Dec 31, 2018
2018: A Year In Review
Location: Philippines, Malaysia, Nepal, India, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand
In A Nutshell
After being a traveler within the Philippines for a good 19 months, I left the country again in March to do my Satipatthana Vipassana course in Kuantan, Malaysia. This started me traveling again in Asia. I've visited 3 new countries this year - Nepal, India and Myanmar (Tachileik from 3 years ago doesn't really count). After that stint, I practically bounced in-and-out of Thailand and Vietnam, with Skyscanner giving the best air fare rates for these 2 countries.
During this entire year, money remained precariously low. I was able to make barter deals for accommodation, food and some fancy indulgence (float spa, birds nest, massage), but money remained elusive. I would make loose change here-and-there, but never a meaningful amount. I would often arrive in a country with just $50 and find a way to survive the next 30 days. At one point in Bangkok, I was down to Baht 80 ($2.50) before new money trickled down - I was just 2 meals away from starving! But always...and I really mean always in the last 6 years I'd been traveling homeless as a renunciate, I have never missed a meal or slept on a sidewalk. My benevolent universe has always been there to bail me out in the last agonizing seconds, providing me exactly what I need to survive (nothing more, nothing less). This repeating pattern is also my assurance that my universe has always been there for me...24/7. Even though I know that the power that created the Big Bang is right behind me, millions of years of evolution couldn't stop my overheated mind from racing if I'm too close to the abyss. I'm exhausted from being on my toes, keeping my head alert and vigilant - because I still have to do my due-diligence to make the magic happen.
Surviving Paharganj, New Delhi, India
Paharganj is the backpacker ghetto of New Delhi. This place will test your nerves and resolve. From the moment you step out of your hostel, touts harass you, one after another. They are unrelenting. The permeating smell of spice being cooked along the streets penetrate the sinuses. The smog makes your eyes watery. The heat, intensity, congestion, dirt and crime rate assault your senses. New Delhi is the rape capital of India, but Paharganj is the rape capital of New Delhi, just to put things in perspective. Local people in Delhi would not venture into Paharganj. I could not stay anywhere else because this was the cheapest. I survived 5 days in Paharganj! After this rite of passage, nothing hurts in India anymore.
Fox and Firefly Resort Overseer
I've always been curious what it's like to manage a resort. I had my chance when Fox and Firefly resort owners, Joan and Fredrick, asked me to be their eyes and ears in their resort while they were gone on holidays. Essentially, I was the resort manager. Admittedly, I took my role too seriously - trouble shooting staff HR issues, conducting mountain bike repair workshop for the staff, being tour guide to the resort guests, interacting with guests and ensuring all is well, even teaching the kitchen people how to properly toast bread. I think I did pretty well. I liked it too.
Coming to Terms with Donations
This was a curve-ball I didn't see coming. Someone from a distant past, someone I wasn't even in touch with, messaged me from out of the blue to make a donation. She's not the first one to do so, but always, I would gratefully decline saying my poverty is by my own choice, despite my constant complain that it was exhausting me. A lot of that is also pride.
But just a month before, I asked my universe to shower me with abundance as I've had enough of the renunciate world. Whatever needed to be proven in my quest for poverty has already been put to the test. So, now, abundance knocks on my door and I say, NO? Am I mind-fucking myself here? My benefactor told me that my saying no meant stopping her happiness from sharing with me her abundance - and she was right. With humility and gratitude, I accepted her donation. It was a paradigm shift for me that I even put up a donation page. I give as much as I can without any intention of a payback, so why should I feel wrong about accepting a donation. I think I have finally come to terms with that.
That donation took me out of the red and was put into my online bank that pays for my online purchases - I cannot use it for cash. To my wonderful benefactor (who wished to remain unnamed, bless you!).
I'd been to many new places this year, but Dharamsala took my breath away. By that, I mean Upper Bhagsu and Upper Dharamkot...a good hike up from McLeod Ganj. Carrying my 24k backpack up that mountainous trail with no training and no acclimatization to the upper elevation was a rite of passage. The view from above was mesmerizing. Being up there brought me closer to the gods. The denizens have been filtered already from the tourists of McLeod Ganj. Everybody was practically like-minded with headspace and narratives about meditation, yoga, qi-gong and the spiritual path. Nearly everyone carried a book about their spiritual practice. Cafes abound with people cut from the same cloth you could readily interact with. I was in bliss the entire time I stayed up there.
