Friday, June 19, 2009

ऋषिकेश Rishikesh and हर्दिवर Hardiwar

Early evening on the Ganges River.
Enjoying one of many delicious Indian meals with Liz and Suzan. Eating is just so pleasurable when you can share with friends who love food!!
New Delhi train station. Curious observers.

From Mumbai to Dreamy उदैपुर Udaipur

Liz arrived in Mumbai six hours later than scheduled, as her flight was delayed and re-routed through Abu Dhabi airport. After our joyful reunion at New Bengal (a stuffy and claustrophobic hotel in Colaba), we booked the next bus (16 hours) north-east to Rajastan State.
During our remaining hours in Mumbai, we took a taxi tour to Chowpatty Beach for lunch and our driver decided to take the "scenic" route through the city's slums. It was heartbreaking to see people living in such squalor. We grew silent as we passed through this area, my throat and chest constricted with sadness.

Currently I'm reading a beautifully written and fascinating book, called "Shantaram." It's a true story about a man who escapes from an Australian prison to Bombay, living as a slum-dweller. In the opening chapter he details his first impression of this depressing place.

"As the many motorways became one, and the trees disappeared, clutched at my heart with talons of shame. Like brown and black dunes, the acres of slums rolled away from the roadside, and met the horizon with dirty heat-haze mirages. The miserable shelters were patched together from rags, scraps of plastic and paper, reed mats and bamboo sticks... It seemed impossible that a modern airport, full of prosperous and purposeful travellers, was only kilometers away from those crushed and cindered dreams..." Although important to see how those less fortunate live, we were relieved to board the bus to Udaipur. Like I've said before, traveling has helped me evaluate my life, providing an entirely new perspective. In witnessing extreme poverty first-hand, I'm reminded of the countless blessings I've been given in this life....

This fancy hotel was just next door to our guesthouse. We made use of the pool facility, sipping cool watermelon juice, reading and sunbathing.
Udaipur is known as the "romantic city of lakes" but unfortunately when we visited the lake was dry. This is the view from our "Lake-side" guesthouse, just imagine glistening water where you see a herd of sheep, next to children and buffalo wading.
Royal burial grounds, bathing and cremation site.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Arrival in Mumbai मुंबई

I snapped these photos below, on my first day in Mumbai (Bombay) - June 10th. I had a full day to roam around Colaba district on my own, before meeting up with Liz the following morning. Wow. India! is all I have to say!! Mumbai is a city like no other, more densely populated than any I've ever experienced before. It is home to 13 million people, and I found it shocking to hear that over half of those live in slums.
Just crossing the street is a challenge because you are competing with cows, motorbikes, goats, buses, men pulling ox carts, cyclists, barefoot begging children, and rickshaws. It's chaotic to say the least. A full bombardment to the senses. Smells wafting from perfume shops competing with mounds of stinky trash. Hindi music blaring at top volume, harmonizing with a flow of beeping car horns. New exotic tastes of sugar cane juice from a street-side vendor (probably not the most sanitary, but I've survived), sampling mango candy and dried figs from spice shops...

Goats, cows and motorbikes a plenty.
How these men are able to nap on the noisy street, in the blazing heat, is beyond me....
Near Crawford Market. Betel nut, saffron, cardamon, anise and various other spices.Fabric market displaying rich Indian colors and fabrics. I walked through narrow hallways, along the lengthy rows of sari tailors sipping chai and greeting me with friendly smiles and a welcoming "namaste."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cameron Highlands and jungle trekking

Discover of Rafflessia bloom. A natural oddity. World's largest bloom. Parasitic fungus. Camouflaged green vine snake along jungle path.Boh tea plantation, looking much like hills of velvet.

Kuala Lumpur

Muslim mosque in Little India districtKL Towers - symbol of modern cityBatu Caves - it's difficult from this photograph to see the true size. Consists of a series of colorful Hindu temples and shrines inside an expansive cavernous space, about an hour bus ride outside the city.

Burobudur Temple and surrounding village

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jogyakarta, Java (Indonesia)

Ruins amidst a modern city

While touring the city mosques, many Javanese tourists wanted to take photos with us, feeling much like a celebrity just for being "white." I've become quite use to this during my Asian travels.
Posing in front of sultan's palace pools.
Traditional Javanese dancers.

West Bali village and cacao farm pictures

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Selamat Pagi! Greetings from Malaysia!

Its been months since my last blog entry - let me briefly fill you in on my route since Lombok....

