Category Archives: Asia

path of contentment

First, Buju Banton will provide the soundtrack for this post:

And let’s go. So, my super dope teachers, Reno and SJ, are hosting this unbelievable retreat in Thailand in February.

click on this bad boy to make it big and readable

I am going. And I could not be more excited. I feel like my ever-so-brief jaunt to Bali with Ryan was just setting me up for this. (Meaning, I got a taste of how delicious and beautiful Southeast Asia can be. I also learned a lot about the importance of sunscreen on my freckle farm, and how it might prevent a few sleepless, sunburnt nights spent crying under an ice-cold shower. FML.)

I'm probably writing in my journal about how much my skin hurts. Bali 2009.

Practicing One Love has been the biggest blessing to come of my move to Vancouver. Finding my teacher has ignited a totally new kind of dedication in my practice, which has, in turn, propelled my physical practice in a big way. And with that, my body and my monkey mind are way more supportive of daily sitting meditation practice, so my mala is staying warm and my cushion has re-established its place of honour in my room.

SO… come to Thailand with us. There will be beaching and yoga and coconuts, and sweet tunes like the dulcet tones of Buju Banton that you’re probably still listening to right now, if you hit play. (If you didn’t, go back and start again.)

amen.

Thank you Dara (my future traveling partner!), for the words that have run through my head every night since you shared them with me: “Cows roll over and go to sleep. You say your prayers.” Isvara-pranidhana!

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Filed under Asia, lululemon, travel, Vancouver, yoga

some new freckles and photos

Hi again,

Back in Halifax after wandering around Malaysia (and Indonesia) for a few weeks. Here’s the link to my facebook photo album: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2526667&id=28104985&l=9180da6acc

Here’s a brief synopsis:

I flew Ottawa-London-Bahrain-Kuala Lumpur, where I waited around and met Ryan at the airport. The four hours of waiting for his flight to land were excruciating, but it was so exciting to see him again, finally :)

We spent a few days exploring KL, which was actually sort of a challenge, since it’s mostly mega-malls. But we went to the bird park at the Lake Gardens, where I saw my first cassowary! (I have a thing for cassowaries.) We went out to the Batu Caves, just outside the city, which is a really neat Hindu site, and climbed the 250 steps to the top. There were shrines and things inside the caves, and nasty little monkeys wrestling on the staircase. (See photos for visualization.)

We flew from KL to Denpasar in Bali, and drove from there straight up to Ubud. We stayed at a nice little home stay, right on a rice paddy, and had our morning coffee on the terrace, watching herons wading. Bali was great – the food was awesome (and extremely vegetarian friendly), the beer was cheap, and Ubud is really beautiful. I mean, it’s quite touristy and filled with shops, but the architecture is just so pretty, and the people were so friendly, and on the street you’re always stepping over little woven boxes filled with flowers and candies and bits of rice – daily offerings to ancestors. I thought it was lovely. They have a beautiful, if slightly overgrown, Botanical Garden. We went on a (mostly downhill) cycling tour of the area one day, during which we walked around inside one of the traditional family compounds, learned about rice farming, and ate an incredible meal. Our guide was awesome – an eager young guy who spoke really good English and explained everything really well. That was definitely a highlight. And at the end of it, we went into the Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud, which was a weird forest park with gorgeous moss-covered statues, and long-tailed macaques lounging about and grabbing food from people’s pockets and bags. We went to a different Balinese dance performance every night, and went to the impressive Neka Art Museum, and then spent our last day and night in Bali in Sanur. Sanur is on the coast, and has a million big hotels along the white sand beach. We paid 2 dollars or something to rent chairs and an umbrella in front of one of the hotels, and read and lounged there all afternoon. Only afterwards did I realize that the umbrella was really useless for protection, and only created the illusion of shade – my whole body was red, and I was up all night taking icy showers and cursing the sun. (It has since faded to golden brown, and my freckle population is flourishing.)

We spent one day and night in KL. We headed out to wander and found ourselves at the bottom of Menara KL tower (I think Menara might mean “tower”), and a guy handed us a flyer saying that if we paid 40 ringgit to go up instead of the usual 38 (or thereabouts), we could go to the revolving restaurant and have an ice cream. Duh. So we did that, which made me feel better about not waiting in line to get elevator tickets to go up to the SkyBridge of the Petronas Towers. We had an incredible view of the city, and there really are some bizarre high-rises in KL.

