Rewind 2016

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There’s a sweet noise on the small crowded streets surrounded by flats in all colors of the rainbow and there’s a smell of pizza and oven baked goods coming from all around and all you can hear is Italian words and the face of Gianni, that Italian elderly owner of a traditional pizzeria makes you feel strangely at home. We celebrated the coming of 2017 in Naples, Capri and Procida and as we look forward with curiosity and anxiousness to the year to come we look back with wonder and we are grateful for an incredible 2016

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with leprechauns, Irish pubs and songs, Guinness beer and trips to the Titanic in Dublin and Belfast

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Scandinavian snow, perfect muffins, athletic people going out to ski by metro in Oslo

12744163_818590741602818_1679290715306204204_ntraditions, family time, colorful clothes, days of joy and celebrations at our best friend’s wedding in Jaipur, meeting up with old friends for precious stolen moments of happiness

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Milan Duomo, pizza and pasta with a heavenly taste, espresso, chilling in parks, polenta, discovery of the Navigli area

img_20160520_152111img_20160520_191659wandering the shores of Como Lake and enjoying breathtaking views of Brunate in Comoimg_20160521_095903unexpected trips to Sighisoara and Brasov

img_20160507_211445_edit_edit1beer gardens, charming coffee shops, Berlin wall, relaxing parks, strolls amongst restaurants and pubs of all nationalities just to charm any food lover in Berlin

img_20160815_180024_hdrbeach days and live music at the Black Sea

img_20160730_163533_editday trip to Negotin, Serbia just to have one Serbian beer

img_20160722_142418pagodas, Shan food, night markets and organized street quarters in Yangon

img_0518img_20160918_122523_editboat trips, traditional rowing fishermen, floating markets and lifetime friends in Inle Lake

img_20160920_084311img_0533sunset, sunrise, pagodas, temples and history in Bagan

img_0869img_0884gold leafs, temples, the best Shan food, monks, longest wooden bridge in Mandalay

img_20160924_141903img_20160924_172918the Grand Palace, new friends, live music, sweet memories, Same Same t-shirts and the best foot massage in Bangkok

img_20160926_135550_edit_editdays of shared thoughts, incredible views, swims, beach strolls, Rum Cola in the charming solitary Duli Beach resort in Philippines, El Nido

img_1254img_1294days of chilling and relaxing in Jaipur and Delhi making plans for future adventures

img_20161114_231850_editRoyal Palaces, Christmas trees, pierogi, beetroot soup, large café latte, Christmas markets in Warsaw

15349820_1019346348193922_3613498593471740022_nChristmas market madness in Bucharest with the view of the Parliament House, hot spiced wine and the best atmosphere to wish for

15380714_1020952261366664_6606025568305505877_n15492319_1025481797580377_6451251349531931751_nChristmas parties with memories of childhood and priceless friends

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family and friends time colored in green, flowery, sunny, snowy surroundings to adapt to the seasons but at all times packed with an overload of joy and happiness to last for a lifetime

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Past year has thought us that we are never alone as we carry with us all the family and friends, present or past, imprinted on our skin and it takes nothing more than closing our eyes for one second to feel them all around us. We’ve lost good friends and gained new friends and family just to remind us one more time of how precious every day we receive is and that it’s up to us to not let it waste and fully live every single second of it. We hope in a happy and peaceful 2017, a year of expressing less and feeling more, of being true to ourselves and the others, of taking leaps of faith without a net, of putting dreams into reality today rather than tomorrow, of carefully using the chance given at each and every new day, of still wondering at everything around, new or old, beautiful or less beautiful, of searching for more balance in life, of still believing.

Letters from Myanmar – Nyaungshwe and Inle Lake

You can hear the sound of the engine as you get settled in and all comfy in your wooden chair on the boat that is about to take you on a journey through Inle Lake. The sun is burning and all you can see around on both sides is water and hills. As you exit the canal leading to Inle Lake there is a particular smell of wet soil and grass and the fishermen boats are starting to pop out here and there.

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Fishermen have a special way of rowing in Inle Lake, standing on the edge of the boat and using one leg to row while using the hand to throw the net and balancing the body in the same time.

