Mar 13, 2017 – Happy Holi (The Festival of Colour)!

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Even the Police Officers Celebrate Holi!

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskWjzZGr

As I exited my room I was bombarded by coloured powder. Our instructors and the staff of Rishikesh Vinyasa Yoga School had initiated the Holi celebrations!

Everyone in our yoga course joined in and headed to the rooftop of our building where we had a colour fight and sprayed each other with water. It is absolutely necessary to wear clothes you don’t mind throwing away afterwards because the colour stains.

The streets depict a colourful warzone and if you don’t want to become a target: you must stay indoors. No mercy is given. Even motorcyclists and pedestrians are bombarded with colour or water from above or from street level. It is also popular to put colour on people’s cheeks. Leading up to March 13th coloured powder is sold in the streets. A small bag costs 10 rupees.

After breakfast, we took to the streets to join in the festivities. Everyone had smiles on their faces and was in a good mood. We stumbled upon a large colour-filled party in the centre of Tapovan with loud music and lots of dancing. Business and shops shut down for most of the day and open in the late afternoon. In the evening, I joined my instructors and friends at a local neighbourhood bonfire and dance party. It was an amazing surreal experience and I definitely want to celebrate Holi when I return to Canada.

Leading up to Holi, my classmates and I hiked to a small waterfall as well as a large temple in Tapovan overlooking the Ganges before joining a ceremony beside the river. It included speeches in Hindi in English as well as passing a torch around and moving the aroma of the fire over one’s body.

 

 

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Mar 1-7, 2017 – My first week in Rishikesh, India!

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Sunrise at Kunjapuri Temple

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskQWMELh

My first week in India was one of wonderful smells, cows, chaos, and yoga. Outside of the 200 hour yoga program, I explored Tapovan (a suburb of Rishikesh where all the yoga schools and many ashrams are located). It is a beautiful area located in the mountains along the holy Ganges River. With my classmates, I sampled many coffee shops, window-shopped, and traversed the famous Laxman Jhula Bridge. It always has monkeys lazing around its entrance and exit. Unfortunately, they are accustomed to humans and will attack periodically if you are holding food. On the same footbridge, you will also find cows, scooters, and many people. The Ram Jhula Bridge a couple kilometers further is quite similar.

On the weekend, our instructors took us to Kunjapuri Temple to watch the sunrise. This Hindu temple is about a two hour drive from Rishikesh. The sunrise was spectacular and we could also see the Himilayan Mountains in the distance. After the sun rose and the other tourists had departed, we meditated together and enjoyed the morning.

Later that day, several of my classmates and I went white-water rafting down the Ganges for three hours. It was awesome and the water was frigid. It sparkled of turquoise blue and reminded me of Canadian glacier water. Additionally, it is considered to be some of the holiest water in the country. My favourite parts was jumping outside the boat and floating down some of the rapids on my own! Of course we held onto the boat and wore lifejackets so we didn’t float away. Overall, the excursion including transportation was only 500 Indian Rupee.

That same evening, I again joined my classmates in a cooking class led by our yoga school’s chefs! They are amazing and demonstrated how to cook several vegetarian Indian dishes.

Other than that, it has been an amazing experience completing my 200 hour yoga instructor course at Rishikesh Vinyasa Yoga School. Several times we have done yoga on the beach next to the Ganges River. Additionally, during one philosophy class, we heard a musicians outside and our teacher invited them into our class. The trio performed for the next half hour and were very entertaining! One of them played an instrument that sounded like a snake-charming flute, one played a drum, and the last seemed to be a manager or friend.

Mar 1-28, 2017 – A Day in the Life of a Yoga Teacher Trainee

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Today’s Alignment Class was on the Beach next to the Ganges River!

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskQSGP1g

Before heading to India, people often asked me whether I had practiced yoga before taking the 200 Hour Ashtanga Vinyasa and Vinyasa Flow Yoga Teacher Training Course at Rishikesh Vinyasa Yoga School. The answer is yes, and I definitely would not recommend taking the course without prior knowledge of yoga. The course is intense physically, mentally, and spiritually.

