Lifestyle, Travel

Ella, on foot and by heart

After baking myself in the sun, I traveled to the cold mountains of Ella. Arriving in the early evening at Lakhshmi’s Hotel, I was welcomed with open arms by the owners and fed well with a simple local meal. My room was super spacious – a king size bed and another twin bed with mosquito net canopies. After a good night’s sleep, off I went the next day to brave the trek to Mini Adam’s Peak.

2017-03-22 10.11.46.jpg

My hotel was a good starting point to Mini Adam’s Peak, walking past Ella town which is literally really just one busy street and turning left to a dirt road that goes high up the mountain side which will later on lead to Mini Adam’s Peak. After a leisurely stroll, took me about half an hour to reach the foot of the trail up to the infamous peak.

2017-03-22 11.19.04.jpg 2017-03-22 11.19.23.jpg 2017-03-22 11.20.19.jpg2017-03-22 11.32.17.jpg 2017-03-22 11.34.00.jpg

The trail to the peak is manageable and easy but seemed like a neverending set of steps up the mountain.

2017-03-22 12.03.23.jpg

The view though was breathtaking. I had to pause at certain points to catch my breath.

2017-03-22 12.17.02.jpg

Once I reached the top, I was about to turn left when there was a skinny snake that crossed right in front of me, I froze. After getting over it, I quickly galloped my way to the viewing point where I could see this view in its entirety.

2017-03-22 12.20.00 copy.jpg

Some relevant information about Ella:

  • choose a hotel near Ella town as it is quite a walk if you would choose to stay nearby Mini Adam’s Peak. However, if you are sensitivie to the noise – then choose somewhere farther
  • Unless you have other plans, for me, it was enough to stay two nights to give you ample time to chill and see some really scenic places such as the Mini Adam’s Peak and Nine Arches Bridge
  • Cafe Chill is an awesome place with a good crowd, fantabulous food and ambiance. The bean bags are uber comfy!
Standard
Lifestyle, Travel

Discovering Sri Lanka | The journey from Colombo to Galle

Day 1. I left Singapore with my new backpack in tow with high hopes of this place. It did not disappoint and I am looking forward to the rest of my trip.

I got on a red eye flight to Colombo and after praying long and hard for my bag to reach the belt, I toIMG_5480.jpgok the first bus in sight to Colombo Fort Railway Station. You literally take the exit at the airport and go straight, cross the street, board that bus – but of course, still ask about its route. Onboard the bus, I wish it was me instead behind the wheel, the driver was taking risky overtakes that won’t bring him to the destination any faster. After an hour or so, we reached Colombo Fort Bus Station. After asking around, it was an easy 200 meters walk to the Colombo Fort Railway Station.

At the counter, I asked for a 2nd class ticket for one to Galle Fort. In half an hour, I managed to get myself on the train after trying to get a sense which one was 3rd class and which one was 2nd. With the help of an eager vendor, he brought me to the 2nd class carts, 5-minutes too late that all of the seats have already been taken. I was standing at the correct platform after all, if I didn’t freak out because of the men surrounding me, I would have gotten a seat.

But fret not, I got the best spot after all, on the first cart just behind the wheelie, an open spot where I had to stand for more than two hours – but with floor to ceiling views of the coast. It was amazing. The coast was unadulterated, often with locals living in it or swimming in it. The sand looked fine enough for a swim and sunbathing – the water clear enough for a good dip. Nearer to the resort areas such as Bentota and Hikkaduwa, the larger hotel properties are dotted along the coast – but nothing as bad as Bali. From the train, there are still a lot of untouched stretches of greenery and sea – open for all to enjoy. It’s been a while since I’ve stared at something for a long time, just admiring its beauty and longing to be able to live in this kind of place for as long as I want to.

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 7.47.11 AM.png

Every trip brings me to this point – the borderline of a city and nomadic life. I know in some way I can live without a 9-6 kind of job but a part of me likes the stability of it, the routine life. But a huge part of me also loves the nomadic life, I can take an online freelance job and jump from place to place, living on a backpack. But to me, no matter how beautiful the world is, cash is king and this is a necessity of life – and with my responsibilities, I would need loads of it. Enough about my dilemma.

