What to do next? My dream travel itinerary

What to do next? My dream travel itinerary

Do you know the feeling of wanting to have a holiday but due to grown up responsibilities, it is not yet possible at the moment? I know most people are in that stage.. coz that includes me too.

But that does not hinder us from planning on that great escape right? While I hustle on accumulating that so called freedom fund, I also daydream on that perfect holiday to finally experience the unique landscape of Cappodocia, Turkey; that captivating feeling when you see the Northern lights; that excitement to see the New York City attractions; or the bliss when you finally see the Corrs live in Ireland; or that moment when you finally step into the hills that are alive in Austria, and much more.

Let’s look forward to the day where we’ll finally be able to cast our worries away on that far away land just because we deserve it. I’ll be writing my dream travel itineraries because.. well, this is my blog. :P

You may want to follow this itinerary too if you are fond of long term and slow travels.

Coffee or Tea shop hopping. My friends who went to travel with me previously know this is so true. And while they trek that mountain, I’ll be on that coffee or tea shop hanging out to wait for them to get back. Maybe I’m not that sporty type but yeah I’m happy reading a book in coffee or tea shops while my friends sweat it out outside.

 


coffee shop


Reading books during transit. I love to read books more than watching tv or movies. Sometimes I even read favorite books twice. ^_^ My favorites are The Little Prince, Alchemist, Like a Flowing River, and a Thousand Splendid Suns. Looking forward to read books recommended by the book club of Mark Zuckerberg this time.

Landscape and history tour. Sometimes, every city that you visit are always the same – malls, parks, buildings.. same gray architecture with busy people. That is why it is nice to visit heritage cities and geographical landscapes that are out of the ordinary. It is what makes a country unique and travel more interesting.


 


Explore towns with a Bicycle. Aside from train travels, I do love to ride bikes when traveling. That is because bicycle rides produces low carbon footprint, so it’s an environment friendly way to explore surroundings.


bike


 

Cooking school. Not really a good cook, but I’m learning. It’s fun to do this whenever I go to different homes during my travels because every country have their own dish specialty.

Culture and Language exchange. Going to a new country means also meeting local people and get to know their way of life. I was fortunate enough to learn a bit of Bangla when I was in Kolkata, India and learned Passa Thai when I was in Thailand. I learned a bit of Italian when I stayed in Tagaytay because I was with Italian speaking people and I learned bits of dialects in every Visayan province that I go to. Here’s to learning more!


christmas


 

Road trip and Train travels. This is a definite bucketlist. I once read about that trans siberian train travel where you can get from Asia to Europe and vice versa by land travel. Road trips during winter on vehicles with winter tyres are on the bucketlist too.

I just hope to tick this off while traveling with special people in my life so we can see if we can still stick with each other despite uncomfortable long travels :D..

So those are what I regularly do and what I still plan to do once I start to travel out of my country again. I’m getting that feeling that the universe can’t wait for me to explore again.. and yes dear Universe, I am so grateful.

As much as possible, I intend to not just travel but live in a new country for at least a few months to a year. Visiting for a short time only scratches the surface culture of a country, it’s still nice to immerse in the country and learn it’s way of living too.. that way, we become a global citizen and learn more about the world.

Recommended reads:
http://grasya.com/2016/09/where-to-go-next-my-dream-travel-itinerary/
http://grasya.com/2014/10/long-preparation-for-a-long-term-travel/
http://grasya.com/2015/03/things-you-need-to-bring-for-long-term-travels/

Contest Entry from Klaudia Horváth

Contest Entry from Klaudia Horváth

This story is an entry for this recent contest: http://grasya.com/2017/10/win-free-3-days-2-nights-stay-in-thailand-malaysia-and-singapore/

Read on and see if the story deserves to win.


Let me tell you about me first. I’m an average person, with an average life I would say. I honestly haven’t done much for the community so far: in highschool we organized a charity for the harmed by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, I donated blood for a couple of times, me and my family giveaway clothes, toys and food time to time to the Red Cross (it’s a support in Hungary for the domestic abuse survivors), and last year I went to Korea to volunteer to paint schools and fences. Other then these I hosted many couchsurfers and guided them in my city.
I’m currently looking for job and have been looking for job in the past couple of years, but in my country it’s difficult to get a job and I also have panic&anxiety disorder, depression.

