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Pai in the Sky

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Have you ever landed somewhere and just immediately felt at home?  That’s how Pai made me feel.  Like what I’d been looking for for several weeks.  Yes, the beaches and islands of Thailand are amazing, but there is something about Pai that is unique.  It is small and laidback, the Thai are super laid back anyway, but the atmosphere here lends itself to go at one’s own pace, no need to worry about anything, no need to make plans.  My accommodation was a bungalow, next to a river, with beautiful green mountains on the horizon.  The guest house offers a funky bar playing ambient music where the masses can gather.  There is a common kitchen and dining area as well, which offers for social interaction, as well as allowing artists to show their work.  It makes for very homey surroundings.

I hadn’t known much about Pai, but I met two Australian girls on my flight from Phuket to Chiang Mai who had been before and mentioned that that was their final destination.  It sounded like an interesting alternative to Chiang Mai, the city of more than 300 temples, Thailand’s third largest, and while the old city area is contained and doesn’t feel so much like a big city, on the whole, it is busy and spread out, and unlike Pai, you cannot see the mountains in the distance.  My initial plan was to take a massage course in CM, so I investigated that option in Pai and found that there was an accredited school which had been there since the 80’s.  So, after 2 days in CM, my mind was made up.  If I’d stayed in CM, I would have become bored and spent way too much money, so after 3 days, I headed to Pai.

The day before heading to Pai, I did a visa run to extend my stay for another 15 days.  Depending on where you are in Thailand, and what you want to do, these runs can be made to anywhere in the region.  You just need to cross the border and come back in.  My run was to Myanmar.  Interesting, one cannot obtain a tourist visa at Myanmar’s border, but you can cross over for 24 hours just to take care of your Thai visa.  For me, the whole process took about 15 minutes.  See, I was on a tour that makes the visa run one of the stops, so, I was literally stamped in and out and back into Thailand in no time.

The tour was different and funny.  The first stop was a hot spring which was literally a pool about 6 feet in diameter that was in the middle of a parking lot, blocked off by a railing, with a fountain spouting from the center.  The last stop was at a tribal village, in which the tribes people don’t even live anymore.  They dress up in costume and sell goods to tourists.  The one stop I did enjoy was the White Temple in Chiang Rai.  The construction of this temple began only 15 years ago, so it is very modern in architecture and art.  It is medieval in that there are skulls and skeletons, and hands reaching to the sky with nails painted red and black in the midst of a sea of white.  The mural in the temple is by one of Thailand’s premier artists.  It was extremely different as it depicts super heroes, world leaders, modern technology, and even the disaster of planes flying into the Twin Towers.  The whole thing is a bit eerie and weird, and unconventional in comparison to the other Buddhist temples I’d seen.  For pictures of Chiang Mai/Rai, click here.

The drive to Pai is on a beautiful mountain road with over 750 switchbacks.  The road is flanked by jungle and mountains, and if you are one who gets motion sickness, this is certainly a trip on which you would want to take an anti-nausea med.  It takes almost 3 hours to go the 130 miles from Chiang Mai to Pai, and upon arrival, everyone is relieved to have made it without getting sick.  The main town is very small, one can easily walk it in an hours’ time.  The streets are lined with restaurants, bars, and cafes, as well as art galleries, book stores, and souvenir shops, yet none of it in a cheesy-touristy way.  Maybe because there is a clear combination of expat and Thai culture, maybe because Pai is a major destination for Thai tourists, or maybe because no one is hawking their wares, they just allow things to happen as they will.  There is a huge night market featuring tons of delicious food options, artists, performers, and vendors.  It is part of what makes Pai what it is, allowing visitors and locals alike to share in the nightly fun, social activity.

A big piece of the culture here is to light floating lanterns. It is often done in celebration or to mark an auspicious occasion.   They act like a hot air balloon, you light the wick and the heat from the fire causes the lantern to rise high into the sky.  It is a beautiful thing to see, especially when there are several of them floating at one time.   It was something I really wanted to do while there, and on my last night I lit one with my friends from Sweden.  We had a nice two day reunion, and this was a sendoff for all of us.

