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WHAT DOES ‘BODHI’ MEAN ANYWAY?

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Bodhi is both a Pali and a Sanskrit word meaning awakened, formed from the root word budh (to awake, become aware, notice, know or understand).

Buddha having attained enlightenment, while sitting under the Bodhi Tree

“Those who have attained enlightenment lose all sense of fear and worry. They’re no longer bothered by mundane matters and see the incredible potential available in each moment. They understand the way life works and the design of the infinite field that orchestrates the flow of energy, information and the countless intricate processes unfolding in every second. Recognizing that they’re an inseparable part of spirit or God, enlightened beings are lighthearted and joyful.” – Deepak Chopra

Good Vibrations

A composed woman stands like a statue on stage, draped in a yukata and fitted with a tubular, over-sized headdress, cushioned against her head. She floats her hands above a black metal box emitting eerie, yet melodic, sounds without her ever touching it. To her left are two men dressed in tight, white lycra bodysuits, one with a towering salmon sashimi tied to his back and the other with an omelet pillow. A human sushi dance unfolds between the nigiri men and a monstrous, evil-eyed dragonhead, orchestrated by the captivating woman and her black box.

The black box, a musical instrument called a theremin, was the world’s first electronic instrument invented almost 100 years ago. Theremin players create and manipulate sound by placing their hands next to two metal antennas and making subtle hand movements to control pitch and volume.

The theremin’s ethereal sound is most commonly heard in sci-fi movies, but also in music genres such as classical, rock and pop. Classics such as The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations”, Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and songs by The Rolling Stones, Sufjan Stevens and Wolf Parade all feature theremin sounds.

The intriguing sushi theremin live show happened here in Tokyo at The All Japan Theremin Festival. This sold-out event was held in September across three intimate and unique venues in Kichijoji, and did not disappoint. A magical music ride, as diverse and beautiful as they come, transported the crowd, evoking moments of deep nostalgia to utter bliss and dance-your-pants-off vibes.

Ms Sae Sato, member of music unit The Putins and manager of the Theremin University organized the event. “This year marks the University’s 10th year of operation and we decided to celebrate by inviting famous Japanese pop groups and renowned Japanese theremin players to create an event showcasing musical diversity with a cross cultural feel,” Sae commented.

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Masami Takeuchi and his entourage

Sae’s mentor, the forefather of theremin playing in Japan, Masami Takeuchi, mesmerized the crowd with his skilful performance as he led his entourage through a succession of eloquent melodies. After relocating to Russia in 1993 to study the theremin, Masami returned and subsequently taught and inspired hundreds of students across Japan.

Theremin popularity is soaring in Japan, partly due to the release of the documentary “Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey” in the 2000s. Many great theremin players have emerged since, several of which played at the festival. Some of Sae’s favorites include, “Masami Takeuchi, Koichiro Aida, Kuritez, Kanako Hamada and Saori Kojima.”

Yoshizawa Kayoko

Yoshizawa Kayoko

Other performances of the night included the dazzling Yoshizawa Kayoko, who produced a quirky, fun set. One stand-out song “Anata ga suki” got the crowd jumping. Also Fujioka Minami & The Moronzu, a three-piece band from Koenji, lured fans in with their melodic tunes and cool folk-pop-rock vibe.

Highlight of the night was the entertaining performance from Sae’s band, The Putins. Sae led the modern hyper-pop act with sweet vocals and expert theremin playing, whilst the fore-mentioned sushi men climbed into the moveable dragon mouth and danced around stage. Their art was beautiful to watch, and most of all inspiring and fun.

For beginner thereminists out there, Sae recommends starting with the Matoryomin, a pitch-only theremin that is easier to play. Shaped like a beautiful matryoshka (Russian doll), it was developed by Masami Takeuchi himself.

For more information contact The Theremin University.

To view the magical Sushi Theremin song by The Putins, have a look here.

Stop. Breathe. Release.

Sitting in the neon lit room, enclosed by cream walls, I can see speckles of the signature blue trickled throughout the room, in the notepads, the notices on the wall and the student’s vacant gaze.

I glance down at the textbook and regurgitate yet another lesson in English 101. Feigning interest, I smile and pretend to be enjoying myself. Days and days go by like this, but the student knows the truth, they can see through my plastic smile, and feel it in their bones.

resistance (n):
the refusal to accept or comply with something.

Resistance shows its destructive face in many ways, acting as the saboteur of our lives: when we decide to follow a creative calling; commit to a health regime; feel the urge to launch a new venture or simply get ourselves out of the present moment into a perceived better one, in my case, lying on the beach somewhere with a pina colada in hand.

Resistance seems to come from outside ourselves, like an uncontrollable force emitted from jobs, partners, circumstances that poison us and cause us to be unhappy.  It does not however come from the outside, it arises within. As Stephen Pressfield states, “It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. It is the enemy within.” [The War of Art]

Resistance manifests in different ways. For me, it expresses itself as headaches. A daily struggle where I’m resisting being in the present moment because I should be doing something more amazing, more fulfilling, more life-changing.

So much struggling for nothing. Just headaches.

