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

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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.”

10 Times Delhi Made Me Go “Wow”

’10 Times Delhi Made Me Go “Wow”‘

Wonder is a great thing.
When you embark upon a journey into the wild, or on a safari, you expect to encounter wild and wonderous things and places. You choose to dabble in the unknown. Untameable, charming, ferocious, unstoppable, beautiful, completely alien in nature, enchanting in their distance and in the depth of our misunderstanding – it’s more than just language barriers. It’s communicative, instinctual, historical, habitual, and societal contrasts ingrained deep within the very cracks of the higgledy piggledy streets and contents of the stunning architecture, pungent sewers and aromatic street food stalls alike which tumble together and simmer to the surface to serve up unique experiences and interactions and form the somehow multifunctional city of New Delhi.

 This ‘safari’, for want of a better word, has been the most daring expedition I’ve embarked on yet. People coming to ‘find themselves’ by getting unfathomably lost in an unfamiliar and almost unsettlingly diverse country as a concept in itself has led me to consider the entirety of India in terms of a wild animal that I have yet to wrap my head around and tame by establishing a firm enough grasp on it. Even just in my head. There’s just so much to it.

In an effort to portray simply the ins and outs of just how intense and incredibly humbling my first encounter with India has been so far, I’ve compiled a short list of the things which most impacted me and made me literally say ‘Wow’ (in both the good and bad ways!) as I took that first tentative step into a city more vast and untameable than even my frizzy hair after a week of camping in a field in the West of Ireland.

1. Lodi Gardens

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Talk about finding calm in the chaos. Easily the most peaceful and least crowded place I visited in Delhi, these natural gardens contrast the chaos directly outside their perimeter by boasting spotlessly clean, quiet, organised and expertly maintained pathways and flowerbeds. Seemingly a popular hangout spot for young locals and couples alike, Lodi Gardens contain some of the most beautiful plantlife and temples unspoiled by litter or the everyday madness and pollution in Delhi. Bonus points for free entry and hosting outdoor yoga sessions every Saturday and Sunday morning! #Zen

2. Cables
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Cables. Cables. Everywhere. I stopped wondering why the wifi seems to disappear whenever it rains even a little bit. Everywhere you go there are crossing wires and open sockets and fuses boasting naked electrical goods that are really just crying out for a little bit of DIY to hide their modesty! It’s the kind of thing you have to just turn a blind eye to and ignore the instinctual discomfort ingrained by years of Irish paranoia that leaving the immersion on will see you meet your end. It won’t. I promise.

3. Market Madness

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It wouldn’t be a visit to Asia without a trip to the market, and Delhi’s markets don’t disappoint! Sarojini Nagar and the Spice market were favourite of mine, but you name it, you can buy it, most likely at a hilariously injust ‘special tourist price’ that newbies regularly fall victim to – haggling is key here! Start 1/3 of the price lower and don’t be afraid to say no and walk away – 80% of the time you will be called back with a lower price!

4. Hauz Khas Village

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Central to the ‘party’ scene of modern New Delhi, this hip section of bars, cafés, and nightclubs is the place to go after dark, if you can brave the whirlwind of a tuk tuk ride there and back. Our international group of ‘mixed vegetables’ as the driver labelled us from the Madpackers’ Hostel had a brilliant night here and pushed even Indian drivers’ boundaries by piling 7 into one tuktuk on the way back ! Despite my own reservations I actually did feel able to let go and have fun – maintaining awareness in late-night situations is key though, especially for girls (has to be said!), and our ‘numbers-system’ proved effective in ensuring we stuck together at all times!

 5. I Grew it Myself

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I won’t lie here. I’ve finally realised that I can’t go to any tourist attraction in India without becoming one myself. Red hair, pale skin and freckles seem to be on the checklist of all Indian visitors to their capital city and main ‘must-see’ sights, and they are certainly not shy when it comes to asking for pictures. Besides paying the substantially lower fee for Indian visitors into all these attractions, they also get to satisfy their curiosity for pale skin and hair…I now know what it feels like to be an animal in a zoo. Funny the first few times. Gets very uncomfortable after a crowd gathers and children cry when you say no.

6. Awky Momos

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Momos are great. Everyone should try them. These ones are even vegan.

 7. Bus Station

New Delhi Bus Station at night is a raving, romping, shouting, beeping, hollering, and chaotic melting pot of humanity, the contents of which departs sporadically every 5-10 minutes for destinations all over the massive, massive country and gets replaced moments later by a new influx of bodies. The heated atmosphere added to my already heightened anxiety ahead of a 12-hour bus journey, but thankfully things cooled down as we pulled away from the hub of disgruntled passengers of all shapes and sizes clamouring to be heard over the continuos din of the incomprehensible intercom announcments. Phew. I was stressed even writing that. No picture. No time for pictures here.