And so the journey continues, with an elevated entertainment to boot with a couple standing beside me with the obnoxious girlfriend who kept bossing his BF around to fetch her some water, and teaching him how to pronounce town names – which obviously they both can’t – just making them both look like idiots. To my amusement, they let off a town or two, earlier than my stop, giving me enough time to savor the solitude.

As the train was approaching the next stop, a Sri Lankan man approached me and did the usual small talk, ‘where are you from?’, ‘what do you do?’, ‘where is your husband?’. A tip to single ladies, even if you are not attached at all – just say you are married or that you have a boyfriend, it would make the conversation shorter. And so of course I was traveling alone and had to justify to him why – of all people. While I was explaining myself, this old man suddenly poked my face! “Oh, it’s a birthmark!” – to my shock, I didn’t realize he was actually referring to my mole right beside my nose. I was numbed by my shock that I didn’t know how to react. Before I could say anything, he poked it once more! “This is considered lucky in Sri Lanka.” Now to all you people who have dealt with Indians, you would know that generally, and I am not being racist here, they have no sense of personal space. And so maybe he thought it was okay to literally poke around.

After I recovered, I just played along as he told me that he was from the Tourist Office. He seemed legit, giving me some history lessons and all. So after much prodding, he managed to convince me to allow him to take his recommended tuk-tuk – which was the first one he saw on the street, right across the exit from the train station – pointed to a ‘official’ sticker and charged me 80 rupees for every kilometer, which I thought was not too bad, $1.00 for every km. I agreed on the places I want to visit, got on the tuk-tuk as it brought me to my B&B hostel for a quick shower before I head off.

My hostel was at Antic’s Guesthouse, located conveniently along the famous streets of Galle dotted with shops and quaint cafes. Read about this beautiful inn on my next blog which is all about Galle. After asking the receptionist about ongoing rates for a tuk-tuk tour, I was told that I was being ripped off – so I sent the driver away after paying him 200 rupees for the trip from the station to my hostel.

Tuk-tuk tips – they usually charge based on the places you would want to see and give you a package price which would usually cost you about 2,000 – 3,000 rupees based on seeing places like: Dutch Fort, Spice Garden, Turtle Sanctuary, Jungle Beach – and for me, taking me all the way to my next stop in Mirissa which is about an hour away.

And so finally, I settled down in my room – ready to take on and explore Galle!

Quick Info:

Ticket from Colombo Fort to Galle Fort (Railway) – LKR 1800 | 2.5 hrs roughly | 2nd class is the best!

Standard
Lifestyle, Travel

Paris, solo.

Day 4. Monday. 12th December.

It has been awesome so far, I am kept in awe of a lot of things here. Just walking around the streets is entertaining by itself. I have finally mastered the art and science of taking the metro (and dodging suspicious looking characters). I have mastered where to safekeep my wallet in my backpack so that the smartest of pickpockets cannot even reach and find its way to it. I am so thankful to the app – Citymapper and Google maps – they have been literally taking me by the hand and walking me through the streets of Paris.

I am no longer afraid to travel the city alone. I have unlimited wi-fi thanks to Hippo WiFi and the connection is the same as fiber line back in Singapore – it is my lifeline, my go-to to literally go from point to point. It gives me the freedom not to worry and the need not to carry a ton of maps or travel guide books, there’s no stopping me from going where I want to go, no matter how far – I can literally walk everywhere (as long as it is in the day) or take the metro. No problem at all.

15380502_236787896743496_79981318501232345_n.jpg

What I’ve done so far in the past few days? Climb up the Eiffel Tower which is as touristy as it could get, but a must see. Hang around and stare at the bright blue sky at Place des Vosges. Visit museum after museum with no care if I leave half an hour after getting in because it just doesn’t interest me at all. Dine at the places I have earmarked for this trip – the must eats and must devour. Drank glass after glass of wine.

15380528_236787800076839_6631823168276304598_n.jpg

Here’s my cup of espresso at the cafe I have been wanting to visit for the longest time – Le Pure Cafe – where Before Sunset was shot with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

I have also been waking up at ungodly hours – 1am, 2am and this morning with an improvement at 4am. I cannot help but sleep as early as 8pm – I can’t help it, I’m as Asian woman who refuses to leave +8 timezone. I have also been eating at weird hours, breakfast at 11am, lunch at 3pm and nothing at all for dinner. I hope tonight will be better, but I can’t stay up so late as well because I am off to Strasbourg tomorrow!

