and, this week pics
I could tell you a great big lie about why I have massages when I’m travelling. I could say it’s for research, or I could say it so I can write a blog, but neither of them would be true.
Sure, I may write an article or blog about a massage – and I confess I have one everywhere I go – but nearly always the main reason is pure pleasure and relaxation. Of course, sometimes I have tight muscles or a sore back and massages are my go-to treatment for them too.
About 18 months ago, while staying at the Kannur Beach House in Kerala, I gave myself an early Christmas present – the day before Christmas – and had an Ayurvedic massage, here in what must be the Ayurvedic capital of the world (Kerala) – the first time I’ve had one.
So, what is Ayurveda? Firstly, the word is evidently Sanskrit and translates as the knowledge of life or life science. It’s a holistic way of living that combines meditation, yoga, diet, herbal remedies and massage. Its beliefs include: everything in the universe is made up of elements, including ear fire and water. It is the balance of these bodily energies, which governs our physical and emotional health. According to a book I read at the beach house. These were written in the ancient Hindu scriptures, The Vedas, which describes health as balance and illness, as an imbalance. Imbalance can be set right through eating foods based on body type, proper digestions, physical exercise and yoga or meditation.
Enough of my research, what about the massage?
I arrived by Auto (a 3-wheeled, Tuk-tuk type vehicle) and was first interviewed about my health history.
She started with a head massage, which was lovely, and finished with my face being massaged at the end. It felt luxurious having very warm oil poured over me. No oil on her hands but poured directly onto my body in copious amounts.
The massage included long dramatic, two-handed swirls and strokes from my foot to my fingertips. Smooth figure-eight movements travelled all over the front of my body and included long sweeps over my arms and torso. This certainly was a different sort of massage and not at all like a Thai massage or Swedish.
With great care,
I climbed off the oil-covered massage table – fearing I would slip right off. I thought that was the end of it, but no, I was then put in a steam box and wish I had a photo of the box with my head poking out. I found it very claustrophobic and quite scary and asked to be let out after about 5 minutes, which she did gracefully. A shower followed – with shampoo and body wash provided.
So, I’m not sure if the herb-infused oil used in the massage purified me, detoxed, cleansed or removed any toxins, but I can say it was a great massage and next time I’m back in Kerala I will return for another!
However, like all massage therapists each one differs: that first one was magic, it felt authentic, but then I had another one further south, which seemed more tourist orientated, and more like a regular massage> I’m pleased I was able to ask a local where to go, who they could recommend, when I was at the Kunnar Beach House 😊
An unexpected road trip, with 2 local Taiwanese women, ended at a lantern village that, surprisingly, had rail tracks running through the middle of the settlement.
Here, daily, and at night time, people write wishes on paper lanterns, before releasing them into the sky in the hopes ancestors will answer their prayers.
It seems this ritual started during the Three Kingdoms period and were first to send military signals and, lighting these lanterns grew widespread during the mid-19th century when bandits often attacked these towns. So now, although once used as signals for villagers to let their families know they were safe, they now carry people’s wishes, dreams and hopes, skyward.
An annual lantern festival also takes place on the last day of the Lunar New Year but you can set off the lanterns any time of year.
There are many lantern colours and it seems the different hues have different meanings -from hoping for greater wealth and fame and fortune through to marital happiness and everything in between. Although I didn’t see them, there are also animal-shaped lanterns such as cats, monkeys and pandas.
“You can’t just let the lantern go, there’s a ritual to it and a meaning” I’m told. It seems you can even buy digital, electronic, lanterns for virtual prayers! (an environmentally-friendly version :))
For safety reasons, a shop worker lights the lanterns and controls the release – another safety measure is they now use soybean oil instead of kerosene.
To prevent the mountainside from being littered with lanterns, they have a recycling programme and residents can exchange used lanterns at shops for items like toilet paper or detergent.
On rainy days, visitors can write their prayer on a piece of bamboo, which is hung along a fence in the village.
This was my first visit to Taiwan was fantastic and more stories will be written about it soon!
Borneo – the land of hornbills, head-hunters, orang-utans and ‘where adventure lives’ according to many travel brochures: it could also be called the land of paradoxes.
For instance, Kuching, capital of Sarawak, East Malaysia, means cat, but the city was not named after a cat; it has a Sunday market that’s open on Saturday (and other days) and an India Street that has very few Indian shops.
Easy to love, this walkable city has a racial mix of about 23% Malay, 25% Chinese and 49% Dayaks, the collective name for the indigenous tribes, Sarawak epitomises the tourism tagline: Malaysia, truly Asia.
