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Trekking & my Balinese Family

      I said goodbye to Elsie in Ubud on May 30th and headed off on my own to the mountains for some R&R from our adventures. (my R&R is trekking…i find it very relaxing to get lost in dense unknown jungles. I’ve found that’s a unique personal preference! )

      Went back to Bukit Kembar Eco Guesthouse straddling the lakes IMG_5962and was welcomed by Papa and Mama Jeroo and the extended family. I had found some trails on the navigation app, Maps.Me, on my phone and headed off to see where they would take me.

      I had to find a tiny trail of the main road because the other trailhead was manned by local guides asking for $10 to trek …and they wouldn’t have let me go alone, not in a million years. So, I walked away from them and took the first narrow path I saw leading into the green jungle and down towards the lake.IMG_5970 The air was heavy and still but the jungle itself was alive and chirping, buzzing, humming and screeching. I went straight down the side of the mountain on a tiny mud path slipping and catching myself before I fell 100ft or more straight down.

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yup that was the “trail” down the mountain

I loved it. I was prepared with water, food, maps, sense of adventure, and willingness to get lost and be wherever I was. I could barely see the sky at times it was covered in a layer of green. Sunlight peeked through the foliage casting broad beams across my path. IMG_5976It was just me and the mountains, jungle, and lakes. I didn’t see anyone that first trek. I also had no idea where I was. I got pretty turned around, my sense of direction in this environment was a bit rusty but still there (luckily). It was awesome. I was out there quoting Robert Frost when my path split (two roads diverged in a yellow wood…), John Muir to articulate the sense of health and wholesomeness nature provides and enables (time (spent in nature) will not be taken from the sum of life but rather added to it), and some Dr. Suess to keep things light (it’s wider out there in the wide open air!).

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stumbled upon this tranquil scene
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just me and my shrooms

      Trekking on my own was rejuvenating, centering, and exciting. IMG_5998I did think Eric would’ve been a good trekking buddy to throw up my hands with in dramatic fashion and claim to have no idea where we are going and then promptly march in some direction confidently (sound like a Heitz? Yeah I inherited that trait completely. Gets me some good times and into some hot water and totally lost occasionally. Ha!)

      That first day I made it to a temple on the Eastern Lake (on the map) which was completely deserted except for a bunch of viciously loud dogs. IMG_6001It took me about 4 hours because I did stop and check maps every 15 min or so just to make sure I was going the direction I wanted to go in (I chose which lake I wanted to see)

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appreciating the temple

because there were many paths that were not on my application and a lot of times my little GPS locator dot just showed up in the green area (forest) on no trail at all! HA! What fun.

      I hiked back up the canyon and at the top, as I emerged, I ran into a guide and a group of Auzzies and French about to embark down the cliff and to the west lake. The guides and I chatted in Indonesian and they were stunned that I was off on my own and trekking no less but they grinned afterwards and just told me to be careful. Very friendly. I came up on a different trail but one that was easier to find than the last one so I used this one the next day.

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Post hike. Day 1
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the closest peninsula was the temple i trekked to and from

      I bought veggies and papaya and had fresh papaya and brown rice and veggies overlooking the northern side of the mountains.

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my room/kitchen view
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fog in the morning and evening

The family was doing laundry and construction down near the rooms where I was staying and they chatted with me and helped me knock a passionfruit off the tree next to their temple with a huge bamboo rod. They offered me black rice pudding the next day, a balinese specialty, as well as taro cooked to perfection. When I went up for breakfast to the restaurant I greeted all 7 of the family was asked what I was doing was offered all sorts of things and the youngest daughter of six would make me a cup of very sweet balinese coffee. Breakfast was an egg, a banana crepe/pancake and a few cups of balinese coffee. Lunch was fresh papaya, crackers, and balinese peanut butter (so fucking sweet Jiffy doesn’t hold a candle). Dinner was usually chicken sate, fried rice or noodles, sauteed veggies, and chilis. Good livin.

       The next day I decided to trek around the west lake.

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beautiful day for a trek in bali

I stumbled across another temple halfway around the lake where i snapped a few pics.

I made it all the way to the famous temple on the opposite side 3/4 of the way around.IMG_6040IMG_6043I couldn’t go any further because the trail hit the main road and I had no desire to walk 5 kilometers on the highway of the mountains to get back to my guesthouse. This trail was clearly more used. I found out why pretty quickly. Three or four groups of guided tours met me on the trail. This was the trail that the advertised trekking around the lake used. Oh well. It was quiet after I got away from them. But it was fun to practice indonesian to the guides and see the astonished faces of the tourists. I had a walking stick I had picked up the other day to ward off the dogs at the other temple but it turned out to be a great hiking partner so I kept it.

      I would trek 4-5 hours in the morning,

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that tiny human is me! i was practicing again with my selftimer camera

have some fresh papaya for lunch and then zoom the beautiful mountain roads of my F1 150cc Honda scooter (same one I used for my last two week scooter trip in Bali). The roads were good, the views were incredible. The wind in my hair and the chill being thwarted by my rain jacket as I zoomed. The feeling of flying is both thrilling and addicting.

