Sri Lanka; trains & tea

A taste of Sri Lanka

There was NO WAY I can get into the packed train which finally arrived to Peradeniya station. I was shocked and a security guard helped me to break the “Law of physics”. I was on my way to Nuwara Eliya the perfect place with tea plantations, mountains, cold and fog.

I have been living 10 years by the beach so I mostly look for cool weather whenever I travel.

The train trip supposed to be about 3.5 hours but it became 5. I was on the 2nd class, sitting on the floor but with a VIP view. My hair was flying around like a medusa and my eyes were happy to see such a beautiful scenario between mountains, tea plantation, traditional houses and kids saying goodbye with their tiny hands. Next to me a couple from England traveling with no water and no sanitizer, so I shared mine as they still had another 3 hrs to go.

Once I got out of the train, the new adventure started, to get transportation to my hotel…the little detail was that I booked one of the most expensive hotels and it was 1hr away, and of course I didn´t want to get ripped. I sorted it out and when I arrived I was so pampered by the staff as one person opened the door, 1 carried my luggage ( 1 medium backpack LOL), one person came and served me some clove with sugar and another one served me tea. OHH tea yes! because this hotel used to be a Tea Factory and that´s why I chose it, besides the landscape.

I love to have all kind of experiences, so I traveled on the 2nd class sitting on the floor of the train, I invited my tuk-tuk driver in Colombo for some beers sitting on the rocks contemplating the sunset and I also hire private drivers or pay for a nice hotel. Why not?

Experiences are everything to me, and I love nature. When I felt the cold wind on my face and my eyes perceive how the fog was wrapping my hotel until it disappeared I knew I was on the right place. I am not into very touristic activities but as it was raining all day I decide to join to Tea plucking activity. They dressed us as locals, gave us baskets that were hanging from our head and the lady explained us how to cut the tea leaves and then explained us all the procedure and how the machines work.

After my 45 minutes cold activity I was having some tea on the sofas of the hotel when I noticed something moving …

I was shocked to realize that it was an old lady covered with a green plastic, barefoot and carrying 2 full baskets that she came to deliver to the hotel. I asked if I could take a picture and somehow I wanted to give her money that I didn’t have at that time. It was a moment of excitement and disappointment; why she was barefoot and wet, what if she gets sick, why this expensive hotel don´t provide her with equipment. I also felt stupid for doing this activity to be entertained by something that represents the poor lifestyle of so many people until today. They earn 4 usd per day if they get at least 20kg of leaves…otherwise they get paid less.

I felt guilty and I kept this in my mind, I wrote to my parents and some friends…life is so unfair. Of course I thought about the same conditions of people working in agriculture in Bali where I live or in Mexico.  Sometimes I feel that the world hasn´t improve much.

These memories always reminds me how lucky I am to travel, to learn, how I should stay humble and grateful, how can I help people and to keep my feet on the ground.

There is no other country like Mexico!

FB_IMG_1588435083148Como México no hay dos!

I grew up listening this, and Mexicans really buy it. However for me it was a different story as my father always said: and there is no other like France, Greece, Russia, etc.(with a sarcastic humor).

WHAT are you doing with Mexican toys displayed at your Japanese cultural station? I asked my Japanese coworkers. They looked at me and reply: What are you talking about, these toys are Japanese!! I googled Mexican toys and show them the pictures (spinning top, cup & ball, etc.), they were shocked. And we debated of who was the creator haha.

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Mexicans believe that many things exist only in Mexico like Flor de Xempazuchitl that is a “traditional” flower used for our DAY OF DEAD. And how amazed I was when I arrived in Bali, Indonesia and this flower was everywhere (literally since the toilet at the airport before crossing immigration LOL). In Bali it is called gumitir flower and it is use for the “offerings” to the spirits & gods , which is very interesting for the “similarity” of use we give to it.

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On my last dinner before leaving Bali, after spending 2 years there. My team took me to eat “tamales” but they call them “buras” (sort of salty or sweety cake)once again my jaw dropped. And yes if you look for it, it’s wrapped in banana leaf, it look exactly the same like in Mexico and it says it is originally from Indonesia if you google buras. By the way they also eat this in India and Philippines, etc.

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At this point my Mexican world was falling apart, it felts like someone was shaving my mustache and stealing my horse, just kidding. I was fascinated to find the “same flowers, food, toys” in other countries on the other side of the world, and not only that, but it was also considered part of their culture. WOW!

