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.

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.

Waiting, weekly photo challenge

Waiting

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.

Sahoro; snow trekking, snowflake & happy ending

Another day, another adventure! We took the gondola and went all the way up to the mountain to go down by doing snow trekking. It was quite confusing for the security guys at the entrance as normally people will do either ski or snowboard but they let us go.. the problem was when we keep going up and up and I started to feel vertigo and once we came out of the gondola and I look down to the mountain I was full of fear.

Here I am, a Mexican girl without experience in snow trekking, on the top of the mountain and with vertigo what a great combination!…suddenly a snowflake settled on my arm, I was absolutely astonished as it looked exactly like in cartoons and I took a picture of it to never ever forget how perfect it was and that it might be a sign of nature saying that everything will be fine so I made my mind and started to walk all the way down from the mountain feeling its ethereal consistency and capturing the beauty of the snow with my poor 5mp smartphone.

I do need to say that I had a short rehearsal for my snow trekking experience couple of weeks before with a funny ending.

Let’s go out to walk on the snow and verify the area as we will open the resort soon! I was not exactly fit so she was in the front opening up the path for the virgin snow. Me, well…trying to manage to get her same pace, don’t fall down and take pictures at the same time. Believe it or not I perfectly managed all of this and before getting back to the hotel as it was lunch time I wanted to take the last picture because the wind was making the powder snow fly and with the sunlight was just magical, but right after I took the picture and try to walk the last steps down leading to the entrance next to the restaurant, my snowshoes got stocked one into another and like in a slow-motion shoot I was going down, first on my knees and then for a fraction of second standing like a crucified person as my hands were into the poles straps and …puff in a blink of an eye my face was in the snow!! Then with some help to remove my equipment I managed to get up and realize the full restaurant with the entire ski and snowboard instructors were stuck to the big glass wall looking at me, laughing hysterically and taking pictures. That night was the first training I need to deliver for all of them at the packed conference room… well, at least all of them know me by now, I said to myself.

That night my introduction for the training was: Good evening everyone, my name is Abi, I am from Mexico and YES it was me today the one that fell down in front of the restaurant, the whole room exploded into laughter including myself. We need to laugh about ourselves sometimes, it’s healthy.

I can say that this day I came face to face with the snow haha and I like it.

Snowtrekking- There is always a first time

Coming down from the mountain

Need a break

Bloody scary

Vertigo time

The picture I took before falling down

Landscapes with my guide

In love with the shadows

Japan; a dangerous Mexican landed!

12313970_10153324932600888_3130647259952545521_nI was stopped by customs at the airport! Of course I was the quota of the day; a Mexican girl (dangerous) living in Thailand (double dangerous) and coming for the 1st time to Japan, it must be something suspicious! Even if my passport was full of stamps from all over the world.

In fact I was going there to train the staff of one of the resorts from the company I work with, but well, there is always a 1st time to be stopped and I found it quite funny, one more story to keep. NO marihuana, NO tacos, NO… porn (well… not sure about my phone). Officers were super nice but with their poor English they didn’t arrive to understand everything that easily, anyway I didn’t stay there more than 10 or 15 minutes. An apology from the officers and then I came out to meet my Japanese friend that was waiting for me with an ironic smile knowing something went wrong.

Walking through the colorful ails full of what looked like hieroglyphics (Japanese Kanjis) I was feeling like a little girl in a candyland; food, drinks, bread, candies, basically the airport in Hokkaido Island was looking more like a supermarket for me. We stop to buy a “food box”, such a cute and smart way to bring some food into the train that we need to take to our destination. My friend put her phone (old one) in a little machine and in a blink of an eye she paid electronically…such a normal thing for her and super cool for me, especially as her phone was not a smart phone, but still smart LOL.

I was carrying quite a big luggage as temperatures were expected to be below 0°C and that would be a huge change for my body as I was living in Phuket, Thailand (around 30°C). The train was very proper and of course I was the only foreigner at that moment taking the train in Hokkaido Island and going to the ski resorts that were still closed, such an adventure for me. My eyes were trying to record everything as well as my ears, I was super excited… such a lucky girl…and I didn’t need to pay anything!!Well… I did with all my extra hours and no days off later on but that was nothing compare to what is one of these experiences in your life.

A lady with a little food cart was walking along the train selling food and beer, and of course as a Mexican girl who loves beer and knowing my Japanese friend also does, we bought our can to enjoy our 2 hours trip. When finally arrived to Shintoku station another 2 girls were waiting for us, we pass to the mini supermarket to get…of course, more beer! And snacks, OMG I was absolutely happy – a Japanese supermarket, and it’s me, I am here!! Hey parents look at this – I wished they were with me but they were at 10,616 km in Mexico.

It was getting dark when we arrive to our location in the mountains and the General Manager came out to welcome me together with the few staff working at the resort before the reopening that would be couple of weeks later, it was fantastic to see and feel a resort that is closed, no heating, just basic lights, reception and bar cover in blankets, empty vitrines at the boutique…WOW a perfect scene for a horror movie!

They took me to my room and OMG it was a traditional style one with a TATAMI! This particular smell was floating in my room, it was the tatami material, I wanted to lied down and roll over like a panda, and it has this small table with chairs that had no legs and slide doors covered by white kind of paper…of course I am giving you my description as a western that didn’t know anything about it…if some of you are reading this thinking how ignorant I am giving the descriptions, please forgive me.

