10 Yoga Retreats for Adventure Addicts

10 Yoga Retreats for Adventure Addicts

(-by Octavia Drughi)

If you’re anything like me, then you probably have trouble staying in one place for too long and repeating the same patterns day after day. It’s easy to get stuck in a routine. As a yoga practitioner with itchy feet, I often find myself struggling to create a balance between the static and dynamic movements in my exercises as well as in my everyday life.

yoga retreat isn’t all about the poses – it can be an adventure-packed holiday that can teach you to listen to your body and get in touch with your inner self. After all, is there any better way to keep track of our progress than by pushing our limits, both mentally and physically? If you too are considering changing your approach, look no further! The team at BookYogaRetreats.com has put together a list of adventure yoga retreats that will inspire you to take the bull by its horns and finally surrender to your senses.

 

  1. Five-Day Budget Climbing and Yoga Retreat in Portugal

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Climbing in Sintra, Portugal (Courtesy of sintraclimbingtours.com)

Join a community of outdoor enthusiasts in the mystical forests and hills of Portugal’s Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, near the world-class surfing destination of Praia Grande. The surroundings provide the perfect backdrop against which yoga and outdoor adventure will help you clear your mind and let go of your worries.

Embark on this five-day adventure yoga retreat in Portugal and enjoy daily yoga classes and climbing courses on an active holiday! Within a 30-mile (50 km) radius, there are 40 climbing spots to explore, all in the safe hands of certified instructors. The retreat is excellent for beginners taking their firsts steps outside the climbing gym, as well as for those who simply want to improve their technique and spice it up with yoga and meditation.

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Besides climbing, there are plenty of optional outdoor activities to choose from – surfing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, stand-up paddle boarding and a one-day trip to Lisbon
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  1. Eight-Day Snow, Outdoor and Yoga Retreat in Austria

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This snow, wellness and yoga retreat in the heart of the Austrian Alps combines skiing and snowboarding with Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa yoga, Yin yoga and AcroYoga. Not to mention there’s a Thai massage class included!

A cozy farmhouse with open fireplaces, indoor climbing gym and wellness area will be your home. DIGGL Climbers and Freeride Farm in the mountain village of Ginzling in Tyrol offers just about anything nature and adventure addicts could ask for thanks to its vicinity to numerous trails and hiking routes. During your eight-day stay, you will learn about snow conditions and avalanche safety, while freeriding with a mountain guide.

 

  1. Four-Day Mountain Activities and Yoga Retreat in France

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Perfect for a long weekend getaway, a traditional alpine lodge in the Alpine town of Morzine in southeastern France welcomes outdoor lovers with plenty of land and water-based activities. Daily morning Vinyasa yoga sessions and mindfulness workshops will prepare you for an active day.

The highlights of this four-day yoga retreat in France are the stand-up paddle board yoga classes and the guided mountain treks. The home-cooked vegetarian menu with morning superfood smoothies is definitely worth a mention. Plus, there are plenty of activities, included and optional, to help you get the best out of the great outdoors of the French Alps – kayaking, snowboarding and skiing, picnic by an alpine lake and walks along the Morzine River.

 

  1. Six-Day Adventure and Yoga Retreat in Croatia

 

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Great for couples where one is into yoga and the other is into adventure sports, this six-day adventure and yoga retreat in Croatia will teach you about Five Elements yoga in a unique way. Located in between the historical center of the picturesque city of Rovinj and the scenic beaches of the Istria peninsula, the Five Elements Guesthouse will be your home away from home.

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Learn about 
five elements yoga with daily morning asanas and meditation. Each day, extend your knowledge by getting closer to each element. On Earth day there will be hiking tours and cave explorations. Air day will feature windsurfing. Fire day brings you biking tours and campfire gatherings. Water day will take you on a kayaking tour of the Rovinj islands. Last but not least, yoga and meditation will be the main focus on spirit day.

 

  1. Eight-Day Mountain Biking and Yoga Retreat in Slovenia

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Mountain biking in Slovenia – Photo by Darko Pevec

What do yoga and mountain biking have in common? How about balance, focus, determination and continuous movement? Stay in a chalet in the town of Luče in northern Slovenia, near the Austrian border, a one hour’s drive from capital Ljubljana. Explore the surroundings on daily mountain biking tours through the Slovenian Alps and return home a better you!

This eight-day mountain biking and yoga retreat in Slovenia is bound to relax your mind and rejuvenate your spirit. The morning yoga session will warm you up for the mountain biking ride ahead. And as there’s only so much excitement we can handle in one day, afternoon yoga classes come to our rescue to ease our spirits, relax our muscles and create an ambiance in which we can reflect upon our day.

 

  1. Eight-Day Rock Climbing & Ashtanga Yoga Retreat in Spain

 

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DWS in Mallorca – Photo by Craig Hiller

A 13th-century mansion overlooking the beach will be your home throughout this eight-day climbing & Ashtanga yoga retreat in Mallorca. Kept by the same family throughout the centuries, the medieval lodge offers first-rate bedrooms, a lovely yoga room, swimming pool, large terrace and two living rooms with fireplace.

Considered Europe’s best Deep Water Solo (DWS) destination, Mallorca is a world-class climbing venue with routes of every grade and style. Deep Water Solo, also known as Psicobloc, is a form of rock climbing practiced above a body of water that is deep enough and without any obstacles (e.g. submerged rocks) to support a big plunge. The climber uses no rope or safety equipment, just a pair of climbing shoes and chalk. Any fall is cushioned by the water beneath. The retreat’s rock climbing classes will be held by renowned climber and DWS pioneer Miquel Riera.

 

  1. Eight-Day Patagonia Yoga Retreat and Outdoor Adventures

 

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What makes a perfect retreat? A bunch of things – teachers, location, fellow participants and outdoor activities, just to name a few. Make each day a special day with this eight-day yoga and outdoor adventure retreat in Chile. Spend the first night in Punta Arenas, the capital of Chile’s southernmost region, and the rest in EcoCamp Patagonia, in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park.

The camp’s geodesic domes are set in the middle of Patagonia’s wilderness and are an excellent starting point for a number of one-day walks. Participants will hike to Milodon Cave, Grey Glacier, Lazo Weber and Towers Base. They will mountain bike to Lagna Azul. There will be daily yoga and meditation sessions, as well as optional trips, including a visit to the neighboring port town of Puerto Natales.

 

  1. Eight-Day Rock Climbing and Yoga Retreat in Greece

 

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Climbing Leonidio, Greece (Courtesy of UKClimbing.com)

Learn to overcome your fears through meditation and rock climbing! This eight-day climbing and yoga retreat in the Peloponnese is more than a getaway, it is a journey of self-discovery. The road trip will take you along the Peloponnesian coastline to visit some of the best climbing spots in the area. Are you a beginner, or do you wish to brush up your climbing skills? Everyone’s invited!


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Climbing Leonidio, Greece (Courtesy of UKClimbing.com)

Just like yoga, rock climbing is a communion between body and mind. The stronger the connection, the better the results. Throughout your stay, daily Hatha yoga sessions will help improve your balance and focus. Rock climbing sessions at the crags near the bohemian towns of Nafplio and Leonidio, as well as at the recently developed crags in the seaside village of Kyparissi, will teach you to calm down and learn to focus on your goals.

 

  1. Eight-Day Empowerment Adventure Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

content (12) Balsa River rafting – Photo by Nigel Burgher

Located right outside of the small city of La Fortuna, at the foothills of the Arenal Volcano, the eco-friendly Hotel Kokoro’s cottages and wooden cabins are surrounded by volcanoes, lagoons, hot springs and waterfalls. It seems like too much to do and too little time in just eight days, but this adventure yoga retreat in Costa Rica begs to differ.

