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!
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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.

Sweet Buns

Strollin' in the hoods
Strollin’ in the hoods

Weekend trip to an outlying island – always a fun day! This time, it was something rather special that I had been waiting for months!

Busy in the bun business
Busy in the bun business

Cheung Chang is a charming island just an hour off Hong Kong. I have been looking forward to it’s annual Bun Festival, which is when things get rather interesting, to say the least. This festival is an old Taoist ritual, held according to the Chinese lunar year, coinciding with Buddhas’ Birthday (remember to celebrate on May 17th!)

Bun scrambling towers getting bunned up
Bun scrambling towers getting bunned up

Throughout the festival week, there are various activities and festivities, in addition to the different types of buns that are everywhere! The highlight and culmination of the festival is the bun tower climbing competition, when brave pre-selected climbers compete on who reaches the top first. Before the actual competition, there is demonstrations and whatnot.

Climbing practice, no buns
Climbing practice, no buns

I don’t know how lively the island is outside of the bun-season, but now everything seemed to be revolving around those sesame, red bean, lotus or taro paste-filled steamed, white “pillows”. Besides the edible versions, one could buy keychains, toys, posters, and God knows what other necessary stuffs.

All bunned up
All bunned up

The story behind all this? Well, the all-knowing Wikipedia tells that the festivities are fishermen’s rituals for praying safety from the pirates! In ’78 one of the towers collapsed and killed 100 people. More precautions have been taken into action since. Also, the village goes vegetarian for one day (not when I visited, though) – all of the seafood restaurants as well as McDonalds apply this rule, too! If I had been there on that day, maybe McDo could have lured me in…

Scary dragon and Mickey
Scary dragon and Mickey

Festivals are always filled with happy people and interesting things; the Bun festival was definitely not different in that way, though it was quite like nothing else! And going to an island is always an experience, this time I even went to swim, for the first time this year! Once going into the sea, I cannot get enough.

Weekly activities

I definitely prefer action-filled weeks to those when I have nothing to do but to look at the falling rain (after a month, the rain gets rather boring) – and if it isn’t raining, I definitely want to be on the go. Luckily, last week was full of reasons for me to defy the weather and leave my bed (and by bed I mean my room, which is pretty much the same thing).

MONDAY
Indian “private restaurant” dinner – or how would you call a windowless room where you are the only people dining? Followed by pudding dessert (like being a kid again with the chocolate pudding!) close-by.

Spot the restaurant. Hint: it's not the one with the "cafe"
Spot the restaurant. Hint: it’s not the allay cafe

 

TUESDAY
Vintage furniture store opening, and organic cocktails (4 different kinds, tried them all and then some) and “fancy” canapés in Pure Bar&Restaurant.

Mojito, strawberry orange vodka, cucumber martini, grapefruit gin - mojito and martini were the stars
Mojito, strawberry orange vodka, cucumber martini, grapefruit gin – mojito and martini were the stars

 

WEDNESDAY
Zumba and yoga in my safe haven in Causeway Bay, mYoga.

 

THURSDAY
Karen Millen cocktail event in Central with a “healthy” theme (funny that they hire male candy to serve stuff which they have no clue -nor intrest on- what it is)

Cleanse shots - served as "spinach" or "celery" or "cinnamon". Yum!
Cleanse shots – served as “spinach” or “celery” or “cinnamon”. Yum!

 

FRIDAY
French Look My Baboush shoe launch in Common Ground, followed by dessert in Tin Hau (had 3 different kinds, I’m eating my way through China!)

Kinda like Tom's but "completely different!"
Kinda like Tom’s but “completely different!”
Shoe customization by le French "la mangue"
Shoe customization by le French “la mangue”

 

SATURDAY
Met my lovely friend Nick, who came to visit from Tokyo. We had a fantastic day in Lamma island, and it was raining only for about 15 minutes!

Without the junk boats Nick would'v gone skinny dipping
Without the junk boats Nick would’v gone skinny dipping

 

SUNDAY
Quick visit to the Hong Kong Cheese Festival (small, smelly and, well, cheesy – all in all a bit of a disappointment), followed by East Island Market and a stroll trough different neighborhoods with Nick.

First bite of street food (better response than with durian ice cream)!
First bite of street food (better response than with durian ice cream)!

Nick went back to Japan, and I started to prepare myself for yet another week of rain…maybe the junk boat summer sunny season will start soon and hopefully the rest of my weeks here would be at least almost as active as this one”

Mui Wo

Calm streets to calm the mind

Another weekend, another destination! This Saturday, I ventured off to Mui Wo, Lantau island.

Many possible directions from Mui Wo
Many possible directions from Mui Wo

Mui Wo is the main destination in Lantau where Star Ferry goes from Central. From there, one can easily go to the main attractions of Lantau, such as Tai O or The Big Buddha (which I still have to go see!). Many hiking trails are also accessible, as well as other nearby islands.

Beach and bbq
Beach and bbq

Besides the beach, I walked along some quiet streets and in a forest – the aim was to find a cave and waterfall, but one wrong turn lead me to a cow and a residential area in stead. Now I have a reason to go there again!

Tai O cows' big brother
Tai O cows’ big brother

It is always great to escape the hassle of the city – I saw banana trees and jackfruit, too! After strolling around for few hours, I decided to sit down by the water and treat myself a nice seafood dinner. One of the most expensive meals I have had turned out to be one of the smallest, and I spent the evening hugging the toilet. I guess you can’t always win. No hard feelings towards Mui Wo, but I won’t be going to the Cooked Food Centre again!

Peaceful water brings peaceful mind
Peaceful water brings peaceful mind