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Saturday, 29 May 2010

Cheeky monkeys

We left the quiet Bukit penninsula a week ago to travel around the island. Our first stop was Seminyak which is full of expats. The main reason you want to stay there is if you want to get some sun and surf.

After a few days we were ready to go to Ubud which is in the heart of the country and is surrounded by beautiful rice fields and tropic vegetation. It is well known as a place where artists come to live as well as various health and spriritual seekers.
Talking of which it amazes me how quickly my inner hippie comes back to life after smelling a few incense and seeing some ethnic colored bags. Immediately I want to jump back into harem pants and start going back to healers and various clairvoyants. I know most of you are embarassed about this side of me but the girl can't help it.  I mean sometimes all I need is to whiff down to Camden market and I am on fire.

Anyway my day starts with me trying to keep hold of all my belongings so that the monkeys don't steal anything on my way to the sunrise yoga class at the amazing yoga barn.

Yesterday when I arrived back after class all that was left of our breakfast was some sugar. C was a bit chocked after having had a staring game with one monkey who had a baby, let's just say C did not win.The monkeys had taken everything, even the teacups and saucers! They were hanging around the trees checking if I was bringing anything else they could eat.  Apparently they are always many more and cheekier when there is a ceremony coming up, which was today. (How do they know  the Hindu  calendar of ceremonies??). All of a sudden they were all gone though, the reason being that they start work at 9!! All the tourists are arriving at the famous monkey forest sanctuary then, which means they get free bananas in payment for some monkey business.

Yesterday we went on a beautiful rice paddy walk and ended up rained in at a local artist couple's house. They were adorable, and offered us shelter with tea and coffee and a few hours of conversation. Those unexptected moments are one of the best things about traveling.
Is it because we are not time aware and without a schedule that they seem to happen more often than usual?

We ended up eating in the amazing Sari organic where everything has grown and been produced on the spot. I can not rave enough about the food in Ubud. Everything has so much flavour. Wow what a lovely day..

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The importance of beauty

After two blissful weeks I have started to get used to the good life on Bali. What I love most and what moves me most and sticks in my memory is of course the people you meet when you travel this long. I feel so lucky to be able to stay a few weeks in one place to really get to know the locals and see how their everyday is.

Everywhere you look there are offerings for the gods. Always wrapped up nicely and with decorations. If you go in a taxi or car in the morning they will stop and make sure to receive an offering from someone, this will then bless the car journey. They constantly have big celebrations and ceremonies, one of which was their " christmas".

How is it possible that we dont see more dogs who have been hit by a car since they sleep and live in the street. ( or monkeys for that matter) You do see cats everywhere with only half a tail, but then of course they have nine lives...

The Balinese do really know how to make every day more beautiful. All of the  island's roads are decorated with flowers, bamboo, grass etc. Imagine how different London would feel if all the streets were surrounded by decorations.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Life on paradise island

Well well, I promise I will not bore you with lots of pictures from different beaches, that would be too mean. I will try to compose a little travel guide to each country I go to though, but with time. We have been travelling around on Bali and my first impression coming from Nepal was how touristic it is. Of course it should not come as a surprise but as the contrast was so huge it made me a bit exhausted about it all so we decided to stay away from the worst by staying in a quiet surf spot in the south called Belangan beach. 

The other day walking in and out of shops ( of course to use all the ac cold air) I realized what a huge impact Bali has on design, for being such a small island. Both within interiors, architecture but also in fashion. I recognise many prints and styles which have been copied from here to be used in big fashion houses. If you have lots of money to spare Bali is a stunning place to spend it in. The people are so warm and happy and proud of their island.
Once you get over the first question: Where are you going?( - remember to have a specific place in mind as they don't understand walking around without anywhere specific in mind), then immediately they want to help you or start up a conversation.  But not to make money from you but out of curiosity. I can not count the amount of times that I am dumbfounded by how they go out of their way to help us find a place we are looking for or to answer a question. Often I am told to wait while they get their scooter to take me where I am heading so I dont need to walk. Why can it not be more like that in the west? How did we become so selfish and time aware?

Friday, 21 May 2010

Townlife in Bhaktapur

Before leaving we managed to experience the medieval town of Bhaktapur which used to be one of three kingdoms in Nepal. It is beautifully preserved and I felt so privileged to be able to get a glimpse of how the habitants go about with their daily chores.