With my travel plans being flexible and my itinerary totally within my control – I can skip plans as and when I like. I just decided to ditch Sacre Coeur today just because it has been freezing out and I am totally tired from moving out of the airbnb and to the hostel, plus my long walk to Canal Saint Martin for my boulangerie hunt and late lunch at Le Verre Vole.

atm – I am at the most happening hostel lounge and bar with a spiked iced tea while waiting for my laundry to finish up. It is 5.30pm in the afternoon, it is already dark outside and I am at the mercy of my sleepy head, hoping I don’t knock off so early and wake up at God-knows what time.

Off to Strasbourg tomorrow!

Standard
Lifestyle

I hate running.

Never loved it, never excelled in it. But today, I ran my first half marathon. The only training I have are a bunch of HIIT and yoga sessions that I do on intervals about 3-4 times a week. And today, as I ran my first few kilometers, already left behind by my friends, I told myself – once I hit my 10km mark, I will call an uber and be done with it. I just wanted to let everyone know that I got into it, tried but made a rationale decision that I was not made for it.

After I got past the 10km, I told myself – maybe a few more kilometers won’t hurt – and as I walked and ran intermittently, 12, 13, 14 – I knew I was going to make it ’til the end – and that made all the difference. Today I am so proud of myself, for conquering my fear and for getting over myself and just letting go and followed where my feet led me.

As I recover in the next few days – it will be with a smile because I pushed on, proved my own self wrong, that indeed mind is stronger than matter. I set myself to fail, but realized I wanted to get there and win, and when I put my mind into it – I can do it! and I did!

15241267_232270597195226_310519697671134558_n.jpg

 

Standard
Lifestyle

How yoga saved my life

I have been on and off the mat – mainly hoping to lose weight, but this time, hoping for it to save me, and it did.

After a devastating event in my life early this year, I have searched for a place that will serve as my sanctuary – somewhere I can be safe even when I am alone. Somewhere I can be alone, but don’t feel alone. I found that sanctuary in a 64 inches x 24 inches space – in the comfort of my yoga mat.

I am no yogi, nor am I a pretzel who can do all the asanas perfectly – I try my very best though, bending and stretching every muscle to at least try to honor the pose. I go as often as I can, sometimes twice or thrice a week – I intersperse it with my circuit training and all the other intensive workout I do.

The mat and each yoga session – has helped me, at first, escape my troubles and run away for an hour from my crazy imagination and emotions that I myself don’t trust. After a while, when I have achieved some kind of tranquility within me and I have learned how to control my thoughts, yoga has helped to ground me – pull me close to Earth that I may learn how to embrace my body, and myself. It has allowed me to love being with myself and just live with my insecurities, limitations and all my imperfections.

It may sound cliché to some but it really did provide a dwelling for me – and every other day, I just yearn to get on that mat once more and just be.

Here are my favorite yoga studios in Singapore (not in order of priority):

  1. Yoga Movement
  2. Yoga+
  3. Hom Yoga
  4. Ziva Yoga
  5. Level Yoga
  6. AlphaBalance @ Tanderra
  7. Bych
  8. Como Shambhala
  9. Outta Hatha (outdoor yoga)
Standard
Lifestyle, Travel

Yoga Retreat : Hariharalaya (Part II)

I was going through a very difficult time in my life and was searching for another yoga retreat after my eat, pray, love stint in Bali. With the help of Google, I was able to scour hundreds of sites and eventually found a retreat center in Cambodia that seemed authentic and affordable. I have found the Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Retreat, and this started my journey.

I immediately bought a ticket to Siem Reap, applied my leave and left Singapore. I thought I had it all figured out. After my very lavish, very expensive 3-day retreat in Bali, I really did not know what to expect in Siem Reap – a place I have never been, a country that was never really on top of my bucket list.

