Taller Art of Being

Author

Last Station, Kathmandu

Travel
And without even noticing, I made the last jump on my trip, as if nothing happened, to the promising experience of Nepal. My initial plans were changed by my unexpected Yoga training in India. The stay in Nepal was cut short by the unexpected. Anyway I wanted to spend time in, I thought, the country of smiles, peace and spirituality. Great highlight to finish a year around the world.
What I did not count on was that all my utopias, ideas and ideals about Nepal were that: preconceived ideas unrelated to reality. My arrival in Kathmandu was not exactly triumphant or fluid. With almost no money in my pocket (my cards and the Indian cashiers do not get along) I arrived in a dirty, chaotic and stressful city. A dense dust flooded everything and turned breathing into a extreme sport. I was looking for the picture smiles n someone around me and what I found were half commercial smiles waiting to sell me a trekking trip. Thammel, the most touristic area of the city, was a concentration of souvenir shops and copies of sport equipment. So much damage made by the “trekking” tourism in this country, an uncontrolled development of business tailored for Europeans thinking themselves as mountain climbers and city nepali guides selling themselves  as Sherpas. Such a lack of property in the terms. We are specialists in democratizing any activity and taking away the essence.
But let’s go back where we were, in Kathmandu. You can tell me that my expectations played a trick on me and I would say it is true. I do not know what I expected in particular, a combination of local life, traditional environment and Buddhist religion. At first glance it was difficult to see any of those aspects.
My hostel was a half-dilapidated house, the bed was clean but the bathrooms were let’s say “vintage”. And I was already at a point in the trip of less “sharing a hostel room with eight strangers” and more “minimum basic needs covered”. Close enough to return back home I already dreamed of my bed, my bathroom and the little luxuries like hot water.
Two days in Kathmandu were enough to give me an idea of the city, the earthquake of a few years ago has complicated even more people lives and for sure has clouded the vision of this city. With these circumstances, what I most wanted was to go to the mountains, to the small NGO-school with which I had been in contact in order to make a significant contribution in my last stage of the trip. Two local buses and twelve hours after leaving the city I managed to reach the mountain village. The views left me speechless. Several of the highest peaks in the world were seen from there, just looking out the window and hopefully with a clear sky. The project of the school was different from what I expected, after living a total immersion in the community of Mozambique I discovered that in the case of Nepal what they valued most was the economic part that you could contribute and a few hours of work in the school, not necessarily with children. The project was perfect for the 20-year-old boys who were there, in many cases their first experience away from home and with the possibility of living with other companions in the same house having many hours of free time. After several days there and contributing to what I considered better, I returned to Kathmandu to spend the last days of my stay in a different neighborhood. I wanted to give the city a second chance. And so I reached Boudha, the Buddhist neighborhood par excellence. A haven of peace, local life, small businesses, monks and temples away from the tourist focus. Just what I wanted. I loved my neighborhood. The hostel where I was staying was also a haven of peace, I decided to spend the first few days in a shared room to save and then for my birthday to go to a private one and give myself a big luxury celebrating my day. Things changed when I found that the only roommate I had was a peculiar Hindu who lived in hostels “so as not to live with people” but he started asking me fifty questions per minute until my cordiality happened to be sincerity: “I think you ask too many questions”, that’s how our 15 minutes of glory ended. I do not know if it was that, the snoring, my desire for privacy or that he did not close the bathroom door when he peed. The point is that after two nights I decided to give myself the luxury of a private room and thus end the season of shared rooms on my trip. Enough experience.
Here at a café in the neighborhood of Boudha, having breakfast, I discover once again how  bad I need to return to stability and take care of myself after this long journey. My new neighborhood in Kathmandu inspires me peace, the peace I so badly needed. When I arrived after another intense and extensive trip I felt full of happiness as I walked through the small streets near the stupa. Small streets full of peaceful and local life, small craft workshops, local cafes where Buddhist monks mingle with the people of the neighborhood. It is heaven in this land of dense dust, faces of resignation and precariousness. In my neighborhood people smile more than anywhere else I’ve seen in this country. The people live quiet here. Spirituality, once again, is the perfect refuge in a world of chaos.
In a few days I return to Spain. So many things I have learned in this time, so much inner strength. I feel full of open doors to new projects, my mind has become accustomed to letting itself be carried away by intuition, to listen to my own biorhythms. My body has freed itself of weights that it carried without necessity and now I feel light in many ways. I am looking forward to building my new life on everything I learned in this way.
Nepal has been very different from the image I had. And at the same time, resuming the expectation of the unexpected, I discovered that the acceptance of situations as they are is the only thing that can give us enough wisdom to face any turn. My trip closure “had to” be meaningful in Nepal in my expectations. And, as a friend told me, maybe it had already been and Nepal was a pre-landing in tranquility and normality.
Each stage of this world journey has been unique and incomparable, none similar to another and all full of different and connected Marias. The others are our mirror, wherever they are and regardless of their race, sex, religion or culture. We are all connected, we long for the same, we breathe in similar degrees and we surround ourselves with the same energies, we make the same mistakes, we need the same affections and we fight for the same ideals. There is not them and us. There is no duality, my friends. But this will be discovered by each one when it the time comes.
Now, nervous and excited, I am about to return to Spain. I come back appreciating my land and my people. We are a place full of virtues and an enviable quality of life. The World loves our land and our culture sometimes more than ourselves. Maybe it’s time to review our critical spirits and start practicing what in yoga is called SAMTOSHA, feeling full and grateful for everything we have in our life. Astonishment and gratitude are two capacities that we need to renew daily and in a conscious way to enjoy each day for what it is, Unique.
And travel … Traveling opens you entire galaxies, internal above all.
I do not know what the future holds for me, I keep the doors open to what comes, now more than ever. This was “only” the transition, now begins the adventure of changing life in real life, without traveling, without continuous movements and without distractions. Now the moment of truth begins. And truth to be told, I’m looking forward to it.
Arrival in Katmandú, The city under dust
Discovering the city
Discovering the city
Discovering the city
Discovering the city
On my way to the mountains
On my way to the mountains
After lunch, survival kit
In the mountains, let me introduce you Manaslo, one of the highest peaks in the world (in the front page you can see Annapurna)
Mountain mood
In the mountains, meeting Urmila
In the mountains, meeting Umesh
In the mountains, educational projects
Yoga from the clouds
In the mountains, rice fields work
Back in Kathmandu, my neighbourhood is called Boudha (Boudha stupa)
Boudha, artisan
Boudha, neighbours
Boudha, the monks’ hair salon

Expect the Unexpected

Travel

When you let Life flow it surprises you and takes you to barely traveled roads that mysteriously fit in a perfect way with you. Getting to that flow requires previous work, mental openness and a lot of decision. Sometimes you can sense the change and sometimes, as for me, it catches you completely unprepared. It would seem that a chain of fortuitous factors inevitably take you to that point. Actually they are not fortuitous at all, they come from the unknown source that governs our lives.