After trekking, I needed a few days of total rest because every muscle in my body ached and it was difficult to get out of bed, let alone walk. I spent a few days in Sengiggi, a small resort town, lazying on the beach, soaking in the Indonesian ocean and getting the complete beach-side pampering. When I had enough energy to move again, I rode the slow boat back to Bali and organized volunteer work-exchange in a tiny village on the island's west coast, Jembrana district. Similar to "Wwoofing" I stayed with a Balinese family, helping in their shaded garden, harvesting cacao (chocolate bean) and coconut. This placement gave me the opportunity to see the real Bali, attend religious ceremonies and live like the locals, away from any sort of tourism.

After two weeks on the farm, I was hooked up to volunteer and participate at the BaliSpirit Festival in Ubud. This special event consisted of five days yoga, dance and live music amongst like-minded yogis and yoginis, a sort of peaceful utopia, set in the most beautiful of Bali's landscapes.

Following this time of heart-opening and spirit lifting, I decided to extend these blissful feelings and take part in a four-day juice fast at Ubud Sari Health Resort. After my experience and high success at spa Samui detox center in Thailand, I yearned for more!

Once my body was fully cleansed, I flew to Jogyakarta, Java. I only had the chance to spend five days on the island because my Indonesian visa was due to expire. During my short visit, I explored Jogyakarta on motorbike and cycle rickshaw with a friend from England and toured the largest (and most impressive in my opinion) Buddhist temple in SE Asia- called Borobudur.

After exactly two months in Indonesia, I flew to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). This was the easiest and most painless border crossing yet- and free to obtain a visa, which is always a plus! For the past month in Malaysia I've eaten well, sampling multicultural cuisine: Malay, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, Arabian, Indian etc. Soaked up the sun on the most beautiful white sand beaches, explored the thriving underwater environments, and tromped through tea plantations, highlands and ancient rainforests. KL->Cameron Highlands->Perinthian Islands->Taman Negara (national forest)->KL->Melaka

As my dear friend Bridget recently exclaimed, "Asia's captivated our Emily and is not giving her back!!" ...well it's true, for a while longer. I only have two more days in Melaka, Malaysia before embarking on an entirely new journey through India!!! On June 10th I'm scheduled to fly into Mumbai during a HOT Indian summer, where I will re-convene with Liz who will make for a perfect travel buddy!! More clear plans are yet to materialize, but as of now we will take the train North to Delhi, through Udaipar, to meet Suzan (another friend from SF). Then we will search out an ashram in Rishikesh to practice yoga and meditation = truly living the dream:))) Seven months of traveling thus far and still going strong! x

Friday, April 10, 2009

Three days trekking Mt. Rinjani

View of volcano and crater lake- photo shot from first night base camp. Yesterday, I was speaking with a Balinese man who told me about the pilgrimage he took with 2,000 Hindus, climbing to the lake to conduct various ceremonies. One part of this involved cutting off the head of buffalo, goats, pigs, and tossing them into the lake. They also threw beaded necklaces into the water as an offering for the gods.Meal preparations by porters. These boys are 15 years old and carried all of our food, sleeping bags and tents in full baskets secured to the ends of a bamboo stick. They wore flip-flops on these incredibly steep trails, gnarled by roots and loose gravel! At night it grew extremely cold (about 5 degrees Celsius) and one boy didn't even bring socks, so I lent him my extra pair.On the second day we stopped for a cool dip in this waterfall and soothed our sore muscles with a soak in natural hot springs. After this we had lunch and a much needed nap in the shade, then another three hour push to the next camp.Third porter carrying our gear through the jungle.Many frisky macaques along the path.We woke up at 2:30am, had some warm tea and set off to trek three hours to the summit (12,224 ft), full moon shining the whole way. It was a challenge, but we all made it!! Our Indonesian guide took this photo just before the morning sun exploded into the sky. As you can see we are huddled close together to keep warm because it was chilly, to say the least. I was fortunate enough to trek with a fantastic group of people (French-Canadian, German and American), everyone was full of optimism and positive support- helped me make it to the top.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Gili Islands, off coast of Lombok

Seaside hookah lounge.

Glass bottom boat.
Internet is expensive so I'll keep this brief... twelve hour journey on slow boat and bus transfers from Ubud to Gili Trawangan (largest of three Gili islands).... imagine warm, crystal clear waters with at least 30 ft. visibility, filled with turtles and sea creatures spanning all colors of the rainbow, and every shade in between. Slow paced island time, power only available through generators, no motos or vehicles, only horse drawn carriages and push-bike transport. Laying around on fine white sand during the day, grooving to live reggae at night and bathing in salt-water showers fed straight from the sea... have I enticed you yet? Tomorrow a.m I've booked a scuba trip to "Shark's Cove"- where there are rumored to be daily sightings of white-tip reef sharks!