Never Forget

NY2
New York City Skyline

Everyone should strive to be a world citizen. Boundaries were created by man, not the Creator. There is no such thing as THEM vs. US. There is only ‘WE’.

― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun

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Borobodur: First Sunrise of the New Year

Well, hello September! We are now 3 months away from the holiday season. I’m already scrambling for ideas on what best way to celebrate Christmas and New Year. Hoping it will be as unforgettable as last year. I always look forward to the first thing I do on the first day of the New Year, and that goes beyond watching fireworks display.

It has been a dream of mine to be in a magical place while watching the first dawn of a New Year, and just last year, Indonesia fulfilled that dream. At 4:30 in the morning, after a sleepless night of celebration; eating durian, walking around Yogyakarta, watching fireworks and all, my bf and I headed to the city of Magelang in hopes of watching the first sunrise of 2016 at Borobodur. A beautiful buddhist stupa and temple complex dating from the 8th century. The largest Buddhist temple in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Salak, durian, and sweet bread as a pre NYE snack, courtesy of Wayang Homestay

We stayed at the Wayang Homestay in Yogyakarta, about 45-60 minutes away from Borobodur. Yogyakarta is not a far bus ride but if your goal is to catch the dawn, it’s ideal to hire a driver or sign up for a tour. The complex won’t be open until 6:00 AM, it’s better to be there 30 minutes before the opening time.

Another good reason to arrive early is to secure your picture taking spot. As you can see below, it can get crowded. After all, it’s one of Indonesia’s most visited attraction.

crowd

Manohara  Hotel offers sunrise tour (gain access before the public opening time) and sunset tour, both, with discounted tickets to in-house guests. For more information about Manohara Hotel please visit http://manoharaborobudur.com/. If staying somewhere else just inquire at your hostel/hotel concierge. The Wayang Homestay offers affordable accommodation and tour options. Click here for more information.

Armed with a flashlight and a raincoat, we started our walk inside the temple complex.  It wasn’t raining in Yogyakarta but the weather quickly changed in Magelang. It was pouring!

We waited…and waited! No sun! Everything was gray and gloomy. Nevertheless, I thought the gloominess was charming. I fell in love with the temple against a foggy forest backdrop. Even the heavy clouds I found idyllic.

fog

And finally, a hint of orange surfaced from the clouds.

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I was hoping for more sunshine but I can’t complain about this view. The clouds, the fog, and the wet temple floors added more mystery to this already mysterious place.

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After a few minutes of rejoicing, everything went back from being orange to gray. It was once again gloomy and raining. I was disappointed in the beginning, but then I realized how fortunate I am to be standing in one of the greatest Buddhist architecture in the world.full_borobodur

Borobodur is a complex architecture, it’s goal is to visually show the teachings of Buddha. The base of the temple is filled with intricate friezes depicting the consequences of living a life engulf by earthly desires; greed, lust etc.

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Borobodur has 9 platforms. Having hand rails along the stairs provides relief to people who has fear of heights, me.

Apart from the base, each platforms leading to the very top stupa has wall friezes that shows different steps on how to achieve total enlightenment.

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wall3Borobodur is designed in a way where it’s visitors can take a religious walk to enlightenment; and exploring it’s platforms, under a gloomy weather, feels just like that. Make sure to explore the temple in a clockwise manner, gradually ascending from the base to each platforms.

At the very top of Borobodur is a center dome surrounded by smaller stupas. The central dome symbolically pointing to the heaven is said to represent the total state of blissfulness, Vimutti widely known as Nirvana. The final and highest goal of Buddhism.

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Central Dome

My seemingly religious exploration of Borobodur took about 6 hours. We left the complex nearing lunch time, it was drizzling and the temple still surrounded by fog.

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Fog Wrapped Around Borobodur

And even if the weather was gloomy and the sun didn’t fully come out of it’s hiding, it’s still a dream come true. Spending the first day of 2016 at a magical place like Borobodur. Everyday is a special day but a New Year marks a fresh start. Why not celebrate it by watching the first sunrise at your favorite place, or better, your dream place. What about you? Where would you like to be on the first sunrise of 2017?

 

Cooking Class in Bali

For the final leg of my Indonesia trip I decided to sign up for an all day cooking class in Bali. Trying local delicacies has always been the highlights of my travels, but this time, I want more than just the food, I want to do the cooking!

After a quick internet research I found a reputable company called Ubad Ubud Bali Cooking Class. Reservation was easy, all it took was 2 emails and one final confirmation email. We were picked up from our Ubud hotel early in the morning. From there we headed to a local market outside of Ubud, Pasar Umum GianyarNot for shopping but for a tour. Everything we needed for our cooking class was already prepared in advanced.

Our wonderful host gave us an educational tour; showing us tips on how to save money, teaching us market etiquettes, and of course, we spent some time learning about the local produce.

 

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Dragon Fruit and Green Mangoes
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Salak (snake fruit), Dragon Fruit, Mangoes, and Sour Oranges (jeruk)

The cooking class was held at our host’ ancestral compound. It was a beautiful home with garden and traditional features every Balinese home would have.

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We were welcomed with a sweet treat of pandan rice cake and fresh mango juice.