8. Humayan’s Tomb and the Red Fort 

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I’ve grouped the Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb together as they’re fairly standard stops to tick off on the tourist checklist. The Tomb is like a mini Taj Mahal, which is good for those who aren’t prepared to take the day trip to Agra, but fairly repetitive for those who’ve already been. Steep entry fee for tourists also put me off!

9. Taj Mahal

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This may possibly seem like an obvious one and is technically not actually in Delhi, so I thought I’d leave it til further down in the list. The Taj Mahal does what it says on the tin. Even standing a few hundred feet from it, I found it difficult to believe it wasn’t photoshopped into my line of vision and wondered how on earth such a solid piece of beauty and representation of love could actually be real. The rain didn’t help, but it made for a funny day of singing in the rain with some new friends from Madpackers (see #10), who organised a day-trip for us to Agra and back.

10. Madpackers Hostel
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I can’t possibly write about Delhi without mentioning the Madpackers Hostel! Pranav, Mayank, and the rest of the team were honestly the most welcoming and hospitable hosts for the few days I stayed there, ready to help with any queries or struggle any of their guests had in a chilled and friendly manner. Met some amazing people and it really was a brilliant start to my time in India. Best hostel I’ve stayed at in a long time! Namasté!

 

 

Ha Long, Ha Long must we sing this song… A Beautiful Day in Vietnam

 

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If I can’t see ‘the island’ back home, I know that it’s raining. Or else, that it will be sometime in the very near future. Islands are fairly black and white in that sense.
They stay put.
Although still unpredictable, this small droplet of observant common sense derived from a fine-tuned intuition has proven more useful and informative than many weather forecasts. Strange how a place can become so familiar that you tune into it’s weather-warnings and signals as naturally as if each gust of wind were it’s very breath.

This morning, over 6,000 miles away from home, the fog is so thick that most of the boat tours out into Ha Long Bay from the mainland have been cancelled. I can’t see the ‘islands’; big chunks of grassy rock and land protruding at random from the still, grey waters like stubborn weeds or sudden video-game obstacles to be navigated – an image which makes progressive sense after the go-karting and uncontrollable chaos of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city.

 I admire our guide’s positivity. “Sun come out later”, he reassures us.
“You will see. Trust me.”
So I do.

The Northern bay of Vietnam is colder than I’m expecting. The ‘cruise’ ship’s blind persistance through the eerie silence of pre-dawn waters sends a chill down my spine, along with a twinge of regret that I failed to check the weather conditions for today. No matter. Experience has taught me that storms always lift, and that even through the most deafening downpour of rain– the islands always stay the same.
Making the most of my short time in Vietnam has meant bypassing several stops I had previously intended on, but there hasn’t been a draft of the guidelines I’ve drawn for myself where Ha Long Bay does not feature.
One thing I notice as the waves become more stable is that the sea breeze here doesn’t quite cut the skin like it does back home. The chill I’m feeling is purely due to movement – our progression through the still air the only instigator of activity for several hundred meters around us – the distance from our boat to the next stationary vessle, a ‘party boat’ still lying sleepily comatosed in the early morning haze. Several small fishing boats have passed since setting out from the docks, a familarity I can’t help but admire – it takes a special kind of storm to perturb the fishermen in the West of Ireland too.

As expected, our approach to the main attraction slowly brings clarity to the previously foggy mounds of matter. The mainland view might be good, but the towering mountains rising from the surface of the water like proud statues of Gods overlooking their kingdom are even more impressive up close. Colours saturate every glance. Pure nature, pure height, depth, and growth dwarf every man-made structure I’ve ever laid eyes on.

All attempts I’ve made at reassuring myself this trip it won’t be in vain fall overboard, as I stare in awe around me. These aren’t islands. These are natural works of art.

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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!!”

‘Hati Hati’ – Be Careful, But Be Brave – Bali

 Don’t go breaking my Bahasa!!

There is a phrase in Bahasa which can be seen written along roadsides, in bars, on billboards, on warning signs and outside shop entrances, at the foot of steep steps or hills, at the entrance to yoga studios and motorbike rental stores…basically in a hell of a lot of both public and private places, all over Bali. Not only is it written, but it’s used as an almost generic form of salutation when saying goodbye.

‘Hati-Hati’, quickly became one of my favourite things to say when I was travelling around the island, purely because it encompassed so many different meanings all at once, and still allowed me to feel as if I was speaking the local language and assimilating myself into the culture.

The phrase is used to exercise caution; to warn of imminent or potential danger; aiming to prevent difficulty or hardship, and to ultimately bring a person back to the reality of where they are and what they are doing as they hear it said.

 ‘Hati’, is the Bahasa or Indonesian word for ‘heart’. Literally translated, ‘Hati-Hati’ means ‘Watch your heart”, and can also be understood in terms of the spiritual and emotional translation as well as the physical organ – warning a person to take care where they invest their emotions, where they place allegiances and spend emotional energy.