Conversely, resistance can also be defined as:
the ability not to be affected by something, especially adversely.

Two weeks ago, inspired by a friend, I decided to try something different. What if I simply stopped? Stopped the continual fighting within myself, and just let myself be in the moment. I decided that I wanted my life to be joyful and fun, and to feel this in every moment, even the seemingly mind-numbing ones. I started to imagine my life as a series of playful moments.

Before bed at night I spend some time in meditation and self-talk – recognising all the greatness in my life; imaging how the next day will unfold and knowing that I’ll be blessed with amazing students; feeling that my life flows with ease.

A few things have happened:

  • My students suddenly got a lot more interesting. I’ve been attracting the best ones and we are resonating on a more playful level.
  • I started enjoying myself in the moment and thus enjoying my life.
  • My headaches have eased.
  • I feel more vibrant, creative and inspired.

Of course, this is an unfolding process and takes daily, moment-to-moment practice. I don’t feel like this every minute of every day, and I shouldn’t.

But what I’ve realised is that breathing is the key. Deep belly breaths right down into the core. That’s what keeps me centered in the now and alive to the beauty of the moment.

(Image source: https://society6.com/product/breathe-e0z_print?isrc=src.search-hue.0#1=45)

What To Do When The World Says No

The easiest option is of course to join in and say ‘no’ with them. To accept that you really aren’t that great and don’t deserve more. Of course you can’t have anything you want, I mean that’s ludicrous, it just doesn’t work like that. Go out, have that 2nd, 3rd, 4th beer or that double chocolate cookie and slip back into the hum drumness of everyday existence.

I don’t believe it has to be like this.

Most of us accept that a select few get to live their dreams. That they are blessed with luck and that things just come to them without much effort.

We believe that we can’t really follow our dreams – whether it’s starting that pottery business; making toy airplanes, or opening a specialist sweet shop – these are just fantasies that can’t be realised in the ‘real world’.

I think this is all bullsh*t. Excuse my French, but it had to be said.

Perhaps the real issue is that most of us just aren’t prepared to put in the effort. To apply ourselves daily to achieving our dreams, however simple or intricate they may be. Creating something great requires discipline. Taking the time every day, even if just for a short period, to focus energy on that which you wish to achieve.

The key lies in consistency. I’ve seen this in my own meditation practice for example. I started off small, a simple 5 minutes a day, and slowly over the years built it up. Of course it wasn’t always easy, but it was the consistency and starting small that enabled me to develop the practice.

And of course once we focus our attention on something, it expands. It seems to be that once you’re in the vibration of receiving, it’s much easier to see yourself receiving more, and more, and more.

Perhaps that’s why it looks so easy for some, but if we really want it and are prepared to put in the effort, we can do the work of champions.

(Image source: https://society6.com/product/hill-2ob_print#1=45)

The First Rule of Tinder Is…

… Don’t expect your date to look like his photo.

The Second Rule: Drop your expectations dramatically, like 100%. And then some more.

And the Third Rule: Swiftly delete your account (well, that’s for you to decide..)

I’m an old school gal at heart, and not one who has ever delved into the magical world of online dating, but I thought I’d give it a try. I mean it’s 2015 after all and everyone’s doing it; I’m living in Tokyo and dating is tough for a western girl. So I got one of my closest buddies to sign up with me.  It started out as a joke of course – let’s just join for one month and see what happens; maybe we can meet some guys to take us surfing.

Well things didn’t turn out quite like that.

There sure are some strange cats lurking on Tinderland. We spent many train rides home swiftly swiping left for horrifyingly unsuitable suitors. There’s the guy who’s married but is looking for a threesome; the Marilyn Manson lookalikes, the redneck from Texas,  and of course the ones with poodle profile pics. I mean poodles are kawaii (cute) but really? And let’s not mention the half-naked selfie in front of the mirror shots.

I chatted to a few guys and went on two dates. The first guy was Swiss, a scientist and Aikido master who looked rather mysterious in his profile. I realised later that that was in fact his much better looking older brother.  We seemed to have a lot in common, until we met and ended up having a heated discussion about energy and the like – me trying to explain the unexplainable in words to a scientist didn’t end well.

I met up with the second guy yesterday. A Brit in his early 40s who again had not shown a true description of himself online, but rather what he looked like 10 years prior. He went on to tell me that yoga does not in fact come from India and made a point of correcting my grammar. Haha. ‘Furtherest’ is a word right?

Of course a relationship shouldn’t be based on how someone looks, but it feels dishonest from the start and whats the point of that?

The point is there is no point.

It’s pointless sharing parts of your life with someone you’ve never met and don’t even know is real.  It’s pointless being in that space of expectation, waiting, hoping for something amazing. It’s pointless spending wasted time swiping through hundreds of unsuitable profiles when you could be out living.  Doing something that makes you smile. Having coffee with a friend. Going to a yoga class. Writing a book. Walking a dog. Anything else really. Out there living in the real world with real people. Connecting. That’s where miracles happen, unlikely collisions, the stuff of fairytales. And I guarantee it’ll be more fun.

I’m sure there’s some success stories on Tinder but it’s just not for me.