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This is said to allow more visibility to the boatmen over the vegetation in Inle Lake and is used only by men; ladies row in the classical way by sitting on the edge of the boat. The fishing experience is also unique, two fishermen each in their own boat would lay the net and then start beating the water with sticks to scare the fish away into the net.

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As you move further into the heart of the lake boats with people gathering vegetation from the lake appear and the unique floating gardens. Layers of vegetation are pilled one on top of the other until they create a compact layer on which the people plant mostly tomatoes. The plantation on floating gardens is so spread that it covers a significant part of the country’s demand of tomatoes.

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Villagers rely on crops for their day to day leaving. Sometimes an entire floating garden may be transferred from a village to a different village by slowly moving the entire floating layer of vegetation with boats.

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And one by one the houses on poles appear. There are around 70,000 people leaving on Inle Lake in houses mainly having one big room to accommodate everyone.

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People move around using small boats by rowing or for longer distances by using motor boats.

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Some houses have electricity from the nearby electrical power lines or use solar panels. Small shops care for the basic needs of the people leaving here whilst for more products a trip to the on ground houses and villages would be required.

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One of the pole houses is particularly flooded in front with boats and people waiting in the boats. It is afternoon and the villagers are waiting for their kids to finish school. There are classes in different rooms depending on the year of the children. Windows are widely open and you can see the kids dressed with white shirts and green skirts already getting agitated. Classes would usually be spread over the course of a day with classes in the morning followed by a lunch break and classes in the afternoon. Education is free and for primary classes kids are provided with one uniform and the necessary books.

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Industries on the lake are also varied.

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You can find weavers (including bamboo thread weavers), cigarettes and cigars producers, pottery makers.

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For cigarettes and cigar producers workers would usually be paid depending on what they are able to produce in one day.

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Where we ate

There are plenty of options for eating or just having coffee like Aqua Lilies, The French Touch, Min Min’s, Mr. Chef, Ever Green…We however fell in love with Zizi and her small restaurant and we came back two nights in a row for the amazing food and company. Zizi has moved to Nyaungshwe together with her mother and started a business all alone in a domain she had no clue about four months ago. She cooks Myanmar food and a little bit of European food all made by herself like she says in a “home style”. Food is cooked from the heart; there is no menu (yet), no rules apply. You just have to trust the hands of Zizi, give her a few pointers on your preferences (spicy, not spicy, vegan, non-vegan) and she will just create a special experience for you.

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In a developing country, more opened to the foreign eye than ever, with a sense of freedom circling around and the people becoming more and more courageous to speak out loud every day, in a business environment dominate by men, Zizi leads with her heart and passion, she is a road opener, leading by example and with a strong will to prove that she can make it in the existing environment and empower other women in her community to follow their dreams.

All of Zizi you can find on her Facebook page here or on Trip Advisor. Do visit her when you are in Myanmar, she is the kind of person that makes her home feel like your home and there’s just no such other equal feeling when travelling in a foreign land than the feeling you have when meeting a homey heart.

Where we stayed

We stayed at Royal Inlay Hotel located close to the boat boarding area and walking distance from the main road and the shops and restaurants area. The hotel serves breakfast on the rooftop with a selection of American breakfast and Burmese style breakfast. The canal going to Inle Lake can be seen from the rooftop. Rooms are spacious and clean, staff is nice. They have somewhat of a SPA (more of a massage room) but you can get a massage in other part of Nyaungshwe also for cheaper prices and probably better quality. WI FI works fine.

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Click here for some Tips & Tricks of Inle Lake

Click here for our Top 10 experiences in Inle Lake

For more photos of Inle Lake just click here for our Facebook page.

Top things to do in Inle Lake

Our top things to do in Inle Lake

  1. Boat ride on Inle Lake;
  2. Gossiping with Zizi and eating her amazing food (you can find Zizi of her Facebook page Cooking with Zizi and also on Trip Advisor here);
  3. Pottery making;
  4. Watching the cigarettes making process;
  5. Wandering through the city market especially if you catch the fifth day circling of the markets around the area in Nyaungshwe when the market is busier than usual.