All I do everyday is living for my friends. One of my bestest friend have been going through a really hard time, but I can’t be there for him, because he lives in Miri, Malaysia. I can only listen to him sobbing on the phone and hear his stories of bullying. I would love to help him, but as I’m not capable of working or going to public in general, I can’t afford to go there. And this is how I found your giveaway.

My latest journey leads my story to South Korea, last year, when I volunteered and spent time with sightseeing and meeting friends.


As for the volunteer part, I don’t really have much to say, I just painted the walls and fences^^” So let me tell you about how I spent my freetime:

I stayed in Suwon, couchsurfing, my host was really nice, helped me with everything and his family was super nice as well, so I feel really lucky.

I got to meet my friend for the second time after 6 years, when he first visited me in Hungary, it feels so great that we’ve known each other for about 9 years and still keeping in touch despite the distance. He was also really helpful and introduced me to his family for so many years. His mom cooked me at least a 10 dishes lunch, even though they’re not wealthy at all and my friend said they only eat this “fancy” on birthdays, so it made me feel very thankful, but kinda inconvenient at the same time. I can’t believe she saw me for the first time, but took so much effort to please me. I hope one day I can visited them again, so next time I can prepare something nice and delicious for them as well. Thinking about these I just realized how lucky I was to meet these people.

In Korea I experienced my first times. Like going to a theme park. It might sound simple, but we don’t have theme parks in my country and have never been in one. I even tried the scariest roller coaster! I couldn’t really walk and my knees were trembling after getting off, but I’ll never regret. I visited a couple of fortresses, those historical palaces, temples, they were all so breathtaking! Sooo huge! And the view is even better! So nice to see they used so many bright colors, most temples are dark and more sorrowful, but the ones in Korea so bright and happy. I went to Busan from Suwon by train, it was my first time travelling by such fast train. I played with fireworks for the 1st time in my life by the beach. In Busan I got to stay for a couple of days, on the 47th floor of a building thanks to my friend. I think I’ve never been higher than 10th floor in my life before (this also kind of simple thing to be in such high building, but for me, it’s unforgettable, I basically stucked on the window^^”)
I went to the cherry blossom festival in Yeoido~ I love these kind of festivals which admiring the beauty of nature. Interesting fact, that I’m kinda social phobic in my country and have constant anxiety, but Korea I never felt anything like that, even when I was alone, the crowd was kinda comforting there, maybe because people the don’t stare at me, unlike in my country.

In my entire trip, my very best moment, when I felt the best, when I was in Busan, we went to the fortress, crossed the wall, and on the other side of the wall, there was a park. In that park, there we about 30 people, all of them with their puppies. They were playing with each other, and each other’s dogs, I don’t even know why, but it was just to peaceful, I was watching them playing for about an hour I believe, I even shed tears. I know I can see this scene basically everywhere, but at that moment, at that place, I felt all peace. If I didn’t have these friends, I probably couldn’t experience these moments. No matter where I go, I just need to spend the time with my friends. That’s why I wish I could be there for my friend in Miri, I need to help him. I also like to feel to be needed, I guess? In my country, my friends don’t need me, so I think I should go somewhere , where I needed, even just for a couple of days.



After thinking about the entry for a few days, then wrote my thoughts down.. I realized I’m not even sure about flight included the giveaway or not, so I will feel really awkward if I misunderstood. In that case, I’m really sorry in advance

The Hippies of South America

I’m on a fairy hunt.. and I see Sarah as one of them. She’s a brave Canadian who’s roots are Asian yet spirits are from elsewhere. ^_^ She worked in super yacts, volunteered in hostels, and has become an actress at some point. All these she does for the love of travel.

This little lady is awesome according to my book of life. So I let her share stories in this website… i don’t necessarily encourage you to quit your job to travel like what Sarah did. But for those of you with brave souls, here’s a member of your tribe.


It’s Sarah, on another chapter of her life. I quit my job (again) to pursue and go somewhere far (again). This time I find myself in South America. It’s not because I hated my last job, I just needed a long break from workaholics and those who are in a constant bad mood. In this journey of mine, I met some very interesting, common yet unstructured, ingenious, free spirited, friendly, chatty, etc people on the road – the hippies of South America.

sarah tang in south america

One might probably define hippies as these dirty beggars without a penny to their name, hitchhiking around the planet. Maybe you’d think they have these bohemian style dress code with dreadlocks that swing back and forth like ropes on a boat. I don’t think it applies to every hippie, and it’s hard to generalise as they are not a tribe, not a cult, not a religion, but more like a community of free floaters, flowing around the globe and choosing a life that they want. Can you imagine quiting your job, selling all your things, kissing your family and friends goodbye, and start travelling for the sake of travelling? I am very sure they can.