Did you read the papers today, how photocopying has become illegal in Tibet and you need to submit your personal details in order to be able to photocopy!

I will not get into any political debate here but recommend that you read " Freedom in Exile" by Dalai Lama. I read Isabel Losada's " A beginner's guide to changing the world; from Tibet with love" last week and thought it had lots of insights into the whole situation.


Sorry about the lack of posting but I am taking a few days to just enjoy the art of being ( and surfing).

By the way... if you have not read the book " How to be Idle"by Tom Hodgkinson then I thoroughly recommend that you do.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Around the Kathmandu valley

So the strike was finally over after 7 days.
How is it possible that a group of people can decide that the only way forward is to decide that the country is on strike? So far I did not meet anyone in Nepal who found that the strike would affect the country in a posititve way. As a European it is very hard to understand the whole concept of a full on strike- just remembering how the icelandic volcano ashes caused chaos to Europe a few weeks ago and everyone complaining how it was affecting us, then imagine not being able to buy food, medicine or travel anywhere...

The problem with the bandhas as they are called, is also that noone knows how long they will last.
The last few days in the mountains we were starting to realise how it affected life even there, hardly any food was available any more and the last few days we had to live on the national dish Dal Bhat. So imagine the relief when finding out that the strike was over! We did not have to walk back to Pokhara for one day in the heat but could happily join in the public transport where the passengers were singing with an even bigger smile than usual.

Homeless boys searching in the Swayambhunath stupa for food during the strike.

The last days we made sure to see what we had missed during the strike. The biggest stupa ( buddhist monastery) in the world is close to Kathmandu and is something I will never forget. Many Tibetan refugees live there and the place is full of small stupas. There is a serene atmosphere which makes it even harder to hold back the tears when you think of what many of these people have been through.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Nepal - where the tourist is thought of as a god

So...since my camera was not functionning properly in the mountains I am afraid I will not have many pictures to post of this incredible country.

Nepal has five different climate zones which you really are aware of when you trek in the Annapurna. The scenery constantly changes from subtropic, temperate forest to the arctic climate zone. It is amazing how when you trek you can see all this in one day. The best but busiest time to go trekking in the Annanpurna conservation area is oct to dec when the sky is free from monsoon clouds and the temperature is easier to handle. I hope to come back when the rhodendron is in bloom which is towards end of March.

 A Nepalese toilet...

Saturday, 8 May 2010

In the Himalayas

After two crazy days in Kathmandu where we were caught up in the middle of heavy demonstrations and realized that the country might be on the brink of civil war we managed to escape with a bus to Pokhara, a lovely lake side village. Demonstrations on the 1st of May was followed by full on strike which meant that everything was closed, and you could not get anywhere unless you walked or hired a horse! We waited for one day to see if the strike would stop but soon realized that this was serious and the Nepalese were not sure if there would be anything open this month! So to escape we had to hire a guide and head up to the mountains by foot.

Nepal is such a magic country. Wherever you look beautiful children and adults are going about with their daily tasks, looking like they have no worries at all even though their life in our eyes seem so incredibly hard, they do live in one of the poorest countries in the world, but they all look so much happier than us in the western world. Wherever you walk in the mountains children run up to you and put their palms together as they welcome you with "Namaste".


The first day was hard for a city person as we walked for many hours in 35 degrees without any shade. In the night we finished up sleeping in a small town Phedi, our first experience of a tea house: These are pretty much the same all over the himalaya, very basic with a hard wooden bed and often no blanket. You are lucky if you have hot water, but after a few days of trekking you soon forget what it is like to have a proper shower. Going to the loo means squatting over a hole in the ground and afterwards using a bucket to clean yourself.

We followed the famous Annapurna sanctuary trek which changes rapidly in color and climate. You can go from Alpine to sub tropical climate in half an hour. Every where you go you see the beautiful Himalayan flowers and are you lucky you can still capture the last Rohodendrons before they wilt. If you are after them blooming it is best to come in early march when lots of the trekk is in bloom. April is a good time to come even though it can get very hot but there are much less tourists which makes the whole experience more intimate and sacred.

We got up early so as to experience the sun rising over the brathtaking annanpurna mountains. Unfortunately I have a problem with my camera as I am using an old lens which makes the camera overexpose so sorry about the quality of some pictures. I should soon have a new lens.