Addicted to happiness, a story about Crete

I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.” is what Nikos Kazantzakis was saying in Zorba the Greek. And if you read the words below from our friend Cristina Mihalachioiu we can’t promise you won’t fall in love with Crete and go searching for happiness…in the small details.

“First time I was in Grece, I went to Crete. I stayed in a tidy hotel with a sea view, located on the bar street of what I think to be the liveliest city in Crete: Hersonissos. I could smell the sea from the balcony and stare at the mountains from the window.

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The beaches are not the widest, to say the least, but the sun is welcoming and the waves are hugging you into a cameleonic embrace. There were many days, during my other visits in Crete, when the sea literally changed color from green to turquoise, from blue to black. It’s especially magic during the spring, as it is quiet and controlling. It has a life of its own this sea and it is simply surprising.

Now that I told you about my big love, the Aegean Sea, I’ll tell you also about my other love, eggplant burekakia. It’s an amazing dish – I don’t know if it’s Cretan or Greek, never cared – based on eggplants and feta cheese (I know the entire recipe, but I’m keeping it for myself 😊). This I discovered in a magnificent restaurant called Argo. I think it was there were I fell in love with Crete – they say: “there are people coming to holiday in Crete and there are people coming for holiday in Argo”. I’ve met a lot of the latter and became myself one of them.

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But this piece is about Crete and how amazing Crete is. You see, we’ve come to such a strong bond, that Crete has slowly became a part of me.

The sea is not what Crete or Hersonissos is all about; while the port side is better known for its tavernas, but especially for the bars and clubs along the sea, there is also Hersonissos village, up towards the mountains. It’s pretty traditional, there are special nights and tours organized for tourists. But what I recommend is for you to rent a motorbike and ride it up the mountains. And then stop. Stop to gaze at the sea from above. And now you’re addicted to happiness…

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Coming back to another type of happiness – nightlife in Hersonissos, I think even Greeks find it the best. You have to see it for yourself and not forget to stay responsible. You’ll see you’ll find it extremely difficult with all the joie de vivre around yourselves, but you have to. Otherwise, you risk staying on a bench in front of the hotel for three hours because your friend has the room key, she doesn’t answer her phone and the reception desk opens at 7:30 a.m. :p

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And if you get to Crete you must not miss Matala and Chania and for history lovers Knossos.

Matala is in Southern Crete and has this amazing silver beach, with weird pierced rocks around and used to be a place where the hippies would gather back in the days. You travel there through sloppy roads in the mountains, through olive trees plantations and red lands and it’s worth it every minute of the journey.

Chania is the second largest city in Crete (after Heraklion, the capital) and has this amazing old harbor area very well preserved which deserves at least one afternoon of doing nothing and just enjoing the food in the tavernas around.

Knossos is very well preserved and recommended to ancient ruins lovers only. Otherwise, it’s very hot in the summer and if are not a fan of the type, you would be annoyed.

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Bottom line – the sea, the sun, the food, the Cretans, just amazing and you can only see by yourselves.”

(Story and pictures: Cristina Mihalachioiu)

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Puglia region and the love for the South

There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life”. As you hear these words of Federico Fellini in your mind your feet are carrying you on cobblestone streets and you enter this labyrinth of creamy houses, flowers, stairs…clothes and bed sheets hang from windows or in front of the doors right there on the street…it smells like freshly baked bread from that focaccia in that small shop on a street corner…voices accompanied by hand gestures cut the air around in the port area and the fish smell doesn’t bother you at all…pointy rooftops of trulli houses surround you…a well-practiced movement of hands piles up those Italian pastas you just heard about… orecchiette…someone is talking to you in Italian comfy and relaxed like you naturally understand every word and the thought of sharing a coffee on top of the streets of Matera with that nice old lady that would tell you the most amazing stories makes you feel sad you have not learned Italian yet…

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Where are you might you ask? Well, you are just cruising around Puglia region in South Italy. The Adriatic Sea is right there in front of your eyes and the heel of Italy’s “boot” will unveil in front of you small cities filed with stories, history and the Italian passion of life. Oh yes…of course…and loads of focaccia and seafood to shift your appetite and make you crave for something so simple as bread and tomatoes.