So back to the topic. What makes the hippies in South America so different and capturing? For one, my hippie friends here dont’t have a lot of money, maybe even without money. However, they are not free loaders and definitely do not beg for money and never with a sign saying “need money to travel”. Instead, most of them have some skills to add to their name, such as making these beautiful designs of friendship bracelets, selling and making crystals and wired crystal ornaments, juggling in crosswalks or the plaza, baking and selling bread, rolling truffle balls to sell, wovening dream captures, etc. My favourite is when they busk and sing traditional South American songs on the street, in buses, and in restaurants. I loved it so much, I went to join my hippie friends’ band for a few days restaurant hopping and busking. And in every tourist city, should a hippie or a traveller without much of a skill needs money, there will be some badly printed sign outside a restaurant looking for a waiter(ress), cook and cleaner. I got my job as a cleaner/ waitress that way! That’s how they make money and support themselves. That’s how they can continue to live their travelling life. That’s how they are not a burden to the population or to the government or to anyone.

I forgot to mention, I started with zero foundation of Castellana (Latin American Spanish) and my various beloved friends here were very persistent to teach me Spanish, as they spoke almost no English. As for sleeping? Most of them own a tent. I don’t know how budget tight are you when you travel, but should I need the cheapest recommendation for a place to sleep, you bet I would ask the first hippie type of person on the street for that.

In this community without borders, I have felt very welcomed and very happy to share my time with them. As a traveller, be it hippies or just a regular traveller, we travel and learn by sharing informations. I will forever remember their genuine smile, their hospitality, and their lessons in sharing all they have.


Win free 3 days 2 nights stay in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore

After every long term travel, I always try to make it a point to let my readers experience the places where I have been.

Not everyone does this but that’s how I try to give back.. let’s wish that grasya.com can give more in the future.
Now this is a challenge if I get to expensive countries. I thought I figured it out when a former client did a giveaway in this site.. But let me figure it out more next time. Any suggestions? ^_^

For this moment, let’s aim to spread goodness.

As you’ve read from my previous story, I wasn’t able to travel to Singapore. My anxiety and low self esteem as a solo traveler during my long term travel was at an all time low too.

But I don’t want you, dear reader, to undergo the same anxiety and misfortunes that I went through.
Soo let’s have this opportunity to turn a misfortune into something beautiful.

This picture was in the Round Houses in Chiang Dao, Thailand owned by a wonderful lady named Maggi. The place is magical and serene, and the house is not a typical house because it’s creatively designed. I want to own something like this in the future. You can click on the image to see more details.


chiang dao round houses


I always try to do a give away so at least my readers can partake in the joyful moments I had during my travels. Here’s some of my previous freebies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rich in material things but who cares about it when I can do freebies and giveaways that make other people happy :P


This was down south of Chiang Mai in Thailand. It’s my second time to be here. It’s a quiet resting place in a city with enough space for a 7-10 people group retreat. You may click on the picture to book


chiang mai retreat center 2

Ok. Do those pictures make you excited already? ^_^..

Up for grabs are the opportunity to stay for 3 days 2 nights in beautiful places where I stayed at either in Chiang Mai Thailand, Chiang Dao Thailand, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and Singapore… well, never really had the chance to stay in Singapore but I paid for the place so might as well give it away.


staycation in singapore


When you win, you can choose 1 place to stay in each country so you can finally get your peace of zen.. And, who knows you might want to stay there forever. There are 3 places to choose from in Thailand so you can pick whatever you fancy.

Most of these places are for people who do personal retreats. So if you’re looking for quiet places for rest, relaxation and meditation, I would recommend you to check out those places. If you’re a party person, sorry but it’s not for you. You can still join in and gift it to someone else that needs it.


This place is a quiet home up a bit northwest, 30-45 mins from Chiang Mai walled city. The rural place has very few tourist and has a very local vibe. For those hypersensitive to technology and needs lots of green spaces, you can check this out. This house was chosen by spiritual guides as a place for healthy energy. Click on the image if you want more details.


naturally cool place in chiang mai


As for the contest, here’s the mechanics.

