Travel blog Thailand

Life’s tough my darling, so are we!

A moment lived in Thailand by Sheena, a traveler from India

Let me begin by stating a fact that I have never returned the same person who first embarked upon the journey. I am not sure if that’s how I feel or if it’s something most travelers experience but there is always something that’s changed. I love everything about traveling, entering something unfamiliar and coming out the other side knowing more; it’s enriching, it’s rejuvenating, it’s exciting and it’s life changing.

From every travel adventure I have returned having learned something; sometimes it’s about people, new culture, a new language, cuisines I had never tasted before and more often than not I come back having learned something about life. Many travel experiences come to mind when I write this but for this travel moment, I choose to write about this particular moment I stood corrected and a learning I acquired over Tequila (yes, you read that right)!

As I walked down from my hotel, I pass this restaurant looking like it needed a real good makeover. It was less fancy than most others on the Island and honestly, from the outside, it wasn’t much to look at. In fact, it didn’t even look open, therefore I didn’t pay it much attention and continued about my business of exploring this beautiful Island. On my return, as my thirsty eyes absorbed every little detail around me, I felt it drifting back to this ramshackle. But why, you ask me?

Well, I have no clue. Like I said it wasn’t much to look at but somehow I was constantly being pulled towards this particular restaurant. After four nights on the Island (and the fact that I had to pass it each day on my way from and back to my hotel), I finally gave in to that unexplainable yet intriguing energy that was calling me and got myself to go check it out. As I made my way through a narrow pathway, I was not expecting to be surprised, I had already prejudiced my thinking and wasn’t anticipating much.

Okay, so we go and I get comfortable at a table facing the blue waters and a view that looked out at the stunning limestone rocks jutting out of the sea. We place our orders and I take a moment to look around me. I see hammocks, old crippled boats, a laid back energy and a chill vibe. It looked really nice, I must admit I was second guessing my initial drawings made of the place from outside. I began to feel, we may just have a good time here. This looks like a pretty cool spot for a relaxed afternoon, maybe play some pool, read a book and enjoy a good meal. It wasn’t until after when some of our new friends (from the restaurant) joined our table and we got talking that we realized we were amidst history. Don’t worry, if you don’t understand what I mean. I will explain, I’m taking my time to recreate the dramatic unveiling we experienced.

Amongst our new friends was the owner of the place and with some tequila to keep us company our host told us a story that shook us. A story that was real, honest and painful. A story that made me realize how quick we are to judge, how ignorant we are of our blessings, how ungrateful we are to this life and how privileged we are living inside our perfect bubbles. With the waves in the ocean splashing and roaring in the background, the light outside dimming as the sunset colored the atmosphere a glistening yellow, we listened with bated breath hanging on to his every word.

Popularly known as the Island’s most chilled-our bar; the irony lay in the fact that this restaurant was rebuilt with reclaimed wood after being destroyed in the 2004 tsunami. Our host had lost four of his family members to the ill-fated tsunami and you can still see long tail boats named after each of them in the restaurant. The tables and chairs that we were sitting on were made of wood saved from the deluge that took many lives and ruined property that unfortunate day years back. Suddenly this quaint, rustic shamble called a restaurant started to look like poetic debris.

At that moment I realized I didn’t want it to be fancier, or cleaner or more refined anymore. I get it now, the primitiveness about the place, the natural ornamentation and chill ambiance. It all made perfect sense to me. This was no restaurant trying to look inviting, it was an honest story waiting to be told. It was a clear reminder of faith, belief, and hope. A relentless strength of neither giving up nor pretending to lay the past. This little restaurant celebrated the beautiful souls; those lost and those that lost with only so much as a hint of the tragedy.

I learned at that moment that life’s not easy, it’s pretty tough. Tomorrow is unknown and unprecedented, I learned that there is no shame in accepting loss, in grieving in our own way, in finding our own purpose to live, in being scared and in embracing all that brings us joy. I am reminded that life is a gift that we were given because we’re strong enough to live it. From that day on, I have added a new motto to my way of living; being thankful for this adventure called life. We travel because we want to explore and see the new right, but some adventures are within.

