A Travellerspoint blog

Living the dream by learning to let go of attachments

A trip to Taupo, Rotorua and Tauranga

all seasons in one day

One lovely sunny day, I was sitting outside reading my book in the shade, expecting it to stay that way for the rest of the day, only to be horrified a little later realising that the intense heat of the sun (as it is over here) was beating down on me. It was only then I realised: the sun goes through the sky the opposite way here! And guess what, so does the moon! And all the stars are upside down! Well, I guess I really am on the other side of the world...

In any case, life seems like one long holiday to us at the moment, and the surroundings, I must say, are absolutely stunning. However, to be able to live this life, we've noticed how we've had to let go of attachments to many things and in stead trust the universe to provide what we need. We just ask for something, put it out there, and then let it go. As mentioned previously, the wood for our bed, and most of our kitchen equipment, but also clothes (including clothes for the wedding), even spring water (which we acquired in various places), and the jandels (aka flip-flops) I picked off a random endless fence full of old shoes are perfect examples of this.

Anyway, Scott and I went for a two week trip in our new home, first to Palmerston North where we spent Boxing Day with another part of Scott's family, and then went on through Egmont National Park, overlooking the beautiful mountains, to Taupo where we stayed with a bunch of Scott's friends at a holiday house (or 'batch' as they call it here) for New Year's. We went on several 'missions', like a walk next to the river leading right up to Huka Falls (we actually sat in a little cave under the waterfall! - if you know that 220.000l of water goes through the Huka Falls each second, you can imagine the roar and vibration we felt in that cave...), and a kajak trip down the river (with several stops such as at a rope swing into the water and a thermal spring where we rubbed miracle mud onto our faces turning them into babysoft bum-cheeks), ending just before Huka falls, and spent the rest of the time relaxing (as we have so much stress!).

Then on we went to Rotorua where we treated ourselves to a touristic attraction called Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, a place housing exquisitely coloured hot pools, steaming craters, the famous white silica terraces and bubbling mud pools. An absurd, surprising, yet wowifying experience.
Unfortunately, most of the wondurous thermal places have been turned into expensive tourist attractions, yet, Scott and I managed to find a place called 'Kerosene Creek', a 39 °C river where we went skinny dipping in the dark, mmm... and a hot pit just somewhere in the street in a housing estate where we cooked our muesli breakfast. It felt absurd, but pretty cool too ;)
Also in Rotorua, we visited the Red Woods on the way to the Hamurana Springs and walked in the beautiful surroundings of Okere Falls, housing a redundant hydropower station now in ruins.

And then of course we went on to Tauranga to attend Luke and Carley's beautiful, loving wedding. It was set in an old school, made up gorgeously in vintige style, truly enchanting! It was small and cosy, and although we got our clothes from the second hand shop, I must say we did look sharp. (Pictures will hopefully follow soon).

In any case, we have enjoyed living in the car, eating delicious camping style meals with fabulous views, hand-washing our clothes in the river, fetching water from fresh water springs and washing ourselves in rivers, lakes, or using the facilities of libraries or tourist places to the fullest. Learning to live low-key, with the thrill of searching for solutions for (basic) practical issues and allowing the universe to direct our steps.

Now we're back in Wanganui for two weeks to earn a little more money before we go to Kiwiburn - NZ's version of Burning Man. After that we will go down south for some 'tramping' (aka trekking), and further exploration of the country.

Exciting times, my dear friends, sending so much love to all of you, and thank you for your interest in our adventures! Please have a look at the new pictures too, if you like :)

Posted by KiwiChocoTrip 22:42 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

News from Down Under!

Getting ready to explore what New Zealand has to offer

Meet Jade, the latest addition to our little flock. After intense searches both on the web and on the road (looking at every van and station wagon passing, hoping to see a notice with 'for sale' on the back), we found our baby online and managed to get a real good deal. Then, of course, the fun part started: transforming the car from a standard vehicle into a movable home. Most of the materials we managed to find cheaply secondhand or even free. For example: the wood used to make the bed came from a neighbour who collects wood from workshops to light his stove. We're talking about Mahogany and other tropical, hard, beautiful wood, waaay to good to burn. The mattress we got for free from another neighbour, and most of the kitchen gear we found in garage sales and secondhand stores. Everything we needed and wished for sort of 'came to us' in some way or another, which we are incredibly thankful for.
We are very proud to present to you the result! (See pictures :) )

So Scottie and I are now finally on the road with Jade, just spent a couple of days -including New Year- with friends by Lake Taupo, and are heading for Rotorua, with a wedding of one of Scott's friends in Tauranga as our final destination. It's been great to camp out in nature, but still with the luxuries of having storage space and our own vehicle.
It's also great to get out and start exploring what New Zealand has to offer. Lake Taupo and it's surroundings are definitely notable, with it's hot springs, views over three volcanoes, crystal clear water, and of course, the Huka Falls.