      I was sad to leave my Balinese family but I’m confident I’ll be back. They gave me 2 bags of the coffee they make there at the guesthouse and hugged me many times before sending me on my way with many “hati hati olive”, careful careful olivia. They called me olive.

      Thanks Bukit Kembar and Mama and Papa Jeroo. I’ll be back to share your table and trek around your beautiful lakes and mountains.

me in my room and my view:)

 

Off to Hanoi I go!

 

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Solo in Northern Bali

      I said goodbye to the girls a few hours after returning from our epic hike up Mt.Agung and zoomed across Bali, racing the fading sunlight, through the mountains, to the northern beach town of Lovina. Mostly followed the main road, a 2-lane highway. The worst parts were the giant tour buses as the roads narrowed climbing up into the mountains. Sketchy. Did not like that portion but the rest, zooming past warungs, parades, ceremonies, and the views of the island, were worth it.IMG_5649

      Arrived at Mandhara Chico Bungalows in the dark, right on the beach. Had some Nasi Jinngko, rice and chicken wrapped in banana leaf and 4000rupiah (30cents) and a Bintang. The room I booked was so close to the ocean I could hear the water lapping as I lay in my bed.

      I took it easy for a few days. I slept in and walked along the beach finding my way through the maze of outrigger boats pulled onto the shore.

Waterfalls were on my mind so I took off on my trusty scooter to the ones I had been eyeing on the map. They tried to make me pay for a guide and I responded in indonesian so they let me just pay 10,000rupiah (<$1) and head on in.IMG_5814 I wasn’t supposed jump but I found a group of local guys about my age jumping off the 15 meter falls and followed them after seeing them swim away laughing. Jumped off about 10 times before a guide came over and asked where my guide was. I lied and said my guide had gone down and quickly boogied up the canyon to my scooter! Was adopted by a balinese family I met on the beach and taken to a ceremony that night. Got all dolled up.

That evening I practiced some yoga moves and messed around with the self-timer on my camera on the beach at sunset. I’d like to take photography class was my conclusion from the shoot, to get better at taking photos.

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Scorpion pose. All those rafting, soccer, and yoga muscles coming into play

I had a fun time rejuvenating on my own on the north coast. Sometimes, all I need is some space to do my own thing in order to be able to jump with all of my energy into activities and adventures with strangers and friends alike. Learning Olivia 101.

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Mt. Agung (2)…with a guide and friends unlike last time

      The tallest and holiest mountain on the island and I were more intimately acquainted than I was willing to share with my friends as we began our journey up it at 1am. I didn’t want to worry them. After spending 8 hours on my 21st birthday scrambling around in the dark on Mt. Agung (I still can’t decide if that was the greatest or stupidest way to enter my 21st year), I felt at home trekking up the narrow footpath in utter darkness up, and up, and up. It was great to have four friends, schoolmates from Thailand, trekking with me.

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This was where we began the trek at 1am (post trek pic)

      Previously that day, I had driven across the island from the east tip, Amed, back to Canggu to meet my friends for our trek. (I was tired of driving) Paige, my roommate from Chiang Mai and I had a fun reunion, she’s one I’ll keep in touch with after. There were four of us and we piled into the car at 10:30pm for a 2 hour drive back to the east coast from which I had just arrived from! Ha! We arrived in the dark at 1am, met our guide, were given our headlamps, watched as our guides lit incense and prayed to the temple, and were on our way.

      Climbing mountains, even at 1am, gives me energy. My friends were less enthusiastic at the early, dark, steep start but pushed through. I felt more alive the farther up we climbed. This was one of my natural ways of being. That and I had some balinese coffee and fried bananas so the sugar and caffeine might have played a small part!

      I liked trekking in a group. These girls were the gang to climb with.

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left, erin, center, paige, middle laura, right, me

We made it to the top before any other tour. IMG_5595IMG_5594  To be expected, it was fucking freezing at the top, 1000+ meters. Apparently, the other three didn’t assume that and so we had a cuddle puddle for an hour as the rest of the 30 or something people arrived and found a perch.

We watched the other tours below on the mountain, caterpillars of bobbing headlamps winding their way up the steep slopes towards our outcropping. When they arrived it became a party.

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The sunrise was beautiful. The light creeped slowly across the rocks behind us before the orange globe rose above the crag in front of us.

We could see Mt. Rinjani on Lombok, the island to the East. Epic. I was glad to have done it with a guide and people just for the comradery at the top as we waited and watched the sunrise together.

      We also had a fun time taking some memorable shots:)

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laughing at myself and the awesome nature of my circumstance
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cuz why not be silly? i’m right on the edge! of sanity and the mountain!
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now serious…:)
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feeling good on top of the world

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this guy took a bunch of photos for us and wanted a selfie in return.
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feeling strong on top of the world

Happy to have climbed Agung again. I could climb that mountain twice a week for the rest of my life and feel great.

the trek down was the worst part for my friends. I led and went very slowly.