I’m off to meditate :)

<Image source: http://society6.com/annaillustrates>

Roast Veg Nori Wraps

Living in Taiwan, we are super lucky that fruit and veg are so cheap and abundant here. I sure will miss that when I leave! I popped down to my local fruit and veg street market this morning and came back with 2 bags full of colourful goodies for less than $8.

I’ve been feeling like I need a health reboot, and the best way to do that is cook for yourself of course. I didn’t feel like just plain brown rice and veg, so decided to add in some nori (seaweed) for fun. I don’t need to tell you the benefits of eating seaweed, but incase you don’t know check out my previous post on 5 Essential Japanese Foods.

So this is what I did:

I  roasted up some veg, use whatever you have on-hand. I used squash, onion, red pepper, cloves of garlic and mushrooms. A splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, black pepper and some Himalayan rock salt and you’re good to go. I like it when the onion goes crispy and caramely when baked.. mmm mmm mmm.

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I then spread open a 2 sheets of nori (doubled up);  lined them with cooked brown rice which I soaked overnight; topped with the roasted veg and then added freshly diced baby cucumber, rosa tomatoes and a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.

Wrap it all up, and voila!

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Enjoy:)

 

(Featured image source: https://society6.com/product/vegetables-qpe_print#1=45)

Slowly, Slowly…

Step by step. I placed one foot in front of the other, pressing gently into the wooden steps as I made my ascent. Up, up and further up I went, slowly, steadily, with ease and flow.

Until soon these steps became somewhat effortless, as if I was floating up the mountain.

This was my experience hiking up Shoushan 壽山 (Monkey Mountain) today; very unusual for me because usually I’m puffing and panting all the way to the top.

So what was so special about today?

I decided to take it slow. I wanted to see what it felt like to feel each step, and keep my awareness there in that moment. To my surprise, something magical happened. I hiked and hiked and didn’t have to stop once along the way. My heart rate stayed steady, I felt full of strength, like I could go on forever. I felt connected to my surroundings – the beautiful old trees, butterflies, and monkeys. Perhaps because today I actually took time to look around, instead of forging ahead. Everything seemed wondrous.

When someone came past me, I felt myself wanting to speed up, this urgency to get ahead, but gently pulled back and settled into my pace. And while this was going on, I continued to have one the best hikes of my life. I felt blissfully happy and at one with my environment (internally as well as externally).

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The path up Shoushan (Photo courtesy of my lovely cousin, Tessa)

 

Later, it got me pondering about life, and how if we continue on our paths slowly and steadily, aware and intrigued; yet completely open to whatever comes to us, we are sure to arrive at our destinations happy, stress-free and probably even encounter something magical along the way.

Instead, if we try to rush ahead and get to the top of the mountain as soon as we can, we miss so much. We forget to feel. We forget to see. We forget to play and be in wonder. Rushing, pushing, fighting to get to the top, no wonder we don’t find what were looking for when we get there. We left it behind.

And isn’t it true that if you look too hard for something, you can never find it. Such too, if you want something really badly, it can’t be yours. But if you just let go a little, forget about it, know that the universe has it covered, and simply be in the now, you very possibly could find just what you’re looking for, and more.

Slowly, slowly, step by step we go…

 

Why, Hello There…

As part of WordPress’s Blogging 101 challenge, we have to write a post about who we are and why we’re here. Ok, so Day 1 was 2 days ago, but here goes…

Who Am I Really?

I could start by telling you a list of things about me, like who I am and what I do in this world. But does any of that really matter?

Instead, I’d like to tell you about what moves me.

I’m inspired by beauty. It’s all around us, waiting to be seen. We just need to open our murky eyes, rub back the dirt, and look. Really look. I see it in people’s stolen smiles; I see it in trees, mountains, sunsets and cups of tea. Aaah… the beauty of it all.

I’m inspired by travel, exploring unknown lands. Spending some time there, maybe a few years, and uncovering the essence of the place. Getting to know the people, the food, and the culture. It’s all very exciting.

I’m moved by yoga. Everyday it gives back to me more and more. It teaches me. It grows me.

And lastly, I’m inspired by love. Not that big, grandiose idea of love (although that does inspire me too!), but the everyday kind of love I see around me. Random acts of kindness that are so beautiful it brings tears to your eyes. Love, whether from friends, family or strangers – it shows us how connected we all really are.

So, that’s me in a nutshell!

If any of this resonates with you, please join me in my adventures of blogging.
Let’s learn and grow together :)

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts Become Things

Well that sounds easy enough. I’ll just think about all the things I want in my life and they’ll manifest NOW! Haha if only it was that simple. Well, it could be if we were in a place of complete allowing. Our intentions would be pure, our focus razor-sharp, and in an instant our desires would be fulfilled.

But like everything in our perfect universe, this principle is based on that of duality, and on the opposite end of the spectrum we have resistance.

allowing <<<  >>>  resistance

Resistance is what ultimately stops us from fulfilling our desires. It keeps us stuck in the lack of it (the job/healthy body/relationship/money, etc.) and draws that which is like itself towards us. Haven’t you noticed when you don’t have resistance to something, how easily it comes into your life? It’s like the more you want something from a place of need, the more resistance is created, and the harder it is to get it.