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The use of ‘Hati-Hati’ as an everyday phrase in Bali and the surrounding areas to warn against potential physical danger or accident is where the beauty of it lies – by telling another to ‘take care’, they are not only wishing them well on their travels, but wishing a sense of emotional stability and contentment upon them too.

‘Hati-Hati’ warns to exercise caution, but to be proactive about it – not to let the fear of a potential outcome overcome the desire or ability to carry it out or achieve a desire. It encourages merely an awareness of one’s current situation, location, emotional, physical, and mental state, and really succeeds in bringing us back to the important factors of these instead of losing ourselves in the heat of the moment or anxiety about what it may potentially lead to.
Taking care, but continuing as we are. Watching our hearts, but not closing them. Just being aware.

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Potato Head Beach Club, Seminyak, Bali (FB)

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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Edinburgh for the Broke Harry Potter Fanatic! – Around the ‘burgh on 80 Pounds

Edinburgh for the Broke Harry Potter Fanatic! – Around the ‘burgh on 80 Pounds

 

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View of Caleb’s List (Scottish mountains) from Edinburgh

Having initially promised to visit Edinburgh to ring in 2016, I ended up leaving it far too late to book flights within my price range, and spent New Years’ in Kilkenny instead. Luckily I have a friend with whom I could stay in Scotland, and so Ryanair’s flash sale before Christmas allowed me to secure flights from Dublin- Edinburgh for €19.99 for a more budget-friendly weekend in January! (That’s about £15!)

Simple, right?

 Exceedingly so. The Airlink bus to and from the airport which leaves every 15-20 minutes or so was £7.50 for a return ticket, and brought me straight to my destination. While I contributed to the kitty in my friends’ flat for food and drink to last us the weekend (-£20), I still felt guilty enough about staying that I made a point to research all things Harry Potter around the city for us to do free of charge. Inspired by this post on the subject by World of Wanderlust, I happily concluded that an interesting day-tour was entirely feasible and cheap in such a dynamic and fascinating city.

Because who doesn’t love Harry Potter?

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Edinburgh Castle

The truth is that Edinburgh is an exciting and beautiful enough city to mean that any walk up down and around the cobbled streets and ancient architectural delights is sure to appeal to anyone, be they a fan of Harry Potter or not. 12528060_10153291186813483_1893488306_n

 Our first stop, The Elephant House Café, or ‘The Birthplace of Harry Potter’, has risen to fame as the spot where J.K. Rowling sat writing the beginnings of the series that came to define a generation (and my entire childhood, BA degree, the reason I did English in college, and probably the reason I’m writing this right now).

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Arguably the most obvious choice on the list, I was excited to visit this place, but in hindsight The Elephant House turned out to be a café….fairly similar to any other.

12527649_10153286889188483_1551068699_nElephants aside, the fact that J.K. Rowling once sat in there and drank a mediocre cup of coffee and presumably a bowl or two of the rather bland carrot soup is definitely the most exciting thing to have ever happened within those walls.
Coffee, Harry Potter memorabilia and fans’ scribblings on the bathroom walls, along with cute elephant statues and pictures everywhere you can look, the place sounds ideal, right? Yes, in theory. But where The Elephant House excels in reputation, decor and renown, it lacks seriously in the quality of service department. As I’ve described, the coffee itself was mediocre, and the soup only barely satisfactory for the price we paid (£8-£10). As an enormous Harry Potter, coffee, and elephant fan, the prospect of visiting this place had possibly been built up far too much for me, and I left feeling somewhat disgruntled and irritated particularly by the persistant use of the Jokerman font on everything from the sign outside to the cheaply crafted mugs for sale by the till. Still, nobody ever said it was famous for anything but its proximity to JK Rowling in the throes of writers’ inspiration. I’ve written things in worse places.

12540072_10153290315693483_280042630_nWe continued our tour down towards Greyfriars Kirk graveyard, a spooky burial ground which gave me chills down my spine even in the middle of the day – granted, Edinburgh in January is FREEZING at the best of times, but Greyfriars’ was on another level. It took us several rounds of the fairly small but hilly area to find what we were looking for – a medium-sized headstone detailing the remains of the Riddle family, the father of whom, Thomas, has unknowningly lent his name to a famous villian Who Must Not for Ministry reasons, ever Be Named. Tom Riddle, or Lord Voldemort, as those in the wizarding world have come to know him. The name on the headstone which spurred Rowling on to name the most good-looking boy in Slytherin was fairly nondescript, with nothing special to note except for the slightly more worn down pathway and footprints both leading up to and surrounding it.

Onwards from here we merely walked past the Balmoral Hotel into which Rowling supposedly checked in order to finish the 7th installment of the series, feeling more and more like we were taking a tour of Rowling’s psyche in the initial days of her inspiration and writing, rather than a tour of the magical world itself – something I for one was entirely happy to discover. I can imagine how others’ might expect slightly more obvious and tourist-directed attractions selling Potter merchandise and boasting themselves as a huge part of the series, but in all honestly, the genuine nature of this stunning city made it obvious how such inspiration and refuge had been drawn from it in the first place, and the lack of tourist extravagance was a huge bonus for me.

