I’ve purchased a charm in every country I’ve been to except one. There is no charm on my bracelet from Bangladesh. But here in Bali Indonesia there are lots of options to buy silver jewelry. But for the first time I decided to try something new – I signed up to take a silver jewelry making class in the heart of the Bali Art Scene, Ubud at the Craft Workshop.
We began by drawing on a piece of silver
I spent three hours and less than $30 to create my own one of a kind charm. To be honest, it might be a little too big for the charm bracelet. But I like it anyway and I had a fascinating experience learning this craft.
Cutting the shape
With eight other students I learned how to cut and shape the silver, file it and imprint it and clean it. I learned how to solder and mold and buff and shine. Most students attempted more difficult projects than mine, with varying degrees of success. Two women actually brought gemstones to class to have set in rings. Those were my favorite pieces of the day. More elaborate than. what I attempted.
Adding a second layer of silver
Mine is very simple, and a bit amateurish. But I am, clearly an amateur. So no matter. I really enjoyed the experience, in an artisans studio, in the middle of a rice field. My little silver lotus blossom charm will be a happy memory of my
Polishing and shining
time in Ubud.
At the end of the class our jewelry instructor presented me with a little silver band. He had seen me admiring the ring one of the other women made. So he quickly formed a pinky ring for me. Thoughtful. A perfect memory
Gem stone rings
Next time you are in Ubud go in search of the old school artisans, hidden amongst the hustle and bustle that now is Ubud. But you can still find the artists. They are
With our instuctor
there, still working like the old days. You’ll enjoy an afternoon if you pursue silver jewelry making class in Ubud – in the heart of the Bali art scene.
Visit South Korea for some amazing experiences, delicious foods, spectacular scenery and to spend a weekend with the Monks. You won’t regret it.
Our group together
I’ve done a lot of cool things in my life. A few experiences stand out to me. As I have aged I am more aware how unique some of these moments have been; taking a shower on the Serengeti with water heated over an open fire, eating honey and coffee with the leaders of a village in Ethiopia, sitting cross legged on the floor in the traditional home of an ancient Japanese master paper umbrella artist while he gave my family a personal demonstration of his craft. Swimming with sea lions in Galapagos, dolphins in Zanzibar and Manta Rays in Hawaii. Participating in the annual bird inventory on Molokai and summiting Warma Wanusqa Peak (13,500 feet) on the Inca Trail in Peru. I’ve danced with the natives in a Burkina Faso village, and discussed motherhood with the Himba women in Namibia. Remarkable experiences all.
Enjoying our vegetarian meal
I never really set out to accomplish anything specifically unique. I only have found myself in situations that seem unique to others. And these moments are the ones that have defined me and have broadened my awareness of the world. These moments I hold dear, each difficult to describe or put into words and accurately share. They are the definition of indescribable.
Learning about the prostrations
In Korea I had an indescribable experience lucky enough to spend a weekend with the Monks in the Geumsunsa Temple in the mountains outside of Seoul. Adding this to my list of unique and memorable life experiences. I really recommend both a visit to South Korea and a weekend with the monks.
I went into this with next to no knowledge of Buddhism. I still know very little, but I did gain awareness of a way of life that is not a religion, but a goal to practice living life with an open heart. According to Buddhist traditions a Buddha is a fully awakened being who has completely purified his mind of the three poisons of desire, aversion and ignorance.
The Geumsunsa Temple is perched on Mount Bukhan to the North and West of Seoul. We arrived late, our GPS refusing to cooperate and maneuvering through the streets of Seoul without it proved a difficult task. Once we found the parking lot at the base of the mountain we hiked the last quarter mile straight up the mountain to the temple entrance – the only access to the temple is on foot.
Arne at the silent breakfast
Arriving late I was frazzled and frantic, and certainly not in a transcendental state of mind, but I took a few deep breaths and prepared myself to spend a weekend with the monks. We entered in a room with about a dozen other people where the orientation had already begun. We sat quietly in the back trying to catch our breath and catch up on the presentation. It was presented in both Korean and English.
We were given a tour of the temple and some history. The 1000-year-old temple is small compared to some (five monks when some temples have 200) but it is very beautiful and well maintained. I wish I could visit in spring or fall, I’m sure it is spectacular when all the foliage on the mountain is out.