0. Like Homestay
1. Like Chiang Mai Homestay and Retreat House
2. Like Chiang Dao Roundhouses
3. Like Trekking Collective
4. Like Soholand in Malaysia
5. Like Travel Tips and Stories
6. Like grasya.com
7. Share this post in facebook, instagram or twitter with hashtag #retreats #homestay #contest #giveaway
8. Comment on this website on why you wanted to win this.

ALTERNATIVE ENTRY: Email me at grasya(at)grasya.com a story about your latest journey containing a minimum of 400 words – I might publish your story too. Email Subject should be Contest Entry.

At the end of Oct 2017, I will choose the names of the person worthy to stay at different places in Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao Thailand, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and Singapore for free. I give priority to those who are corporate slaves, single moms, those who do volunteer/charity work and other work that involves helping the underprivilege.

The picture below is in Malaysia. I stayed here twice already. I was traveling solo but there are always couchsurfers in this place hanging out, if you want a city vibe and yet still experience the rural mountains and hotspring, check it out.


soholand malaysia

A piece of happy thought: everyone who will participate here will still get something for Christmas. ^_^ It’s a wee something but it can at least start your journey.

If you win though, you need to redeem the prize and set your booking on or before December 2017. If you don’t have travel plans on or before January 2018, you can still gift it to someone else who is traveling and needs a place to stay, that way, we can pass it forward.


***DUE TO LOW NUMBER OF ENTRIES, DEADLINE IS EXTENDED UNTIL NOVEMBER 30, 2017***

Back to the Philippines. Long term trip experiences shared

Back to the Philippines. Long term trip experiences shared

It took me weeks to update the content of this website… because i want to show the beautiful side of life in a way that no one will get jealous if I show pretty pics, or at least no one will borrow money.

But after reading this, and you still feel envy, contact me and I’ll personally tell you all the horror stories that I’ve collected. Who knows I might convert the envy to fright and you might not want to travel already : )))))

But for now, let’s focus on life’s beautiful moments.

I do travel in a different way so please don’t categorize me in any of the social class ladder. I blend or adjust depending on different situations.

As I’ve said previously in old travel stories, I travel solo but I meet people along the way so I’m not really solo travelling all the time.

It’s nice to meet people who have a different culture or point of view other than yours. There’s beauty in diversity. And it’s nice to break other people’s negative mindset sometimes. Here are some highlights of my trip. Hope you enjoyed reading and get a lesson or two.

1. During gatherings of friends new and old, I usually pay for lunch or dinner of everyone. Then I see their upset faces.. I don’t know if this is the norm or not. But I’m really happy to pay. If I’m with fellow Filipinos, they will usually be happy that I’m paying. But the behavior changes when I’m with other nationalities… I may not look rich but at least, don’t treat me poor and always be on the side of receiving.. don’t spoil me and give me everything for free, because instead of being glad to receive blessings, it makes me feel guilty and tend to give back.

So I continue to treat them despite my friends showing signs of being upset and probably concerned about me that I may loose money due to traveling, I love these people, they are my human treasures.


food in thailand


2. I’m not shy to say I cook, clean dishes, or tend the garden of my hosts because I love to do this. I buy their groceries out of my pocket too.

Our foreign visitors to the PH do this favor too, they cook dishes that represents their countries and my niece and nephews gets to have a global education.

I don’t want to be just a visitor. I want to be a temporary family member.


grasya travel 2017


3. During travels, I met interesting people that are totally on the other side of my point of view. I met people who are pro-climate change, saying that trees needs more C02 so we need to produce more carbon. And that weather changes are causes by government, example, HAARP.. Wars in the future will not use missiles or machine guns, wars are now in forms of weather changes. Scary thought from that American lady I met in Chiang Mai.. but who knows what the future holds.

4. I also met someone from Latvia, a tiny country in Europe, and he doesn’t like Syrians and refugees saying they are spending the resources of their host countries. But at least he gave me a probiotic mushroom, so I’m happy. He said some countries in Europe are very racist and they have this – Aryan supremacist mentality.. I said it’s ok –
I’m used to being discriminated anyway… but now that I have friends in these countries, I will feel safe in their bubble.. hopefully.. we’ll see what the future holds.