At this point in my life, it is exactly what I needed: simultaneously for personal development and for the credibility and knowledge of how to teach yoga. It is a skills I can take wherever I go and can use on a daily basis as it encompasses all aspects of life and not just physical asanas or poses. Below is a rough outline of how a typical day is structured. Generally, Sundays are off and on Saturdays we have group outings.

Time Activity Details
6:00 AM Wake up Get ready and join the class for a cup of tea in the kitchen.
6:30 AM Shatkarma (cleansing) & Pranayama (breathing) This involves using a neti pot to clean your nostrils daily. There are several other Shatkarmas that we performed as well. This is followed by a type of pranayama.
7:00 AM – 8:30 AM Vinyasa Flow Yoga This is type of yoga focuses on the connection and flow of poses or asanas.
8:30 AM – 9:30 AM Breakfast

 

A traditional and vegetarian Indian breakfast is served along with chai tea. Our chef was amazing and was always cooking something fresh and delicious.
9:30 AM – 10:30 AM Anatomy

 

Learning anatomical terminology, connective tissue, joints, bones, muscles, nervous systems, and therapeutic concepts.
10:45 AM – 11:45 AM Philosophy

 

The study of yoga philosophies and traditional texts, yoga lifestyle, ethics, and understanding the value of teaching yoga.
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Lunch A traditional and vegetarian Indian lunch is served along with chai tea.
1:00 PM – 3:30 PM Break Free time to explore, shop, relax, or study.
3:30 PM – 4:30 PM Body Alignment Learning the correct positioning of postures or asanas.
4:30 PM – 6:00 PM Astanga Vinyasa Yoga Learning and practicing Sun Salutation A, Sun Salutation B, the Primary Series, and Finishing Series.
6:15 PM – 7:15 PM Meditation and Mantra Chanting Learning various meditation techniques and mantras.
7:30 PM – 8:30 PM Dinner A traditional and vegetarian Indian meal is served along with chai tea.

Overall, my experience so far has been life-changing. Many of my physical and mental boundaries have been shattered. I never thought I would be able to do a backbend and touch my foot to my ponytail or twist my body into such complex positions. I also never though eating vegetarian food could be so delicious and filling. The chef at RVYS is outstanding. Moreover, all the staff are dedicated, fun, and professional. I could not have asked for more. Being at RVYS is life being a part of a family.

Cultural Notes and Observations: Thailand

  • Buddhist
  • Very touristy
  • ATM fees are expensive – 200 baht per transaction
  • So many curries!
  • Use plenty of peanuts and basil in cooking
  • Street food is cheaper than in other parts of South East Asian
  • Elephant pants for sale everywhere
  • Moi Thai boxing is very popular. You always see posters and car with megaphones advertising them
  • Throughout the country, there are posters and shrines to commemorate the dead king
  • Lots of French tourists
  • Local’s English is not as good as in other South East Asian countries
  • Signs at major tourist attractions are only written in Thai
  • Tour guides do not provide much information
  • Hard bargainers – will not budge much on prices

Food I Tried:

  • Green curry
  • Red curry
  • Yellow curry
  • Massaman curry
  • Penang curry
  • Thai Pumpkin soup
  • Mango sticky rice
  • Pad Thai
  • Indian pancake
  • Coconut ice cream
  • Grilled octopus on a stick
  • Patongko (deep-fried dough) with custard
  • Satay
  • Rick crackers with custard sauce
  • Sesame seed coconut balls

Feb 25, 2017 – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

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Two Thai Girls Eating Popsicle on the staircase leading to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskV1gos1

On my mom’s last full day in Thailand we decided to take it easy. In the morning we relaxed and hung out at our hotel’s pool. In the afternoon, we rented a motorbike and drove to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It is a beautiful average-sized temple and located on top of a mountain overlooking all of Chiang Mai. The view is magnificent and you can regularly see planes landing and taking off from the airport just outside the main city. It is one of Northern Thailand’s most sacred temples and you often see Buddhist monks walking the grounds. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the temple was built in 1383 to enshrine Buddha’s relics.