We were served a very good vegetarian dinner with soup, rice and multiple kimchee and vegetable choices. We were instructed that we had to eat everything that we took, down to the last grain of rice. No food could be wasted. We were shown how to use an apple slice to clean our plates of all food remnants so they almost appeared to not even need to be washed.
Following dinner we were escorted to the Buddha room, a beautiful part of the temple adorned to praise Buddha, the teacher. A Buddhist temple is called Vihara and is a place for education. In the shrine room of each temple is where a large Buddha and statues of his disciples are. Here is where we began our 108 prostrations. I was worried about accomplishing this task. Starting in a standing position to lying prone on the floor, methodically and with purpose 108 times in a row. I was already finding my body was having a great deal of difficulty sitting cross-legged on the floor – an unnatural position for most Americans. We were instructed how to do the prostrations and how to release our minds from turmoil. The practice of Buddhism is the never-ending humbling of the ego. Humbling yourself before the world, by lowering your body you realize that you are one with everything. Performing 108 prostrations is yet another path towards the realization of the True Self.
And so we began. 108 times; each prostration symbolizing a goal, or gratitude or repentance; For example; I prostrate myself to show appreciation to my parents for giving birth to me. Or I prostrate myself to ask forgiveness for people I may have hurt. Or I prostrate myself for a humble mind. Or I prostrate myself for peace among all countries and an end to all wars.
And on and on, 108 times. It lasted about 30 minutes and I was sweating and exhausted when it was over.
The beautiful temple
We were later asked to choose one of the prostration sentences that spoke to us specifically and we drew pictures then shared with the group. Many people in the room were brought to tears during this circle time; some feeling stress in their jobs or sadness in lost relationship, and others wanting to show love to their parents who are ailing. It was an emotional experience for many. I chose the one that asks to be more humble. This is truly a goal I have been working on for some time, so it called to me.
I thought doing 108 prostrations would be the most difficult thing I did during my visit, but no. Sleeping on the floor was. Or trying to sleep I should say. We slept side by side (men and women separated) on an extremely hard floor with a blanket and pillow. It was a very, very long night.
Arne being flipped during the exercise program
Tea with one of our host monks
The bell chimed at 4:30am for wake up. I wasn’t sad to get up. I really couldn’t lie there anymore. Our morning was spent in silence and meditation followed by wake up exercises harder than my yoga classes and then a vegetarian ceremonial breakfast, very ritualistic and eaten in silence. We all then shared in chores around the temple before sitting down to have tea and a conversation with one of the monks. I think this was my favorite time.
We really enjoyed our friendly monks
The monk prepared and poured the tea for us as she answered each and every question we had about her life as a monk, Buddha and Buddhism, philosophy, the temple and much more. It was fascinating and enlightening to see a human being choose to live this life and walk away from everything materialistic and dedicate everything to the practice of becoming Buddha.
On top of the sunny mountain
Finally we headed up the mountain for a beautiful hike on the cold and sunny morning. We spent time sitting at the top of the mountain enjoying the spectacular scenery and each other’s company and meditating on our time together. We hiked back to the temple for our vegetarian lunch, paper lantern making and then farewell to our new friends and Temple Geumsunsa.
Farewell to our new friends
My back and hips were killing me and I was desperate for a nap and a large coffee as we hiked down the path to the car, but my heart and mind were full as I thoughtfully considered what I learned from this experience. I felt validated in my Fabulous Fifties objectives to not look outside for approval and rather to find it within. My knowledge that being true to myself, despite what others believe and grateful for all things in my life, good and bad, is the best destiny. Being honest, forgiving, following my intuition and celebrating the one short life we have is my practice.
I prostrate myself for a humble mind. Fabulous.
Note – find out how you can have this experience at http://koreantemples.com/?p=6684
The most expensive city in the world can put you back quite a few dollars. Beautiful Singapore is a colorful and glamorous destination where a beer will cost you $15 and the smallest of hotel rooms (closet more like it) will start at $100. But there are ways to enjoy this sparkling island city state without breaking the bank. Especially in the evening. Here are some tips on Singapore after dark, fun and free.