“If you are resisting anything, you are focused upon it, pushing against it, and activating the vibration of it – and therefore attracting that which is like it.”

– Abraham Hicks

The Art Of Allowing

So how do we stop this?  Simply, we get out of our heads. 

It’s pointless thinking about what we really want if we have this strong feeling of the lack of it in our lives. The universe ultimately wants us to flourish. It is known that wellbeing is always flowing towards us, and we are either allowing it or resisting it

Find something that makes you feel good and do it. For me it’s yoga, walking in the park, hiking, going to the beach, doing something creative (writing, photography), playing with animals, etc. Being in nature helps a lot – it resets us, reconnects us, and makes us feel good.

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Also, I can’t stress enough how much meditation has helped me. It gets me back into my heart and focused on what matters most. It helps me see the bigger picture, and look at my situation from a different viewpoint. I can almost look down on myself, and see my life playing out, like a game on this big chessboard of life. It reminds me that none of this really matters, all these little things that consume us daily; and yet at the same time, it all matters.

Do whatever you can to get out of your head, and into your heart (your feeling place), and watch the magic start to happen.

My Kaohsiung

There’s a lot of reasons to love living in Taiwan, like the ever-friendly Taiwanese people, cheap food and accommodation, safety, amazing healthcare, $5 acupuncture treatments and the eternal sunshine, to name a few. But here’s why I love living here, and especially in Kaohsiung, which I think has the perfect mix of first-world living balanced with an easy-going edge.

1.  My Hood

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The Cultural Centre park

I live in the Cultural Centre 高雄市文化中心; area (KMRT 06/07) downtown. I absolutely LOVE living here. Maybe it’s because I live down a quaint little street that lights up at night, and the area is filled with eateries, cafes and pretty much everything I need within walking distance. I like that I can walk to the park which is always humming with people walking their dogs or families just hanging.  On the weekends, it lights up with craft markets and there’s a definite buzz and an authenticity about it. I love how the corner man greets me everyday, even though I have never eaten at his restaurant, not once. I feel at home here.

2. Massages with No.23

Oh yes, massages with No.23 (aka Louis) are good, very good. So good in fact that a considerable part of my income has gone to funding Louis new noodle shop. He’s a quirky dude, who believes in ‘big’ love and has a penchant for stray animals. He gives a killer back, neck, full body or foot massage. I’d recommend all.

Sadly, due to said noodle business, he’s only doing massages by request. But I’d still recommend having a massage in Taiwan, they are on offer everywhere! Louis’ massage parlour is located here on Linquan street – directly opposite Lahore’s Indian restaurant, with another branch on Lingya 1st Road. 1 hour foot massage (incl. 15 mins neck & shoulders) = NT$350!

3. The Oldies & Me

Early morning qi gong in the park with the oldies leaves me feeling open, free and ready for the day ahead. It’s easy to find a qi gong or tai chi group to join in just about any park in Taiwan, and they love having foreigners, even if the only Chinese you can say is, “ni-hao”.

4. The Great Outdoors

Living in Kaohsiung has reinstated my love for the great outdoors. Probably because we really have it all down here. It’s made me want to hike mountains regularly (Shoushan) even if they’re full of monkeys. Take regular walks (sometimes jogs) around the park – of course I usually go to my local Cultural Centre park, but other favourites include Central Park, Aozhidi and Chengcing lake. Trees, trees everywhere:)

Oh and did I mention we have a beach. Yip, our very own beach, aka Secret Beach, which must be accessed by climbing over or under a fence. All the more intriguing. Ok, it might not be the cleanest water (which I was very happy to swim in before I found this out), but it’s great to have a beach around when you just need some beach time.  Very beautiful and swimmable beaches are only a 2 hour drive away in Kenting and Baisha, and who doesn’t like setting up camp on the beach? Also a short ferry ride away is the quaint little island of Xiao Liuqui which looks like a typical Asian city, but down under is a water wonderland waiting to be discovered.

5. $2 Movies

Why not? Watch 2 movies for only $2. Yes please! They’re second run movies, just off the theatre, but they’re good. Bring your own snacks or buy some popcorn in the basement garage. Check it out here.

6. My Ride, Dick

Riding around Liu Qiu

Riding around Liuqui

Oh the irony. Yip, that’s the name inscribed on the side of my scooter, which I only realised after I bought, I promise. Nevertheless, Dick is my favourite ally, we go on adventures together. Even though I think I’m going to die atleast once everyday riding around the city, there is nothing quite as liberating as riding up into the mountains, past the beach, wind blowing in my hair; it’s totally liberating and I love it.

7. My Local Buddhist Lunchspot

I’m not mad about traditional Taiwanese lunchbox places, there’s a certain taste to the oil that I don’t like. But luckily for me, just around the corner from my house on Linde Road, is this little gem (directly opposite Sauces House). A family run Buddhist veggie lunchspot that serves fresh, clean-tasting Taiwanese food without that lunchbox taste. My go-to favourite meal is a mix mash of brown rice, sweet potato greens and a fake chicken fillet (probably the best fake chicken you’re ever gonna taste). Also their soup noodles are great, as well as their veggie lunch sets and sesame noodles. Mmm mm mm. It’s cheap too. Here’s a menu with my English notes incase you decide to try it out.