Here’s how your stay will look like: morning and afternoon yoga and meditation sessions, the rest of the day filled with outdoor activities – guided treks in the Arenal Volcano National Park, walks along Rio Celeste, hikes in Tenorio National Park, visits to Cerro Chato Volcano. Wait, there’s more! A safari float trip on the Peñas Blancas River, rafting the Balsa River, swimming in a lagoon and relaxing in the thermal waters of the Tabacon River will leave you feeling empowered indeed.

 

  1. 21-Day Fitness Trek and Yoga Retreat Nepal

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Who hasn’t heard the stories, seen the movies, read the books and dreamed about reaching Himalaya’s dizzying heights themselves?

Wildfire Expeditions offers yoga and adventure addicts the chance to trek a part of the famous Annapurna Circuit Route. The active retreat begins and ends in Kathmandu, and you will spend your nights in Nepal’s capital, in Pokhara and at different teahouses along the route.

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Trekking Annapurna – Photo by Sung-Joo Choi

Get ready for seven days of trekking stunning trails through rhododendron forests, reaching a maximum altitude of 11,646 ft (3,550 m) in Manang village. There will be daily Hatha yoga sessions – sunrise yoga to fire up the core and evening practices will relax and stretch your legs after your walk. You will hike the foothills of Annapurna, passing through ancient villages and orchards, visiting Buddhist temples and watching incredible sunsets, all the while gazing at the snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Immerse yourself in Nepal’s traditions and culture during this 10-day trekking and yoga retreat in Nepal. Tone your body and mind, boost your metabolism and enrich your spirit. 

 Yoga can feel pretty static at times, and there’s nothing like an adrenaline rush in the great outdoors to restore the balance. Just remember that yoga in itself is an adventure, an endless one of self-discovery.

Author’s bio:

Octavia Drughi
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“Octavia Drughi is a travel writer for BookYogaRetreats.com. A wanderer, yogi and adventure lover, Octavia’s number one addiction is rock climbing, which she embraces as a form self-expression. To her, climbing and yoga are the dance of life itself.”

What Solo Travel (and Yoga) Has Taught Me

What Solo Travel (and Yoga) Has Taught Me

To thrive. To flourish.

To take all that I am, and everything I’ve encountered, and to blend them into something new. To use what I’ve been given, and to nourish it so it reaches its highest and furthest potential.
This is what I’m taking away from my current travel experiences coming to a brief hiatus as I return home slightly earlier than planned for Christmas.

‘We are the sum of all of our past experiences“, they say and so, I am a unique blend of everything and everywhere I have been. Everyone I’ve encountered. And all that currently surrounds me.

These past 5 months have been an incredible journey. A journey through some of the most beautifully stunning and culturally rich places I’ve ever been. A journey through some of the most difficult emotions and mental limitations I’ve grown accustomed to placing on myself. A journey out of my comfort zone, out of my perception of comfort zones…
A journey with myself, by myself, to myself.

To Open Up

Everyone I’ve encountered along the way has shaped me somehow, just as I have (however minutely) impacted their journey. I’ve opened up in ways I was barely even aware was possible – I’ve learnt that remaining open is to become malleable to new experiences. My journey with yoga has allowed me to open. Open up the channels of energy I had allowed anxiety to close. Engage in open communication. Open and honest interactions, softly allowing the essence of myself I lost somewhere along the way between puberty and the end of my college years to return, frightened as it was of what others would think, what they would see….
I now know how little any of that matters. I not only know it, but I live it.
Because here’s the thing.

Travelling can be difficult, but it’s even more fucking difficult if you hate yourself.

Nobody wants to talk to the frowning weirdo in the corner who glances at herself in the reflection of every shiny surface and glares jealously at the big groups of new travel-friends all having fun at the bar. Sure, they might have issues, but nobody on a trip is going to want to be bogged down with some stranger’s lack of self-esteem, lack of balance and life lived in fear of the world around them.
We’re all here to see as much as we can, mate, it’s up to you to hold yourself together long enough to get there.

To Be Steady

And what is travelling, when you do it right, but living your life and moving, discovering, remaining and being yourself somewhere other than in your own home? Changing surroundings beg the need for a constant and steady spirit to successfully move through them, and so I’ve found a kind of satisfactory balance here somewhere in the midst of all this movement.

To Take Things Less Seriously

Taking yourself too seriously is not an option when every unknown turn in a new city could lead you into anxiety-inducing situations. Trusting yourself becomes the number one priority, and your own judgement becomes the only thing that really leads the way when you leave home with no particular direction or plan – you learn to just go with it. Taking things less seriously, but ensuring you remain steady within it. Humbly balancing out what we have, moving through it with grace and ease, going where we can and taking our bodies and minds on a modest journey through the bigger picture.

Because the bigger picture will always be the bigger picture, and we will always be just one little pixel in that grand tapestry that creates our perception of the images around us.

Our job is simply to ensure that our pixel shines as bright, as clear and as strong as it possibly can be. That’s all we can ever hope to achieve. In surrendering to the powerlessness and lack of control, we ironically gain it for ourselves.

That Comfort Zones Don’t Exist

Allowing that little dot to thrive and really believing in its’ worth is vital if we want to progress anywhere in life. For some people, this comes naturally to them. For others, we must assert ourselves and realign with these beliefs time and time again, repeatedly acknowledging our sense of worth and maintaining a persistent awareness of the things that put this balance at risk. Travelling through uncertain areas, with unknown associates and changeable destinations requires a certain sense of self and strength that I never ever believed possible for me, and yet here I am. I’ve met some incredible people, seen beautiful places, experienced lifestyles and norms so contrasting to my own comfort zone and everyday life that I’ve come to realise ‘comfort zone’ is just a label we put on ourselves to justify staying still.

Through yoga, through solo travel, and through combining them both, I have come to see movement as the one key aspect of life that helps us maintain a balanced and healthy mindset, and I’m excited to see how I will progress forwards with this newfound understanding. Moving on, moving away from damaging behaviours, moving ever onwards and avoiding stagnancy at all costs – this journey has really only begun.

The Home of Yoga – An Adventure in the Himalayas

It’s currently raining in Dharamkot, Himachal Pradesh, one of the Northernmost populated towns in the Indian Himalayas.

Meanwhile, I hear that it’s been 26 degrees in Ireland. Typical!
Monsoon season here is in full swing, and as irritating as a downpour can be in the midst of exploring new towns and places, the people that you meet when huddled together with a street of strangers under a bright blue tarpaulin to shelter from the rain often make it seem worthwhile.
Another plus is that the more strenuous yoga classes have not proven too overwhelming. My practice in Bali and Cambodia last year showed me just how exhausting naturally heated yoga can be – there is no escaping the heat when you’re already outside!

Attending classes at both Universal Yoga in McLeodGanj and now a rigorous 5-day intensive at Himalayan Iyengar Yoga school in Dharamkot has been a fascinating, self-exploratory and humbling experience so far. Although I had reservations about exploring Iyengar Yoga further – even during the first day or two I doubted my decision and considered seeking guidance elsewhere – I cannot help but marvel at the depth and intricacy of the practice over here, and have already learned to open up and trust myself and those around me more thoroughly than I thought possible. This for me is what yoga is all about – opening up (both physically and mentally) and accepting what is – trusting what you have and that which surrounds you instead of creating unnecessary anxiety worrying about things outside of your control. Harmony in body and mind. Harmony within your place in the world.

My place right now just happens to be India in the middle of monsoon season.

India as a country is as dense as it is beautiful – there are so many layers just waiting to be peeled back. So many aspects, so many different sides and underlying elements to this ever-changing and evolving landscape. This kinetic energy in itself is a perfect emulation of human nature as a whole. We too are consistently changing. We hide beneath layers, personas, images and complete strangers that we for whatever reason so often strive to emulate – the list goes on. Yoga helps us peel back those layers comfortably, to open up and purely exist in acceptance of what’s around us, learning to enjoy the process instead of thinking about what will or may come to be.

