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Unplug to Connect

I don’t know about where you are, but here, in this part of the world, it’s a common scene to look at the surroundings and see people looking down to their phones. It’s a sad view. And in this part of the world, it’s mostly because people are just scrolling on various types of media on their phones.

And by people, I’m including myself.

Which is why, in the last 6 years, I’ve made the choice to give up social media for every lent season (with the exception of last year). So that is roughly 40 days of no facebook, no instagram, no twitter, no other online platform that engages in social connection. Each time. I think I’ve done it bout 5 times.

Why? Cause I have some level of attachment to it. Whether it’s an attachment of getting stories so that I’m not missing anything. Or an attachment of sharing about my life. Or an attachment of using it as a mind-numbing time-filler.

And the times I’ve given them up are absolutely rejuvenating. Not to mention, cutting off an attachment always feels extremely liberating.

In the last 2 years, I’ve also started attending silent retreats. These are the kinds where we are completely cut off from the world. No watching anything, no listening to anything, no reading, no writing, and obviously no communication with any devices or to any human beings around.

The first time I did it, it was a 5-day retreat with about 3.5 days of silence. The second time was a 10-day retreat with 9 days of silence.

These retreats have always been magical. I absolutely enjoy the silence.

Being unplugged is the greatest detox one can have. It’s like we’re removing all sorts of pollutions from our system.

And more than anything else, it’s a great time to connect with oneself. And amazing realizations happen when one connects with oneself.

Coming back to the everyday, I’m generally pretty alright when it comes to being glued to the phone. I generally choose to put my phone down and be away from it for a period of time. I then spend the time meeting people, or reading a book, or making art, or enjoying art, or cooking, or walking outside. There are really tons of things you can do when you’re away from the phone. There are even days when I really consider living without my cell phone.

But there are those times when I find myself getting very attached to social media and other communication apps. I would be aware that I’m constantly opening them even when there are no updates. And when I put down my phone, I just want to pick them up again. Generally, these are times when I didn’t want to face myself and I’m running away from my own problems.

When I get to this realization, I normally choose to turn the phone off and not touch it and any social media plus chat apps (like whatsapp) for about 6-10 hours (waking time. Not sleeping time. We are already unplugging during sleeping time).

And then I spend the time coming back to myself and being mindful of the present. And I let the voices come, I let the anxiety come up and face whatever it is I have to face. And then I let it go and release it and find that balance again.

I realize that so far, I’ve been doing this at least once a month. I have my phone-fasting day every now and then. And normally it’s never scheduled. It gets decided then and there, sometimes out of nowhere :).

Remember, we used to live without all of these. No cell phones, no medias. And it was quite fun, wasn’t it? And we were more connected to each other. Yes, we had less people we were connected to. But we had deeper connection with the ones we do.

We were also more connected to our own selves.

So once in a while, I unplug so I can connect. So I can clear out whatever confusion I had and therefore allowing good things to come in. Good things like clarity.

I also unplug so I can connect with others. I make it a point in my relationships to put down the phones during time together. Especially meal times.

But I have to admit, with some group of friends, I still get sucked by bright light of the phone. I’m working on it and I’m writing this as a form of accountability, so you can remind me if I do that when I hang out with you.

Anyway, I’m writing about unplugging as a simple reminder. So we remember to do it. And that we may remind others to do it as well.

I believe it’s the little things that change the world. Want to make a difference in the world? Want more peace and less hatred in this world? Let’s start by connecting with ourselves and others. Cause if we see ourselves as good and peace, and if we see others as our brothers who are also good and peace, we would not even think about hurting others.

Let’s spread the love and add more joy to this world :).

Ciwidey

I took my parents to stay in the mountainous area south of my hometown for my Birthday. So, I’d like to share a little bit about the town of Ciwidey.

Firstly, since I love geography, here’s the place on the map so you can find out where it is in relation to any large cities or wherever you are.

Secondly, I included some of the photos I took to give you visuals. So make sure you can see them :).

Ciwidey is roughly a 2-hour drive away from Bandung city area. Of course it all depends on traffic, which can be really bad. So if you’re ever interested in visiting, I strongly suggest to go on weekdays. Plus, the town and the tourist attractions get really crowded in the weekends with tourists (mostly locals, Malaysians, and Singaporeans).

Here are some gorgeous sites you can visit in Ciwidey.
(Note: Since all of these sites are tourist attractions, you would have to pay entrance fee and parking fees. Any costs I mention below does not include these 2 fees).


SITU PATENGGANG

SituPatengan

Situ Patenggang (also spelled Patengan) is a gorgeous lake surrounded by tea plantations. The banner that I use above (that features my lovely father), is also a photo of the lake.

