Monthly Archives: November 2019

The charms of Badass-Dancing in Bali


Om Swastiastu (hello in Balinese) cherished readers,

just announcing that this week´s travel journey will take us on a slight detour from Chiang Mai to Bali, before heading back to Leila and the Land of a million rice fields next week.


On this week´s adventure, we will encounter Rangda the daemon-queen, a Balinese prince with feverish dreams and the unusual and mighty sounds of Gamelan music. You will also join me for a kind of weird yet fun Balinese dance class!



To embark on our adventure, please join me here for insights into Balinese dance and music.


I had written and published half of this post in January this year, but the powers of WordPress denied a new notification to you lovely ones. As a bonus, I´ve also added an audio-story. So here you go, you are all caught up – stoked to have you join me in Bali this week as we learn more about the immensely intriguing culture of the so-called Island of the Gods.


Sampai jumpa lagi (see you soon in Indonesian), your Gypsy friend

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments
 
 

Balinese dance and music: Passion meets grace


For the audio-story, please click here

Unusual melodies awaken you from your thoughts. Sounds that seem slightly disruptive, like speedy drivers on a silent road, suddenly envelop you. You might not know what to think of this music that´s at once exotic and bewitching.


Balinese performance art: Gamelan sounds and beauty abound


What you do know is that you simply can´t help but be intrigued by it all: the all-male Gamelan orchestra which elicits the traditional Indonesian sounds from xylophones, drums, gongs, and other percussive instruments. The stunning backdrop of the performance stage, with its intricately ornated angkul-angkul traditional gate and guardian statues. The gorgeous Balinese dancers, expressing the depth and versatility of their cultural stories and myths with such passion and precision.


There is grace in their movements, there is a pure embodiment of all that´s good, enticing and seductive about the Balinese culture. Theirs is the perfect blend of spirituality and sensuality, always offered up to the higher realms they so believe in.

Balinese dancers in Ubud, photo by Aditya Agarwal from Pexels

The accompanying Gamelan-music roots´ lie in an even older past than the Hindu-Buddhist origins of Balinese faith. They are a mesmerizing remnant of indigenous art forms that dominated the cultural expressions of Indonesia during its earliest records.


Barong and Legong Dance at Ubud royal palace: An artistic battleground


To get a taste of this very particular cultural phenomenon, head to Ubud royal palace at about 6:45 Pm as each night starting at 7:30 PM there´ll be a variety of rich dances shown there. The royal palace, known as Puri Saren Palace to the locals, is one of Ubud´s cultural hot-spots located along the town´s bustling main road Jalan Raya Ubud. The performances being shown there include Barong Dance, Mahabharata and Legong Dance… take your pick and expect to be wowed. To help you figure out which dance performance you might be most drawn to, here a little insight into two typical types of Balinese dance:


The Barong Dance is where Barong, a creature akin to a lion in the mythology of Bali, meets Rangda, badass-demon queen and mother of all spirit guarders. Sounds a bit like Game of Thrones, doesn´t it? Well, it´s not entirely the same, but there is an epic battle to behold, a war between good, mirrored in Barong, the king of the spirits, and evil, in the form of Rangda. I could go on a slightly feminist rant here due to “good” appearing in the form of a male figure and “bad” personified in a female. But fear not, I won´t. The dance is still an amazing sight to be enjoyed, after all!



The Legong Dance, traditionally performed by girls who have not reached puberty, enacts different traditional tales, one of them telling the story of the King of Lasem, a true heroic romance. Interestingly enough, according to legend, Legong dance came into being through a dream vision! The prince of Sukawati is said to have had a feverish dream in which two girls danced to Gamelan music. Subsequently, being the inspired guy he was, the prince arranged for such dream dances to be performed in real life.


Another story version of Legong´s possible origins states that it came into being through the sanghyang dedari, a ceremony involving voluntary possession of two little girls by beneficent spirits. Sounds kinda creepy, though, right? Again, fear not, the dance performances are absolutely mindblowing anyways, no matter where their origins really lie.


Legong dancers at Ubud Royal Palace. Photo: Saranabhi/Wikimedia commons

By the way, no matter which performance you choose to watch in the end, you can´t really go wrong: each one of them will be like a window into a very different world and enticing in its own right. And you might be more than just intrigued by its mesmerizing after- effects…


Musings on creativity: The inspiring after-effects of outstanding performance-art


I mean, do you know that feeling when you have just finished watching either a great stage performance or a fantastic movie and want nothing more than owning it like that performer just did? For some moments in time, the boundaries between you and the art in question seems to have dissolved, and its particular charm lingers in your consciousness, infusing you with the sense of new possibilities and alternative ways of being. The promise of a new you, waiting to be born into the world!