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we sat down fro lunch at the base of the mountain. here’s a pic of what we climbed a few hours ago:

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This was where we began the trek at 1am (post trek pic)

all by 11am:)

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Traveling with Elsie in Bali

So, 2 months ago, very randomly, I met a fellow American river guide in Food for Thought Café in Chiang Mai and spontaneously invited her to travel with me in Bali for a week or so not thinking she would actually come. She made it happen and she and I spent about 12 days discovering and rediscovering, in my case, many parts of Bali.

To be honest, I like traveling alone. I am very good at it, I get  lot out of it, I learn constantly, I don’t have to feel responsible for the other person, I can go wherever, whenever without checking in with anyone, and I like being with myself, alone. I’m more approachable when I am alone and more likely to approach others if I’m not towing someone Also, traveling solo does not mean I am alone, if I don’t want to be by myself I am very capable of meeting other people or just hanging out with anyone around. Haven’t gotten lonely yet as a result. So, I was on the fence about being into her just showing up, especially when she told me she hadn’t traveled before and had never traveled on her own before and…had never ridden a scooter before. Folks, this is massively important because a scooter equals freedom to roam and in Bali I had been scootering everywhere, everyone bloody rides  scooter or pays handsomely for  car, no thank you.

I taught her how to ride  scooter in the first few days so we wouldn’t be handicapped. It was the first order of business.

Anyways, despite my initial reservations it was a blast and I learned a lot about traveling with this new partner who wanted to learn by experience as much as I did. Very cool girl.

We started off in Canggu surfing, mosying, eating good food, sate ayam and smoothie bowls in true Bali fashion. The choco smoothie at Shady Shack ws aa dessert favorite along with the caramel coconut crunch cheesecake from Betelnut YUM. We cheersed with mango and strawberry ciders on the beach at sunset, IMG_5523chillaxed by the ocean, played in the waves, explored the surrounding villages and tried all the warungs we could before we left.

Next we headed to Ubud where we stayed in Dewa hostel and were welcomed by Bim and the rest of his family there. We did all the touristy things I wasn’t going to do solo like go the rice paddies, Tegallong,

and to the coffee plantation with Luwak cats in cages (pretty depressing). IMG_5559

We joined forces with another solo female traveler for a day for that.

I went off that night and met Aunty Barb’ friend who owns Moksa Restaurant, the most gourmet, delicious food in Ubud.

Not comparing with warungs because this is a different category of food. So delicious. I also needed  a break from the duo.

Ubud market before it transforms into the tourist market.

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I bought papayas, mangos, apples, oranges, coffee, veggies, and breakfast coconut muffins. Yum

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the only sate cart in the morning market! yum

Bought lots of breakfasts of rice creations and other edible looking things just to try all them. The papayas were a safe bet and the vendors loved my little bit of Indonesian (goes a long way).

We went to 2 hours of Sound Meditation in Pyramids, actual pyramids, at a place called Pyramids of Chii just outside of Ubud.

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Sun on the right (we were in that one) and moon on the left

I was more than a bit skeptical of the “transformative nature” of this meditation but I thoroughly enjoyed it came out after having some visions as well as feeling well rested despite not actually falling asleep. They used an assortment of gongs that reverberated around the metal inside of the pyramid we were laying on the floor of. Well worth the $25 bucks. I’d go back and do it again.

I drove Elsie to Amed where she took  diving certification course and then I sped back to Canggu to meet my roommate from thailand, Paige Freel, and 3 more friends to climb Mt. Agung for the second time (my first time with a guide!). This is a separate post.

We met up again a few days later on the north coast where I had been resting in a single room (ahh after 3 weeks of dormitories what a luxury) right on the beach.

We got up at 6am too watch pods of dolphins play in the most traditional outrigger/fishing boats.

Then we snorkeled for  few hours after. It was beautiful. The rest of the day was spent hopping from one café to another on an epic dessert tour. IMG_5839It was perfect because it was pouring rain and bad weather to scooter in.

Next, we hit up some hot springs and jumped off a few waterfalls (ones I had done on my own a few days prior with a bunch of local 20 something balinese guys)IMG_5842IMG_5846IMG_5852IMG_5855 and then mosied up to Bukit Kembar EcoGuesthouse in between the twin lakes situated next the Lake Bratan with the most famous lake temple in Bali. I loved the guesthouse and family so much. Papa and Mama Jeroo and all the staff were other family members. After Elsie left, I spent 3.5 more days here:) Epic views.

We found an 18yr old Dutch guy here who we invited to come check out the lake temple and hike around exploring with us. The dude was up for it and hopped on the back of my scooter. Impressive. IMG_5861IMG_5865IMG_5870IMG_5874IMG_5875IMG_5903We checked out the lake temple then followed a tiny trail around the other side of the lake that I had seen on my Maps.Me application.