The first three weeks in New Zealand we spent in Wanganui, living at Scott's dad and partner's house. We visited Scott's friends and family, giving rise to nostalgic memories and happy hugs. We also did all kinds of practical things such as finding a car, transforming it and getting it insured, getting a tax number and bank account, a sim card and so on. Further, we also spent some days as (de-)construction men, demolishing walls and ceilings to allow for some modernisation by a builder and friend of Scott (funny how people suddenly treat you so different, thinking you are a building expert, while you're still the same, building-virgin person!).

Christmas we spent having breakfast with Scott's mum, and lunch with his dad and Lynette and a few other family members.
It's great we had the opportunity to get all the practical stuff done while having a kind of base to start from. Nonetheless, it is a welcome change to now have the freedom of our own home; everyone knows that going to live back at your 'olds' place (as they say it here) is not the easiest thing to do.

Anyway, more on the first exploration of the North Island coming soon!

Love from us both!!

Posted by KiwiChocoTrip 17:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Wat Pa Tam Wua

A journey inward, before the journey outward

The bell rings loudly. That means the monks will arrive any time soon  to receive  our alms, here at the paradise-like Wat Pa Tam Wua forest monastery. It is 6:30 in the morning and those of us who have sufficient diligence have been up meditating by themselves since 5 am this morning (early, yes, but it's 'thankfully' not that hard to get up from the hardest bed I ever slept on. It's pretty much just a wooden frame and a mat or two of about 5mm thickness...)
The monks arrive and we put one spoon of rice each in their monk bowl. After that, we have breakfast ourselves and morning meditation starts at 8 with a dhamma talk and walking meditation. Right goes 'bud' left goes 'dho'. It is followed by a sitting meditation, again repeating 'bud' on the in-breath, and 'dho' on the out-, while fixing your attention to your nose. This is the preliminary meditation called 'samatha meditation', to learn to focus intently. Later one can start practicing the vipassana meditation to become what they call 'the knower', observing all that happens in the present, and thereby gaining knowledge, and eventually nirvana (hopefully... maar dat is een werk van lange adem! If you don't speak Flemish, that was funny ;) ).

Anyway, after meditation we have lunch around 11. 'Early', I hear you say? Yes, because all food must be ingested before 12. After that, one can only drink. Fruit juices are ok, but since we have none of that here, you'll just have to survive till the next morning on coffee, tea and water. Not as hard as it seems, actually. In fact, it's quite interesting to feel what an empty stomach feels like, to feel yourself digesting, and be hungry at breakfast time. After stuffing ourselves every single mealtime, and still being full from the last while consuming the next at Happy Healing Home, it was a welcome change (and a good illustration on how all pleasures give rise to suffering, both ways!)
Afternoon meditation is identical to the morning one, and after that we help cleaning the monastery a little,  have some free time and at 6pm it is time for chanting. All mantras are sung in Pali first, then Thai, and finally in English too.
To conclude the day, one is requested to meditate individually in one's room. In my case, my mind has been ever so inventive in finding other stuff to do during this time, such as washing clothes, writing this blog post, reading ('I think I've meditated enough for today!), or even cleaning the entire bathroom ('the previous person left it so dirty!').

In any case, the days are all the same, as are the meditations, the chanting sessions, even the jokes before lunch and at night about the full moon-not honeymoon, and no Thai massage, but individual meditation... It brings some kind of stability though, a stability you find even more deeply in the meditation. Each breath you take, you do the same thing, but it's surprising just how hard it is to focus, even just for 5 seconds. When you do manage to though, it feels like coming home, aaah..., and boom!, it's gone again... I noticed how it pretty soon brought an inner happiness, just by being there with yourself, nothing else to do, or want, or think about. I'm sure the next step, the vipassana meditation,  observing whatever comes, will be ever more interesting. No focussing on just one thing there, but one is required to open up to the wide array of thoughts, feelings, sensations, sounds, whatever is going on in the present, and only come back to the breath during the short intervals of mental silence. But that will be for later in New Zealand... Oh yes, we're going to kiwiland! Jealous yet? Well, if not,  I'm sure you soon will be, if I should believe many people's stories of how beautiful it is there...

Well, Thailand is most beautiful as well, as are the people (most times), and as is Lu, my friend I met in Malta and was at the Naked retreat with (if you still don't know what that is, do go to the website at www.nakedtheretreat.com. I promiss you won't regret it!) who will arrive in Bangkok the day after tomorrow, the same day we leave. Perfect for a little meeting for hugs, stories and tips... So, hasta luego, my friends, next time reporting -hopefully- from the other side of the world (if they don't reject us due to our attempt to smuggle medicinal leaves, ash, and wood into the country...)
Please keep your fingers crossed ;)

With loads of love from both of us,
Sa dhu... Sa dhu... Sa dhu... (=good/excellent in Pali)
Tanya & Scott

Posted by KiwiChocoTrip 21:35 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Happy Healing Home 2 and Pai

From Thai authenticity to Thailand's hippie central of doubtful genuinity

32 °C

Happy Healing Home came to a happy ending. Although we were not too pleased to go, our time spent there was simply epic. All teachings were 'Lanna style', which pretty much means 'hardcore', no nonsense. Morning yoga consisted of carrying ridiculously heavy logs down the mountain, and meditation is only acceptable in full lotus position. Pinan Jim believes that if you manage to master activities the hard way, anything simpler will be a piece of cake.