Unrelated to the Potter series, but beautiful all the same, we took a walk up Calton’s Hill to catch a 360 view of the city, and freeze off the remaining tips of our fingers. We also walked most of The Royal Mile, and got great views of the castle and the exterior of Camera Obscura.

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View from atop Calton’s Hill

That evening, in true cheapskate style that suited my poor purse down to the ground, we attended a house party where food and drink was supplied, and entry to the pub afterwards was free. El Barrio, a Latino pub/club proved a great evening’s entertainment with great music, cheap drinks (£5) and people alike! The Three Sisters not too far away has also proven a favourite spot on previous occasions, but one night out this particular weekend just after Christmas was more than enough to satisfy everyone!

 

A yoga class at Meadowlark Yoga (£12) the following morning and a tasty vegetarian lunch at the Forest Café (£5-£7) which caters for Edinburgh’s artistically-minded and creative cretins (ie, the biggest hipsters in Scotland), I was happy to conclude that my weekend away had altogether cost no more than around £80 pounds (flights included).

 

I spent my final 3 pounds on a hot chocolate in the airport as I left the chilly Scotland behind to return to an equally as freezing Dublin airport. All in all a great weekend and definitely extremely affordable.
But fecking COLD!!

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Happy January!

 

 

 

Useful Links:

Airlink Edinburgh
Ryanair
WOW – World of Wanderlust
The Elephant House 
The Royal Mile Edinburgh
The Three Sisters EdinburghWebsite/Facebook/TripAdvisor
Calton’s Hill Edinburgh
Meadowlark Yoga
Forest Café
El Barrio 

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..!

 

 

Oibrigh. Sábháil. Taistil. Arís. – Work. Save. Travel. Repeat.

Gaeilge *Leagan Béarla faoi – English Version underneath*

 

Oibrigh. Sábháil. Taistil. Arís.

Bailigh milliúin Dong ar do bhealach thar ‘Go’ (an ATM), agus cuirfidh sé ar aghaidh thú leis an chéad cúpla céim eile a thógáil….

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Le coicís anuas is ar nós míreanna meara de laethanta, smaointí, pleananna agus droch-ghluaiseachtaí atá an aistear seo caite againn, cuid dóibh a d’oibrigh amach i gceart, cuid eile nach raibh comh maith sin. Cluiche boird mionsonraithe de bhusanna, brúanna, modhanna taistil agus ceannscríbeanna atá leagtha amach againn dúinn féin le haimsiú atá taobh thiar dúinn agus os ár gcomhair. De réir mar a buailtear chuile chéim ar an aistear, gach bus déanta in am, sráid aimsithe, agus lóistín sroichte, airím go bhfuil éacht suntasach bainte amach againn agus neamhspleachas cosúil le turas taisce a líonadh i gceart aimsithe dúinn féin. An difríocht a bhaineann leis anois ná go bhfuil duaiseanna éagsúla ag an deiridh – bricfeasta saor in aisce nó pionta fuar ag an lóistín, radharcanna difriúla agus cairde nua spéisiúla chuile lá.

Tá sé spreagúil. Tá sé scanrúil. Tá sé luachmhar mar thaithí saoil……tá sé réadúil. Tá treoireacha gairid cosúil le seo leagtha amach againn don chéad coicís eile – treoirlíonta gairid agus dáta le bheith in áiteanna faoi leith, ach teada anuas ar sin.

Chaith muid cúpla oíche i mbaile beag stairiúil agus traidisiúnta darbh ainm Hoi An le déanaí, agus cé go bhfuil sé ráite agam cheana is muid ag teacht ar áiteanna nua ar an mbealach, bhí an baile seo mar an stop ab ansa liom go dtí seo ar an turas. Ciúin agus socair i rith an lae, na himeachtaí is mó ag sioscadh ag an aonach sna seastáin ag na céanna, freastalaí ag úsáid a gcuid Béarla teoranta le turasóirí a mhealladh earraí baile a cheannach; ‘You buy somthing?” ‘Special price for you!”, ‘No pushing here! You buy!’ (go híorónta), agus turais rialta don abhainn ag fágáil ón gcé.

