Tuesday, August 21, 2007

22 August 2007: PS

PS My last night in Cambodia, I got bitten by a skeeter bug on the eyelid- AGAIN!!! This time it was my bottom right eyelid, though, whereas last time it was my upper left eyelid. Guess in a weird way it was balance manifested! Haha. xx

21 August 2007: Cambodia

Hello, friends!

Photos, photos, photos! =) Click here for my Asia Collection on Flickr. You’ll see 2 Sets, one of Hong Kong (with updated photos from the last post), and one of Cambodia. I suggest viewing them via the Details option. Most photos have Titles and Descriptions, and those will be easily visible if you’re viewing in the Details option.

My visit to Cambodia was amazing, for several reasons. Julie and I had a great sisterly, quality-time weekend away, with a perfect combination of temple touring and spa relaxation. The temples were, of course, beautiful…I’d never seen anything like them before. Centuries-old, HUGE, full of history, spirit, love. But ok, after hours and hours of walking through the wicked heat, some of them started looking the same. :P

The people of Cambodia have a quiet and intensely kind spirit. I was particularly mesmerized by the children…who all seem so awake and alive. Most people live in poverty, but I think they relish in the simplicity of their life. One of our most striking experiences was when we left a $3 tip on a $16 bill. Our server took the cash and bill to a couple other staff members, and they were whispering something. She came back, and said, “Excuse me, your bill is just $16.” We responded, “Yes, that’s your tip!” Her face lit up with shock, happiness, and gratitude.

The weather was very good to us, aside from the 15 minutes of rain on Sunday evening. It came out of nowhere, and disappeared into nowhere. Seems to be the weather trend here in Asia. Enjoy your perfect weather in California!!

I returned to Hong Kong yesterday, and as I stepped off the Airport Express train into Central Station, I felt like I was home. It was an unexpected feeling, but quite nice. I’m in my 4th week here, and life has tempered off. I’ve met some delightful people who’ve taken me to The Peak, walking through Pok Fu Lam Park (comprised of jungle and streams…does not at all feel like Hong Kong) around to the other side of the island, delicious hole in the wall restaurants, the very bizarre Goldfish Street (which is exactly what is sounds like…a street with stores selling goldfish…loads and loads of goldfish), and more walking through various areas of Hong Kong.

Good (and financially feasible) yoga has been hard to find, although I quite like the vibe at mYoga, a studio in Mongkok, Kowloon (across the way from Hong Kong Island). I miss practicing at my home, Power Yoga, but thankfully I have a lot of classes on mp3. If you have plans to go on holiday any time soon, I highly advise you download a class or 2 to take with you.

Much love to you.

Friday, August 10, 2007

10 August 2007

Ok, so, ever since I got here a couple weeks ago, I’ve been thinking that Hong Kong is a supremely crowded place. Well…I had no idea just how crowded until today. They re-hoisted a Typhoon Warning No. 8 early this afternoon. Nearly everything (retail stores, markets, offices, even gyms) immediately closed their doors and nearly everybody was on their way home. Even taxis turned off their For Hire lights and retreated home. I swear the entirety of Hong Kong was on the move. I have never, ever, ever seen SO many people scurrying out on the streets and crammed into the MTR (subway), on escalators, and on lifts (that’s ‘elevator’ for you Americans). It was absolute madness. Some MTR ticket machines and turnstiles went out of service due to too many people trying to use them! People were being fairly courteous and respectful to each other, though. I was impressed by the continuous purposeful movement of the crowds…and then there’s that person who cuts diagonally through the crowds, breaking the flow, or that person who sees his long lost second cousin twice removed, and suddenly stops, causing everyone behind him to crash like dominoes.

When I got here, I was told that Hong Kong, and particularly Central, is uber small, and everyone runs into everyone else everywhere. No kidding! Even I’ve started running into people I know on the street, at the movies, in restaurants. Maybe I will run into a long lost relative here. “It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all…”

For real though, it is indeed a small, small world that we live in, that we share together… and we must all be more conscious of how our seemingly insignificant individual actions affect (both positively and negatively) everyone and everything.

