solar panels which are used to power the gently playing stereo.

Ossi aka Monkey Boy aka Green Boy sitting in the bar

Ice is shipped in to Koh Ta Kiev every day with the passenger boat – about 30kg’s for the kitchen and 20kg’s for the bar. Tough luck if there’s no boat. However, if the boat stays away for too long, there’s coconuts a plenty if you know how to pick them from the trees.

So the bar, the jungle, the ocean, the bathroom and the bungalows is really all there is but that’s all you need. If that’s not enough, the bar sells spliffs and condoms for $2 each and any item can be made “happy” for $3. You can snorkel anywhere on the island and when the sun goes down you can see bioluminescent plankton anywhere in the water – a very unique experience. Sun -rise/-set isn’t too shabby either.

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted” – Unknown

If you’ve read this far, I thank you and if you ever have the time to visit Koh Ta Kiev – please do!

It’s time for me to get back to my beer but I’ll leave you with “Where the Boat Leaves From” as Zac Brown Band explains it better than I do. Take a listen!


“Where The Boat Leaves From”

There’s a place, where the boat leaves from
It takes away all of your big problems
You got worries you can drop them in the blue ocean
But you gotta get away to where the boat leaves from

Take one part sand, and one part sea, one part shade of banana tree
The drinks they’re cold and the raggae is hot
And I know this is the place for me

So get away to where the boat leaves from
It takes away all of your big problems
You got worries you can drop them in the blue ocean
But you gotta get away to where the boat leaves from

See the problem is that you’re right there
And there’s a perfectly good island somewhere
Where a ride that floats and don’t grab your coats
You won’t need it where we are going

Get away to where the boat leaves from
It takes away all of your big problems
You got worries you can drop them in the blue ocean
But you gotta get away to where the boat leaves from

Pick me up
Pick me up
Pick me up

Put me down
Down on the sand where its cool
Put me down
When I fall off my stool
Put me down
I’ll just sleep there til morning comes around

With sunshine tanned ladies and piña colodas
And Bob Marley songs that are playing
There’s a song in my ear that I want you to hear
Soft tropical lips that are singin

Get away to where the boat leaves from
It takes away all of your big problems
You got worries you can drop them in the blue ocean
But you gotta get away to where the boat leaves from

So get away to where the boat leaves from
it takes away all of your big problems
You got worries you can drop them in the blue ocean
but you got to get away to where the boat leaves from

so get away to where the boat leaves from
it takes away all of your big problems
you got worries you could drop them in the blue ocean

oooooo pick me up
oooooo pick me up

i gotta go

oooooo pick me up
oooooo pick me up