Posts Tagged ‘southeast asia’

Becoming a Yogi in Bali

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bali yoga yogi indonesiaI’ve always enjoyed yoga as a casual hobby. My “practice” consisted of going to a class at the gym a few times per month. My motivation was completely physical and I rolled my eyes whenever I was in a class where the instructor started chanting. Needless to say, I was far from a yogi.

This all changed when I started going through some major life transitions. I had plans to quit my job and move across the country. Despite wanting to make this change for over a year, as the day came closer I began to question myself. I was beyond stressed. I decided it was time to get away. Maybe a weekend yoga retreat outside the city?

As I began to research my options, I realized that this city break was going to cost me a lot more than I would have expected. The average retreat cost about $500, not including transportation. I was discouraged until I found something even more surprising. For the same $500 I could spend a month doing unlimited yoga in Bali! Of course, flights were a bit more expensive than Amtrak but screw it. I booked the retreat and after quitting my job I was off!

Upon arriving at my retreat in Canggu, Bali, I definitely started to feel at peace. With ocean winds, open-air yoga studios, and a large pool to drink healthy smoothies by, how could I not? But I also started to realize that the yoga itself was not what I expected. I had assumed that the yoga would be fun and mostly for beginners. I also assumed that most of the other people at the retreat would be like me, casual exercisers who just wanted to escape life for a while. Boy, was I wrong. Nearly everyone was a pro!

My first day of yoga was exhausting. I just took one, 90-minute class (out of the 12 classes available each day) and I nearly passed out. The movements were challenging, the heat was intense, and the instructor really pushed me. In fact, he physically pushed me into positions that my body couldn’t handle. He told me that he could tell I was very flexible and I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I was not a fan of this guy.

aerial yoga retreat bali

I expected to be too sore to do any yoga the next day. I was surprised to wake up refreshed and eager to take more classes! Over the next coming weeks, I still found the classes difficult, but I was excited to push myself further and further. The instructor I hated my first day became one of my favorite people. I was starting to see physical and mental changes within me. My body could do things it never could before. I even became confident enough to try aerial yoga! More importantly, I was able to sit still and be calm, something that’s quite foreign for an anxious person like me.

Over the course of 30 days, I met inspiring yogis from around the world and kick started my own journey into spiritual wellbeing. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this in a weekend in New York.

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Langkawi, Malaysia: Phuket Without the Bros

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langkawi malaysia southeast asia beaches

When I was younger I took my first solo trip to the southern beaches of Thailand. I had a blast! Partying all night and sleeping on the beach every day was a great life. But I’m past that point in my life and it’s now sad to think that such natural beauty is wasted on those that are often too drunk to appreciate it.

In comes Langkawi: a collection of islands off the main peninsula of Malaysia and not too far from the islands of Thailand. It’s just as beautiful, but it remains peaceful and quiet. Tourism to the country and related development on the island only began in the late 1980s. It’s still a resort-style island with plenty of accommodation styles for all budgets, but the tourists definitely skew more family/honeymooner types rather than gap-year bros.

For 3 nights and 4 days I relaxed on the beaches, hiked the jungles, played with monkeys, and went parasailing. That’s not to say I didn’t spend any time at our hotel’s pool bar. It was too cheap to resist, but it was a lot nicer sipping on a pina colada with serene views rather than chugging a Thai “bucket.”

Where to Stay in Langkawi

Pantai Cenang is the most popular beach for tourists, but I much preferred where we stayed in Pantai Kok. Kok is much quieter, has prettier beaches, and is closer to the main attractions like the Sky Bridge. However, Cenang is great for budget guesthouses and adventure sports.

What To Do

The Sky Bridge/Cable Cars: The views are amazing and epic and the Sky Bridge is probably the island’s most famous attraction. That said, it’s attached to a tourist-trap theme park of sorts, full of gimmicky 3D attractions. We ended up doing plenty of them because we had to wait 2 hours until our “show time” for the cable car after buying our ticket. So keep in mind that this is an all-day event unless you find another excursion nearby.

Adventure/Watersports: The island is full of parasailing, ATVs, kiteboarding, jetskiing, and other fun activities. Sure, you can do them in most resort destinations, but I absolutely loved the parasailing views as the landscape here is stunning. Plus, you’ll find much cheaper rates than you would in most other places.

