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Retreat and Relax

We are coming closer to the middle part of the year. And since almost half a year has passed, I’d like to talk about Retreat and Relax cause between now and August is a great time to do both!

Why?

Cause we’re going into summer time in the northern hemisphere and winter time in the northern hemisphere. Both are great times to take it easy – whether to be more playful, or to take a reflective rest. 

Cause it’s the school holidays for those of you with little ones, still in school, or teaching at a school.

Cause it’s a good time to take a break, recalibrate, and gather energy to head towards the second half of the year :).

I believe that our beings are made up of a mind, a body, and a soul and that all 3 parts form a balanced trinity that make up our ultimate healthy, beautiful, amazing self. Unfortunately, most of the time, we pay more attention to 1 aspect of the trinity and neglect the others.

For example, in this crazy fast-paced world, often times, we only stop and take sick days from work when we are physically very sick. It’s rare that we stop and take a sick day when we’re just mentally exhausted. And that is not quite right cause a mental exhaustion impairs our ability to perform as much as a physical ailment. Luckily, our body is a very intelligent being, and normally we are just so exhausted that we take off days for the sake of our sanity and well-being.


Here’s an idea: don’t wait till your body sounds an alarm to take a break.

 

When was the last time you take a break from your life and really allow your mind, body, and soul to rest? When was the last time you go on a retreat?

Ever since I made my mental health and well-being a priority a few years ago, I started taking a retreat yearly and that is one of my greatest ways to stay balanced and to be reminded of the greater picture in my life. Some retreats led me to a journey of wonder and magic, like this one. Some reminded me why it is important to unplug from the world from time to time (as I wrote in my old post here).

So folks, if any part of you wishing you were taking a break somewhere else or if you’re wishing to retreat and relax, don’t hesitate. Make the time. Open your calendar and book the time and start making all necessary reservations.

Commit to honoring this time-off as much as you commit to your work cause your health and well being is extremely important and should be a priority in your life.


Now, if you’re interested to go on a retreat and don’t know where to start or where to look for one, you can join me and a bunch of friends at Glow in Thailand by Social Zen Retreats.e-flyer of Glow in Thailand retreat

My friends and I will be holding a retreat in August in the beautiful Koh Samui! Your days will be filled with Yoga, Meditation, Dancing, Great nutritious food, Pool time, and time to connect with the beauty of the island. Head over here to read all the details about Glow in Thailand!

I am extremely excited about facilitating Yoga and meditation in this retreat and I would be sooper excited if you could join us! It would be really awesome to share this beautiful retreat with you!

 

I hope you you give yourself a chance to retreat and relax and I hope you get to reconnect with your true self.

Good vibes,

PS: share with me stories and photos of your trip! I would love to hear about it!

Things I learned from climbing Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai is located in the Eastern part of Egypt. In the Bible stories, it is the place where Moses received the 10 commandments. I was blessed enough to hike the small mountain in my recent trip to the Middle East. I don’t climb a lot of mountain, but I have to say, it is the best hike I’ve experienced in my life. And here are a few things I learned from that hike.


  1. It’s okay if you can’t see where you’re going

Hiking to the top of Mount Sinai was a hike of rocky terrain in pitch-black darkness. We started on the ground at 11 am. We took a Camel ride for roughly a couple hours and then we started hiking to the top of the mountain at about 2 AM.

We carried our flashlights so we could still see. But what we could see was only the step right in front of us cause that’s where the flashlight was pointed to. If not for our big group that had made a snaking line ahead, I wouldn’t know what the path was like.

It was only when the sun started rising on our way down that I could see that the rocky steps were right next to a deep fall. And honestly, I was thankful I wasn’t able to see that while climbing up.

Our family with the tiny flashlights we carried to climb Mount Sinai. This was on the way down so there was some light. Yep it was THAT dark even with some light.

That’s kinda like life isn’t it? Often times we really don’t know where life is going to take us and we can only see the step right in front us. And even with just that 1 step, the fear that rises is big enough to stop us from taking it. What if we can really see where we’re headed and see how steep is the climb? Hundreds more fears might rise up and we might just decide to go back and just sit in one corner cause the climb is too intimidating.

So really, it’s okay to not be able to see where we’re going. Just take it one inch at a time, one step at a time. Have courage and faith, and we’ll get there. And also, there’s always others in front of you that will show the way :).


2. When we’re afraid and doubting ourselves, helping others can help us find our courage.

I had huge doubts on whether I could make it to the top of Mount Sinai. This doubt was in my mind for days and was exemplified in the hours leading to the hike. To be honest, I was doubting my own strength (silly I know, I’m actually pretty fit and should be fit enough to climb the mountain).