With every breath, I take in more courage from these inspiring stories and exhale any fear I may possibly feel. I am going to always continue to explore, to be curious and treat every new experience with respect. I am a travel addict not only because of the wonderful things we as travelers get to enjoy but also because this world still has so many stories yet to unfold themselves to me. With this blog piece, I pay my sincere tribute to my friends around the world who have shared their stories with me and changed my life. Thank you for making me a better traveler; today I travel more because I learn more because, with every new trip, I feel like a better person!

Oh and yeah, someone wise told me most things get more amazing with great company, good food, and some tequila ;-)

This traveller has a blog : Miss Travel Junkie

credit photo : Sheena

 

Transformational Trip India

Transformational Trip to India

A moment lived in India by Simon, a traveler from United Kingdom

This was my first trip to India and in fact, outside of Europe and the US. A true westerner! I had no idea what to expect, although I did know that I’d be embarking on a new adventure into a completely new world. I was right. I was visiting for a week for a friends’ wedding and had no idea what to expect from one of India’s upcoming cities.

It took me some time to get used to such different conditions, lifestyle and standards of living. Rich living in the pockets of the poor, poor living in the backyards of the rich. Dust & pollution almost completely blocking out the power of the sun, which I’m used to being so bright it burns my face. Roads that are as chaotic as life at 8am in the London underground. Thinking twice about drinking water from a tap. These are just a few things I had to get used to in India during the first few days…

The moment I was to highlight however was short, and yet it is permanently etched on my memory. A moment that has changed how I see the world, forever. This moment is about being humble. Appreciating life for what really matters, and enjoying each and every moment with those you care about and love. It’s about not being afraid of difference, in fact, it’s about embracing difference and learning from it. Something The West, especially in times when Presidents like Trump reign, can learn so much from….

I was with some friends boarding a boat to the Buddha Statue across the Hussain Sagar lake. The journey was around 15 minutes. As we left the port, I saw on the boat with us a group of school children with their teacher, who were singing and dancing, celebrating like they had won the world cup. They approached us all with warm, curious hearts, asking us where we were from, why we were here and taking photos with us. They were so delighted to have met westerners, we were the first white people they had met. I was overwhelmed with the innocence and trusting approach of these kids. The teacher was, in fact, the ring leader of the chants and songs. So different to my school days, being told to be quiet on school trips and behave. These kids were encouraged to express themselves, and it was clear how much they respected their teacher as a result. It was so refreshing to see children approaching difference with positive intent, warmth and not fearful of difference. Despite being financially poor they were incredibly rich in energy and lust for life.

Here is a video of this moment, enjoy :)

Hitchhiking Laos

Hitchhiking Through Laos

A moment lived in Laos by Kaitlyn, a traveller from USA

I met my four Canadian travel buddies crossing the border from Cambodia to Laos. We were instructed to give our passports over at the border while we waited on the bus for them to be stamped (Which seems like a bad idea in retrospect). The attendant came back with all of our passports and was shouting out all of our nationalities while he returned them. I, as per usual, was the only American on the bus, and Canadians tend to find this humorous.

We ended up traveling through Laos together, riding bikes through the 4,000 islands, sleeping in hammocks, and drinking our way through the streets of Vientiane. We got the idea to hitchhike from 2 blonde girls who said they had done it and it was quite simple. We decided to give it a shot, as bus fees were all of four dollars and what better way to experience local life? Throwing caution to the wind and carrying our huge packs, we boarded trucks and accepted the kindness of locals who would stop and give us rides. After a day of riding with chickens, in the back of pickups, and receiving two marriage proposals from locals, I realized I was feeling quite sick. I was about to get food poisoning, and I was literally in the back of a pick-up in the middle of nowhere. The driver felt bad for me and dropped me off at a guesthouse, but there was no water available and I spent the night puking into a flush-it-yourself toilet.