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Aonach – Market

 

Tar éis an leisciúileacht agus saol ciúin i Mui Ne, bhí neart le déanamh in Hoi An, agus bhain muid sult as an deis a bheith mar ‘turasóirí’ cearta arís. Tá clú agus cáil ar Hoi An mar gheall ar na tailliúirí traidisiúnta atá lonnaithe ann, ag dul siar thar na glúinte sna clainne a maireann os cionn na siopaí beaga ar fud an bhaile. Fuair mé sciorta breá fada táilliúrtha, a leithéid de ceann a bhí feicthe agam in Topshop sular fhág mé ar phraghas €90, i gcomhair $30. Bualadh beag sa bhuiséid a bhí ann fós, ach b’fhiú é nuair a smaoiním ar sin agus ar an gcaoi go bhfuil sé táilliúrtha dom go pearsanta i Vítneam – ar fhaitíos go bhfeicfinn ar éinne eile sa bhaile é!  Cé mhéad duine atá in ann é sin a rá?!! Is buatóirí muid uilig! (Seachas Topshop!)

Níor phleanáil mé an costas breise seo ach murach é airím go mbeadh cuid den espéiris Hoi An caillte agam, go háirithe nuair a d’aithin mé go raibh gach ceann de na cuairteoirí eile ar chas muid leo san oíche ag fanacht le ceirt eadaí a bhailiú an lá dar gcionn idir culaith, gúnaí, bútaisí agus eile. (Táim sách gafa le headaí ar aon chaoi agus mar sin bhí sé cineál dosheachanta go nglacfainn páirt!)

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Siopa Táilliúrtha ‘Mrs. Sa’ – Mrs. Sa’s Tailoring

ef42fbe1-7cb7-4ba9-83ec-a3e3de46fb04Cé go bhfuil sé níos ciúine i rith an lae, is san oíche a lastar tuirne na beatha in Hoi An, go litiriúil leis na soilse agus laindéir ildaite atá le feiceáil agus le ceannach ar thaobh na sráide agus in aice na habhainn. Le hísliú na gréine lastar na soilse agus coinnle ildáite ar foluain go séimh san uisce ar thaobh na gleoiteoga beaga, agus neart earraí le n-ithe ar díol ar na sráideanna anois idir pancóga, torthaí le siúcra agus uachtar reoite. B’fhéiríní álainn iad na radharcanna agus bolaithe do na céadfaí, ag leanacht leis na turasóirí go mall síos na sráide ag blaiseadh agus ag breathnú thart timpeall orthu le hiontas, ag caint is ag druidim i dtreo na bialainne agus tithe tábháirne. Níos fearr arís ná an teas – bhí muid go breá in ann do nuair nach raibh an ghrian ag síneadh anuas orainn go trom – ba leor gúna éadrom agus flip flops le píosa taiscéaladh a dhéanamh timpeall na soilse ag margadh na hoíche.

Bhí ‘Happy Hours’ á fhógairt acu ar chuile casadh, réimse leathan a thosaigh am ar bith idir a 11am agus 12pm, le díolacháin eile agus tuilleadh oibrithe ag brú á mbiachlár agus lascainí eile orainn don oíche ar fad. Neartaigh siad seo de réir is a laghdaigh na cúplaí níos sine agus clainne óga ar ais go na hóstáin agus lóistín níos costaisí ar thaobh na habhainn, ag fágáil an bealach don slua ‘backpackers’ níos óige, mar a cuirtear orthu, nach dtógann mórán le tuineadh isteach don ‘Tiger Tiger Bar’ nó ‘Funky c07f7792-0964-4773-898e-cc7d8e43a98eMonkey‘ ar an mbealach tar éis beoir ar $0.75 a fháil roimhe sin. D’éirigh lenár bhfiontar isteach don ‘Tiger Tiger Bar’ cairde nua ón nGearmáin, Sasana, ón mBeilg, agus ón Alban a fháil dúinn, a d’fhán linn ar turas ar aghaidh don chlub is oiriúnaí don chineál oíche neamh-phleanáilte a bhí tar éis titim amach-  an ‘Why Not Bar?’ 

Meascán de cheol a bhí le cloisteáil anseo ach arís b’fhiú an turas a thógáil isteach leis an éagsúlacht pearsantaí, náisiúntachtaí agus taisteálaí uilig ag iarraidh cairde nua a dhéanamh agus spraoi a bheith acu a bhlaiseadh.

D’éirigh liom áit a fháil sa chlub do dhaoine le ‘Moto-Exhaust pipe-Burns’, de réir mar a d’aimsigh muid go raibh an-cuid againn le gortaithe ar nós an ceann a fuair mise ar mo chos os cionn coicíse ó shin anois, uilig ag stáistí difriúla den phróiséas slánaithe agus mar ábhar spéise toisc go bhfuil siad comh héasca le fáil amach anseo nuair nach nglactar le bristí gearra mar bhaol is tú ag fáil gluaisrothair ar cíos. Oíche amach iontach a bhí ann ar aon chaoi, gan smál go dtí gur thosaigh an báisteach is muid ar an mbealach abhaile – le fírinne b’athrú deas a bhí ann ón ngrian.