Because, let´s be honest, friends: who hasn´t aspired to be the Wolverine/ Rose from “Titanic”/ Rambo/ a Disney princess/ Mick Jagger, just moments after being utterly entranced and enchanted by their outstanding creation of art? Yes, I see you, singing into your hairbrush in front of the mirror or swaying your hips behind closed curtains …keep doing you!



Anyways, that after-performance-trance is exactly what happened to me after watching the aforementioned Balinese dance performance on the majestic playground of Ubud´s royal palace. Absolutely awe-struck by the dancer´s precise yet magical movements and with little hesitation, I booked myself into a Balinese dance class at the hotel I was staying at.



Balinese Dance lessons: Insights into a world of precision and faith

Funny thing though: The dance class eventuated in the foyer of the hotel, right next to the check-in and in front of the buffet, where people were munching on their mango-papaya-dragonfruit-salads and other tropical breakfast delights. Yeah, that´s right: My first steps into Balinese dance would be accompanied by dozens of digestive systems operating at highest speed.


First, though, it would be time to meet Eka, a lovely Balinese woman who would help me transform into an aspiring Balinese dancer for the day.  I was a little nervous: The femininity and beauty of Balinese women is the stuff legends are made off, after all! 

From a young age, Balinese girls are trained in creating intricate flower offerings and presenting them in sequence at the family temple accompanied by rituals and prayer. Furthermore, they also learn about traditional Balinese food preparation and Balinese dance, as Eka told me while dipping her makeup brush into a vast array of colors and applying them generously to my face.



With the days of dramatic make-up mostly behind me and banished to my teenage years and early twenties, I was a little out of my comfort zone – listening to Eka´s fascinating insights into Balinese culture fortunately made the time go by rather quickly. To finish the transformation into a tiny dancer, I slipped into a fancy Balinese dance-attire that Eka had lovingly handed me, and off to the hotel-lobby-area aka classroom we went.


Alas, it was time to get over my pieces of shyness for a little while and delve into some typical Balinese dance movements as instructed by my gentle teacher, never minding the full-to-capacity breakfast area and countless people curiously eyeing off this foreigner-pretending-to-be-Balinese. And this is how it went down:



Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever seen a traditional Balinese dance performance before, or a traditional dance performance from a foreign culture in general? Also – did you ever sing into a hairbrush? Sorry, had to ask 😛 As always, would love to hear from you!

Practical information on catching a performance in Ubud:

  • The easiest way to get tickets:  If you are around Jalan Raya Ubud in the afternoon, you´ll most likely run into street vendors offering tickets to the nightly spectacles. Otherwise, just head directly to Ubud Royal palace no later than 7 pm to buy your tickets at the door.
  • Performance time and duration:  Nightly performances start at 7:30 PM every day of the week and last for an hour.
  • How much does it cost me? You´ll be 100.000 IDR poorer per person, yet a lot richer in spirit!
  • Where was it again? At Ubud Royal Palace, Jalan Raya Ubud No 8, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, World.

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Calming Chiang Mai: An elephant always remembers

For the audio-story, please click here

Hurry up, hurry up, we´re gonna miss that bloody train!” My travel companion is slightly out of it after a crazy Tuk Tuk ride through Bangkok´s buzzing concrete jungle. It did rather feel like a stroller ride on Speed, and it also did look rather funny of sorts with all our, or should I say my, mighty luggage squeezed into the Tuk Tuk´s modest space. And us squeezed right next to it like willing pieces of Tetris that somehow miraculously seemed to fit together. 

Anyways, no time left for such silly musings while running through the Bangkok train station, desperately trying to catch the 12-hour-long jungle train ride to Chiang Mai, located 700 km north of Thailands´s capital Bangkok. 

Boarding the train to Chiang Mai, the crown´s diamond 

This is it, this is it!” , I encouragingly mumble to myself while approaching the Thai-Railways-operated train. Better take up running again, I kinda lost my former almost-athlete-momentum – my thoughts ramble on as a smiling, composed train employee helps us to lift our suitcases onto the train. Did that vehicle already start moving while we were just jumping on board? Quite possibly!

We were not in safety-conscious Australia anymore, after all. Nor in rule-laden Europe. No, we were in spiritual, faith-full and for the most part royalty-revering Thailand, and on our intrepid way to Chiang Mai, the Northern capital of the province bearing the same name.