The first days in Rishikesh were a hard adaptation to a heat difficult to carry during the day and impossible to sleep at night. The traffic noise on the nearby road was immense. My romantic idea of a peaceful retreat in the mountains was far from real. The vegetarian diet was what bothered me the least, the food was delicious and at no time I missed the animal protein. In addition to that my body was finally recovering after the ups and downs of the last weeks.
What marked the before and the after were the first classes of Pranayama (what in the West we call control over breathing and that actually encompasses a much more complex art). Pandeyji, the Master, told us about what well-used Pranayama means in a person’s life, techniques, uses and so on. I listened enthusiastically, just like when he told us about philosophy and ancient traditions but this was not what changed my mind. It was only when I began my first practical experiences in pranayama that I discovered a unique feeling, far beyond what any meditation has brought me. In my mind I began to consider the possibility of going deeper into that discipline, perhaps coming back later and do a longer course. Maybe next year, maybe in summer, maybe if everything goes well and I have the time … Maybe maybe maybe. You’re lying to yourself, I thought, maybe you never come back. You are here and now and you have the time, perhaps financially it is an unexpected investment in your savings. And maybe if you follow your intuition the investment is worth it. And so I decided to stay a month longer, live it fully, isolate myself and explore it. To give myself in body, mind and soul to the study of Pranayama, Meditation and Yoga in general was one of the most intense and rewarding experiences. Nine hours per day, four of them physical, have strengthened my body and expanded my soul keeping my mind under control. When I was not in class I lived with books in my hand, night and day, day and night. Several lives are necessary to understand everything that Yoga contains. In this short time I had a first vision from its original place in the Himalayas, from one of the cultures as old as the civilized world itself. My training has been a sensory experience rather than academic in the Western way, just what I needed. They say the Master appears when the student is ready, it seems that I was. I never thought of Yoga as something that identified me, although perhaps I never understood what it really was until now. I needed the effect of a trip like the one I lived to open this door.
I have a Friend with capital “F” who consciously started this path, the study of Yoga, a year ago. She understood that this was her way and gave herself completely, gave the best of herself and overcome many obstacles that have made her even bigger than she already was. Her path and my journey around the world have been parallel, one has learned from the experience of the other. She has been my first foot to understand Yoga. I loved listening to her dissertations and I felt it as a fascinating knowledge. My path instead has been unexpected and sudden. Both are two branches that flow differently into the same river, one long and serpentine and the other short and of quick current. Both go into the mother river, enormous and immeasurable and both support each other to keep going.

Here I am on my last day in this chaotic place where I found something so precious. I think of the many secrets that this country hides. Thirteen years coming here in businesswoman mode did not give me the opportunity to know its essence. Now I have discovered it and I have understood its charm. The reason why so many people come here and find parts of themselves that are unknown until now. Nobody prepares you for the parts of yourself that you find on the road. You think you know yourself when in reality there is so much inside that the rigid ideas about your own personality are dismantled by Life. That’s how we are, unknown to ourselves. Only when you transcend your mental limitations and accept without prejudice what comes to your mind you discover it. I invite you to listen to your own messages stuck in your internal answering machine. So, when you follow your intuitions, the deep will come to the surface.

How I got here, I do not know. How I’ve embarked on all my adventures, one by one. I do not know. What awaits me tomorrow? I do not know. I just let it happen, and I follow my intuitions, like never before.

This country is flooded with a thick, ancient, millenary, powerful, inspiring, contagious energy. To remain on the surface of its chaos is not to understand it at all. It takes a third active eye and a clear mind to glimpse its light. The offerings and chants that at first sight may seem meaningless and sectarian contain mysteries that nobody tells you. Only with genuine interest do you discover the rituals that originate them.

I feel fortunate to have opened this Pandora’s box to the thousand-year-old knowledge of Yoga. My learning has begun, my practice has become strong and stable. My mind is open.

“Yuj samadhao” (Yoga is the connection with yourself)

Fire ceremony,opening the course

On my way to class everyday

Exploring

Books Books Books

Daily practice

Pranayama in Ganga

Meditation in Himalayas

Indian style stretching

My room, home is where you take your light

Sundays in good company

Ganga beach

The Master and the Student

Graduation

A baby Yogi is born

Asian Luxury

Travel

Arriving in Mumbai was like returning to a past dimension, to a well known planet. Like Hong Kong, Mumbai has been my recurring destination for the past … many years. And not for vacations. One of the wonders of my previous profession was finding people so far from my culture and so close to my heart. Gobind is one of those people. We met more than ten years ago in the professional world and we became very good friends. To that precious friendship his wife and children joined us very soon. Gobind and his family are my family in India. And that has been one of the great gifts of my time in the textile world.

At the airport his driver was waiting for me. It was the first time I was in India for pleasure and at the beginning I felt almost like in my work trips, except for the backpack. Sitting in the back of the car, I looked through the window at the city that so many times had welcomed me. Its highway, its streets and alleys flooded with bright colors, smiling people and the millions of honking cars. India is indescribable, when you arrive you feel that smell that defines it and that I find it impossible to explain. Smell of humidity, spices, humanity and the dust of its roads. Sitting there, I had the impression that at any moment the car would stop at an office building and the “business” Maria loaded with her laptop, her two cell phones and her technical files would enter ready to spend the next 7 days negotiating, seeing collections , solving production problems and explaining the new designs to the infinity of factories visit after visit. Maria in “official” mode was coming with a head full of results, prices, margins, sales, budgets, patterns, fabrics, buttons, washes, zippers, shrinkages, lengths, widths, consumptions, formulas … and with a very clear idea about what everyone should do. Effectiveness and demand in its pure state.

On the other hand, the Maria who came to Mumbai this time was wearing humility and mental openness of a trip that discovered her what is true and important. She opened the door of his Indian family’s house and received tons of love, smiles, care, conversations, walks, meals and select wines, a thousand and one stories about travel adventures, new discoveries about the culture of an India that after so many years she only managed to scratch with her fingers.

Both Marias so far and so close. And there the change is experienced. The updated version of a previous operating system. Maria 2.0.
Walk through the streets of Mumbai, mingle with people, soak up their culture in the National Museum, understand the Freedom Fighting in the house of Gandhi. I never had the time or the opportunity to experience it until now. Mumbai is full of secrets that I did not know. For example the Dabbawala, a very special food collection and delivery system. It works like this: pick up the container with your lunch and deliver it to you at noon anywhere in Mumbai. They move by bicycle through the traffic of such a huge and chaotic city. In the more than 100 years of service they have never mistaken a container serving the whole city. Prince Charles of England even maintains contact with the boss and invited him to the last wedding, how awsome is that? The city has made them even a statue. This is Mumbai. There you can find the largest slum in the world, an area of shacks where millions of people live. A local artist decided to make the lives of these people more pleasant and painted their houses with vibrant colors full of joy.

The days staying in Mumbai I experienced an Asian luxury that I enjoyed as a child. Gobind and his family treated me like a queen. All the comforts I could imagine. In the morning, breakfast with the richest mangos in the world (Alfonso mangoes) and Iberian ham (I was in tears), nights sleeping in a XXL bed with latex mattress, a bathroom just for me, hot water, air conditioning, meals in the best restaurants … I could not believe what I lived. Coming from a reduced budget trip all these conditions were far from occurring in most places. My trip has been the most basic in that sense: shared dorms in hostels, simple diet, tropical heats without air conditioning, hard beds, cold showers … they matter so little when you understand what you live. In Mumbai I enjoyed each of the luxuries with delight … and without attachment. Enjoy without needing. I am happy to need less, less and less, to feel satisfied.

And from Mumbai I flew to the unknown north of India, in the Himalayas. Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga, awaited me for two weeks of yoga, meditation and ayurveda. Such a promising experience. I see you there, in the mountains where the Ganges river is born.

 

 

 

Karuna and Gobind

The most amazing room in my entire trip

Breakfast of a Queen

Prince of Wales Museum

Colonial Mumbai

Mumbai Life

Mani Bhavan, Gandhi Museum (his room)

Dabbawala Mumbai

Slums in color

Mumbai Sunset

The mother of many children

Travel

Dear Myanmar, your teachings have been intense, your experiences left me exhausted and your people is gloriously genuine. I am thankful to have met you without almost any tourists and thus be able to experience the authentic contact with your children. They are one of the most kind and humble people I have met on this trip around the world.

You have not had an easy or peaceful history, many ethnic groups in the same territory with the same name. So many struggles for power, so much repression. I will never understand how a strong military presence can coexist with a strong Buddhist tradition in the same country, representing to my eyes completely opposite things. And still they live, or have lived together for a long time. Reality always exceeds all our expectations, for good and for bad.

The first adventure was to get to you. Being confident in obtaining the visa upon arrival at the airport, our surprise was enormous when we went to check-in for our flight from Bangkok and they told us that the visa can only be processed before and that we were left on the ground. Still in shock we sat on an airport bench to think about our options. Desperately we processed the online visa at that time, none of our cards worked on the website … Thanks to an angel friend (Anita I owe you a dinner) we were able to pay and send our request. They would answer us in one or two days. Again searching for a hotel in Bangkok and change our plans … Suddenly we receive an e-mail with our approved visa. We run to the counter. The girl, surprised, accepts us on board and tells us to run to the boarding gate. The emigration line is huge. I take Asa to the counter for disabled and pregnant women. Asa looks at me saying “they’re gonna get us out of here”. When it’s our turn, I say to her, “Take out your belly and pretend you’re pregnant or we do not take the flight.” And so, both of us with our bellies out and talking about babies, we passed the lines and got on the plane. Happy and laughing we were ready to discover you.