Walking down Bishopgate Street to Carpenter Street I talk to a Chinese man whose family have been ‘special makers of fancy coffins’ for three generations; across the road a man’s making cake tins on the footpath; around the corner Malay women are making their famous Kek Lapis, an intricate, colourful layer cake, and alongside my waterfront accommodation, a heavily, traditionally-tattooed Iban woman, creates delicious vegetarian meals to order.
Like all travellers in this national geographic showpiece, I want to see the endangered orang-utan. Just out of the city, at the Semenggoh Centre, about 70 people attend the twice-daily feeding. Free to range throughout this 300-hectare (740-acre) greenbelt there is no guarantee they will come to the feeding stations. We’re also warned to obey the staff as they have no control over their charges and photos show injured workers as proof!
At the feeding station a mother and week-old baby appear: despite being told to keep quiet, it’s hard to ooh and aah quietly! They’re delightful, the mother uses all four limbs interchangeably and sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s her feet or hands she’s hanging from. She eats numerous ‘hotel-bananas’ as the little lady-finger bananas are called by locals as ‘all hotels serve them’, and a ripple of muted laughter spreads through the camera-clicking tourists when the baby tries to take one. A radio message comes for the ranger – Richie, the huge dominant male has made one of his rare appearances at the other feeding station and one by one we return down the track to where he is feeding.
He is huge! This ‘man-of-the-jungle’ has large cheek-flaps showing he is the king of this jungle and apparently he has already dispatched one pretender to the throne. A young male also arrives for a hand-out but keeps well away from Richie. As he crosses the rope that allows them to travel high above us, he stops to stare down at us, hanging mid-air like a kid on a school jungle gym. I have to laugh; he looks as though he is showing off to us, his DNA relatives, who are not so agile. Continuing on he shimmies down a vine and rope beside the small bridge we have just crossed and is given fruit. Richie just continues eating, a solid lump of muscle sitting on his man-made wooden picnic table.
Two young women are warned to come back from the end of the viewing platform ‘until Richie leaves’ – I wouldn’t want to be in his way. He walks upright; with each step, his long hair sways just like a shampoo commercial. He stops and stares, or maybe glares, and I send a message of hope that the heart of Borneo will always be secure for him, and with one more stop and stare he strides off without a backward glance
He knows he’s safe from us physically but most travellers here are well aware of his need of our protection and, despite international concerns, it seems Sarawak is working to secure the orang-utans future, not an easy task.
Like some TV adverts say ‘but wait, there’s more’ in this fabulous area of East Malaysia: add a kayak trip from one Bidayuh village to the next; spend time at an Iban longhouse and of course, eat the delicious local food and explore the many excellent, free, museums. The three-day Rainforest World Music Festival (10-12 July 2020– set in the Cultural Village at Damai – is a must-attend for great local and international performers. I’ve been a few times and just love it!
Also unique to this 3rd-largest island in the world, Borneo is the Proboscis monkeys. With a long straight pale tail, they leap clumsily from tree to tree and eating young shoots of indigestible foliage which breaks down in their two stomachs. Male vanity and the need to dominate means their nose can grow to such a pendulous length they have to hold it up to eat! Other males, lower in rank, have almost human or Pinocchio shaped noses and hang out in male groups until it grows bigger and they have the chance to challenge the leader and become the head of the harem. They are easy to see at the wonderful Bako National Park.
Borneo conjures up images of exotic adventures, an eccentric history, a White Rajah, wild animals, mystery and romance: my first travels there delivered, and I (the Kiwitravelwriter) soon returned to the land of head-hunters for even more exploring!
It’s 2 weeks since I flew out of Hong Kong. I’d been travelling for 5 weeks around the region, (Taiwan, Vietnam, and Cambodia) and, despite all the warnings about getting to the airport really early, there were very few protesters – and they were all in the arrivals area.
So, for me, apart from having to show my travel documents, there were no disruptions. However, I was frustrated that Air New Zealand, and no doubt other airlines, had encouraged us (by text messages) to check in early – but the check-in counter didn’t open until the normal time! My plan, and others I spoke to at the airport had been to check-in, get rid of our bags, go through security, and then hang out in the peace and quiet of the gate areas. It was not to be – we had to hang out by the boring check-in counters.
I wrote a little blog about it (see it here) and someone complained that I didn’t talk about the real protests, however, I am a travel writer, not a journalist, and all I do is give a snapshot, an opinion of a moment in time, what I experienced, notices, or observed – and those airport photos showed what it was like for me (quiet) on the morning of 10th August 2019.
