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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 :).

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.