Tours/Treks: There are plenty of different tours available if you want to explore the local nature and wildlife. We did a jungle trek that was attached to a resort and I have to say I cannot recommend it. It just wasn’t worth the money as there was nothing we wouldn’t have seen on our own in terms of wildlife. However, if I could do it again I would have loved to take a sea safari or a boat tour that goes island hopping through Langkawi. There are also kayaking tours through the mangroves.

Explore: You’ll be amazed at how much wildlife you can see all around you without spending a dime. Our resort was full of monkeys (to the extent that we occasionally couldn’t eat outside)! We also were able to spot some unique birds and sea creatures along the beach.

What To Eat

Not Durian. Kidding. Sort of. You’ll see what I mean if you have the guts to try this odd, foul-smelling fruit that is loved by locals. Maybe it’s an acquired taste, but I have a feeling it won’t appeal to most Western palettes.

While Malaysian cuisine is great, the foodie scene here isn’t that impressive as it’s mostly geared towards tourists. If you do want a taste of the local cuisine, go for a basic squid dish as they’re caught fresh every night. You’ll be sure to see the green lights in the ocean from the boats looking to attract fresh squid.

Alternatively, if you find a local eatery, give traditional laksa a try!

Getting to Langkawi

Langkawi is easily accessible from Penang or the mainland by ferry. It also has a small airport with flights from Singapore and other cities in Malaysia.

Getting Around

You could rent a motorbike, but we had a hard time finding ones for a reasonable price (relative to the rest of Southeast Asia). We ultimately found that taxis were very well priced and Langkawi has fixed rates so you don’t have to worry about getting scammed.

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3 Months in a Carry-On: Southeast Asia

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carry-on backpack packing list

One of the biggest hassles of long-term travel is stuffing as much as you can into a carry-on suitcase. Checking bags is expensive and time-consuming. It also leads to a lot of unnecessary stress since airlines are notorious for losing baggage. So it only makes sense to stick with a carry-on whenever possible.

Here’s my personal packing list for Southeast Asia that has worked out wonderfully. Keep in mind I’m somewhat of a minimalist but still a girly-girl, so this should be practical for most women, give or take a few things. Also, even though Southeast Asian countries are far less developed, finding most everyday items (toiletries, etc) isn’t an issue. So don’t worry about packing everything you would ever need.

Personal Item

I use a small drawstring backpack, but a traditional daypack or purse would also work.

  • Cell phone and charger
  • Tablet/e-reader and charger
  • Travel wallet (money, credit cards, passport, travel docs)
  • Notebook/travel diary
  • Empty water bottle to fill up once through security (Money saving pro-tip!)
  • Liquids (I find they’re easier to access for security this way)
    • Toothpaste
    • Shampoo
    • Soap
    • Sunscreen
    • Bug spray (with at least 50% DEET)
    • Laundry detergent/Febreeze
    • BB/CC cream (make-up plus sunscreen)
    • Mascara/eye-liner
    • Moisturizer (salt water and pools are very drying)

Backpack

I use the Kelty Redwing 40L, but you can go bigger or smaller based on your needs.

  • All-in-one electronic adapter (different SE Asian countries require different adapters)
  • Towel
  • Lock for belongings
  • Sunglasses
  • Medications and OTC/travel medications
  • Sea sickness wristbands (like these, for all the ferries you’ll be taking)
  • Duct tape (comes in surprisingly handy)
  • Sandals
  • Sneakers (I usually wear mine when flying to save space)
  • Toiletries
    • Tooth brush
    • Floss
    • Comb
    • Deodorant
    • Nail clippers (double as scissors)
    • Razor
    • Lip balm
    • Hair ties
  • Clothing ( I roll my clothes in two packing cubes to save space)
    • 3 pairs of shorts (2 casual, 1 “nice”)
    • 3 pairs of yoga pants (itinerary-specific, as I was doing a lot of yoga/hiking)
    • 3 bathing suits
    • 3 airy dresses
    • 3 pairs of socks
    • 5 tops (3 casual/workout, 2 nice)
    • Sweatshirt (the AC in cars/shops can be surprisingly cold)
    • Sarong (helpful for the beach as well as staying conservative at temples)
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