Fails in the Philippines

Flying in, watching a beautiful sunset from above the clouds, I had anticipated this moment all day. It had been a long morning and afternoon…we were scheduled to land at 7:30pm in Manila, and I couldn’t wait to crash at the hotel. An announcement over the radio said our landing would be delayed…and so began our hilarious streak of bad luck in the Philippines.

After about 45 minutes of aimlessly flying in the sky, we finally landed. We hurried to get our bags and requested an Uber that was 9 minutes away. I watched the little black car on my phone make it’s way to us…and then turn around, make it’s way towards us and then turn around. After almost 45 minutes, I cancelled the ride. It was after 9pm. Another ride request service was located outside the airport, and they quoted us a half hour for a driver to arrive. We broke down and got a taxi.

The driver was very nice and talked to us about where we were staying and where to go on the island. The hotel was only about 5 miles away…food, shower, then bed! I’m so close! I thought…

The traffic was the worst I had seen anywhere. Rush hour in LA would have been a godsend in comparison. Gone were the peaceful law abiding freeways of Taiwan, and into the madness we stumbled. It took us an hour to drive 5 miles. At 10:15pm, we checked into Amorsolo Hotel. After a 15 hour travel day…there’s nothing like finding out the hotel you booked online is located in a red light district. Great. We made plans to leave Manila in the morning.

After another failed Uber experience in the morning, we took a taxi to Victory Liner bus terminal and made our way out to Subic Bay at 11:30am. Our taxi driver from the airport had said it was about a 3 hour trip, and roughly 90 miles. It turns out the traffic is just constant and it took an additional hour and a half to get out of the city. We arrived in Subic Bay around 4pm.

We stayed at The Pub Hotel. Great reviews on line, right next to the beach, this was exactly what I was looking for. A few days on the beach would be the perfect send off back to the US. Funny though, none of the reviews mention that National Highway, where the hotel was located, was yet another (larger) red light district. I laughed inside and let it go. You can’t win them all!

I tried to see the situation with as much humor as possible but the deathly energy of Subic Bay was very present. Young beautiful girls flaunted their bodies everywhere, and I felt their emptiness. Old men smoking in the streets, I felt their anger. There was a draw on my own energy. I exuded as much love and peace as I could and will never stop praying for the lost souls I encountered. I will never stop hoping that someday their eyes open and they see how much power and magic is within them.

We hid out at our hotel for the evening and left National Highway in the morning. We headed south to Olongapo and stayed at the Horizon Hotel for two more nights before heading back to Manila. The Horizon was located in a better area, very close to a large mall and water activity centers. It was another long bus ride back to Manila to catch our plane to Vancouver. It may not have been the perfect send off, but it had me itching to come back to the US.

No matter what the country or the experience had there, there is still purpose, understanding, adventure, and fun to be had. My adventures in Asia may have come to an end for now, but they will live within me forever. Growing up, I could have never grasped just how rich and fulfilling my life would become. I couldn’t be more grateful. Now off to plan the next chapter of this incredible journey we call life.

A special thank you to all the beautiful souls I encountered, this big wide world to explore, and YOU. Xox

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Taroko National Park

It was a restless night. I was awake for what felt like most of the night, still energized from my experience on the train earlier, and excited about the following day’s adventures. When morning did come, I wasn’t tired. We got ready and headed to the 7-11 down the street to get some waters and snacks for the day ahead.

While we were dead set on going to Taroko, we still weren’t entirely sure how we’d get there. In all the other countries we went to, an international drivers license wasn’t needed and there were practically no road laws. Every website and forum online stated that we would need one for Taiwan if we hoped to rent a motor bike. Undeterred, we decided to try our luck anyway and hope for the best. We decided our best option would be to go back to Hualien Station (just one stop from Ji’An, and the hub to go to Taroko) and talk to some of the vendors offering motorbike rentals. As it turned out, some of the vendors were willing to rent motorbikes to foreigners without an international drivers license…for a severe upcharge. That was until a friendly man named Paul handed us his business card and gave us a great deal. Transport to and from Taroko? Check!

We filled up with gas, got breakfast at the Aqua Cafe, and headed out. It was just under an hours drive to the National Park. For the last 15 minutes of the drive, we could see the fog covered mountains that awaited us. We stopped in at the visitor center to grab a map and were informed that there had been a lot of rain the night before and most of the trails were closed for repair, but we would be allowed to take the scenic 45 minute drive through the park. I would have been slightly disappointed had the drive not been one of the most spectacular moments of my life. Truly one for the books.