What about “aguas mexicanas” (Mexican flavored water) all my life I thought that to drink a delicious “Agua de Jamaica” (Rosella ice tea) was only possible in Mexico and probably USA because of the migration to that country. However,in 2016, after living 2 years in Thailand on my last day with my Thai team, we went to eat in a local restaurant some delicious Thai food and guess what…YES, Agua de Jamaica, with a name in Thai that I cannot remember. Now when  I actually google about it, the plant is natural from Africa, how AMAZING is that!

And vocabulary is another amazing thing, I just find so many similarities or even same words in languages as Japanese, Bahasa, Filipino, Sinhala, etc. and of course French, Italian, Portuguese as they have the same roots.

I love to teach people around the globe how similar we are and also how unique we are. My idea is to demonstrate how many things that we believe to be the owners of, or the “original” ones, in fact might exist somewhere else with slight variations or being exactly the same, and that my friends is WONDERFUL!

Knowing some History will of course help you to make the connection so when you discover that the word BREAD in Spanish it’s pronounced PAN and in Japanese as well, and in Portuguese, French, Sinhala and so on, and you do some research, you will find out that Portugal had their first affiliation with Japan in 1543 and Spain in 1549, for example and of course there will be words, traditions and food that are imposed or adapted.

Let’s get out of our shell thinking we have the best food, the most beautiful language or the original whatever. At the end “We are the world”, we are colors, food, languages,traditions that are linked to each other more than we realize.

What are your thoughts?

A Mexican pirate & the floating mountains

10325575_10152834613080888_483446532607690834_nThis was like a scene from a pirate movie!, our wood boat approaching these floating mountains, raising it´s red sails through the fog, feeling the salty breeze on our faces and feeling small like ants in the middle of the ocean in Thailand, it was just stunning.

I was seriously expecting in any moment Jack Sparrow appearing from anywhere with his funny boots. The surface of the ocean was changing color and looked like sparkling water, soon the boat stopped and some people in kayaks appeared from nowhere inviting us to go in so we could continue our adventure.

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Let´s go!! my Korean friend and I jumped in and followed the instructions given. There is a particular way to get into a “secret bay”. The corrosion by the ocean created some spaces between the water and the rock and while in the kayak we needed to lay ours bodies to the right and left side or completely down to avoid being hit when passing under the floating mountains. Then after few seconds of darkness BOOM we were there, on the other side of the mountain in a secret bay of incredible beauty, with a blue sky and jade water and… with another  50 people in different kayaks, so… haha not very secret right?

 

Phuket has so many incredible spots but mostly crowded, we need to assimilate that while we get mad at the touristic spots being packed, we are part of the crowd so let’s enjoy our humanity.

We headed to James Bond island, called that way because of the movie filmed there, and guess what, it was also packed, mostly with Chinese tourist as Thailand is a popular destination for them. However this didn’t diminished the beauty of the place and the particularity of this big rock standing in the middle of the water as if god put it there strategically likes a tower on a chess mat.

Nature create beautiful things all around the planet, some discovered tons of years ago, some still awaiting or perhaps hiding, trying to remain untouched and magical.

I left this amazing place feeling like a pirate, adventuring myself in a land thousands of miles away from home, with strange languages that I cannot understand, trying exotic dishes and fulfilling my soul with adventure but always wanting to conquer more!

 

 

A killer, a dinosaur and a magic land

20181029_185437I knew he could kill me in a blink of an eye! But, I stayed there staring at him from behind a tree, I could see him moving slowly and I could also hear the noise coming out of his nose or mouth, I wasn’t sure…then I realized there were another 2 even closer to me. So dangerous!

The guide explained to us that the Komodo dragon can weigh up to 150 pounds and eat up to 80% of their own body weight in one sitting. Well, I guess this didn’t make me feel very safe, especially as our protection walking around the reserve was only one long stick with a Y shape.

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Some people believe they are “dragons” and some that they descend from dinosaurs but in fact they are biiiiig lizards “varanus komodoensis”. There was a theory saying that these islands had some effects in the bodies of animals and humans as this lizard is extremely big and they also found in Flores what they called the “hobbit cave” where bones, smaller than usual, from primitive humans were waiting to be revealed.