5. The long term travel is a bit short for me coz usually, my long term travel duration is 3 months. But I was still able to meet different people like from US and Latvia as mentioned previously; and I also met a family from China, overworked yuppies from India, a focolarina from Japan, Chiang Mai ambassador from Australia, tiny homes owner from UK, a travel company alpha female owner who has a British passport, a young backpacker from France who is looking for a purpose in life, Thai tourist from Macau, a long time friend whom I thought was from Nepal but has an Indian passport… of course wonderful locals, my human treasures from Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, some whom were my friends since 2004 and 2010. These are just some of the pics, some moments are just forever captured in my memory (as an excuse for forgetting to take a picture) ^_^


grasya travel 2017


6. I met a monk who used to be a pilot. Now, he eats only once a day and live alone in the forest.It made me feel guity that we were eating a sumptious lunch and he just stayed in another table, unattached.


monk thailand
 

7. I met a few more who hated the Muslims…. but it’s very interesting to note that when I was stranded in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, while everyone was just staring, laughing and being entertained at my misfortunes, the one who rescued me was a Muslim family.. and we had a beautiful sharing about each others culture, and she told me that Muslim women are actually very important in their religion.. and to my surprise, this Muslim lady was actually driving the car while her husband and kid was in the backseat.. She later told me she is a financial expert and has different businesses… we might collaborate in the future.. she is very empowering indeed.


johor bahru


8. I wasn’t able to enter Singapore, but this should be told in another story. Of course I can’t say anything about that country coz I wasn’t able to visit in the first place. I went there before already so not really keen on traveling there again anyway. But I will have a contest to give away a chance to stay in a posh accommodation because well, I wasn’t able to go although I paid for this already, might as well give it away.


staycation

 

9. I was trying to do many things at the same time. Travel, working on different projects online that deserves another post, meeting people, shopping and getting lost, it actually took a toll on me and I got sick in my last few days in Malaysia. At the same time, my insecurities were at an all time high and I can’t help but compare myself to those backpackers who still looks posh despite messy hair, slippers, and just plain sleeveless shirt and short. I dress like that too, but instead, I feel more like an illegal immigrant maid. Maybe that’s the reason why I wasn’t able to enter SG? I was actually dressed decent that time, and was proud to tell the immigration officers I travelled to other countries already. Anyway, that’s another story and yes, I do deserve a hug, thank you.

10. Despite the last few days of my long term travel not ending well, I still wish more people can travel too so they can understand each other. What I see is that people go out of the country but they stay in their own bubble and meet people in their own class.. and then pick on other people not belonging in their own class.

It’s the same scenario anywhere. Rich vs Poor, Young vs Old, West vs Asians, White vs nonWhites, Christians vs Muslims, and vice versa.

Another challenge is inflation and war and other culture conflicts that makes it more difficult for people to move. Travel is still a privilege but if we find ways for everyone to travel and understand each other, this privilege will be erased. Besides, everyone deserves to enjoy this beautiful earth, it’s the only one we have until it’s time to leave it.

Back to Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Freedom (almost) achieved

Back to Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Freedom (almost) achieved

At last! I’m free!!

Well not really. I still have stuff to do back home in the Philippines. But after 2 years of not traveling out of the country, I felt like a bird suddenly out of a cage.


bird

Don’t worry I’m not the wild bird type :P

My feelings were mixed of tears of joy and a bit of angst that I wasn’t able to do this regularly like other people who travels to other countries or continent like it’s just going to the Mall. But then I realized, I am still lucky coz there are people who lived their whole lives not traveling.

Or worst, some people travel just because they need to survive.

So I’m contented and my Maslows Heirarchy of Needs is fulfilled.. I feel grateful dear Universe.


Chiang Mai mountains

I am currently in Thailand, then will go to Vietnam, then Malaysia. Traveling on a budget to make sure other people who don’t have so much budget can travel too. Although I need to make sure I give the right information to the right readers, because you know…. hello thieves. ^_^ I do hope I have converted them to not steal this time.

A day in Bhaktapur, Nepal with a motorcycle tour guide

A day in Bhaktapur, Nepal with a motorcycle tour guide

I’m recalling my past travels in Nepal last 2014. It is such a beautiful country, I wish I can go back someday.

****

After a few days in Kathmandu city, I decided to venture out and head to Bhaktapur. I found an American couchsurfer host and despite being 60, her radiance and outlook in life makes her aura younger.. I might be flattering her so much because I’m surfing :)) but really she’s awesome!

She recommended that I go around and hire her adopted Nepali grandson to tour around so that’s what I did one day. We started very early, around 6AM..