Practicing yoga here has been challenging both mentally and physically, and especially difficult on realisation that the warm and cosy bed usually awaiting my arrival after a tough practice is in fact a flat, hard slightly damp resting space of a room costing less than €2 a night! Not exactly my idea of luxury but then again, I shouldn’t complain, right? I’m pushing boundaries. It’s not supposed to be comfortable.

My mental stamina, moreso than the physical has been tested to the point of breaking, and it may sound extreme that I have now experienced first hand what it’s like to be positioned upsidedown with tears streaming out of my eyes and down my forehead – not out of pain, but out of sheer exposure and lack of familiarity to..anything! Succumbing to the unknown? I can’t quite describe it.
It’s a new perspective, anyway. It’s been freeing.

The sheer amount of yoga schools and meditation classes around Dharamsala, McLeodGanj, and Dharamkot is testament to the deeply moving and widespread popularity of the practices in India, and it has even been predicted by the Dalai Lama himself that ‘if every 8-year-old is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation’. I’m not sure how accurate I believe this statement to be, but I must admit that my own sense of peace has been heightened purely by being present in this beautiful part of the wild animal that is India. There’s definitely something in the air over here, whether it’s because every second Westerner you meet is a hippie-pants wearing yogi with feathers in their hair and mandala tattoos on their arms, or simply the proximity to the birthplace of Buddhism – it doesn’t really matter. Peace of mind is peace of mind, and for every way there is to find it here, whether it’s attending morning Puja or Vipassana practices or simply attending a yoga class a day, you’re guaranteed to find likeminded souls who share your search for space, calmness, and self-acceptance.

For now I’m happy just being here, uphill walks, bugs and language barriers aside…

Until next time…Namasté!

7 Top Air B’n B’s in the West of Ireland available RIGHT NOW

7 Top Air B’n B’s in the West of Ireland available RIGHT NOW – BEAN AN TÍ

 

In a post originally inspired by Journalist on the Run, and again prompted by my recent post on the West of Ireland and why it’s actually kinda great, I thought I’d do some research and compare some of the most interesting and unique accommodation options listed on Air B’n’B in the area, should you be so inclined to favour the internet over the traditional B’n’B strategy of knocking on doors and hoping for the best.

Also worth mentioning is a friend’s recent establishment of an Air B’n’B feeder company – quite aptly named in this sense ‘Bean An Tí’. The company offers regular or once-off cleaning and maintenance services to Air B’n’B homeowners for a fee and a kind word of recommendation. They’re currently based in Dublin and work with Air B’n’B hosts there, but should their success extend further afield in the coming months I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Here’s a short list of some of the most intriguing dwellings in the Galway/Clare area listed on Air B’n’B right now..if number 5 doesn’t make you want to at least experience it I don’t know what will!

1. The Camper Van

 


Quirky Burren Camper

Ballyvaughan, Clare, Ireland

If you’re a fan of camping yet would prefer a

slightly more luxurious option (‘slightly’ in this case meaning absolutely marginal) this 2-bed camper van in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare near The Burren is available to rent a mere 20-30 minutes drive from the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, and the Ailwee Caves. Despite the lack of a shower (?!) this seems to be a pretty alright deal, with the only catch being that you can’t actually drive the camper van. Right. It also says nothing about heating or even a mini-heater, which, as anyone familiar with camping in Ireland will know is just a bit silly really. Ireland is cold. Undecided about this one.

2.  The Stone Cottage


A stone cottage we call “The Bothy”

Gort, Galway, Ireland

This is the reason people come to the West. Typical traditional stone dwellings with no internet, TV, or external communicative outlets to be found, in the middle of nowhere. Great for a few days unplugging from the world….It may make you feel like you’ve escaped civilisation. Whether this is a good or bad thing, you decide. Cabin fever medication not included.

Car is recommended.

 3.  The Light House 

 


The Light House

Fanore, Clare, Ireland

– a misleading title if ever there was one! Don’t be fooled here, you’re not going to get to stay in an actual Light House (how cool would that be?!) but this 2-person loft conversion above a house in Fanore, County Clare is still quite an attractive option. This is how you market your extremely clean but fairly average and pretty out-of-the-way spare room, people! €59 a night and with great views it’s kind of a no-brainer.

 4. The Gate Lodge

 


The Gatelodge

Killoscully, Tipperary, Ireland

 

I’m not going to lie, this looks like something out of ‘The Secret Garden” movie. An entire charming country property available to rent complete with stone walls, surrounding coutry walks, and a stuffed pheasant in the window. Only a stone’s throw from Shannon airport and Lough Derg in Killoskully, Tipperary, this looks like a great option if you’ve forgotten your wellies – they seem to be included too!

 5. The Wagon.

 


Kittyscamping cosy accommodation

Kinvarra, Galway, Ireland

 

For anyone who grew up watching ‘Into The West’ with Gabriel Byrne (classic 90’s Irish movie involving a boy and his mythical horse) this traditonal gypsy wagon accommodation will be like taking a step back in time. Stationary wagons accomodate up to 4 people and are situated in a campsite near the Burren, which also welcomes other forms of mobile accommodation. Shared BBQ and other amenities make for a real community feel. If that wasn’t enough they’re also situated close to the Burren and other tourist attractions, in case you didn’t want to, I don’t know, just live there and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. This looks so cosy I don’t think I’d ever leave.

 6. The Cottage

 


Idyllic views in Connemara, Galway.

Oughterard, Galway, Ireland

 

If it’s views and typical Irish scenery you’re after, this ‘Idyllic’ property in Oughterard, Connemara has you covered. Still only 5 minutes from the town, the attached images and reviews seem to live up to the detailed descriptions and honestly look absolutely gorgeous. Yeh. Seems like a solid choice.

7. The Self-Contained POD.


Self Contained POD

Clare, Clare, Ireland

From Wonderly Wagon to a futuristic take on the same nomadic lifestyle – this ‘Self-contained POD’ in County Clare allows for comfort and style in a kind of festival ideal that will just make your heart ache for the ‘glamping’ area of Stradbally and Electric Picnic – only 3 months to go!

6 Reasons to Visit the West of Ireland

How the West was is Fun – 6 Reasons to Visit the West of Ireland

1. Shop Street, Galway City

Shop-Street21

Romantic images of ‘The Magical Ireland’ aside, Shop Street in Galway really is the Diagon Alley of Irish muggledom (yes I did just use a fictional place as a means of comparison- what of it). This narrow, winding, and densely populated street is lined with everything from high street brand names to Eastern European market stalls (on a Saturday), buskers of every kind imaginable, and even several pubs where anything less than a 24-hour live-music céilí is classed as a ‘quiet day’. (Taaffe’s and Tigh Cóilí). The cobblestones have been known to cause several tipsy topples and are best navigated in comfortable, non-heeled shoes!

2. Cliffs of Moher

 I couldn’t have made this list without featuring probably the most recognisable chunk of land in the country down in the chinstrap of Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher are eerily parallel to sea-level and rise up out of the waves as steady and firm as a perfectly layered cake – green icing and all. On a good day, it’s windy. On a bad day, it’s downright perilous…But still very very pretty. Multiple outer layers recommended, and no filters necessary! #OneForInstagram

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3. The Aran Islands

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Ireland’s answer to the island-hopping backpacking jaunts of Thailand and SouthEast Asia, pack your kit bag and a couple of cans and catch the ferry out to Aran, for as satisfying a retreat as any pristine, sandy, ‘untouched’ beach in Indonesia could provide. You won’t find any coconuts, but rumour has it there’s a rock somewhere on Inis Meáin in the shape of Leonardo Di Caprio’s head….