What a wonderful wat

A particularly stunning example of Thailand´s 41,205 Buddhist temples (source- Office of National Buddhism)

 

Image by Jenny Cleary via Pixabay

One of Thailand´s approximately 300.000 monks going about his not-business

 

Bhumibol Adulyadej, image by Hans Brax,maier via Pixabay

Former king Bhumibol Adulyadej was beloved by many of Thailand´s seventy million inhabitants

As indicated, any visitor to the land of the former kingdom of Siam should know that generally speaking,  the Thais love and truly care for their king. The Thai constitution even emphasizes that “the King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated“. Let´s, therefore, remain royalty-positive and take in what former King Rama once said about our new travel destination:

Chiang Mai represents the prime diamond on the crown of Thailand, the crown cannot sparkle and be beauteous without the diamond…

King Rama V, 12 August 1883
 

Thai-train-training: Mind over matter

Friends, what can I say – if Chiang Mai was good enough for King Rama, it certainly would be good enough for us little munchkins. Whether King Rama would have diged that train-carriage, though – I guess that´s a completely different matter. In any case, we were booked in for the second class, which was quite alright. As was to be expected, the first class did look a fair bit nicer, and toilet amenities there were also more agreeable. A freaking lot more agreeable!

But our seats were clearly marked second class, and after my travel companion went on some train explorations and came back with his assessment of our current pee-possibilities (“Yeah, nah. It´s not good“), I decided to once again muster up all my courage and my iron strength of will and turn the train ride into a 12-hour-no-bladder-release-challenge.

While taking that almost heroic decision, I grimly clutched onto my “South- Eastern Asia on a shoestring” travel guide. Taking in as much well-researched information on impossibly alluring Thailand as feasible would be my best ally while defeating the lurking powers of down under.

 

And – taking in those views did its part in distracting me from the nether regions! Lush green landscapes moved past in a perfectly timed speed, allowing the eyes to be soothed after a week amidst the electric creative chaos of Bangkok. Humble shacks, built into the evergreen landscape, with beautiful Thai women carrying a child or two on their backs, passed us by. Contemplating these and other images of Central and Northern Thailand´s beating bountiful green heart, twelve long hours went by.

720 minutes whole minutes, in which I learned that Chiang Mai hosts over 300 Buddhist temples, the so-called wats, a Thai word you might recall from our previous Bangkok adventure. And that the inhabitants speak Northern Thai, otherwise known as  Lanna, owning to the fact that the area of Northern Thailand was the birthplace of the first Thai kingdom, the Lanna Kingdom. For my poet-souls out there: the poetically charming yet linguistically precise way to clothe these words into more eloquent robes lies in referring to the Lanna kingdom as “the land of a million rice fields”.  

On a slightly more trivial side-note: The twelve hours from bustling Bangkok to the land of a million rice fields did expire with zero bladder-release, I am proud to announce. 

Arriving in Chiang Mai: A theory about Germans and a thailicious array of options

We reached Northern Thailand´s largest city around midnight, and a local from our pre-booked hostel was supposed to pick us up from the train station. Or so we thought. That local looked suspiciously Caucasian, though!

As soon as he opened his mouth, my nagging hunch got confirmed – once again, it was an adventurous German on the run from grey winters and possibly too much self-imposed discipline standing right in front of me! No matter how far you travel, you can never escape the reliable presence of wanderlusty Germans, I thought. As a half-German myself, I should know… 

image by wichitth via Pixabay

Chiang Mai´s abundance is loved by Thais and Germans alike – Image by wichit thepprasit from Pixabay

 

chiang-mai-1670926 image by Michelle Maria on Pixabay

One of Chiang Mai´s fabulous 300 + temples, where Buddhist believers come to worship

Thomas had moved to Chiang Mai some years back and had opened a Backpacker´s with his Thai girlfriend, a kind yet cheeky looking, petite woman we met that same night before checking into what would be our humble new home for the next three weeks. Thomas was a laid-back, rather skinny guy with glasses and light brown hair, and when we started chatting for a while in German, it was rather easy to detect the soothing, melodious dialect of the Bavarians in his speech.

Thomas and his girlfriend, the latter a much more lively and enthusiastic type than Thomas himself, laid out our many Chiang Mai leisure activity options that same night (right, I still had not peed!! 14 hours had gone by…I know, where is the Guinness book of records data-entry-person when you need him/her?!).

From cooking classes to white water rafting, from Thai-massage-workshops, Muay-Thay-boxing events to talk-to-a-monk-sessions – I felt a rush of excitement when perusing through all the exhilarating options. It was one activity that really jumped out at me, though – a one-day-training-experience as an elephant mahout, an elephant rider/ trainer. Getting up close and personal with powerful animals and learning from them? Sign me up! 

Phad Thai, Thailand´s most famous dish

Possible cooking-class- result Phad Thai, a delicious noodle dish – yum!

Water for elephants: Learning to be a mini-mahout

Two days later, we were sitting on a vehicle with a Rasta-haired Italian, an intrepid German couple, and a few fancy Frenchmen riding through the Northern Thailand landscape, not far from the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers. After a short stop at a picturesque butterfly garden, we arrived at our rather-out-of-the-ordinary destination – an elephant camp smack in the middle of the jungle nestled against a murky river. A quick introduction by the elephant trainers later, and…

there´s a rumble. It´s a different kind of sound, not too loud, yet powerful and imposing in its own right. Leaves are rustling, and all eyes are pinned on the horizon,  as the massive shape of a majestic Asian elephant appears in the distance. A self-assured trumpeting noise resounds… and there she is, gorgeous, regal; around 5 tonnes of pure fabulousness, right in front of us tiny and pretty intimidated yet curious humans.