That being said, I learned a lot from this experience. At 19, many would have thought it was crazy to meet some strangers and hitchhike with them. Maybe it was. But even when I sick, even when I was at my lowest, people stepped in and took care of me. Travel can be brutal sometimes. You have to rely on the kindness of strangers and throw all the comfortable, familiarities of life out the window. However, when you do, you learn that the world is a pretty amazing place. You learn that sometimes it’s okay to just switch off the news and experience life the way it’s meant to be lived. You learn not to just to rely on others, but to trust in yourself. I’ll never forget the feeling of absolute freedom that I felt that day-hair blowing in the wind and laughing as we hurtled over bumpy roads and potholes. It’s one of those moments where you feel absolutely infinite, and when you find it, you’ll remember that feeling forever.

This traveller has a blog : Way farer Kate

credit photo : Way farer Kate
Bali cliffs

Splashy moment in Bali

A moment lived in Indonesia by Agnes, a traveller from Estonia

Nusa Dua peninsula became one of my favourite spots in Bali during my six months of internship there. I am going to tell you about the moment I and my boyfriend visited the place for the first time.

We lived in the capital but the peninsula was about one hour ride away from our place. The ride was rather long and we already had heard the rumours about the corrupted police. Thus, we asked for some advice from a local. If you are a tourist, it does not matter if you are a law obeying citizen who follows all the rules or you break the law, drive without a helmet, a licence or don’t stop at a red light, the police will stop you no matter what. The local advised us to wear long clothes to cover our skin so we would be less noticeable. Also to have a little money in our wallet prepared for the police in case they will stop you and keep the rest of the money somewhere else. This way you can show the police that this is all the money you have and they cannot bribe you for more.

Fully prepared, our ride could start. Luckily we did not meet any greedy policeman. Just the other day we stopped exactly on the stop line while a local feeling the need for speed passed us and drove through the red light. Guess who had to pay the fine?

Finally, when we arrived, the beautiful white sand and blue water were greeting us. The peninsula was packed with restaurants and resorts. It is actually a very touristy place and usually, I am not very fond of mass tourism, but the place is so beautiful you cannot help but fall in love with it. The water was very clear with starfish peeking out once in a while. It was also very warm and made you feel like you are taking a hot relaxing bath. The sun was shining and nothing could be better.

There is one special spot on there, a little island covered with trees donated from other countries and a viewing platform. A little disappointed not finding a tree from my country we went on to the viewing platform. This spot was amazing. The platform was created on top of the rocks surrounded by blue water. You could just sit or stand there on the platform watching the waves crashing the rocks. Sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller splashes. You could notice small crabs climbing on the rocks underneath you. There was a huge group of people observing the waves, making pictures and videos. And suddenly the unexpected happened. A wave so strong and high hit the rocks and before you could even realise what was about to happen the whole crowd was completely wet. I gathered my thoughts being completely soaked and picturing myself sitting there ready to take a picture with my phone but the wave completely covered me instead.

After that moment the whole crowd was squealing and screaming and running back to the ground, far away from the viewing platform. I could not help but laugh at the next site: all the people standing there soaked trying to dry themselves and their precious expensive cameras, smartphones and iPads. The people were all laughing too while screwing their technological equipment apart to dry. People, who just arrived, were not sure anymore if to go on the platform or not. Most people were cautious and the platform stayed empty for a while. I wish I had some rice to dry up my phone. I have heard that rice can absorb the moisture completely leaving the device undamaged. My phone fell into a coma and I had to get ready for a less funny moment when I receive the bill for the reparation work.

Even thought my phone died I would still relive the moment. It was hilarious and exciting at the same time. And we kept going there afterwards, believe it or not, trying to get wet again. The following times we were smarter, though. One of us went on the platform and the other was left behind to capture it and protect our precious items.