After the couple hours of Camel ride, we stopped at a small coffee shop before continuing the hike for another couple hours on foot. By this time, the below-0-degree-celcius-cold air started hitting me hard and I started to shake quite uncontrollably.

Hello, Mr Camel! I love you! This is one of the camels that are used to climb half of Mount Sinai.

Normally when that happens, it tends to get worse and I get sick shortly after. So my doubt was getting stronger. Every second I was questioning whether I could make it to the top. But I was curious, you see. I am a very curious person and that’s how I’ve accomplished a lot of things in life. So my curiosity won and I said to my family that I would go as far as I could. If I couldn’t do it, I would turn around.

So I started climbing, my parents were following behind me. After a few minutes, we started seeing that the climb was quite tricky and we had to be careful with the rocks. Armed with my tiny flashlight, I decided to take on the role of finding the best rock to step on and the best path to climb so my parents can just follow me.

I suddenly took that responsibility of ensuring the safety of my parents and therefore shifting the focus out of myself. I, who was previously more doubtful than them and was legitly scared, started giving them encouragement. I forgot about myself, step by step we go, and we all made it to the top. I cried at the top cause I thought I was never gonna make it.

A lot of times, my fear and doubts get extrapolated cause I kept turning around and getting stuck in my own head. Shifting the focus to others forces us out of our own self-pity hole and we can actually see things more objectively.

Have you heard people giving advice for someone to do volunteer work when that person is being rather miserable? Well this is one of the reasons why :). Sometimes we just have to be with others so we can get out of ourselves.


3. This Universe is really all-mighty and Divine and absolutely breathtaking.

This last lesson is not really a lesson but a reminder.

We are all created just right and we’re all at the right place and always at the right time. The camels are created just right. Their eyes are more sensitive than bats to see in the darkness. Their legs are created to walk on those sandy and rocky surfaces. And they really are some of the most graceful creatures on earth (I fell in love with them).

We, humans are created just right with the intelligence and the ability to help ourselves and help others. And despite what we often like to deny, everything that happens in our lives happen for a reason. If we can see the lessons in them and learn from them, we can continuously grow and adapt to our lives. And we remember things from our ancestors. I followed Venus as my guiding light during the hike, probably just like the early Homo sapiens did when they roamed the land.

We are all connected. Humans and animals, and plants, and rocks. My camel guy, Ahmed, is an Egypt Bedouin who lives thousands of miles away from me. But we both have the same basic human traits. He was able to speak English with me, but even without English, we both spoke the language of Respect. So did him and the camel, and I and the camel. So did both of us and the magnificence of the Mountain. We all spoke 1 language: Respect.

The S T A R S. My goodness. The S T A R S. They filled the velvety night sky with  their glittery brilliance and they naturally enchanted all pairs of eyes that look upon their beauty.

The darkness. Oh how it wasn’t just 1 shade of black. It was a million shades of black. And my eyes could capture them all.

The beginning of sunrise at Mount Sinai. Breathtaking.

And the beauty of the Moonset and the change of color in the dark horizon on top of Mount Sinai was so beautiful, I wept upon its beauty.

We are a part of that beauty and we are part of that bigger magnificent connection that goes beyond our selves. We can open our senses and continue to be in tune to their messages. There are many lessons, stories, songs, and tales stored in these connections. We just have to be open and be willing to listen.

So there. Take it one step at a time, don’t just focus on yourself, and always stay connected, be open and listen to this marvelous Earth.

Let’s continue to marvel at the beauty of this Universe, shall we?

Celebrating Women

Dear Beautiful People

I’m writing today on a day that is marked as International Women’s Day. (Anyone know why particularly 8 March?). And today, I’d like to tell you my share of being treated differently, because I am a woman. 

It was less than a week ago. Our family was in Jordan. We were on our last day of our trip and we haven’t gotten anything for my youngest brother. So the solution was to go to the shop at the hotel and find something for him.

We found a couple of nice t-shirts and a few trinkets and started bargaining for the price (turns out you can bargain anywhere in Jordan). The gentleman who was manning the store was playing hard. He was still giving us high prices. We know cause we bought similar items outside and paid much cheaper.

My mom, my sister, and I continued asking for better price in a very sweet manner. Bargaining is always a little game and we were in the game. But still, the guy wasn’t budging and continued being so hard.

And all of a sudden, my dad popped his head in the store to tell us that he was going to go up to the room first cause he had to work. And this shopkeeper, suddenly brightened up, waved excitedly at my dad and said, just as my dad walked out of the door, “Hello my friend! I give you a good price, cause you’re a Man!”

I honestly felt like I was jabbed in the heart.

I wish I heard wrong, but nope, he just blatantly discriminated us ladies cause we are ladies.

