What My Trip In The Himalayas Has Taught Me About Moving On In Life

It is Saturday here, and I woke up late today so my running buddy just left me for a long run! But I’m glad that he’ll be joining me tomorrow for a substitute long run, which will presumably be another 20K for him! See? Running is THAT addictive! And writing isn’t too bad after all, let’s just take it as another form of exercise for the brain. And fingers. And eye balls. At least I’m moving some of my body muscles now! Ha! 😉

And.. talking about Himalaya.. Who doesn’t wanna go there? Well, maybe you for some reasons, but I mean for  those who love to travel and hike mountains like I do, the Nepali Himalaya is a tempting place to conquer. I did a 12 days trekking trip to Everest Base Camp (5365m asl) and Kalaphatar (5555m asl) with my good friends and was organized by Ace The Himalaya. For those who love yoga and zen life style, Nepal may be a slightly less commercialized place than India. For those who love delicious (and cheap!) foods, Nepal will be an ultimate belly growing destination. Thanks to Daal Bhat and Mo:Mos!

Anyway, you may have read lots of amazing stories about Nepal, be it its enchanting natural charm or the genuinely beautiful people or whatever makes this place interesting. Here is my personal takes about what I’ve experienced and learned during my trip in Nepal :

Garden of Dream, an oase in the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu!

Garden of Dream, an oase in the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu!

1. Life Doesn’t Always Come As We Expected. It Can Be Even Better Sometimes! Surprise.. Surprise..!! 🙂

Yo, it’s another break up story here. Bear with me, people! I promise it won’t be cheesy! Haha.. So I tried to open up for a relationship again earlier this year, after 2 years of being single by choice (aawwww!!!). We knew each other last year and after 4 months of intensive talks, we decided to give it a try. Five months, six mountain tops, several hikes to waterfalls, some hidden beaches, countless tiring 9 hours train rides, and 2 half marathons later we broke up. We thought we would have an endless adventure together, but turned out things just didn’t work well with us. I was supposed to see snow (with him!) in another part of the world this winter, but yeah, the wind blows to another direction, so I need to adjust my sail accordingly. I then decided to go to Nepal with my best friends a.k.a my partners in crime a.k.a my business partners. So there I was, trekking to Everest Base Camp with the people who love me and I love back unconditionally. I wouldn’t have known that I would see snow in a waaaayyy better place! I almost skipped Nepal for that another place, but glad that I made it back in track! I made it to 5000m+ peaks! And it surely gives me a great sense of achievement.

I eventually learned that it is ok to admit that sometimes we take wrong turns in our life, but we can always decide to stop and start all over again!

2. Once You Open Your Mind, This Life Will Open Lots Of Good Things For You

So I left that breakup behind, flew to Nepal, and did the trek with a group of amazing people that I just met in Nepal. I also met lots of people along the way, including a random conversation with a guy in front of the hotel toilet haha.. He suddenly asked me “Were you walking behind me on the way up to Kalapathar?”. And I said “Probably!”. He then said that he recognized me and bragging about how he made it to Kalapathar 15 minutes ahead of me and 3 of his friends bailed from doing Gokyo Trek. Like, since when do I care, dear stranger? But I needed to be open to any kind of personality here. I understood that he was so proud about himself because the trek wasn’t easy. It wasn’t that easy for me either. So in this case, I needed to be open for any kind of annoying or not annoying thing, to then see it in certain context and learn about something.

People were waiting to be blessed by the Lama

People were waiting to be blessed by the Lama

Among the amazing experiences, I was so lucky that I could experience the blessing ceremony in a monastery in Tengboche. Only three of us could make it to the blessing ceremony just 30 minutes before the ceremony ended. It was a nice experience to be blessed by a Buddhist Lama. I mean, if I were that radical fanatic person, I would never come to any other religion’s ceremony. But I just took it as a cultural event, that gives me another insight to what other people do in their life. That life is not all about us and our way of life. That other traditions exist and we need to respect them.

Another interesting experience that opened my mind was knowing that the toilet Nepali was more like what a group mate of mine called “fertilizer collecting station”. There was only a small hut, with a small hole in it that when you’re doing your thing, you’ll see those things right below you. It was shocking for me, but I realized that it was the way they do it. I laughed out loud and was scared to fall down to the piles of poo the first time I used this kind of “free falling” squat toilet. The Nepali were doing something better than we do anyway. They used the feces as natural fertilizer to grow crops, which was good for the earth sustainability. From this experience I learned that something that we thought wasn’t hygienic at all could be something useful not only for some people economically, but also for the mother earth.

From these experiences I learned that we need to see things not only from its content, but also its context. Like, we need to observe and figure out why things work like that, instead of just take it for granted that will lead us to see it from narrow perspective. I came into realization that opening up our mind will lead us to clearer perspectives, and will lead us to more good experiences eventually.