After being already wet we went for a swim in the warm glistening water and did some sunbathing on the white sand. We ended our day eating out at a treehouse restaurant. The restaurant had multiple treehouses and you could take a table on one of them. The waiters guided us to a free treehouse, which had three floors and we took the top floor. I was surprised how the waiters could climb the trees every day and carry dishes and drinks to people. The place had a big table and you were sitting on the ground on some cushions. And so we sat back, relaxed and enjoyed our meal. This was the perfect ending to our day. Bellies full almost dried up and smile on our faces.

This traveller has a blog : Look at Her go

credit photo : Agnes
Maldives

Ultimate Bliss in Maldives

A moment lived in Maldives by Anju Prakash, a traveller from USA

Visited Maldives, so many things about the trip that I remember with crystal clarity – Like the richness of the blue water stretching for miles. Like the feel of the granules when I slid my feet into the white sand beach. Like my first-time deep sea diving, and the astounding silence that surrounded as I swam deeper and deeper. Like the multitudes of sea life that bustled around me, in every color of the spectrum perceivable to the human eye. Like the thrill across my spine when I noticed the silhouette of a shark slinking across the dark inky waters of the open sea.

These memories I can recall in technicolor, and are always there to remind me to make time to explore more, travel more, makes more memories.

We stayed at the Adaaran Club Rannalhi, a tropical resort on top of a reef located at charming South Male Atoll in Maldives. This island is about 22 miles from the Male International airport and is, of course, accessible only by ferry. It’s smaller than some of its sister islands, but is as charming and quaint with its bright corals, exotic sea life and a breathtaking lagoon with the bluest waters.

This island resort pretty much has everything you can expect from an island retreat – adventurous water sports and activities, plenty of sand and beach to laze around, amazing food and drinks, beautiful water and beach bungalows, live music.

The first day, we reached around mid afternoon and pretty much spent the rest of the day lazing at the beach, soaking up some vitamin D. I simply cannot gush enough about the beauty of this place. With views looking straight out onto the ocean in every direction, balconies, sun loungers and the sea within seconds, this place has all the ingredients for an unforgettable tropical holiday.

For day 2, we rented some snorkeling gear after breakfast; It’s safe to say I spent the entire day in the water, until my fingers were all wrinkly and prune like. The island has daytime activities where they take you on a boat to the middle of the ocean, and then it’s go time! Snap on the goggles and get ready for a visual treat with some super exotic marine life. Absolutely magical!

Day 3 rolled along (way too fast, in my opinion :D), and I had been anticipating this activity ever since we planned this trip – DEEP SEA DIVING. Most islands in the Maldives have open deep sea diving – you basically slip into the wetsuit, strap on some insanely heavy gear and jump feet first into the water. There are even “orientation” dives for folks who want to give it a try in shallow waters before heading to the deep sea.

It’s not mandatory to know how to swim in order to do this here, although knowing you can swim definitely reduces the paranoia and helps to enjoy the experience better.

This was my first-time deep sea diving, and it was a divine experience. South Male Atoll is an awesome place to dive, the ocean floors are covered with soft corals and schools of red bass fishes swim across. Sightings of grey sharks, white-tip sharks, and eagle rays are frequent as well.

Flew back to reality the next day with tanned skin, sand in hair, and sparkles in my eyes.

This traveller has a blog : Dusty shoes and beautiful views

credit photo : Anju Prakash

 

From a spoilt to the postcard backpacker

A moment lived in Thailand by Kate, a traveller from Czech Republic

“Wow, you’re cool! Alone? Are you crazy? To travel 6 weeks in oriental SE Asia! You’re really good! Is it ever safe for a woman? Well mainly, that you survived, the plane did not fall with you, nobody robbed you, raped etc.” The most common reaction of the family and friends of mine to the question how I enjoyed my trip to the other side of the globe. “And didn’t you travel there to see a friend?” It’s possible to make a life decision within 24 hours? I will be traveling alone and enjoy it BUT what if!? Also, can you think of a million reasons why not? I had about a thousand of them that were running through my head. My brain paths worked at 120 %. Then I saw myself in my mind how I will go defeatedly back to the Czech Republic.