Vipassana at Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery
The 20 days I stayed there was pure bliss. I discovered a different approach to my meditation practice that broadened my understanding. The place was pristine and manicured with the mountainous rock outcropping in its backdrop. The food was a vegetarian indulgence with all day coffee/tea/cocoa. The people I met were wonderful souls I will continue to be connecting with long after I've left the monastery's hallowed grounds. Lastly, the monks and retreat managers were really there to help us with our needs and practice. You would feel the hearts were there. They implemented a balanced treatment of leniency, tolerance and discipline. In my parting words to Mr. Pong, the retreat manager, "My relationship to this monastery is for life. If I can help, I'm just an email away."
I did a handstand cliff-dive from 22 feet and landed flat on my face and chest. It felt like a collision with a car. I thought I fractured my skull and imploded my rib cage. After 7 days, I had a vertigo - everything was spinning around me. I suspected I had a ruptured cranial blood vessel. Since I wasn't willing to go to a doctor (as I didn't have money for it and also because I have always self-healed myself), I pondered on going inside a cave to heal myself through everything I know about meditation, pranayama, kumbhaka, visualization, etc. Either I come out of the cave completely healed or not come out at all. I was resigned to face the worst and gracefully meet my maker. Friends intervened and 'twisted my arm' to get a CT Scan. Turns out I was healthy and came out of the whole thing unscathed.
Love life has always been a dicey thing for me. Because I feel and act young, I get attracted to young women who may find me interesting but also think I'm too old for them. Women my age are usually established, great companion with great life experience who probably like me, but I find them a little too mature for me. It's a boomerang that hits me twice over. And that's where I am - stuck between a rock and hard place.
I rolled-up my sleeves to sink deep into the new way websites are now developed - responsive to every device, search-engine-optimized, scalable to new technologies, compliant to the latest web standards and uptodate with emergent design trends. I developed proficiencies with hand-coding, template coding and WYZYWIG development. I've done websites for Adventure Hostel, proposed a website for a German deli, currently developing a website for Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery and a few more sites on the horizon. I can now be more aggressive in developing websites as a means to keep me afloat.
Tibetan Yantra Yoga
It was also in Dharamsala that I was introduced to the Tibetan Yantra Yoga. The practice is unique and different from my Indian Hatha Yoga. With the practice integrating movement with kumbhaka (breath holds), visualization of prana and the chakras, it was potent and powerful. Fusioned with my Hatha yoga, freediving background, Vipassana elements and every Easter Egg I stumbled-upon my travels, I've architectured my own brand of yoga where I hardly age, don't get sick, away from medication or maintenance pills and strong as a raging locomotive.
I've always been an outsider looking in. For the longest time in my life, I felt alone, rebelling against a world I never made. There was a point I wished that people would invite me to dinner in their homes - not because I want dinner with them, but because it would be my benchmark that I was no longer an outsider. People do not invite anyone into the sanctity of their private homes to meet with their family if that person is undesirable. It was much later on in life when I realized being half-in and half-out was a wonderful state to be. I relished my independence as I relished the company of people I met along the way. I became comfortable under my own skin without needing anyone to validate me. Vipassana meditation helped me see that all the answers I seeked already resided within me.
I meet many people, but remain fiercely loyal to a few.
Mike remains a looming presence the whole year even though he remained in Chiang Mai. When I had a cliff-dive accident, his reassuring words went a long way. When I came to Bangkok, he invited me to stay a full 2 weeks in his luxurious hotel room at Nawa Saraan in Chiang Mai. When he sensed I didn't even have the money to make the trip (that was the time I landed in Bangkok with only $50), he offered to buy my Bitcoin Cash (even though he never liked crypto-currencies).
In Chiang Mai, he gave me a SIM card for my phone, threw me some cash, "I don't like to see this guy's face in my wallet! Here, have it." - and he was talking Mao Tse Tung on Chinese Yuan and US presidents on US dollars. I accepted clearly assuring him I would take it as a loan (I've already paid most, but I still owe him around $63) [as of Feb 2019, I have already fully paid him].