3. The Toughest Mountain To Conquer Usually Has The Most Rewarding View

I am so grateful that I stayed healthy during the whole trek. I mean, I’m not a super amazingly  fit person in general but I didn’t have any health issue during the trek. I was just fit. Funny thing was that my oxygen level in Dingboche (4400m asl) was 93% that the doctor whose research  I was participating in told me “Perfect! It’s porter’s (oxygen saturation) level!”. I believed that it was only because I ate a lot during the whole trip. Yes, a lot. That my friends were surprised that I could eat that much hehe.. So this is an ultimate advice from a not so ultimate trekker : eat a lot during your trek to Everest Base Camp and you’ll thank me later. Oh, you’re welcome! haha

So during the trip, there were 2 peaks that I went only with Godwin, a group mate of mine (Note : I hope he doesn’t mind that I put his real name here hehe). Those were Nangkartshang Peak (5100m asl) and Kalapattar (5500m asl). Those two were not easy compared to what we used to do along the way. The trail was so steep and a bit hot for Nangkartshang and really cold for Kalapattar. I had to take lots of small breaks on the way up to sip some water from my bottle, and from Godwin’s Camelbak in Kalapathar’s case. I also needed to put my isotonic powder to my water bottle on the way up to Nangkartshang because I needed more ion supplies in that relatively hot day. Long story short, those peaks were not easy. But those two were the most rewarding place with the most rewarding view since I could see almost the whole Himalaya mountain range.

At the top of Kala Pathar (5555m asl)

At the top of Kala Pathar (5555m asl)

What I wanted to say is that it’s ok to admit how weak and vulnerable we are at some point. But after we put more effort and push our limit, we will finally know how strong we are. We will never realize how important self belief is until we reach the top of the mountains. We will never know how far we can go until we reach the destination. Only efforts can transform our vulnerability to strength. At this point I came into realization that the things that don’t come easy usually are the most rewarding.

4. Discovering My New Mantra : Feel The Fear Inside You And Do It Anyway

After my EBC trek, I did bungy jump with The Last Resort in Botekoshi, the border district with Tibet. Due to security reason and presumably to prevent any human smuggling, we had to pass lots of security inspection station. Policemen everywhere. But they were nice though. It took us (me, Kikin, and Obe) 2 hours to a point, then we had to walk for like 20 minutes due to cut off road, to then continue with another bus in another side of the area for like 1 hour. It was bumpy ride but it was the thing that made us stare to each other and laugh 🙂

So we arrived at the resort, they gave us explanations about the bungy, and measured our weight. I was the lightest one so I thought I would be the first to jump. I was like “please, don’t.. it’s not me..”. Turned out I wasn’t the first to jump and it relieved me haha.. I kept telling myself to trust myself, the crews, and the equipment and I’ll be fine. It was so cold up there at that suspension bridge. I was so nervous and until my turn came, I just counted 1, 2, 3 and jumped! Turned out the jump wasn’t as scary as I thought. Haha Sometimes, in life, we are too afraid to start a thing.

Sometimes we are too afraid to fail, to get rejected, or to look dumb. Sometimes we’re too worried about the outcome. But yeah, being afraid is so human. We’re human after all. But we sometimes just need to feel the fear, embrace the pain, and just do it! Like the first time I did my trail run in Rinjani, I was so afraid and nervous. Turned out I just did it and made it under the cut off time. And I never looked back! I always finished my trail half marathons since then!

5. There Always Comes A Time When We’ll Learn About Humility The Humblest Way

Who won’t be proud of themselves after doing strenuous 12 days hike without proper shower but still managed to reach the destination? Duh! That was my thought as well. I was so proud of myself for being able of doing this trek and reach the peaks. But that’s only until I realize that I didn’t carry much stuff when I walked, that I didn’t think about organizing the trip and just enjoy the trip. Along the way to EBC, I saw lots of porters carry heavy stuffs. They had to work that hard for their family, even since early age. Yet they managed to still laugh and tried to have conversation with me, even with my limited Nepali language and their limited English. This sight made me realize that I was so grateful that I only had to do this strenuous trek for “fun”, and not for living like they had to.

our porters

our porters

In Pangboche monastery, we were lucky to see a village prayer (puja). It was a humble and authentic puja, away from touristy things. When I tied my shoe lace in front of the monastery, suddenly a lady kissed my cheek from behind. I was so surprised but it was an interesting experience. Some other ladies tried to have small conversation with us as well. This kind of genuineness really touched my heart. Seeing the simple life they live made me feel so humbled yet uplifted at the same time. I might not be enlightened yet but Nepal has taught me a lot about moving on in life, and also to open my mind… and my heart! I think I fell in love with Nepal 🙂

Categories: Thought, Travel Journal | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beyond the Beauty of Angkor Wat : Five Lessons I’ve Learned From My Travel in Siem Reap

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust

Traveling abroad is not only a matter of seeing new places we’ve never been to, or getting new stamp on our passport pages. Well, seeing my passport pages filled with foreign immigration stamps is exciting, but it is more exciting to recall the memories I’ve had in a place when I see the stamp of the country. The lessons I’ve learned also change the way I see things, sometimes. One of the most memorable places was Siem Reap, and here are 5 lessons I’ve learned when I was in this town.