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‘Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”

Bhí foireann iontach cairdiúil ag obair sa mbrú inar fhán muid, Phuong Le Villa, a bhí suite go háisiúil agus go breá glan freisin. Bhí neart eolais acu maidir le turais agus modhanna taistil, agus 2 lachain gleoite a choinnigh súil amach ag an bhfáiltiú chuile oíche, a bhí muid an-mór le roimh dheireadh na cuairte!fc43a0c0-41f1-46b3-b1e7-1bceb0e1b325

Fuair muid rothair ar cíos freisin ar dollar amháin in aghaidh an lae le píosa fánaíochta a dhéanamh timpeall na sráideanna, ag seachaint na turais treoranta níos costaisí agus ag cuir dushlán romhainn fhéin in ionad teacht ar an trá mistéireach seo nach raibh fógartha go maith ar léarscáil ar bith. D’éirigh linn é a bhaint amach tamaill beag sular bhuail an teas láidir meanlae i gceart, rud a d’fhág an bealach abhaile oscailte tríd na páirceanna ríse agus droichid beaga, agus bhí orainn deifir a dhéanamh leis an ngrian nocht a sheachaint.

Fuair na céadfaí an lámh in uachtar orainn ar an oíche dheirineach nuair a thástáil muid cuid den bhia sráide – an rud ab ansa liomsa ná cáca beag déanta de fataí milse (sweet potato?), peanuts, agus coconut.

Bheadh Hoi An foirfe do saoire rómánsúil le seachtain a chaitheamh go ciúin i Vítneam, ach dúinne agus do go leor daoine óga eile ar labhair muid leo, ba leor cúpla oíche a chaitheamh ann, cé go raibh sé go hálainn. Ar deiridh, bhí brón orm an áit a fhágáil, ach ní comh brónach is a bhí mo sporrán tar éis cúpla lá a chaitheamh ag na margaí!

 

*********Leagan Béarla ******************

Work. Save. Travel. Repeat.

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Collect 1 Million Dong when you pass Go, (aka the ATM), and this will see you through to the next few rolls of the dice as you take the next uncertain leap forwards…
The past two weeks or so have been like an exciting jigsaw of days and ideas and trial and error plans that have often turned out to be the worst decisions, but at other times have pleasantly surprised us. It’s been a detailed board game of buses and hostels and modes of transport and destinations we’ve set out and reserved for ourselves to find and reach. As each step of the journey is ticked off and achieved, each bus made in time, street navigated, and budget accomodation located without too much struggle, there’s a sense of achievement and autonomy akin to successfully completing an Easter Egg or treasure hunt , only this time it’s real life and the prizes at the end are a free breakfast or cold beer at the hostel, and new incredible views and interesting accquaintences every day.It’s exciting. It’s nerve-wracking. It’s fulfilling…it’s living. The next two weeks have been planned out in a pretty similar way, a brief outline and a date to be in certain places by – but nothing further than that.

We spent a few nights in the stunningly dated and historical town of Hoi An, and although I’ve said it before on discovering new places, this town really has been my favourite stop off on our journey so far. Quiet and reserved during the day, the main activities chattering in the market stalls at the docks as the pushy vendors use their select phrases to entice Westerners to purchase many of their ‘homemade’ mass produced goods; ‘You buy something?’, ‘Special price for you!’, ‘No Pushing here! You Buy!’ (ironically), and regular river-tours departing from the docks.

dab8e589-3da8-4945-a011-39a4761e1dd5After the laid back laziness of Mui Ne, the sheer amount of things to do and see in Hoi An was amazing, and we went full throttle on the tourist clichés on our first evening and got sucked into having skirts made by one of Hoi An’s most renowned traditional tailors. It was a bit of a blow to the bank balance but definitely worth it when I consider the skirt I had made was modelled on one I’d seen in Topshop before leaving home that had retailed for about 90 euro, or something outrageous like that. I paid 30 dollars in Hoi An, it fits me to a tee and is also a uniquely crafted original piece that I won’t run the risk of seeing on someone else at home! Everyone’s a winner! (except for Topshop).

3b20fa6f-90bc-4aec-89b2-c34a931b7970It was an unplanned purchase, but considering everyone we encountered in the town seemed to have paid a visit to one of the many family-run tailors dotted here and there between the market stalls, be it for tailored suits, dresses, boots or otherwise, I would have felt like I’d missed out on a brilliant part of the experience had I not partaken (I also adore clothes and couldn’t say no, so I suppose it was inevitable really..!).

Although quieter during the day, the main walkways along the river and over the main bridge of Hoi An come alive as soon as the sun sets with an array of stunningly lit lanterns, floating candles, and even more stalls selling everything from pancakes to marinated and sugar-coated guave fruits. The sights and smells and easygoing flow of tourists wandering, tasting, talking and moving in the general direction of the restaurants and bars which line the streets is a real treat for the senses, especially considering the warm air means that even after nightfall a light Summer dress and sandles is perfect attire to explore the bright lights and pretty colours of the night markets.

