Year away

A year ago I packed my stuff in boxes and showed them to my dad’s tiny attic, piled all that I thought necessary in my old backpack, and left for a trip that was intended to be 2 months of yoga in Bali, then a bit of Vietnam and back home. A year later I did not do yoga but instead started surfing, ended up going to Cambodia too, and have been living and working in melbourne for 8 months, and a myriad of unexpected things have happened.

New skills learned: Surfing, driving a scooter, scuba diving, selecting cacao beans for chocolate production, letting go of things, proper headstands, knife skills, how to survive alone in tight situations (ie you’re not allowed to enter a foreign country and you find that out at the airport, or how to escape a motor vehicle accident situation in another…or how to change the scuba diving BCD vest in pitch black darkness in the middle of the sea)

Gili Trawangan, Christmas with friends.
Gili Trawangan, Christmas with friends.

Appreciation for things: Sunshine and warmth, fresh fruit pretty much straight from the trees, sea and marine life, nature, bicycles, people’s help, good company, trial periods at yoga studios and gyms, exercising, work, having the opportunity to do basically whatever, learning new and growing. New friends!

Bali style breakfast by the pool.
Bali style breakfast by the pool.

Best foods: Crate cafe breakfasts, Gado Gado and fresh mangos in Bali, tuna steak at Christmas dinner in Gili, rice paper rolls in Vietnam, the delicious meals at Hariharalaya in Cambodia. Smashed avo and poached eggs at Organica cafe in melbourne, Hummus from South melbourne market. Drinkwise: Fresh coconut water and coffee coffee coffee.

All the (vegan) rolls.
All the (vegan) rolls.

Accommodation: 3 Bungalows in Bali, one private villa. One month in the same hostel in Canggu. Hostel in Vietnam, one night in a “family stay” in the mekong Delta, and another one in a border town hotel. 4 hostels in Cambodia, one night in a bus, 10 nights on a retreat. (Luckily) I’ve only spent time in 1 hostel in Australia, and times of homelessness I was able to rely on the help of 5 friends.

Pretty much deserted island in Cambodia
Pretty much deserted island in Cambodia.

Love life: I learned that the Finnish word for love, rakkaus, apparently sounds like “crack house”. Fair enough. I’ve had more action this past year than ever before, mostly because I’ve been open-minded and just gone out. I have definitely learnt more than I thought I would have, and even though I got sick of dating and lost my faith in finding “the one” (or even someone I could imagine spending a whole weekend with), I am now closer than ever to realizing my feelings and where I stand in life. Winning!

I made someone popcorn for their flight.
I made someone popcorn for their flight.

Dealing with health: Eating probiotics, eating local. 2 Doctor visits, one dentist. In Cambodia I got bitten by a mosquito in the eyelid on the day I was supposed to go on a scuba diving trip to a remote island. Early trip and waking up the only doctor of the hospital to get cream I didn’t end up using, luckily that was nothing more serious. In melbourne I went to a GP to see if I have sinus infection (I didn’t), and had my wisdom tooth pulled.

Holidaying in Byron Bay.
Holidaying in Byron Bay.

Public holidays: I have pretty much skipped every holiday; Christmas I spent on a beach having a barbecue, New Years I was at another beach, Easter I only hid eggs for my housemates but that was it…I have enjoyed the Queen’s Birthday, and I understand why Anzac day exists, but having a public holiday for football and horse races is a bit strange to me. Nevertheless, I’ll take any reason to have a special day!

Halloween pumpkin at work.
Halloween pumpkin at work.

In the last year I have had more experiences I would never have had if I had stayed home, and going out of my comfort zone has proven worth it and beyond. I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months will bring along! And in the sad poor pictures front, by the end of the month things will look brighter and I will be able to write my hometown with a capital letter again! YAY!

I love love love that animal suit.
I love love love that animal suit.
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Ubud

Ubud is also known as Bali’s home to culture, good (read: health) food, yoga and spiritualism. This village in the middle of Bali attracts those interested in “the journey to self”, exquisite retreats, and/or wood carvings.

The village consists of mainly 3 main roads, two of which are parallel to each other: Monkey Forest Road (at the end of which surprisingly is the famous Monkey Forest), Jl. Hanoman which has few of the healthy organic restaurants also serving raw food from local ingredients, and the actual Main Road which is perpendicular to the first mentioned two. Ubud centre can easily be walked, but it can be a bit frustrating since you hear “taxi taxi” offers approximately every 2 minutes – as if it was wrong to use you own feet instead of a scooter for moving around.

If you don’t do yoga and are not that much into the organic food scene, what to do? Go to the Ubud Market, which has looooads of stalls selling basically the same souvenir stuff. After visiting the Monkey Forest and taking a walk in the famous rice fields, there is not that much anything special besides massages and other pampering.