Yangon, the place where we started to meet you, is a very interesting city. Our first contact the first day was with all your temples and pagodas and your particular way of living. I looked for references from what I knew and everything seemed a great mix between China, India and Thailand, both in food and in traditions. The presence of so many monks in your streets fascinated me, from adults to children dressed in orange or burgundy, both men and women, boys and girls. It was clear how important Buddhism is in your land. The food was not so surprising though, we were coming from the delights of Thailand and its explosion of flavors, forgive us. Your dishes did not surprise us so much.

I remember our shock at the Shwedagon Pagoda. Groups of people came to ask us to speak with them in English and take pictures with us. We were amazed by the few number of tourists there and the sensation we were causing. Even a very talkative monk flooded us with questions, a walking nun wanted to take pictures with us. Your people is really magnificent, open to others, humble in their attitude and very generous. They always wear a friendly smile and an honest look.

We went around the entire perimeter of Yangon in a local circular train, sharing a seat with all kinds of people and goods. The markets in the stations, the tobacco stalls being just a chair and a box and the fruit sellers inside the car captivated me. The respect with which they treat each other is worth seeing and copying. It doesn’t matter if they have studies or never went to school. Kindness does not understand about titles. We spent three hours on that train, we came out with a square ass and a mind full of images of a real Yangon.

Our last night in the city was spent indulging ourselves in the terrace of the tallest building with a cocktail in hand watching the sun say goodbye. Sebastian accompanied us, a Chilean passing through Yangon who gave off good vibes. The three of us enjoyed good conversations and a dinner in a “clandestine” restaurant that my blonde friend found on her list of recommendations (she is an expert in discovering cafes and restaurants in any city in the world, so lucky I am).

Further north of this land of yours we found the most sacred place, where you can breathe the whole history of your temples, your Buddhas, your pagodas and your stupas. Bagan impressed us. Riding our electric bikes we made a tour around all those sacred places under the hottest sun. There, in your temples in the sun with the burning ground I found the most sweet and innocent children, as curious about me as I was about them. They had their “tanaka” on their faces and they were accompanying their parents, vendors at the entrances of the temples.

Bagan gave us orange sunsets cut with pagoda and temples profiles on the horizon. We wanted to discover an intimate place to enjoy intimately. Bagan closed all the monuments’ rooftops after the last earthquake so we only had one option, full of tourists who like us expected to be the only ones. It looked like a cool party on the rooftop of a 12th-century pagoda. Anything but intimate.

We have traveled in many buses through your roads from south to northwest, from northwest to northeast and from northeast to north. Many roads, many kilometers and countless stories. While traveling, my Swedish goddess slept. I looked out the window with my soundtrack music on thinking about everything I had lived and learned. Also looking forward to come back. Nine months are many months away from home, my mind continuously moves to the known places and faces. My loved ones, they know who they are and if they are reading this they will know that I miss them as much as they do miss me. My eyes inevitably get wet when I think about seeing them again. That’s how lonely journeys are, they take you inside, deep inside and reveal what and who is important in your world. When you say to me “I want you to come back” or “I’m waiting for you” or “I miss you so much” my thought automatically responds “Wait for me to come back, I just think about hugging you”.

The next bus left us at your most famous lake, dear Burma, Inle Lake. There, defeated by the heat and intensity of Bagan, we decided to stay more days resting. I needed that rest a lot and I took it very calmly. Now that the journey is coming to an end, I consciously reduce the speed and revolutions that I have lived in recent months. We loved the lake, the people was really friendly and open. Between temple and pagoda we discovered a great local market. Possibly we were among the few foreigners there and outside the stands for tourist the market extended in all directions with local products and unique exchanges. It reminded me of the markets in my hometown, where wrinkled faces and headscarves’ old ladies coming from the nearby villages are selling their cheeses, flowers and vegetables. The best products you can find are in the markets where they are selling, whichever country is.

And so, in another bus and another route we reach the northernmost part that can be reached in your territory: Hsipaw, the state of the Shan ethnic group. I never imagined I would see myself there in one of the worst situations that I have lived on this trip … It all started as a trekking of pleasure to the mountain sleeping in beautiful tree houses. You can not imagine how it ended. Should I tell you? Ok, I see you’re attentive.

Hsipaw is a small town almost on the border with China where all the merchants adopted names tourists baptized them with years ago. For example we have Mrs Popcorn who has a restaurant, or Mr Book with a book store, Mr Pizza and Mr Wok are also obvious. Mr Charles is the owner of the hotel where we stayed and one of the protagonists of my story is called Mr Bike. Mr Bike is a kind and smiling man who started importing motorcycles from China almost 10 years ago. The business of Mr Bike, however, is not the motorcycles but the trekkings. He and his team organize trekkings in the nearby mountains and built some tree houses from where you can see impressive views of the northern Burmese landscape. In those same mountains is where not long ago the different ethnic groups fought. In fact it is considered an orange zone of restriction. We had many recommendations of these trekkings so we went there, adventurous as we are, without expecting what was coming our way.

The way up to the mountain was about 7-8 hours almost all uphill, I mean that uphill that cuts the breath. From the beginning my hips alarmed me, I had a throbbing pain, same as the one I have at the end of a 20-kilometer trekking day. The climb to the tree houses cost me a lot of pain but I got there. We discovered that the romantic tree houses were dirty and full of wasps. A whole hive lived there. The night passed between bugs, pains and heavy rains. I kept thinking about the reason of the pain, I made more difficult trekkings and never suffered like that. The answer came in a few hours.

In the morning our guide seemed quite concerned, the rain until early morning that day had been very strong and our way back was slippery, long and through the middle of the jungle. And yes when I say jungle is the real deal, dense and far from civilization. No town or highway in many kilometers. My main concern was my hip, with the pain and weakness I already had a bad fall could be dangerous and let me unable to go on. Anyway I got up decided and accepting the challenge. From the beginning the road was difficult and the terrain was really muddy. If we add no trees, bushes or rocks to grab and help you we have the ideal recipe for a good fall.

After a few kilometers, the nausea began. From the morning I felt strange, I did not want to eat anything at breakfast and the coffee I had was not feeling well in my stomach. When I vomited the first time I thought it was maybe something I ate the night before, I did not want to give it much importance. The second and third times I realized that I was probably having a virus and after the fourth time onwards I confirmed that I had a severe intestinal flu. And so severe it was, every 20 minutes I stopped to vomit, my stomach did not accept even the water I was taking.I had at least five hours of walking. I felt desperate, how I was going to get out of there? No one was going to carry me, each one was struggling to follow the path. I fell several times during many hours on the go. Crossing rivers through completely muddy trunks or rocks full of moss. I kept drinking even if I vomited. Something hydratation should stay at some point. In my mind I could only think about not dehydrating myself. And so the hours went by, with very heavy rain. I was soaked and holding on to a stick that Asa searched for me. The rain falling down my face. I totally surrendered to the situation, but I was determined to get out of there. I dreamed of the cold water in my throat, I was so thirsty, more and more. And the more I vomited, the more thirsty I was.

Six hours later we arrived at a town where a motorbike picked me up to take me to the city. What followed were days and days without eating or almost drinking, only vomiting. Asa took care of me and gave me an assurance that if something happened to me she would take care of it. Every time I was weaker, days passed until I assimilated the water mixed with minerals. Slowly I could eat something but a week had passed and my body was very weak. That’s how I said goodbye to you Myanmar, in full recovery and going through the worst illness I remember on the trip and I think in many years. Many lessons learned from there. I do not hold a grudge for that experience, in my memory your great values ​​and your people with a radiant smile are stronger.

And I took all this from you, and more:

The best dawn, without hesitation in Bagan. We woke up very early in the morning, took our bikes and drove down the dusty roads to the viewpoint from where the magnificent, orange sun god was being born.