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Intrigued? Take a sip of espresso, heat that oven and throw in a pizza and while is baking read away…

Bari

Bari is an amalgamation of modern and old greeting you with streets for shopping and relaxing while tasting cakes and coffees or just wandering around for window shopping while in the same time teasing you to wander the old city with small streets, churches in unexpected corners, twists and turns, old city walls and small restaurants catching your eye with those traditional Italian plates the most famous of which are Patate, riso e cozze (potatoes with rice and mussels) and all sorts of orecchiette.

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The port area in the morning light with the calm Adriatic Sea, the fish all laid down on tables and those mid-age Italian men having their coffee, drinks and playing games or just gossiping with lots of hand gestures it’s a must.

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And if you are really lucky you can also see in the morning old Italian ladies preparing the homemade orecchiette and knowing this lovely Southern people one might actually invite you in to take a sit and learn some of Italy’s traditions.

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Matera

Matera is home of the Sassi a charming historical centre dating back over 7000 years with dwellings carved in stone, cobblestone streets inviting you to get lost and sometimes running on top of other houses just to make the wandering even more spectacular, churches, archways, stairs running up and down, terraces and corners to stop for incredible views.

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Once you exit the Sassi a new city lies ahead with souvenir shops, small terraces where Italian ladies enjoy a quick espresso perfectly going with a smoke and some gossip, focaccia from the street shop eaten with your hands with a better taste than anything else, a guy signing his guitar to make some extra money or who knows maybe to get noticed…Matera is, no wonder, a favourite spot for filmmakers and soon to be European Capital of Culture.

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Alberobello

Beautiful Tree” (if you guys want to translate it) is a small town with just about 11,000 inhabitants famous for its trulli. What’s a trullo? Well it’s a small house with a conical roof made out of stones piled up one on top of the other. The origins of the design seem to be linked with the high taxation on property people of Puglia used to pay and this dry wall constructions where created to allow dismantling when the inspectors were in the area. Some of these elf size houses have particular symbols painted on the cones including a series of Christian symbols.

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And if you get in the area of Trullo Sovrano there’s this cool trullo house home of a shop of Italian food products where this nice gentleman will tell you a few words about the trullo home and its rooms and invite you to taste all types of Italian liquors you are in the mood to try on…we promise the taste is so precious that you will be tempted to ditch the clothes you carried in your backpack and fill it up with liquor bottles, packs of orecchiette and biscuits.

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Locorotondo

The “Round Place” has a circular historic centre.  The village is considered amongst the most beautiful places to visit in Italy with a labyrinth of white alleys, white houses with the most beautifully decorated numbers graciously showing details of the street where the house is located.

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No cone roof tops in the historic centre (you can gaze at them from the viewing point looking towards Locorotondo countryside) but you will find here the special pitched roofs called “cummerse”. And if this doesn’t convince you know also that Locorotondo produces some good white wines still or sparkling.

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Martina Franca and Trani

Martina Franca has a historic centre surrounded by stone walls with remainders of Baroque and Rococo styles to be fund in the gates, the piazzas and the churches. The streets are small and picturesque and the place is also renowned for white wine.

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For a different view of Puglia you can try Trani a fishing port, historic buildings and boats in the harbour playing around with the sunset light to give you enough time and space to breathe and dream.

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You can reach Puglia region by plane to Bari and from Bari you can easily take a train (under 2 hours) for all the above destinations.

For more pictures from Puglia check out our Facebook page here.

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In Bruges

You are standing on the shore of a canal surrounded by medieval buildings all brown stone and red painted window frames, the May sun is warming you up and it smells like spring, there are yellow flowers in pots around you on walls and wood fences, you can hear the distinct sound of horses on the cobblestone streets around and the engine of the boat getting closer and closer to the shore. Are you ready to board a trip through fairytale land?

Where are we going?