8. Cha, Cha, Cha

Tea makes me happy, it always has, always will. But wow, they’ve taken tea drinking to a whole new level here in Taiwan. My all-time favourite: Passion-fruit oolong tea with coconut jelly from Presotea (no sugar, light ice). It’s heavenly.

9. A Taiwanese Bestie

It’s essential, get yourself a Taiwanese bestie. Without her I wouldn’t have found my apartment, let alone probably even explored the Cultural Centre area. She hooked me up with my scooter; took me to her favourite acupuncturist, dermatologist, dentist and Chinese medicine doctor; taught me Chinese (well, tried to) and showed me her favourite secret spots that only a local would know. My experience in Taiwan wouldn’t have been the same without her. Thank you Camille, you’ve been more-than amazing.

Camille & I

Camille & I

So that’s it, 9 reasons I love living in Taiwan. They all say, “you’ll be back” – I probably will :)

Be Like A Butterfly

A wise friend once gave me some great relationship advice. He said, “Sam, you need a man who can see you are like a butterfly. Someone that allows you to flitter and flatter out into the world, do your thing, and then have a safe home to return to.”

Looking back I’d say he was spot on.

On my morning hike today, I was lucky enough to see some beautiful butterflies about, every kind of colour and size you can imagine. Moving effortlessly from flower to flower, dancing about, completely absorbed in the beauty of the moment, and then the next, and the next…

We can learn a lot from our dear little winged friends. They embody a feeling of playfulness, a lightness of being, joy, beauty and of course transformation. Symbolically they represent the world of the soul and remind us “not to take things too seriously and to get up and move”.

Mostly I think they remind us to be present, feel the beauty of the NOW and love every moment of it.

Find out more symbolically about these messengers of the moment HERE and HERE. 

Take Me To The Mountains (or ocean, or forrest)

I went for a hike up beautiful Shoushan this morning, or as us foreigners like to call it, Monkey Mountain. It reminded me to feel lucky; lucky enough to live in a country where I can easily access the beauty around me.

I think back to when I lived in South Africa. I really had it all, but didn’t quite know it. I lived on the beach. That’s right, literally the beach was across the road from my house. And I enjoyed hearing the waves crashing when I fell asleep and the cool sea breeze. I often even walked on the beach. But what I forgot to do, was get in the ocean.

I spent years and years denying myself the joy of swimming. Too scared to venture in, not because of great whites, but because I didn’t want to be seen.

Living in Taiwan has taught me to get in. I hike, I swim, I explore the beauty around me. I get excited about stuff. I stopped doing that back home, and I’ve realised it’s essential for my wellbeing. I can’t wait to get home these holidays and dive into that ocean and hike those mountains and appreciate every second of it.

The beauty is there already. We just have to go out and play.

Where’s Home?

They say ‘home is where your heart is’, but what does that mean anyway? That ‘home’ is with the person or place you love the most?

I’ve had many physical homes on the path that I’ve chosen, enjoying the newness of setting up house in foreign lands. Of course, South Africa will always be my ‘home’, the place where I was born and where my family and friends reside.

But as I travel longer and longer on this path, I’m learning to find my home in my heart. Because ultimately isn’t that where all the love in the entire universe resides? Right here, inside my tiny little heart.

And the further I seem to travel, the closer I get to myself. Layers unfold, judgements melt, realisations occur, here, now.

Sometimes all I really want to do is squeeze someone I love, and I can’t, and that reminds me of my aloneness. But then I remember that life is transient, people come, people go, change occurs whether we like it or not. And all we really have is our tiny little hearts filled with love and powerful enough to create universes.

Isn’t that enough?

How We Did Palawan

My mom and I spent a magical week in Palawan in July, and here’s a detailed blog about how we did it. But first here are some of our highlights…

HIGHLIGHTS

El Nido was definitely the highlight of our trip. Here’s a map I drew for my cousin with my favourite places highlighted.

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Island hopping tours – we only did Tour A which was great. We used Pearl Gates Tours, they were excellent. Normal price is 1200 pesos but we paid 1000 pesos ($22) each for a day tour from 9am – 2pm including lunch (yummy fresh fish, octopus, salad, fruit, rice) including snorkelling gear. Our guide was really funny too! There are many tour companies to choose from, but I can recommend these guys. If you are coming down the main road towards the beach, they are located down the main side road (to the right) closest to the beach. Walk down a while and they are just past the first massage shop you see on the right hand side. They also organised our transportation back to Sabang and the Underground River tour for us. They were really great. (Contact Ryan or Jesse at Pearl Gates Tours: 0917 4853 740 / puertoprincesatoelnido@gmail.com)

 Pina Coladas and fresh coconut water at Coco Bar.

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Coco Bar, El Nido

Live music (really good local musos covering Sting when we were there) and yummy food (fresh fish and we even tried the delicacy Bird’s Nest Soup….mmmm) at Sea Slugs.