1. Being friendly doesn’t have to make us becoming compliant

After a night of stay at @Hua Lamphong Hostel in Bangkok, I took a morning train to Aranyaprathet, the land border area between Thailand and Cambodia. It was a 3rd class train that departed at 05.55, and it took about 5 hours to reach Aranyaprathet. I saw some fellow travelers in the first two coaches, but I decided to sit in another coach, in an empty seat across a mid-aged man. He talked to me in Thai, but I told him -with my very limited Thai, of course- that I’m not a Thai. We ended up talking in sign language. Yay! I was becoming a Tarzan since then! Haha.. He then asked me whether I was a Buddhist or not, because he saw me wearing a bracelet that I got from a monk in Wat Arun. Thanks to my Thai language illiteracy, I had to demonstrate a monk praying, splashing some holy water to me, and putting a bracelet on my wrist!

In the midst of our absurd conversation, he showed me someone who sold a lottery, and he asked me to take picture of the lottery. So I took a photo of the lottery because it was interesting to me to see an official Thai government lottery. We don’t have that in Indonesia! Long story short, turned out he asked me to buy him some lottery. I didn’t mind to give some amount of money to him, but I wasn’t sure whether it was legal or not for a foreign citizen to buy lottery in Thailand. I thought it was just plain dumb if I got arrested because I bought some lottery that only worth USD 3! Ouch! So I told him politely that I didn’t want that lottery, and I didn’t have enough money to buy him one. Sometimes it’s good to just play safe 🙂

Thai Goverment Lottery

Thai Goverment Lottery

2. Travelers have common interest : to extend their dollars

When I got out of the train in Aranyaprathet, I knew I had to take tuk-tuk to Poipet, the border area in Cambodian side. The tuk-tuk driver told me it would cost me THB 100 (around USD 3) to get to Poipet. It was really cheap, but then I saw other two girls standing around me. So I started the conversation and asked them where they were gonna go, and we ended up sharing the tuk-tuk for three of us. The thing is, we didn’t only share the transport fare, but we also helped each other in the immigration office. I helped them watching over their bags when they were in line to get the visa, and they helped me spending time together so I didn’t feel dumb travelling alone. Moreover, the more people in a group, the safer it would be, because we could protect each other, and we could remind each other to use our common sense.


The busy border between Thailand and Cambodia

3. When Plan A didn’t work, remember that there’s always plan B. And sometimes it works better!

So in Siem Reap I stayed in a mixed 8 beds dorm at Jasmine Family Homestay for two nights. I planned to do a full day Angkor Wat tour in the second day, and it would cost me USD 12 to USD 15 for renting the tuk-tuk. It was actually a good price for me, until Ryan, a Scottish room-mate of mine offered me to join him and other people to share the tuk-tuk fare. Well, who didn’t want the cheaper price? Plus, there would be some friends to talk with. Then I went down stair to the lobby, and turned out there were already 4 people who wanted to share the tuk-tuk, and it meant that there wasn’t any more space for me. So I went back to my first option ; renting tuk-tuk on my own. Not long after that, another room-mate of mine told me that she was gonna ride a bike to Angkor Wat. I then thought that it would be a good option to enjoy the site, plus, I still have friends to talk with. So, that night, at 11 pm, I decided to went out with my sleeping attire to rent a bike. Yes, I was ready to sleep at that time! And guess how much did I pay for renting a bike? USD 2 for a whole day! Bingo! Haha

Long story short, the next day I started riding my bike early in the morning. In the entrance there was a tourism police who controlled our ticket, and I didn’t have one! Haha.. But I know that God is everywhere! That police didn’t  mad at me, he offered to take me with his motorbike to get the ticket, instead. Well, even if I had to pay some money. It was much better than riding my bike for 5 km to get to the ticket booth! And finally I could see the sunrise at the Angkor Wat! 🙂


Sunrise at the Angkor Wat

Riding bicycle was much more tiring than riding tuk-tuk, but the experience was incomparable. Riding bike allowed me to enjoy the site as well as the ride. Riding tuk-tuk will make me talk with other passengers and I wouldn’t pay attention to what happened around us. Meanwhile, riding bike gave me time to enjoy the view in silence, in solitude, without having to feel weird not talking to anyone.