Leila“, I name her quietly and completely awe-struck, just to get some kind of grasp on this almost surreal situation. Slowly, I m allowed to approach her. And then the first of a series of incredibly exciting things happen…

Meeting Leila and hoping she´ll like the treat

Meeting Leila and hoping she´ll like the treat

 

Elephant cuddles

Did you know? An elephant´s skin weighs over 900 kg/ 2000 pounds on average. Holy moly!

 

Leila´s skin is less wrinkled than her African elefant friends´one, btw

Getting up close and personal: Leila´s Asian elephant- skin is less wrinkled than her African elephant friends´one

next time, we will continue on the mahout-for-a-day adventure and find out more about ethical elephant encounters in Thailand – it´s important to distinguish here, more about this in the next post. We will also witness an eclectic, wild and inspirational night market and an intense Thai-massage-workshop, and much more. It will basically be my absolute best of 3 weeks in Chiang Mai for you, plus some juicy insights into the life of an elephant on top!

Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever had any out-of-the-ordinary animal encounters? What stood out to you about it? Or would there be any animals you would be particularly interested in hanging out with? As always, would love to hear from you! 🙂


Healing travel tip: Am gonna share some healing travel tips at the end of some posts from now on. Healing here refers to both the planet and oneself – which are always interconnected in my perception.

Today´s healing tip – If you fly for leisure or work and have the means to, please check out the possibility of flying climate neutral, offsetting your emissions to lessen our impact on mother earth. Mindful flights is a great initiative I´ve just come across. Thank you, enjoy:)

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Surprise time

Dear readers,

for the ones of us living in the Northern Hemisphere,´tis the time of year to snuggle up with a warm cozy blanket on the couch, your favorite steaming hot tea in a cup and a good read. Or…


…a good story being narrated from me to you, over oceans and deserts, mountains and forests, and through time and space! Sometimes it´s nice to rest our eyes and just listen for a while…


That´s why I´ve come up with some podcasts/ audiostories for you. For now, they will basically be audio-versions of my posts, so please find the links to the last two Baden-Baden-post-podcasts below.

There is also a podcast on “A monkey kind of day in Gibraltar” , an adventurous day spent between canons and free-ranging naughty monkeys on a giant rock. I will publish new podcasts on a weekly basis from now on, and continue to publish new travel-posts bimonthly.



Also, for my friends in the Southern Hemisphere/ any countries where it´s warm now: Please substitute blanket, couch and tea with bathers, grass-or sandpatch and watermelon-juice, and feel free to listen to the podcasts while jogging at the beach, Baywatch-style. Or while enjoying a leisurely picnic. Or while chilling out in a cafe.

No matter where you are, though – I wish you a fabulous, cozy and relaxing weekend with many positive impressions! Another exciting travel story will be out in the following week:) Thanks for your readership and loyalty, I really appreciate every single one of you and your time very much!

Here are….drum roll… the links to the podcasts:

Visting Baden-Baden: A dreamy blast from the past

Baden-Baden part 2: Relax and relish like royalty

A monkey kind of day in Gibraltar

Back to you, dear reader and hopefully-soon-listener: Do you enjoy listening to audio books or podcasts? Do you have any favorite ones to recommend or share with us? Do you have any suggestions or input for my future podcasts? As always, I´d love to hear from you!

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , | 41 Comments

the longest journey

Hi dear ones, today the extraordinary Lonely Author himself gifted me with this incredible mention on his beautiful web-place of love, poetry, and support for the feminine. I feel really humbled and thought I´d try my first reblog to share this with you beautiful souls. Please check out the Lonely Author´s amazing online abode, it´s truly a place and refuge of love and kindness on the web:) Have a gorgeous day everyone, and stay tuned, as I have a little surprise up my travel sleeve for you coming soon!

The Lonely Author

There’s more to life than being a passenger.” – Amelia Earhart, aviation pioneer, author, visiting faculty member at Perdue University, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Prior to starting my Inspiring Women of WordPress series, I mentioned my dear friend Maria Elena of A Gypsy At Heart. Since today is my travel day, I wanted to introduce her once again. What can I say about a woman who has a gypsy heart and the soul of an angel? She inspires me with her beautiful journeys to far off lands. All the while, she enchants you with her sincerity and warmth. She may take you to the far corners of the Earth, but I assure you, you will never be far from her heart. Please get inspired by the brilliance of A Gypsy at Heart.

the longest journey

My three month journey…

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