Although we could have went out of the house of my couchsurfing host at 5:30AM, I just had a hard time going out of bed coz I’m not a morning person. On the other hand, Bimal, my tour guide, was very prompt.

It was chilly, around 10 degree, and as we go up the mountain using Bimal’s bike, we stopped at a great spot overseeing the Himalayas to take a picture of the sun rise.

It was beautiful.


sunrise in Nepal


And seeing beautiful places has just started.. After a brief tea stop, we went on top of a hill in Nagarkot. The sun was already up and the Himalayas looks sparkly stunning.. the top of the world is at sight.. and I said to myself how lovely is your dwelling place dear God.


this grasya is in nepal


Then after a while, we descent to see the surrounding hills , rice terraces, cool breeze. It was picture perfect that we periodically stop so I can take a pictures..  I’m not a good photographer though but hope you like the picture


nepal


Then we went temple hopping.

Nepal, a country between two giants India and China, has an interesting religious culture.. For example, my Hindu tour guide performed Buddhist traditions when we went to a Buddhist temple.. so despite the difference, I’m glad to observe that religious tolerance is very much apparent.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Riding a motorcycle instead of going on group tours made my trip flexible. We stop whenever I want to take pictures and we went on roads not passable to regular vans. For those who wants to avail of motorcycle tours, I paid 1000 nepali rupeess plus entrance fees plus lunch to the tour guide. If you know other cheaper options, let me know though ^_^

For those who own bikes, you may want to check out best metzeler motorcycle tires at bikebandit.com

Chinese New Year: Spring Festival Memories

Chinese New Year: Spring Festival Memories

In celebration of the Chinese New Year, I asked my Chinese friend living in the Philippines to tell a story about festival activities in Mainland China. I thought it’s gonna be a simple story that she can share for fun, turns out she wrote a heartfelt story about how they celebrate Spring Festival or Chinese New Year in their village when she was young.. I hope I didn’t made her too homesick when I asked her to write this. Read her story below:


I was born in a small village located in Jiangxi Province, China. I remember the small village only have about 20 households, most of the people living around me are the relatives from grandparents generation. I was told long ago that people want to avoid the civil war, so many of people migrate to the mountains and settle down when they find a place good to stay.

The small village surrounded by hills, and with a small tributary from the reservoir into the Xin river must have been a very secret refuge.

People often know that Jiangxi is a beautiful place because there are mountains and rivers in it, that’s so true, the small village where we stay is the best witness. As the village is so small, so everyone is familiar with each household, grandparents, uncles, aunts home are all just there.

When I was a child, I live with my grandparents. Most of the adults in the village went out to far away cities like Fujian and Guangdong province because of work. They will return to our hometown only a few days before the Spring festival. Most family members who stay in the village always look forward to it..

Every year when spring festival is near, people from different places rush home, some people arrive a few days before the spring festival while some get home the day before the festival. When someone comes back, the children will go together to his or her home, and often they will buy candy from the city as a gift to the kids, everyone has a share. That’s the happiest moment in my childhood.

 

chinese new year festival

Photo Credit: Jessi_zou


A few days before the Spring festival each household will conduct a clean-up, cleaning every corner of the home to be spotlessly clean, to prepare for the upcoming new year a new atmosphere, the point of new year is the word – “New”. On New Year’s Eve, every household will hang red lanterns and paste couplets on either side of doors, whose inscriptions seek good luck or happiness, these are the annual customs. Uncle who lives next door will personally write with the brush on the couplets that everyone in the village brought to him because my uncle writes the best Calligraphy in the village. Now my cousin, my uncle’s son, also inherited the calligraphy talent, he owns a Painting studio and recruits students in Shenzhen.


chinese caligraphy
 


Everyone wears new clothes on Chinese New Year’s Eve, when I was a child my desire for new clothes is very strong even till now, I often remember on New Year’s Day, we get up a lot earlier than usual, for most of the reasons I can’t wait to try my new clothes on in the morning. Mom will help us dress up in the early morning, I remember there was one year my mother painted a red point in both me and my sister’s forehead with a lipstick, we look like goddess Guanyin which always have the red mark on her forehead. Can’t imagine how happy we were during the Spring Festival.