When I visited Bangkok again, he again invited me to come up to Chiang Mai - I felt a little awkward staying in his hotel again so soon and forfeiting lost revenue from his cash-paying hotel guests.
On another visit to Bangkok, I went up Mae Hong Son to meditate. Mike at that time was going through some serious shit with business and family. He's in the middle of a construction on his most ambitious hotel and many wrinkles had to be ironed-out. I suggested he join me at the Wat Pa Tam Wua to meditate and clear his cobwebs. He did for 2 nights. We hung-out there in the peace and tranquility of the monastic retreat.
We rode together to Pai and back to Chiang Mai where I again checked-in to my familiar room in Nawa Saraan. Sensing my cash predicament, he advanced me some money to develop the website for his third hotel, even though it won't be awhile before pictures can be taken. When he learned I lost my phone in DaNang, he gave me a brand new Xiaomi A2 Lite phone + a power bank - both still in their boxes! I declined the power bank - it would seem taking advantage already. If all that was not enough, he even suggested I apply for a 90-day visa to Thailand and stay at a private room in Nawa Saraan (not a hotel guest room, but a very decent private room). He even said if I wanted to stay a full year, he'll lend me show-money to present immigration. Whoa! I haven't done anything to deserve this kindness from Mike. But for whatever good I have done in my life and perhaps a previous life to deserve this, I am profoundly grateful to this man.
- Shifting Peoplescape Of Chiang Mai July 2020
- 2019: A Year in Review Dec 31, 2019
- Peoplescape of Chiang Mai Jan 24-Mar24, 2019
- Resuming Life in Chiang Mai Jan 24, 2019
- Overnight in Pai with Mike Jan 1, 2019
- 2018: A Year In Review Dec 31, 2018
- Peoplescape of Chiang Mai Dec 12, 2018 - Jan 1, 2019
- Mike Chong Aug 8, 2018
- Kneaded and Pampered at Zira Spa Aug 4, 2018
- Savoring a Baht 3,500 Birds Nest Soup at Natural Bird Nest by Burapa Aug 3, 2018
- Chiang Mai's Amazing Peoplescape Apr 9-23, 2016
It's amazing how far Chai and I have come from our UP days (University of the Philippines). She started out as a crush-at-first-sight, but now I love this girl. She's been a recurring constant...in Cebu, in Bangkok and in Chiang Mai. Perhaps it's karmic entanglement. Whenever possible, we hang-out for laughs, to trade narratives about our continuing journey, good eats and coffee talk. When I'm looking for conversation, I default to her on Messenger. Moreover, she looks after my well-being. In tight situations, she bails me out. Of course, I'm more than happy to reciprocate. Love you, girl!
Eunice is also a recurring constant. We met in Indonesia and have reconnected in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. A visit to Thailand is never complete without catching-up with Eunice. Like a big-hearted Good Samaritan, she has bailed me out of tight situations - always there when needed. We both left the corporate world to follow our bliss. Now we are on parallel rails as we pursue our spiritual paths. With the addition of Jeanne (in the Philippines), I would say that Chai and Eunice are the 3 women closest to my ❤.
I met Greg in Rishikesh and met him again in Dharamsala. And we would discourse on our spiritual path and talk about gurus and babas.
He's a seeker on steroids. He goes the whole 9-yards in his pursuit of enlightenment(?). Everything that's out there is fair game for him - yoga, spiritual pilgrimage, chakra healing, meditation, reiki, craniosacral therapy, ecstatic dance, etc. But he can process it all. He's intelligent, articulate and spans a knowledge that is both deep and broad. I echo back his affectionate words, "Nothing but love, Brother" 🙏
I met Helena also in Rishikesh at the same lodge I met Greg. Helena has a tough carapace but pure love inside. We didn't really meet and hang until our last few days, but those moments under the stars and talks at the cafe were priceless. She pursues a spiritual path with one foot in Cloud 9 and the other foot on solid ground. We continue to message each other across the miles. I miss her and I can't wait to hug her one more time.
