Dec 31, 2016
2016: A Year in Review
Location: Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore
In a Nutshell
Eight countries, a mosaic of fascinating people, an array of wonderful places, sumptuous food, abundance, joy, solitude, saturation, emptiness, doubt, exhuberance...2016! I guess that's how I can sum the year up.
- monastic life in Plum Village, Thailand - I spent 3 weeks in Plum Village, a monastery in the tradition of the renegade Vietnamese Zen monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. I taught English to the monastics and squeezed-in a few yoga classes as well. I went deeper into what mindfulness is all about
- Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand - It was pure water mayhem for 4 days as revellers loaded their water cannons and fired indiscriminately at anyone and everyone for the annual Songkran, with Chiang Mai as ground zero! At the end of it, I was already feeling trigger-fatigue. The mood was festive and everybody was just out to have fun. I was meeting new friends, left and right.
- north of Thailand - Sure, Bangkok is fascinating, but north of it, from Chiang Mai to Pai, Chiang Rai, Chiang Khong and Chiang Saen, I got a glimpse of the other side of Thailand. Here, life is more laid-back and people are not rushed. In Chiang Khong and Chiang Saen, two towns by the Mekong River, business practically stops in the late afternoon and people take time to go to the river side for evening soirees on picnic mats as they bond over food and story telling. There is much to be learned from them as far as balancing work and personal time to pin down that optimum balance where you equally enjoy both work and pleasure.
- food in Penang, Malaysia - Penang's reputation of being a food capital did not disappoint. This is one place where after savoring a meal, I couldn't wait to be hungry again to try another meal. The char koay teow and it's permutations remain memorable. Aside from food, Penang is cheap, it has street art, the mountains and the beach are all contained in the island. Like Bali, I used up nearly all my visa days in Penang - 3 weeks!
- yoga in Ubud, Bali - it was my first time in Indonesia and loved Ubud where I pursued my yoga by attending as many classes from as many teachers as my time would allow me - 23 days! Of the many yoga disciplines I experienced, I would say Pranawayu Yoga at Taman Hati Ashram impressed me the most. I observed that the good teachers whose classes are mat-to-mat packed have a common denominator. They all evolved their yoga according to how it resonated with them, pulling in their life experience, their knowledge base and conviction. They could practically call it their own yoga. This underscores my yogic tenet that as you deepen your yoga, you do less of other people's yoga and more your own, according to your unique body anatomy, demeanor, understanding of yoga, and even your own DNA.
- durian revenge in Davao, Philippines - finding the musang king durian at $13/kilo in Penang outrageously expensive, I instead took the flight back to Davao, in the Philippines, to indulge in my 1-kilo/day durian consumption at less than $1/kilo
- exploring Panay, Philippines - Panay is a huge island with 4 provinces within. When Panay is mentioned, the only thing Filipinos are familiar with are Boracay and the town fiesta, Ati-Atihan in Kalibo. But when Greg invited me to join him for hot kawa baths in his Kayak Inn resort in Tibiao, I learned there was more about Tibiao and the rest of Panay than what most people know about. This started my 2-month journey circumnavigating the island, making a stop at nearly all the relevant destinations for waterfalls, natural springs, clean rivers and beaches. Panay is overwhelming!
en route to the next destination
I keep repeating myself that at the end of the day, what lingers isn't so much about the cave or waterfall exploration but the people connection. I am overwhelmed to write everything about the memorable encounters I've had, but here's my best to piece together a mosaic of fascinating people I was privileged to meet and share a few insights with.
every lovely face here is a story...an interaction...with lots more faces I didn't have a picture with...with more stories I'm overwhelmed to write about
Julia and I never plan things together, but we happen to meet up every now and then. Once at My Bro's Moustache to catch Chikoy Pura's gig, then at her gig at 12 Monkeys and the latest, in Kuala Lumpur. We're like 2 electrons orbiting around a neutron and on good wind, we collide to catch up on things. She remains a recurring phenomenon to me. Our meet-up is always short but sweet. She seems to have mellowed down with motherhood. Love you girl!
A Vipassana sis from Cambodia, Girllie and I had a good bonding. We had difficult moments but all part of the landscape I had to be familiar with. Thanks to Facebook, we manage to keep in touch.