 

The sunset on the terrace of the tallest building in Yangon, with the city at our feet, a cocktail in hand and saying goodbye to our last night there.

 

 

The recipe, shan-style noodles, is commonly associated with the Shan state. A combination of thin, flat noodles in a clear, pepper-rich broth containing marinated chicken or pork. It is seasoned with toasted sesame seeds and a splash of garlic oil. It is served with a garnish of canned vegetables.

The superstition / tradition is called tanaka. It is a kind of completely natural sunscreen, which is obtained by scraping the trunk of a tree called tanaka and mixing it with water to form a paste. It is used by almost all people who spend a lot of time in the sun and children. It is also an indicator of social status, as it is used by rural workers, construction workers, street vendors, etc.

 

The bracelet, the red thread with the silver disc that the tribes of the mountain wear in Inle lake area. We bought it in the beautiful local lake market.

 

Myanmar, you have been the great mother of warm and loving welcoming and so you will stay in my mind. Your people is beautiful, your accents are soft and your places are full of diversity. I would say that you can be several countries at the same time, because of your ethnic groups and your landscapes. A factor in you is common, the smile. You are the mother of many different children who have fought each other for decades, while you patiently await their reconciliation offering them the religion of peace. I take your hands between mine and I thank you for absolutely all the experiences.

 

Yangon

Yangon

Monk children in Yangon

 

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Circular train in Yangon

Bye bye Yangon from the tallest terrasse

Bagan with our bikes

Bagan and its temples

Bagan children

Sunsets in Bagan

Inle Lake

Inle Lake traditional fishing

Inle Lake market

Hsipaw Trekking (Going up and excited)

On the top (painful and happy)

Coming back (No words)

Bye bye Myanmar

 

The Kingdom of Lan Xang

Travel
The journey from Vietnam to Laos by bus was not exactly as I expected to be. Maybe being 
exhausted, weak and ached by pains in my stomach had something to do with my perception.
 What seemed to be a 16-hour flat-bed bus ride became like a nightmare of almost 30 hours 
in reclining bus seats impossible to move, crowded with people in the corridors and my feeling
 of not being able to move at the risk of continuing vomiting . What better way to start the 
adventure in a country?

Arriving at the border with such an adventure on your back and finding yourself with abusive 
extra rates for foreigners and aggressive treatment by customs agents does not sound very 
tempting. Before entering Laos I already wanted to leave. No, I thought, now I can not make 
all the way back. I had no choice but to continue until I reached the next place to fall into a 
bed and say goodbye to the world for a few hours. Thus we arrived at Muang Khua, without 
expectations and with a lot of fatigue. An overwhelming calm received us, a slow and quiet 
place. Also an invasive, humid and heavy heat. We were in a small town. Unexpectedly we 
found one of the most comfortable rooms we have ever tried on the trip. When the woman 
from the hostel showed it to us we could not believe it, the universe had given us a reward 
for everything we had experienced before. Two comfortable beds, a nice window, a clean and
 new bathroom, air conditioning, fast wifi, ... and at a very economical price. That day we won
 the lottery after all.


We spent few time there, we wanted to continue discovering the country so we got into a little boat on the brown river and went down to Nong Khiaw. Discover Laos is to meet friendly and generous people who live at a pace that represents what we call Slow Life. We made friends on the ship, a couple of Irish living in Bangkok and a French girl. All together we went to eat at Nong Khiaw after six hours of travel on the boat and our butts square. They told us why in this part of the world people will hardly answer you negatively. It’s about not “losing your face”. What is this? Simple, do not fail in your response in society. And this is very important for them.

Nong Khiaw continued giving us a lot of smiles, landscapes of diverse and intense grades of 
green and brown rivers. We came up with the idea of climbing one of the hills surrounding the
 town a particular day after heavy rain. What comes next was interesting, not to mention crazy
 and risky. The climb to the hill was pure mud and stones, vertical climbing mode in most 
sections and lacking any security. Wild, like us. In several sections I thought about turning 
around, I felt the risk every second, the mud made us slip continuously without much support
 to grab. Exactly like climbing a mountain with skates. So we kept going, sweating crazily. Two 
and a half hours later we got to the top, as from a triathlon, out of breath. When we looked 
around to the view, all the effort was worth it. The images below illustrate it perfectly.
The days in Laos pass slowly, drinking coffee and enjoying the landscape and the nature 
sounds. Several days after arriving at Nong Khiaw we decided to move to the jewel of the area,
 the city of Luang Prabang. Again we took the night bus with “drawers-bed” full of packed 
tourists and local sleepers. On that trip I understood how badly I had been sick in the previous
 one. If the experience is hard in good health, being sick is a real nightmare. And again I prove
 to myself my resistance, my strength and my resilience and I feel proud of myself. I was born 
being an adventurer.
Luang Prabang surprises me, there is something magical here difficult to describe. It may be
 the Mekong that bathes the city and gives us wonderful sunsets, or the hundreds monks who
 at 5 am walk the streets in a row begging for their food. One of the most beautiful rituals I have
 witnessed. It is celebrated every day at dawn, the monks leave their temples in total silence and
 barefoot through the streets of the city collecting alms, rice offerings of the people who wait for
 them kneeling or sitting on the ground. It is a ritual not made for the tourist but for the people 
of the town and who wants to join respectfully. I loved the idea of joining and living the ritual. 
It is something very meaningful, humility leads the monks to beg for their daily meal. The locals
 do it as part of their Buddhist devotion. In turn, the monks give part of their alms to the poorest
 children who, plastic bags in hands, receive it kneeling on the ground next to me. It is a wheel 
that calls for abundance and balance. Being there at sunrise, sitting in the street in silence with 
the bowl of rice in hand distributing to the monks is one of the most beautiful feelings of humility
 I have had in a long time. Buddhism is very coherent and simple in its principles as well as honest
 and humble. The temples of Luang Prabang inspired me to reflect and contemplate. The monks
 with their orange habits create a spectacular contrast with the intense green of the surrounding
 nature. They inspire me respect, both elders and children. Their devotion moves me.


Travelling as a couple is fantastic, Asa and me we adapt to each other perfectly well. And I learn a lot from her, to take care of myself more and to lower my speed among other things. Now my days are shared and full of laughs and good times. My days in solitude are also precious to me. As everything in life is a matter of balance, according to everyone of us, in its measure. I increase my expenses in food and coffee but I reduce it in accommodation, now I can share a room with only one person and also with a friend, what more can I ask for?

The gifts from Laos in my backpack:

The sunrise in Luan Prabang in the ritual of Alms Giving awaiting the arrival of the monks.

Sunset in Utopia, a chill out in Luang Prabang where we bid our last night in Laos

The recipe, the larb, the typical salad in Laos (attention spicy)

INGREDIENTS

4 white fish fillets.
50 grs of boiled sushi rice.
1/2 bunch of scallions, chopped.
1 clove of garlic, chopped
75 grs coriander leaves cut.
75 grs mint leaves cut.
75 grs Asian / Thai basil leaves.
1 tablespoon of fish sauce.
1 chopped chilli pepper
1 tablespoon of brown sugar.
2 tablespoons of grated ginger.
2 limes (juice).
1 stalk of lemongrass (lemon grass) to slices.
1 pinch of salt.
Lettuce leaves to serve.
Ground roasted peanuts (optional).

PREPARATION
Cut the fish into very small pieces, like crumbled. Pour the juice of the limes and let it rest until it is opaque. When you're ready, remove the leftover lime juice and put the fish in a bowl.
Saute the rice in a pan with oil and then grind it with the chopper, the finer the better.
Add all the ingredients in the bowl containing the fish. Mix everything
Serve with whole lettuce leaves and fill these sheets with all the previous mixture.
(Optional) Sprinkle ground peanuts on top.
You can serve any rice, but when more glutinous better. If you decide to make the meat version
, pass the meat through a mincer. In a frying pan, sauté until it is cooked and drain the liquid that
 is released. When it has cooled, mix it with the rest of the ingredients. You can also take meat 
that you have left over from another meal to chop it and make your carnivorous version of this 
dish so fresh. It can be served with or without lettuce leaves, with pieces of cucumber, with 
peanuts ... up to you!

