Packing for the Annapurna Circuit Trek

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Namaste, I’m leading a trek on the Annapurna Circuit Trek in Nepal this November. If you’re coming with me, here’s a quick list of what you should bring and why. If you’re headed down up the trail alone, stay tuned for a more comprehensive Annapurna Circuit trekking guide to be released here this summer. You’d have more fun with me though, check out the details of my Meditation and Trekking in Nepal trip here.

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Travel Bug: Bangkok, Thailand

I’ve doubled my days in Bangkok this past year – enjoy our updated BKK guide.

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If you have never ventured to Bangkok, you probably have a few ideas of what it is like from movies like The Hangover Part II, Dangerous Bangkok, and Into The Sun (plus a trillion other action movies); if you have been fortunate enough to miss those thrillers, picture bright lights, speedy taxis, street food and lots and lots of people.  Bangkok is one of those cities that takes you in, spins you around and spits you out.  Thankfully there are lovely Thai beaches just a bus ride away and after a week in BKK one needs a nap, a really long nap.

As a traveler, cities aren’t high on my list.  I try to stick to small towns and natural attractions; I tend to search for those hidden gems and slices of everyday living, but because I spent the better part of a year in Thailand, I learned to love and embrace Bangkok, a city with more than 7 million inhabitants.  I had the opportunity to explore Bangkok multiple times for various reasons like typical tourism, friends’ birthdays, English teaching orientation, family visits and weekend-long shopping sprees.  Each time I ventured into the city, I felt more and more comfortable and willing to explore new places and enjoy old hangouts.  Bangkok was no longer an enormous scary city (ok, it’s still pretty huge), but rather a transit hub and pit stop that I visited every month while living in Thailand.  I began to recognize neighborhoods, streets, parks, particular statues, elevated walkways, and even specific vendors and food carts, it became a city of smaller neighborhoods and much more manageable to wrap my head around. Continue reading

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Cultivate a Life of Travel

Live seasoned live a life of travel designTraveling extensively really comes down to a few factors: time, money, and willingness.  If you’re willing, you are capable of creating the time and funds to take a trip.  If I, the least motivated money maker on the planet, can scrape together enough cash to travel to 15+ countries, you can too.  I absolutely despise money and trading my precious time for work (some people read this as being lazy, but I assure you I’m not), but travel motivates me to make paper.  Traveling is a drug and I am in the throws of addiction.  Life feels dull if I’m not exploring. Here’s how I motivate myself to maintain a life revolving around travel.

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Snapshots of the Whole and Happy Retreat in Thailand

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It’s been nearly a month and a half since the first Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand and yet my mind wanders back to that magical time almost every single day. I wanted to share a few film images and a general feel for the beautiful retreat week I spent at FaaSai Resort and Spa.

The Whole & Happy Retreat is the perfect laid back mix of travel, adventure, yoga and self exploration. Each day the retreat group met for yoga and meditation and each day a new technique, style, or focus was presented to us to play around with. As if the yoga and meditation wasn’t enough, the Whole & Happy Retreat involved so much more. We rode our bikes up steep hills, plunged into the Thai gulf waters, drank beer at sunset and toured the farm where our organic meals originated all the while still having ample time to laze about by the pool, sip papaya smoothies and trade book recommendations while devouring our current reads. breakfast-1 first-round-12

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The Whole & Happy Retreat seemed to rest in this perfect cosmos of flowed planning instead of precise scheduling. Each night there would be a new agenda and theme on the message board and every morning our group would work our way happily through the day. From farm tours to beachside bike rides, we would move through the hours crossing joyous adventures off our list and yet somehow barely checking the clock, instead checking in with each other and our energy levels.

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first-round-18As an experienced yoga practitioner, I was delighted at the variety of classes presented and how approachable and attainable the instructors made the content for the beginners in the group and yet I never once felt bored or that the classes were predictable. Beyond the yoga and meditation, it’s such a treat to enjoy new experiences with complete strangers, it’s almost like being transported back to the first day of school on the playground. You feel shy at first until a few minutes later you realize you’re having an insane amount of fun and you look around to realize the people you once thought were strangers are now your favorite playmates.