I’ve heard that heat waves in Europe and floods in Vietnam are causing deaths. Such heartbreaking news. Let’s all send our love and healing energies to our sisters and brothers who need it. Additionally, we must realize that these extreme and dangerous climate conditions are our planet’s response to our treatment (read: abuse) of it. I’m not educated enough on the topic to go into it in detail, but global warming is real, yo, and if you haven’t yet, I highly encourage you to watch An Inconvenient Truth.

That said, your eco-conscious homework for today is: walk or bike when driving is unnecessary. Just try it once this weekend, huh?

Blowing you kisses, and hoping that the typhoon winds give them an extra oompf over to you.

PS I put up some photos! I’ll note an update here in my blog anytime I add new ones. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

9 August 2007

I am going to Siem Reap, Cambodia next weekend...yeah! We will be staying at the Hotel de la Paix, the hippest, most stylish, luxury hotel in Siem Reap (I mean come on, would you expect any less?). I am beyond psyched to visit Angkor Wat, a temple originally dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu, and later turned into a Buddhist Temple. I think it’s one of the world’s wonders.

Yesterday I had maybe my most delicious meal here thus far. My lovely friend Isabella invited me to dinner and a night out on the town with her and her crew, including some of Hong Kong's finest socialites (and yes, I felt absolutely out of place in that scene, although Issi and her friends were extremely warm and welcoming). The evening began with champagne at her home (where I was reacquainted with her daughter, the rambunctious but sweet Naja whom I first met in Thailand), then dinner at the exclusive members-only China Club (where I had this amazing garlic/chili pepper lightly fried tofu dish that I’d never had before, and maybe the yummiest char siu ever), and onto a couple parties (where there was more champagne, and very good DJs). Like LA, Wednesday seems to be a big night to go out in Hong Kong. I was in bed before 1a, though, which is when I’m sure the party was just beginning for most, as everything is open until 5a or so here. The typhoon warnings did not at all seem to discourage people from venturing out. Hong Kong peeps are unstoppable; they definitely adopt the work hard/play hard mentality. Californians are uber relaxed and casual in comparison. We enjoy big blocks of time doing nothing; we sit in the sand, sun, and sea on a random Tuesday; we walk and talk in a leisurely fashion; we wear flip flops; we chill. I mean, have you ever had to walk alongside someone from a big city? Even when they’re in fancy shoes (especially the girls here...it’s crazy the kinds of uncomfortable-looking and oftentimes dangerous-seeming heels they strut around in), and I’m in slippers or sneaks (ok, ok, or Uggs), I have to skip in order to keep up! Not that I mind skipping.

I just tried my hand – literally – at smashing a mosquito. No more alien eye for me if I can help it! (PS That whole ordeal was a huge and somewhat disappointing realization of my vanity.) I failed several times, and now my hands just hurt. Julie, on the other hand (pun somewhat intended), is a ruthless, deft mosquito smasher, and watching her chase and smash the buggers with her house slippers is hysterical. You would never guess that she is a Stanford MBA student, depended upon to close deals involving millions of dollars, and fielding job offers left and right from the most respectable finance firms. Rather, on her skeeter quests, she is much more like Nala or Samo wildly eyeing, pawing, and catching flies (oh how I miss that doggie and crazy cat) (you too, Bags). It requires quite a bit of patience, concentration and an acute sense of space; it’s almost like a meditation in the wild.

In that spirit, here is your yogi homework of the day: Let “meditate” mean whatever makes the most sense to and has the most meaning for you, and do some. This could mean sitting on a zafu in padmasana, hands in some ancient, fancy mudra, or watering your plants, or watching the ocean, or cleaning your bathroom, or simply focusing on your breath. It could be 1 minute or 1 hour…time is an illusion anyway. Just something that helps you connect…to yourself, to Big Mind, to the world, to your truth, to God, to the present moment. Let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

8 August 2007

“Typhoon 1 Warning Hoisted” the note on my front gate reads. I wondered…does “hoisted” mean it had been intact, and has now been hoisted (“lifted”), or does it mean the warning is now being given (“raised”). Judging by the high winds, thunder, lightning, streams of rain pouring down as if being emptied out of buckets from the sky, I’m gonna go with the latter. But what a funny phrase, huh? The warning has been hoisted. It’s not every day that you hear of things being hoisted.