Gardens by the Bay
After a day enjoying the city have an early dinner in the less expensive Clarke’s Quay area (older port area of warehouses now mostly restaurants) and then walk (free) or take a River Cruise Boat ($24) at dusk to the One Fullerton Pier. As
Art along the Singapore River
the sun sets the Singapore River and its bridges are lit and beautiful. Be sure to enjoy the historic Fullerton Hotel after dark as you begin your Singapore after dark fun and free tour.
Stop to pose with the famous Merlion statue after dark then wander along the bay. Get comfy in one of the many seating areas and and get ready for the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Laser Light
The Merlion is the symbol of the city
Show. If you want to spend the money, it’s fun to go up to the observation deck at Marina Bay Sands ($23). But if you are on a budget you can skip it. We did it in the afternoon and enjoyed a way-too-expensive gin and tonic in the roof top bar.
Laser show at Marina Bay Sands
The laser light show is every night at 8:00 and 9:00. Coordinated with music and fountains it’s a pretty amazing show in a pretty amazing location. A great way to enjoy Singapore after dark fun and free.
Spend the money to enjoy the stunning Gardens
Gardens by the Bay
by the Bay sky walk ($8) and the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome ($28) during the day(definitely my favorite Singapore attraction). But by night make sure you position yourself to enjoy the free and spectacular Gardens by the Bay light show. You have two chances to
Gardens by the Bay
see the show each evening at 7:45 and 8:45.
We made our way to the Gardens by the Bay over the red lighted Helix Bridge following the Marina Sands Laser show. If you hurry you will have just enough time between shows to walk there. Some people stay in one place to watch the Gardens light show (15 minutes) while others lay on the concrete below the towering trees to hear, feel and see the music and lights. For me I enjoyed walking all through the forest and taking
Gardens by the Bay
advantage of so many different photography angles. The colors were incredible. If you are in Singapore for several days this is worth seeing
Year of the Dog
more than once.
We only had two full days in Singapore. We decided to skip Sentosa Island (more family amusement park kind of activities
Street in Chinatown
both day and night) and spent our second day in Chinatown. There is great food and a wonderful and pretty inexpensive selection of shops for souvenirs. After dark Chinatown glows in gold and red and orange. As part of our
Singapore after dark fun and free tour Chinatown is worth walking through to enjoy the lights, colors and food!
Lucky for us we were in Singapore during the Asian New Year (Year of the Dog). Singapore’s
population is 74% Chinese (Mandarin is the second language after English) and both Asian New Year and Chinatown are bustling, popular, colorful and most definitely worth a visit.
We’ve been breaking our own rule of slow travel lately with some whirlwind activity through India and Bangladesh. So we were looking to recenter and refocus on our goals. And we found the perfect place. Affordable peace-and-quiet on the Maldives. Hoorah Huraa!
Sunset from Huraa
We didn’t specifically choose the island of Huraa. Rather we chose the affordable Airbnb (Beach Heaven)here. As nice as it would be to stay in one of those mega expensive over the water thatched roof bungalows you see in the Maldives marketing material – that is not in our budget. Nor really is it in our keep it simple and affordable style.
Looking across the channel to the very expensive Club Med from our sweet little spot
We chose to spend three week’s at the “keep it simple” Beach Heaven Hotel where for $90 a day (total not per person) we are enjoying a small but comfortable room, three meals a day, coffee, tea and water all day and other non alcoholic drinks available for a tiny price. We also have great WiFi (a surprise), a patio table to play scrabble as well as hammocks and lounge chairs to read in and a beach five minutes walk away.
There is a tiny-little community here on Huraa but no cars. That makes walking the crushed coral narrow streets each morning another bonus.
Google map image of the island of Huraa
We thought the island we stayed on in the Seychelles was small- well you could put about 200 Huraa’s on the Seychelles island of Praslin.
There are a couple of tiny stores, a couple of other tiny resorts, and a school. Many of the locals work at the three resorts on the neighboring islands where over the water huts run about $1500 a night, all visible from our $90 room at Beach Heaven.
Colorful house on the crushed coral streets of Huraa
The Maldives are a devout Muslim nation and Huraa has a small mosque. And of course no alcohol, tobacco, or pork. We are using these three alcohol free weeks to really focus on our health. Although I’ve been suffering since Bangladesh with a cold, we are enjoying early morning beach yoga daily, cardio every other day and power walking most days. You must circle the island twice to walk three miles. The highest point on the island is about five feet. So power walking is easy.