The Whole and Happy Retreat felt like an adult summer camp aimed at elevating the travel experience while incorporating yoga and introspection. As a seasoned traveler, I cannot recommend this experience enough to individuals who are a bit apprehensive about a trip abroad or solo travelers who would find comfort among company. It’s also the perfect break for someone looking to get away in order to recharge and reinvigorate themselves for a happier reintegration back into normal life.first-round-14first-round-41first-round-61

Come read books, sip smoothies poolside, bike through fishing villages, make new Thai friends and gaze up at the stars with me. I’ll be joining the Whole & Happy crew at the next retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand from March 17-23 and I hope you’ll come. I’d love to flow with you! From now until January 15th, book with a friend and receive $50 off of the retreat cost for a total of $550 for seven days of retreat at Faasai Eco Resort and Spa. If you need help finding a flight (they’re less than $600RT from NYC right now) or help creating a budget, I would love to help, just reach out in the comments.

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Sticky Waterfall – Bua Tong

During my adventures, I’m often captivated by the natural beauty I witness. I’ve felt the sudden and overwhelming need to hug trees, lay down in the dirt, and literally salute the sun, but every once in a while there is a place that leaves me in complete aw. A place so magical that I know I will visit again because I must show someone else the wonder. Bua Tong is that place. All afternoon I felt dumbstruck. How is it possible that this type of beauty exists in nature? I felt like I was transported to Neverland, there was just no way that what I was seeing and experiencing was real. Was I asleep? Did someone slip me acid? Am I in a storybook? Nope, the earth is really this amazing and I had the opportunity to experience it.  Let me attempt at explaining what I experienced at Bua Tong although surely no words or images will come close.

What is Bua Tong, the sticky waterfall? As unbelievable as it sounds, it’s just that. It’s sticky not slick, so one is able to walk quite easily up and down the slope of it even with water rushing by. What makes it this way? An abundance of calcium carbonate runoff.  Calcium carbonate is commonly found in Limestone, which is what lies under the thick deposits that you see covering the falls. Even though I briefly researched the waterfall (I didn’t look at any photos) before visiting, it didn’t prepare me for the experience.


Walking up a waterfall. How absurd. That’s what I thought while reading about Bua Tong. Once I arrived, I stripped down and slathered on sunscreen all the while keeping my eyes on the handful of people walking up the falls. They were making it look so easy, but they looked athletic and young, surely it was harder than it appeared. Then it was time to try it for myself, I braced myself, felt my core tighten and prepared to face plant as I took my first step. Complete shock and amazement washed over me as I took one step and then another upwards through the rushing water. With my mouth hanging open and my eyes wide, I looked around at my friends, ‘are you seeing this!?,’ is what I’m sure my expression read. Pure bliss and bewilderment followed me around the rest of the afternoon and I climbed up and down, up and down, all around  Bua Tong. The mineral deposits look like white, cloud-like  sponges and actually feel similar though a little bit harder and slightly pricky, the surface even gives slightly under a firm touch.  There were a few patches that were slick, but it is because the calcium carbonate was covered with a mossy slime. These spots are easy to see and avoid.


In the company of only about two dozen other travelers, Bua Tong had truly felt like one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever visited. Usually while traveling you’re forced to share the magic, but here it was all our own. As I looked around, I saw that most people had carved out a little space on the waterfall’s slope to sit in the sun and marvel at where their life had brought them. It was only a few minutes later that I joined my best friend, Natasha, on a sunny log in the middle of the rushing current to simply be. As I lay meditating, tiny tickles of what I thought were mosquitoes kept dragging me back to the outer world. It was in the midst of one of these tickling sensations that I opened my eyes and realized, it wasn’t mosquitos at all, but dozens of colorful butterflies. I closed my eyes again, determined to be at peace with each coming sensation. As I reflected on my weeks in Thailand, the friends in my company, my path in general, I had the overwhelming feeling of gratitude that materialized as a single teardrop from each eye. Life is beautiful. There is magic everywhere and I have so much to be grateful for, sometimes it takes a trip to never never land to remind you that every single day is a gift to be cherished and spent wisely, whether you’re climbing a sticky waterfall or navigating your work week.


Are you ready for a spiritual awakening? Kidding, but here are more details on how to reach Bua Tong and what to experience while you’re there.