751e4c36-8f17-4073-87fc-4fd5d62c867a‘Happy Hours’ abound on every corner, ranging from anywhere between 10am and midnight with specials and yet more pushy staff offering discounts and deals all day. These gain intensity once the older couples and families begin to drift sleepily back to their more expensive lodgings in the various higher end hotels, making way for the backpacker generation, easily persuaded after a few $0.75 beers to try the ‘Tiger Tiger Bar” or “Funky Monkey” along the mainstreet. Our venture to the Tiger Tiger Bar served as an introduction to some new Scottish, German, English and Belgian friends, who became out companions for the night and shared moto-taxis on to what is supposedly the most lively bar in town – the persuasively and aptly named ‘Why Not Bar?”. The music here was varied but it yet again pulled through with the wonderful mix of travellers and identities all willing to make new friends and have a good time.

I became a member of the ‘Moto-exhaust-burn Club”, as a shocking amount of fellow backpackers revealed similar burns to the one I received over 2 weeks ago now, all at varying stages of healing and the source of much disbelief at how easily obtained they are over here – uncovered exhaust pipes not proving successful partners when combined with short-legged trousers – another thing left unconsidered whilst travelling. It was honestly one of the best nights out I’ve had since coming to Asia and was only briefly tarnished by the rain on our way home – although it was welcome change to the heat we’d grown accustomed to.fc43a0c0-41f1-46b3-b1e7-1bceb0e1b325

 

Our accomodation Phuong Le Villa had incredibly friendly and helpful staff; as well as being brilliantly located and extremely clean they also offered a huge amount of information regarding tours and transportation, 2 cute fluffy ducklings keeping guard of the main recpetion area each evening, which proved popular amongst the international clientel.

We also rented rented bikes for a dollar a day and meandered around the streets, avoiding the more expensive guided tours and instead challenging ourselves one day to find the vaguely signposted beach (to be honest everything is quite vague here). We succeeded shortly before the midday heat properly hit, which meant the journey home through open rice paddy fields and over bridges was a rushed affair to limit our exposure to the naked sun.

One final trip into the town on the evening of our last day saw our senses get the better of us as we sampled some of the street food – a personal favourite and high point being the discovery of a sweet potato, coconut and peanut grilled patty-cake thing – yum!

Hoi An is honestly a dream destination for a chilled couply getaway – a few nights for us was enough, but if you were one of the many couples I observed jealously around the town with a slightly larger budget allowing for tours and more thorough exploring, I’m sure it may have proved a more fruitful experience. All in all I was sad to leave, and regret already the strain on my budget the market stalls and stunning colours everywhere have brought…!

Temples, Tombs, and Touristy Tipples – From Connemara to Cambodia

Whatever about budget accommodation and shared dorm-rooms, there’s nothing quite like being woken up to about 9 different phone alarms ringing from various corners and muffled covers of a 16-person hostel room, signalling a trip to see the sunrise behind the Angkor Wat temples. One after another, the Samsung and iPhone default alarm settings become the soundtrack to my morning in Siem Reap as I lay in wait for my own – because it surely can’t be 5am until my own device says so!?
It’s been happening all week, as our fellow travellers blindly seek their way to the bathroom in the semi-darkness to prepare for a long day of ‘being  tourists’, Siem Reap being possibly one of the earliest rising cities in the country purely for the fact that its main attraction is a daily naturally occurring phenomenon. Our turn comes on a day when I’ve already been awake for a short while; I’m an early riser anyway, and so the premature sunrise and subsequent sunset during the Winter in Asia actually came as a shock to me not so much because it always seems to be slightly earlier than you’d think, but because for once the entire population and world around me rises with me, instead of afterwards, and I don’t feel guilty or apprehensive for waking people up.

Ten minutes after I shamelessly pull the girls from a deep slumber by employing the age-old tactic of shaking them ’til they groggily tell me to stop, we’re swerving around a street corner in a rickety trailer attached to the back of an old an noisy motorbike, as our tuk-tuk driver silently traverses his morning commute down what appears to function as a one-way street before sunrise. We find ourselves unintentional participants in a rat-race of identical vehicles, all surging forwards akin to a playstation game where the goal is simply to get to the finish line first, in our bid to reach the entrance to the temples before the sun peeked it’s head above the eastern-most tower. I’ve never seen anything quite like the huge mix of families, backpackers, elderly couples, middle-aged wanderers and still-drunk party-goers who presumably haven’t slept yet but have impressively managed to find their way to the temples after pre-purchasing a ticket, all disembarking from the assortment of tuk-tuks and motorbikes that line the streets at the main entrance to Angkor. We join the throng of camera-clad sky-gazers shuffling along the pathway in the morning darkness as many drivers settle back into their vehicles with newspapers and smart phones, preparing to wait for their charges to take some pictures of a view they merely glance at as regularly as I see the Leapcard machine on Dublin Bus when I’m at home. This might not be a fair comparison, given that sunrise at Angkor Wat is ultimately slightly more picturesque than the interior of a Dublin Bus, but you get the idea.