Cheap local beer – San Miguel, 35 pesos ($0.7) a beer!

The Art Cafe – very overpriced foreigner hangout, but nice vibe and live music at night.

A day trip to Las Cabanas beach (only a $120 peso tricycle ride up the main road). It was special, just white, palm tree-lined beach. Great for a relaxing day on the beach. The Beach Shack Cafe had yummy mango smoothies too.

Las Cabanas Beach near El Nido

Las Cabanas beach near El Nido

Diving… aaah my first diving experience and I’m addicted. I paid $3500 pesos ($80) as I needed a guide with me and first-time dive training. It’s a lot cheaper if you have your PADI. It was from 9am to about 2pm and included tea, cakes and fruit. Andy was our Dive Master, great guy, from El Bahura Divers. You can’t miss them, they are located down the main road, just up from the beach, next to the crepe shop. The Dive Shop is owned by a friendly Aussie guy, but you can contact Andy on 092 623 61539. 

Fresh fish for dinner at any of the restaurants lining the ocean front.

El Nido sunsets = heaven.

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Sunset captured by the poolside at Cadlao Beach Resort

The island dogs – so many of them, so hungry, yet so gentle taking food.

1. HOW WE GOT AROUND

Puerto Princesa > El Nido
We flew into Puerto Princesa, the island’s capital. After reading a few travel blogs, I knew I didn’t want to spend much time in Puerto, so we headed straight out, and caught a van to El Nido. Most blogs say that you need to catch a tricycle to San Jose Terminal in order to get a bus/van from there. We didn’t have to though, as we exited the airport someone approached us and we joined a van with some other travellers. It cost 600 Pesos ($13) each  for a 6 hour ride. There is also the option to take a bus which is cheaper, but it takes longer and the locals say the buses are getting older now and not as comfortable as they used to be (see HERE for more info on transport). Our 6 hour ride ended up taking longer because we had to drive through typhoon rain and winds, and got a flat tyre along the way. The roads were really bad, lots of potholes and washed out in some spots. Our driver was excellent however and never took any chances.

Around El Nido
In El Nido, we walked a lot. It felt good to walk and explore. Tricycles around town are everywhere and cost 50 pesos ($1) to get around. You can also hire motorbikes in town. We caught a tricycle up to Las Cabanas beach which cost about 120 pesos ($2.7). We really enjoyed this beach area which is accessible through a green palm tree like forest. It’s a beautiful long beach, lined with palm trees and was really peaceful and quiet when we were there. Great for swimming too.

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Yes, that’s my name!

El Nido > Sabang > Puerto Princesa
On our way back to Puerto we went via Sabang (to do the Underground River). It cost 900 Pesos ($20), and we stayed the night in Sabang. I booked this through the people we did our island hopping tour with – Pearl Gates Tours. They were great (see contact info below under HIGHLIGHTS).

2. ACCOMODATION

In El Nido
I had pre-booked our first 3 nights accommodation. I’d recommend not pre-booking, especially if you’re going out of season as we did. Accommodation in El Nido is tricky. You could stay in a hostel for 500 Pesos ($11) per night for 3 people sharing (160 pesos/$3 each), share a beach hut right on the beach for 600 Pesos ($13 a night) or stay in a beautiful resort overlooking the lagoon for 6000 Pesos ($145) per night. It’s really best to check it out when you there, because what may look beautiful online is not necessarily so. Of course, in season its necessary to book.

View Deck Cottages: I was travelling with my mom so we wanted our own bathroom. The first 3 nights we stayed at View Deck Cottages, just a short walk up the main road to the beach, built in the cliffs and overlooking the Bacuit Bay of El Nido. I thought we could spend the first few nights in greenery and the last 2 nights on the beach. We paid 2000 Pesos ($50) a night, exceeding breakfast. Our stay was okay. We stayed in a different room every night. We had to move from the first room because the electricity wasn’t working, the second room was dark and dingy and had no view, and finally our last room was what I had imagined when I booked (as per the picture online) – a quaint looking room, with a wooden view deck overlooking the Bacuit Bay. We had been told there’d be hot water, but we didn’t have one hot (or even warm) shower the entire time. Although a beautiful location with a lot of potential, a few simple things could’ve made it better. It just felt like it was lacking the feminine touch and that they were trying to skimp on money, a lot. We could have breakfast for an extra 100 Pesos ($2), which was just a small omelette, some toast and jam and a banana. Also instant 3-in-1 coffee was available. Rudy and his team were accommodating, although I probably won’t stay there again.

Cadlao Beach Resort: We splashed out for our last 2 nights and it was really a nice treat. Perhaps a bit expensive but we enjoyed our stay there. Our cottage was set in beautiful gardens, there was an infinity pool and great restaurant overlooking the ocean. The beach here is rocky though however  so you can’t really swim, its more for viewing. It’s basically located on the right end of El Nido, we walked in to town (we passed by a local village with a non-profit school and old cemetery – took some nice pics). It’s probably about a 10 minute stroll along the beach into town. They do offer a free shuttle too.

