Travel Writing Tip #3: Follow your natural curiosity. Five years ago, on my first trip to Bali, while we were waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, my daughter Eliza and I climbed on the back of two scooters to go on a non-touristy adventure. Our guide Toto said to me, "I was told you do not want to go to the touristic places, that you want to see the real Bali. Do you want to go to the market where the local people shop?" "Yes!" "Do you want to see the most beautiful rice paddy in all of Bali?" "Yes!" "Do you want to see a Brahmin silver village and a blacksmith?" "Yes!" He could have said anything and I would have said yes. Yes! Yes! Yes! And so we were off. Turn on your images to go ... [Continue Reading]
I've spent the last 30 years dealing with trauma and thinking about trauma, so while I was in Siem Reap, I felt a visceral need to do more than marvel at the ancient temples this area is so famous for. I wanted to do that yes, and I loved walking around Angkor Tom, Angkor Wat and several smaller temples--snapping pictures of the phenomenal carvings--but I also wanted to witness first-hand evidence of the killing fields and the war crimes of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. I'd read the memoir, First They Killed My Father, by Loung Ung, and seen the movie, The Killing Fields. The genocide suffered by the Cambodian people at the hands of their own people has haunted me ever since. There was ... [Continue Reading]
One of the special things to do in Luang Prabang is to wake up very early to watch the monks receive alms from the local people. This almsround, known as Tak Bat, is a living tradition for the people in this region, and in many parts of Asia. Monks are not allowed to prepare their own food; they can only eat what is freely offered to them in their begging bowls. They walk through the town at dawn, collecting food, eat a very early breakfast and an early lunch and are not allowed any solid food after noon each day. I actually know this from direct experience. I attended a 10-day Buddhist monastic retreat several years ago in California - and our final meal of the day was also an early lunch. Tak Bat is considered a profound act of generosity for the local population. It is the closest ... [Continue Reading]
We finally arrived at our hotel in Laos, the Apsara, at 9:30 last night. Judy had us pre-order our dinner so food and beds were waiting for us after the long day of travel. It is a charming lovely hotel. We love our room and dinner was perfect. This town is famous for its food and Judy told us not to wander into any old restaurant, but to check with her for recommendations first. According to the Welcome Book in our room, Apsara is the Khmer word for a dancing girl or heavenly nymph employed to please the gods. These images are carved in most Khmer temples in Cambodia - we will be seeing lots of them in Ankgor Wat next week.
Most of our group opted to take taxis into Hanoi for shopping and lunch, but some of the diehards stayed at the airport. And for the half-dozen who wanted to write, I made up these writing-on-the-go-at-the-airport prompts: Go out on your own (you will get much better results doing these activities alone) and:
This is truly yoga on the go . . . ... [Continue Reading]
The first day of our writing class on this trip, I stressed two attitudes essential to traveling: courage (as in consciously choosing to take a risk every day) and flexibility. Travel is unpredictable, plans change, and you have to roll with those changes. Well, today was the day. We left the Avani resort, headed for the airport and two short airplane flights - the first a hour an hour long hop to Ha Noi, the second, a short flight to Laos, our next country, our next destination.
For one of the prompts in writing group today, I used Eleanor Lerman's poem, Starfish. I wanted to share it with you, on this Virtual Vacation, along with the prompt I gave after I read it in case you want to write along at home. I'm also going to share Joanie's response to the prompt (with her permission) because her piece illustrates the value of the very thing I encouraged everyone to do on the first day of this trip: "Go out and have a little adventure on your own. You never know what you will discover." First here's the poem: Starfish Eleanor Lerman This is what life does. It lets you walk up to the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman down beside you at the counter ... [Continue Reading]
Today, in our first writing class of the day, I talked about the Buddhist concept of "bare attention." Bare attention means deeply looking into something -- just really seeing it deeply. Stopping to really see, to really perceive with our senses. Taking the time to slow down and see. Just noticing what is. It is only from this kind of deep observation that we get to know something intimately - and as writers, that makes it possible for us to describe it in vivid detail. When we look in this way, we see more than just the surface of things. More than what we typically notice when our attention is brief, distracted or cursory. Now that we were slowing down at this resort that has been so carefully orchestrated to be restful, I thought it was a good time to pull out this exercise in ... [Continue Reading]
When Judy and I were planning this trip and I told her I wanted a place to do a writing and yoga intensive, she suggested the Avani resort. I trust Judy and her tour planning implicitly, so I said yes. But aside from a couple of pictures on the website, I hadn't seen the place until we drove up today. When we walked in after a 5 AM departure from Ha Noi, a drive to the airport by bus, an hour and a half hour plane flight, and another hour and a half in a bus, including a bathroom stop at a toilet that was an old school Asian toilet: a hole you squat over on the floor with a bucket of water and a scoop for the "flush," and then more time in the bus . . . and then finally, finally we got here, we walked in and our jaws dropped. We were each handed a cool washcloth, a ginger welcome drink, ... [Continue Reading]