January 2015 I flew to Nepal for 3 weeks. When I had booked my flights, I looked up the things I would like to do and see in Nepal. I was just considering a 10 day Vipassana course, but when I told my boyfriend, he said, you don't want to go all the way to Nepal to sit all day in a room staring at a white wall!
He told me to go trekking in the Himalayas, and well, it did sound like a fab idea! Until my colleague at work said that January is the worst time to go trekking in the Himalayas! Most likely I would have to cancel those plans due to high snow.
But a German determined soul like mine can't be stopped so I went and bought trekking equipment, and flew to Nepal with the goal to reach the Annapurna Basement Camp at 4000 m.
The plane arrived in Kathmandu early in the morning and I woke up very early seeing from the plane the sun rising over the majestic Himalayas. I had tears in my eyes.
I had found a lovely airbnb in Kathmandu with a sweet family who immediately adopted me. The mother showed me her little temple where she prayed every morning.
I loved Kathmandu. It was crowded, dirty and dusty, and the traffic a nightmare but I have always felt safe during my stay. The narrow streets, the super old buildings, the temples and stupas, old book shops with maps from the Everest.... for my generation there are not many adventures left to do but I can only imagine the magic it must have been here in the 50's or 60's.
I also got me a beautiful tattoo from an artist I had found before I came here.
After a few days I took the public bus to Pokhara from where the trekking tours start. The landscape was stunning. Pokhara is a sweet one-main-street-town, with many trekking guide shops. I asked around for tour guides to the Annapurna Base Camp, and some refused to take me due to the risk of snow. Finally the guy from my hostel told me they had a guide, and I could even rent a sleeping bag from them.
Deal done, the next day I was getting up super early, with my backpack of only the most necessary items, and met my guide. I had been a bit worried how it would be spending 8 days closely together with a guy I had never met before. More than the fear of getting raped and robbed was my introverted soul worrying about lacking topics for conversation. But I was lucky and got the best guide possible. Not only was he was very handsome and only 28 years old, but he was also the sweetest soul on Earth. He told me a lot about his country, and the problems. That he had "adopted" two orphan kids from the town, and his goal was to build an orphanage one day. He was a vegan, too. He simply was the kindest and purest being I had ever met.
The trekking was extremely challenging for me. Walking for up to 8 hours a day with a 8-10 kg backpack, and mostly uphill (or ridiculous never-ending stairs of high stones) was taking it's toll on me. At the end of each day I wolfed down whatever food Raju got from the hostel we stayed at, and just sat without moving much.
The real beauty was meeting the people that were living along the trekking routes. Those sweet families who made their living with hosting the trekkers. On our first evening we got invited to celebrate the child's birthday with the family. There were balloons and cake (rare items up here). It was so innocent to watch.
With every day the air got thinner, and it got colder. The good part about trekking in January is that the hostels are pretty empty :) So I always had my own room. But it got seriously cold. Before the last day Raju gave me a pill that was supposed to help adapting to the altitude, and we were drinking garlic soup like there was no tomorrow (supposed to help with the altitude too). Still I was a bit worried since on our last day we were climbing up another 1000 m in just one day (not recommended generally but I trusted Raju).
As hard as it all was, I loved being up there. The atmosphere in the huts where the trekkers unite to warm themselves up with a cup of tea, all simple and rustic life, the majestic nature around us, with the mountains always in the background...
We reached the snow zone and slowly slowly made our way the last kilometres to the Annapurna Base Camp. By now Raju was carrying my backpack, too, since the air had become really thin for me.
And then we were there, and I was sitting at the Annapurna Base Camp with a group of other people and I couldn't believe I had made it!! I was out of breath just sitting there with my mug of garlic tea. I wasn't hungry at all. We played some card games, and chatted along. I almost slipped on the iced squatting toilet outside. It felt amazing.
I hardly slept that night, due to the cold and the altitude, so I got up super early and saw the sun rising above the Himalayas at over 4000 m. It was so beautiful. And so cold. And so beautiful.
After breakfast I was ready to get down though. Going all the way back down was almost harder than up. My legs were trembling at times, and a few times we both slipped on the ice. Raju always knew the right route to take, and one time we heard an avalanche going down in the distance.
Before we headed back to civilisation we made a stop at a warm spring where we could soak our sorry bones in the heavenly warm waters (the first shower in a week).
The last day Raju took me on an extra long hike (I thought he would never stop) and we arrived after around 9 hours at a lovely homestay of a family he knew. They served us white sweet potatoes and millet pancakes with their own honey. Best.food.ever!
On our way back to Pokhara the busses were on strike again, so we had to walk all the way back, but by now I was so used to walking I didn't mind at all.