There’s this magic place in Northwest Belgium with not more than 120k inhabitants which is said to have been founded in the 9th century by the Vikings and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site with medieval buildings, romantic canals, cobblestone streets, beer, lace and swans. The place is Bruges and the name might very well derive from the old-Scandinavian word “Brygga” which means “harbour, or mooring place”. Curious? Than just sit down in the boat and let’s get lost In Bruges.

Bruges - Boat ride

Bruges – Boat ride

What to do

Markt and Burg

Markt and Burg are the most important squares in Bruges. Markt is located in the heart of the city and is a large square surrounded by historical buildings like the Belfry Tower (83 meter high) and Provincial Court and medieval looking houses (many of the houses are just modern reconstructions of the medieval styles).

Bruges Markt

Bruges Markt

The Markt was freed from traffic in 1996 and is the place where the carriage rides around Bruges also start.

Bruges Markt

Bruges Markt

If Markt was the commercial heart of medieval Bruges Burg was the administrative heart. The Burg square is the house of the Town Hall (House de Ville) and of the Chapel of the Holy Blood. The last one seems to be the more famous one being the house of the bottle of rock crystal containing Christ’s blood and the place of the yearly Procession of the Holy Blood.

Bruges Burg

Bruges Burg

Minnewater

If you are taking a train to Bruges what you will most likely notice first while walking towards the city centre is Minnewater or the lake of love (the Dutch word “Minne” meaning love). Minnewater is a canalized lake with plenty of swans. The legend says that in 1488 the people of Bruges had executed one of the town administrators belonging to the court of Maximilian of Austria called Pieter Lanchals (long neck). Maximilian punished Bruges by obliging the population to keep swans on their lakes and canals till eternity.

Minewater

Minewater

Begijnhof

Right there next to Minnewater lies Beguinage De Wijngaard (the Vineyard). A group of houses around a garden with large trees and flowers which became a monastery and the home for the Benedictine sisters since 1937 until today.

Begijnhof

Begijnhof

In the 13th century a mystical form of religion was born as reaction to the growing material and formal aspirations of the regular clergy, one that apostle poverty, simplicity and preaching. The female followers of such movement were tolerated in the form of the Beguine movement and were allowed to live in separate parts of the cities called Beguinages. The beguines lived like regular nuns but with less stringent vows than the regular ones. Although most of them made the vows of obedience and chastity they did not make the vow of poverty and they could break their vows at any time and leave the beguine community.

Begijnhof

Begijnhof

Canal rides

In the Middle Ages, the canals in Bruges were used by ships to deliver goods to the city and to take exports from local merchants. Today the canals are exclusively used for tourist boats. There are five families that are allowed to organize tourist boat rides on the canals with 4 boats for each family. The boat ride takes around 30 minutes and offers a great view of the city, with medieval buildings on the shores, small bridges, nice gardens and swans swimming all around.

Bruges Canals

Bruges Canals

Bicycle rides

Central Bruges has a couple of shops where you can rent a bike for an hour or more to wander around the city. If you have more time and you start in the morning you can even take a bicycle and ride to the windmills, the nearby Flemish countryside, the North Sea or even go to the Netherlands. We choose the streets and parks of Bruges and it was all worth it. For the trip from Bruges to the Netherlands check out the stories from Avem Diacritice.

Bruges

Street wandering

The streets of Bruges have plenty to offer. From small hidden streets along canals, to private gardens along the shores, medieval look like houses..

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

colourful doors, souvenir shops, lace shops, parks with colourful tulips and open air concerts, carriage rides, windmills…

Bruges

Bruges

Brugesand if you get tired just stop of any of the restaurants or canal side terraces you see on route for waffles, Belgian beer, frites or the local gem – moules.

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

Where to crush

We stayed in Lybeer Hostel Bruges just 10 minutes away from the city centre and easy to reach from the train station. Great private room with private bathroom, good prices and very nice staff. The hostel has also a shared area downstairs with a bar and a piano.

What are people in Bruges famous for?

The Bobbin Lace, a very expensive type of lace to make, is a speciality of Bruges and is a technique that requires that each thread is wound around a separate wooden bobbins. Lacemaking is an industry which nowadays employs in Belgium about one thousand lace works, all of them ladies aged between fifty and ninety years of age.