Feb 24, 2017 – Learning to Cook Thai Food in Chiang Mai

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See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskRH79Pj

Ever since taking a cooking class in Bali, Indonesia with Franki and Ranah, I have been keen to try one again! Clearly my heart and stomach are on the same page.

My mom and I found a tour agent that we liked so we booked a half day cooking course at MaMaNoi Thai Cookery School through her for 750 bhat each. It also included a short local market visit to explain about the different ingredients used. We got to look at and touch miniature eggplants (the size of a lime), different varieties of ginger, chili peppers, etc.

The van then drove our small group of ten to a small farm with a beautiful garden about 15 minutes outside of Chiang Mai. Most of the participants in our class were from North America. We had the option of choosing one stir fry, one soup, and one curry and then either spring rolls or Cha-Yen (Iced Thai Tea). I chose pad Thai (Thai style fried noodles), tom-kar-gai (chicken in coconut milk), and green curry.  My mom chose the pad Thai, tom yum kung (hot and sour prawn soup), and gang penang (panang curry). As a group, we decided to make iced thai tea.

Our cooking instructor had a great sense of humour and was a lot of fun. She always said, “How sexy you are you? The hotter you make your food the sexier you are!” All of the food was delicious and I was so full I couldn’t finish all my food. Overall, it was a great experience and I’m glad that I got to share it with my mom!

Feb 23, 2017 – Kissed by an Elephant

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My New Best Friend!

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskPSyHyD

Today was one of my favourite days in Thailand because I got to spend it with elephants at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai. It does not offer elephant riding and actually rescues elephants from riding camps and farmers who cannot care for them.

The site is located hour and a half outside the Chiang Mai in the countryside. The sanctuary is adjacent to a forest and has a river running through the property which is perfect for the elephants. We decided on the morning half day program which is 1700 baht. It was well worth the money and I was extremely satisfied; I couldn’t stop smiling.

We were surrounded by two adults, one adolescent, and two baby elephants. One of which was six months old. I had never been that close to an elephant before. I was a little nervous at first, but they are very gentle creatures for their size. However, the young ones are a little crazy! The elephants’ skin is leathery and rough with black hair sparsely spaced on it. Their eyes are intelligent and calm. My mom was actually quite scared of getting too close so I got some funny photos of her reactions to them.

Not only did our group (probably around 20 people) get to feed the elephants bananas and sugar cane, but we also got to take a dip in a mud bath with them, followed by washing them off in the river. Lots of photo opportunities were presented and the company even had its own photographer. Later they uploaded to Facebook (free of charge).

We arrived back at our hotel around 1:30 and jumped in the pool!

Feb 22, 2017 – Temples and Monk Chats in Chiang Mai

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A Temple at Wat Phra Singh

See more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/140043503@N03/0g4hz6

After applying for my 30 day E-tourist visa for India, my mom and I stumbled upon “The Square” café and I had the best iced Thai tea there that I have ever tasted. My mom got a mocha and enjoyed it so much that she went back and got another one right after she finished the first!

The first temple we visited was Wat Phra Singh. It is a large Buddhist temple with outstanding architecture. It houses three main structures, the main attraction being the elegantly decorated Lai Kam assembly hall and its restored murals depicting the lives of locals hundreds of years ago.

The second temple we visited was Wat Chedi Luang. It is a 600 year old pagoda, the tallest in Thailand Lanna Kingdom. The current temple grounds were originally made up of three temples — Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Ho Tham and Wat Sukmin. One of my favourite parts of Wat Chedi Luang are the shrubs that are pruned and manicured into the shape of elephants!

On the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang is a specific area is set up to chat with Buddhist monks! This was a great way for my mom and I to learn more about Buddhism, the daily lives of monks, and Thai culture. The monk we chatted with spoke English very well and was easy to talk to. I was a little nervous because I had never talked to a monk before. This was one of my favourite experiences in Thailand and I am going to look for more monk chats around South East Asia because I have so many more questions!