BUT I’ve faced a life challenge! ME, the first time ALONE in Asia! God, maybe I’m crazy?! I collected the last bits of courage to take a deep breath. I let the feel of the thrill from the unknown flow through my body, the feel, which has been ruled by a fear so far. How big of a little fool am I, I have no idea at the moment. I’m lovingly opening my heart to the knowledge of a new country culture. My steps lead me forward into the unknown across the bridge of fear. I didn’t have an idea where I will sleep tomorrow, who could cross my path and where the wind will take me. I only knew one thing. It will never be the same from right now at this moment.

It is late afternoon. The sun burns white beach and I’m sitting in a cozy beach bar, where I’m enjoying a delicious fresh coconut cocktail. Like the waves gently impinge the coast of the island, the birds twitter and form a common siren with the sound of ocean effervescence. So I am smoothly letting my thoughts kidnap me away into the past. “The 1994 has been written. My puberty during the fame of the musical band Kelly Family. How surprising was the fact that I had done far crazier things, just so I could follow their concert tour through Europe daily. I used all transportation options, including hitchhiking. I loved the feel of freedom and space when you did not know, who you will meet, what you will discover, where you will unfold the sleeping bag to go sleep that evening. The following 10 years, I have dreamed about satisfying this feel again. “

“Madam, madam…” From the deep contemplation, I am awakened by the impulse of the waiter. I am given another great chilled coconut cocktail. The sips of coconut milk are so delicious that it’s easy to forget about the outside world. Again I am immersed in the thoughts about the decisions in the past few weeks… “And now, after 10 years, when I was standing face to face in this chance, I was paralyzed with fear. But why was that? Perhaps because I am an adult? As we get more and more mature and advanced, we deal with unimportant things. We are accustomed to our convenience in the comfort zone. Our point of view of courage is controlled more by head than by heart…” I’m sipping the last sip of the coconut milk. I know that my decision was correct. I listen to the heart more, my heart, the heart that experiences my joys but also worries with me daily. I do not regret for a second! At the same time, it has been the craziest and coolest step forward on this fateful crossroads of life. I have gone beyond my comfort zone to find freedom of my life story. The story that I want to write with a pen filled with the experiences that I lived in the moment, here and now!

The sun slowly conjures a symphony of colors on the surface of the ocean. I am cheating on my favorite coconut cocktail with a delicious mango shake. Traveling in a backpacking style, with eliminating extra kilos to the minimum necessary evil on my back, it is a wonderfully liberating feel. Nothing ties you up. You are as free as birds. But it does not change the fact that I like giving gifts to the family and friends of mine, the souvenirs from my travels. I am coming back to the roots of our grandmothers, several decades back, to the days when the world was ruled by the postcards. “Still two hours remaining until the departure of the night bus”, I’m telling myself. The heart is already crying with Thailand-sickness, the time to send the last postcards from Thailand. I’m pulling a couple of them from my backpack. With the pen in my hand, I’m hardly pushing a glistening tear in my eye which falls and rolls down on the last postcard. Tomorrow morning it will only say from Malaysia. I feel in my heart that I’m not giving my last bye from Thailand.

At the time of the advanced technology, where everything is carried mostly electronically, I forgot how a little thing, such as a postcard, can make you happy and create a smile up your cheeks after a very bad day. When out of nowhere, from a mailbox, something other than a bill to pay falls out on you, it really feels priceless. Every new adventure is asking for more and more of them. When your grandmother calls to you, how it conjured up a smile on their cheeks, it warms my heart for a long time :)

This traveller has a blog : Cover the Road

credit photo : wikipedia.org

 

bike ride India

Bike ride in night from Leh to Sarchu

A moment lived in India by Sachendra Pal, a traveller from India

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”

Many of us have enchanted the beauty of Ladakh and experienced the best of roads between the mighty hills. But there are some patches which really test your driving skills. Whenever you visit Ladakh everyone suggests you to start early and halt somewhere before the sunset because night driving is strictly a big NO! Now there are some of the exceptions and I am one of them. I am sharing the story of my 80 km night ride till Sarchu and it would remain the bravest of journey I ever did.
In order to do some extra photo shoot at Pangong Lake in the morning, I left later at around 09:30 in the morning while my group left early at 07:30. and we had to come to Karu, fill up our Petrol tanks and ride towards Sarchu. So, in total, we had to cover 380 km which was covering the ChangLa Pass, TanglangLa Pass, NakeeLa Pass with around 200 km of Off Road riding.