Ksenia and I met back at the Vipassana course in Battambang (Cambodia). We hung-out and explored the city on bicycles after the course. She was great company. It was a delight to see her again in Bangkok, this time with her husband Sergei. It was a short and sweet meet-up as they were on their way to Vietnam.
Helena and Sabrina
I was essentially leading a monastic life in Plum Village (Thailand) where I met Helena and Sabrina who likewise took refuge in the tranquility of Thich Nhat Hanh's mindfulness meditation retreats. We did meditation and yoga together. As the only English-speaking people in the monastery, we bonded well. I would later see Helena again in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Samantha and I spontaneously got into conversation at a temple in Chiang Mai. Shortly after, we had coffee and then I was riding her bicycle as she was a passenger on the back as we searched until dark for the best Khao Soi dish in Chiang Mai. We had quite an adventure riding into dark alleys and streets not knowing where we were going. She dropped me off my hotel and I never saw her again. Didn't even get her full name or contact number. Sometimes, the best experience is just committed to memory.
Mike sees the big picture and doesn't get bogged down with details. He knows what he wants and doesn't waste time nickel-and-diming for insignificant gains. He's a perfectionist. I like all that about him. We didn't talk much or hang-out much in his hotel, but I won't forget him as the guy who gave me a really nice roof over my head in Chiang Mai.
Ana is radiant and and a bubbly soul. I had a great time just hanging out with her. I would join her and Tiu for fun evenings in Chiang Mai.
Dora and Eva
I had a spontaneous conversation with them across a resto table in Chiang Mai during the wild days of Songkran. We hung out whenever possible, at Nawa Sheeva Hotel's pool enjoying Eggs Benedict or at some roadside eatery savoring Thai food. Through Facebook, we manage to keep in touch.
Cristina is one of those fleeting encounters that leave an indelible mark. We met briefly in Chiang Khong (Thailand) and got to hung-out more in Huay-Xai (Laos). We talked, we shared, we laughed and we agreed on many things. Short and sweet engagement, she was off to another place on the back of a motorcycle with multi-bags and a guitar strapped to her back. What a free soul!
Nalinee Nuch Pramong
It was a fleeting conversation with Nalinee and her mom in Huay-Xai (Laos). I didn't think I'd see her again, but my trip to Chiang Rai (Thailand) where she stays, continued the friendship. She would be my enthusiastic yoga student as her mom would look by. The three of us would enjoy a meal after the session. With the language difficulty, we could only talk so much. But I love the interaction and I like the fact that she always travels with her mom. I find it endearing.
I'm glad I opted to make my visit to Rakesh's office a social call instead of selling him an online deal in exchange for a hotel room in Kuala Lumpur. We talked at length and shared many experiences and insight. By the time I left, we were talking for 3 hours. I hope he made the right choice on that fork on the road.
Lora Frances Lorente
Lora and I bonded when she invited me to stay with them in Kuala Lumpur. We met in a yoga class in Davao and here, I attended her class. I met her husband as well. The couple were such gracious hosts.
Sasha, Manna and Marat
I met them separately in Penang but they knew each other well. Individually, they are what I would call the guru-types - people who have this charisma to win the hearts and minds of people, and the uncanny ability to lead them to a spiritual path. With the limited engagement I had with them, I noticed that what they said is not unique - I've heard it a few times before. But when you actually hear them say it, there is that X-factor...that magnetism that draws you into them. I could understand why they have a multitude of following. It is rare that I encounter such types, but in Penang, they somehow converged while I was there.
Fanny and I just bumped into each other in Penang and started hanging out for coffee and drinks in the ensuing days. But true to the impermanence of traveling, she was off to another place as we were just beginning to get comfortable. Wishing you well in your travels, Fanny.
I met Eunice at Radiantly Alive yoga studio in Bali and we became instant friends. Pranawayu Yoga would be our common ground. We got together again in Singapore chilling out in cafes and restos. She invited me to join her back to her hometown in Malaysia for the weekend where I met her family. We hung out in 3 countries within a few weeks! She resigned from her lucrative corporate job to pursue her bliss. Know that my spirit is always with you, Eunice.
