Category Archives: Random

On gotong royong and love

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I read an article recently that changed my perception of love. It said that love is not a concept, unlike the fairy tales that Hollywood has been feeding us, it’s not one of those states that people simply get into and stay for a long time, even if it is “true love”. Rather, love is a connection, a moment between two people (or more) when you share this feeling of affinity, a spiritual bond of sorts. That’s why love does not just happen with one person, it happens over and over again, and it requires constant effort for this connection to be reinforced.
The homestay at Kampong Lukut made this perception of love very real for me. Watching the students cry when bidding farewell to their “foster parents” of one day reminded me of how I felt when I had to leave the kids at Flora Tristan and at Sao Sary. The connection at that time was so strong and I’d like to think that at that moment, I loved them with all my heart. Yet connections, as strong as they are at that moment, do fade away with time. And as sad as the students were yesterday, it’ll probably be in no time that this becomes all but a sweet memory to them.

Perhaps this is what they mean by the horrible cliché “不在乎天长地久,只在乎曾经拥有.” I’m grateful that in those moments, we owned that connection.

On a separate note, kampong life is really very refreshing. The kids grow up so much more resilient, not squirmy whenever they see an insect (#notetoself), filled with unbridled joy and excitement for a post-rain, muddy game of soccer, full of talents in music, dance and rhythm. This gotong royong spirit really keeps one alive, and in all our successes as a society, it is exactly what we lack and need at this point.

luxe reflux

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“I know that I travel in large part in search of hardship — both my own, which I want to feel, and others’, which I need to see. Travel in that sense guides us toward a better balance of wisdom and compassion — of seeing the world clearly, and yet feeling it truly.” – Pico Iyer

I have a love-hate relationship with luxury.

I couldn’t help smiling when I stepped into our villa at Alila Soori. From the calming smell of lemongrass, the crisp clean cloud-like duvets, the twin-sized bath-tub, the marbled blue lap pool that fringed the living room, the sprawling day beds right down to the mahogany boxes that had little compartments for each of the toiletries, the sense of perfection that permeated the environment assured its occupants that they were royalty. We even had a personal butler who was on call 24/7, ready at all times to deliver bicycles, swimming floats or ferry us from our room to the restaurant with a buggy.

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Yet despite how much I enjoyed soaking in that bubble of comfort, I couldn’t help feeling a pervasive sense of unease at the artificiality of this perfect world that was created by the rich for the wealthy. Because the moment you step outside of the villa’s perimeters, the stark contrast of the living conditions of the surrounding villages is all the more glaring. Dirt roads, broken shutters, faded walls, drains that threaten to overflow – nothing of that crisp cleanliness that exists just a wall away. But there is so, so much beauty and life in the lushness of those perfectly filed padi fields, the expressions of the stone temple guardians and the laughter of the kids as they chase after the school-bus.

And as I gazed over the edge of that infinity pool, I couldn’t help but wonder if, once upon a time, the padi fields had extended to where I was to seamlessly merge with the black sand beaches. Or if, like my dad says, it must be torturous for those who work at the villa to straddle the juxtapositions of these two worlds. I don’t know how that must feel, but I do know that it is only too easy to be consumed by the lust for luxury once you’ve gotten a taste of it. It was evident by the dissatisfaction we felt at our next villa, which by normal standards would have been wow, but paled in comparison to Alila.

At the end of the day, I guess the question goes back to why you travel. Luxury is justified if the intention is relaxation. But, if like Pico Iyer says, we travel to lose and find ourselves again, then perhaps there is a necessity to break out of that bubble and get a little dirty, a little alive.

 

 

i ♥ volcanoes

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I am so in love with volcanoes. They are so majestic- seemingly silent but actually raging inside with such power and energy. They leave scorch marks in their wake and yet cradle colourful bodies of water. Their grounds are fertile and lush and their shapes unexpected and unpredictable.

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View of Mount Kintamani (Bali) from our restaurant. It had been completely obstructed by clouds when we first got there but this gorgeous view was slowly unveiled over the course of our meal.

So far I’ve seen volcanoes in Costa Rica, Japan, Peru, Guatemala and now, Indonesia. In Antigua (Guatemala) my friends and I had the fortune of climbing Volcan de Agua in our pjs and roasting marshmallows at the top. Definitely redefining pyjama party, if you ask me. I was quite disappointed that we didn’t get to see any lava because the volcano had erupted in May of the previous year. Thanks to our errant tour guide though, we definitely had our fair share of adventure on the trek up!