 

The legend or superstition in Laos says that if you cross some chickens on the road is a bad sign
 for your day. If a snake crosses you, it is a good sign ... (if you survive of course)

The bracelet from the Luang Prabang night market.

Laos, the kingdom of Lan Xang and land of the million elephants, left me a sweet taste and a 
longing to know more. The beginning reminds me of Ecuador, despite the many inconveniences
 of my arrival both the country and its people have won my heart. I'll come back to Laos, I'm 
sure. And with time enough to enjoy north and south, its cultural richness and its extraordinary
 people.

Muang Khua

Nong Khiaw

Nong Khiaw Hill

Nong Khiaw Hill champions

Nong Khiaw Hill

Luang Prabang Ritual

Luang Prabang Ritual

Luang Prabang Ritual

Luang Prabang temple

Bye Bye Laos, I’ll be back

Vietnam, the country of reencounter

Travel
Land in Hanoi, make friends on the bus, get to the hostel ... Easy-going. First experience in 
Southeast Asia, in the area called Indochina (in the middle between India and China, 
easy right?). There, where the French settled and colonized, my particular Swedish goddess 
was waiting for me. My new companion on the way, my dearest Asa. We meet in Hanoi, two 
souls travelling in search of the lost time in which we sold our souls to the devil of the 
modernity. We knew we would meet. We went in opposite directions. I started in Africa, 
she did in Nepal. In my round the world trip we would coincide somewhere. Let's say  Hanoi,
 for example.
Considering that both of us have been traveling alone for several months and now we plan 
to share together a 6-weeks' trip, a month and a half, 24-hour together through 4 countries, 
that's a real challenge. We are not afraid of the mirror that each other reflects over the other. 
We have both learned a lot and we want to put it into practice and test ourselves.
Hanoi is a vibrant city, bright in colors and with immense possibilities. Our excitement to see 
us again led us to enjoy something as Spanish as having countless beers together (I confess that
 Asa has a Spanish soul, sometimes even more than me). Guided by the recommendations of 
my beloved Oscar, my particular Southeast Asian guru, we met at a local bar drinking Hanoi 
beer. The only foreigners in the whole place and the only women. Bravo to those brave women,
 traveling and without prejudice. That night we talked without stopping, eight months in 
summary, we looked at each other without believing we were finally together. After many 
months traveling alone, it is wonderful to chat with one of your friends face to face, to give a 
hug and to share laughs and stories. It's like coming home in a way.
In Hanoi you can still smell the fight of the war, the militant posters and the challenging 
messages. The war ended but leaving behind much death and many consequences. Maybe that
's why in Vietnam I haven't felt the cordiality of other countries. Relations with foreigners are 
eminently commercial. On many occasions I felt like a euro note with legs. That being said, 
Hanoi surprised me pleasantly, it is full of interesting corners that we discovered by walking, 
savoring the Vietnamese coffee (what a delight!) and the local gastronomy.
Our base of operations was a hostel in the center, full of 20 years' travelers. From there we 
moved to Halong Bay on a tour for a couple of days around different bays. Being honest Halong
 Bay surprised me especially because of the dirty water. After coming from the pristine waters 
of Palawan in the Philippines I felt sad to see the dirt and poor maintenance. It was so bad that
 in our boat almost nobody wanted to jump into the water. The place is a natural paradise, a 
true beauty. The people who live in the houseboats around throw waste into the water. Our 
guide told me the problem is that these people did not go to school ... will it be necessary to 
go to school to realize that? After the night on one of the islands, Isla de las mujeres, we 
returned to Hanoi the next day.
Our next stop was Sapa, Northern Vietnam, almost bordering China. Sapa is famous for its 
rice paddies and its trekking in the humid hills with panoramic views. We headed there on a 
"VIP bus". This was a bus divided into drawers with a double bed in each, a flat screen TV and 
the ceiling imitating the sky. Ah! And a heart-shaped window. There we got in both, being our 
size almost double than Vietnamese we fit as we could. On TV we watched "Gone with the 
Wind". After the first laughs we fell asleep. We stop twice  and buy something to eat. That was
 the beginning of my particular nightmare. After the second stop I felt very tired. We arrived in 
Sapa and my backpack weighed five kilos more on my back. Fatigue overcame me. We moved 
to our accommodation in a family house in the hills. I was really tired. As soon as I arrived, 
I went to bed and had no strength for much more in the next two days. Our house was a refuge
 for 20 years old backpackers, mainly Anglo-Saxon. Yes, at this point I hope you have realized 
what is the main traveler profile in Vietnam. If you are not there in your 20's, you missed 
something in life. I cannot tell you much about those days, I got very sick, so much that I got 
scared thinking what to do if it got worse. My itinerary did not go through countries or better
 said areas of trust in terms of medical care: Laos, Thailand, Myanmar ... Having Asa with me 
was such a relief, if something happened to me I was not alone. My stomach burned and my 
fatigue was increasing. The last day I recovered a bit my strength and went to see the 
spectacular landscapes of the rice fields. I loved the panorama, it made me think about the 
mountains of Peru and the terraces of the Inca land. Actually, these are structures you see all
 over the world coming back from ancient times, from forgotten cultures full of wisdom.
The family house where we stayed could be compared to any village house in Galicia. On the
 outside there were some dogs, chickens and millions of  flies. On the inside, the kitchen was 
very old and rustic. There we learned to cook several local dishes (for a small fee), what are 
now called cooking workshops. Among the dishes Vietnamese fried rolls (nems) and different 
vegetables made in the wok. Those who know me know that I do not spend too much time in 
the kitchen. After the fourth dish (there were six of them) and being sick, I was already 
wondering when did I find this as a good idea.
People in Sapa do not consider themselves Vietnamese but from their own ethnicity. 
Eight of the 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam live in the Sapa Mountains, and each is very different 
from the others in customs and clothing. In my mind I compared them to the ethnic groups in
 the mountains of China and saw many similarities. At the end of the day being on the border
 it is difficult to say where one begins and where the other ends. In Sapa, the trekking guides 
are women, not men. Their skill is amazing, they walk all day along the trails with a high degree
 of humidity and dressed in their heavy traditional costumes. They take with them groups of 
tourists who, having 20 years of age, do not have the strength of these women. The rest of 
them are dedicated to sell handicrafts in a very insistent way to all tourists who spot kilometers
 away. We went during the low tourist season so the harassment was exaggerated and we even
 asked some of them to please stop following us after 40 minutes persecution.


In Sapa we said goodbye to Vietnam, preparing to spend 16 hours by bus to Laos. I was a little recovered and with the bus from Hanoi in mind my expectations were very optimistic. I did not imagine what was coming over me and I had better not know before … but this is a story for the next chapter.


My gifts from Vietnam:

The best sunrise on Isla de las Mujeres after the Halong Bay cruise, the sun did not show up behind the clouds but waking up close to the sea was priceless after so many cities.

 

 

 

The best sunset in Hanoi from the huge Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, the city was lit and we were happy to walk together.