Like any other beautiful natural attraction in Indonesia, there’s a legend attached to it. A Prince separated from his Princess. Both searched for each other for a very very long time (The name Patengan is derived from Sundanese word Teang-teangan, which means searching for each other). They finally found each other on a rock, which evolved to be the island in the middle of this lake.

So because of that, any couple that goes around this little island, called Pulau Cinta, or Island of love, and visits it, will be blessed with an everlasting love.

IMG_2092You can rent a small Swan pedal boat for IDR 30,000 (Bout 3 SGD and 2.20 USD) to go round and round the lake in an hour.

Or if you have a large party, you can rent one of the larger boat. Unfortunately, I didn’t ask how much was the cost for that.

The area that you can visit is not very large. But you can find many bamboo huts where you can sit down and enjoy the scenery.

SituPatengan2 I suggest bringing a nice little picnic and spend some time in nature, surrounded by gorgeous trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


KAWAH PUTIH

KawahPutih

THE most famous attraction in the area that has brought millions of people to visit. 90% of people from Bandung has probably visited this place. But this was my first time (and my parents’ first time as well).

Kawah Putih literally means White Crater. It is really only a crater filled with water. But it is beautiful. I just looove the color of the water. Not quite sure what gives it the color.

But let’s come back to the fact that it’s a crater of an active volcano. There’s health hazard signs around the crater that reminds you to stay there for only 15 minutes. And everyone is asked to purchase a mask before getting into the crater area. If you’re only spending like 5-10 minutes there, you’d be fine. I personally started getting a headache after 10 minutes. Probably from the sulphuric gas I was inhaling. So really, it’s beautiful, but take care, and don’t spend too much time there.

The crater is located on the mountain. So the temperature is colder. And to get up there from the parking lot, there are 2 options: 1) to drive your own car up, which costs IDR 150,000. 2) Pay for a ride in a shared, no door-no window, Ontang Anting (literally translated to “being swung around”) with 10-11 other people that costs IDR 15,000 per person. My choice, no 2 by far. Why? It’s adventurous and fun. :D. And you don’t ruin your own car driving up the road to the crater, which has lots of pot holes, and sharp turns.

If you want to read more about Kawah Putih, here’s its Wikipedia.


TEA PLANTATION

Tea

I love love love tea plantations. In my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful sights on earth: seeing the rolling hills covered with lush green tea plants.

So, I got really excited when I saw the tea plantations. In my mind I would find a place to sit down and drink a cup of hot tea. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a nice place to do that. So, sorry, not much recommendation here.

But I did talk to a friend of mine, who told me that when she goes to the tea plantation with her family, she would do a picnic. Her family would bring a mat and all the food and have a picnic in the middle of all the greens! What a great idea!

So if that interests you, that’s something you can explore.


HOT SPRINGS, ROOMS, STRAWBERRIES, AND OTHER NOTES

Ciwidey also have tons of sites where you can soak yourself in hot springs water. Unfortunately, I only visited one in the form of a public pool that was really crowded. So I’m not going to recommend that here. Will let you know if I find a nice one.

There are also lots of pretty-looking accommodations in the form of villas and bungalows. But you gotta know which ones are the nice ones cause sometimes they are not well-maintained.

Room The place we stayed at is called D’Riam Riverside Resort. We picked a riverside room (found a much cheaper price on traveloka.com: good site to find deals if you travel in indonesia).

The river is just right outside our room. That’s what the view looks like from inside the room. There’s a giant window overlooking lush greenery.

The rooms are modern western rooms. Clean and generally new. Not bad at all. Staffs are nice. But I’d still suggest to not expect so much :).

Another favorite activity in Ciwidey is to go and pick Strawberries. I think it costs IDR 100,000 for 1 kg of strawberries. I personally had never done it. Not very interested in it. Maybe one day.

In summary, if you’re looking for a getaway to nature, Ciwidey is beautiful. I got to breathe clean mountain air, which was awesome. I slept to the sound of crickets outside (super awesome too).

It’s an alternative you can consider when you’re traveling to Indonesia.

And with that, I hope I have inspired you to go out and get yourself some nature :).

Thank You

Today is exactly 32 years since I came out of my mother’s womb. I was born on Friday, 11 May 1984, at somewhere around 5 AM.

(If you subscribed to my letters, you’ll notice that I schedule my non-travel edition letters to come out on the 11th of every month at 5 AM Bandung time. That particular combination of numbers is magic to me.)

On this special day, I’d like to express my gratitude of the amazing life I’ve had.

I could not have predicted I would be where I am today, at this age.