The pyjama team a.k.a Singapore's national dress code for volcano-climbing

Volcanic rock that crumbled underneath our feet

Okay, I don’t know if I’m being greedy but if I could see this I would definitely die happy. Until then I will aspire to see some lava action in Hawaii. Someday.

 

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I just read a post on Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua and it looks amazing!!! Damn, another thing to add on the volcano lust list.

This is it.

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Tomorrow we’re starting on our ‘pilgrimage’ to Macchu Picchu. It’s really the climax of our trip since I’ve nothing tougher planned for the next two weeks. Apparently this is the route that the Incans took in the past and now, thousands of tourists each year (including us) pay hundreds of dollars to suffer. Haha. Anyway, check out the route below. Day 2 is supposed to be the toughest with about 11km of walking and 2000 uphill steps. Woot woot! Not sure if my flabby thighs are ready (actually I’m pretty sure they’re not). We’ll also be sleeping in tents along the way. No showering for 4 days! This is Outward Bound Peru.

Map of the Inca Trail

So yes, wish WB and I luck! Let us not be sick. That’s all I ask for.

Also, just uploaded a route map of where we’ve been and where we’re headed to. Click here or click on the Route Map tab at the top.

See you in 4 days (:

Damn suay.

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So things at the Honey House didn’t turn out so sweet after all. WB and I found out last night that someone had entered our room and swapped one of his USD 100 bills for a counterfeit one. Perhaps he was just hoping that we would not notice and that he’d be able to do it again in future, but in any case, nothing else was taken from the room.

Both notes look very similar  face-up, although if you look closely the counterfeit note is darker than the authentic one. The counterfeit note is also instantly noticeable when you touch it because it feels exactly like paper.

On the back, the counterfeit note is evidently different. As some kind of sick joke, the note actually says “billete de la suerte” (or ‘lucky note’) and “sin valor official” (or ‘without official value’).

We tried to ask if we could go to the police station to make a report and perhaps have the note fingerprinted, but apparently the policemen here are shit and fingerprinting does not exist. Oh well.

On a brighter note, we’ll be moving to the volunteer house because we don’t feel safe staying there anymore. What a way to end our time in Arequipa :/

More bad dancing!

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Here’s the official video for Dance your way to Singapore! You can watch the mass dance that we did with Matt Harding but unfortunately (fortunately?) because we were standing so far back in the crowd, we can’t really be spotted. Most of the mass dance you’ll see is also footage from the first mass dance, which explains why they had fans, and we didn’t. Although I must say that I don’t really get the use of fans. They’re not exactly emblematic of our culture, and let’s face it- they’re not the best accessories for men. (I’m sorry Matt, but you did look pretty silly.) Watching people dance awkwardly is entertaining enough on its own without the need for props! What I fear is that they were used in the dance just so that they could be used in the pun “Fans (with fans!) dancing with Matt Harding”. Yeowcheesy.

In any case, we made it to the TOP 20 (WOOT!) thanks to you guys so please continue to support us by voting here>>>

http://www.yoursingapore.com/content/traveller/en/config/dance-to-singapore.html

Honestly I’m not really looking to win it (oh who am I kidding?), but I am very interested to see how far we can go. As of now we’re in the top 10, and if we even make it to top 5 I would consider that a huge achievement! Plus, after watching the current top videos now, I actually think our bad dancing is pretty good. Heehee.

So support our bad dancing and vote please! 😀

Top 10 Places You Don’t Want to Visit

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Check this out >>>

Top 10 Places You Don’t Want To Visit

I wonder if it’s slightly disturbing, or if it’s the whole Forbidden Fruit effect, but I actually do want to go to these places! Well maybe not Ramree Island (Burma) and Ilha de Queimada Grande (Brazil), but definitely The Door To Hell (Turkmenistan) and the Poison Gardens (England). I realize I have a weak spot for fire and caves, not so much for creatures that could chew me up.

The Door to Hell; Turkmenistan

Versus

No Way in Hell: Ramree Island, Burma

Apparently cycling on the Yungas Road (or Death Road) in Bolivia is quite the thing to do. Maybe Biao and I should try that this summer when we’re there!