           More on the Aran Islands here

4. Connemara

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From Spiddal, to Ros a Mhíl, to ‘lock-ins’ and incomprehensible local dialects (even some English speakers), Connemara really is an experience that most Irish people fail to appreciate completely. Stunningly barren landscapes roll into sudden clusters of habitation, the local pub the central hub of communication and shop attendants so charmingly Irish that they marvel at the foreign intrusion of ‘a mango, no less!’ onto the fruit shelves of the local grocers. Gaeilge is actively spoken here and resides as harmoniously alongside Bean an Tí (woman of the house) as the delicious home-baked goods in our tums after a windswept walk on the coral beach in Carraroe.

5. Lahinch

lahinch_surf_school

Although we’re a far cry from Bali’s Batu Balong beach or the warm, attractive swells of more tropical climates, the West Coast of Ireland has been dubbed a surfer’s paradise and boasts several ideal spots such as Lahinch for a days’ floundering in the Wild Atlantic Sea. If you’re like me and fail fantastically at being tied to a large piece of polystyrene and fiberglass, numerous schools and lessons are available, Lahinch Surf Experience being among the most noted. Further up the West Coast, Mullaghmore in Sligo has even been featured in Lonely Planet’s ‘Best Spots to Catch a Big Wave’. No fear of the waves stealing your swimsuit here, as inch-thick wetsuits are a necessity, yet still might not protect from teeth-and bone-shattering temperatures – it’s gonna be COLD.

6. Regular Direct Buses to/from Dublin

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This is the clincher for many tourists to Dublin who may be interested in taking a trip West. Both Citylink and GoBus operate a non-stop hourly service leaving from Dublin Airport and the city, at extremely affordable prices. Comfy, efficient, and guaranteed to get you there within the 2 1/2 hours’ promised time.If you’re lucky you might even get a plug socket!

If that’s not enough to get you itching to explore the West of Ireland, check out these top budget Air B’n’B listings available now! 

Useful Links

Lahinch Surf Experience
Tig Cóilí
Taaffe’s Bar
The Cliffs of Moher
Aran Island Ferries
Trá an Dóilín Carraroe
Wild Atlantic Way
Citylink
Gobus

Bashful Balinese Biking!

Rumbling to life below me, my dusty, metal, fully-unleaded steed for the day surges eagerly forwards like a particularly strong bulldog just after catching a glimpse of his dinner.
Woah. That’s powerful.
I’ve pulled in to one of the many roadside ‘re-fill stations’ visible every kilometre or so along the country roads in Bali – (can you call them country roads when they’re the only roads around? ) signalled by a bookshelf populated by rows of upturned Absolut Vodka bottles filled with a mysterious yellowy-gold substance.
Petrol, obviously.
Usually these ‘garages’ are merely the front garden water-feature of the vendors’ house, and it’s not unusual to see small children playing with spare motorbike parts in the dusty gravel beside their parents’ work station – in this case a faded plastic garden chair and carefully bookmarked porno magazine. Great!
“Petrol?!”
Dropping a clearly unfinished plate of food to the ground, he’s up and jumping to assist before I’ve even tried to remove my helmet, gesturing enthusiastically to the selection of fine liqueors behind him. That’s the Balinese for you.
I nod encouragingly towards my newly acquired bike, hoping he’ll do a girl a favour here and know exactly where the tank is and how to fill it.
Because I sure don’t.
He watches, perplexed as I pretend to rummage in my bag for change.
“I just got it!” I try, sheepishly, letting on again that this isn’t the first time I’ve ever had to fill a moving vehicle with fuel. As he reaches for a vodka bottle, I straighten up and decide to play it cool.
“Make it a double!!”
I laugh at my own hilarity, exaggerated in the heat and reddening shame of my situation – I’m clearly not the cool indie-surfer biking chick I’m letting on to be. I should have just stuck to my yoga mat and pedal-bike.
This humour is entirely lost on my new friend, however, as he blankly holds out the bottle for me to continue.
“Ummmm…yes….petrol..”
I prod at several buttons. Nothing.
Flick a switch.
Nothing.
Meanwhile, Petrol Pete’s gap-toothed grin widens, and the petrols’ urine-coloured hue gets a worrying physical manifestation.
“First time?” He chuckles.
With ease, he flicks up the seat and twists a nozzle that clearly states “FUEL TANK” in very large (and English) letters. I laugh nervously.
“New bike! Y’know yourself! – Terima Kasih!”
Irish wit aside and rusty Balinese to boot, the deed is done in a matters of seconds and I hand over several withered bank notes. He then stands back with a smug grin and arms folded as if waiting for an amateur street performer to reach an unattainable punch line.
Here we go.
I truly deliver, surging forwards ungracefully, stirring up dust with my dragging heels and knocking into several bushes and innocent plants along the way. I regain balance briefly only to lose it again to the forces of my other side like an inflatable Mr. Blobby in the wind. Eventually finding the equilibrium through acceleration, I glance back quickly to see the man’s entire family outside the tiny dwelling pointing and chuckling together, shouting out in amusement;

“Hati hati!!”

A Night on The Nile

 

 

After a whirlwind of goodbyes at Ndeeba School in Kayunga, a rural farming village in Central Uganda, our bus driver swept us away amidst swarms of students cascading against the sides of the bus to give their thanks.
Some waved. Some leapt excitedly to the windows, delighted at the momentary distraction from classes and ensuing chaos. Some cried.

As we outpassed the last sprinting straggler, shoes long discarded and arms swinging frantically as if on hinges, I couldn’t help but wonder what was coming next – each step further into Africa had truly blown me away with its beauty and natural raw power.

A mystery location awaited us at the end of our volunteer positions, and after a brief stop in Jinja, the bus chugged wearily to a dusty standstill along the banks of the River Nile. Here we discarded everything we owned, save a single towel and change of clothes each. Somewhat baffled, we followed orders and left our luggage amidst the now familiar scattering of red dust that finds its way sneakily into the very crevices of your being wherever you go in Uganda. It even lay in the ridges of the wooden benches on the boat we boarded, and in the sun-bleached lifejackets we placed over our heads.

Following days in the sweltering heat and confined compound of the school in Kayunga, the exhilaration of being exposed to the ‘sea’ breeze was akin to quenching a prolonged and exaggerated thirst – a sensation we were also now familiar with. Passing ‘Welcome to Lake Victoria’ signs bobbing uncertainly on anchored buoys along the way, our amazement only extended further as the driver pointed encouragingly with a toothy grin to a tiny island up ahead.
‘Samuka Island. Yours for tonight.”
An entire island?

The single wooden jetty wobbled precariously as we leapt out, and led to a steep set of steps crawling carefully through some of the most exquisite plants and flowers I’ve ever laid eyes on. Each step further into the deserted plains at the top and towards the solitary visible building seemed to break some unspoken rule – the grasses exhaled flocks and flutters of birds I hadn’t noticed, drawing my gaze skyward and to a view of my first African sunset.
This was swiftly followed by the most peaceful night’s sleep I’ve ever had in a tent.

Awakening before dawn to tentative chirping of hundreds of invisible resident birds around us, I proceeded to climb a viewing tower towards the East of the island.It started off slow – a definite brightness in the distance, complimented by a rising cacophony of chattering and squawking around us. By 6.15am, the colours on the horizon had formed a pinky-blue kind of eerie hue, with an orange glow blending up behind them into a stunning orb of light that rose higher and higher with astonishing speed – by 6.30 the sun had fully risen, and fishermen on tiny gondola-boats were bathed in a fresh warm light as they skillfully trawled the calm sea for their morning catch.

What Happens in Singapore…Stays in Singapore

….until I blog about it.