My group was around 30-40 km ahead of me. With no communication and any place to halt in between, i had to cover 80 km more to reach Sarchu. Now it seems to be the daunting task for me, right? And that too ALONE. A maddening task but remember the saying “When It Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going” After 8 PM there was no light. Through my Bull’s headlight, barely I could see more than 10 meters ahead of me. With shooting stone mountains on my right and long trench on my left, I was riding cautiously at 2nd Gear and my speed could rarely exceed 30 km/ph. With God’s grace, I was lucky to see a rare vehicle after 15-20 mins of driving. I was having strong feeling that what would I do if some strange activity happens or someone with knife come on my way? Add to the worst, each and every ghost story came in my mind. At one point, I felt that someone touched my right shoulder and whispered something into my ears. But i concentrated on driving and didn’t look anywhere else. With the temperature dipping very fast(around 5 degrees), my body was shivering and my hands were freezing. After every 20 min I stopped and held silencer with both hands to get some heat and keep blood flowing.
Little I knew that I was going to pass the NakeeLa Pass (2nd highest pass on Leh-Manali Route) and what followed it was the Gata Loops, 21 Hair Pin Bends. I remember that i was at the top of NakeeLa Pass and a board there stating “Gata Loop Starts”. I could see Tail-Lights of a car right down the hill. Then i asked myself “How much time would it take to pass this mighty hill and catch that car?”. But within few mins that car vanished too. I kept on looping around the hill and it took 20 mins to complete the beautiful hair pin bends. It seemed like I was driving on Formula 1 circuit. That was the famous Gata Loops.

When you complete the Gata Loops, after few km, there comes a bridge which lets you cross the river. Believe me, when I crossed it, the bridge produced a sound that it might collapse soon. Just imagine in the pin drop silence suddenly if you hear a sound what would happen? That sound terrified me a lot and add to the worst, after crossing the bridge I stranded at a junction with no idea what path to chose(There was no sign for Sarchu). Luckily I chose to go right and there I saw a board(sigh of relief).

After riding few km more, just before Sarchu, there was a water passing and i had to drive against that water passing as you can see in the pic.
Finally at around 10:30 PM I found my Adventure Camp and most importantly my group. They had also reached around 20 mins before me. When they heard the voice of my bike, one of my guy came out and waived hand and told me to directly come inside the restaurant. After entering in the restaurant, everyone clapped and applauded me and asked “How did you make it so far? We thought you might take halt somewhere in the middle.” I said, “To catch you all, I came so far!” With that note and temperature dipped to around 2 degrees, everyone Cheered!

This traveller has a blog : The crazy rider

credit photo : Sachendra Pal

 

The Tree House of Dreams

A moment lived in Thailand by Angus and Vivian Adventures, travellers from United Kingdom

Living in a tree house was a dream of mine since I was a kid. There is just something so peaceful about climbing into the trees and nesting yourself its branches. My dad built me a tree house when I was younger; I used to spend hours and hours up there, reading a book or just spying on the neighbours. While Angus and I was planning on Thailand trip, I found that my dreams could be a reality. I discovered the Chiang Mai Tree House, a family-owned tree house resort located about 45 minutes from the actual city of Chiang Mai. It was a “must do” on my list, and I immediately booked us a few days in one of their infamous tree houses.