Punnu probably didn't even remember me but we met a couple of times in Manila through Bela Lipat's yoga and Cynthia Alexander's gigs. But when I knew he was also in Bali, I reached out to him. He's the closest thing to a guru given his spiritual journey, experience and knowledge. He invited me to attend all his events at The Yoga Barn which really enhanced my Bali experience - meditation, Bollywood Bhangra Dance Party, sound healing, etc. He tours the world attending to his global commitments.
I attended a few of her talks and yoga class in Bali. Her presence is imposing. When she talks, she commands the stage. We got acquainted by didn't really get to hang-out - I wish we did. She really impressed me as a formidable force of nature. She educates, she re-molds public thinking about outdated beliefs in health. She is the new iconoclast redefining the neo paradigm on what it means to lead a life full of vitality. Like Punnu, she is globally in demand. I would welcome the chance to work with her in the future. I am all-out to take her as my guru.
Ubud's yoga scene was complemented by Natalia. I met her at The Yoga Barn, did Pranawayu Yoga with her at Taman Hati Ashram and likewise did Laughter Yoga at Ambar Ashram. We had lengthy talks about many things. Now, she is Mrs. Natalia Bhandari. All the best on your new journey, Natalia.
Carol was the forward-thinking GM of a newly opened hotel in Malacca, NOMAPS. We got along well as we shared good eats and talked about her family and her ideas about that perfect start. I hope you got what you were aiming at, Carol :)
Mel has been helpful to me in Davao. I tried to reciprocate in my web currency, and we became friends - chilling out and going for foodie treats. She would occassionally invite me to join her friends for good eats at Bahay ni Tuding Inn. Mel is fun to be with.
In Davao, I have my dear friend Joanna to hang with, do yoga with and share insights with. With her pressing duties as mother, wife and yoga teacher, she juggles many things at the same time. I try to attend her yoga classes as much as I can. Missing our idle chats, Joanna :)
Doris is feisty, witty, smart and dedicated. She attended my yoga class in Davao and found lots of common ground. As my dentist, I echo what most of her clients say about her - that I wish I met her early on. We would find ourselves in long engaging talks without noticing the passage of time.
We shared a table in Penang and got to talk briefly - that's it. Months later, she flew out of Norway to join me in Davao for durian and tuna. She's supposed to be in school. Instead, she pays someone to attend all her classes and get the diploma under her name (yes, just like the movie, 3 Idiots). She put up a clever business that pays for her travels. Jin is a perfect example of a life hacker.
I'm not close to my own family but I would like to think I'm close to my mother's siblings in Davao. I take refuge in their nurture whenever I land in Davao. They provide me a sense of well-being and comfort.
I've waited too long to see Cheng again after she helped me out in Siargao by offering her hotel room for my heavy luggage. In Coron, through the kindness of my friend Greg, we got to spend time together - on a hammock, in Culion or just being lazy on a beach. I'm not sure if I see her again, but feeling grateful I had the one chance to see her again.
Greg and Viveca Hutchinson
The 3 of us go back to our Sagada days in mid 2000s but this time around, I got to tag along from Boracay to Tibiao, indulging in a myriad of outdoor adventures - river kayaking, hot kawa baths, etc. Greg and I spent time in Coron for sea kayaking, island expeditions, mountain biking and snorkeling. He embodies the rough-hewn Aussie who loves being 'out there'. Thanks for everything, mates!
It's odd that I would feature Jeanne here when I did not even see her this year. But I noticed that throughout my travel, when I see something nice, my knee-jerk reaction is, "Jeanne would like this". Of course I don't buy it because I don't know if I ever see her again and I don't want to carry the stuff the entire time on my already heavy backpack. What I'm saying is Jeanne seems to be always with me. She says I'm the brother she never had. She's also the sister I never had.
Even though I'm out there to explore places and live the adventure, sometimes, I just want to isolate myself inside my room (specially if it's a nice hotel and the room is comfortable) and be lazy, sleep and feel the time pass me by. It's just good to make time stop...until it feels good to be out there again. On the road, life is always on fast-forward. At times, I drag myself out of bed to do what's out there because I don't really have the luxury of time. Travel fatigue sets in and I begin to wonder what the heck I'm doing this for. This self-doubt occurs...not too often, but it happens.