Rice fields surrounding Ubud
Rice fields surrounding Ubud

 

To the point aka Food issues:
Alchemy. A bit away from the main road (scooter ride away, to be exact), Alchemy has probably the best salad I’ve ever had. Plenty of juices, elixirs, smoothies and raw treats to choose from, this chill out place is perfect for a remote workday, if you happen to be in the need for that.

Alchemy menu
Alchemy menu
Choose your own salad toppings from many awesome and innovative options.
Choose your own salad toppings from many awesome and innovative options.

Clear Cafe. Convenient location in the north end of Jl. Hanuman, this restaurants has lots of international cooked and raw dishes from organic and local products. Also a variety of raw dishes , vast range of elixirs, juices, smoothies and whatnot. Right next to the restaurant is Clear Express selling raw snacks, some cookies, infused coconut water and sweet treats.

Down to Earth. Also spots in other parts of Bali, DTE includes an organic store, cafe, movie theater and a restaurant. Same thing – elixirs, tonics, raw cakes and a menu of organic food. Good mediterranean platter, small salad.

Mediterranean plate with buckwheat flatbread and quinoa curry in Down to Earth.
Mediterranean plate with buckwheat flatbread and quinoa curry in Down to Earth.

Kafe. Same owner than the famous Yoga Barn, Kafe is also located on Jl. Hanuman. Not so much highlighting the raw trend, but Kafe also has juices and such. A bit more pricey than the others, and the main course salad looked more like an appetizer to me.

Plant Food Lab. Near Monkey Forest, this place is a chillout spot or good for remote working. Not really a restaurants, but has small dishes like raw burger, wrap etc. And of course the sweets.

Raw burger, watermelon juice and the rice field.
Raw burger, watermelon juice and the rice field.

Seeds of Life. Menu- and price-wise my favorite. All dishes under 70K (rare!), changing daily specials, simple menu but interesting. Offers tonics with herbs and mushrooms, and a variety of high quality teas. Of course raw desserts too…located a bit off on a side street, but still in the city center. I wish to go there on a Wednesday, when daily specials are Korean.

Honorable mention: Kokolato ice cream. Interesting flavors including Moringa mint chip, strawberry chili, raw chocolate maca and black rice pudding. All natural ice cream made from coconuts.

My kind of ice cream.
My kind of ice cream.

Aforementioned Yoga Barn also has a restaurant, but I only enjoyed their pre-movie buffet dinner so I don’t know what the menu includes. I would assume it’s similar to Kafe’s.

 

Am I forgetting some essential place?

 

 

Be aware of the police

What if when you’re casually strolling on your scooter somewhere in Asia, minding your own business with the thousand other drivers beside you, when a policeman stops you.

Rule number one: Do not stop. Keep on driving, and they will not follow you (hopefully and most likely).

However, if you for some reason do stop, try to get away with whatever horrible things you’ve done (driving without a helmet, not having your license with you, a broken light, didn’t wave when turning…) with as much bribing needed for you to get off paying as little as possible.

– Keep your money somewhere else than your wallet. You can always pull the “I have no money, sir”-card, and give them whatever small money you have. Maybe you just spent all your money on lunch, or you’re coming from the beach where you didn’t want to carry any.
– You don’t have your passport because it’s either at the immigration office for your visa extension (which is actually true for me), or you keep it at the hostel safe so that no one can steal it from you.
– You DO have an international license (khrm), but you forgot to take it with you.
– “Please sir, I do not have 500,000 I only got 1000,000. Seriously.”
– Don’t talk to them, give the money and get away with it. Too much talk makes them angry.

If they take your bike key, make them give it back to you. If possible and you dare, drive away.

That’s what’s up today! I was not the one driving, btw. And I WILL stay off the main roads when I do.

One in a million. Indonesian traffic picture from the interweb.
One in a million. Indonesian traffic picture from the interweb.

Orienteering

First you are somewhere you’ve known as home for years, thinking about how soon everything will be different. Hopefully better. Most likely sunnier. Perhaps cheaper. Definitely exciting. Part of the journey is the planning, but some things are better to be left unplanned. Leave room for coincidence, and real adventures will happen! Some of the adventures might include a festival with dance, traditional music and fire juggling, or going to play badminton in a bamboo hut with local villagemen. In +32 degrees. All this in one evening. (no post-worthy pictures, plus the wifi would make it download 10 more minutes. Though here all I have is time, it is good to sleep too.)