The next day, we flew to Miri, in Sarawak, which is in the Malaysian part of Borneo. We waited around for a flight up to Mulu, home of Gunung Mulu National Park. The flight was only about 2o minutes, but it’s really the only easy way to get there – there aren’t any roads, and the river boat journey takes about 12 hours. We arrived at the park, where we stayed in a big dorm, and spent two days exploring. We went on a guided night walk, during which I saw stick insects that had to be 8 inches long and bigger around than my thumb. We went to all four of the big show caves – Wind Cave, Clearwater Cave, Deer Cave and Lang’s Cave. The formations are beautiful, and we watched the millions of bats fly out of Deer Cave, in serpentine swarms, to eat mosquitoes at dusk. We also did an intermediate caving trip in Racer Cave, which was pretty incredible. After like ten minutes, I mentioned that I was already realizing that I wouldn’t be able to do the caving thing for more than a day, because the dark is so intense and sort of claustrophobic. Ryan was loving it, though, and after a few more climbs, I was too. It was hard to get good cave photos, since the lighting is tricky, but there are some on the Mulu site:  http://mulupark.com/htm/cave_activities/index.htm It’s funny, I sort of booked the Mulu flights on a whim, and before we got there, I was sort of worried that we wouldn’t be able to occupy ourselves for two whole days in the park. But we actually could have easily spent another week, really – it would have been amazing to do the hike to the Pinnacles, and to climb Mulu summit, and to do more caving. I’d definitely like to spend more time in Borneo in the future. We didn’t even make it to see orangutans or the proboscis monkey, or any of the marine life! Yeesh.

next time, monkey, next time...

next time, monkey, next time...

We flew back to Miri after a few days, and spent the day walking around there. It’s a weird sort of boom town, with a petroleum museum and really nice, new roads. The best part for me was the public pool, which was 50m, with about 12 lanes, and there were only a few other people there. I was dying to swim all the time – I’m quite a water baby, and the heat was pretty overwhelming for a Canadian who saw snow on the ground when she left home. The guest house where we stayed in Miri deserves mention, too. It’s called Dillenia Guest House, and the Chinese family who runs is do a really great job. Super clean, good AC, free internet, and Mrs. Lee was super helpful in giving us tips on how to spend our day in town. Oh, and I ate an enormous (like, 1kg) dragonfruit that I bought in the market. Yum yum.

Back to KL the next day, where we went to Sentral station and met Manora! She came up by bus from Singapore. It was so great to see her cute little face again :)   We took the train out to Anita (Allanah’s grandmother)’s apartment, where we showered and rested and were otherwise spoiled. Many thanks to Nenek for taking us in, feeding us, and giving excellent written instructions. Following her advice, we planned to go to Malacca for a day. It’s two hours by bus and it’s on the ocean, and has a really interesting mix of Portuguese, Chinese, English, Dutch and Malay culture. It’s recently been named a World Heritage City by UNESCO, and it seems like they’re expanding rapidly to create a hip, modern waterfront scene. We visited a beautiful temple, Manora bought an antique tile that she adores, and we went to a Chinese tea house where we drank so much chrysanthemum tea that it was uncomfortable. We weren’t able to get a bus back to KL that night, so we went to see the Wolverine movie (ha!) and found a hostel to stay in, until we got up at 6 to catch a bus back to the city. (Note: Manora is not a morning person, so kudos to her for dealing with it so well! Ha. And here is her album of Malacca photos:http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=250479&id=693995570&l=b747841b61 ) We spent a few hours at Anita’s, swimming in her gorgeous pool, and then went to drop our stuff at a hostel, as Anita was heading to Singapore. The three of us went to Central Market, where I bought a necklace about which I’d been thinking since I saw it there on our first day in KL, and Ryan got meditation pants for his retreat in Thailand. Then we celebrated our last night together by going out for what Manora called a “credit card dinner” at an Italian place. The next day, I left Ryan and Manora at KL Sentral station and began my… 40 hour (?) journey home.

Anyway, I’m sure that Ryan has lots of great photos, so I’ll share them when he gets around to uploading them. It was too short a trip, really, and I’m already thinking about when I might be able to head out again. But, for now, spring in Nova Scotia is lovely, and I’m starting back at lululemon this weekend, which is good, because my body and mind definitely need some yoga. Ryan has gone up to Thailand for a week’s meditation retreat, and then he’s back to Africa for a while longer. And Manora’s just started an internship with the Jane Goodall Foundation in Singapore!

