Greg

Mar 042013
 

December 29th, 2012, we visited the sacred ruins of Chichen Itza here in the Yucatan, Mexico. It was incredible to travel back in time and wonder how this ancient civilization lived. Can you imagine building something almost 2000 years ago with none of the machinery and tools we have today? Its really quite something when I stand on the land amongst it all and take it in.  We felt quite relaxed and peaceful as we walked around and took in the beautiful ruins, despite the little touristy stalls from the Mayan locals selling their many crafts. They were quite beautiful but be mindful prices are really jacked up…so feel free to negotiate a price that you are comfortable to pay.

There is certainly much to see here; the Kukulkan Pyramid, known as “El Castilo” The Castle, to the Temple of the Warriors, the “El Caracol” Observatory Temple, the Venus Platform in the Great Plaza, the Cenotes and waterways that ran underneath this Mayan city, and much more. Just google Chichen Itza and the information will come up for you. Of course its not like standing there and experience it. I found there was mixed feelings with my family being there and seeing the different ruins. Some appealed to them and some didn’t. One thing for sure, the detail carved into stone and the shapes of the stones themselves were impressive despite the age of them.

One of the families favorite ruin was the observatory temple that was strategically placed. It is a round building with doors and windows on a square platform.  It was used to chart and calculate earthly and planetary cycles and more. We were told that at certain times or cycles like the event on 21/12/2012, their winter solstice, the sun ray would pass through both doors at the same time of the round building. There was this correlation between the 360 degree round building, the windows and doors, and the square platform where they were able to measure and follow astronomical events. They could measure these events or monitor planetary movements, like Venus for example, without the use of the technology that we have today…Amazing hey?!!!

We were able to have a little picnic and enjoy our own lunch that we had brought with us that day. Whilst enjoying our lunch, we saw quite a few iguanas that were on the stone walls of the ruins and grassy area next to us. One would come up less than a metre away at times, as we sat and ate. And there was one that was over a metre long sun baking as you will see in our photos below.

Over all this ancient Mayan City was really impressive and I thoroughly enjoyed connecting with the land and the energy of the place. we took our time and about six hours later we caught the bus back to Merida…Like I said earlier their was a very relaxed and peaceful feel. We noticed there wasn’t that many people as we had expected…Perhaps it was our luck day.

 

 

Until the next post…Are you living a fulfilled life?

Lot of Love

Faris and Family

xoxoxoxo

 Posted by at 11:45 am
Sep 162012
 

Beijing was certainly different from Shanghai. It took us a few days to get settled in this city and find where things were. Shanghai was much more organized and modern in their infrastructure…Although work is definitely being done around here.

The Great Wall, The Forbidden City and Tianamen Square where certainly the highlights of our trip in Beijing. However experiencing the local markets, street malls and food cuisine was always enjoyable for us. One particular evening we experienced cooking our own meals.  This was set up like a sushi train however instead of sushi plates, you were given big bowls of an assortment of ingredients such as Seafood, different meats, a magical array of  greens, mushrooms and fruit. You were given a choice of soup broths to cook with on your hot plate on your table…Well, did we have a ball having this meal as you will see in some of the photos below.

Tian’anmen Square

This looked very parliamental. There were lots of concrete building structures, monuments, wide roads, wide tiled walkways, thousands of tourists and many cameras and police…Big Brother certainly watching. But we never felt uneasy.  Quite the contrary we felt very comfortable.

We had many Chinese drawn to us and wanted to chat and take photos. Some even sneaking in photo of their partners, friends and family with us in the background. Many  wanted photos with all of us or individually…they seemed so fascinated by us. Especially with Gincori on one occasion, where a group of women wanted to take photos with her and hugged her.

Also while you’re here you have to try these 1 RMB/ 15cents  icy pole that vendors were selling to all the tourists out of boxes.  No refrigeration whats so ever. We all wondered how they didn’t melt.  Then we thought to ourselves, they were selling them so quick they didn’t have time to melt. LOL LOL

The Forbidden City

Could you imagine what it would have been like to live with the Emperor in this city or to live in that era? We all were trying to imagine this while still being in the moment, seeing and feeling this place as we walked amongst the thousands of tourist.