Funny thing happened when we visited Bayon temple, where a lot of monkeys hung out that morning. We parked our bike and went visit the temple. Like only a minute after we parked the bikes, I heard that one of the bikes fell down. Turned out the monkeys were eating the mangosteens that Amy and Ivone kept in the bike front-basket. We were scared and tried to hold our laugh at the same time!


Amy and Ivone tried to save their mangosteens from the naughty monkeys

4. Indonesians travel, too!

Yes, during my Bangkok days, I didn’t even meet any other Indonesian who traveled. But when I visited one of the temple in the Angkor Wat complex, I met two other Indonesian girls. It was funny that at the first time I apologized to them because I passed in front of them while they were taking pictures – in English, of course. But then I heard them chatting in Bahasa Indonesia, and I started to talk with them in my native language! Then we decided to ride our bikes together around the complex. We were almost lost, but it was good to laugh over our stupidity! Then I went back to my dorm room, and tadaaa!!! another surprise came to me! A new room mate came, and guess what? She was Indonesian! Double bingo! Then I asked her to dine out with me and two other Indonesian girls I met in Angkor Wat. We ate at Curry Walla, a cheap Indian restaurant near to night market. I was so happy to meet fellow Indonesians on my trip, that I didn’t realized that I was in Cambodia. I spontaneously called the waitress “Mbak” (sister in Indonesian language) that it burst our laugh that night! That night I learned that Indonesians travel, too! We are the explorer, we are the descendants of Gajahmada the conqueror! Haha

Another stupid thing happened when I was packing my backpack and talking with my Indonesian room mate in the dorm room. I coincidentally spilled my water, and I immediately took a towel to clean it up. After I finished packing my stuffs, I realized that there were two towels on my bed, a used and a new one. So whose towel did I use to clean the floor? Oh gosh! It was Ryan’s towel. Haha.. So I took my new towel, wrinkle it a bit, and put it on the floor, beside Ryan’s bed which was next to my bed. I told this stupid incident to my Indonesian roommate and we laughed together. Oh, I was too excited to talk in Bahasa Indonesia that I lost my brains!

5. Age doesn’t always matter. Hard work does!

Angkor Wat didn’t only give me a great view of a complex of an ancient city, but it also gave me a new perspective on seeing this life. It was raining in the area, so I, Amy, and Ivone decided to take a rest while waiting for the rain to stop. Two very young girls came to us to sell some souvenirs. They talked in pretty good English, and eloquently explained the pictures on the post cards they sold. We bought some souvenir from them, and we talked with Sawin, a pretty and smart little Cambodian girl. We didn’t find any difficulties talking with her in English. I thought I didn’t understand English that well when I was in the 2nd grade.

She might only be a second grader, but she taught me a lot. I also worked during the school breaks when I was younger, but it wasn’t as hard as what Sawin has to do. I couldn’t imagine that I should sell some souvenirs to the tourist. I guess it’s not every girl’s dream part-time job. But Sawin reminds me that I was, and still am, a lucky girl.Ii didn’t have to work hard like Sawin does when I was kid. She’s willing to sell some souvenirs after school time to help her family. It reminded me that I should do something for the less fortunate girls around my area. Thanks for indirectly reminding me, Sawin!

Moreover, she’s able to speak some languages, which I adore!  She even talked to Amy and Ivone in Mandarin, and she knew some French. I learned Chinese Mandarin for a year and I forget a lot! Oh my! She was just smart! She might have to work hard at the moment, but I saw that she was a confident and smart girl. I knew she could get what she wants someday. Amen!

Siem Reap, a humble place, with humble people, has made me feel so humbled! 🙂

Categories: Thought, Travel Journal, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Believe. Behave. Be brave

Life is sometimes beyond our expectation. I experienced it myself. I never expected before that I would live in Istanbul. But then, because my friend wrote my name on scholarship recipient candidate nomination list, I ended up living in Istanbul for 5 months. So do other challenging things. I broke up with my almost 4 years long boyfriend. At first I thought that it would be hard to live without him. But then I realize that the more I grow my self-disbelief, the more I slow down my own life.

Well, that’s why I then discover my life motto : believe, behave, and be brave.

I always believe that life is a gift. God sent me to be meaningful for other people, thus God never let me stay in my lullaby-like comfort zone. I know God now is trying to make me realize that there are many things I need to explore and learn. God’s way will never be wrong, as long as I believe in it. Thus, I try to behave as I am, not the second version of other figure. I am me, and I’ll do my best to get what I want.

And what else do I need? Yes, I need to be brave. To challenge myself and to prove to myself that I can be a better me. I have to be brave to say goodbye to my past, and say hello to my future 🙂

This break up exactly tells me to discover myself. To love myself first before I’m ready to love others. I need to empower myself, so that I’ll get the one who is meant for me. Well, that I’m moving on now, I know that what lies in past will be a nice lesson for my future life. No more whining, be ready of winning 🙂

Categories: Thought | 1 Comment

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