My 6 year old self probably thought that I would grow up in Bandung and end up being an engineer like my parents. I ended up leaving home at 15, and spent the 17 years after that away from home.

In the States, at the exciting age of 18, I thought I’ve found the perfect field (Information Systems), and I was going to work at a multi-national company and live a happy life in the States till I’m old. Well I did love my major, ended up working for a huge huge multi-national firm. But I ended up leaving all that behind and moved thousands of miles back to Singapore to enroll myself in dance, just because I wanted to. It would make me happy and I was tired of being sad.

My 26 year old self thought that was it. I would graduate with a dance degree, be a dancer, and live in Singapore. Little did I know that couple years after that, I would switched to arts management, earned my Master’s degree, worked in it a little bit, and decided that I should start something on my own and moved back to the homeland.

I also thought I would get married at 28 and have children in my early 30s. Now looking back, I think I was waay too young and so not ready to get married at 28. But I’m getting closer to feeling ready to get married. Which is exciting and scary at the same time.

And that brought us to the present. Life is full of turns and flips and drops and climaxes and I end up not where I thought I would be. But my oh my, I’ve had an amazing life.

I’ve been blessed to have seen many parts of this world. Not as many as some people perhaps. But I looked at my travel instagram photos and realized how I’ve been to so many beautiful places in this world.

I have an amazing family who continuously supports me, despite my curly topsy turvy journey in life and despite their fears and doubts. And I can never thank them enough. I love my family so so much.

I have met so many amazing souls in this journey that have guided me in navigating my life.

I have loved and been loved so deeply by all of my romantic partners. I am so blessed to have always met men who are good, solid, sweet men, who never treated me badly. And I’m so blessed to have learned so much from each and every one of them.

And through all of that (especially through the heartbreaks), I have learned to love myself. I have also learned the meaning of unconditional love.

Love, in its highest form, is the most important thing in this world. Nothing else matters. I am forever grateful I have an abundance of it surrounding me in the forms of friends and family.

So on this special day, I want to say thank you. Thank you for being in my life. I’m thankful that we have crossed path at one point in our lives. Let’s raise our cup/ glass/ mug of our preferred beverage to a lifetime of connection.

And in the spirit of not knowing where our lives is going to take us, I’d like to share a quote from probably the best blog post I’ve ever read. It’s written by the beautiful Kate Northrup. (And I strongly encourage you to take your time to read the original post in the link above):

“You won’t do it at the right time.

You’ll be late.

You’ll be early.

You’ll get re-routed.

You’ll get delayed.

You’ll change your mind.

You’ll change your heart.

It’s not going to turn the way you thought it would.

IT WILL BE BETTER.”

And indeed, my life has turned out better that I thought it would be.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

The Flight/ Train Therapy

I just came back home yesterday from picking up my grandma’s youngest sister who lives in Solo, a city in Central Java, Indonesia. Here it is on the map. It made me think about journeys and long rides. And I just feel like writing about it.

We took a 9-hour train ride from Solo to Bandung. The train ride was beautiful. It gave me a chance to connect with my grandma’s sister. It also reminded me how I often go through deep reflections or process a major emotional release or gain an exceptional insight and clarity on long rides like this. Especially on plane rides.

I have shed so many tears or go through massive emotions on plane rides. When my grandpa died in 2009, my uncle and I flew immediately from LA to Bandung. We sat on different rows but I knew that both of us cried so much on that flight.

For some reasons, my breakups tend to be close to plane rides. And on those rides, I become extremely emotional. I could listen to a Coldplay song on the entertainment system and then burst into tears. I could watch an innocent movie and just cry a river. Plane rides have provided excellent space to wallow, tens of thousands of feet above the ground, and contributed to my healing process so many times.

I experienced massive fear of dying on my ride from Chiang Mai to Singapore. This happened shortly after those series of plane crashes a couple years ago. And it was as if I picked up the anxiety of everyone on the plane. I’m not normally afraid of flying. But that moment, I was filled with fear. But somehow, I knew it wasn’t only mine.

And almost always, I have to journal on my flights. Often times I don’t have anything to write on, so I would grab the paper bag you get for motion sickness and start writing on them. My journals have paper bags and scraps of paper inserted between their pages from these outbursts of desire to write and pen my thoughts.

My friend call this the flight therapy. My theory these days is just that my body vibrates on a different frequency while I’m flying. And this frequency brought me closer to perhaps a highest self. Or maybe not. But for sure, this frequency amplifies my emotion and pushes me to release them, one way or another. I think this phenomenon (for lack of better word), is also due to sitting still not doing anything much for a long period of time, and therefore sort of forces me to reflect on myself and my life.

Train rides have the same effect of getting me to be reflective. But not as much as plane rides do.