Dinner in Lunar New Year’s Eve is often the most sumptuous meal of the year. I remember my grandmother busy with preparing the food from early in the morning. The pot will be stewed with large chunks of pork, fragrance floating in the village. Since everyone are preparing new year food, the fragrance of food surrounded in the village can be smelled from each family’s kitchen. Not every day we can eat delicious food during my childhood, so for this special day seems everyone try to make up for the past days to prepare many dishes as they can. New Year’s Eve is the day families reunite, each household will prepare a hearty dinner for the day. New Year dinner is often indispensable with chicken, duck , fish and many meats, chicken are often stew as whole , “Chicken鸡” sounds same as “lucky吉”in Chinese, in the hope that a year can be wealthy with favorable wishes. Like the chicken, the fish also needs to be cooked as whole fish too.

Before we start to eat, Grandfather will offer some meal as a sacrifice to our ancestors. The dead relatives will always be concerned about the offspring of the children and grandchildren, earthly people then worship to pray and repay their patronage and blessing, offering sacrificial rituals, including incense, sacrifice meal, wine, God worship, etc. After grandfather is finished with the worship, then we can begin to enjoy delicious food.

 


For the children, Lunar New Year’s Eve is another highlight of getting “lucky money” from parents and relatives. Normally it starts after dinner, the adults will go to each family of the children to give “lucky money”, the money are put in red envelopes to the children. Give “lucky money” custom has a long history, aside from giving good wishes, it serves as amulets of the elders to bless the children in the new year. The next day, kids then buy lots of toys or snacks, to celebrate their unique New Year atmosphere.


lucky money for chinese new year
 Photo Credit: Jessi_zou


In the first day of the Lunar New Year, we get up early, of course, parents will need to get earlier to prepare breakfast and candies for people to come. After breakfast, sister, brother and me will go to grandparents house BaiNian(拜年), and then to uncle’s home. BaiNian is a traditional Chinese folk customs, it means to congratulate the New Year, it’s a way of discarding old and bringing in new. Usually the first day of Lunar Chinese New Year, the parents lead the younger generation to go out to visit relatives, friends, elders, gives warm wishes to each other to celebrate the New Year, the young people must know how to salute, that’s “BaiNian”.

The host family will give dim sum, candy, red envelopes (Lucky money) to show warm hospitality. The second day Mom and Dad will lead us to go to another grandparents house(which is mom’s parents). BaiNian starts from the first day will continue until the fifteenth of the first month, usually visits to relatives and friends of the order is: first day visits relatives from father’s side; second, third day visits Grandparents and uncles from Mom’s side, father-in-law and so on. after visits all the relatives then could hang out with friends.

The small village I lived in is crowded only during Lunar New Year. These beautiful memories are only from my childhood, I think probably because I have grown up and lived so long in the cities, I have not been home for a long time to celebrate in the Lunar New Year. When I think about it, I feel a lot of regret, perhaps in the next Chinese New Year, I should go back and share the New Year with the family.


belle tutu

Contributor: Belle Tutu is an absolute dreamer, thoughts often floating in the air. One day, she can’t bear the illusion of life outside anymore, she followed her heart and fly out to see the world. She had left her laughter in the blue sea of Redang Island, and stayed in Chiang Mai’s jungle trekking, felt the beauty of half water half fire in MuiNe.

She also made her footprints in every corner of London, the road trip at pacific high way one in California was her best encounter ever. If she had not been brave, she would not have met the most beloved Filipinos. She is a brave dreamer, dreaming that one day travel and writing will be her life too.

5 Activities that will make you go on Retreats

Going to a retreat is actually a way to rejuvenate yourself, renew your spirit, enlighten your soul. It’s a way of going back to heal before you move forward. Some think it’s a religious activity, but you can actually view it as a way to recharge your human batteries.

It’s not all prayers, chants and reflections. There are different retreat activities that you can do depending on your budget or where you want to do it. You can go with family or officemates to pamper yourselves at Caribbean luxury vacations, or you can do solo silent retreats at a forest in Cambodia, up to you as long as it suits your style.

 

I highly recommend it because I’ve done retreats before spanning from a few days to 6 month long activities and it has shaped me who I am today. Want to know more? Below are retreat activities that may spark some interest in you.


you have permission to rest
 


Reflections – These reflective moments should focus on assessing past activities whether it will be beneficial to your future moves. Sometimes, it can just be staring at the ocean at day and gazing at stars without thinking too much.. just unwinding.