Our time there was a dream come true and a half. Mink, one of the managers, warmly welcomed us when we arrived. He proceeded to give us a small tour of the resort, and I gazed in awe at the place. We were in the middle of a small village, in a lush, tropical area brimming with trees and wildlife, and surrounded my multiple tree houses. Some were 15 meters high, with steps spiralling around the tall trees. Some were larger and surrounded two trees. Then, Mink showed us our tree house, and I swear my jaw dropped. It was the kind of tree house you’ve imagined in your dreams.

The rest of the village was just as stunning. The small resort gave us bikes to borrow for free to explore other areas. Since the village was so small, everything was easily accessible with the bikes. We biked along dirt roads and found gigantic, deserted caves that would have seemed scary if the placed hadn’t been so serene. We had the chance to walk into these caves, looking out for bats and seeing if there were any thai rock carvings on the walls. We were the only two there.

Another place we found reminded me of a scene from the movie, Spirited Away. We found an abandoned village that had been deserted for years. Homes still scattered about the area, and it was dead quiet except for the sound of the wind whistling through our ears. The place was a lush green, with a small lagoon with a rope swing situated by the river. Of course, Angus and I had to jump in. The water was cool, crisp and the place was dead quiet. So quiet, it was almost creepy. But we didn’t let that scare us, and had a great time splashing around without a tourist in sight.

Our few days at the Raebang Pasak Tree House came to an end, but our memories will of the area will last forever. It was an amazing place not just because of the tree house, but because of its location. It was so rural, you had no chance to running into heaps of tourists. You had the place to yourselves, and could enjoy the amazing natural landmarks the area has to offer, from bat caves, to view points, to lagoons and waterfalls, the area was a place I wish to come back to, again and again.

These travellers have a blog : Angus and Vivian Adventures

credit photo : Angus and Vivian

[juiz_sps buttons="facebook, twitter, google, tumblr, mail"]

Kids of Patan

A moment lived in Nepal by Pierre, a traveller from Belgium

It was an evening in October 2013, in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. I was sitting next to exceptional temples of Durbar Square in Patan (Lalitpur, the “city of beauty”) and was watching the motley crowd , merchants, tourists, vendors of peanuts … in an unreal atmosphere by its sounds, lights, smells … I was enjoying watching the games of kids running between the temples which were to constitute for them their usual field of games.

Yet a moment my mind was completely elsewhere when I thought of my recently deceased parents…I was no more in Nepal at that moment. There was no more crowd around me, no more temples. When I came back to the reality, two of the kids previously playing were just close by. They were soon joined by several other children.  Without revealing the back of my mind, one of the child asked me directly about my parents. He then asked me the name of my Mother…. Her name was Eveline. He then pronounced her name and the other children repeated it several times.  Pronounced by all their little voices, the name of my mom sounded like cristal bells, fleeting as beautiful like sparks from fireworks in the night of Patan… Then the kid asked my Father’s name. His name was Jacques. Again, the children pronounced several times the name of my father which resonated as a cristal. My parents were very present then…The kids of Patan were with me but also my Parents…

The crowd amongst the temples was large but despite their games, these children had noticed that I was looking at their games but also that at one point I was with other invisible persons, far, very far from this world… They had understood who was in my mind. They came and brought back my parents very present in this place that they would have very much enjoyed to visit. Very simply, they had comforted me … After, I asked them a few questions before thanking them and letting them returning to their games. The moment was magical.

An advice: if you pass by Patan, think strongly to those that you loved and maybe also the kids of Patan will come to confort you and make you feel very close to those that you think of.  I wish this to you….

Namaste!

PS: Since then, the earthquake of April 25th 2015 claimed many lives and destroyed many temples, also in Patan … I hope these children were able to escape from it …

credit photo: Pierre

[juiz_sps buttons=”facebook, twitter, google, tumblr, mail”]

Sunrise in Cambodia

A moment lived in Cambodia by Nina, a traveller from Sweden

“Two for one dollar, three for one dollar, four for one dollar!” The little girl with her basket of postcards trailed imploringly behind me. When l shook my head she repeated her plea in German and then Spanish. She was one of the hundreds of children that wandered the temples of Angkor Wat. Built during the reign of the Khmer empire, it is the largest religious monument in existence and has the honor of being named the 7th ancient “Wonder of the World”. Once a place of sanctity and worship it is now home to monkeys and barefooted children selling postcards to the throngs of tourists that flock there every day.