 

The best recipe, the nems

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 dried wood ear mushrooms
  • 50g dried bean thread noodles (vermicelli, cellophane or glass noodles)
  • 200g raw prawns
  • 200g minced pork
  • 1 small jicama, peeled, julienned
  • 3 small red shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1 tsp quality sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 egg
  • 20-24 dried round rice paper wrappers (22 cm width; the pack should say ‘Bánh tráng’ and we buy them in 500 gram packs)
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • Salad and herbs to serve on side:
  • 1 small iceberg or butter lettuce
  • 1 handful mint leaves
  • 1 handful Vietnamese mint leaves
  • 1 handful coriander
  • 1 handful perilla leaves

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Soak the dried wood ear mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes or until they’re soft, then drain, squeeze out excess water, and slice thinly.
  2. Soak the dried bean thread noodles in hot water until soft but firm (this could take anything from a minute to a few minutes depending on what kind you use), drain, and cut into uneven 4-5 cm pieces.
  3. Peel and julienne the jicama, squeezing it in paper towels to remove moisture, and let sit to further dry.
  4. Finely diced the small red shallots.
  5. Pound the prawns in a mortar and pestle to a rough, chunky texture; stop before it becomes a smooth paste.
  6. In a bowl, combine the mushrooms, noodles, prawns, minced pork, jicama, shallots, egg, fish sauce, and pepper.
  7. Prepare a large flat tray with 1cm of water into which you should quickly submerge one sheet of rice paper, for no more than a second, then quickly lay it on your work surface.
  8. Place 2 tablespoons of the filling at the centre of the bottom third of the rice paper, forming the filling into a sausage shape, fold each of the sides in and over the sausage shape, roll over tightly, squeezing out any air as you go, then place your roll (seam-side down to secure) on a plate.
  9. Repeat until you have used up your filling.
  10. Pour enough vegetable oil for deep-frying your rolls into a wok or fry pan and heat to 180°C or until you can drop a cube of bread into the oil and it quickly browns.
  11. Fry the spring rolls in batches of 3-4 until crisp and golden brown.
  12. Serve whole or cut in halves on a tray with mounds of fresh greens and herbs, perhaps some cold rice noodles on the side, and small bowls of dipping sauce, and let people help themselves. Or distribute across individual bowls. If you’re serving them with bun cha, cut in bite-size pieces as above.
The superstition or legend that tells the origin of their ethnic varieties.
The Dragon King of the South married Au Co, a beautiful northern fairy. Initially they lived in 
the northern mountains, where she did nothing but lay 100 eggs. After hatching, out of the 
100 eggs, 100 plump children came out. Later for nostalgia the king returned to his humid 
southern plains and took half of his children with him. They would be the ancestors of the 
majority ethnic group of Vietnam, the kinh or viet. The remaining fifty who remained in the 
north are the ancestors of the country's ethnic minorities, the so-called "hill people".

The bracelet made by the women of Sapa, not the one that chased us for 40 minutes, 
another one more peaceful.

 

 

In Vietnam I changed from traveling alone to traveling in company, this is a challenge after 
eight months alone. I am lucky to experience it with someone like Asa, happy to adapt to any 
situation and always with a smile. Hanoi will always be the place where we met again and 
that's why the whole trip in Vietnam made sense. The reunion with a friend is a small return 
home.

First day together

Coffee and conversations in Hanoi

Egg Coffee

Life in Hanoi

Life in Hanoi

Halong Bay

Kayak in Halong Bay

Psychedelic bus Hanoi-Sapa

Rice fields in Sapa

Back Back Back

Travel

I returned to Hong Kong expecting familiar sensations, like feeling at home again and I was surprised by a totally different vision, a new perspective that I discovered only by returning to a place so familiar to me after 7 months of new discoveries. For the first time I recognized how much I had changed throughout my trip.

The changes were innumerable, since the very moment I put my feet at the airport. Until then my visits had been professional mixed with some leisure time and there were no economic concerns, on the contrary. Upon arrival I wanted to follow my routine, grab a coffee in my favorite corner of the airport and walk the road from there taking it with sips. The first sign in my face: that corner no longer exists. Of course that’s not a strange thing in my second home, where everything changes at breakneck speed. There is no room for sentimentality, never better said. Changing the taxi by bus was not a problem for me. I find it much more interesting to live locally, now that I am not in a hurry to get to meetings or to get some sleep for negotiating 12 hours in a row the next day. Now my life is more mine than ever, with all its consequences.

The next change was to get to the island of Hong Kong and not to Kowloon (the peninsula where most of the hotels are). My dear Carmen, an amazing Hongkonite and former co-worker, let me stay with her for a few days. Her small and charming apartment on an 18th floor of the island received me as if it were my own home. I could not ask for more. I did not long for the luxury rooms of the hotels where I stayed, there I did not feel the warmth of home or the love I was feeling right now. All the following days I was seeing friends and former colleagues who accompanied me and offered me perfect moments as family.

I was looking at Hong Kong, my Hong Kong, and I did not see it in the same way. I knew almost every place, I identified the temperature, the sensation of humidity, the people rush. My favorite places, my favorite stores no longer meant the same thing. I felt like another person in the same city. What once amazed me now did not move anything in me. My filter and my perspective of the city had nothing to do with my previous vision. My eyes had changed. If this happens to me with Hong Kong, what will happen when I go back to Barcelona? – I thought. I’ll tell you when I cross that bridge.

There was only a place that made me feel the same again and it was my favorite park in Hong Kong, Nan Lian garden, Its bonsai trees and its red bridge transported me to moments of relaxation in the vortex of a city that does not sleep. Because Hong Kong, symbol of capitalism and China double standards, is the city of shopping (the best and most complete I’ve seen in my life) and I, immersed in the return to the origins, to Mother Nature and to simple life was no longer feeling impressed or attracted by the big cities, much less by their kind of life.

I spent my last day in Hong Kong climbing the Peak, the highest point on the island. This time I did not do it by taxi but walking all the way up. I was encouraged by my dear Carmen who showed me a hidden path from the University. I did it alone, sweating through all the pores of my skin and enjoying the thick, green nature of Hong Kong. I felt on a bench in the middle of the road and reflected for a long time.

Kowloon from Hong Kong Island

Hong Kong street art

Carmen’s place 18th floor

Mong Kok

Hong Kong friends

Nan Lian garden

Nan Lian garden

The Peak

My best moments in Hong Kong were spent with the two best persons: Vera and Ana. Together in Hong Kong we worked a lot, we negotiated from sunrise to sunset and also discovered all the life that surrounded us. There were millions of conversations in my head, dinners at dawn, weekends in nature visiting temples to relieve stress … experiences “made in Hong Kong”. The eyes of the present Maria smile at the magic of the moments and reaffirm that now is the time of change and a new stage. The eyes that see Hong Kong at present are from the Maria who has already turned over more than half the world and many other corners of her soul. Now she guides the rudder with a firm hand, convinced of who she is, and also of who she is not.

The Empire of the Rising Sun

Travel

I did not fall in love with Japan from the first moment. It slowly undressed before me showing just enough for my interest to be in crescendo and only then has it revealed to me his warm and delicate beauty. And it is overwhelming.

Arriving in Tokyo after being used to the calm of the filipino “dolce fare niente” made me a little stressed. With the little internet I received I read websites where you were given almost a master’s degree on symbols to take the subway and the train in the Japanese capital. After several articles read on the subject, I decided that I would continue doing the same as before: Going with the flow and trusting that with all my travel experience anywhere is explorable. Asking takes you anywhere, whether to Rome or Shinjuku. So it was.

Tokyo is the biggest city I’ve seen and in four days I’ve maybe seen 5%, but who cares? I followed the advice of my friend Yumi as a good mix between japanese and German she is the best planner in the world and makes the best travel guides, not even Lonely Planet. She, a lover of Tokyo and Japan, advised me the best of the best. It was like having her by my side every day. Tokyo is such a diverse city that you could live in anyway you want. If you want to be in the coolest spot you have it, if you want to be a thematic freak you have it, you want to live in the calm you have it, if you prefer a more hippy artistic vibe too …. one condition, fluid Japanese or social isolation.


Let me tell you the most interesting experience I had in the city. After almost 8 months without stepping on a hairdresser (I used to go every month and could not conceive life without my hairdresser) I needed to consider an immediate visit. My hair was a scourer about to fall off. My look was the origin of the California wicks, and without paying them. It was time to surrender to the evidence. I asked to 5 hairdressers in my neighborhood. Nobody spoke English to explain my needs. And suddenly I found her, the kindest and most effective girl in all Tokyo. As we could we talked, Google translator was the third in the conversation and she, the most patient in the world, managed to explain the day I could go and the approximate budget (quite similar to what I would pay in Barcelona). D day arrived. The next challenge was to explain to the stylist the story of my hair and what I expected from him. Neither they spoke English nor I Japanese and it was not an impediment. We understood each other perfectly. And the result was very good. Graphic document below.