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Indonesia is a very interesting country with more than 17 000 Islands, and I booked a trip for 2 days and 1 night in a wooden boat that brought me to see the dragons in Rinca and Komodo Island. I need to say that it’s quite pricey, about 1 million rupees for the boat plus another 500k to enter the islands and snorkel that national park with no luxe except … Bingo! You have the luxury of feeling the wind on your face and see the tide and the funny shapes created by the current, you sleep under the stars floating in the middle of the ocean and the moon caress your skin, and yes next morning you see the sunrise from the boat while you navigate to reach Padar Island.

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What a dream, this country has it all! I also swam with mantas and I saw their dance under the water like giving us a private show, then we headed to the pink beach, which is not that pink but with some filters hit tons of likes on Instagram.

 

One of the good presents of this trip was to meet Lusia (yes, with S), a bubblish lady from Surabaya. She was doing her 1st solo trip at 34years old and as we had the same age and both studied the same plus she was very funny, we immediately clicked. She helped me to relax after being upset for the lack of punctuality of the company we were using for the trip. And she was trying to not be obvious taking me videos and photos in the boat as many Indonesians do to foreigners to post them on social media and get likes from other Indonesians…weird thing yes, but I got used to it after 2 years of living here. So when I saw her taking me a video, I posed for it and she laughed and said: how do you know? I laugh as well and replied: well, the camera is right in front of me!. She ended up telling me the story of her life with a couple of tears that made me feel like she was not that happy about her job and having some pressure to fit into the Indonesian society but she has quite a free soul which I loved.

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I’ll keep as well in my memory the moment when I was walking behind the komodo dragon (2m away) to pose for a picture – encouraged by the ranger – and the animal didn’t stop watching me for a second, also I will not forget how after “posing” for all my pictures he just slept and the next tourist that arrived after me couldn’t take any, perhaps he liked me (as a potential snack). Their skin looks like a snake one and the movement of their tongue as well, I cannot define the noise they do and I definitely don’t want to see them running towards me ever! (20km per hour)

What an adventure, Thank you life, Thank you Indonesia!

 

Bali: forbiddance that will bring you to heaven

The government closed the airport, vanished the TV and ask to stop the WIFI, what, The WIFI? No please, take my life but no the wifi (joke). We were not allowed to go on the streets or anywhere actually, if you were staying at a resort you couldn’t go out, or even to the beach, forget about music and also light!

29339526_10155516659235888_2785035375171600384_nThe darkness was covering everything, and we were not allowed to turn on the lights. Few years before one of the employers was catch by the police fixing a light at the gate and was deported. I was excited and little bit concerned as well. “Nyepi” The day of silence had come and I was in Bali.

It was 19:30hrs when I came out of my room and BANG I couldn´t see anything, there was not a single light in the resort, quite unsure if I was allowed or not I used my cellphone to be able to see little bit and went downstairs and suddenly when I looked up, the whole universe was contemplating me, I was absolutely astonished by the quantity of stars I could see, it was an overwhelming feeling and the silence allowed me to hear the music of the nature.

Nyepi is an Hindu celebration based on the Saka calendar, a very special “New Year” and it is a day reserved for self reflection, preceded by the Ogoh-Ogoh ceremony where the communities chase the demons and build big figures to represent them and bring out on the streets while the young people play some music, and everybody makes a lot of noise to scare them.

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A day of silence, while us westerns would be preparing the party blowers, a playlist with all the current hits, etc. The Balinese new year is the opposite: God, humans and earth come to a balance, the whole island stops. I decided to stay awake with my friend and we took one big bed from the swimming pool and carried it to a very open area to see the sky. Hours passed while we were in silence just looking at the universe and tons of stars that might not even exist now but that sent their light thousands of kilometers away to reach my eyes. The night was chilly and I could feel the humidity and also hear the waves crashing on the sand, we took some towels to cover our bodies and we decided to sleep there enjoying this magical experience.

It was hard to believe that without a telescope the sky looked this way, it’s also hard to believe that this is the way it would look everyday above our heads if we were not surrounded by lights everywhere. There were so many shooting stars that I told mi friend: after 1 hour here, I will be slim, rich, etc, as I can ask so many wishes. We laugh in the darkness, and I started my special ritual that I do in moments when I feel so blessed and I say in my mind; Thank you God, thank you life, destiny, family, myself, my job, mother nature…at the end it is all related and things need to fit like gears in a machine to let us be there in the right moment with the right people.