Back in my hostel, I spend 30 minutes under the hot shower, ate a whole package of cookies on my bed and then - kinda missed Raju, so I went out on the street walking again! So funny.
I had wonderful last days in Pokhara, sat at the lake, hiked to the Peace Stupa, and enjoyed good food. I also met Raju and his "adopted" kids, and gave him a generous tip for all his services. He is such a great guy.
Then I took the bus back to Kathmandu, got another tattoo (because they were really good there), got invited to a little street concert, visited the old city, the Boudhanath Stupa and the Monkey Temple, and just enjoyed this strange place.
I dearly fell in love with Nepal, and would love to come back one day.
So we needed to do our first visa run! After 3 months our visa in Malaysia ran out, so we hopped on to the ferry to Thailand which is super close.
We.loved.Thailand! It is so close but so different from Malaysia. Everything seems more cheerful, colourful, more relaxed. I guess the religion makes the difference.
On the way from the ferry to the city Satun we met Daniel, also on his visa run, and had a nice chat. We checked into a little hostel in Satun and explored the town. Our eyes got caught by a sweet tiny colourful shop selling candies for passing by school kids. It was decorated with such love and happiness that we had to check it out. We talked to the owner Bee a little bit, who was so openhearted and lovely. She spontaneously invited us to have dinner at her mother's restaurant later tonight.
So we went there in the evening, together with Daniel, and if her shop was already full of kitsch and colors, then her mother's place was a whole different level!
It was a little restaurant at the street but it was packed with art and decoration, most of it done by Bee's mother. She was just as sweet as Bee and said she regularly changes the interior, painted new stuff on the walls, hangs up new items she finds etc. It was so lovely seeing this incredible place!
And it was a karaoke place too! A lot of Thai came here to have some food in the evening, but most of all - to sing! Of course we had to take our turn too, and we sang "Yellow" from Coldplay (one of the few songs I knew from the playlist) and got compliments afterwards.
It was such a heartwarming evening, and Bee and her mother even gave me a necklace as a present afterwards. What wonderful people!
By the way - on the way back to Malaysia we got told at the border that we needed to stay at least 3 days outside of the country, which we hadn't known obviously. Luckily the border control guy was nice enough to let us in.
Exactly one year after my first trip to Istanbul and Bali in 2012 I flew again for a month to Bali. This time together with my partner Willem. We arrived on the 1st of January 2013, mainly with the plan to find some kind of business that Willem was looking for, since his goal was to settle down in Bali.
We had lovely weeks, I did my yoga, and went on hikes. Together we checked out the Green School, and the Green Village, with houses built completely out of bamboo in an ecological way, and stunning beauty!
After almost 2 years in my new expat life in Spain I decided to take a one month holiday. After the Christmas visit at my family I flew to Istanbul, followed by Bali. This was my first long-distance flight on my own ever! So exciting!
I have always wanted to see Istanbul. Maybe it's my possible Persian/Middle Eastern roots, but I have always felt drawn to this magical city, half European, half Asian, and I didn't get disappointed.
I arrived on the 31st of December 2011, late evening. And stayed in my hotel room!
I know. But I was in a pretty low phase of my life, I was insecure, depressed and scared. So instead of celebrating New Year's Eve on the streets of Istanbul, I went to bed. Sigh.
The next days I spent exploring the city, and fell absolutely in love with it. I walked for hours and hours, visited mosques, took a trip on a boat along the Bosporos, and discovered little art galleries. I even got invited for sweet Turkish tea.
I'm in love with Istanbul!
After a few days in Istanbul I flew to Bali. I had heard that it's a wonderful city, and the hippie hear was supposed to be in Ubud so I had booked my first nights there.
It sounds crazy but I hardly took photos during my first time here in Bali, although I stayed about 3 weeks.
It was magical and transforming for me. I started doing yoga, which felt really hard in the beginning. I also joined meditation and chanting classes. I met some wonderful lovely friends from Finland, America, France and Holland. I even fell a bit for one of the Dutch guys, so at the end of my stay we decided to stay in contact. Our group of a strange mix of people made trips to different parts of the island. I went with the Finnish girl to Lovina beach and Tulambem for scuba diving. Ubud is amazing! It is very touristy, and full of hippie yoga stuff. It does feel like a little bubble far from reality. The Balinese are amazing people. They do their offerings for the Gods several times a day, and there are actually more holidays than working days in Bali, all to celebrate the Gods. It is a very peaceful religion and differs a lot from the mostly Islamic rest of Indonesia.
I cried when I had to leave. I had spent the last two nights at the villa of my new Dutch friends, and it was pure heaven.