There’s something I haven’t yet admitted to anyone ever about my ‘trip’ to Singapore. Something I’ve kind of just neglected to include in the recounting of the time I spent there. It’s nothing bad, nothing you wouldn’t expect from an easily distracted and excitable first-time solo-traveller…but it’s just a little bit embarassing.

To give us context, I’ll make it clear that I visited the city as part of a tour group which left from Changi airport (the most amazing airport known to man) during a ridiculous 20-hour stopover, promising to have us back in time to make each person’s individual connecting flight, regardless of which of the 3 massive and maze-like terminals they were departing from.

Beginning to see any flaws in the plan yet?

I hopped on the bus all the same, excited at the extra stamp in my passport and at the prospect of seeing a city which had not been on my original itinerary at all. I spent most of the traffic jam on the way to the main highway (look at me using fancy words for a big road!) deep in conversation with the mother and daughter of a delightful Chinese family, on holiday from Beijing and, like me, passing time on their stopover as they headed towards Kuala Lumpur.

Singapore’s orderly and functional traffic, rules of the road, basic rights of way and cleanliness were immediately obvious and an absolute blessing to experience after the madness of Cambodia and Vietnam. I gasped in wonder as a line of cars ACTUALLY STOPPED when a traffic light turned red, and flat-out gawped as a traffic warden, no less, was heeded as he stood bravely in the middle of the junction a little further on, hi-vis jacket almost rendered unecessary as the vehicles slotted in forwards and backwards and around him with their Sim-like precision and politness.

In fact, Sim-like is exactly how I’d describe Singapore. Sim-like and HOT. Swelteringly, stiflingly, breath-catching-in-your-throat kind of hot that no degree of near-nakedness can relieve. I’d gone from shivering uncomfortably in my flimsy white kafkan shirt and tiny denim short-shorts through several air-conditioned airports, to continuosly fanning myself and exhaling with puffed-out cheeks like a pregnant or menopausal lady caught mid-contraction or hot-flush – kind of ironic how those two things work in comparison to one another. Either way, one degree away from the equator is not where I’d expected to find myself spending the evening, nevermind in a city so vastly populated with sparkly lights and high-rise buildings shaped like Star Wars battleships.

It’s no wonder I got distracted.

Our enthusiastic guide, another soul native to Beijing who dubbed himself Mr. T., (‘Call me Mista’ T”!), epitomized the practicality and simple cheerful nature of many of the other Chinese, Malaysian and Singaporean people I had met already and was yet to encounter. His efforts to animate the slightly sterile air-conditioned interior of the unecessarily enormous tour bus genuinely made me laugh and added hugely to my enjoyment of the tour, as he randomly exclaimed things like ‘Oho!!!” and ‘Olé Olé Olé!!” after each description of and proud introduction to the locations we visited – completely out of context to the information he was narrating, and at times entirely sporadic.

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This is what I loved about Asia. There were a lot of things I did not understand, and a lot of what I did understand was so randomly unrelated to the actual context of where I was or what I was doing at the time that it would catch me unawares and throw me completely off-course and away from whatever I was actually focusing your attention on. Like right now. Where was I? Oh yes.

Singapore.

Mr. T’s energy reminded me of a cartoon character, and I found myself the only group-member participating in his guessing games as he posed impossible questions about the city to gage our knowledge of it – or possibly just to recite lines he had learned in ‘tour-guide training’ – it was difficult to tell for sure.
‘Who can tell me what percentage of Singaporeans are property owners?! Anybody? Nobody? Going once…olé! Going twice…olé! Goi-…Yes?”
‘65%?!!”
My random contribution was met with an emotionless stare from a French lady sitting opposite me as I looked to her jokingly for support, and an expressionless Dutch-looking guy with a camera behind cleared his throat awkwardly.
‘Oho!!! ‘berry close, ‘berry close! But, another guess?”
At least Mr. T had my back.
‘90%!?”
This time the smiley mother from the Chinese family chirped up, and gave me a slightly robotic yet jolly high-five when Mr T.’s immediate reaction to her answer made us all jump.
‘Olé olé olé!! We have a winna’!!! Hupp’ah!!’

Ignoring the distinct lack of enthusiasm from every other passenger on board, myself and the Chinese lady laughed and clapped along with him, our delight and amusement at our guides’ ‘acting’ skills and excellent English evidently either not shared or completely lost on our fellow passengers. The lady even gestured over to her husband and daughter, who were sat on the opposite sides of the bus to her in their own individual seats, cameras pressed to the glass of the bus as we passed several impressive looking buildings outside. I turned my attention outwards, as the bus lurched around a corner, and stopped rather suddenly in an orderly queue of traffic.
Comedy on pause, Mr. T suddenly became very serious.
‘Please be kind and do not stand up in the bus. I do not wish to stop at hospital.’
The Chinese father sat down after a few seconds as his wife translated solemnly.

The Singaporean adherence to safety measures and rules of the road became evident then as every slight movement was monitored and commented on in an almost joking manner, yet with an element of seriousness behind it. As we passed several other landmarks and more cameras were unfolded from the depths of hand-luggage, Mr. T was forced to repeat his request that we not move from our seats, and ‘please to be careful as in Singapore we have no insurance over who comes on tour and you must pay yourself if something happens.’ That put me in my place.

 It was getting dark as we neared Gardens By The Bay, visible from a distance as a futuristic mini-city of 50-foot high ‘Supertrees’ laden with multicoloured fairy lights and interspersed with connective bridges akin to something from Lorien, or the world of Avatar. Only a few days previously I’d visited the natural beauty of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, and so this dream-like area of man-made ‘forest’ seemed even more alien to observe. Singapore is so organised it has even orchestrated the construction of its own forest! I thought, half in awe and half dubious at how artificial it all seemed. Still, what I could see from the bus was extremely beautiful and I was itching to escape the chilly air-conditioned interior and get exploring for myself.

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 Before we could do so however, Mr. T. laid out some strict rules of thumb.
‘Follow me to the entrance. At the entrance, I will point you in the direction of the gardens. From there, you will have freetime. Freetime will depend on our time of arrival. I will give time to meet back at the information desk and if you are not there at this time we will leave without you.’
Straight up and honest, I thought. I like this place.
‘In Singapore, we are punctual. We stick to time schedule and do not deviate.’
Fair enough, I thought again. I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t a relief to finally have some sort of order and reliable structure after becoming accustomed to the mere arrival of any form of public transport in Vietnam or Cambodia being a luxury – an hour after OR before the ‘expected time’ being almost customary. You just had to go with it.

 Singapore, however, is extremely different. Rigid rules, strict instructions, simple, basic guidelines to follow, and the entire city seems to function simply and effectivly. Mr T.’s description of the eco-friendly power-generating systems and recycling features were refreshing; so futuristic and straightforward that I genuinely did feel like I’d landed in Simville and was now a contributing member of a society so organised that stepping a foot out of line would be punishable by incredulous stares and unabashed Asian mutterings. Which it was.

Gardens by the Bay was incredible. As it was nearing Christmas, we got lucky in that the night we attended the park was the night they turned on the Christmas lights and had a special display for visitors. I entered the maze of towering Supertrees, Christmas lights merely adding to the fantastical display of colours and twinkling around me. The Supertrees were akin to giant versions of the dandelions we used to pick as kids to blow away their seeds. Only the seeds were still there. Each seed contributed to the constellations of multicoloured sparkling taking place above my head, and the low murmur of tourists all gazing skywards was interspersed with the first Christmas music I’d heard all year, along with everyone apologising for stepping on one anothers’ toes as we all gawped at the roof of the ‘forest’ above.