Bruges

Bruges

Click here for our Top 10 experiences in Bruges.

For more photos from Bruges just click here for our Facebook page.

For what to experience in the close neighbouring city of Brussels, waffles, frites and Belgian beer check out our post on What do Manneken Pis, exquisite chocolates, French fries, dark beer and BDs have in common?

Top 10 Bruges

Top 10 Bruges

  1. Charming houses and colourful doors;
  2. Canal rides;
  3. Bicycle rides on the streets of Bruges;
  4. Belgian beer;
  5. Chocolate and bananas Belgian waffles;
  6. Breakfast time in a restaurant in Markt;
  7. Minnewater and especially the swans;
  8. Begijnhof;
  9. Open air concerts in a park in Bruges;
  10. Chilling beside the windmills.

When a lake is your home, Tonlé Sap

There is water and vegetation everywhere the eye can see. The boat moves further and further into the heart of Tonlé Sap Lake towards the floating villages carrying with it our curiosity for life on water and flashbacks of the troubled Vietnamese and Cambodian history.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Tonlé Sap lake is definitely special; it is not only the largest fresh water in South East Asia with a flow changing its direction twice a year but is also home to many ethnic Vietnamese and Cham communities living in floating villages around the lake. More than 3 million people live around the bank of the lake 90% of which earn their living through fish catching and agriculture. Cambodia, Tonle Sap

The village we are in is home to 1,280 people most of which live under the poverty limit. The floating houses are small usually with one or two rooms. Three rooms are an exception. Bamboo pillars support the floating houses and make it easy for the house to be moved from one area to another during the rainy season.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

There is a sense of community in the floating villages. You can find the usual Asian floating markets with boats going from one house to the other carrying all types of supplies for the people in the floating houses, small floating shops, floating Catholic church, floating school and some bigger platforms with serving tables and snacks for the tourists. Although some floating houses are connected to electricity most of them have no electricity and use power batteries. You can even find floating platforms to charge batteries.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

People on the lake usually don’t pay taxes and eat what they can catch or grow. Crocodile and fish industry is developing as the people raise them around the floating houses to make money to survive. Tourist scams are also a way of making money.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

The water in the lake is used for drinking and cooking as well as for washing or sewage. Bottled water is a luxury.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Life expectancy on the lake is short; 54 years or so. There is no doctor in the floating villages and only very limite medical care. Child birth is high but more than 12% of the children die before the age of 5 and many of them drown afterwards on their way to school when their small row boats capsize.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Moving to the city is hard if not close to impossible since this people lack money or even citizenship to allow them to be properly integrated into society. Most of the people in the floating villages are stateless Vietnamese with no papers to account for their names or their origins. Targets of mass genocide during the Khmer Republic and Khmer Rouge governments like so many other Cambodian people, expelled from the country in the 1970s just to later return to a home that no longer had room for them, the story of the people around the Tonlé Sap Lake is not an easy one.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Sitting on the terrace of one of the floating houses tasting for the first time snake soup two small boys approach us to show off with their plastic toy guns. Innocent, playful and full of life just like the kids back home. Just that these ones live on small boat houses, learn how to row a boat before learning how to write, have no drinkable water or medical care, have crocodiles as house pets and are destined to live a nomad life floating on water.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

As our boat takes us into the sunset to Siem Reap leaving behind the floating villages we carry with us the small happy faces of the two little boys. We repeat in our minds that less is more, we dream of better times for these kids and pray for the lake to keep them safe and their inner happiness to provide shelter in the darkest of the storms.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

More picture from Cambodia on our Facebook page.

More on the history of the Vietnamese Cambodian people in this touching article Hope Floats.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Water rafting in Bali

Everybody stand up!!!!” Horace is screaming with a happy face while our boat is running down the Ayung River in Bali, Indonesia. Stones and water and an inflatable boat jumping here and there. This would be the right time to feel kind of scared. But we don’t; the adrenaline is rushing through our veins and we stand up with our paddles in the air screaming and laughing. We are wet to our bones, the hot sun is up in the sky, we have no idea where the boat will take us but we don’t care we just go with the flow.