There are many reputable sources of informed articles about Hong Kong, China, the protests, the results, and concerns. My travel blog is not one of them :).
Nevertheless, here a is a small photographic tour of what little I saw of the protests in Hong Kong – apart from the airport one, all were taken on my first day ( of my first ever trip to HK) in Hong Kong ( 7/7/2019)
Here are just some of the stories I will be blogging about over the next few months – these are about my recent 5 weeks travelling in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Taiwan, but there will also be other blogs about New Zealand and travel tips too.
In no particular order here are some of my planned blogs:
If you want to follow along on my travels here are your choices if how to.
I’m not sure where the “thugs” some local and Mainland Chinese officials are talking about.
There are certainly not here at the airport today(10th August 2019 11am.
This is the quietest protest I’ve ever seen!
Every now and then I could hear some faint chanting . . . welcoming new arrivals with a message I guess.!
Talking to some locals, it seems many are ensuring they have dual citizenship for possible future needs. What will happen to the country when these young locals leave?
I’m wondering, is there any colonised country in the world that has not had huge issues down the track? If so let us know 😊
Seems we all need to stop grabbing other peoples land!
How do you decide who to follow on Instagram or other such media?
When I have someone follow me, and Instagram suggests I follow them back, I have a quick look at their photos and almost instantly make a decision – are these photos I want to see or not?
Life is too short to engage with photos that don’t interest me for many reasons. It may sound judgemental, but it’s nothing to do with the person posting, making a judgement as to how I want to spend my time. So, here are the photos I do like to see.
What a curmudgeonly old woman I sound, but one of the beauties of life is that you don’t have to, and I don’t have to, follow or please everybody by posting the photos they want to see. We all take and post the photos we want to post
It’s not about right or wrong, it’s just about our taste – or lack of taste you might think 🙂
I’m looking forward to hearing how you choose who to follow or not on Instagram, Facebook, or any other social – let’s face it, each of our opinions is totally valid. Is that old adage says, one man’s meat is another man’s poison – or your junk is my treasure.
What’s your junk? Your treasure?
How do you make contact with locals? Or maybe you prefer not to, or don’t care?
I first noticed the use of mobile phones separating people from the places they were travelling in on a train in Thailand. A young British couple, were both on their phones were talking to different people back in their homeland. I found it amazing that they weren’t even looking out the window at the beautiful scenery.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with keeping in contact with friends and family every now and then – however, it also means you are not living in the now, in the present moment – the very place where life happens.
I guess I’m biased because when I travel, I very rarely contact home – I ‘m always working on the premise that no news is good news :-).
That being so, I’ve noticed in my city, Wellington, New Zealand, that it is harder to engage with locals when you are using a phone to guide you around the streets. Sure, Google Maps does sort of show you the way, but you get no interaction with the people in the area you are visiting.
Perhaps this doesn’t bother you, but for me, travelling is all about the people I meet; the questions I ask them; the directions I get from them, and knowledge about their lives.
We Kiwi, are considered pretty friendly and when we approach you on the street, especially if you’re looking at a map, we are not trying to sell you anything or take you to our cousins’ shop for instance – we are just trying to be helpful and friendly and help give you a 100% pure Kiwi experience.
(Note: ‘one hundred per cent pure’ was never intended to be about our environment – like everywhere else we too have environmental problems. The hundred per cent pure was to ensure all tourists got a genuine Kiwi experience and holiday. Sadly, this was not how it was understood overseas. Even New Zealanders now claim we are being false in our ‘advertising.’ As an older kiwi – who was travel writing when it was coined – many years ago. I’m very clear about its original intentions – one of the advantages of age 🙂 )
I frequently ask, ‘can I help you’ of those who look like tourists and are gazing at their phone or a map.
So, many especially those new into New Zealand I suspect, almost jump back in horror at being spoken to. ‘Oh no, what does she want!? Will she rip me off?’ I see it in their faces. Happily, at least 50% of them value me answering their questions and often thank me for being ‘helpful.’ And hopefully, that little interaction contributes to them enjoying their time in New Zealand and having 100% pure Kiwi experience, and knowing most of us are kind, caring and really want to help – for no reason but to be helpful!
So next time you pull out a phone to find your way from A to B just pause, look around, is there a local to ask instead?
This works from Alaska to Turkey, from Thailand to New Zealand. It’s the brief connections and a smile or a laugh with a local that can make your day. Don’t let technology separate you from the very people in the country you wanted to visit.
Have a good day 🙂