It ended up leading us a hike where we discovered a black stone temple completely overgrown with lush green jungle at the base of the cliffs surrounding the lake. IMG_5927IMG_5928IMG_5926None of us spoke above a whisper if we spoke at all. I felt like Indiana Jones discovering a lost temple. There were no tourists. We had walked through a village then I found tiny path through the direction of the top of the black temple I glimpsed from the road. Epic. This is my favorite type of adventure: the unexpected kind.

Then we zoomed back to Ubud to partake in an Ecstatic Dance at the Yoga Barn. Bunch of western hippies in bali feeling at one with the dance. All normal, ya know? It was a little too harmonious for me while we were waiting and everyone was sitting experiencing the sitting position but the dancing was super fun and liberating, everyone just doing whatever. I would do it again. It released some of the stress I had been carrying around for the past few days with Elsie riding on a scooter for the first time and having her second fall earlier that day. She only had a few scrapes.IMG_5933

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Restarting. Even in Bali, it takes time.

I’ve learned, slowly because I’m very stubborn, restarting doesn’t just happen with the click of  button, with humans at least. I do sometimes wish we could reset as easily as we reset our computers and phones or refresh a page on the web. But then, where and how would we gain the appreciation for the process of cleaning the junk out of our systems, reorienting ourselves, and taking care of ourselves enough to be able to suck the marrow out of life once again? I don’t believe we would. Efficiency can sometimes have us missing a crucial part of life: the slogging ever so slowly towards the path you would like to be on. So, while it’s bloody difficult to rest up enough to go on more adventures when they are right outside my hostel, literally, it’s an important practice I am learning to do: slow down to speed up. Ahh a rafting mantra relevant in any circumstance. Chloe, I’m thinking of you right now.

I arrived in Bali scooterless (this was a big deal because I had been driving one around for almost 5.5 months) and with a plan to “cleanse”, restart, rest up because I was fucking worn out, spent, exhausted from the semester and the last week in Thailand at Warm Heart wrapping up and saying goodbye. Exhausted. So, I located myself in Canggu, rented a bicycle, bought myself a yoga pass, and set out to the beach in the early AM to watch the surfers with a strong latte and some fresh fruit. Nice.

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Famous smoothie bowl of Bali. Delicious and refreshing.

I loved biking around Canggu’s hilly roads, zooming with the wind whistling by me, sometimes going faster than the tourists first learning to scooter. The tiny sate ayam cart on the main drag run by family of 3, mother, father, baby (just looking cute), became a pitstop every day at a different time each day. Chatting with the family and the ladies on the sidewalk next to the cart selling Nasi Jinngko (?), like a mini nasi compur (rice and an assortment of meat and veggie dishes) for only 5,000IDR (yum). Pedas pedas (spicy spicy) of course made me many friends among the streetfood vendors.

Staying at one of THE MAIN party hostels was not my most brilliant course of action but it was fun to meet people on the sixth night of being there when I finally felt like meeting people. Before that, I had made friends with the cute and friendly indonesian bartenders, not the other guests.

Yoga at Serenity Eco Guesthouse was the way to go. They had a wide variety of options, some of which I tried out even knowing that I felt the best when I did Vinyasa flow. I had an unlimited pass for 7 days which cost me about $65 or 900,000IDR. Worth it. IMG_5515Their Vinyasa and Power yoga with a restorative class thrown in every now and again was just right for me. Besides being a yoga studio the guesthouse boasts  nice open air organic, super healthy restaurant and sweet dormitories as well as bungalows all just a two minute walk from the beach. Highly recommend. I didn’t get a chance to stay there but that would be my first choice next time I visit. It’s not on the main drag but a road parallel and a 10-15 minute walk from the “downtown” Canggu (Betelnut, Crate Café, Old Man’s).

My favorite thing to do, as I mentioned before, was to ride my bicycle to Echo beach, end of the road parallel to Old Man’s (opposite side of Serenity – serenity, oldmans, echo), and sit at the picnic tables of the restaurants with a breakfast burrito, right on the ocean watching the morning gang of surfers play on the 8-10ft waves. IMG_5520There was a riptide starting right under the picnic table I liked to sit sipping coffee from and the best surfers knew how to use it to get out past the break without duckdiving or even, sometimes, getting splashed in the face. Impressive and so fun to watch. I would sit for hours just watching the ocean. The surfers made it fun but I could just watch the waves and be content for hours. I love the ocean and know I will need to  continuously come back to or live by the ocean the rest of my life. It is a source of energy for me.

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Rain in Ubud

Awoke from my nap post-Mt.Batur feeling incredibly well rested. Headed out into Ubud for a coffee at FREAK coffee (not bad). It started pouring as I was sitting sipping and staring at the temple directly across the street from me with heaps of offerings piled in front in the street. IMG_0316.JPG

The rain didn’t let up but that was just fine with me. Tourists were off the streets scared of the rain. Perfect. I pulled on my full body poncho, which makes me look like a giant orange condom, and headed outside with a vague sense of where I wanted to go and the great possibility of changing my mind…which I did, several times.

