Christmas at Bali

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Christmas at Bali was everything but traditional. I’ve been working and enjoying the life at Jiwa Damai, occasionally spending the evenings at Ubud. Luckily, I got to spend the “holiday” with a dear friend as Nea stayed in Ubud over Christmas.  Bali showed the heavy side of ongoing rainy season for a few days – Christmas Eve and the day before being worst, making me already wish to have an earlier flight to next destination. However, we started our Christmas with a Balinese dance show, followed by a dinner at Swasti Cottages, a super cosy and relaxed resort away from the immediate center. The food was amazing, however making us badly crave for dessert as we missed the last order and had to settle for chocolate bars from the store. Apparently people are used to dine earlier, as we were left there to eat while all staff finished and left home. I almost sneaked into the kitchen to prepare the mulberry tart with ice cream by myself, but was able contain myself…

Jiwa Damai

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I am happy to volunteer few weeks in the most beautiful place in middle of the nature, Jiwa Damai, a retreat center and organic garden. I feel grateful to observe the growing process and consume organic food that comes from own garden and is prepared with love by a wonderful Balinese staff. I am lucky to eat the same food that the guests do, meaning a three course meal every day :). My job is not the most glamorous, but I feel lucky to spend my days under trees of coconuts, cacao, passion fruit, banana, papaya and so many more. There is even a coconut oil factory here and the oil is used in all cooking. Other own products consist of coconut flakes and dried fruits… In other words this place is my heaven as I dream of having an own health food business one day. Growing methods are based on permaculture, which is always organic but also pursues ways to link everything in the garden together, to provide best possible conditions for the plants and fruits to grow naturally.

Morning yoga as well as evening meditation is a routine here. After work I can take a swim in the huge pool, or head to town with a motorbike. Something that I never considered doing here but now find it necessary and is actually a lot of fun. Perfect way to slow down and connect with the nature before new adventures.

Ubud

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As my last visit was way too short, I am beyond happy to be back in one of my favorite places ever. Ubud in Bali is a heaven for healthy food lovers, yoga and everything hip. The first nights I stayed in the middle of the rice fields, waking up at 6 to the crowing of roosters. One day I walked my way to Sari Organik, perhaps the coziest restaurant ever, in the middle of rice fields. All food served comes from own garden and is organic and chemical free. Furniture is made of bamboo and you sit on a pillow. I could easily live with the menu and eat in the surroundings for the rest of my life 😉 If ever in Ubud, be sure to try this place out.

Though I would have loved to explore the center more, my stay remained very short after all. I got an extempore opportunity to volunteer for a retreat center nearby. As this has been on my bucketlist for years, I really felt like I needed to take the chance. The decision was hard as it meant canceling plans of spending Christmas at Gili islands with friends as well as diving and exploring other parts of Bali. Despite, I am super excited to contribute and learn in an amazingly beautiful place where you can truly connect with the nature.

Borneo iPhone diary

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1. “Killing time” at nearby islands in Kota Kinabalu while waiting next flight 2. Daily coconut on my balcony in Uncle Chang 3. Amazing sunsets at Mabul 4. My first dive and seeing 10 turtles 5. Walking around the paradise island 6. Fresh lime juice at Paganakan Dii 7. Super chill lunching area and balcony 8. Adorable baby orangutan with her mom (not taken with iPhone) 9. Bus ride via Mount Kinabalu 10. Pure deliciousness at KK

Looking back at Borneo pics bring so many amazing memories of the days I spent on Mabul island, enjoying the warmth, clear water, diving and great company. Being at Uncle Chang felt like living in a bubble where all connection to your normal life was very limited, making all worries disappear and enjoy the present moment. I now very well understand the appeal of life as a dive instructor…

Sepilok

 

 

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Luckily, many people I met in Mabul had come from Sepilok, the home of rainforest and orangutans. I got advice to stay in Paganakan Dii, which proved to be the mecca for relaxing. Two days now I’ve been lying in hammocks, had super interesting conversations with people and of course saw the orangutans. We saw a touching video of the rehabilitation of the orangutans back to the nature after found as orphans or starving in secondary rainforests where there is not enough food left for them. It was fascinating to see creatures sharing 96% same DNA as humans.

The people in Malaysia are beyond welcoming and friendly, which makes any place so much more appealing. Traveling alone has been both exciting and rewarding –  I’ve very rarely ended up being alone and met great people that I might have missed otherwise. Also, it is funny how you end up finding such similar minded people. I spent 5 days in Mabul with a lovely woman who taught me about sustainable living and growing your own food – something that I want to do one day. In Sepilok I had one of the most interesting conversations with a guy who believes in working half an year and traveling the other half. This same guy happened to have the exact same flight with me to Bali from Kota Kinabalu, so funny. Above all, he is a diving instructor who could teach me the qualification to advanced diving license. Yet another example how things can end up going ever better that you had hoped for. Though this time looks like my advanced course has to wait, as I am already exploring new opportunities elsewhere.

Amazing Mabul

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I left my heart to this island on the northern border of Malaysia in Borneo. A place where I drank the water from a coconut, walked across the island barefoot and the wifi is available only during evenings when electricity is turned on, but not really then either.

I arrived to the island with no expectations, my only intention to relax and enjoy the island life for a few days, after three months in hectic Hong Kong. The diving instructions I spoke to did not, however, need to convince me for long to take my open water diving license there. I had always been curious on diving and I wasn’t surprised to completely get addicted to it since my first dive. On my very first dive I got to see huge turtles and indescribable colorful fish and coral reefs. As the instructors told, it was a bit deceitful to start my life as a diver from the top. Sipadan, an island close to Mabul, has one of the most unique under water life on the planet. I did not get a chance to go there though, which gives a perfect reason to go back.

I stayed at Uncle Chang, an amazingly welcoming diving lodge above the sea. I would never get bored to the view of living above the sea and being surrounded it all the time. The people were amazing and on the return boat and it felt like I had known the group of past days for ages, instead of 5 days. The island itself is breathtakingly beautiful, combining both a local village and chill diving resorts. Overall, Mabul reminded me a lot of Tioman, an island on the side of mainland Malaysia, where I visited with family 16 years ago. An island so remoted, local yet paradise at the same time.