I arrived at the center with an open heart, an open mind. It is located in a sleepy village deep in the rural area of Siem Reap where life was simple and you live among the locals. I was shown to our shared dorm which is basically a big hut with six beds with a huge mosquito net and thankfully, a nicely tiled floor. The toilets and showers were shared which was not really a problem. The center itself is big with its own yoga and meditation pavilion, a small dipping pool, pockets of green areas, a massage and spa area, the common dining area, a small book corner and lots and lots of hammocks.

The schedule itself was stringent in the sense that you will be summoned through the ringing of the gong for yoga practice which was about twice to thrice a day, all the meal times and the meditation sessions in between. Everyone is required to be on digital detox – which was life changing. It just sets you free. There are also optional activities and programs to participate in during your free time. I went for the Yoga Massage workshop and the Hidden Temple Yoga Tour which were both awesome.

Screen Shot 2016-09-24 at 8.45.59 AM.png

The Hidden Temple Yoga tour brought us to a clearing by the jungle which was right beside the oldest temple ruins in Cambodia, not the Angkor Wat by the way. After the practice, we had an amazing picnic lunch with the best home cooked food I have ever tasted. It was just unbelievable.

13315652_107411839681103_4620353780985537382_n.jpg

The yoga practice are not like the ones in the city which was more of an exercise than what actual yoga really is. There are no mirrors around to add up to your anxiety – just yourself and the rest of the people whose only focus is self-awareness and being in the now. The teachers are really friendly and approachable – everyone was just real and unpretentious.

The meditation sessions with Joel are just so unbelievable – it takes a while to really settle in and be at the present moment. But just the thought of you giving yourself this time to just be and meditate, is a reward on its own.

Don’t even get me started with the food. We were all on vegetarian diet that entire week. I am a carnivore, I love my steak – but that week was just amazing. It was the best cooking I have ever had. I have travelled to a lot of places and dined at a lot of fine dining restaurants – but those meals I had there  were just so real and heartwarming. I would go back to that place if only for the food.

The part I love the most was just being there. Although I was very troubled with all my personal problems, at that moment – during that week, I was at the most peaceful place and at my most peaceful state. It was life-changing just being able to have idle time to yourself, lounging by the pool and falling asleep in the hammock with a book on your lap. I wrote a lot during my stay there – I had all my emotions going and all my creativity flowing. It was as if it unblocked a part of my mind that wanted to let go, and so, I just let go.

I encourage all of you – and it doesn’t matter whether you do yoga or not at all, whether you are in search of something or you’ve found it all – make a trip to Siem Reap and go for this yoga retreat, I guarantee you that you will not regret it, at all. Do it for yourself.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a message and I would be happy to help. Meanwhile, if you want to find out more – read about Hariharalaya here.

Photo credits : Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Center

Standard
Lifestyle

Guavapass : enough of boring gyms

It is an understatement to say that Guavapass has saved my life. It has saved me from boredom with my former gym, needless to say that my previous gym was already pretty awesome (Virgin Active). Gone are the routinary sessions trying to figure out the machines and attending boring classes – the usual Les Mills series and commercialised yoga. I have been on it for almost nine months now and have attended over a hundred classes within this period.

directory-guavalabs-2.jpg

It was addictive. Apart from trying to maximize the number of classes I go to – I was so excited to try each and every one of the pretty studios with awesome classes. Most of all, it has been great participating at the outdoor bootcamps and sweating it out with random strangers.

They have recently opened up their own space at Mandarin Gallery – I haven’t been but it looks pretty awesome. The more classes you attend, all the more the subscription price becomes worth it.

glbgp.jpg

Below are my top recommendations:

  1. Momentum Bootcamps – their outdoor bootcamps are kick-ass and literally to die for
  2. Ziva Yoga – the space is just surreal, it is in Tiong Bahru and has a ‘nature’ vibe to it
  3. WeBarre – fun sessions for toning
  4. AlphaBalance – they hold their session at Tanderra and Canvass. The one at Tanderra is pretty awesome. Go for their meditation and yoga classes. Just bliss.
  5. Eat, Train, Love – another bootcamp session, a little more ‘humane’ than Momentum Bootcamp
  6. Como Shambhala – nice space. My faves : their 90-min yin yoga
  7. Outta Hatha Yoga – I love their outdoor yoga classes at The Customs House
  8. Level Yoga – their yin and massage session is love!
  9. Spartan Boxing Club – their boxing sessions are tough but it feels so good afterwards. It’s a total stress buster.
  10. 7Cycle – their bootcamp is pretty rad
  11. Anthem – great space and fun spinning class
  12. Aquaspin – fun! spinning in the pool!
  13. Bounce – tried this on my own and is a great stress-reliever.
  14. Bych Yoga Hub – their space and showers are awesome. The only thing I hate is their carpetted flooring which does not give any traction at all for my feet
  15. Surfset – we only get 1 credit for this studio, but surfing on land – a totally great workout!

Check them out here: Guavapass

Photo Credits: Guavapass

Standard
Lifestyle, Travel

Yoga Retreat : Eat, pray, love at Hariharalaya | Cambodia

(a page from my journal during my yoga retreat at Hariharalaya Retreat in Cambodia)

28th May 2016

I have been sleeping like a baby. I skipped two evening activities, first because I’ve already seen the film they featured during the movie night and second, I didn’t really want to play the game last night – my body is still aching right now from all the yoga we have been doing.

Yesterday was amazing, we took our old rickety bikes for a ride to the village. The markets were closed in the afternoon – but who cares, we went anyway. We cycled along pathways lined with red, sandy earth. It was beautiful. The houses were simple and far apart from its neighbors – and you can tell straightaway that the way of life here is slow and simple. They waved their hands and say hello to us when we passed by. Young children, adults (and stray dogs) alike greeted us with their warm smiles. We continued on, passing by grazing and boney cows on the fields, men working on their homes and women gathering around their hammocks to chat and just be.

13339515_107443626344591_1513301345382044307_n.jpg

It’s renewing being here – if life can be this slow and peaceful – then what are we rushing for in the city? I have no idea – but surely, this is the only way to live in here, at least in this part of the world. We made a stop at a small coffee / coconut stall that also sells traditional Khmer outfits  (for the tourists) which was just opposite the temple. We had fresh coconuts that cost us a dollar each. And just when we were enjoying our coconuts, the rain poured – it was beautiful. The sound of the rain was soothing – the last time I heard one was through my ‘spa’ playlist on Spotify. It was just pouring evenly on the red earth and I can smell the ground – a pleasant earthy smell.

13344505_107443423011278_3891820295862940571_n.jpg

We continued to cycle back to the yoga center and cycled past a challenging muddy trail with several potholes – I was treading on and on and in some spots – I could feel the heat of the ground rising. My heart galloping like crazy – I am not at all confident in a bike – and I was praying, dear God – please don’t let me embarrass myself today and fall off a puddle of mud. And by all graces – we reached back into the center again (after getting lost for an hour and getting burned under the hot sun!)

It’s beautiful in here, I am sitting outside waiting for the gong to ring to call for morning practice. I have several hammocks around me and lots of trees surrounding me. And now it has rung – time for yoga!

Standard
Lifestyle

Get your fitness momentum going

It is so easy to lose your momentum after missing out a couple of days at the gym – I should know, I have been on hiatus for almost two weeks. Since the start of the year, I have been religiously going to my workout sessions, be it yoga or HIIT, day in and out, sometimes up to twice a day – until the long nights in the office started and I have been on a roll (literally) ever since.
It has been difficult to get out of bed when my workout alarm rings at 6am in the morning. Even more difficult when it is still dark as the sun only rises here in Singapore no earlier than 7am. Here are some quick tips below to get back to the grind which is really more of a reminder to myself but hopefully will help you as well.

  1. Hang your workout outfit somewhere where you can see it when you are lying in bed. It is important that the outfit inspires you to workout. Lululemons are most effective.
  2. Put your phone or alarm far away from your bed so you’d have to get up to make it stop.
  3. Pack all your workout stuff a night before so you are ready to go when you wake up in the morning.
  4. Save your workout time in your calendar and take it seriously like how you would for a meeting with your boss.
  5. Look forward to that (health) breakfast and plan where you would get your coffee after your workout.
  6. Take a quick shower after getting out of bed for that extra punch to really wake you up!
Standard