I’m sitting at my favorite spot in SoHo: Life Café…you yogis and veggies would absolutely adore it. I spent the afternoon sitting on the roof, which is quite pleasant and would be perfect if it weren’t for the ridiculous heat and humidity. I’m now cozied up inside, watching the rain through giant French windows; they are open, letting in what's now a cool tropical breeze. Organic wines and secondhand books line the shelves to my right, artwork of circles and lines (at which I have been periodically staring and squinting, trying to decipher any secret message (maybe a code to the meaning of life?) the artist may be trying to convey) hang to my right, Bob Marley is on the radio. I had an apple/celery smoothie because it’s meant to flush out your stomach. It was a pukey green color and unfavorably frothy on the top, but hey, it’s good for me, right? I’m befuddled by why I am allergic to fresh apples, but have no problem with freshly squeezed apples.

Yesterday I hopped a ferry over to Lamma Island. So beautiful. A very quaint, bohemian fishing village. If I lived in Hong Kong, I think I would live on Lamma. I found my way to Bookworm Café (very Venice-esque) and had a most delicious vegetarian brunch. Have you ever had a bean pattie? I hadn't, but it sure was tasty! I had no map, but started walking around and through the towns anyway. I hit several dead ends but it was quite enjoyable: no tall buildings, not one car, a lot of stillness, quiet, and green green green. Green rolling hills, green jungle pockets, green plants-lined pathways, and I’m sure green bugs (inch worms greedily eating tomato plants, perhaps?), camouflaged among all of that. I wish I had a camera because the weather was exquisite, the air so clear, everything shining…but of course I did not. I plan on going back several times and I promise I’ll take a camera with me at least once. Hopefully the weather will be clear again soon…I just heard that the typhoon warning has been hoisted to a level 8 (apparently level 10 is the highest; it all depends on where the typhoon’s eye passes through). I’ll do my best not to get hoisted away by it.

Love//prem. Peace//shanti. xox/ommmm. And all that good stuff, to you, from me.

PS Your eco-conscious homework for today is: when you make a purchase, decline items being bagged if it's unnecessary.

Monday, August 6, 2007

6 Aug 2007: Musings from Asia; Volume 2

Hong Kong Edition begins here:

We’re just having our first rain in Hong Kong since I arrived, and it is much appreciated. Heretofore hot, thick, and sticky…the rain is mercifully cleansing, cooling, renewing, and enlivening..and the thunder spookily exciting, reminiscent of childhood. As I write to you, I lie on my belly in my nook in the apartment, underneath the windowsill. The sun is peeking out for the first time today, shining right through the window, pouring its warmth on my legs. I look up and see the marshmallow-thick clouds purposefully floating onward (I wonder, are they perchance going to you back home?). In this way, I cling to the frugal and fleeting opportunities to physically connect with Mother Earth here in this concrete hub bub that is my now-home.

Nee How!

Hong Kong is crazy! It’s been a whopping change of scenery for this quiet(ish) yogi from California. I’ve been here for just over a week now, and feel pretty bombarded...yesterday was the first day I found some peace as some friends and I sailed away from Hong Kong Island, an hour and a half away to another island, covered in beautiful, alive greenery, rather than dotted with massive hunks of concrete and neon lights. It was, quite literally, a breath of fresh air. I sprawled out on the boat deck, reading a book on the teachings of the Dalai Lama, soaking in the sun's rays, listening and bobbing to the splash of the waves…riding the flow…