Kyoto was the second stop of my adventure. The city of the maiko or geishas. I rented my bike
 because of the feeling of being a local (and of moving independently of transportation) and I
 expected for an immersion in an authentic world of temples, traditions and ancient flavor. 
I found a giant mass of tourists everywhere and a lot of marketing. Not much old flavor and 
more Chinese tourists disguised as geishas than real maikos. The best thing was the feeling 
with the bike through the city, my legs worked great because Kyoto is not a completely flat 
city. Sakura looked everywhere at its best, even more flourished than in Tokyo. In my walks 
with the bike I stopped to eat by the river and there I did what the Japanese call "hanami",
observing the blossom. And I really understood what a local person can enjoy. Kyoto is a 
much more manageable city than Tokyo and with a lot of nature around. The second-hand 
kimono stores were my weakness, the fact of buying a kimono that another Japanese woman
 has worn is  full of charm, as if it already had a soul of its own.

Kyoto gave way to Hiroshima. The night bus has been my usual transportation between cities 
throughout Japan. And much cheaper than the train, about three times less. This is for those 
who want to go to Japan without returning with only one eye. The fashion of the Japan Rail 
Pass is anything but cheap.

I arrived in Hiroshima at 6 in the morning, with the dawn and several unexpected messages 
from Spain after a night of insomnia and melancholy memories of those who are no longer 
there. It was a hard start in a city with a dense and sad energy. Maybe that's why I found myself
 all day with a deep sadness and many tears. I was so sad that I could not explain the magnitude
 of my feeling with anything external that had happened. After visiting the place of the atomic 
bomb I had to escape from there. I sought refuge in Miyajima, an island in front of Hiroshima 
with one of the most memorable sunset that I can remember on the trip. My sadness continued
, I was sitting on a beach in Japan, on an idyllic island, in front of a magnificent tori and a sun 
that descended looking like a movie scene. And my sadness was still at its peak. And this is the 
trip, I can not (and I do not want to) stop life or feelings. I need to respect my feelings at every 
moment, and live sadness just as I live joy. Without programming it or stopping it.
In the second part of this trip I discovered the true Japanese life. And I owe it to Moano, a 
wonderful person I met in Peru traveling with her boyfriend Sean. A Japanese and an Australian
 in love with travel and with much experience already behind them. Moano invited me to his 
house in Shimane and that was the greatest gift of my time in Japan.
Imagine a small town in the west of Japan, all the neighbors know each other, they give each
 other vegetables, they treat each other as family. Few or none have traveled and not many 
foreigners go to this region. So when someone arrives they turn to welcome you, dedicate 
their best smile and show you their land, their sacred places, their mountains and their 
excellent gastronomy. It is worth telling you that I would have stayed there for several months. 
The tatami room in Moano's house was an Asian luxury for me. I could never imagine that I 
would enjoy something like this after all the hostels and the lack of privacy. Every morning that
 I woke up in my futon I looked at the delicate details of the room and I thought how immensely
 grateful I was. Japan is a delight for the senses on many levels.

Asakusa Temple in Tokyo

Ueno Park in Tokyo where japanese sit to enjoy Sakura (Blossom)

Sakura in Tokyo

Asakusa Temple in Tokyo

Art Gallery in Tokyo

Finishing work (Tokyo)

Life in Tokyo

Life in Tokyo

Before with natural Californian wicks

After with Japanese style

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji

Kyoto, mi bike and me

Life in Kyoto

Kinkaku-Ji Temple in Kyoto

Sakura in Kyoto

Life in Kyoto

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple in Kyoto

Fushimi-Inari, the toris path in Kyoto

Miyajima Island in Hiroshima

Big Tori in Miyajima

Moano and Sean

My Tatami Room

Ascending Mount Mitoku

Ascending Mount Mitoku

Ascending Mount Mitoku

Nageiredo, the end of ascension to Mount Mitoku

 

 

The best sunrise I saw on my arrival in Kyoto on the night bus. The city woke up with me

 

The best sunset without doubt from the island of Miyajima, when the great rising sun was 
going to sleep

 

The best recipe, the mochis, my favorite Japanese dessert since the beginning of time

Ingredients
1 cup Mochiko (sweet rice flour or Mochi flour) (160g)
3/4 cup water (180ml)
2 cups sugar (400g)
cornstarch
Anko (sweet red bean paste) or
Green Tea Ice Cream if you want

Instructions
Mix Mochiko and water in a glass (or other heat proof) bowl and mix well. Add some 
more water if it's too dry, 1 Tbsp at a time.
Steam the Mochiko dough (leaving the dough in the bowl) in a steamer for 20 minutes.
Transfer the steamed Mochi into a pot and cook at medium to medium low heat with 1/3 
of the sugar (2/3 cup). When the sugar is completely dissolved, add another 1/3 of the sugar
 and mix well. Add the last part of the sugar and cook some more until the sugar is dissolved.
 Take the time to melt the sugar, but be careful not to burn it.
Take the hot Mochi out from the pot onto a sheet pan liberally dusted with cornstarch. 
Shape as you like.

 

 

The superstition or tradition of purification through the ascent to Mount Mitoku. The ascent
 to Mount Mitoku (Mitokusan) is a unique experience. It is the same path used by the monks
 to train themselves and it is a way to sharpen and purify the six senses of human beings. 
The ascent is a challenge and it is necessary to use all the senses. Through the ascent the 
person is freed from his weaknesses and purified. 

 

 

The bracelet in Mitokusan with the symbol of the monkey and the magic of the most special 
moment in my stay in Japan. 

 

 

I said goodbye to Japan with tears, who would have said it after my initial disappointment at 
the biggest tourist invasion. It seemed to me that Japan no longer had a soul. It was with the
 days and experiences that it showed it to me. It made me wait like every good thing. In Japan
 I found magic, respect, wisdom and a family. Moano and his mother made me promise to 
return to Japan. The three of us cried while saying goodbye and I made the promise, both to 
them and to myself, that my return to Japan is sure. There I found the delicate and exclusive 
feeling of meeting people destined to accompany you for life. 

 

Domo arigato

 

Fino Filipino

Travel

 

When stress fills you up and you seem stuck in the middle of a thousand obligations it's when
 you dream of a paradise of crystal clear waters, white sand and palm trees where the 
temperature is perfect, the food is fresh, people smile at you and the sun gilds your skin. 
That paradise has a name, it's called Palawan and it's an island in the Philippines.

The Philippines was a decision I made at the last moment. My initial plan was to go to 
Japan directly but I discovered that the Sakura (cherry blossom) would be later than planned.
 That gave me the possibility to include another destination in my itinerary and the 
Philippines were surrounding my mind for a while. I could not make a better decision. 
This is pure paradise.


My arrival in Manila was a shock after the charms of Sydney. The visit to the capital of the Philippines was fast, wet, polluted and also full of history. My step was the visit of a doctor and even though I could explore Intramuros, the old neighborhood with all the Spanish past in it. In the Philippines everything seems Spanish: The names of the streets, the meals, even the family names. The 300 years of colonization have left a lot of traces although nobody speaks our language anymore.


On my flight to Puerto Princesa, the largest city on Palawan Island, my Filipino adventure begun. There, chatting with my rowmate, I started a new friendship with three guys, two Turks and one Spanish. The next three days were full of group activities, lots of laughts and sun. This country is incredible, a literal paradise. El Nido, the city of entrance to the island tours, is a small town crowded with tourists. Two days are enough to see everything it can offer you. Tomorrow I’m leaving and I’ll leave the boys. On my own, with my solitude, rest and reflections before the great Nippon country.

At last alone, again. I love sharing moments with new people and I like even more to enjoy
 my loneliness, my own company. This has been accentuated in the trip. What a rest to be 
here, on this beach, sitting in this chiringuito drinking a beer, eating prawns and enjoying the
 sea in my hammock.


The trip to my hut in Sibaltán, on the east coast, has left me exhausted. The feeling on the bike has been great, it reminds me to my own bike and the feeling of freedom that I have when I drive. I arrive at Sibaltán at dusk and very tired, I think I have some fever and my throat cries for rest. All my body asks for it. I take care of myself the three days that I am in the cabin.

The dawn is covered with gray clouds that do not let me see the sun, only glimpse its 
orange halo. Sibaltan wakes up cloudy, fresh and light. I feel better, my sensitivity in the skin
 has diminished and my mood and my strength have improved. The sacred rest.