The Taurean bull in me saw red and went wild, …inside my head.

I reminded myself that I am a visitor in that land, an Arab land where some still believe that women are less than men. I felt like I still had to be respectful of their culture.

I’m not sure if anyone else heard what he said but mom and sister still wanted to buy the things. Me, I was already in a foul mood. I had 1 t-shirt in the pile and I decided to say, “well, if that’s the price, that’s too expensive for me. I don’t want it anymore,” and I pulled my t-shirt out of the pile.

And just from this small thing, the shopkeeper decided to put up the most dramatic upset act ever (he should win an oscar for that). I was tense from holding anger, he was acting upset, the air in the store was tense. I was ready to leave.

But my mom is the sweetest and long story short, she decided to buy everything and we left the store. And that’s the end of the story.

This took place last week, the same week that a member of European parliament said that women should be paid less than men. 

Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that we’re in the 21st century. And I take for granted the fights that have been put up by so many women before me.

I have been super blessed to be born out of a line of strong women, and naturally, this makes me a feminist. I’m not the ‘rah-rah burn my bra’ kind of feminist, but when I hear people say that the fight still goes on, I nod and say, yeah, it does. Cause I’m still paying tax on my tampons and pads. Cause there was only 1 option of contraceptive pills in Singapore. Cause some guys found out I like spaceships and decided I’m too much of a boy to be attracted to.

In this little fight we’ve been having for centuries, I choose the gentler approach, which is first and foremost to treat other women equally – cause even that takes conscious effort. Just pause and reflect for a second and think about the time you discriminate people of the same gender just cause you think they’re less than you. I’m sure you have. I have, many times.

And secondly, to love the men in my life and treat them with so much respect. I believe in equality, but i absolutely love men and they have their roles in this life. And I believe that female energies are meant to be with male energies, in whatever forms of relationship it manifest. Without yang, there can’t be a yin.

And I love that I can be this soft, feminine creature that can be supported by the strong arms of a man. Which does not mean that I’m weak or can’t support myself at all. I just simply like the dance. 

And it’s always a dance, isnt it? We take turns sharing the weight, supporting each other, in our unique ways.

And really, finally, which is the summary of the first 2 approaches, is really to treat every being (human, animals, plants, rocks) with the same love and respect cause hey, we’re all made out of the same cosmic dust. 

So, Happy Women’s Day, folks! I am celebrating being a Woman and all the womanly qualities I have. But even above it all, I’m celebrating our progress towards a society where everyone treats each other equally, with love and respect.

Let’s continue the dance!

An Encounter with the Soul of Bali

I landed in Bali with a prayer and a hope to heal the emptiness in my heart. As I left the airport, the island began to answer my prayer in its own charming way. Ubud’s expansive rice fields reminded me of my limitless capacity to love. The waves of Canggu beach woke up my courage and yoga brought me to a space of gratitude. I was almost whole, but little did I know I would find that completeness in the most unexpected way.

One afternoon, after walking the busy streets of Legian, I hopped on a motorbike taxi, heading to a yoga class in Sanur. The bike dropped me off at the end of a narrow alley where the noise from the traffic descended and I found myself in front of a bamboo hut by a quiet beach. I quickly signed up for a class but since I had a full hour to wait, I proceeded to sit on the beach and listened to the sound of gentle waves lapping the shore.

Suddenly the soothing sound of waves was broken by children’s laughter. Four young Balinese boys came running across carrying a large kite. Their wild laughter and excitement filled the air as they attempted to get the kite airborne and before I knew it I found myself smiling and cheering them on.

Eventually the boys pulled the kite away and a little sadness came over me, only to evaporate as soon as one boy began to sing Kecak, the Balinese gamelan human choir. I was in awe as the others joined in and I heard a harmonious pentatonic melody made up of each boy’s unique syncopated tone. Their little bodies moved in response to the underlying notes and completed the living orchestra. Their voices stirred the air and created vibrations that traveled through the space and touched my heart.

Bali had invited me to see a glimpse of its soul through the impromptu act of the boys expressing and communicating their joy through Kecak. Its distinctive Balinese melody sounding like it was carved out of the people’s connection to their land and gods. The soul of the music was reflected in the sway of the coconut trees and the fragrance of the offerings. As the music soothed and enchanted me, I reflected upon my own connection to nature and the lives around me and found myself whole.

The boys and I exchanged no words, but their presence and combined energy had taught me to always keep my own spark of joy and express it freely. On the sand of Sanur beach, I said a prayer of gratitude for the completeness I had found through the pure soul of four Balinese boys.

Balinese Boys playing kite at Sanur beach.
Balinese Boys playing kite at Sanur beach.

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 :).