I was one of those tourists and this was why l had come to Cambodia. l had arrived the evening before with my backpack and visions of haunting temples reflected in pools of lily-covered moats. Stepping out of the airport alone, not knowing where l would stay or who l would meet l was greeted by the setting sun sinking below the plains where the town of Siem Reap lay hazily in the distance. The potholed road into town in search of a hostel was a whirling chaos of bicycles, cars, and occasional cows, for 5 dollars l was given the grand tour in a tuk-tuk and my first taste of Cambodia.

First impressions were the dust. Everything was covered in dust, having just flown in from the lush islands of Thailand, this far inland l felt claustrophobic.
Arriving at the “Siem Reap hostel” l checked in and signed up for a 5am sunrise tour the next day. Then l traded my flip flops for runners and went to find some street food. In this respect, Cambodia did not disappoint. The streets were littered in food carts, where everything from fried ice-cream, fruit shakes, noodles or grilled meat could be bought. In a country where the currency is so weak, that they prefer to use Dollars then their local Riel, it almost felt like being in a pound shop. It seemed everything you enquired the price on was “one dollar”.

4:45 am the alarm rang and groggily l stumbled off the second bunk fumbling around for my clothes in the dark. I had spent the evening talking with my roommates until pure exhaustion turned my replies into mumbled incoherence. Making my way down to the entrance l exchanged nods with the two others who had signed up for the tour. We were shown to our tuk-tuk, and the first 15 minutes we all silently sat in the dark watching the city fly by on our way to the temples. But soon the wind cleared our heads and we introduced ourselves. There was Neal the New Yorker with the ready smile and dark unruly hair and Felix the stoic Berliner, who would casually drop stories about being abandoned in Bolivia or trekking the Himalayas. These two would end up being my steadfast companions for the duration of our stay in Cambodia; we would get lost together, climb ancient ruins, eat crickets and scorpions, and stay up all night talking and drinking 50-cent beers in dodgy bars.

Arriving at the temples we made our way to the sunrise viewpoint and patiently sat waiting for the sun to slip over the temples carved domes. The moment l had dreamed of was now a reality. Slowly we watched in awe as the cool dawn air turned thick with heat, the sun slowly burning away the mist. The pools of water reflected the temples like a mirror and the colors flared orange and red. Monkeys chattered in the trees beside us and you could almost imagine yourself thrown back to the days of the Khmer empire.

All too soon the sun cleared the temples and it was over, the little girl arrived with her basket of postcards going from group to group her discount increasing with every shake of the head. I had been warned not to buy anything from the children as it encourages the parents to keep them out of school, but l couldn’t resist reaching for my bag of crisply wrapped caramels. Guiltily I passed her two. One for her and one for her brother who sat on a nearby tree stump, bare bottomed in a ripped Adidas t-shirt. She instantly scampered away and gleefully shared her sweets with the little boy who sucked on the wrapper and smiled at me, dark eyes crinkling with pleasure.

The rest of the day Neal, Felix and I wandered the ruins and exchanged stories of travels and shared tips on where to head to next. It was a day filled with laughter and memories that will last a lifetime, we were so different yet shared the same passions and dreams and that common thread was like a bond that drew us together. Our religion or social status didnt matter, here we were equals, just as dusty and hungry for new experiences with that special spark that only strangers on the road together experience.
After three days together we went our separate ways but it still amazes me how fast friendships form when traveling. Traveling alone is never lonely and that day two strangers became as close as lifelong friends and the moment we shared watching the sunrise over the ruins of Angkor Wat will always be with me.

credit photo: Nina

[juiz_sps buttons=”facebook, twitter, google, tumblr, mail”]