Feb 21, 2016 – Flight from Phuket to Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Tasting a Singha Beer for the First Time at Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar

See more photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskPJ8sUs

My mom and I stayed only one evening in Phuket because we were flying out to Chiang Mai the following day. When we checked into Kingsacre we learned that we had been upgraded to a private bungalow. It was absolutely gorgeous! Later, we swam in the pool and were the only ones there. It felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. Kingsacre also had a stunning garden with lush trees, plants, and flowers. Additionally, it is only a five minute drive from the airport.

In the morning, my mom and I took a quick stroll along Nai Yan beach. I wish we could have spent more time there because it was incredible. I loved the colourful beach umbrellas lined up in the sand.

Upon arriving in Chiang Mai, the two of us checked into My Chiangmai Boutique Lodge which was wonderful! The rooms are clean and spacious, and the pool is lovely. All the staff are hardworking and provide great customer service as well.

In the evening, we checked out the famous Night Bazaar. It is one of the largest street markets I’ve been to and it seemed to never end. The mango sticky rice there is delicious!

Feb 20, 2017 – Koh Phi Phi Islands Tour

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Maya Bay Overcrowded with Tourists

See more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/140043503@N03/J28B3k

My mother and I begrudgingly had to book a tour to see the famous Phi Phi Islands because it was substantially cheaper than taking a private boat. We decided to go with Barracudas Tour because it seemed to be the most popular company and our hotel recommend them. It costed 900 baht (which did not include the 400 baht park fee). Expensive! It seemed like a major tourist trap.

We were picked up half an hour late from our accommodation along with a few other people and later arrived at Ao Nang Beach to check-in. We were all provided with blue rubber bracelets which confirmed that we had paid. Afterwards, we were guided to our boat. It was a beautiful speed boat which held our tour group of 30 people and had three 250 horse power engines. It was by far the nicest boat I’ve been on in South East Asia. Luckily, my mom and I were keeners and sat at the very front which was great!

On our way to Bamboo Island, I caught a glimpse of Chicken Island! An island that actually resembles a chicken and can be visited on other tours. I giggled to myself as we drove past.

Bamboo Island was our first stop, and it was stunning. The white sand is  powdery and water is very clear.

Next, we passed by a Viking Cave and Pileh Bay. Pileh Bay is a cute blue lagoon surrounded by limestone cliffs.

Afterwards we jetted to Maya Bay which is one of the most famous beaches in Thailand. It was featured in a scene in “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio in 2000. Unfortunately, the beach was so crowded with boat traffic and people that it was not enjoyable. I think it really raises the question, of “What makes the perfect beach?” My mom and I also ventured to the other side to see a viewpoint of a lagoon which was pretty, but so overcrowded with people that I thought the wooden structure supporting us was going to fall.

Monkey Beach was quite an experience. It should be renamed “Watch Silly Tourists Get Attacked by Crab Eating Macaques”. Any tourist who brought a drink, food, or bag on shore was investigated by a mischievous macaque. The tourist would think it was cute or funny that the monkey would come so close but then would feel alarmed and scarred once several tried jumping on them. My mother and I stayed well away as I do not intend to get close to wild animals and I don’t have my rabies shot. Sadly, the park rangers sat just behind the beach apathetically. Additionally, the snorkeling was not the best.

We had a lovely buffet lunch on Phi Phi Don which had less development on it than I expected. The water was incredibly shallow and warm!

Our last stop was Lohsamah Bay for snorkeling. It is a very charming spot. Although, I did not appreciate the tour company feeding the fish bits of bread. That is not appropriate as it causes the fish to die.

Overall, our tour guides did a good job of letting everyone know the times they needed to be back on the boat and told us where would be going next. Even though I am not a fan of group tours, I did enjoy myself (most likely because I got a spot at the front of the boat).