As a traveler, life is accelerated. What happens to regular people in a month, I could experience in a few days - arriving at an unfamiliar place, looking for a place to stay, finding out where to refill water, where the coin operated laundry is, meeting new people, savoring it's food and attractions, facing new challenges and as I acclimatize into my new routine, I'm already packing up for another destination only to repeat the process all over again. I'm like a dog chasing after its own tail.
Love life for someone who's always on the move takes on new dynamics. With regular people (with 9-5 jobs and an address), it's almost an impossibility because either I don't stay long enough for special moments to take roots, or because my thinking is too radically different from the conventional paradigm, it's alien to them. Intimacy still happens but few, fleeting and far in between - not as often as most people might think, given all the people I meet along the way. I don't go looking for it, but I welcome it if and when it happens.
Traveling in the Philippines vs Traveling in Southeast Asia
I know, it's not fair to compare but I'm just thinking aloud. I find it ironic that I feel more isolation traveling within the Philippines than I do in Southeast Asia.
With local Filipino travelers, nearly all I meet are weekend warriors - playing hard for the weekend before they resume their normal jobs. It's still a Filipino culture where people don't talk to strangers. Besides, they usually travel in groups so they don't really need anyone else to hang with. I always have to make the first move - start a conversation and see how things go. They will respond but more like in a polite and measured way. There is that wall.
Outside, there is always the backpacker community I can interact with. Interaction is part of the landscape - it's expected. From that interaction, depending on the chemistry, you could travel together, or chill out more. The spontaneity just flows. With seasoned backpackers on the SE trail, I don't have to explain myself. We're all too familiar with the landscape of nomadic mobility where friendships can only enjoy a 48-hour shelf life.
There seems to be an emergent Zeitgeist that's happening globally. Three words - Brexit, Trump and Duterte. Just a few years ago, they were unthinkable. Now, we live it. It's as real as it gets. How could this have happened? Is it to say that we're too fucked anyway, so what's there to lose by making a radical and unprecedented choice? I wonder if that's the paradigm. One thing is certain - we live in exciting times and a lot of things are bound to happen in our lifetime given this global trend. For better or worse, we're all in this together.
There were a few things I wanted to do this year but couldn't.
- India - India was on my cross-hairs after being invited by my yoga teacher, Veer to join him in his ashram. But I could not get cheap air fares and the monsoon season in India isn't exactly travel friendly
- Vipassana Meditation - I planned to attend the Satipatana (a more advanced meditation course), even put the event on my calendar, but somehow, the turn of events didn't make it viable. Perhaps it wasn't meant to be...not this year
I realize and fully appreciate that I live a charmed life - and I am profoundly grateful for it. It's not everyday someone like me with little money (let's call it bus fare), no home (literally homeless), no property (except what I have on my backpack) and no job, gets to travel extensively, stay in nice hotels, eat savoury food and meet the most magnificent lives. Life simply doesn't happen that way - but I live and breathe it. The bigger forces at play blaze a path for me. I see its telltale mark along the way...it's unmistakable. I even question what good I have done to deserve this.
At the same time, I feel travel fatigue more than I used to. Perhaps the writing on the wall says my traveling days are numbered. Perhaps my benevolent universe has other plans for me. Like always, I open myself to new possibilities...letting go with full abandon, unattached to anything or anyone, allowing life to take me where it takes me, welcoming uncertainties and dealing with challenges along the way. As a traveler, I live in a world of impermanence as detachment is forced upon me. Again, to live life that way, without the burden of ownership, and not pursue the allure of money and power is unconventional and misunderstood - another realization I enjoy.
To any one who helped shaped my 2016 to be as colorful as it got, my deepest thank you! To my benevolent universe whose unseen hand has always looked after my well-being, I remain grateful and humble.
(Jan 10, 2017) Keep inspiring us. I started following you in 2008, when I was still aspiring to travel. Reading your stories again is like reconnecting to an old friend and to that aspiration--two kids and tons of bills after! Regards.
