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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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!
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Travel

Mirissa to Ella, from the coast to the mountains

When I was putting together my itinerary for this trip – I made sure to get a taste of what Sri Lanka is about without being hasty. Six towns later, I barely scratched the surface. For those who are pressed with time, I recommend going to the beaches as well as the mountains. Here is my journey from Mirissa to Ella.

There are a few options to go to Ella. If you are planning to go to Yala National Park, you can do this on a day trip with your stuff and go straight to Ella which is only about an hour away by car. Otherwise, if you are coming from Mirissa or the other beaches within this coastline, you can:

By bus – from Mirissa, take the public bus to Matara and take a connecting bus to Ella. This trip will take you about 6.5 hours due the many stops and traffic within the cities.

By tuk-tuk – yes, it is possible to take a tuk-tuk to Ella, if you are ready to brave the coiled roads for about 4.5 – 5 hours with leisurely stops for photos or food. This will cost you about LKR 7,500

By car – not so much adventure on a road trip here but it’ll take you to Ella faster, and safer. I was quoted LKR 13,000 so I bailed, I didn’t want to pay this much and I wanted to experience the trip as raw as possible.

I had a comfortable ride to Ella and being so lucky to be with a tuk-tuk driver who grew up in one of the small towns along the way, we even made a stop at their house and I met his parents! Unlike the ride from Galle to Mirissa, there are more fields and remote towns you will pass by than beaches – simply because you are heading farther away from the coast to the deeper part of Sri Lanka.

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Here are some of the photo stops we did along the way which you should do too:

Just outside of Matara, after school where it got pretty crowded on the streets. I am still at awe as to how they arrived at the decision to use white uniforms when the entire country is so beautifully dusty!

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One of the last beaches I saw  before heading on to the swamps and valleysP1030752.JPG

My driver took a cigarette break and what better place to go to than this wonderful beach in Hiriketiya, Dikwella! Had I known this place, I would have stayed here for a night or two. I discovered there is a ‘hipster’ place where you could get a room, surf and yoga lessons nearby. By the way, it is known to be a HIPPIE HANGOUT back in the 60s, how cool is that? The vibe remains to date.

Dots Bay House | http://dotsceylon.com/ | https://www.instagram.com/dotsbayhouse/

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Along the way, I got hungry so my driver was nice enough to buy me corn and fresh coconut!P1030769.JPGP1030771.JPGP1030788.JPG

The rest of the ride will be endless rice fields with occasional peacocks (lots of them!) along the way P1030795.JPG

Finally, the winds got cooler as we climbed the hills of Ella. It was almost night-time when we reached my hotelP1030800.JPGP1030804.JPGP1030809.JPG

Some more information:

http://www.surfsouthsrilanka.com/ – saw this site and if you are into surfing, do check out your options

Where to stay, eat, be merry:

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Travel

Galle to Mirissa, a ride along the coastline

After a great start at Galle, I was now heading deeper into Sri Lanka but keeping to the coastline. To take me to my B&B in Mirissa, I took a tuk-tuk all the way from Galle which took about four hours including the photoshops (lots of it!) and a swim at Jungle Beach.

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Driving me to Mirissa was Sampath from Danu Travels & Tours – fluent in English and knows the sights along the way, even those ones that you have to cross private property to see a stunning beach! He was driver, tour guide and historian all rolled into one! Some members of his family have perished during the tsunami in 2004 and he told me about that day on 26th of December.

Here are the places I went to along the way:

Buddha Temple not far from Galle P1030483.JPG P1030485.JPG

another Buddha Temple – you can’t wear your slippers or shoes in here so you need to brave the burning tiles P1030496.JPG Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 6.49.42 AM.png

 The Jungle Beach where both locals and tourists go for a dip P1030527.JPG P1030533.JPG

 a secluded beach which has powdery sand and turquiose waters P1030548.JPG P1030553.JPG

another sprawling coastline where they do fishing on stilts (the fishermen were out for lunch when we came) P1030561.JPG P1030563.JPG 

another stretch of really fine white sand, so white that it makes the water look more of a baby blue hue, the catamarans are also lined up along the coast P1030576.JPG P1030578.JPG P1030583.JPG

Sampath (tuk-tuk driver) – +94 774 067 442 | danu.travels@outlook.com

Note: photos are all raw and unedited. Yes, they all look that good!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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)
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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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