Of course, the emotions I released weren’t always sadness, frustrations, or fear. In the last plane ride and train ride I took in the last couple days, I actually felt a lot of gratitude. Huge gratitude on the plane ride cause I felt extremely loved and cared for. And on the train ride, I felt a lot of awe of the beauty of this world. But also lots of deep reflective moments of how humans can be so narrow-minded and how we should always teach kindness and love to the next generations.

Anyway, I find these rides amazing and fascinating. We take these rides to get from point A to point B. But often times, if you’re like me, we travel inwards from the outside into ourselves and learn something in the process.

Yeah, traveling for me is never just to see the world. It’s also a process to be at peace with myself and to learn more about myself.

Always Travel with a Sarung

The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favorite books ever and I’d like to start with a sentence from it:

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels. A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have.”

 

I agree. Though for me, it’s not a towel, but a sarung. And well, I’m not a hitch hiker, but a traveler.

The one item that I always bring whenever I travel is my sarung. Sometimes I even bring more than one. I normally bring 2 when I travel in South East Asia. And 1 when I travel outside of South East Asia. It’s the most versatile item in my bag and I use it in so many ways. So here are 11 reasons on why I always travel with a sarung:

1. It’s great as a cover up to enter a religious place.

Many temples and religious places require both male and female to cover their legs. So if you’re in a hot country and been traveling in shorts, you can easily use a sarung to cover up. For females, you can use it as a head cover when you visit a mosque.
Sarung-Temple

2. Perfect as a blanket or a wrap if you’re cold

Whether you’re on the train or in the car or airplane, Sarung is a great way to warm yourself up if you’re cold.

Or if you go to a hostel and find out they don’t have blanket (which happened to me before), you got your sarung!

3. Of course you can simply use it as a sarung

Often times I love wearing a sarung instead of a skirt. I use it around the house/ hotel. I even use it with my top to go out. And as how it’s most commonly used, sarung is a perfect body wrap when you go to the beach or to swim.

4. Or be creative and turn it into other items of clothing!

You can turn a sarung into a dress, a top, a belt. Or even a hat! Check out Harper’s Bazaar’s idea on turning a sarung (a large scarf in this case) into various dresses on this link.

Sarung-Mandi5. To cover up before you shower/ To cover up while you shower

This is actually one of the essential and traditional use of sarung in South East Asia.

If, like me, you stay in many hostels with shared bathroom, sometimes, the shared batrooms are located down the hallway where you gotta pass lots of people. And sometimes the shower cubicle is so small that it’s impossible to put on your fresh clothes without getting them wet after the shower. So, in those situations, I use my sarung before and after the shower so I can walk past people and not worry so much about hanging my clothing items in the tiny cubicle.

In rare instances where you end up in a monastery or a village and have to take a bath from a bucket behind a 1-side-only wall that is as high as your chest (true story of a traveler), you can use your sarung to take a bath. This was how south east Asian ladies take baths in the river back in the days. Since then, our mothers bring us sarung when we girls go camping. Cause well, there’s only a river to take bath from, and ya gotta cover up!

6. Use it as a towel replacement when you go to the beach.

I did this so many times in this last trip to Bali. Just cause I only had a small exercise towel with me. So normally I use my small towel to wipe my face and wipe the rest of the body with the sarung.

7. Use it to cover yourself when you need to change in public place or places like the car.

Use it to cover your legs if you need to change your pants in public. Wrap it loosely around your top if you need to change your top in public.

8. Lay it on the ground when you go to the beach or picnic

Pretty self explanatory. I think we do this all the time.

9. Turn it into a bag if you’re in desperate needs to have an extra bag.

You can follow the steps on this link to make your sarung bag. Or be creative and make your own!

10. Make your own makeshift tent to give some shade when you need to.

Find a branch or any stick to prop it up. And go underneath it. Some places get so hot you’ll be glad you got a sarung to get a temporary shade.

11. Use it as a table cloth if you have a special event and need something nicer to spruce up the look.

Or it can also be used as a wall decoration or any other part of the decoration!

 

If you don’t have one yet, I say, get yourself a sarung!

Do some shopping around and find one that suits you best. You want one with soft material that dries easily. And also large enough to be wrapped around your body.

I personally love my 2m x 1m sarung cause I can turn that into a wrap dress. I also tend to bring my beach sarungs rather than my batik cloth cause the beach ones are more versatile for traveling. I keep my batik cloth for special ocassions where I have to dress up and use my kebaya.

If you need any advice of recommendation, just holler and I’ll be happy to help you!

And if you have an item that you can’t travel without, I would love to hear it!

And with that, I hope you continue to explore this magnificent world we live in.