This place was incredible to witness. Open spaces opening up to more big spaces then to corridors to others court yards, stairs, halls, temples, meditation rooms, many thrones rooms and a beautiful garden. Off course some places had been transformed into food stalls and tourist shops but still to experience walking through the Forbidden City is a must.

 

Until the next post…Are you living a fulfilled life?

Lot of Love

Faris and Family

xoxoxoxo

 Posted by at 6:50 pm
Aug 172012
 

Well, this was our favorite!!! We decided to go to Jin Shan Ling. A less travelled part of the wall that is more authentic and unrestored like others. It was further away by 1 hour, compared to the rest, but the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. A matter of fact, describing it in words does not do it justice…It must be experienced. To feel it, see it, go through the physical, mental and emotional journey of it, is so liberating.

Everyone definitely had their own challenges and experiences here. With steep inclines and declines, it all challenged us differently; physically, mentally and emotionally. Some of us had personal fears of heights, some questioned our physical capabilities at different parts of the wall that were more challenging than others. There were parts of the wall that had broken away and some quite high. Yet it was great to witness the triumphs as we conquered this wall. It was awesome!

We had decided to do the longest possible route of just over 10 km of this wall. We packed a lunch, had plenty of water , each of us with backpacks and with our hiking boots on off we went…We were well prepared. We laughed so much, played, met a few other people but it was peaceful. Took lots of photos, as you will see below and admired the most exquisite views of mountains, valleys and the massive stretch of this great wall.

One of the thoughts that kept popping up from time to time for all of us was the people that contributed and died while building this wall back in the Ming dynasty. Brick by brick we admired their hard work and effort. Although built for different reasons back then, we felt privileged to have walked this wall in todays times, experience it in so many ways and enjoy its rewards and all its offerings.

*Tahira said to me she always wanted to walk along a ridge of a mountain. To experience this wall was amazing for her she said.

*Alexandria’s personal desire to walk the wall and her opportunity to take photos of a place she may only visit once in a life time, has been accomplished

*Gincori said to me it was an amazing experience for her to be able to walk the wall and its challenges, and not just hear about it, but to experience it and be apart of this walls history.

* I must admit I had no idea of the impact walking the Great Wall would have on me. I knew I was going there but to experience it left me in awe…its an experience i cannot explain but will take with me in every fibre of my being.

 

 

Until the next post…Are you living a fulfilled life?

Lot of Love

Faris and Family

xoxoxoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 10:18 pm
Jul 282012
 

Wednesday morning 22nd February  we get picked up from hotel at 7am to go to phuket Bus terminal to catch local bus to Khao Sok national park. On the way we passed Khao Lak, it looked really nice. Little cute town near beach with mountains behind…my kind of living place.The beautiful thing about traveling on local transport is you start to get an idea of how the local live. Not to mention meeting other fellow travelers . We met some German travelers and had a lovely chat sharing travel stories and their lives back home.

Thursday morning 23rd February we go for hike in national park with 7 waterfall to check out.  7 hour later hiking through the Khao Sok national park was definitely a great workout and experience. We walked up and down along the banks of the waterfall. We swam at 2 of the waterfalls…that was so refreshing and rejuvenating especially as we have been sweating in this 32 degree heat for most of the day. We had such a great meal today, good servings and delicious flavors. We seem to be having about 2 meals a day since we left Australia. We do miss our lovely homemade salads though.

After yesterday marathon with the girls we decided on an easy going restful day. We played uno, and another card game called kemps and cuts. Checked out the local stores and came across a place that had lovely banana pancakes with fresh local bananas….yummy!  Mind you we have been quite blessed with our fruit so far. Fresh and delicious watermelon, pineapple and bananas. All we can see are banana and pineapple plantation everywhere you go.

Saturday morning  25th February we caught the local bus to Surat Thani rail station. Looking for food was not working out. So we decided to catch a local bus into Surat Thani city about 16km. Trip took about 40 min and cost 13 baht each…39 cents australian. It was an experience to watch the local just hop on and off like you would on a tram. As we were looking around for a place to eat and buy some water we came across this nice Italian restaurant called Ciao Italia.