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Stumbled across this in the rain. Lotus lake:)

I decided after a little while, spur of the moment to walk 30 min through the rice paddies outside Ubud to the famous Sari Organik restaurant. Brilliant!

Still pouring, it was beautiful walking through the villasIMG_0324.JPG in the bright green rice paddies on a path only two scooters wide. IMG_0323.JPGI was grinning the whole time at how awesome this was: the rain, Bali, the rice fields, temples, my trek, and the possibility the restaurant would be closed.

It was closed! ha! but I sat anyways and wrote in my journal listening to the rain and looking at this viewIMG_4606

On the way through the rice paddies I was licking a gelato and on the way back I bought a fresh young coconut and sipped as I walked. IMG_0334.JPG

Met some interesting fellows along the way…IMG_0329.JPG

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Looking forward to my cooking class tomorrow!

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Mt. Batur Sunrise Trek – Day 2 (shenanigans at 2am)

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on top of the world

This was such an incredible experience. I watched the clouds part and the sun emerge as orange globe and illuminate the lush green caldera and silver lake of Mt. Batur as it lit up the morning sky. IMG_0245.JPG I was sitting on a bench at the top of the mountain where, moments before I had been a bit chilly since my sweat had dried from the epic sprint up the mountains on goat paths, I watched in awe the morning unfold upon island below me. I heard the birds start to wake up and suddenly it was choir from every direction.IMG_0238.JPG

I started with the highlight of my day because at 3am I didn’t know if I was going to make it up when I woke up at 3am instead of 2am! Stupid me forgot to set my phone to Bali’s timezone, 1 hour ahead of Thailand by the way! FUCK!

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My hostel at 3am

So I woke up and got all ready at what I thought was 2:30 amd and was actually 3:30am. I received an email from the company I booked saying the driver had come and left!! I quickly downloaded Whatsapp and called the company. Minor panicking involved. They sent the driver back to me. Turned out I was the only one on the tour that day! My driver zoomed in the dark along a single lane through villages and through cabbage patches I’m not sure how we didn’t fly off into the chili pepper patches but we arrived in the pitch black at the starting point.

My guide, this little 63 year old wiry Balinese guide, grinned at me, handed me a walking stick and a flashlight and proceeded to tell me he was “very optimistic about making it to the top in time for sunrise if I was a good trekker.” (he repeated this a few times on the way up!)

In the pitch black, we began or ascent straight up these tiny, narrow trails that were barely a wide enough for my shoes!! We went the “shortcut” meaning we didn’t go on the main trail but instead just took the little paths that would get us to the top before 6am. This was a solid climb. Wouldn’t recommend this unless you are a good, fit hiker who likes to scale steep goat trails in the dark. I had a fricken blast:) I laughed because we hit the general trail at one point and it was so flat compared the vertical climbing we had been doing that I asked my guide if this was a rest stop or campsite and he laughed and said this was the normal way up, very gradual and easy, he said before turning onto another hidden trail leading straight up the mountainside.

We made it up in 50 minutes (the main path usually takes 1.5-2hours) and all the young balinese guides already at the top serving their customers crowded around the two of us and were excited at how quickly we had come up by the local trails they climb as well. IMG_0228.JPGThese guides were hilariously shocked at first when we emerged from the grasses behind a hut on top of the mountain with my guide breathing heavy and both of us soaked from sweat and dew. My guide was out of breath and so, in typical balinese fashion, he chain smoked cigarettes while we waited  for the sun to rise. He also took a fun photo with me.IMG_0248.JPG

There were also monkeys at the top. I am not a fan of monkeys. They can sense I don’t like them and they hiss at me and I hiss back. They did pose though.IMG_0257.JPG

Most other hikers had already arrived and were crowded around the huts where the guides served them coffee and teaIMG_4506.JPG (which you do have to pay for) and bananas cooked in volcanic steam. My guide took me to where he put the bananas in a little cave with volcanic steam. I had a warm volcanic banana sandwich for breakfast as I watched the sunrise. What an experience.IMG_4505

On the way down we listened to my guides favorite Balinese song as we jogged down the mountain. Super fun. I was able to see the steep narrow trails we had come up in the dark.IMG_0286.JPGIMG_0278.JPG We had walked up volcanic rockIMG_0289.JPG through forest (I figured this one out because I was whacked in the face by a branch of pine needles as I was walking up in the dark!),IMG_0281.JPG and tall grass fields.IMG_0296.JPG

 

He took me to his house while we waited for my ride.  Turns out he is the village’s holy man and explained a little about what he did and showed my is house temple.IMG_4579

A very good day.

I fell asleep immediately upon arriving back at my hostel and woke up at lunch a new person!

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Arriving in Bali!

After sleeping in two different terminals and watching a premier league and bundesliga match at Don Muang Airport between 12am and 5am on April 3rd, IMG_4476I finally took off for the last plane ride that would take me to Bali for my spring break. Here I go! Completely free off on my own! Wahoo! It feels like my first vacation from Thailand. It is really. I took off a few extra days from school (shh don’t tell my professors) so I could have 14 full days to explore and enjoy Bali. So stoked.