The set up for the cooking class was very homey yet professional.
There were two gas stoves, 1 charcoal grill, brick oven, small mortar and pestle, and a giant mortar and pestle (my absolute favorite!). 

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Giant Mortar and Pestle! The sarong they provided gave a more authentic feel!

We started off by sampling some of the ingredients; turmeric, cumin, ginger, and lemon leaves to name a few. cropped37

We first made a soup with coconut and mushroom served as an appetizer. It gave us needed energy for all the chopping, grinding, and wrapping of the ingredients.

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The boyfriend grinding peanuts while I chopped up some garlic and onions and other spices.

With a small class of four, our host was able to make things more personal. We were laughing and learning together, as  we took turns mixing, grilling, and chopping.

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Our beautiful host with the two other people from our group. I wish I took a group photo :/

Two people in our group are vegetarians. They used tempeh (cooked and slightly fermented soybeans) for the dishes involving meat. If you have any dietary restrictions just let them know in advanced and they will do their best to accommodate your needs.

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Meet Puspa our beautiful and very energetic host
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Puspa explaining how to use steam to cook rice.

We learned how to make eight amazing traditional Balinese dishes: 1. Sate ayam (grilled chicken) 2. Gado-gado (vegetables with peanut sauce) 3. Mushroom and coconut soup 4. Fern salad 5. Tofu and tempeh with sweet sauce 6. Chicken soup 7. Black and white rice with palm sugar (dessert) 8. Steamed tuna in banana leaves. We also had jackfruit and mangoes from our host’s own backyard. 

After hours of cooking everyone was excited to feast, but first, time for a beautiful fruit carving presentation. Puspa’s cousin did a brief demonstration on how to create amazing shapes out of fruits and fruit peels. It was learning and entertaining. I wish I took photos but I was too busy paying attention.

The food was beautifully prepared, buffet style, in a special garden area.You dine best when you dine with nature! The photo below doesn’t justify the actual beauty of the set up. FINISH

If you want to learn the recipes and methods for the above dishes I highly suggest, when in Bali, to sign up for Ubad Ubud Bali Cooking Class. They are very knowledgeable and will go above and beyond to meet your needs. You will gain so much knowledge not just about the local dishes but also about the unique culture of Bali. The entire class was highly organized and Puspa gave very clear explanations. Word of advice, come hungry and prepare yourself for a Balinese feast. A truly unforgettable experience.

More information about Ubad Ubud Bali

Website: http://ubadubudbali.com

Price: $25.00 (as of 2016)

Services: Cooking class and market tour

Free hotel pick up and drop off

Free copy of recipes included in the price

Don’t Date a Girl Who Travels

Are you familiar with that essay Don’t Date a Girl Who Travels? Well, there’s a video version now and I just can’t get enough of it. I really like that they’ve included a clip from Tracks  which is one of my favorite travel movies of all time. Above is the embedded video taken from vimeo.com. Watch it and be inspired 🙂

And if you have any suggestion of a good travel movie please don’t hesitate to comment.

Beautiful Sequoia National Park

I want to start this post with some of my favorite photos from this trip along with my favorite sayings/quotations. If you would like more information,and photos, about my experience in the Sequoia just keep scrolling 🙂 Enjoy!


“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”

Albert Camus
Big Trees Trail
Big Trees Trail

“Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.”

William Wordsworth
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Big Trees Trail
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
— Rachel Carson
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Crescent Meadow

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Albert Einstein
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Crescent Meadow

“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”

Anthony J. D’Angelo
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“Even if one tree falls down it wouldn’t affect the entire forest.”

Chen Shui-bian
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“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

John Muir
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Crescent Meadow

“Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley.”

Theodore Roethke
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I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Frank Herbert

Conclusion

My First Visit in Sequoia
My First Visit in Sequoia

News about flash floods and  stranded vehicles on the 5 freeway (near Grapevine) was all over the media just two days before my trip to Sequoia. I was very close to canceling the trip but I’m glad I didn’t. Hours before driving, the rain stopped and the road condition was reported to be safe for traffic.

Bear
Bear Hill

Sequoia National Park BigTrees_DSC4150  is a 404,064 acres park situated in the Sierra Nevada, only 3 hours away from Los Angeles.
A true hiker’s paradise, Sequoia is home to magnificent hiking trails–you have more than 1000 choices. There are short and long trails for everyone to enjoy.
Some of the top-rated Sequoia hikes include; Big Trees Trail, Crescent Meadow Loop Trail, Congress Trail, Tokopah Falls Trail, Hazelwood Nature Trail, Alta Peak Trail, and the High Sierra Trail to Bearpaw Meadow.

My favorite trail :)
My favorite trail 🙂

The hiking trails provides out of this world experience to one of the most amazing tree groves in the world, you’ll get to enjoy flora and faunas of different colors, majestic trees of small and medium sizes, and of course, there’s the General Shermanlargest tree in the world.

General Sherman. So tall even my wide angle lens had a hard time capturing it!
The General Sherman.
So tall even my wide angle lens had a hard time capturing it!
General Sherman from another angle.
General Sherman from another angle.

