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.
Advertisements

Hariharalaya

So I spent 10 days with complete strangers in the middle of Cambodian countryside, waking up every morning under my mosquito net to a gong at 6.30, calling for morning practice. These 10 days were challenging in several ways, but most of all educating and also very relaxing. I definitely learnt a lot about myself, about the stress modern day life imposes on us, and how to cope with that. Due to my background and experience with yoga, I was struggling mostly with meditation. And I still do! Just keep on doing it, and maybe one day it will click, just like doing a headstand. I met some amazing people and made new friends I definitely hope to see in the future; we connected in an environment where you are fully present without any external human-made distractions, and the body language workshop we had even deepened my listening and presence skills. One day we spent in complete silence; I bent the rules a bit and spent quite a lot of time vomiting my thoughts on paper (music was forbidden, reading not encouraged, but creating something was I guess ok). Perhaps one day I’ll be brave enough to bear with my thoughts for the vipassana meditation, which is 10 days of meditation in complete silence.

Time Asia visited the retreat and wrote   about Hariharalaya. Also better pictures than mine! Some of my highlights besides the above-mentioned were the late evening chill-outs, werewolf-game, contact meditation and workshop on body language. I really also enjoyed…basically most of it. The hardest part was chanting things I didn’t understand and sitting still in uncomfortable positions for long periods with mosquitos feasting on me.

Our big and lovely crew.
Our big and lovely crew.

January (offline) experiences

It’s been way too long, I know. I was completely offline for a respectable amount of time, my computer broke and it is an effort to type anything with the letter ‘m’, so bear with me. I have loads of stories to tell from Asia, maybe I’ll get through at least a few of them. Bear with me for the length!

New day in the countryside.
New day in the countryside.

 

The past month I visited a Cambodian hospital due to a swollen eyelid thanks to a mozzie bite, spent 4 days offline and barefooted in paradise beach, took the infamous night bus to Siem Reap, saw sunrise at Angkor Wat, spent 10 days getting into meditation at a retreat…and a lot other stuff after that. Starting from the beginning: Koh Rong Samloem.

Pier to paradise.
Pier to paradise.

One (private diving) boat daily from Sihanoukville, taking people diving and then to Paradise beach or back to the party buzz of Sihanoukville. I stayed in Koh Rong Samloem for 4 days, diving and not doing much else, and it was sad to leave. I also experienced my very first night dive, which was truly an experience! Due to a malfunction in the BCD I had to change gear with the dive master, in pitch black. Being able to do that made me want to continue my diving to master level! The visibility was pretty bad, so if you are a hc diver I cannot really recommend it. But it is a good excuse to get to the quiet side of the island (only two restaurants and about max. 30 people). Oh and the hospital trip – 50 dollars and completely useless, since it got better on its own. Better to be safe than sorry, though.

Daytime activities.
Daytime activities.

From the Sihanoukville I had to take a night bus to Siem Reap, which was scary after reading all the negative reviews online. Virak Buntham, the infamous company I chose, was only one hour late from scheduled arrival. I had a sleeping “bed”, too bad there was already someone sleeping in it. Apparently this Chilean chilled out dude had taken a few valiums (smart!) before take-off, so when he woke up in the morning he had no idea he’d been spooning with me all night. If you ever have to take the night bus, remember to: 1. Be prepared to freeze to death, 2. Have no wifi no matter what they promise you, 3. guard your belongings with your life, 4. be prepared to be woken up several times for pee stops.

 

THE sunrise to remember.
THE sunrise to remember.

I spent few days in Siem Reap trying to figure out my next moves and why my credit card was not working. I ended up being myself and since I am always prepared, I bought a flight to Australia, and a boat ticket to Battambang town to have something to do after Hariharalaya retreat. If I had regrets, I’d regret both of those choices. Besides wondering about my future choices, during those days in Siem Reap I visited the Angkor temples. Together with few thousand others we shivered in pitch black 5am coldness, waiting for the sun to do what it does every day. It was beautiful. At 1pm, after 5 other temples, I was beat.

Tiny bit of climbing.
Tiny bit of climbing.

The next morning I left for my “enlightenment journey” aka Hariharalaya yoga and meditation retreat in the countryside. The following 10 days were spent completely offline, structured loosely and timed by a gong. Daily yoga and meditation practice, delicious vegan food, some extra activities like dancing meditation, magic show and werewolf game – these 10 days spent together with some 30 people from all over and all walks of life went by fast and ended in tears. Luckily we had our crew re-unite in Siem Reap for a few days; some of the best times I’ve had on my whole trip!