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Our accommodation at Cadlao

We paid 6000 Pesos ($145) per night which included a delicious breakfast. We also had a massage here overlooking the pool and gardens, which was probably the best one we had in El Nido (the ones in town were very average, not good at all).

In Sabang
By the time we’d reached Sabang, where the infamous Underground River is located, we had run out of cash. We really wanted to go cheap, and stay in a beach cottage but there was nowhere, and I mean nowhere, to get cash. The only place that would offer us cash back on our credit card was The Sheridan if we stayed there! We needed the cash to pay for the Underground River tour the next day. The Sheridan was also about $6000 pesos ($145) a night (it was easy to negotiate because of low season), including a really good buffet breakfast. I really didn’t want to stay there, I don’t like big hotels and thought the price was exuberant. But it was actually a nice stay.. they had the longest pool I’ve ever seen, jacuzzi and very yummy pina coladas. We had dinner at a quaint little restaurant, on the beach to the right of the hotel. It was reasonable, and probably one of the best dishes we had in Palawan.

In Puerto Princesa
We spent our last night in Puerto, as we were flying out the next day. We stayed at One Manalo Place as recommended by fellow travellers in El Nido. It was great value for money and only a few minutes from the airport. The service was excellent, room was great, as was the complementary breakfast. Theres also a Thai spa next door that offers a big selection of massages at reasonable rates. We paid around 2800 pesos ($60) for the room. Again, they were negotiable. They had a great pool too and were very accommodating.

3. NEXT TIME I’LL PASS

To be honest, if I did it again, I wouldn’t have gone to Sabang for the Underground River. It was beautiful, especially the water just outside the cave. Once inside its dark, the rock formations are interesting, but maybe coming from South Africa, I’ve seen this kind of thing before. It was also very touristy, and you only go about 45 minutes into the cave, plus you have to catch another boat from Sabang to get there (I think it took about 20 minutes).  At the airport, I bumped into the 3 German dudes that were on our original van ride up to El Nido. They had just spent a few days in Port Barton instead, and highly recommended it.

Underground River, Sabang

Entrance to the Underground River, Sabang

Also, there’s really not much going on in Puerto Princesa. It’s a typical Asian city. We were told to go check out the Bay Walk area along the river, which we did but everything was closed, it felt like a ghost town. I’m sure it’s really festive at other times.

One good thing in Puerto is the souvenir shopping. Theres a specific souvenir shop area that has every kind of souvenir imaginable at much cheaper prices than El Nido. Save your shopping for here.

4. TIPS

Take enough cash. It’s possible in the afternoon from about 3 – 5pm to get cash back at the gas station (with 5% commission of course) or at The Art Cafe. Otherwise there’s no ATMs in El Nido. Budget and make sure you take enough pesos. Some restaurants and accommodation will take credit cards of course. We ran out of cash and couldn’t draw any in Sabang, so if you’re heading that way and don’t have cash, try get some before leaving El Nido. (There are ATMs in Puerto though).

You’ll need to pay 200 pesos for a 7 day environmental pass in El Nido. It’s once off, I think it was 200 pesos.

Also in Sabang, it’ll be 40 pesos for the enviro fee.

And at the airports you have to pay terminal fees – 150 pesos in El Nido and 550 pesos in Puerto Princesa, so take that into account. We had spent all our pesos in Puerto, but luckily they took credit cards.

Lastly, El Nido is a very special and beautiful place and well worth the mission to get there. The best thing to do is surrender, whether it’s to the rain or lack of electricity or below-par accommodation you may have booked. Release your expectations a little and you’ll be in for an unforgettable adventure.

Bye bye from Mom

Bye bye from Mom

(To read my previous blog on Palawan, “The Place That Stole My Heart”, click HERE).

The Place That Stole My Heart

I spent the last week in a very special place, with a very special person (my mama) in a little town tucked away on an island in Northern Palawan, Philippines.

What makes this little town so special you ask?

Perhaps it is its quaint and quirky feel; the fact that it essentially only has 3 main roads running throughout; a plethora of beautiful islands surrounding it; or that it takes a 6 hour bumpy and sometimes dangerous van ride from the island’s main city to access this little gem. The long journey there makes the final destination ever more so inviting.

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I like that there is no electricity though out the town from 6am to 2pm daily, and that I can walk from one end to the other by foot or take a cheap tricycle ride for only 50 pesos ($1). This town has a certain charisma, its beauty subtly draws you in and begs you to let go and enjoy the simple pleasures of island life. It’s really hard not to be happy in a place like this, and the smile on local people’s’ faces highlights this.

Even the island dogs look happy. (well, some of them)

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Small restaurants, cafes, beach huts and pension houses line the beachfront. In the morning you can enjoy a yummy breakfast on the beach (with homemade bread…mmmm), daytime refresh with a coconut water, pina coloda or even a cup of real coffee, and in the evening choose some fresh fish from a selection of the seafood BBQ places lining the beach. The food is fresh and preservative free. I like that. There’s a good selection of local as well as international food options. And lots of fresh fruit.

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I like that the town has a certain rawness about it, untouched yet by commercialism, and still a little backwards.