Wisdom sharing – this depends on the kind of retreat you are looking forward to. I had a 6 month long retreat in an international community and learning from actual experiences proved the best life teachers to me. For those who have limited time, conversations with a life coach or a spiritual guide may help you chart the next steps of your life.

Food nourishment – those who live in big cities may not have a chance to always eat healthy food. Retreats are occasions for you to also nourish your health. Usually, these kinds of activities are done on rural areas where fresh food and fresh air are abundant. I recommend going vegetarian and see the effects in your body. I tried to have a vegetarian lifestyle for 2 months when I was traveling in Nepal, and despite the very cold weather, I never got severely sick.

Physical activities – You can do some massage, yoga, or if you’re up to it, hike some nearby mountains, bask in the warmth of the sun, swim and feel the love of the ocean. If you love the outdoors and don’t want to be confined in a stationary place, then you will enjoy these activities.
But for those who wanted to just lay back, daily massages and yoga can calm the nerves and soothe the soul. If you are attending a spiritual retreat, spiritual practices is included in the itinerary.


things to do in Bohol: camp out in the beach


Giving back – a way to have a worthwhile activity is to commune with mother nature and the care takers of the beautiful place where you are having a retreat activity. The oceans have lowly fisherfolks, the mountains have indigenous communities, the fresh food that you eat are taken cared by grassroot farmers. It is better to connect to these people and see if both of you need help. You need nourishment of well being; they need help with their livelihood. Both benefits and the cycle of life resumes on a positive light.

Retreat activities should not be fast phased. The objective is to relax and rejuvenate in preparation for busy days ahead.

It’s also different from just having a vacation because here, all aspects of your life are being assessed with reflections. You may want to know life lessons that I’ve learned from doing activities like these, I’d like to share some to you:

1. Everyday is a dying day. So we all need to create beautiful lives not just for us but if we can, for everyone. So when we leave the earth, people will remember the good, and hopefully, will forgive our bad sides.

2. Beauty, fame and glory fades away. Only one thing is constant – change. I have become unattached to material possessions, I do value and collect beautiful experiences instead.

3. That every one has their own purpose in life. If there are no farmers, we will have no food to eat, if there are no doctors, no one will treat us when we get sick.. so they should be given equal treatment in life.

4. That the world is beautiful and we should take care of it because it’s the only one we’ve got.. and because we have limited time on earth, we should roam it before we leave.

5. I still have my bad mischievous side.. just like the yin and yang, all humans have this. Being a saint in this day and age makes you vulnerable to people who takes advantage, leaving you drained out.. So a good balance is beneficial.

Some people actually look forward to some relaxing days away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. For the lucky ones, it has become an everyday lifestyle. ^_^

Dream Travel Destination – Africa

Usually people dream of traveling to the north, like Europe, USA, Australia, any posh capitalist country that has a high economic index. So I’m gonna dream of traveling to another continent instead – Africa.

Africa is not a country, it’s a huge continent with several countries. I have met people who went there as volunteers in Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya.. and I also met a volunteer from Uganda who went to Thailand to share his skills. The world is getting equal huh? There’s still more to improve on but let’s hope future is bright.

My eyes widen with curiosity when they tell stories of the continent..

Safari is always a regular tourist activity when people go to that part of the world. They can go book at African Safari Home, but for the more curious souls, there’s more to Africa than safari as I’ve come to know more about it. You know what I’ve found?

1. Zuma Rock in Abuja, Nigeria is 725 meters high, double than the Uluru Rock from Australia.. and is also as high as Burj Khalifa in Dubai.. Thanks for the info Nas Daily. Table Mountain of Cape Town in South Africa is the most famous of the table top mountains in the world. . Here’s Table mountain, picture courtesy of Roger and Wendy Arendse:

table-top-mountain-in-cape-town

2. There is snow in Africa.. You think it’s all desert and famine like what you see on the tv? Some of the people who went there said there are parts of the continent that are actually cold… and you know the latest news? Snow has fallen in Sahara.

3. I actually met someone in India who was born and grew in Africa… and she looks very European.

4. The continent has the largest reserves of precious metals with over 40% of the gold reserves, so why is most countries in the continent poor? That’s something to think about.

5. Victoria Falls is the world’s largest waterfalls. It’s what divides 2 countries Zimbabwe and Zambia.

6. There’s an African food named fufu.. And there’s a lack of African restaurants in the Philippines.. hello entrepreneurs :D

So what interesting fact have you learned about Africa? Do you want to travel in the continent too?