We all felt like some authentic Italian pizza.It turns out Emiliano comes from Milan Italy. married a Thai lady and has authentic Thai and Italian pizza. Pizza’s were delicious: thin base and tasty toppings. He shared with us his passion for making pastry and breads.It was nice to have Gincori speak to him in Italian and find out some local places and a place to buy water and supplies for our train trip to Chiangmai via Bangkok.

After buying our water and supplies we caught local bus back to train station and spoke to local and travelers waiting for their trains. One crazy  thai guide was sharing his experience with 31 Canadians that he was taking on a tour.  He was sharing 28 of those were women and he said it would get crazy sometimes…I think he loved every minute of it.

Anyway we  caught our 5.37pm train. it was really comfortable! I think all of us were quite surprised. Note to travellers on second class sleepers , make sure you have access to warm clothing, as one blanket may not suffice when sleeping on upper berth. lower berths  are a little bit more roomy and warmer.You know what we found was really interesting is when you catch local buses or trains, food venders hop on and offer you food, fruit, nuts, you name it, they’ ve got it.

Got some photos for you below of our trip to Khao sok national park, where we stayed at the jungle hut, the train ride from Surat thani to bangkok and then to Chiangmai.

Note: All photos have now been resized so that its easier for your viewing when you click on individual photo. We apologies for the inconvenience of the previous photos that had high resolution and took a very long time to be viewed.

 

Until the next post…Live the life you want

Lots of Love

Faris and Family

xoxoxoxo

 Posted by at 7:06 pm
Jul 272012
 

Friday morning, we woke up, ready and excited to go to Disneyland. We had been waiting since Dharamsala, India to experience Disneyland Hong Kong! We hopped on the train and headed towards Disneyland, making 2 stopped before boarding the Disneyland express! We were so excited! We grabbed a map and started pinpointing all the rides we had to go on!! Our first stop was Tomorrowland!! We sped around the racetrack singing Katy Perry, like we were cruising down rodeo drive. It was awesome. Then, being very hot from our drive, we needed to cool down. Luckily, we spotted a mini wet’n’wild and we took advantage, splashing around and getting soaked. Then off to Fantasyland, where we took a spin on the Mad Hatter tea cups, as well as a boat tour of Its a small world, before heading to the Cinderella carousal. We experienced Mickey’s Musical 4D show and headed towards Toy Story Land. Here we shrunk to toy size, myself and dad went on a Hot wheels RC Racer ride that got our adrenaline pumping.

We then headed to Grizzly Gulch. By this time we were dry and hot once again and took advantage of the springs and buckets of water around. It was really funny since all the adults were standing around dry and only their little children were getting wet. But the four of us did not hesitate to get drenched once again. Then we waited in line for the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Carts, this took some time and gave Tahira time to gather her courage for her first roller-coaster ride. She did so well for her first time! Next, it was space Mountain! It was so cool to…well I don’t want to ruin the experience for you, so you’ll have to have a go yourself. Adventure-land was next. We went on a safari and met Tarzan! We went back to Fantasyland to experience the Golden Mickey’s award which is something like the Grammy’s but with all our favorite Disney Characters. By this time we have just enough time to go on the train to Main Street USA were we saw the firework show at Cinderella’s Castle!

That was our day! It was an adventure back to our childhood…well for the three of us (not Tahira).

 

 

By

Alexandria and Tahira

xoxo

 Posted by at 10:13 am
Jul 202012
 

Hello All

Last Post was when we arrived in Kolkata India.

Well, India sure has its variety of colourful towns and environmental influences, languages spoken and multi religions.

Kolkata:

Flying into Kolkata and hitting the heat and the hustle and bustle of crowded streets and the beeping of horns certainly lets you know this city is awake:  be alert and aware. You definitely see the poverty straight up and yet the intrigue, not to miss a thing, draws you in to this other world. It certainly can be a shock to the system, however like all things, time takes care of this if you start to be open to it.