The entrance fee to the park cost $20.00 per vehicle and $10.00 for individuals traveling on foot, motorcycle, or bicycle. Both passes are valid for 7 days. The park also offers annual passes for both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. For more detailed information please click here.

Accomodation

There are plenty of accommodation choices near the park. My boyfriend and I stayed at the Sierra Lodge, we got a very clean room with king-sized bed, bathroom, and a balcony. The hotel offers complimentary beverages and pastries for breakfast. I highly recommend this place, it was a bit dated but the hotel feels very homey and actually very clean! Below are some photos of the reception area. Biggest fail for not taking bedroom photos.

They have books in
They have books and maps on the front desk.  And a bear!

The biggest plus for me is its close proximity to the park, only 3 miles away from the southern entrance. There is only one thing I hated about this place, although there are designated parking spots for each rooms, the parking entrance leading to the lot is too small. Other than that, this hotel is perfect for couples and families. Rates start at $68.00 a night. To book rooms visit http://www.sierra-lodge.com. You can also find them on Agoda, Hotels.com, or Priceline.

FOG + Hiking

I am no fog expert but I am definitely a fog lover!

On the way to Tharp's Log we saw this amazing tree almost covered in fog!
On the way to Tharp’s Log we saw this amazing tree almost covered in fog!

I think fogs can add emotion to just about anything, it can make a boring hike interesting and it can definitely make any photograph dramatic.

Look at all the clouds!
Look at all the clouds!

The rain was pouring throughout the night before my hike to the Sequoias. I was excited and nervous at the same time. Nervous because of the possible park closure caused by mudslides. Excited because with every rain comes an amazing fog phenomenon! The rain didn’t tamed down until 9am the next morning. We started heading to the park entrance by 10am. The entire park is safe for visitors with only one closure, the Crystal Cave. 

There are many hiking trail choices in the park. One of my favorites is the Crescent Meadow hike, this is where I experienced the fog phenomenon I was looking for. 

The Gem of the Sierras
The Gem of the Sierras

 

 

 

 

Another one of my favorites is the Big Trees Trail.  Right by the trail is Ed by Ned, from afar it looks like one giant tree with one trunk. But it’s actually a formation of 2 trees that grew very closely to each other. Just look at the top and you’ll notice the two trunks. Twin trees! 

Say hi to Ed by NEd. Looks like one giant tree from afar. But it's actually a formation of 2 trees grown very closely to each other. Twin trees!
Say Hi to Ed by Ned.
Me posing with the trees
Me posing with the trees
I felt really small walking around the Big Trees trail. It was a gloomy day but we experienced a little bit of sun shine along the trail. The lights hitting the big trees made its reddish trunk more dramatic.
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Big Trees Trail
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Big Trees Trail
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Tharps Log described by John Muir as a “noble den”

And finally, our hike ended at Tharp’s Log. A cattleman named Tharp started a small cattle ranch in the Big Forest area. He then built a cabin, equipped with window, fireplace, and a door, out of a fallen log. The log was hollowed by fire through fifty-five feet of its seventy-foot length.

 

Getting Lost in Mandalay, Myanmar

My second day in Mandalay consisted of walking, lots of walking. It was raining and the streets were covered in mud. Every step I took felt like the mud was trying to engulf my flip flops. This marked the day I vowed to only travel with Skechers walking shoes or a good pair of running shoes!

After walking around the markets for hours, my travel buddy and I can’t seem to orient ourselves on the map. And so we lay down the guide book and proceeded with more walking! We just walked and walked and walked until we spotted an old house.

The House
How can you not be intrigued by this old house?
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How can you not be intrigued by this old house?

The gate leading to the house was open. I took that as a sign of invitation. After a few minutes of exploring, an old friendly barefooted monk approached me. He pointed to my feet, showed me the keys on his hands, and pointed right at the house.

I took my flip-flops off, my tour begins.

A Friendly Host
How can you not be intrigued by this old house?

I showed him my camera and asked if I can take photos as we go on our tour. He smiled and said ya!.

And the tour starts!
The Monk
The railings and the big red sliding door has intricate details. The color matches the monk’s robe. Everything just adds to the mystery of the house.

Although my tour guide for the day barely spoke English, he somewhat learned to say,  ” All original here”. Every part of the house, according to him, is all original and preserved. Majority of the time we communicated through gestures, he points here and there, and I just look.

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Behind the door is a big open space. Everything is old and made of wood. The ceiling is as intricate as the metal door outside. 

Many times, during my tour, I wished I knew how to speak the local language. It would’ve been nice to be able to know what he was saying. He talks as though he was giving important details as we were walking in every area of the house.My questions were never answered, is this a family house? A temple? A house for the monks? I will never know.

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Inside a house is a spiral stairs leading to the second floor.
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How can you not be intrigued by this old house?
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At the second floor of the house

Mandalay has been amazing to me. The people are friendly and everyone has been polite and welcoming. This is just one of my favorite memories in Myanmar. I’m hoping to someday come back and go on more adventures. Who knows, maybe i’ll get lost again.

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My favorite image from this tour
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Would love to visit this man again, I enjoyed his company even just for a brief moment