(Jan 9, 2017) Thank you Gigit for visiting Davao. I'm grateful to know you and your wisdom of simplicity and positivity in life. Wishing you another colorful journey this year. Looking forward to seeing you again.
(Jan 9, 2017) I'll be watching your travels :) Stay safe G.
May Bel Le
(Jan 9, 2017) To new adventures in 2017!
(Jan 8, 2017) what a truly colorful, eventful, fulfilling, fascinating, and enriching year 2016 has been for you, Gigit. you are so blessed to have done the things you love to do. and you certainly deserve all the blessings. the highs and lows were all part of your journey, and you got through all of it "unscathed". cheers to another year of more adventures, more travels, more wonderful people you have yet to meet, ... and continue to live a meaningful, exciting, and purposeful life! I am so in awe of you!
(Jan 8, 2017) come to visit!
(Jan 8, 2017) Thank you too Gigit for the input! Learned a lot from you! Looking forward to seeing you again! Happy travels!
(Jan 8, 2017) You're one of the happiest, joyful, humble and wise person I've ever met! Wishing you many happy years ahead of you!!!
(Jan 8, 2017) I hope you are well my brother, love to you to begin this new year, always...until our paths cross again.
(Jan 8, 2017) You're most welcome Gigit! Looking forward to good years ahead. Happy new year!!!!
(Jan 8, 2017)Grateful for the time together, the exchange, learning. It was great to have met you. You are a great example of how good karma works. So humble and grateful, truly appreciative of what the universe gives you. All answers will come to you when the time is right. They are in you already. A warm loving hug.
(Jan 8, 2017) Amazing... Till your next visit to your home base - Davao.
(Jan 7, 2017) Thank you Gigit for being who you are. Keep up with radiating love & smile!
(Jan 7, 2017) Wishing you a happy new year in good health and with great adventures! So nice memories to share in 2016, was inspiring to meet you Gigit
(Jan 7, 2017) ...seems like I'll see u again. I need to go Philippines. hahahha
(Jan 7, 2017) Thank you for being part of your trip, I really appreciate making your year enriching. You also had a great place during my travel and I will not forget you. Take care and enjoy life xxx. Happy new year Gigit.
(Jan 7, 2017) Wow! Thanks for the special mention Gigit. Was an honor meeting you. Hope to have more breakfast time with you once you're in Davao.
(Jan 7, 2017) This is ! Being part of your beautiful journey is amazing sir Gigit. ..looking forward for another great year ahead. I'll always carry those beautiful insights I've learned from you. You will always have a special place in Davao. Pls come back soon.
Joanna Co Lizares
(Jan 7, 2017) Thank you, Gigit, for being such a great friend.
(Jan 7, 2017) Thank you also, sir Gigit for sharing those beautiful words with us...til we meet again
(Jan 7, 2017) Thank you Gigit. Meeting you was life changing. My spirit is always with you too.
(Jan 7, 2017) Appreciate that special mention, and indeed time spent was limited but well spent! Hope to meet again one day, when we both achieve what we are aiming for! Take care always my dear friend!
(Jan 7, 2017) Hope to see you in 2017
(Jan 7, 2017) ...you remind me of the Lao Tzu saying that a traveler should not plan and know his destination
(Jan 7, 2017) Aren't you missing abstinence in a monastery, Git? The best for 2017!
(Jan 7, 2017) Thanks as well for passing by in 2016 Git!
(Jan 7, 2017) Was so amazing to meet you Hun!!! See you soon xxxxx
Lora Frances Lorente
(Jan 7, 2017) What a wonderful year it has been! Cheers to more adventures Git ?? Know that you have a home in Kuala Lumpur!
(Jan 7, 2017) A big thank you to you sir Gigit, Pau & I won't forget you starting the day we meet at Bugis Junction, Singapore, happy new year sir!
(Jan 7, 2017) Happy new year Git! X
(Jan 7, 2017) Happy 2017 Git!
Nalinee Nuch Pramong
(Jan 7, 2017) Glad to be 1 of your memorable reviews! ^__^ Happy new year teacher!
(Jan 7, 2017) Aaahh! Loved the mention!! And the photos!! Right back at you!! I should definitely have done a peoplescape as well, beautiful idea!
Dec 31, 2016
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