We arrived at Sudder St., a main area for accommodation, not too far from the market place. As it was Gincori’s Birthday we decided to upgrade our accommodation for a few days and enjoy a little bit of luxury and workout our next steps. Venturing out and mixing with the local street food stalls and tasting the local cuisine is definitely the best way to go.

Some of us aren’t quite the spicy hot lovers like myself, but there was still many foods that we enjoyed. We made beautiful connections with some of the food vendors and locals as we kept on returning for more.

Puri

Upon arriving in Puri from an overnight train ride, it was hot. It was difficult finding accommodation, as there were 4 of us. We looked for hours in the heat and due to easter weekend we just struggled to find something to accommodate our needs. Finally, late afternoon we settled for a place for one night. We knew Puri was not for us. None of us really wanted to stay here as the energy of the place was very heavy. So we decided to leave the next morning to Bhubaneswar, 2 hours away, where their was an ashram we wanted to visit. One of the interesting things about India we noticed was the continuous power blackouts. It reminds me of an experience in Kolkata, whereby we were in the lift and power went out. Mind you the lifts here are quite small; 4 to 5 people squeezed together is the size of the lift. Anyway power was restored within 30 seconds, although to Gincori, it felt like an eternity.

Bhubaneswar

We arranged car transportation to Bhubaneswar from Puri to go to the Kriya yoga ashram, a 2 hour trip. On our way we visited a little village, that our driver suggested. We met a local village elder, a master artist who won an award for his amazing detailed paintings and craftsmanship. He stopped his teaching to showed us a variety of works; ones that took two months to complete. Upon arriving we were fortunate that Swami Shakaranda Giri had just arrived the night before and was leaving the next day and that we were able to see him and work out if we could stay there. He advised us that his ashram in Rishikesh would be more suitable and that he would be there on the 24th and 25th of April and invited us to join him and stay for as long as we want.

We decided to get some accommodation here for a few days and then head out to Varanasi. Well, train tickets were very scarce and could not go by train, so we chose to fly into Varanasi instead. On our last night in Bhubaneswar, we decided to check out a Lonely Planet recommendation, called Tangerine 9. It had great food on a budget yet looked like a classy restaurant. Check it out! We really enjoyed it.

TIP: Book in advance! Train travel in India can be a bit complicated, so head to the local station, make sure to use the tourist window, and check out your options. Also, India trains have tourist quotas and will sometimes only allow for 2 foreigners to travel. I know it can be a hassle if you’re playing it by ear but if you know what to do, then at least you can attempt to snag last minute tickets.

Until the next post…Live the life you want!

Lot of Love

Faris and Family

xoxoxoxo

 Posted by at 9:39 pm
Jul 122012
 

After a cozy sleep at our home stay in Lossar, we headed towards Kaza. On the way, one place to visit was Ki monastery. A Tibetan Buddhist monastery over a thousand years old. that is set in the mountain. Although experiencing the monastery, we were not drawn to stay in their guesthouse. We continued to Kaza, around the corner, found accommodation and settled in. Only to realize that the place we booked needed a good cleaning as they were currently renovating and dust was everywhere. Needless-to-say, our sleeping bags came in handy. The good news was, the hotel owner assisted us in getting out permits with our driver for Kinnaur Valley.

TIP: Make sure to arrange a permit to enter this area.

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing, walking around Kaza and having some dinner.

 

Until the next post…Live the life you want!

Lot of Love

Faris and Family

xoxoxoxo

 Posted by at 2:25 pm
Mar 182012
 

After weeks of searching for just the right volunteering we finally found one where we felt eager to contribute! Tierra de Ninos! Only about a 40 minute drive from Cusco City center sits a small town called Huacarpay where a school has been established. 3 teachers, 1 maintenance man and about 20 beautiful children ranging in age from 6 to 14. Our first day there, we were greeted with hugs from the children and needless-to-say we knew this was the place for us.

The School and Children:

The children that attend the school come from poor local families. Many family’s come to live in Huacarpay to work for little money. Yet, the children are happy and full of energy.

The school is government run. This means that at the beginning of the year the government drops off a few supplies such as paper, pencils etc and leaves the school to manage itself. The government provides some food that contributes to lunch and breakfast each day. Three days a week they are given full meals and two days a week they are provided a simple staple meal such as arroz con leche which is rice and milk.