Gili T; NO mushrooms, YES sunset and maybe love

IMG_20170724_030739_759Mushroomsss, do you want mushrooms? It was the last day of my Holidays and I was in Gili T, this tiny Island known by its beauty and party atmosphere, in Indonesia. I was quite surprised to see this big announcements everywhere and people offering this on the streets, bars, etc. First of all, aren’t you having Ramadan festivities now? Isn’t this illegal? Isn’t quite weird to have big boards with colorful chucks saying “buy here your trip to the moon”?

IMG_20170703_160229_229I was walking around the Island and I found some amazing spots for my artistic/amateur, cellphone pictures haha, as it was low tide and the sun was going down the reflection of some trees, branches, dead coral and clouds was simply beautiful and I could not resist to take tons of shots.

On the background I could listen some techno music and people enjoying those beach clubs having some drinks and getting ready for the sunset. My feet kept walking until they found a quite bar with only another 4 customers, some puffs and shade to sit, I got a beer and food to enjoy the scene. I am a big sunset lover  (I might also love sunrise but I don´t wake up that early), It is just magical how this happen, the sun disappearing first slowly and then fast, in a question of seconds its gone but the color party remains for another half an hour covering everything, changing the contrast in your pictures and putting smiles on people’s face and kisses on others.

IMG_20170731_180733_126I was the last customer but nobody was coming to bring any bill so I went to the little bar counter in the back where a smiley Indonesian guy with curly messy hair  gave me the cutest smile and somehow I ended up sitting there talking with him.

Soon, I was hypnotized by this 23 years old boy playing the guitar (he was not Carlos Santana but very charming ) or maybe it was just the moment. He was singing sometimes in English and sometimes in Bahasa as his other friends were coming one by one, I was feeling as always so lucky as I never imagine in my life to live in this country. I truly give value to these type of opportunities where you embrace the culture in a very local way, the other 3 friends were only able to sing in Bahasa (1 girls and 2 boys) and I was taking videos every time, what a night!!20180304_211606

Next morning I woke up with the birds singing  and the waves dancing, the rest of the bonfire was there and the crickets were whispering the night gossips .The volcano right in front was floating between the clouds, waiting to welcome the sun like my eyes were doing. Little by little the sun rose in front of me and the melody of life was getting loud with all the birds and insects surrounding us… Did I say us? Yes I did!! I said goodbye and walk following my google maps back to my hotel to pack and try to get a speed boat to go back to Bali (my house for the past year) and end up the wonderful journey that took me around Java, Lombok and Gili T.

Lucky girl, I saw a stunning sunset and sunrise to close one of those memories that you can tell later on to your grandchildren… in case I have one.

Japan: Snowflakes, nudity and red foxes

FB_IMG_1508813372484A red fox!!!! I couldn’t believe it. We were driving on the roads covered by snow on our way to an onsen that was in the middle of the forest and Lydia was yelling: red fox, where are you? Come red fox!. I was in the back, in the darkness and in silence appreciating the nature’s shapes and shadows, last time I saw snow, it was in Canada 9 years before and just in the city. Suddenly it happened, a red fox jump into the road and we all got excited like kids in our car, whoever was driving diminished the speed as it seems it wanted to cross the road, but in fact the red fox was playing with us…or at least that’s what we assumed as it was running on the side of the car and then kind of in front guiding us until it finally left.

The onsen was still closed as it was end of November, so we came back few days later and we succeed, I stick my nose to the glass on the window on our way to this place as it was snowing and I also enjoy to see the naked trees covered by this white powder.

20171024_110808We pay in the onsen by putting a coin inside a machine, got in, got naked and proceed to take a shower sitting in a little plastic chair in front of a long mirror, side by side with other ladies taking shower, fortunately or unfortunately it was separated for boys and girls, so while washing properly all your body with the soap and shampoo provided I was trying to don’t look in the mirror the other ladies around me and also avoid to see my fat reflecting all those hamburgers and beers that I should not eat and the lack of gym hours. We entered to the suuuper hot water where another 2 Japanese old ladies were already there, in other situation I would be making jokes and laughing loud but it was Japan. I need to admit that was little bit embarrassing to be naked with some coworkers but I was trying to focus in the cultural experience, that was very quiet by the way.