The flow I usually ride here is among busybee Hongkees along the Central Escalator that goes from Central’s financial district up to the residential Mid-Levels. Apparently it’s the world’s longest covered outdoor people-mover, though I had no idea that such a category of designation even existed (and doubt that any other people-mover poses a threat to its record achievement). I’m living with Julie, my best friend from childhood, in SoHo, which is a division of Central, which is Hong Kong’s business center. Apartments here are teeny tiny – though rents are astronomical – including ours: the front door opens right into the shower and the bedroom door can’t open fully because it hits the double-sized bed that we share. Buildings are so close together that I can easily see into my neighbors’ across the way and make clear eye contact with them. We have air/con and maid service, though, so it’s not so bad. It’s cozy, really: us trying to get comfortable on the couch together involves one of us sprawling out upside down, the other lying sideways, with both of us leaning our legs up against the wall. Yoga definitely comes in handy when you’re living in tight quarters…bending here and stretching there to make the best use of limited physical space, but also being able to mentally create some spaciousness.

I’ve been practicing at home with YogiChocolate downloads (though there isn’t quite enough space to fully unroll my mat, and Julie has to walk over, under, and around me as I practice smack in the middle of the apartment) and at Pure Yoga (which is kind of the Yoga Works of Asia). Yoga still has quite a ways to grow here…studio walls are completely mirrored for all classes, not just Bikram, which encourages people to keep looking at themselves, obsessing, being distracted, judging…but there seem to be quite a few quality teachers, so I am confident things will continue flowing in the right direction. Classes are exorbitantly priced, sometimes $30 (US) for one class (PS It has been painfully confusing trying to make the $ conversion. It's $7.8 HK to $1 US.), and there is no such thing as a donation-based studio. Apparently one was attempted at some point, but it immediately went belly-up; it couldn't even break even on the rent. It seems the simple, no-nonsense yoga studio doesn’t appeal to the people here. It’s a reminder how blessed we in Santa Monica/LA are not only to have Bryan Kest’s amazing donation-based studio, but also just in general, the countless opportunities to practice, to teach, to learn, to explore, (to be) yoga.

Hong Kong is at the start of a conscious evolution, though, and whether or not people are enticed because it’s become trendy to be a yogi or to be eco-friendly, it’s happening, and that’s a beautiful thing. Just around the corner from my building are two organic cafes, serving fresh fruit smoothies, fancy salads, and quite possibly my favorite menu item: organic coffees.

Friends, both new and old (I've reconnected with a few very dear friends from the olden days), have been incredibly hospitable, but I don’t think people smile at each other enough. You know that random smile from a stranger that could just make your day? Doesn’t much happen. I hope to positively effect a change in that regard during my stay. And service, for the most part, is not so good. Wait staff at restaurants seem annoyed when you ask them for something, and the legendary rudeness of Hong Kong taxi drivers is for real. I’ve been booted from taxis because the driver did not want to make what they considered too short of a trip. Oh, and mosquitoes suck here as much as they sucked in Thailand. I got bitten on the EYELID a few days ago, and it was completely swollen and nearly shut. It looked like an alien eye. I’m also recovering from an intense bout of the stomach flu, the worst of which is over. Everything’s at least slightly different from home, so I think my physical body is just trying to acclimate to being out here.

My energetic body is definitely trying to acclimate to being out here too. Hong Kong’s energy is intense and palpable: the city is always awake, the people are extremely hard-working and driven, the pedestrian crosswalk beeps are loud and incessant, the lights are always blazing or blinking or twinkling. Thank Buddha for my yoga practice, the proximity of the water, reflexology foot massages (which are actually fairly painful during and only relieving after, kind of like a tough yoga posture), and the constant, consistent flow of breath (I think my lungs may even find comfort and familiarity in the smogginess, which is quite like that of our good ole' LA air).

Ciao, my loves, til next time. And yes, I will try to post shorter posts form here on out. Peace.

PS I will try to post pictures, but I am not too good about taking my camera with me everywhere. In the meantime, here are some photos from my (and my friend Jackie's) Bon Voyage party in Venice. Cheers!