In addition to all that Pai offered, I enjoyed it because it gave me an opportunity to do whatever I wanted to.  There were no plans or deadlines or expectations of other people.  I got back into my yoga practice after five weeks (my cracked rib was finally healed) and practiced every day, I read and wrote every day, I practiced my new massage theory on willing bodies, I slept as late as I wanted, ate when and what I wanted (and with that I have to add, great healthy food, juice and tea bars in Pai), and for the first time in a long time felt like all my time was my own.  For those of you who are parents, or employed for that matter, I don’t know how you do it.  🙂  For pictures of Pai, click here.

So, Pai is one of those places I could see going back to.  I could even see staying there for a season.  See, I know I could make money.  It is the sort of places that lends itself to a yoga practice, but that is lacking there.  And every time I was offering a massage, there was interest from others.  And in doing those things, I would be doing what I love, and not have to do too much of it, because it is Thailand after all, and the cost of living would be easy to meet.

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Posted in Food, Massage, nature, travel, Yoga | 5 Comments »

It Takes a Village…

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Most have heard the saying, “It Takes a Village,” and here in Varkala Beach, it is to haul in the days catch.  I was awoken yesterday morning by a melee of boisterous voices coming from the beach.  When I stepped out on my balcony, to have a look at what was going on, I saw about 20 men bringing in a huge fishing net, surrounded by a large group of onlookers.  Apparently, the way they fish here is for a man in a canoe to bring this huge net about 200 meters offshore. Then, the other men back onshore haul the net in to a call and response rhythm.  Once the net is onshore, with fish, calamari, and whatever else in tow, it is separated by size into large plastic colanders.  There is a broker who negotiates the price for the catch with the main fisherman, and then the others leave with some of the catch for themselves.  It was such an interesting process to watch, as there were also several women and young boys around, some seeming to help and others just there to be a part of it all.  I love how this is the morning activity for so many here, and happens most days of the week.

You can surmise from this story that I am no longer at the ashram.  About 5 days in, Dore really wanted to leave, and I was in agreement, so we finished the two week program and made our way to a lovely, simple resort called the Oasis on Odayam Beach in Varkala.  This is my first time vacationing on the Arabian Sea, and it feels so good to be by the ocean again.  Nice waves, just big enough to play in, but not dangerous, and it is off season here now, so it is very quiet and very inexpensive.  Our beachfront room is costing us 400rs or $8/night.  The seafood is deliciously fresh, lots of fish and prawn curry, and calamari tandoori.  The salads and juices are really fresh, and so far, knock on wood, been kind to our stomachs.  Thank you GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract, excellent for everything).  We had planned to stay 3 or 4 days, yet the casual laid-back atmosphere, and other friends from the ashram being here, has extended our stay to almost a week.  After the 5:20 wake-up call at the ashram, it is lovely to wake-up naturally, do yoga everyday at one’s own will, read, walk the beach, relax.  Yet, we have decided to leave tomorrow, continuing to head north to the ashram of Amma “The Hugging Mama.”  A night or two there, and then to explore the backwaters of Alappuzha and Kottayam, before we head east through Munnar and Tamil Nadu to the east coast of India and, specifically, Pondicherry.

My last blog had left off just before our 30 hour train ride south. It was actually a very easy ride.  We splurged for the 2nd best accommodations, so we had a 4 person air conditioned compartment.  It was a really nice change, leaving the city of Mumbai to view the countryside.  Big mountains, rice paddies, tropical trees, lots of water, and cows.  The first couple we shared the compartment with were traveling from Mumbai to open their summer home in anticipation of their children and grandchildren coming to visit with them.  Apparently, several train stations in India are known for certain tasty delights.  When the train stopped at one station, this couple bought us upuma sandwiches, basically a potato patty on a bun with a spicy/salty seasoning, and this (wherever this was) was the place to get them.  Their stop was about 6 hours into the trip, when they were replaced by a mother and son who were heading south for her niece’s wedding.  They too were very friendly and generous, and they are from Renigiri, supposedly famous for it’s mangoes.  She gifted us a can of mango puree, which we actually finally got around to having today, sharing mango lassies with the other people staying at the guesthouse.  They departed about 6 hours before we arrived to our stop, and we had the space to ourselves at that point.  Playing cards, reading, watching the countryside pass.  Here, people come out to wave at the trains as they pass by, with big smiles on their faces.