We went to the outside area for what you need to do few steps in the snow and jump in the hot water as the temperature was about 10 and my only cover was my own skin. It was not snowing anymore but if I stand I could see the forest and all the trees covered by the snow as long as the light allowed me to see, it was purely amazing. I felt so alive and grateful to be there, sharing it with a girl from France and a girl from Japan, across the bamboos that separate us from the male onsen we can hear the boys voices so 1 guy from Morocco and another from France where enjoying this as well.

Few days later I was taking pictures outside of the resort when I started to hear some bustle in the back and when I look there was a red fox standing very close to the entrance surrounded by some people taking pictures, suddenly the red fox started walking towards me and I got super excited ready with my smartphone to take some pictures, and then for a second I got little bit scared as it was a wild animal, What if it attacks me? Then this beautiful animal just accelerated the pace and got lost among the trees not before I took few pictures to remember this forever.

Japan was welcoming me with so many treasures to make me wanting to stay there between snowflakes, nudity and red foxes.

Malaysia: rich life style

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Living like a rich girl without being one is fun of course! My job gives me some good advantages and also sometimes I just get lucky or maybe is because I try to have good relationships with everyone.

To wake up early is not one of my skills, all my friends know this, so when my boss and friend told me: I arrange to get the sail cruise for our day off to go to a little island and then we are invited by the General Manager of other resort to spend the day there sounded like an awesome idea until she said; let’s meet at 8am. WHAT?? 8 in the morning this means I need to wake up at… 7:40 haha because the boat was leaving almost in front of our rooms but still so early to wake up in a day that we suppose to rest.

“Let’s take advantage of the day and wake up early she said” Then I reply: well, why not we take the boat to see the sunrise then. HER EYES LIT UP– off course she said, that is such a great idea!! In my mind I was dying. Why did I say that? Anyway it was too late to back off…

Next morning a security guard was knocking in my room as I didn’t wake up on time and my friends were waiting for me at the beach, I grab my stuff and run (wearing my t-shirt inside out), it was super cloudy so there was no chance to see the sunrise at all but we had a private cruise and a funny Indonesian captain riding a boat in Malaysia with 4 girls: 1 French, 1 Chinese, 1 Malaysian and 1 Mexican…just amazing.

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WE had our breakfast with the wind blowing our hairs, big smiles, sleepy eyes and suddenly the sun hands caressed our bodies. The captain open the sails, play some music and we were enjoying life, being surprise by some big jelly fish in the ocean and taking pictures to save the memories that maybe one day our brain will forget.

To get to Snake Island we cross a small boat were a kid was fishing with his father and one thought crossed my mind; we were both early in our boats in the ocean with such a different purposes and realities…maybe if they didn’t catch anything they will have nothing to sell in the market to make money or maybe to feed their families while I was being pampered and feed without actually spending a penny.

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I love the shapes of this desert island, with a sand made of thousands of tiny shells and coral, massive rocks to climb and rest on top of them and snakes everywhere (just kidding). We had some time to relax before the captain dropped us in the other hotel were the staff was waiting for us at the beach, I felt like a Paris Hilton arriving in our private boat to the hotel. The GM and his staff give us a tour in the hotel in the buggy cars, had a drink with us with a wonderful view, we had lunch and he actually book a room for us but we couldn’t stay as next we were back to reality and need to work.

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To end up our day we went to the supermarket to buy some veggies and cheese to have dinner. Naomi the Chinese girl and Dee the Malaysian, cooked for us some typical food while my French friend offered us some cheese and champagne, of course, unfortunately I didn’t have Tequila or Guacamole to contribute with my Mexican heritage but I put some humor haha for our multicultural day off.

I went to bed feeling so blessed to be in contact with the nature, to be able to be in a boat for ourselves and enjoy the ocean, to see the beautiful scene with the fisherman, to stay in this island where I also feed the fish that came around me doing snorkel, visit the other wonderful hotel with very a kind staff and end up having this delicious homemade dinner with these people that I am glad to meet.

 

 

Waiting, weekly photo challenge

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Time is 1 of the most interesting cultural dimension… Can be synchronic or can be sequential. 

On this trip to Lombok Island I climbed a hill and found this man that stop his work to rest or to pose and the animals did the same thing. Were they waiting for me to take the picture, were they looking to me wondering why my camera was interested on them or wondering what I was doing on top of that hill? I DON’T KNOW but they all wait for me to take several pictures before continuing their journey and it seems that we both enjoyed it.