The vines I saw on the train ride were within touching distance from my head. They hung down from the thick foliage surrounding the road. I don’t think I could have counted all the waterfalls if I tried…I guess that rain storm was just preparation for an incredible showcasing of mother nature. Large tour busses struggled to round the tight corners and squeeze through the water dripping caves. Definitely rent a motorbike if possible. We were able to see so much more of the park being on our own rather than with a tour group. Plus, there really is something magical about driving through leaky caves getting splashed with water.

We spent several hours taking in the serenity of Taroko before heading back to town. We returned the bike, grabbed a pizza, and made some chaotic plans to get back to Taipei in time for our flight tomorrow. We would be leaving at 7:30am, and getting to Taipei way too early, but all the other trains were sold out, and better to be too early than too late. Our next adventure would take us to our last country before heading back to the United States. It was bittersweet, but Taiwan had given me some incredible experiences and growth. I am so thankful.

Ji’An

Preparing for our departure south made for a chaotic morning. We had planned to take an 11am executive train to Ji’An station, one stop past Taroko where we were going the following day. Not only did we arrive at the main station too late, the train had already been sold out since the night before. Although it would take an hour longer than the executive train, there was another train leaving in 45 minutes and turned out to be significantly cheaper. We got some snacks and boarded.

I watched our location on Google Maps as we rode through the foggy mountain landscape. Seemingly in the middle of no where, waterfalls trickled from rocky cliffs, vines crawled through trees and dangled from branches, and nature lived in peace and solitude. I would have loved to stop the train just to spend a few hours exploring but a grander experience awaited ahead.

The long train ride offered the perfect opportunity to catch up on some audiobooks and ponder life’s wonders. I had come to Asia in part for spiritual growth, and I felt the connection to my inner self grow exponentially while in Taiwan. I looked back on my tumultuous years prior with nothing but a deep understanding of their importance. It felt as though I was sitting inside the protective vessel of my body, indulging in the magic that surrounded me, absent of the mind that once took over my life. I felt overwhelming amounts of gratitude, significance, love, excitement, purity, and happiness. I had experienced moments like this in meditation, but they always subsided with time and rarely occurred this intensely. I marinated in this state of bliss while I watched the countryside pass by the window. Four hours had passed and we slowed to a stop at Ji’An station.

Our hotel was less than a mile from the station, so with 2 backpacks and now a third bag carrying our Muay Thai gear, we walked to Fang Yi B&B. It was located on a small side street just off a main road. There were no distinctive markings outside the building, but we were able to find the entrance. A girl in her twenties greeted us and gave us “house slippers” before welcoming us inside. Her english was impeccable and she greeted us by name. Her name was Stacy. The home was owned by her mother, who rented out multiple rooms upstairs. The home was filled with exotic furniture, large crystal statues, and photos of her mom’s dancing career. The entire place felt like home. Starving from the train ride, we checked in and looked for a place to grab some food.

On Google Maps, I noticed a little cafe located nearby called the Aqua Cafe. Little did we know that Taiwan would become home to the greatest waffles and lattes of all time. The inside of the cafe had an under the sea vibe, with blue aimg_9940nd white walls and window murals of the ocean. The owner was so kind and created a true masterpiece for our late lunch.

Work Hard, Play Hard

I’d be lying if I said I made it to every class but I have learned so much and could not have asked for a better, more authentic experience. I have nothing but great reviews about the facility and staff, who pushed me beyond my imaginary limits. So what did I do while I was playing hookie from Muay Thai? I drove along the breathtaking coastline and swam through the jade waters at Surin beach.

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40 minutes from Tiger Muay Thai, Surin beach is a true gem of Phuket. While Patong beach is regularly crowded, Surin offers a peaceful alternative. The sky was slightly overcast but the water was still warm. The scenic drive alone would have been worth the distance, but playing in the water was a sweet cherry on top. Parking was abundant and the beach itself was relatively clean.

The tide was very strong, and it was truly a magical day. I am an avid fan of beaches, but beyond my bias I believe the oceans hold the some of the greatest powers of emotional and mental healing. I’ve never known someone who can stand in front of such vastness and not be effected in some way. My mother hates going to the beach, but during some bad days prior to my parents divorce, we sat in the sand on multiple occasions.

Soi Ta-iad was starting to feel like home. Every day, we ate at restaurants up and down the street. We shopped for groceries. We did our laundry. Some days, we drove up to Central Festival Mall for dinner. It was so comfortable and I will absolutely be back. But for now, our time in Thailand has come to an end, and it has gone above and beyond it’s purpose.