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I was taking pictures without looking at what I took. I was closing my eyes as each new song came on, brought back to a childhood where sparkly lights and Christmas music were enough to cure any kind of bad feelings or negative emotions. I was floating amidst the starry darkness, silently balancing upon the platforms of language barriers existing between the multitudes of tourist nationalities standing and wandering blindly around me, all murmuring incomprehensibly, yet focused upwards as one mass of human energy, in awe of pretty lights and the ironic juxtaposition of nature with our own technological advancment. The lights flashed in time to the music playing, and regardless of the artificiality of it, I was completely under the spell of the beauty of the Supertrees. It was like a movie. It was like a dream, even more so when I considered how not one single person was familiar to me here – I was completely alone, wandering through this sea of people and lights and music and life

 It’s no wonder I lost the group.

 I hadn’t seen them since entering the park, that much I knew for sure.
Not to worry, I thought, still in my blissfull, floaty state of contentment; I just have to find the information desk. There’s still loads of time.
So I wandered some more.
I wandered and took pictures and guessed the languages people were speaking, basking in the independence and strength I felt at having taken myself this far. The park was surprisingly large, and even though the lights were everywhere, it was difficult to identify specific buildings, turns, or pathways.
I went back the way I’d come (or thought I had), turned a few corners around trees I thought were familiar, using the battleship-skyscraper as a landmark; followed other tour groups down turns that seemed they’d lead to an exit of sorts but which actually brought us on to further ‘gardens’ and yet more inviting lights and music.
In short, I ended up completely and utterly lost.
At first it didn’t dawn on me just how alone I was – my larger backpack had gone on to Bali, bypassing Singapore completely. Here I was, one small backpack of hand-luggage and a duty-free bag of Cambodian Christmas tree decorations, wandering completely alone through an unfamiliar city, no physical money to speak of save a couple of thousand Vietnamese Dong which was utterly worthless here, and no knowledge of the language around me – no card or bus number of the tour I’d been with, no actual concrete evidence to place me in Singapore at all save a crappy ‘visitors’ visa’ stamp on my passport and my fellow tour mates’ eyewitness accounts…and they didn’t even know my name.

 I slowly began to panic, my brain irrationally jumping to the worst conclusions; picturing the reports of ‘Irish girl missing in Asia, last-known location in a fictional fantasy-land of flashing lights and trees and purpley-green dandelions…’
A few deep breaths calmed me.
No. Everything would be fine. Just find the information desk.
So I did. Wrong one.
Find the other information desk.

I tried. I really did. I found what I thought was the desk we’d agreed upon. No sign of anyone recognisable. No Mr. T.. No rude Dutch man with his camera larger than my head. No happy Chinese lady with her quiet husband. By now it was five minutes past the time we’d agreed to meet to return to the bus. A whole five minutes.
‘Hey!!!”
A shout came from behind. ‘You! Curly hair!”
It was the rude French lady from the bus. She hurried over to me and grasped my hand, and instead of being relieved to see her, her anxious stance made me actuely aware of how late it was. I could immediately tell she was equally as lost as I had been. She glanced around behind her and I recognised a young Vietnamese girl also from our bus hurriedly following her, looking even more lost than I had just felt and apparantly scared shitless; her English proved just about as advanced as my Vietnamese.
‘She’s lost too.’ Said the French lady in a thick accent. ‘She is very scared. She has never been away from home before’. Not even a ‘Hello! Thank god I found you too!”
Ah God. Okay. Time to sort this.
As I smiled at the girl and asked her name in a friendly manner, her eyes filled with tears as she glanced around the mass of incomprehensible tourists wandering the gardens in the dark. I empathized somewhat, but suddenly the fear of being ‘lost’ was replaced by irritation.
‘We’re only 10 minutes late!” I exclaimed, secretly relieved to no longer be alone, yet really just a bit put out that they’d actually left without us. How could Mr. T. have done this to me!?
‘Maybe we…wait? Maybe they return for us?” the French lady said hopefully.
Even as she said it I raised my eyebrows in disbelief.
“Yeh…yeh maybe.”

So we waited a couple of feet away from the information desk we all agreed was the one we’d separated at.
Ten minutes ticked into fifteen. Twenty. I didn’t want to be the one to point out the obvious, but someone had to.
‘I don’t think they’re coming back for us’.

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I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation, though Vietnamese girl and French lady could not have looked less entertained. How typical of me, I thought. Surprisingly ok with where I found myself, I raised my eyebrows and turned to face the exit.
Sure look, at least I’m not by myself.
‘Have you any money?” I enquired of my two unlikely and mismatched companions, one standing frowning at the world around her, and the other clutching tightly on to a schoolbag laden with badges of the red and yellow Vietnamese flag.
Vietnamese girl smiled awkwardly and shrugged.
‘I’ll take that as a maybe’.
“I have card.”
French lady to the rescue.
“Ok so, I guess we’ll just have to find our way back to the airport. I don’t know what the next stop on the tour was!”

Somehow I found myself the leader of the group, following signs in English out towards the entrance we’d come through only hours previously as part of an ignorant group of tourists. I felt less like a tourist now, and more of a character in a video-game – ‘Find-the-Taxi-rank” being my predominant quest to complete.
The heat was becoming unbearable at this stage, even though night time was well underway. Our proximity to the equator meant that the temperature was not likely to drop below 25 degrees, even in the middle of the night. It was a dead-heat that would be exhausting to experience even in a less-stressful situation. I managed to find a taxi-rank alright, but finding a driver who would take a French bankcard and drop us to three separate airport terminals happily proved another difficult feat.

Eventually after long wait and dealing with a lot of stares at our mismatched group-appeareance, we sat in silence in an organised traffic jam with a Malaysian driver; four completely different nationalies and backgrounds all brought together somehow in this impossible metropolis of lights and bizarrely strict regulations. I actually didn’t mind the French lady too much, who relaxed somewhat as we assured we were safely en route back to the airport and she told me she’d definitely be having a drink on her flight to relieve the tension.
I was merely proud of myself for having resolved the situation without panicking too much, and secretly extremely satisfied when Maria (French lady’s name) refused to take the 5 dollars of expendable currency I had found in my purse from me.
“I’d have been lost without you. Keep it!”
Well, that was nice of her.

As we went our separate ways back at Changi airport, each of us having returned in time to make our flights well in advance, I settled down to spend the remainder of my wait safely in the familiarity of a comfortable Starbucks’ armchair. Some things never change.

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Indonesian Company….Ubud & The Yogabarn

Is that the hum of a juice blender I hear or the Om of the latest yoga class finishing up?

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Chances are strong it’s either one. As I sit here in the Yogabarn in the heart of Ubud, Bali, in the middle of monsoon season with the rain pelting down on the bamboo and banana leaf- awning overheard, I can’t help but wonder at myself and at how far I’ve actually come in the past few months. Not just physically and in the ‘other-side-of-the-world’ sense, but mentally, spiritually, metaphysically…I’ll stop before I get too airy fairy altogether.

Up until now my blog has served as a way of keeping track of my journey – my literal journey, starting in Cambodia and continuing on up through Vietnam, all the way back down again and through a painful yet fascinating 30-hour stopover in Singapore as I headed on towards Indonesia. I’ve documented various aspects of places I’ve travelled, aspects of travelling alone, travelling with a group, travelling as someone who never thought she’d be able to and praciticing yoga along the way, whilst also trying to be funny and lighthearted in whatever way I can to keep people at home engaged and informed, instead of merely using the blog as a platform to show-off pictures and stories of faraway lands and living through the medium of social-media ‘likes’.

Since arriving in Bali, however, I haven’t posted a single thing. Zilch. Zero. Less than that. I’ve yet to string a sentence together to sufficiently describe this place; the atmosphere; the people; the food; the attitude and general way of living; the sheer contentedness and ease and peace of mind I’ve felt….even this description falls short. I don’t even know where I’m going with any of this.