When I left home I had a strong idea of what was waiting for me, since I’ve been to Bali before. It’s not the hardest destination to go to, at least in most places everything is in English too. But going from +1 to +32 and from mute people to “taxi taxi miss”-yells every 2 minutes, I did have a shock. Being awake almost 2 days didn’t really help the overwhelmed feeling I got when arriving here. Lesson I learned the first day: you are never in such a hurry when arriving to a new country that you do not have the time to check reasonable fares to your destination. This is especially important when traveling alone, since you are the only one paying. That’s one of the minuses of traveling solo – there’s no one to share costs with. Luckily it seems like everyone is heading this way, so I am sharing a place with a friend: cheaper, better, and with a pool. When inland and in this heat, one must have a pool. Even with a tight budget.

Home for now - room with a pool, including breakfast. Not too shabby.
Home for now – room with a pool, including breakfast. Not too shabby.

The first days of a trip should be dedicated on .chilling. This is very unnatural for me, specially in a new environment. Partly due to that I couldn’t shut my brain off the first night here, and ended up turning around in bed for 5 hrs before falling asleep. Another tip: when tired, handle foreign money with special care. Suddenly 50000 seems like 5000 and you’re paying hundred times too much for fruits.

Post-spa treat. I just needed this and the 1.5hr lymph massage and herb scrub.
Post-spa treat. I just needed this and the 1.5hr lymph massage and herb scrub.

Yep, I am a budget traveler. But these small things like massages, pedicures etc. are things I have been saving for and not doing in Finland. And this is also my way of supporting the local people and their income. Win-win! (Oh God I hope  I won’t run out of money :D) One thing to do when accommodating yourself to a new environment: if you have the time and care, take your time to compare prizes. Do not trust the men on the street offering special price only for you my friend. Even when you get 50% off.

Whole lotta food love

No idea where the name comes from
No idea where the name comes from!

Lucky to be working in the food industry, I was able to visit Asia’s largest Food & drink, hotel, restaurant & food service exhibition HOFEX, held in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition center this week. During the first 3 days, the expo had 38,297 buyers – not quite the same caliber as any expo in Finland!
If Natural Expo West/East in the States (or any other natural/organic expo for that matter) would be my Heaven, HOFEX probably is something right outside Heaven’s gates. Exhibitors in 3 floors, from so many different cultures, presenting what they perceive as the best from their country. (Scandinavia was not represented at all, though at least I saw one oven door manufactured in Sweden!) Unfortunately for me, European Fine Meats were well presented. On the other hand, the only producer of quinoa products was from Holland – Go Europe!

Scottish lard
Premium Scottish lard

Besides the culinary presentations, panels and other cookings, there was barista championships and the more visually intriguing flairtending competition as well as some rather fancy culinary competitions. And of course some the cool kitchen equipment was tested on-site – I saw some pretty cool sushi making machines as well as veggie spiralers, among others.

Food is art and I was definitely taking picture of the cupcakes
Food is art and I was definitely taking picture of the cupcakes

The thing I like most about this kind of events (besides all the nibbles), is to talk to interesting people who possibly share same interests and have passion about their work (hopefully). In general, I was maybe a bit surprised how many pig legs there was, and so much ice cream! It seemed like pretty much all of the European countries were focusing on meat, alcohol and possibly some cheese. Food traditions rather than trends…

Not your regular cuppa joe
Not your regular cuppa joe

Speaking of trends, the extensive coffee and tea sections were rather seducing. I got to try my first ice drip coffee, which was surprisingly soft – I tried the same Vietnamese beans as hot dripper coffee, and the flavor was much more intense. The coffee had been dripping for 2 days until ready to drink. In Hong Kong, single origin beans and more love-requiring brewing methods are definitely a hit – when Hong Kongers don’t drink bubble tea or milk tea, they at least value their coffee! About beans…the only single origin bean is not coffee, anymore.

Pure, single origin chocolates from Vietnam, from 72% to 82% cacao
Pure, single origin chocolates from Vietnam, from 72% to 82% cacao

I admit being a “bit” of a snob when it comes to certain things. Chocolate just happens to be one of those things that I will rather not put in my body, if it’s low quality. Some chocolove-talk in HOFEX got me an invitation to taste these amazing single-origin chocolates from different villages in Vietnam. Though I do prefer raw chocolate to processed ones, these sweeties were pretty impressive: the only ingredients used are the specific cacao beans and sugar.

Simplicity at its' best
Simplicity at its’ best

When it comes to processed chocolate, these ones were top notch. From cool packaging design to the origins of the bean, Marou has got it figured out. Lucky me, I still have their event invitation which was a chocolate bar. Plus I got a goodie bag with their special golden chocolate, which cannot be bought anywhere. What a dilemma – I don’t want to eat it, but how can one resist the temptation?

Oh, expos, how I love you. If I ever get to go to Fancy Food Show or Expo West, I’ll be happy for months in advance! I hope the next time won’t be too far away from now.