From the airplane window Bali came into view as white sand beaches met by lush green jungle and awesome mountains climbing high into the clouds. I let out a huge breath of relief I didn’t know I was holding in. I was going to be just fine wherever the mountains meet the ocean. And its Bali, I’ve got roots here thanks to Opa.

The first thing I noticed after stepping off the plane into the heat was the smell of crushed flowers in the Bali airport and the huge smile the customs officer bestowed upon me when I greeted him in the Bahasa I had been practicing on the plane. (I just learned the basics: hello, how are you, spicy, more spice, bathroom, beer, one more please! and the numbers so I could bargain – there aren’t as many tones in Bahasa or Balinese like in Thai so I devoured these beautiful new languages, I couldn’t get enough of them).

My driver, Eric (ha!), who took me to Ubud taught me about the language, explained the bamboo offerings lining the street for the special ceremony taking place over the next weekIMG_0341.JPG, and recommended the best spots for sate ayam and mie goreng (yum). All the balinese I met over the next two weeks including some Sumatran and Javanese, were terrifically friendly and warm.

I arrived in central Ubud, my base for the next few days of adventures, IMG_0339.JPGdropped my stuff at Ode Hostel and grabbed a new friend, an Argentinian woman traveling solo as well, and headed for a cold Bintang and Mie Goreng. IMG_0218.JPG Ahhhh vacation tastes like a cold Balinese beer. Good stuff. It started raining (rain hasn’t been seen in Thailand for months so this was glorious) and the two of us headed to the Ubud market with a mission of purchasing sarongs.IMG_0340.JPG I made friends with a vender in my limited bahasa and ended up getting a great deal (1 beautiful sarong = IDR 20,000 or $1.50). We grabbed a fun cocktail while hiding from the down pour 🙂IMG_0221.JPG I had Nasi Compur, the dish with everything ( I even asked for chilis in Balinese 🙂 And headed to bed early because I was waking up at 2:30am to climb Mt. Batur to watch the sunrise! ha! that’s the next adventure!

 

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Purple apples, Phrao coffee, organic homemade jam, bananas and new friends: it’s the little things.

Driving up into the mountains is still epic every time I do it. I sigh with relief once I start going up and away from the buzz of the city.

I arrive around 9am most Fridays at Warm Heart and barely have time to settle in before my translator, P’Nian, is hustling me out the door to go interview a friend of a friend and while we are at it, try another friend’s coffee. Or we end up visiting another ill friend. I’m so lucky she wants to introduce me to all of her friends.

So yesterday, Friday, I get up to Warm Heart. After lunch it’s off to interview an Organic farmer named P’Jay. Here is her farm

When I meet people who I just instantly know are good down to their very core it lifts me up and makes me smile wider. She was lovely and an extremely smart business woman. She offered me her homemade organic mulberry jam and the healthiest most delicious organic bananas I’ve ever tried. She kept offering and would have let me try every one of her crops if I had time. I’m going back to help her on her farm:) she sent me away with a bag of her jam. I eat spoonfuls of it as a treat 😊 I thought of Grandma Beryl and my mom as I chatted and laughed with p’nian and p’jay while watching her ducks and black chickens (apparently the Chinese love these from Thailand) romp around.

Next it was into the large town of Phrao for a delicious coffee from P’Nian’s friend, Nuoy, who roasts his own coffee beans sourced from small villages in the mountains like mine. Blue Bottle watch out! (I also just had incredible coffee at a tiny coffee counter on the back roads of Chiang Mai – buts that’s another story!) so good and the whole family is out in from of their baby supplies shop at this cofffee cart helping steam the milk, brew the coffee, do the latte art, and serve the drinks:)

Then, I met P’Nians best friend, P’Dao (Dao means Star), who owns the “Walmart” of Phrao (just a large everything store). She was whip smart, spoke English and was so excited to meet me. About my moms age, she immediately, along with her coworker, announced that they would be my mothers while I was living in Thailand. We sat and chatted and then, AND THEN… she introduced me to my new favorite fruit: The local purple apple.

You eat it with a spoon. Yes, really. It is the most delicious mix of mangosteen, mango, and some purple fruit. I’m not sure why it’s called an apple. Regardless, it’s only in season for a month so I will gorge myself on purpleness.

Dinner was kaw niaow (sticky rice) and gai (chicken) with sweet chili sauce with the kids from the children’s home and the Thai staff:)

I love the special moments I experience here.

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4 great days in Luang Prabang, Laos

⇒I just jumped on a plane to Luang Prabang, Laos from the small Chiang Mai Airport having only googled where I was going maybe three times. I had to leave Thailand for visa purposes, I knew I needed a vacation/break (haha) from courses and warm heart work, and I knew I would regret not going on an adventure to Laos. I was not expecting to fall in love with Luang Prabang.