Fire ceremony.
Fire ceremony.
Perfecting the headstand.
Perfecting the headstand.

After a few days of pure chillin’, we took a minivan from Siem Reap  with a couple of friends to go to Phenomenal Phnom Penh, a city I was thinking of skipping due to all the sadness I thought would have to encounter. It did break my heart to see kids begging for food, or selling stuff on the streets. Buying them one meal might help for a day, but there’s always another day, another kid…we stayed at a fairly partyish hostel, but ended up spending most of the time chilling in our (private) room, listening to music. Great food, great conversations – I ended up liking Phnom Penh, but mostly because of the company. I know myself well enough to know I hate change, but this time I really hated it. After a fair amount of tears and a night without sleeping one second, I took a tuktuk to the airport and even tried to cancel my flight. Since that didn’t work out, here I am now, looking to the beautiful city of melbourne from the 22nd floor where I have been staying for the past 3 days. And the story continues…

Culture shock!
Culture shock!

Island Adventures

Hello friends!

I have had the luxury of proper internet for the past days, so I have been able to post more often. Since coming to Cambodia I’ve been staying first at the party river, then at party beach, so I need a change of scene. Tomorrow morning I will take a boat to Koh Rong Samloen island, where I will spend at least 2 or 3 nights, do a few dives and what ever activities I come up with (I’m thinking a hammock and a jungle hike). No wifi on the island, so I will need to keep myself occupied other ways. When returning to mainland, I’ll jump on a night bus to Siem Reap; I decided to skip Phnom Penh altogether, it just doesn’t seem that appealing to me.

Perfect beach, once again.
Perfect beach, once again.

I can’t say I really enjoyed my time in Sihanoukville: Otres beach would have been more isolated and quiet place to stay, but I opted for staying closer to downtown. Sihanoukville is truly the party capital of Cambodia, where small children wander amongst the drunk westerners on the beach, and the locals live in poorly built shacks next to the tourist bungalows. The contrast between the truly poor and the backpackers is so big, all the restaurants near the beaches sell burgers, pizza and french fries. At night the beach turns into Pattaya: local women with strong makeup sitting next to Western old men with empty eyes. Young people drinking from plastic cups and spilling drinks all over the place.

Nature, reminds me of Japan.
Nature, reminds me of Japan.

So I’m off to the island, we’ll see how I like it! Oh, and I just googled the bus company that I’m taking to Siam Reap. Terrible reviews and warnings not to use them. Hopefully I’ll survive with all my stuff; yesterday one girl at the hostel lost all of her valuables when riding a tuk-tuk. Luckily she was traveling with a friend, so she could borrow money. Hopefully I will be luckier than her.

Kampot’s most wanted

I left Vietnam’s turf in Ha Tien at 7am, after filling 3 forms and paying 36USD to the travel agency for my Cambodian visa. Me and a Korean guy had no idea what was going on when our passports were ushered between 2 countries at the border. Within 15 minutes we were cruising down the potentially 4 lane road in Cambodia (only 1 lane with pavement, otherwise just dusty red sand). I was surprised that it took only 2 hrs altogether to get to Kampot, “the place to be” in the south coast. I had reserved a bunk at Arcadia Backpackers, located by the river some 10km outside of town. Arcadia offers its’ guests plenty of activities fro tubing to kayaking, beer pong and all the usual fun.

Water fun.
Water fun.

 

I rented an old bicycle, and biked the long wide road to Kampot downtown, had some delicious dumplings (12pcs 2USD, highly recommended), and just cruised around until he hit me. One local guy was driving his scooter, talking on a phone, and going way too fast. Luckily I was able to stay on my bicycle so I didn’t get injured, but he fell of his bike. Luckily I had 3 Western witnesses, who stood on my side and helped me out when the police came asking for money. I managed to pinch out a few tears, though the whole situation was very ridiculous, with police spray-painting the ground and looking all serious: no questions were asked from me, however, not even my information details. It was fairly easy to just leave the scene, an Italian girl took me to “the hospital” aka my accommodation. Only the bike was left behind, I still need to figure out how to get it back from where ever it is. Welcome to Cambodia!