Do I have to be going anywhere? Bali has shown me that I don’t. Yoga in Bali has helped me call this into question, and realise that instead of constantly looking forward, aiming to get somewhere, do something, be something and somewhere other than what and where I am right now, I have every right and capability to occupy my current space, to be where and who I am in each moment and to stop wishing otherwise.

I’m here, I’m now, I’m content… that’s all I can be sure of.

After spending a week at Serenity Eco-Guesthouse and Yoga, I genuinely didn’t want or feel the need to leave Canggu and the surrounding areas in any way. The three main beaches and surfing spots I grew to love are easily accessible via various narrow, windy streets that are best navigated by motorbike, which are available to rent from reception at Serenity and also from a huge array of places along the mainstreets. I would happily have stayed there exploring as I did every day after my yoga class, swim, or surf lesson, settling in different chillout spots and cafés for the remaining two weeks of my travels, yet Ubud and the Yogabarn were calling, as so many of my recent new aquaintances and Google Search results had recommended.

Ubud is…the Templebar of Bali. Without the booze. The ‘creative’ and ‘artsy’ centre of the small island is renowned historically for it’s temples, arts and crafts and traditional fare, yet more recently for it’s yoga, holistic, and healing retreat centres, the more expensive of which embody everything you’d imagine from a soul-searching American tourist desperate to follow Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat. Pray. Love. kind of spiritual path in a tendency to lean towards the excessively naff and moneymaking kind of superficiality.

That being said, the Yogabarn is actually the most incredible place I’ve ever stepped foot in. For any yoga practitioner (I still find it difficult to use the word ‘yogi’ without thinking of Star Wars), no visit to Bali would be complete without at least coming to see it. The grounds themselves are enormous, and have a commune-like atmosphere and positive, healthy vibe that is honestly as infectious as the chants and repetitive mantras I encountered in my first Kirtan Yoga session the other day (more on that experience later). This variety in itself is one reason to visit and stop in for at the very least a class or two, the going rate to stay here being slightly overpriced for anyone on a budget such as mine. Again however, I seem to have struck lucky in my choice of accomodation. Despite the lack of wifi in Detri Inn hostel, it’s cheap, cheerful, clean, and more importantly is situated literally twenty metres away from the entrance to the Yogabarn, a happy accident that I still refuse to believe happened by chance.

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The Yogabarn restaurant Garden Kafé is a must to try during any stay here too, every single option packed to the brim of the coconut-bowl servings with nutrients and health foods so fresh you nearly have to clean the organic compost from them yourself. Atman Café located a few minutes walk away too is also an extremely delicious and yet again healthy option, and has totally revolutionized the way I think about porridge for good – something I genuinely never thought could ever happen. I’ll be returning home with a wealth of knowledge on making healthy, raw and vegetarian dishes aswell as new ideas and motivation to make them.

I feel Serenity Guesthouse in Canggu was also a gold mine of a find accomodation-wise, as it included everything and more that the Yogabarn in Ubud has to offer, at a fraction of the price, whilst also providing a balanced choice of nightlife versus retreat and holistic medicinal pracitices, classes, and information all within walking and biking distance of a beautiful beach. Honestly, the only reason I left Canggu was to experience Ubud, and I’m already looking into ways to get back there…

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I leave Ubud in the morning to meet a family member down in Seminyak, and while I’ll be sad to leave the soothing and medatitive environment that is my current proximity to the Yogabarn, I’ll be sure to take with me the lessons and experiences I’ve had there and around the Monkey-laden streets and lively centre of Ubud. Until then….

Useful Links
Serenity Eco Guesthouse & Yoga
The Yogabarn Ubud
Yogabarn Garden Kafé
Atman Kafé Ubud Facebook

Ar Thóraíocht Taistil – Fánaíocht le Ho Chi Minh

***Leagan Béarla faoi (English Version below)***

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‘Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost…..”….Bhí mise!

Fánaíocht fánaíocht fánaíocht. ‘Sé an t-aon rud a dhéanaimse na laethanta seo. Níor thosaigh mé amach le plean faoi leith. Níl aon rud faoi leith bainte amach agam go fóill seachas meas níos láidre ar mo chuid scileanna loingseoireachta agus cumais féin, agus freisin an t-eolas go bhfuil mé go breá in ann aire a thabhairt dom fhéin agus mo bhealach a dhéanamh go dall (nó bodhar) trí chuinsí nach bhfuil leagtha amach go cinnte romham.

Tuigim go maith freisin agus airím na rudaí beaga sa bhaile – frása a usáidtear i bhfad ró-(Ho Chi) mhinic(!) ach faoi láthair comh fíor domsa gur féidir liom an t-aistear abhaile a shamhlú agus dinnéar na Nollag le fataí breá na hÉireann os mo chomhair a bhlaiseadh cheana féin – is i bhfad ó rís agus soy sauce a togadh mise! (#Notions)
Cairde réidh le casadh tar éis téacs scioptha i ndiaidh na hoibre; bia réidh le hollmhú sna cófraí; nósanna coitianta; ranganna íoga le freastal orthu agus coinní rialta nach bhfagann mórán le bheith buartha faoi ó thaobh athruithe gan fógairt; córas taistil a bhfeidhmníonn sách maith agus caighdean slándála nach dtugann cúis imní ar bith d’germaphobes ar nós mé fhéin…leanann an liosta ‘home comforts’ ar aghaidh. Ach fós, is láidre an maitheas ná an t-olc leis an gcineál taistil, slí bheatha féin-cruthaithe seo, agus mar sin is féidir liom glacadh leis níos fearr anois agus é a shlugadh siar, mar a deirfeá. Níos tábhachtaí ná haon rud eile anois ná gur féidir liom sult a bhaint as na ‘droch’ rudaí freisin, seachas díreach iad a fheiceáil mar gnéithe a bhfuil orm cur suas leo.

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Turtle Tower (yep, sin an t-ainm atá ar!) i lár Hoam Tiem Lake

 

Is príomhchathair Vítneam í Hanoi a bhfuil tréithe cosúla aici le roinnt príomhcathracha eile atá feicthe agam, sa chaoi is nach bhfuil an iomarca deacrachtaí ann í a thrasnú…tuigim go bhfagann an pictiúir atá in éineacht leis an bpóstáil seo a mhalairt le tuiscint, ach thug ár mbrú (Drift Backpackers’ Hostel) léarscáil dúinn (comh maith le bricfeásta agus beoir saor in aisce!) a bhí sonraithe go maith agus a chuir go mór lenár gcúpla lá ann. Níor chaith muid pingin ar iompar taistil an t-am uilig is muid ann, agus fós d’éirigh linn na pointí spéise is mó sa chathair a fheiceáil agus a aimsiú, ar nós Hoan Kiem Lake (Sword Lake), leis an Turtle Tower agus Huc Bridge a mhaireann ann ón Ming Dynasty, iarsmalann Ho Chi Minh, iarsmalann Staire, agus Airm Hanoi, agus Mausaleum Ho Chi Minh (sa phictiúir). D’éirigh linn teacht ar an ‘Bia Hoi’ san oíche freisin, le cúpla deoch ‘al fresco’ i measc na sluaite daoine áitiúla ag stanadh orainn ach ag baint sult as an oíche, muid uilig inár suí ar stólanna beaga plaisteacha ‘nós na cinn a bhí againn sa gháirdín sa bhaile is muid óg, a bhí mar dréimirí dúinn don doirteal sa leithris.