I came down and walk to the small restaurant where we were meeting, walking through the dark and cold corridors with no more sound that my own steps and breathing was interesting still not scary. I was privileged to have the opportunity to see how does it looks a well-known resort when it is still closed and I was ready to rock my time in there. Be careful everyone, a dangerous Mexican is in Japan!

 

 

 

 

Borobudur; My magical homestay

It just caught my attention. That simple phrase: Enjoy the little things’. I was sitting on this wooden chair on the side of the little cliff above the river waiting for my dinner, and the lady cooking wrote me the Wi-Fi password on a small notebook where this phrase was printed on.

Well, that’s what I was looking for. It must be a sign from the universe, I told to myself. So I started enjoying my simple Javanese dinner lightened by a little candle and sweetened by the loud sound of the Elo & Progo rivers that come together here.

Then suddenly, somebody started talking to me. It was Soni, the owner of the homestay I visited.

“… If you would reincarnated in three animals. What kind of animals would you choose?”

He was doing this fun story game after my 1st dinner there and before I visit the famous temple of the area. I choose a black panther, then an eagle and finally an ant (even a dolphin was very present in my mind), Then he told me to imagine myself in a certain situation and asked me what I was feeling. I answered that I would feel lucky!.  Soni gave me the description of the 3 animals chosen regarding my personality which was very accurate and the definition of how I feel in life being lucky and thankful of what I have (that I believe is so true). Then I explained him that after looking for tons of places around for my holidays I end up choosing his place… He gave me a condescend smile and said that It might be his place which choose me!!

 At 4.30 am I woke up as something was disturbing my sleep. I can listen quite close the prays of at least 2 mosque announcing the time to have the meal before Subuh, yes, it was Ramadan and I was in Indonesia. It was already challenging to sleep in a narrow bed inside this kind of rustic bungalow which had not  a very trustable way to locked it, a gap between the window and the wall (made by trunks from where all the mosquitoes can pass through) and a wasp nest, yes that’s right a WASP NEST I said.

I know, I know! You might be thinking why the hell did I pick this place of all places? But it had that amazing vibe. To me, it felt kind of magical.

Let’s start saying that I work in this high end well known resort where it’s always filled with noise or music. It is a very cool place but for my work I am always surrounded by people and I have to mingle and socialize with others. Every day. Don’t get me wrong. That is something I love about my job, but in my free time I sometimes need that peace and quiet.

This place was offering me incredible view and beautiful green nature environments close to Borobudur temple without needing to be surrounded by many people, in fact I was their only customer. The Borobudur was a place that I was really wishing to visit since I saw this picture on an Instagram account.

 I was trying to go back to sleep as the night before I was feeling tired after my journey of travelling to get there. Then Soni asked me whether I was going to sleep early. Why?, I asked. He wanted to make this nice bonfire. Bonfire? I didn’t quite understand what he really wanted but it sounded nice and cool. So I told him I was wanted to join his ‘bonfire’.

He called the kids and basically ask a guy to put fire on by gathering some branches from the yard and we just watched them burning.

I must say, my western idea of a bonfire was quite different, but it was so nice. So simple. And that was it exactly that made that night so special.

 “Enjoying the little things, that’s what life is made off!!”

Yogyakarta; 5 years of friendship in a 6 hours ride

I was her first client she said! …and no, I am not talking about something sexual haha, it was the taxi driver from my application that couldn´t pick me up at the airport because of the taxi mafia in Indonesia…so she made me walk like 15 minutes carrying my luggage until the closest Gas station.

My holidays were about to start and we had a long way to my hotel in Borobudur from Yogyakarta city, but we made such a great connection and after 20 minutes we were talking like friends and I was singing “Despacito” that was playing on the radio.

When I came back 3 days later to Yogyakarta I called her, as I promise, to ask if she wanted to be my driver and we agreed the price of 300k rupiah for 6 hours, “Dee” took me to the Water Palace and as she said that she haven’t been there I invited her to join me…and she end up paying my entrance as I didn´t have change, quite a funny situation.

On our way to the famous Prambanan temple “Dee” told me about her dream to go to work in USA with her sister that is part of the big percentage of migrants pursuing a dream of a better life, but she was conscious that she will hardly be able to get the visa. We got to the temple but she waited for me outside and I run into the shapes of this 9th  century Hindu temple as it was around 3:30hrs and the temple was closing at 5pm. I am always running by the way 2 hours before the places close as I found it the best, because there is less people and great light for the photography.

Around 6pm I was starving and Dee was taking me to “Milas” a vegetarian restaurant that was described as a secret garden in lonely planet and it supports street youth. We had dinner together because at this point Dee and I, we were friends like from 5 years ago already.

My “friend” dropped me at my hotel and didn’t want me to pay her anything besides the gas which I didn’t accept…that day had been going between both paying us each other, entrances, or food, or whatever,(5 years of friendship in a 6 hours ride) one of the best things in life is to find these humans beings that it seems to be waiting there for you to find them in some corners of our world to lighten your heart, clients and no clients at the end we are just people .IMG_20170622_094741_352IMG_20170625_053256_86920170620_130004IMG_20170620_202726_478