A little red ball looks out over the horizon. It is a ball of fire, similar to the color I saw in Africa.
 A gift for the eyes. A marvel. Today it seems a bit shy with all those clouds covering it.


I do not know what this land has, if it is the turquoise blue of the sea, the white sand or the green around. The colors and their combination. The smile of its people, the ease on the relations make it a true paradise. Not for being perfect and commercial, but quite the opposite.

Lunch, before leaving: chicken adobo, something typical in the Philippines. It's like a stew 
with rice, it reminds me of Mozambique. My strength is back and I am aware that I need to 
take much more care of myself. I have six more months ahead and I need to be strong. I have
 made the decision to relax and rest to the fullest this last week. I will do it in the small town 
of Port Barton.
This peace that I have now can not be compared with anything. I have experienced it only
 in exceptional moments before. Since the start of  his trip I enjoy it continuously and the 
exceptions are the moments of stress.


I walked out my hostel in Port Barton, the sky is clear, today I can see the sunset at a chiringuito beach with a beer in hand. I ask Ryan, the owner of the hostel, which is the best place to enjoy it, he simply directs me to the beach. On my way I watch many children happily playing, young people with easy smile and dogs, chickens, ducks and other animals crossing the street as a human.


I sit in one of the chiringuitos following my intuition. I like the energy. The cadence of the waves, the relaxed atmosphere, the overwhelming nature that surrounds us, the music selection … Everything helps to feel comfortable. I see myself from above, and I recognize my fortune. I am proud of my decision, difficult to explain it with words. The purest feelings are not explained or analyzed.

Failed attempt at yoga at 8 o'clock in the morning. I remember the words of my dear Rosa, 
from the hostel in Puerto Princesa, "in the Philippines nothing is certain." I have slept 9 hours
 or more. And I feel amazing in terms of rest. My body needs to stretch. My time has stopped
 here, in this small town on this island. And I've listened to me wanting to stop, recover 
strength and take care of myself.
I have become all the heroines I dreamed of in my childhood. Incarnate the best qualities 
of all of them and every day I see more clearly what to do from here on. The Philippines has
 given me the time and space for my reflections, among other things:

The best sunrise from the cabins of Sibaltán

 

The best sunset from Port Barton

The best recipe, the adobo

 

The superstition In the Philippines, if you dream that you lose a tooth, then it means that a 
member of the family is going to die. Horrible, huh? Attention to what you dream about.

The Philippine bracelet on the ankle, accompanying the one I bought in Hawaii

 

The Philippines have treated me so well.I have felt living in that paradise with which I have 
always dreamed, the perfect vacation of relaxation and disconnection where everything flows
 and people treat you with the greatest respect, cordiality and closeness. The Filipinos are 
wonderful, very generous and open people like my dear Rosa, we met in a hostel in Puerto 
Princesa, she worked there, I only spent one night and the connection was immediate. 
I already believe that there is no part of the world I can not manage and I feel comfortable
 doing it, I feel comfortable everywhere. I do not conceive the world as that huge and 
dangerous place where bad things will happen to you, better to stay in your comfort zone.
 On the contrary, this world is a wonderful place full of beautiful people and if you open 
yourself to them your life will change. For sure.

Manila cathedral

Intramuros, Manila

Manila

New friends

El Nido

Me and my bike

My hut in Sibaltan

Port Barton

Thanks Filipinas

Sydney rules

Travel

The absence of expectations and the exercise of amazement are the keys to discovery. That happened to me with Sydney, I did not expect anything and I received exceptional things. My first day the city welcomes me with open arms, I meet a lot of people and I end up drinking beers and having dinner with a Chilean and a Venezuelan in love with Sydney and its possibilities. From their eyes I begin to discover how Australia receives a considerable volume of people in search of a different life experience. And all this in a fairly easy way. You live well in Australia in general and in Sydney in particular.

My budget is getting tighter and tighter. The last six months my expenses have been more 
than expected and now I need to be more careful. What is favorable is the fact that I start
 Asia soon, and the cost of living goes down considerably for my flights, accommodations 
and meals. So Sydney and its prices are really a challenge I am willing to take. I select my
 plans in the city carefully. It is not richer who has more but who needs less and me, at this
 point, I need very little to enjoy.

 

 

I discover on my second day the extensive parks in the city, the pleasure of lying down and having a sunny picnic and my feet on the grass. In the distance the great buildings of a city in full motion. What I like about this atmosphere is the duality of activity and rest. When they finish their jobs, the Australians put on their sandals and really relax. Their way is easy, friendly, relaxed.


 

 

 

Foreigners living in Sydney get together a lot to drink beers and chat. On my second day I join
 one of those groups and I know the stories of very different people. I think that of the 25 
people who were there none were from the same nationality. There is unanimity, Australia is 
a really welcoming country and full of possibilities. And Sydney is one of the great doors.

A little more than half an hour from Sydney the coast gives you spectacular beaches full of 
life. The most famous, Bondi beach. In Bondi beach you can watch the beautiful people or 
the aspirants to be, the surfers in the sea in search of good waves, the sand is the meeting
 point of the sculptural bodies and showing off. And even though that is not my philosophy
 of life I find it tremendously attractive. It's like looking through the camera of a filmmaker
 or photographer. Become an observer of people's life, real or false.

 

 

 

I enjoy my walk along the coast of Bondi, Bronte and Coogee. I am accompanied by two new
 friends, Miguel from Puerto Rico and Jeremy from Israel. As a curious soul, I attack Jeremy
 with questions about the Jews, the way of life, the traditions, the practice and the theory
 of Judaism. And I learn great things about them and their mentality. It is great to be able
 to know it first-hand, from someone open-minded also and willing to answer any questions.
 Only by traveling do you expose yourself to the most direct knowledge.


On Sunday I discover Manly Beach, 45 minutes by ferry from Sydney. It's a perfect day, full 
sunny, no cloud. Yes, hordes of tourists accompany me. Jeremy also came with me and the 
two photography lovers devote themselves to capture the moments on the beach. The 
return gives us a sunset from the ferry with the full skyline. Insuperable. 

My hostel is the cheapest I could find in the city. Cleaning is acceptable. Sharing a bedroom
 with 7 other girls is interesting. I am struck by the lack of communication or greeting, the 
fact of finding many of them stuck in that room almost all day, since I leave in the morning 
until I arrive at night. They do not communicate, they do not know people, they almost do 
not go out ... Can it really be that you come to Australia to be locked in a hostel? It may be,
 I do not know the reasons.

The following days I kick the city, I visit free museums, I watch people on the street. In the
 restaurants I am delighted to see groups of friends who can not be more diverse: Asians,
 Indians, Europeans, Australians. All mixed in a beautiful way. Men and women in office
 dresses, of all nationalities and again mixed in all possible ways. The diversity that I see here
 excites me, gives me hope, opens doors.

 

My quick and intense visit to Australia has offered me so many things:

The best sunrise arriving in Sydney from the plane

 

The best sunset from the ferry back from Manly

 

 

 

The best recipe, my first "kosher" pizza in a place in Bondi beach. Thanks Jeremy!

 

 

 

The superstition There is a great difference in integration between the New Zealand 
aborigines and the Australians. The Maoris are very integrated into New Zealand society, 
even though they are a minority, but the Australian aborigines are completely excluded. 
Many have problems of alcoholism and drug addiction and they are in the lowest echelons
 of Australian society with respect to economical power, education, etc.
During colonial times and after Australia ceased to be an English colony, real genocides and 
atrocities were committed, such as separating children from their parents.
Never take a picture of an aborigine or art created by an aborigine, as they are very 
superstitious and think that you are stealing their soul.

The Australian bracelet was not found, however I prefer the surfing bikinis.

I get a great and huge surprise in Australia. I've even considered staying longer and 
making some money while discovering more areas. Finally I see it complicated, the speed at 
which I find a job with my tourist visa is not proportional to the one I spend my money here.
 I'm still on my way, I'm on my way, I'm discovering new steps. I jump to the Philippines and
 say goodbye with a wonderful taste in my mouth and the promise to return.