Theip orm teacht ar an studio íoga a chonaic mé ar líne, ach ní gan iarrachta ar mo thaobhse a tharla sé- chaith mé uair a chloig ar fánaíocht thart timpeall an cheannscríbe a leag Google Maps amach dom, ag cuartú in aisce an Zenith Yoga Café nach bhfuil ar an bhfód a thuilleadh, de réir dealraimh. Is ar éigin a d’éalaigh mé ó roinnt mná ag seastáin a bhí ag díol maisiúcháin Nollag bándearga, a d’iarr mé orthu go neamhurchóideach faoin áit – arís leis an bhfánaíocht – sular éirí mé as an iarracht le seacláid te a cheannach ar an mbealach ar ais – tá sé ag éirí fuar i Vítneam! Níor cheap mé ariamh go ndeirfinn na focail sin!

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Bhí roinnt cómhráite thar a bheith spéisiúla agam le grúpaí mic léinn a bhí beartaithe i hataí, cótaí agus geansaithe móra cíbe uair a thóg ár gcosa in aice an locha muid. D’iarr siad cead orainn go cúthaileach pictiúirí a glacadh linn, cómhráite a thaifead ar ghutháin chliste agus taibléidí, agus go bunúsach labhairt leo i mBéarla go nádúrtha faoi rud ar bith – faoinár mbaile fhéin, ár nósanna, tír, agus teanga. D’inis siad liom a gcuid freisin, agus dúirt siad go raibh siad thar a bheith buíoch as an t-am a thug miuid dóibh – ach le fírinne, ceann de na rudaí is spéisiúla le tamaill a bhí ann domsa comh maith! B’iontach spreagúil an díograis a bhí acu i dtaobh foghlaim teanga, agus bhí an cur chuige díreach ceart acu comh maith – labhairt go nádúrtha le cainteoirí dúchasacha, ar bhonn neamhfhoirimiúil…d’fhéadfaimis go leor a fhoghlaim uathu!

Bheadh lá nó dhó eile an chathair a thaisceáladh go deas, toisc gur laghdaigh an fhaitíos a bhí romhainn dul i mbun rudaí a chuartú nuair nach raibh muid cinnte cén treo le tabhairt faoi, ach san iomlán fós thaitin Hanoi liom i bhfad níos fearr go Ho Chi Minh (Saigon!). Chuir sé seo ionadh orm toisc gur Hanoi an phríomhchathair, ach b’fhéidir léiríonn an chaoi go bhfeidhmníonn sé agus an chaoi go bhfuil gach rud comh héasca le loingsiú go leor i bhfábhar an teideal seo. Tá sé fós ina cíortuathail, ach cíorthuathail faoi a thuilleadh smachta atá inti!

Mar fhocal scor, tá cuma melodramatic ar an abairt seo ach caithfear a rá go bhfuil rud eicínt thar a bheith teiripiútach ag baint leis an tuiscint a aimsiú go bhfuil tú go hiomlán caillte agus leat fhéin i gcathair iomlán éagsúil agus i bhfad ón bhaile, agus teacht ar an eolas go bhfuil tú in ann do bhealach a dhéanamh ar ais go háit nó sráid aitheanta faoi leith. Cé nach raibh muinín agat ionat fhéin in aon chor, is mothúcháin thar a bheith láidir é. Cinnte, tá go leor le rá faoin gcumas agus umhlaíocht a bhaineann le ceist a chuir i gcomhair treoireacha nuair nach bhfuil an léarscáil ag obair i gceart (ní mise atá ann, I swear!!) agus tá an dorchadas ag titim go scioptha timpeall ort. Fós is fearr liom an rogha seo a choinneál mar ‘Plan B’, ach sa chás seo, airím go láidir gur fearr i bhfad an modh ‘tástáil agus earraid’ a chuir i bhfeidhm is tú ag taistil thar aon rud eile.

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Ag mausoleum Ho Chi Minh é fhéin

 

 ************LEAGAN BÉARLA *** ENGLISH VERSION 

 

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‘Not All Those Who Wander are Lost..”..I fecking was though! 

Wander wander wander. It’s all I ever seem to do these days. I set out with no specific plans. I’ve achieved no specific sense of anything just yet other than a greater respect for my own capabilities and navigational skills, and also the knowledge that I am actually perfectly able of taking care of myself and finding my way blindly (or deafly) through a lot of seemingly impossible situations. Okay, so maybe I have learned something.

I’ve also come to really appreciate the little things at home – a phrase used all too often, but so true for me at this moment in time that I can vividly imagine Christmas dinner and fine Irish roasted potatoes on the table in front of me – it’s far from rice and curry I was rared! Friends ready to meet at the drop of a text message, food ready to prepare in the cupboard, routines, yoga classes to attend and regular plans that leave little to be apprehended regarding last minute changes, functioning transport systems, general cleanliness and standards of hygiene that give those with germophobic tendencies such as my own no reason to be sent into overdrive…the list goes on. But still, the good outweighs the bad in this kind of travelling, self-induced lifestyle, and as such I’ve also learned to better ‘suck it up’, for want of a better phrase, and most importantly of all enjoy it, instead of merely enduring.

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Hanoi is a city akin to several other capital cities I’ve visited in that it it is actually fairly managable to navigate…I know the initial picture and caption in this post suggests otherwise, but our hostel (Drift Backpackers’ Hostel) provided us with a map (along with free breakfast and beer!) which honestly made our few days there seem so much easier. We didn’t spend a dollar (or dong) on transport the entire stay, and still managed to find and see some of the main attractions the city has to offer, including the Turtle Tower and silver Pagoda, the night markets, History museum, Ho Chi Minh museum and mausoleum (pictured), Women’s museum, and Bia Hoi old quarter for several beverages ‘al fresco’ – seated at night along a crowded street on tiny plastic stools like the ones we used to have in the garden and use as stepladders to reach the sink in the loo at home.

Considering the streets all have actual names, instead of numbers which don’t match up to any neighbouring street or follow any sensible sequence of address or postal code (ahem, here’s looking at you Phnom Penh..!), we actually found ourselves not needing the map to find the more local places after a day or two!

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Hidden gems and doorways around every turn...

 

I failed to find the yoga studio I’d located online, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying or any failure on my part – I wandered the 100 metre area of where Google Maps had led me searching in vain for the non-existent Zenith yoga café, asked numerous people and even ended up almost buying some tacky pink Christmas decorations just to fend off a particularly pushy vendor lady whose shop I unwittingly wandered into on a whim – again with the wandering – before accepting defeat and buying a hot chocolate on my way back. It has actually begun to get cold in Vietnam. I never thought I’d say thse words!

Fascinating conversations were had with local students wrapped up in hats, coats and scarves who approached us nervously whenever we strayed near the lake, looking to record conversations with us in English, pose for photos, and mostly hoping to maintain a sensible conversation with a native speaker for more than a few minutes. Their dedication was frankly inspiring, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking to them and exchanging knowledge, traditions, and facts about our own countries that couldn’t have been shared otherwise. They also had the perfect way of approaching language learning, which was fascinating to see in practice – speaking naturally and informally to native speakers in a casual setting. We could learn a lot from them….

I would have liked a bit longer to explore the city as I felt once we got a grip on the basic layout of the place it became an awful lot less daunting to go searching for things without knowing exactly where they were, but in general I much preferred it to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)! This surprised me considering Hanoi is the capital, but maybe it’s functionality and general heightened sense of accessibility says a lot to support this choice. It’s still chaotic, but nowhere near the rat races of Ho Chi Minh!

It sounds fairly cheesy, but there is something extremely theraputic about getting completely lost in a strange city and managing to somehow find and guide yourself back to an area of relative familiarity, taking a chance at each turn and trusting basic instincts to lead you right again. Of course there’s also a lot to be said for being able to admit defeat and ask for directions once it starts getting dark and you can no longer see the street signs or map in front of you, but I like to think of this option always as Plan B – in this case, I feel trial and error is always the best way forwards.

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At the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh himself..!