What to pack:

  • Money for gas and snacks
  • Bathing suit
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Book
  • Camera
  • Dry bag/waterproof bag if you have one
  • Long sleeve or sweatshirt (the ride home will be a little chilly)

 

How to get there:

Located over an hour outside of Chiang Mai, Bua Tong isn’t on the beaten tourist track, but still worth a visit. We rented motorbikes for the duration of our stay in Chiang Mai, which costs roughly 200-300b per day. I personally enjoy driving and navigating through crazy Thai traffic, but to some this may seem dangerous or unappealing. If you are in the latter group, you can ask your guesthouse or a tour operator for a songtaue to Bua Tong, but because it’s so far outside the city, it will be kinda pricy for Thai travel standards. I would find a cool crew the day before and convince them that they need to join you on this quest, that will surely reduce the price of the songtaue. If you’re in the former and you’re down to drive a motorbike, download either the app maps.me or google maps and download the northern Thailand map, while you have wifi that way you’ll have to problem navigating to Bua Tong. It really isn’t too tough and once you are about twenty minutes outside Chiang Mai, the traffic really slows down. I think driving the motorbikes to and from Bua Tong really added to the adventure and it was nice exploring the falls at our own pace instead of knowing a songtaue driver was waiting around for us.
What to explore :

Obviously you came for the sticky waterfall. If I were you, I’d take the stairs all the way to the bottom, stash your bag on a log (most people left their bags near the bottom of the falls unattended, I did the same and didn’t worry about my $3,000+ camera once, but do what feels comfortable to you) and start the climb up. Find a nice space to sun yourself midway or hike all the way to the top in one go. Now it’s time to hike down. Slightly scary, but equally easy. There are several ropes along the way to offer support in tricky areas  and ensure your decent is safe. Don’t you dare chicken out and take the stairs back down. You only live once. Once back at the bottom, continue a little further than the bag drop area where the stairs end. You’ll find another smaller waterfall with a shallow plunge pool at the bottom. Submerge yourself and dig your toes down into the soft, glittery sand, you did it.


After you’ve had your fill of the waterfall, hike back up to the tip and explore the natural seven colored fountain. Even if you’re famished and tired (we were both) you can make it to the fountain. It’s less than a five minute walk and it’s a wooden boardwalk the entire way. You’ll be amazed at how insanely clear the water is and you’ll enjoy leafy jungle views on the way to and from.

There’s also another short hike depicted on a large wooden sign near the entrance to the fountain trail, we decided against it only because we were sure to die of hunger (or morph into hangry demons) at any moment. We contemplated buying a snack from the small restaurant on site and then completing the hike, but we wanted to have time to stop on the road for a late lunch and return to Chiang Mai before dark.


Where to eat & stay:

On the way back to Chiang Mai, we stopped at the loveliest little guesthouse and restaurant. If we had more time, we certainly would have stayed the night. The guest house is called Howiman or Horwiman. You pull off the road across from Lhongkhoa Resort and head straight down the dirt hill, you’ll immediately see a grouping of dark wooden buildings on the left and you’ll probably hear a yapping little dog, and you’ll know you’re in the right place. If we could have stayed and drank our Chiangs in frosty mugs all evening we totally would have. Next time I visit Bua Tong I will.  


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Why I Fell in Love with Laos After Only Five Days

If you are curious about exactly where I went in Laos and how it all went down, here’s a detailed (might I say too detailed) account of my trip in 2012.
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Laos! A country most people have never heard of or at least could not place on a map. The same was true for me before I lived and worked in Thailand. Once I found myself in southeast Asia, I became aquatinted with small countries that surrounded me as I hoped to explore each of them. Laos had always intrigued me because I heard so very little about it.  I must admit, I did very little research before heading to Laos, which is how I go about most trips (for better or worse), but nothing I read hinted at exactly how beautiful, calm, sleepy, and kind Laos can be to travelers.

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Seasoned View: Vol. 20

Each month we share our Seasoned View.  Snapshots of nature and daily life taken by the Seasoned sisters. Find last month’s last month’s here.

Oi. It’s dark outside and it’s 5p.m. even though this happens every year, there’s no way I can get used to it. To offset the outside, I’ve been sprinkling candles about and making my living room a bit more cozy for fall.  In Nepal, most of the landscape was lush and green, but during the Annapurna Circuit trek, there were two days that looked distinctly like autumn.  Here are some of the snapshots I took. Enjoy! Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 6.23.17 PM

You can upload one or all of these photos to use as your desktop background or even as phone and tablet wallpapers.  Simply click on the download link below each photo and save the image.  Enjoy!