Water rafting

One of the attractions of Bali is water sports and one of the water sports we decided to try for the first time while in Bali was water rafting. Packed in a car we are driven to the meeting point somewhere in a village near Ubud. Hidden by all these vegetation there’s a small reception where we pay for the ride, we get equipped with lifejackets, helmets and paddles and we are ready.

IMG-20140916-04665_collageThe water rafting experience starts with a series of stairs going down to the shore of Ayung River. Our guide/boat leader is named Horace. A bit shorter than us, with one of those smiles where one shows all his/her teeth, talkative and in a joking mood we know from the start this will be a fun ride.

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The training takes less than 5 minutes during which Horace explains the forward and backward paddling, “bum bum” and how to take a person out of the water and back in the boat (if need arises, of course). Now I am sure you guys want to know what’s a “bum bum” right? As Horace said when we hear the words we should stop paddling, keep our paddles vertical and lean in front. Easy right? Now, if one of us is to fall over the others should pull the poor bastard back in the boat not by taking the person by the hand, hair, neck or [you feel in the blanks :p] but by the lifejacket.

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Once the training is done we push the boat in the water, jump in and off we go. The ride is smooth at the beginning and starts to get bumpier on some sectors with the boat twisting and turning and hitting rocks on the way. On both sides there’s an impressive view with trees, rocks, vegetation, luxurious hotels.

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Horace is making jokes, laughing and in the same time directing us. We can hear a combination of backward, forward, backward, backward, bum-bum, forward, bum-bum, everybody stand up and we paddle and stand up and paddle and paddle and stand up. At some point we even teach Horace how to say forward in Romanian “înainte” so the screaming gains a new word familiar to us “înainte”.

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As we move forward on the river we are getting better and better at paddling and the boat slides through the rocks. When we get stuck Horace instructs us to slide on our seats but Phillipe (the Belgian guy with us on the boat) jumps instead of sliding and brings more laughter in the boat.

DCIM100GOPROMidway into the boat ride we stop on a small shore together with other boats for beer and for the most courageous jumping from a cliff. Of course my courageous Gabi is jumping into the water while I enjoy my beer and click pictures.

DCIM100GOPROThe ride starts again and we paddle as we sing a Romanian song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WhrWZ1jeD8) and Phillipe sings a Belgium song. Once we reach a waterfall we are meeting up with another boat with some other tourists. We all jump in the water and enjoy a bath under the waterfall with lifejackets and helmets and clothes on.

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And we are back in the boat and we paddle and gossip and paddle and laugh and paddle some more. After about 1:30 – 2 hours we reach the end point of our boat ride. We feel like we want more. As we walk up and more up on the stairs we are surrounded by impressive views and we can still feel the rush of adrenaline in our veins and the words of Horace “Everybody stand up!”.

For Tips & Tricks on water rafting in Bali click here Tips&Tricks water rafting Bali.

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Tips&Tricks water rafting Bali

Below are some tips from our own experience water rafting on Ayung River.  Feel free to jump in and add any advice to the below :p:

  • we paid around 35 USD per person for the ride (possible to find even lower prices); this price included a person picking us up from the hotel and back, the boat ride and something to eat after the boat ride; beer is available for buying during the boat ride at a stop on the way and at the end of the boat ride;
  • you can take a shower at the end of the boat ride; they give you a towel or you can bring your own;
  • wear a bathing suit and some comfortable clothes like short pants and a t-shirt; you will get wet, very wet;
  • flip flops are a good choice; in the boat you will be barefoot and your shoes (or flip flops :p) will go into the bag of the boat leader;
  • phones, cameras, money – take as less as possible; whatever you carry will go into the waterproof bag of the boat leader; you can’t keep it with you in the boat since you will get wet – yeah we said that before :);
  • we took pictures and filmed with a GoPro camera;
  • listen carefully to the instructions of the boat leader/guide and do as he says during your trip if you want to have a safe ride;
  • go with the flow, be carried away, enjoy the ride!