Tin was the hotel owner where I stayed at in Yangon, Myanmar. There was something special about him and something special he ran his business. For a modest dorm bed, I got a fruit platter/viand/coffee for breakfast, laundry and wifi. He's astute as a businessman but he puts Dhamma first before money. We became instant friends. I learned later he's a Vipassana meditator from my same Uba Khin tradition but a different teacher - now I understand where his kindness is coming from. He even tagged me along one of his sits. I became yoga teacher to his staff and family. We would hang outside too - Mundo Lingo and The Social House. He left me an assurance next time I stop by Yangon, I won't be just a hotel guest but his guest. That was sweet. I feel privileged meeting such evolved people in my travels.
No, I haven't seen Hanka this year or in the last 14 years since my pizza nights in Toronto, but she delivered a powerful message and a gift that changed my thinking radically. From the brief exchanges we had, I learned more about acceptance, generosity and humility. Powerful! I share you my merits, Hanka. 🙏
- Peoplescape of Chiang Mai Jan 24-Mar24, 2019
- 2018: A Year In Review Dec 31, 2018
- Revolving Peoplescape of Bangkok Oct 8 - Nov 8, 2018
It was a brief acquiantance in Ho Chi Minh City before I had to pack-up for Bangkok. She was homesick about Hanoi but had to begin her studies at Ho Chi Minh City. We were looking for friends and we found each other. That friendship grew roots online as we kept in touch. It's not an everyday thing, but often enough to keep it alive and pulsing. It would be nice to see again in Hanoi so I can best appreciate that vibrant city through her lenses.
ON THE HORIZON
Long-Term in Chiang Mai
Before my departure from Thailand, Mike suggested I get a 60-day extendable visa to Thailand and stay in his hotel upon my return. He even showed me my new room with an ensuite. Nice! Not sure what I'll be doing in Chiang Mai for that length of time but there are many options - I can teach English/yoga to his staff, teach English at Chiang Mai's foremost university (teaching English to their English teachers), teach yoga at a studio, make websites for establishments, etc. It's a broad horizon of possibilities.
I thought I have seen the tail-end of my nomadic life but 2018 proved me wrong. I went back into traveling with no end in sight. This year proved to be the most challenging with money always hovering within subsistence level. I never had too much money but this year was extreme. I don't know anyone who would arrive in a new country (whose people speak a foreign language, worship a different God and practise an alien culture) with only $50 and wing his survival for 30 days. But this also fortifies my deep seated notion that there really is an unseen hand looking after me. I am blessed in so many ways - the wonderful people I meet, the amazing places I visit, the culinary indulgence, the cultural immersion, my deepening spiritual practice and all the Easter Eggs I stumbled-upon, I can be without money but rich beyond numbers. I don't really know how long I can keep doing what I'm doing, but I guess I'll keep saying YES to all the opportunities that come my way.
Jeanne and I talked about what to write on our tombstones. I think a fitting one is "He lived the life". Thank you universe for letting me.
This introspection is also my BIG thank you to all the wonderful people who helped shape my 2018 !!!
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
(Jan 10, 2019) This is wonderful, Gigit. May this year bring more surprise for you meet with ever greater strength, dexterity, and equanimity. 🙏 BTW this is the first time I've been accused of using steroids, but this skinny seeker will take it in stride 🙂 So good to know you. Here's to more adventure down the road
(Jan 10, 2019) [a seeker on steroids 🙂] Now that you've mentioned it, I'm now wary at what some literal thinkers might think. I'll reword it :) And yes, you're one of life's Easter Eggs I've stumbled upon. May our paths cross again.
(Jan 9, 2019) Amazing n thanks for featuring me as well!!🙏
(Jan 9, 2019) Being your friend is my happiness. Best wishes for you
(Jan 9, 2019) So grateful to have met you🙏
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Next stop: Pai, Thailand
Year in Review Blogs:
- 2019: A Year in Review Dec 31, 2019
- 2018: A Year In Review Dec 31, 2018
- 2017: A Year in Review Dec 31, 2017
- 2016: A Year in Review Dec 31, 2016
- 2015: A Year in Review Dec 31, 2015
- 2014: A Year in Review Dec 31, 2014
- 2013: A Year in Review Dec 31, 2013
- 2012: A Year in Review Dec 31, 2012
- 2010: A Year in Review Dec 31, 2010
- 2008...Looking Back Jan 5, 2008
- 2003: A Year in Review Dec 31, 2003
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