Ryan and Me at the tea house in Malacca

Ryan and Me at the tea house in Malacca

I’ll share more photos when I get them, but definitely check out my facebook album. Hope you are all well!

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up up and away.

Tomorrow’s the day I leave for Malaysia!  I’m going through Ottawa and through London and through Bahrain, and I’ll eventually end up in Kuala Lumpur. With any luck, I’ll be meeting Ryan at the airport there on Thursday :)

We’re planning to go to Bali for a while, to Malaysian Borneo for a few days (to Gunung Mulu Park – http://mulupark.com – it’s featured in the caves episode of BBC’s Planet Earth, as it has the world’s biggest caves!), and Manora, one of the other WWF Explore volunteers, is planning to come to KL at the end of our trip to explore the city with us. Too exciting!

I’m packed, I think. I didn’t want to check a bag, mostly because I don’t want to deal with waiting a hundred years for it at Heathrow, so I’m traveling REALLY light (lightly?) – I’m just taking a school-sized backpack. It’s pretty full, don’t get me wrong. But it’s one less thing to worry about while I’m flying across the planet. And besides, I don’t need a lot of clothes.  I’ve been checking the weather forecasts, and it’s looking like hot times ahead. Unfortunately, KL is expecting thunderstorms pretty much every day. But they’re the 30 degree Celsius kind. Bali should be beautiful, though. And in Borneo, we’re staying at the Park HQ, which is essentially in the middle of the rainforest, so I expect definite precipitation there.

Anyway, I’ll take many many photos, and I’ll try to keep a journal so that I can assure my dad that I wasn’t engaging in “high risk activities, like bungee-jumping”, and so that I can post the highlights here.

I also want to throw in a quick plug for Jamila – she’s the one with whom I shared a tent pretty much all summer in Mada. She’s just scored an amazing NGO placement with the Aga Khan Foundation, and she’s moving to Tajikistan! She is amazing. And she’s started a blog as well – http://jamilathelorax.wordpress.com . I’ll post the link on the sidebar of my page as well, so you can easily find it ALL the time.

Oh! And in my last entry, I was writing about a NS Department of Environment internship that I interviewed for – that Ecuador thing. I received a sad phone call from the coordinator shortly thereafter, and she said that the programme didn’t get the funding that they expected, and so the whole thing is cancelled this year. What a bummer, eh? I’m working on a plan B. Actually, at this point, I guess it’s plan…D? I feel that my luck has got to improve soon.

Happy spring! I’ll be back soon. And I want to wish Vicky safe travels too. She’s heading to Cambodia to visit her sister!

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surprise!

Hi again,

Alright, so I’m taking a break from stressing out and feeling sorry for Madagascar/myself. I’m going to meet Ryan in Kuala Lumpur in… about three weeks! We’ve both booked our flights and it’s totally exciting. I’ll be there for two weeks, and we’ll probably travel around Malaysia, maybe Bali, maybe Borneo… Don’t worry, this isn’t all of your Madagascar money that I’m traveling on! (And we’re still working on getting close to a thousand dollars back from South African Airways… #$%^!) I got a pretty good deal, and I’m in desperate need of an adventure – I was prepared for one in February, when I was supposed to leave, so I feel like I’ve been stagnantly waiting since then. This should be fantastic. I’ll take lots of photos.

I had an interview last week for a position as a volunteer in the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps, a program put on by the N.S. Dept of Environment and Canada World Youth. If I’m one of the chosen ones, I’ll get to do conservation projects around N.S. for two months or so (May and June), and then head to Ecuador to do projects until August. Fingers crossed! This would be such an amazing opportunity for me, and I’d love to spend the spring traveling around the best province in Canada. I’ve also been in touch with WWF, and we’re working on figuring out if/how I can still carry out some of the plans that you were all so kind to get behind – mostly environmental education for kiddies. I’ll let you know what happens! WWF was totally great for agreeing to pay my health insurance for my planned foray back to Vondrozo, and I really hope that we can still make something great of the opportunity. In case you haven’t been following the news in Madagascar, the opposition leader was recently sworn in as the new president. I’m not sure if things are getting better or worse, but at least the gridlock has loosened up. The new president is only 34 years old, though, which is a problem – the constitution says that a president must be at least 40. Anyway, it’s interesting to keep up on.

I’ll update again soon, but I’ll leave you with this image of sun-drenched Lawrencetown Beach, complete with nice waves and surfers. What you can’t see is that it’s about -8°C. Brrrrrrawesome.

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Filed under Asia, Halifax, travel