Slower paced, less developed, and much smaller than Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang crept up on me when I walked into the center of the city and it took me 10 minutes to realize i was in the center of the city! Beautiful temples and French colonial architecture line both sides of the street. It is a 5 min walk across the peninsula (the city) to the bank of the Nam Khan or Mekong river, which converge at the tip watched over by a gilded temple.

We arrived at around 4pm, dropped our stuff at the hostel and set off for a backpacker bar/hangout right on the Mekong river that I’d looked up. I had no idea if it was going to look like the photos, things rarely do in Southeast Asia!, and I also wasn’t sure I was leading us down the right tiny backroads HA!

but low and behold it was exactly like the photos with the cushion laden balcony overlooking the sandy gorge that, in the wet season, was the epic Mekong river. We met our friend, Hanes, from germany who was traveling alone and who I had struck up a conversation with on the plane from Chiang Mai. He ended up joining the gang for the majority of the four days as did a hip Brazilian journalist traveling on her own as well. Fun making friends when traveling.

My two girlfriends and I stayed at the Downtown Backpackers hostel. which really was in the middle of the market. I woke up at 6:45 on our second day grabbed a cup of the nespresso and sat on the steps of the hostel watching as the market woke up right on the street in front of me.

Everyone was laying out their tarps and setting up stalls as the early birds came to get their groceries before the stalls were organized properly and overrun by the rest of the town and the tourists.

The second day we climbed up to the temple on the hill in the middle of town. I thought of Ann Krumboltz and her love of adventure as I navigated the lying buddhas, potholes, peddlers selling tiny birds, and gold inlaid serpents to reach the “summit”.

I loved how the temple was built in with the rocks the rocks hadn’t been moved but merely incorporated into the architecture. Very natural.

Here we are at the top. Ella is on the right and Sarah is in the center. These are the towo women I traveled with from Chiang Mai. They were great.

Walking around this section of the temple caused me to smack my forehead in exasperation at myself IMG_4250.JPGbecause it took me a few seconds to realize why when I peeked into the cave I saw an imprint of a wheel. Dang Liv! Duh! One of the 32 signs of the buddha is the imprint of a wheel on his foot. Gosh. My Buddhism professor will hopefully not be too disappointed I forgot briefly while I was at a temple. oops 🙂 I laughed pretty hard at myself so much so that I was hiccuping as I explained to my friends why this was so funny to me. They didn’t think it was that funny.Whatever. Buddha is laughing I hope.

We visited the Royal Museum next.

Gorgeous red mosaic ceilings telling many Hindu stories. There were displays of gifts given to the Laos royal family from many countries including Vietnam, Russia, Japan, the U.S.A, Myanmar, and Thailand. All of the gifts were beautiful vases, jewelry, carvings, and paintings except for the U.S’s gift which was a pen and a model spaceship. What the fuck! We weren’t allowed to take photos otherwise I would have shown the differences in what the U.S. valued enough to send the royals of Laos compared to their neighbors.

Then we rented bikes and rode around the peninsula visiting almost every temple we saw, which meant we stopped every few minutes. Fine by me:)

Sarah and I grabbed a great gin and tonic at a cute gallery on the rivers edge while trading stories from home and abroad. Reminded me of river cocktails and chats.

The next morning (Sunday) we went to the Koung Si Waterfall via tuk-tuk with Guilie, our Brazilian journalist friend. It was beautiful! I just expected a hike to waterfall but instead we swam in the incredibly blue pools below the water fall before heading to the main falls.

It reminded me of Semuc Champay in Guatemala. I swam and ducked under the mini waterfalls. Some selfies with Guilie’s Gopro were a necessity:)

 

The main falls were magnificent.

What was even cooler was you could hike/scramble up a steep path to the top and look out over the edge.

I left Sarah and Ella in the dust, sorry guys, because I was so energized by being around such awesome water energy.

At the top was a beautiful marsh area that was fed by a spring a 5km walk down a path Robert Frost would conjures up in his poetry.

Alas! I did not take that path for there was too little time but I would like to return and make it all the way to the spring. However, “as way leads on to way…” Shut it Frost I’m coming back!

We arrived back in Luang Prabang in time for a lunch at the visually stimulating buffets in the market. YUM.

(later this would cause some unpleasant stomach pains but it was worth it).

Us three girls bought ourselves imported cider from the local grocer (why she carried it is a mystery) and headed to the west bank of the Mekong to watch the sunset.

Beautiful. And the cider was tasty. I am going to have to find it in Chiang Mai.

Later that night we splurged on our dinner, meaning we spent over $2 (The Horror!), on the most delicious meal we had in Laos. It was a tasting platter of all of Laos most renown dishes as well as the local Luang Prabang specialties such as crispy Mekong river weed, the city’s own style of sausage, and dessert with black beans, coconut, and banana ( it was very good).IMG_4347.JPG I would highly recommend Bamboo Cooking School and Cafe located on the bank of the Mekong river for a tasting platter ($10-12 dollars per person)

The last morning I split off from the girls and headed to the renown French bakery on the peninsula for a croissant, I had two, and an espresso.IMG_4351.JPG

Of course, while I munched and sipped and dipped I was being watched over by the large golden Buddha across the street.IMG_4350.JPG

What a trip. I fell in love with this part of Laos. It was my style: adventurous, outdoors, culture, relaxed, tasty, good people.