Whenever I visit a new place, I learn something new. Not just about the world around me, but the world in me.

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El Nido reminded me how much I love the water. I’m a water baby at heart and couldn’t get enough of snorkelling the coral reefs and just floating in the ocean. Lying on your back, looking up at the sky, surrendering to the beauty of the moment and being in the flow. It’s a beautiful thing. I went diving for the first time, and am now hooked. I found being down under the ocean so peaceful, it almost became a meditation. I make a promise to myself to swim in the sea at least once a week.

I was also reminded of how simple living really is the best, and a life that I so aspire to. We really don’t need as much as we think we do.

I learnt about presence from someone special, and what it means to really be in the moment. I find that I’m always trying to do all these things to be more present (meditate, yoga, blah blah blah), and as much as I love these things, I don’t think I need to try so hard. I just need to be. What else can I let go of to be more here?

I also learnt about the power of intent and manifestation. But more on that later.

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I’ll leave you with a quote that I love, and a promise to write more about how we did Palawan.

Happy travelling travellers :-)

“The purpose of travel is not your comfort, but your discomfort.
It pulls you out of your safe places and forces you to face the unknown, raw, unedited life beyond your small and cozy comfort zone.
It brings you face to face with a side of you that you could never meet, understand and love unless it is reflected back to you through the eyes of the world you ignore.
It’s not as much a discovery of the world, but a discovery of yourself through that world.
When you travel, you’re actually travelling through yourself.
You become your own adventure.”

Organic Fare at Dry Goods Market

I love going to the Dry Goods Market just off Jianguo 3rd Road, it’s a real treat full of traditional fare and it’s cheap, cheap, cheap.

My Taiwanese friend introduced it to me months ago and I haven’t been back. I had some time to kill in the area this week so I took a stroll over and had a wander. I’m glad I did!

There is everything from different kinds of soy sauces, vinegars, coconut milk, grains, spices, dried fruit and nuts to candy, dried mushrooms and tea, lots of tea. And you can taste!

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What I found this time though was an organic store, not everything is organic but a lot is. They have organic grains like barley, millet, quinoa (red & mixed variety), oats and different kinds of rices (even organic wild rice from the US that looks delicious). They are located quite far down the alley on the right I think.

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The shop assistant said that lots of foreigners come there to buy grains and of course nuts. They have a selection of nuts in the fridge (even brazil nuts) that are 100% raw, no bad stuff added. I bought a mixed nut and dried fruit pack (with figs in!) for a very reasonable $NT200 and a dried apricot pack for $NT180 – they are delicious. I also bought some pure Japanese rice wine vinegar and dried mushrooms for cooking.

If you haven’t been down there yet it’s worth a trip, very centrally located near the Kaohsiung Main Train Station, but a bit further down Jianguo Road – here’s the address 0n Google Maps. It’s accessible just off Jianguo Road – you’ll see the main entrance.

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A Time To Let Loose

This Friday’s upcoming full moon in fun-loving Sagittarius should be called the party moon, and not the strawberry moon as it’s known in the U.S. In contrast to New Moons which represent rebirth and new beginnings, Full Moons embody clarity and obtainment of desire.

Basically, every month we get a chance to hone in on our desires, figure out what we really want, and then plant them like seeds into the universe on the eve of New Moon. Then we wait patiently for our intentions to blossom, and on Full Moon simultaneously release what no longer serves us.

Aren’t we lucky folk?

The moon & me

The moon cycles have always been a part of our lives and we can see her effects throughout nature and within ourselves. As Selacia describes on her blog, “The moon governs the natural world as well as our emotions, instincts, intuition, and unconscious. It is related to water, the element often described as being furthest from the rational realm.” We are of course made of 70% water, how can we not feel the effects of her waxing and waning?

The full moon period can be an intense time – emotionally, mentally and physically. “Statistics show that during full moons, intense events like emotional meltdowns, family quarrels, and emergency room visits rise dramatically!” (Read more: Selacia’s blog)

I can always feel emotionally when the full moon is near, and those with health issues may feel them more intensely during this period too. There is some powerful energy flying around, usually for a few days before and after full moon, but luckily this is a friendly one with an upbeat energy asking us to celebrate! (See Kelley Rosano’s blog)

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So, it’s full moon, what should I do?

The best way to consciously harness this powerful energy is to meditate.

1. On the eve of full moon (June 12th), find a quiet spot, seat yourself in a comfortable cross-legged position and light a candle. If you can be out in nature, even better!

2. Take a few deep breaths to centre yourself.  Allowing your mind to quieten,  focus on your natural breath for a few minutes.

3. Then bring to mind things that you’d like to release from your life (any issues, people, negative emotions that are no longer serving you). Offer them up into the universe, surrendering them all to your higher power.

4. Give thanks, knowing that your requests have been heard and answered.

For a more detailed ritual, useful if you’re trying to let go of some deep issues or a specific person (I’ve found this very helpful when releasing past lovers), take a look HERE.

Happy full moon, and remember to keep it light and have some fun :-)

“Be easy about this. Be playful about it. Don’t work so hard at it. Let your dominant intent to be to feel good.” -Abraham