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We all stood and looked at the sky for a bit

It’s an odd sensation as this particular days’ visitors to the temple gather in silent expectation around the little lake outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of the reflection in the water as well as the black silhouettes of the 5 towers of Angkor Wat. I hold up my camera blindly and press the button several times. I do this every couple of minutes. I’d say everyone else does too. I watch the sky change from a burning orangey-red, to a slightly brighter pinkish hue, suddenly joined by flecks of yellow and an undercurrent of purple and blue. Around me, photographers of varying levels of seriousness watch it all through the lenses of cameras that probably cause more hassle than anything to carry around, my trusty Android providing me with pictures just as good (if not better!) than some of the pictures I’ve seen online.

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Angkor Thom

Once the sun has properly made herself visible through the cracks between the Eastern towers, an anti-climactic trawl back through the crowds leads us to follow one of the many pushy vendors along the pathway inside to have breakfast at their ‘restaurant’ – various pop-up eating houses ridiculously named with the intention of enticing hungry foreigners to sit there. We follow ‘Nelly’ to his café area, passing Lady Gaga, Spiderman, Ronaldo and Harry Potter on the way, and unfortunately having to tell Micheal Jackson that we’ve received a better offer.

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Hurrah! Sun’s here

After this, it’s time to start exploring properly, and together with some Canadian friends we bump into that we’d made in Mondulkiri, we source a guide outside to bring us around the Angkor Wat temples for a cheap enough rate each, given there’s now a group of us. It proves an interesting and well-executed tour, but the heat of the sun now properly risen means that I have to cover up pronto, the lack of clouds having proven beneficial during the actual sunrise itself now frankly uncomfortable on my white freckled skin.

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Lilies and Lotus flowers in the lake

I spot various monks around the temples, some clearly sightseeing, others presumably local and going about their daily practices. One agrees to bless us and tie a red woollen bracelet around our wrists, taking specific care not to even graze the skin with the tips of his fingers as he does so – monks aren’t allowed to touch women’s flesh, the consequence of which would result in their banishment from the monkhood! Talk about extreme measures…. We finish the Angkor tour, and after a quick refreshment, this time from Harry Potter, we negotiate a tuk-tuk ride onwards to the next temple, Ankgor Thom. This one is by far my favourite temple, the stone faces and maze-like tunnels reminding me of The Road to El Dorado and providing both a fun and cultural way to spend the afternoon, not to mention plenty of photo opportunities!

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I had to stop myself calling him ‘Avatar’

Good intentions and map-reading aside, we get well and truly lost in the final temple, Ta Prohm, or ‘the one from Tomb Raider’, as it’s more commonly known.

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Cringe, but a must – Tomb Raider pic in Ta Prohm

A combination of heat, fatigue, awful sense of direction and an array of nooks and crannies to explore meant that four or five times we backtrack on ourselves and have to extract directions to the exit fragment by fragment from a security guard with extremely broken English. It’s been a long day…..but it’s only 3pm! Naps are in order, and even the breeze of the tuk-tuk ride back to the Mad Monkey Siem Reap fails to wake us up properly.

**************

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‘beatnik speakeasy’ – my new favourite bar ever

We’d arrived in Siem Reap and spent the day exploring the city a day prior to undertaking Angkor Wat, and I have to say I liked it a million times more than Phnom Penh. Not only is it cleaner, less crowded, and more catered to visitors, but it’s actually fairly easy to navigate, and I’ve felt ultimately so much safer walking around here than I had in Phnom Penh. Everything is clearly labelled, from the ‘Night Market’, the ‘Day Market’, to the neon lights of ‘Pub Street’, meaning less time spent wandering around aimlessly searching for places even tuk-tuk drivers don’t know where to find. The “Beatnik Speakeasy” was an absolute gem of a find on Pub Street, my fascination with Jack Kerouac being clearly represented on the wall inside (the actual quote I’ve been using for this blog since I began it!) along with original beatnik-inspired cocktail concoctions, and we enjoyed a happy hour tipple or three here, for once completely surrounded by other Westerners and tourists alike, and actually feeling like we could relax a bit.

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I’ve really become more comfortable with every aspect of this travelling thing now, our experiences before having felt more like pre-organised group outings, rather than independent and self-fulfilling navigation and exploration. We are so much freer to do and go where we please now, our decision to purchase visas to Vietnam being heeded on a whim and promising an unexpected twist for the next leg of our unplanned adventure.

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Angkor Selfie (standard)

With a bus booked to Ho Chi Minh city the following morning, the few nights in Siem Reap were over far too quickly, and after an evening socialising in The Mad Monkey I hastily repacked my bag with the clean laundry (hurrrah!!!) I’d finally managed to get done behind the counter, and attempted to get some much sought-after sleep.

Next stop, Ho Chi Minh City……!