Upon arrival in Trivandrum, we negotiated a taxi to the Ashram, and after about an hour of driving through dusty winding roads, we arrived to the Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Center in Neyyar Dam.  While checking in, we were informed of the many rules to be followed, and the busy mandatory schedule.  Since I’d read the website countless times, this was what I’d expected.  I was very excited, so looking forward to a dedicated yoga practice for a month, and the location was beautiful.  Our simple room was two beds, some shelves, and a desk.  They provided us with sheets, a pillow, and a mosquito net, which was definitely needed.  Our view was of papaya and mango trees, and tropical forest.  In the distance you could see a temple on top of the highest peak around.  We ended up hiking up their our last morning for an incredible view of the dam, lake, and mountains, and our morning meditation.  We had neighbors from Spain on both sides of us, one of the couples became our friends and are now at the beach with us.  There were lots of really nice people on the program, from all over the world, and many travelers to hear stories from and share tips with.  Yet, in the end, like many things in life, the ashram had it’s pros and cons.  The pros, in addition to the beautiful, peaceful location, and other participants, were the food (yummy vegetarian fare twice a day, as much as you wanted to eat.  Lots of coconut and fresh veggies) and some of the yoga teachers (there were a couple in particular, who really helped me to improve my yoga practice, 4 hours/day, especially headstand, shoulderstand, plow, and crow, all poses I’d been struggling with/working on for years).  The cons were some of the other yoga teachers who just were not good, and the director who completely lacked in spiritual leadership (it turned out it was a strictly Hindu program, but without explanation, they just expected people to blindly follow), as well as in educational ability (we had 1 1/2 hours of lecture each day, which just turned out to be incredibly boring.  The one thing I came away from the lectures with was that Siva created 840,000 yoga poses, of which 84,000 are meant to be practiced by people, the rest by plants and animals).  There were 2 days that the 8 limbs of yoga were touched upon, but not once the Yoga Sutras.  Honestly, in the end, I stopped going, as there was nothing expanding on what I’d already studied in Yoga teacher training and on my own.  Also, they had a way of treating everyone like untrustworthy children, which didn’t resonate with either of us, so we have moved on and are looking forward to experiencing other yoga in Mysore, Rishikesh, and other locations.

We had one day trip, for which we hired a taxi with 5 other women who were on the program.  We started at an elephant sanctuary and bathed a huge female elephant in the river.  It was so amazing.  What a beautiful docile creature.  She ate bananas from our hands.  To bath the elephants, they chop pieces off a coconut shell so you use the rough husk on their skin.  She seemed to love it, and it was very cool to connect with such an enormous creature in that way.  Then, we went to Ponmudi and climbed to the highest point in the state of Kerala.  From there, we were right near the border of the state Tamil Nadu.  The scenery was amazing tropical forest, so many layers of green, it was just gorgeous, and peaceful.  As we were on the peak, clouds rolled in to envelope us.  Next, we went to a beautiful waterfall and went swimming in our clothes in the pool below.  As women, it is disrespectful to show your bodies, if you do it may be mistaken by men as a come-on of some sort, so that is why swimming in our clothes.  The pool was so cool and refreshing, in a tropical forest.  Really great.  And then it started to pour.  Hello monsoon season.  We returned totally soaked to the taxi, and decided to just wring out our clothes, which were really already wet anyway, and then went to eat.  Delicous masala dosa, rice pancakes stuffed with potatoes and veggies, served with a couple different sauces.  And that was it for our free day from the ashram.

I want to say thanks to everyone for your comments and replies to my blog.  I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to answer each one of you individually, but I am grateful to hear from you.  Hopefully, at some point soon, the internet capabilities will be more consistent.  Until then, signing off…

 

 

 

 

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Posted in nature, Spiritual, travel, Yoga | 8 Comments »

Key West Yoga Pass

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

It is very exciting to introduce the Key West Yoga Pass as we enter a new year.  This is a unique opportunity to practice yoga and attend fitness and dance classes at 9 different locations in Key West and the Lower Florida Keys, all on one class card.  What a great way to experience the variety of yoga and teachers we have here in our island community.