The school and the staff are humble. They use recycled plastic bottles for just about everything they need. They use it to create rooms for the children, an assemble area, hand washing facilities, decorations. You name it, they do it. They use shoes and old backpacks for pots to plant flowers and they grow their own vegetables. They use what they have around them, recycle and are working to create sustainability within the school as well as educate the students to do it too.

Despite the need, Yanet, Norma and Yeni have worked so hard to make it one of the best school in Peru. Yanet (the director) works with other schools in Peru and in England to create support for their amazing environmental school as well as to educate them about creating more sustainability. Charles Hopkins, of the UNESCO, who is considered the founder of environmental education, was amazed by the school’s efforts and said it was something he would share with the world.

In addition, the students are taught in Spanish as well as Quechua which is the native language of the Andes. This is quite significant since most schools refuse to teach in Quechua. Many of these students speak Spanish at school and Quechua with their parents who do not know Spanish at all. Keeping this language is an important part of their tradition and heritage and the teachers work to ensure it is not forgotten.

Our Contribution:

As volunteers we have been able to come into this school and help these three hard working teachers do all the things they simply don’t have time to do.  So far this has ranged from collecting water from the lake (on a day when there was no water in the tanks) to sewing, organizing, taking care of the chickens, making things from plastic bottles, planting beans in the garden, washing dishes, mud bricking, digging holes, weeding, planting trees and painted signs.

Our experience and what we have learned:

Gincori:

My experience here has taught me to be more resourceful, and to look at what I have before buying something else. On the other hand I felt impacted when they called me “Mama”. Even the teachers! This made me feel closer to them, like family. Also I was able to learn more Spanish from communicating with the children and teachers.

Alexandria:

Its no lie I loath physical labor and my first few days where nothing short of a challenge. Yet I developed a love for the children and the teachers that motivated me each day to give them my best. Regardless of the heat of the day or the intensity of the work I knew in my heart that it wasn’t about me.

Tahira:

At times it was challenging while digging holes, weeding, and filling and carrying big buckets of water, but I enjoyed playing and talking with the other kids. I felt like I was making new friends and they made me feel comfortable. Being there, I was able to talk to the kids and teachers and learn more Spanish. Over all this was one of my favorite places to volunteer.

As soon as we arrived we were treated like friends by the children and staff and on one occasion, we were surprise to have a small celebration with cake to celebrate Tahira’s Birthday.  It was a beautiful gesture that touched our hearts. Regardless of all that they do, they found time to give back to us as well.

On our last day, we were surprised to have been given a fiesta. A mommy cooked up a big special lunch and all the children made cards and picked flowers for us and the other volunteers. We were all so speechless. Some of us cried and were just so touched by the gifts that the teachers and students offered us.

Being able to work with this school has taught us so much about sustainability, and how to make the most of what we have.

Collectively we have learned:

-How to make several decorations and practical items from plastic bottles. Including:

-Making hanging ordainments

-Making curtains from bottle bottoms

-Making fish

-Making walls from bottles

-Making tables and seats

-Making soap holder

-Making hand washer

-Making seat backs

-Using the bottle tops for game pieces

-Making bird feeders

-Making gates

-How to utilize ripped or old clothes and fabric

-Mainly to create curtains

- How to cook several dishes with local ingredients

  • We have learned more spanish communicating with the teachers and children
  • Saving and recycling materials such as metal scraps, wood scraps and other plastics
  • How to plant inside shoes
  • Making curtains from CDs
  • Making fences from empty cans
  • How to make a platform using roof tiles and mud
  • Making a door mat from metal bottle tops on wood
  • And how to take care of chickens

Below are photos of our time there as well as photos of the some of the things we have learned to create.

Over All:

We all feel very privileged and honored to have been accepted into this small school when in so many countries volunteers, would never be given the opportunity to give back. Especially when those volunteers don’t even speak the language.

The Girls

- Gincori, Alexandria, and Tahira

 

 

 

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 Posted by at 1:06 pm