10.12.15 print Yak Kharka-34Click for shrub scenery10.11.15 print Manang-38 Click for Annapurna Peaks.10.13.15 print New Phedi-9 Click for her horse10.12.15 print Yak Kharka-48 Click for horses.10.12.15 print Yak Kharka-57 Click for suspension bridge10.12.15 print Yak Kharka-66Click for Yak Kharka.

 

Hope you enjoyed this month’s Seasoned View.  Have a great week!

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World Rivers Day

Let’s work together to keep our rivers and oceans clean.  Here’s a recent post about our favorite biodegradable shower products.

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Happy World Rivers Day!  Hopefully you’re in close proximity to one and can easily enjoy some cool river water today.  I’m still in Nepal, a country racked with rivers that are fed by beautiful snow capped mountains.  The raging rivers in Nepal power a whopping 80% of the country’s electricity.  Nepal’s three major rivers are the Kosi, Gandaki and Karnali.  Pokhara, where I’m currently living, is near to the Seti Gandaki or White River.  Below you’ll see photos of the white river during a yoga teacher training group outing.  Liveseasoned fall15 rivers2

We ventured ninety minutes outside of Pokhara to hike and visit the hot spring on the White River.  This was actually last week during Clean Up The World Weekend.  My group helped pick up lots of litter at my request.  It was a great bonding experience because none of the Nepali people could fathom why we were picking up trash with our bare hands and insisting we put it in the van and take it back to the hotel.  You can see my Indian asana teacher (in all white) carrying a box we found on the side of the mountain, which we then used to pick up more trash along the White River.

_DSC6749Liveseasoned fall15 rivers6Liveseasoned fall15 rivers3While we did our best to collect trash there is obviously a lot left to be done in Nepal and all over the world.  The river I visited in Kathmandu was absolutely trashed.  It’s no wonder since it runs through a city that is home to over a million people.  It was quite a surprise to me though because my guesthouse receptionist describe it as an amazing natural area.  You could say I was a little disapointed when the local bus dropped me off here.

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Then there is the Bagmati River, the one in which cremated remains of hindus are tossed into. While it’s easy to judge those who use rivers differently, it’s hard to tell if we would act the same if our country’s standards for water cleanliness were different or almost nonexistent like those in Nepal.  We learn from those around us and if your piers are washing their clothes in the water and throwing the detergent wrapper downstream you will almost certainly do the same thing.  One of my favorite books growing up was A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry. It’s the story of native americans and europeans working together to restore a river that had been heavily polluted. I honestly think that book was my first introduction to the concept of water pollution and realizing that whatever you do upstream will have a consequence downstream. It still baffles me that some people don’t realize storm drains lead to rivers and oceans.  It’s never too early to educate your children (or even your adult friends!) about the importance of fresh water and the way we interact with it.

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Tips For Visiting Temples

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Visiting ancient temples and beautiful mosques abroad is quite popular and enjoyable.  It surprised me a little bit since I’m not religious at all, but it’s more of a cultural experience than a religious one.  If you’re new to traveling or have never visited a temple abroad there are a few things you should know before you go.  I’ve learned some tips and tricks along the way and thought it could be helpful to share them here.  I feel so lucky to have visited dozens of religious sites in Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Kathmandu, India and beyond.  Read on to discover all the things I’ve learned along the way.

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Traffic in Kathmandu, Nepal

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If you have ever traveled internationally, you know there are certain aspects of life you will observe time and time again.  You’ll notice the way Europeans dress differently than Americans even though they all tend to wear pants and tops of similar brands.  You’ll certainly notice how Hindu and Buddhist populated countries dress more conservatively and almost always cover their shoulders and knees.  You’ll probably eat out while abroad and you’ll admire the way Vietnamese people can sit on furniture made for preschoolers and still look comfortable or how Indians eat with their right hands only.  You’ll also walk around abroad and you’ll notice how easy it is to shop and walk in countries with pedestrian zones. You’ll wish America (or your home country) adopted a few more car-free areas in your city too.  You’ll also notice how hard it is to cross the street safely in some countries, especially if the traffic moves in the opposite direction than what you’re used to.

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To say crossing the street in Kathmandu, Nepal is difficult, is an understatement.  First off, there are no traffic lights or at least none that I have observed in the city center so you won’t see any flashing walk symbols.  The main streets are very wide too and there are certainly no lines painted on them.  If there are crosswalks painted, it’s almost irrelevant because of the lack of traffic lights.  It’s almost impossible to interpret which lane has the right away, when cars will be turning into the intersection, and at what point will the wall of traffic lurch forward.

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