$75 gets you 5 classes to use at any of these locations:

Ashley Kamen Yoga

Coffee Mill Dance Studio

Key West Yoga Sanctuary

ommPeace Yoga & Massage Therapy

Paddleboard Yoga Key West

Phoenix Rising Yoga Key West

Stay Fit Studio

Yoga Key West

Yoga on the Beach

Looking forward to seeing you on the mat in this new year.  May it be a happy, healthy, and joy filled year for you.

 

 

 

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2011-2012 Yoga Season Opens

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Hello, Yoginis!  I hope this message finds you well after a wonderful summer.

Yoga classes will resume next week, Monday, October 31st, at Parmer’s Resort on Little Torch Key.  ommPeace Yoga is expanding this season.  We will be offering 4 classes a week this season.  Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings, 8:30-10:00, Vinyasa inspired, and Monday evenings 5:15-6:30, intermediate.
I am excited to introduce you to Claudia Gukeisen.  Claudia will be teaching on Monday & Wednesday mornings. A little more on Claudia:

Claudia has an M.A. in Education from NYU and has been an educator for over 15 years.  It was as a Montessori teacher that she began to bring yoga into the classroom and find how transformative it can be for children.

Claudia completed her yoga teacher training with Yoga on the Beach in Key West.  Her classes are Vinyasa, Hatha and Kripalu inspired, including Kripalu’s Yoga Dance.

I will be teaching Monday evenings and Thursday mornings.  The evening class is going to be an intermediate class, with a focus on more inversions, backbends, and binds.  If any of you are ready to expand your practice in this way, I will look forward to seeing you there.
Classes remain $15/class, a block of 5 classes $65, a block of 10 classes $120 *NO Expiration*
If you’d like to stay up to date on schedule changes do to weather, holidays, events, please LIKE ommPeace Yoga & Massage Therapy on Facebook.
Looking forward to seeing you on the mat.

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Yoga Family Style

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

A couple weeks ago, my Mom’s family got together for the 1st ever annual reunion.  We meet in the Pocono Mountains and had a wonderful time.  We did two mornings of Yoga.  The first day, just myself leading my Mom, Aunt, and cousin in a gentle morning class.  The following morning, I lead 11 of my family members, ranging in age from 10-66, some advanced students, and some who this was their first class ever.  All enjoyed, and some new yogis may emerge from the group.  I LOVE sharing yoga, and am grateful for all who joined me.  

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Paddleboard Yoga

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

My favorite new yoga practice is Paddleboard Yoga, and it seems that this trend is catching on.  So much so, actually, that Yoga Journal recently posted a short article on how it is taking off from coast-to-coast.  Paddleboard Yoga focuses largely on balance and core strength, things we also practice on land, but are a big factor to not ending up in the water when on a Paddleboard.  I practice with the Key West group out of Hurricane Hole Marina and Lazy Dog Charters.  You can find out more about them at www.KeyWestPaddleboardYoga.com.

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Yoga tomorrow

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Join me tomorrow morning for yoga class at Parmer’s Resort, Little Torch Key, 8:30am.  It will be a beautiful sunny morning to be practicing.

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Yoga at Parmer’s

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Vinyasa class tomorrow morning, 8:30-10:00, at Parmer’s Resort on Little Torch Key.  Join me if you can, it will be a beautiful morning.

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Back in the swing

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

I’m excited to announce two things, yoga classes resume tomorrow and I have studio space in Key West.  So, if you are in the Lower Florida Keys, you can join me for yoga classes from 8:30am-10:00am, Monday and Thursday mornings.  Classes are at Parmer’s Resort on Little Torch Key.  Easy to get to and a beautiful locale overlooking the waters of Big Pine Channel.

If you are in need of a massage, and most of us are, I am accepting appointments for in-home massage or at my new studio space, located in the Heron Building on N. Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West.  Feel free to contact me with questions or to set up an appointment.

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Yoga on the Beach

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

I’m substituting Wednesday morning, for Don from Yoga on the Beach.  Come join me for yoga class, overlooking the beautiful waters of Key West, from Ft. Zachary Taylor.  Class is from 8:15-9:45am.  Walk-in $18.  Call 305-296-7352 for more information.

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