I also did some solid shopping. The night market was fantastic and not as overwhelming as Chiang Mai’s. No one will know if what I got them is from Thailand or Laos unless I tell them:)

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Happy Accidents: Incredible Masaman Curry and a Thai Oil Massage

When plans and back up plans fall through…

I had made lunch plans with a woman from Israel who I met last night at live music but I forgot I already had lunch plans with the massage instructor in my class. So, I apologized and cancelled the first only to learn the massage instructor wouldn’t be able to make it because her massage class in a temple nearby was running late. Very cool lady.

Anyways, I grabbed my Lonely Planet Guide, opened it to EATING in Chiang Mai and picked Dash, a restaurant known for its curries in the old city. I wasn’t sure I would make it there because I generally tend to stop and check out whatever catches my eye. But I made it into this back road to this beautiful restaurant nestled in between backpacker hostels and a German beer garden (I’ll check that out another time). I ordered the Masaman curry, something I had been needing to try as it is known for being amazing in Chiang Mai.

OH. MY. GOSH. This was the most delectable, rich but not too thick, aromatic, sensational northern Thai curry. I mean right up there with my favorite Burmese Gaeng Hang lay. I do have to frequent restaurants more to get these Thai delicacies. It was $6 for curry and rice, enough for two. I had to take half to go because it was so large. They also had good looking cocktails. I almost tried the one called Putin on the Beach hahaha (only for the name).

Then, I was planning on heading home and a bar tucked away on a side street overflowing with westerners had me stop my scooter just a little ways down from the restaurant. The bar was not interesting at all but I did end up walking into a massage spot right next store.

I thought I communicated clearly when I said I wanted an hour long Thai massage but something was missed or, really, something was added because the next thing I knew I was being told to get out of my clothes for a Thai Oil Massage. I didn’t say no to the two nice thai ladies expectantly holding out a bath towel barely big enough to cover my torso. I did laugh while i changed into my towel attire. UNexpected for sure but an interesting and nice experience. I realized as I was about to correct the two ladies on the type of massage I wanted that I wouldn’t have chosen a Thai Oil Massage for myself but since I seemed to have stumbled into it I should try it.

My next fling is going to have to be a handsome thai masseuse who can lather me up with lovely smelling oils and give a killer massage 🙂

Happy Accidents. The beauty of finding adventures and then letting go of the reins and going with the flow.

 

 

 

 

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The best beer and company in Northern Thailand: Chiang Dao Star Mountain Bar.

Saturday my interview with a restaurant owner fell through so I decided to check out this beautiful mountain road my professor had told me about from Phrao west to Chiang Dao. I had heard Chiang Dao was known for coffee, wine, and hiking. None of those were I was able to try because of this great craft beer bar I accidentally happened upon. How great. I was on my way to hike the Chiang Dao Mountain when I saw a sign for craft beer. I couldn’t believe there was craft beer in the middle of the rice fields and mountains so I swung right into this little guesthouse and bar nestled in a little garden off the road. 

It turned out to be Thai craft beers brewed in small breweries all over Thailand. Ooh the IPAs were fantastic. I was sorely in need of a good beer after so many Changs. Their draft IPA on their single tap was incredible. 

Suda practiced draft pours and served me a second Gateway IPA, brewed in Thailand

I ended up at some Japanese hippie music festival on the recommendation of Suda and Ilko. Felt a bit like Strawberry Music Festival missed my strawberry crew.

I went back the next day and tried a few more. Run by a very personable, young Dutch-Thai couple, Chiang Dao Star Mountain is the best place to grab an incredible Thai brewed beer (so reasonably priced) in a relaxed atmosphere just off the main highway from Chiang Mai to the hot springs and epic hiking in Chiang Dao.
They boast the most IPA’s I’ve seen in northern Thailand so far, and the best (I’ve tried 12 now:) and if you aren’t a beer connoisseur before you arrive you will surely be one when you leave. Ilko and Suda aren’t just selling the tasty beer they’ve collected through their travels throughout Thailand, they are presenting the drinker with the intimate relations they’ve cultivated with microbreweries operating throughout Thailand. With hops from Thailand, New Zealand, and the U.S., whatever someone fancies can be had with the owners suggestion.

Think laid back atmosphere,  great beer, good company, and epic outdoors (after the beer of course). Why wouldn’t you want to stop by for a beer or five…. because you have to try all the different hops and their unique flavors.

In honor of finding great Thai brews my friends and I had a beer tasting sesh the next night with the craft beers I brought back. So good. So fun. Channeled Mikey Gardner and Eric’s with this fun beer tasting.

Couldn’t have worked out better as I needed some wall decorations for my empty Thai dorm:)

(Trying my hand at promotional writing for the craft beer bar for practice)