We didn't bother going to our third project in the end (which by the way was just down the road from HHH, even though we did not know that while choosing our volunteer projects). There were many more people there, it didn't seem as authentic and there was plenty more to learn at HHH.
We picked green tea, harvested sticky rice, helped out in the garden of the local school, went for two jungle trips, went fishing and ate the fish on bamboo sticks over a bbq, learned about forest survival and medicinal plants, went 'shopping around' in the trees and bushes while cooking (so cool to just pick out the lemons, chilis, papayas, ginger... whatever you need from the garden!) the most amazing Lanna style meals, meditated together in many of the local temples, cut wood...

This experience once again pulled me out of my comfort zone a little further, but once I gave in to it, realising the deep respect, selflessness and wisdom in Pinan Jim and Pinan Tea, my resistance made room for deep gratitude.

After Happy Healing Home, we made our way to Pai, further North in the mountains, a beautiful valley, known as Thailands's hippie central. Although filled with cosy smoothie and coffee bars, handmade jewelry and the like shops, it's also very touristic.
We found ourselves a cheap bamboo hut and hired a scooter in order to discover the surroundings. We were pleasantly surprised by beautiful rivers and waterfalls, forest walks, a fantastic view over the canyon at sunset, scenic mountainous drives, and of course impeccable food at the little restaurants we found neatly hidden away from the main stream of tourists.

For the last bit of our Thailand trip, before heading on to New Zealand, we plan to go to the Wat Tam Wua Forest Monastery near Mae Hong Son. The goal is to learn to focus the mind a bit more, and to just be with what is after the frequent changes of surroundings and impulses. On top of that, this monastery seems beautiful and where better to practice Vipassana meditation than at a buddhist temple itself?

So, sending you loads of love from Thailand once again; we're so pleased that you are interested in our adventures, and don't hesitate to send us a message if you feel so inclined :)

Many hugs from Scott & Tanya

Posted by KiwiChocoTrip 07:23 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Khon Kaen 2 & Happy Healing Home 1

Fun and learning at The Mindfulness Project & Happy Healing Home

The Mindfulness Project was a wonderful experience: full of joy and love, sharing and learning, letting go and relaxing, just being together and letting others in.

The project had been closed for a bit before we came, which made it that the whole of our group arrived on the same day. This made it so that everyone was in the same mindset, and we became a little family; a very special happening.

I guess the height of those 10 days would be the visit to the Wat Pho montastery in Khon Kaen, where we stayed one night and got up at 4:30 to start meditating. After that, we bought food for the monks and went to the ceremony where we could share out our givings in the long train of monk-bowls. So many people eager to share out what they had made or bought, respecting Buddha, the monks, their tradition.
Later we helped clean the monastery, which was received with many smiles and 'kop-kun-ka's'. The rest of the day consisted of more meditation, including one in 'the dark room', where it is completely pitch black, evening chanting, and joining the festival in the city. There was a huge fancy fair with loads of food stalls and games, and I bought a hand-made flower arrangement with candles and incense to put in the water, supposedly to offer to the water spirits. It was truly magical!

The following day we were free, so all of us gladly used some of our free time to take the massage school in the Wat Pho to the test. They passed. Our backs cracked, and our muscles ached while the ladies and men pulled at our limbs and stood on our bodies; others just fell asleep in heaven, it was superb!

As our ten days came to a close, more people arrived and it got véry busy. Scott and I could feel it was the right time to leave and headed for the night bus to Chiang Mai, where we stayed for two days wondering round markets, meditating in the temples, enjoying food all day long.

Then we took a little van/bus for about three hours through the beautiful scenic mountains towards our next project: Happy Healing Home, where we have now been for about 3 days. There's only four of us here, staying with Jim, Tea and their 10-year-old son. They have a beautiful permaculture farm which uses no electricity what so ever, except for one light in the evenings. So far, we have picked and roasted coffee, cut grass in the rice field, swam in the river, meditated together, plucked a chicken, made delicious Thai food... (Oh my goodness, the food just gets better! Every mealtime we tell ourselves we should just eat till we're full, but it's just too good...) Anyhow, it's a fantastic learning experience! Being among and learning from the Thais, sleeping in bamboo huts, practicing mindfulness -aaah, we can finally hear our own minds again-, living a simple, but happy life.

Love, love, love fom us both!!

Posted by KiwiChocoTrip 01:51 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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