As fate would have it, this is not the end of our journey. Sam and I never travel with a plan. It can be stressful at times, not knowing which country you’ll be heading to next. (Can that really be counted as stress though?) Take your guesses.

Bali Greenschool & The Sacred Water Temple

We rented a motorbike from our friend at the Purnama House and rode out to the Greenschool to make it to our 9am tour. We arrived at 8:30 and found the tour was already sold out, and I had not been able to make reservations online. Luckily, some of the other reservations didn’t show, and we were able to take their place. The tour was a little overpriced compared to the rest of Ubud, but we were later informed that proceeds made from tours are used to help Balinese students pay for tuition.

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Nestled about 16km outside of Ubud, the Greenschool boasts incredible ecological and architectural novelties. The renown PreK – 12 world school is known for it’s sustainability focused curriculum and bamboo marvels.

The tour started promptly at 9, and lasted about 2 hours. We were lucky enough to visit during summer break which allowed us to wander into all of the classrooms. Multistory classrooms, dorms, bridges, and all other buildings on the campus are constructed from bamboo. The tour was diverse, gearing equally towards parents of potential students and architecture buffs alike. Definitely try to book ahead, but if you are unable to, try going anyway! You might luck out…and if nothing else, you’ll get quite the scenic drive. You have to cross a wide stream from hundreds of feet above on a wooden bridge. Secondly, brings some bug spray. I recommend it for everywhere in Asia, but I got eaten alive at The Greenschool…

After returning to our hotel following the tour, we had a large portion of the day left over. We grabbed some lunch and then headed out to Tirta Empul, a Hindu temple famous for it’s holy spring water. I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular, but I was in for a surprise.

Although crowded with visitors, the temple felt calm and neutral against all the energies of the people inside. At Tirta Empul, tourists are allowed to plunge into the the fountain where the supposed holy water flows (only after purchasing your own sarong of course). At first I chalked it up to a money making gimmick, but decided I couldn’t leave without at least having tried it for myself.

I pulled my hair back and wrapped my red and gold sarong around my hips before sliding into the waist deep water. The water was lukewarm, but still felt refreshing against the hot humid air around me. Large koi fish swam between my legs as I made my way over to the fountains. I held my hands together in prayer against my chest and held my breath as I bowed under the flowing water. The water poured over my hair for seconds before reaching my scalp…but when it did, I could no longer hold my breath. Uncontrollably, all the air from my lungs felt like it was being sucked away and my body was powerless to replace it. I could not breathe but I also didn’t feel like I needed to. The feeling remained, it pulled at my throat and chest long after my lungs had emptied.

It all happened within a matter of seemingly endless seconds, as I stepped away from the fountain I took a breath. I could never put into words what it felt like. I was not gasping. I was not out of breath. But the air in my lungs fulfilled me and renewed me in ways I have never experienced. Not sure I could ever explain the experience to it’s full content, I persuaded Sam to go in while I dried off. Low and behold, he had the same experience.

Maybe the lukewarm water felt shockingly cold, or maybe Tirta Empul’s supposed healing powers worked their wonders on us. Either way, it was a magical way to spend the afternoon.

 

 

Coming Soon: Team Nessa in Asia

Plans have been made and tickets have been purchased!

On June 17th, we will fly to Bali, Indonesia from Vancouver. We’ll stay roughly five days, at which point we will fly to Phuket, Thailand. My goals in Thailand are simple: personal growth, business development, and life experience. The balance of these goals is what I would label my own recipe for all encompassing success. Your recipe may be different from mine, and may morph over time as your circumstances change. Although I may seem to just “go with the flow,” I trust that there is no such thing as the wrong path. You and I are consistently in an experience of enjoyment and learning. Occasionally, we get so distracted by thinking we must plan everything that we forget to just “be.”

A recent example would be that for the past month, we had been preparing for a different journey entirely. However, we refrained from buying tickets. We held off until three days ago, when hours before we made our purchases, we drastically changed destinations. Taking this new route would require some sacrifices, but the shift felt necessary. It didn’t take much pondering to be convinced.

The sequential preparations for our new destinations all landed in my favor. I got an unbelievably affordable new storage unit that would fit both my car and the contents of my other storage unit, my airline miles covered the entire cost of my ticket and insurance, and currently 5 days before my trip, I have almost everything organized and ready to go. If you are unsure of something, ask yourself for the answer and it will reveal itself, because the answer is already known. You will know when you’ve been met with the next piece to your puzzle.

Five days and counting!