The atoll of Maldives showing all the islands with resorts
The Maldives are an atoll. I believe this is my first visit to an atoll. An atoll forms when an ancient
volcano sinks into the sea from the weight of the coral building and growing on the fringe. This leaves a ring of small coral islands with a lagoon center. Coral is everywhere here – the sand on the beach is fine coral, the roads are crushed coral and coral is used as stone for building houses.
No cars on Huraa but a few scooters and golf carts and whatever you would call this cute thing.
We have eaten fish everyday so far and the tuna is especially fresh and delicious.
We still have more than two weeks here, and we plan to take some snorkeling excursions as soon as my cold goes away. But meanwhile we are just enjoying this unique place, a great find with affordable peace and quiet on the Maldives.
Top someone’s former home. Bottom high water mark at the bar
Last year on the 13th anniversary of the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami we were in Phuket Thailand. It was difficult to find any sign of the disaster
remaining in Thailand, where about 5000 people perished.
Top afterthe Tsunami. Bottom today.
But it’s still very much apparent here in Sri Lanka. Here 50,000 people died on December 26, 2004 including 2000 who died here in the town where we are living when the train they were riding was swept away.
Right here where our little Castaway Cottage now sits, a families home was destroyed. The concrete slab only remains, a memorial of sorts. The family, our Airbnb hosts, survived and moved forward, in the resilient way the Sri Lanka people seem to.
Top after the tsunami and bottom today
Our tour guide we had on our five day tour was in Colombo on that day. Luckily the waves did not affect Colombo on the West Coast of Sri Lanka. Many more lives would have been lost in the largest city in the country.
We visited a temple and the Monk told us how on that day the temple washed away. Still today signs of rebuilding part of the school there. Resilient.
Left memorial to the train victims. Right a close up of artists rendition of disaster.
There are subtle reminders often; a memorial to fifty lives lost in Yala National Park; a high water mark at a beach bar in Hikkaduwa; empty buildings and hotels still not rebuilt; trees growing where families once thrived.
For perspective, that’s me standing on the bridge.
The most public memorials in this area are for the train victims. Two memorials are built- one by the resilient Sri Lankan people with an artists version of the devastation on the train that day. The other, a gift from the Japanese – a giant Buddha statue next to the train tracks where so many lost their lives. This beautiful statue marks where the second wave hit. The most devastating wave to strike – and to kill.
Countries affected by the tsunami.
Day to day life goes on around these memorials, despite the fact everyone here was touched by this event in some way and will never be the same. But these resilient people easily get my vote for the friendliest of any people we have met on our travels. Kind, polite, happy, resilient. Lucky.
Fabulous Sri. Lanka
Note – we leave Sri Lanka in a couple of days and will be heading next to India for a brief five day stop. More from India when we can. Thanks for following.
Sri Lanka. The name means “Glittering Island” or “Shining Island”. It’s a perfect description for this beautiful spot in the blue Indian Ocean just off the coast of India, home to the famous Sri Lankan tea known as Ceylon.
Contoured Tea fields in Newara Eliya
I love it here. The beaches are clean. The water is warm. The food is interesting and the history – well it’s quite remarkable.
Like many Asian and African nations we have visited, Sri Lanka is no stranger to bloodshed, violent colonization and civil war;
The Portuguese arrived in the early 1600’s
The Dutch colonized and enslaved natives in the late 1600’s
The British ousted the Dutch, killed the royal family and everyone associated with them, and enslaved more people while launching the tea industry in the late 1800’s. During this period the island was known as Ceylon.
Independence from Britain came in 1947 and the country changed its name to the Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka.
A civil war raged between the majority Buddhist Sinhalese and the Indian Hindu Tamil minority between 1983 and 2009 during which time the Tamils tried to create an independent state in the North and East of the island.
Tea grows on a low bush
All of this for power and control. It’s a recurring theme everywhere we travel, resulting in many lives lost.
Today though, Sri Lanka seems stable. The tea industry is booming and results in 2% of the gross domestic product (tourism is also booming).
Ceylon Tea (also known as black tea and English Breakfast Tea) is growing in popularity worldwide. Green Tea, now popular for its health benefits, is also growing in popularity. Both come from the same plant – the Ceylon Tea plant from the Camellia Sininses family. The differences between Black and Green Tea, as well as the more expensive White or Silver Tea is the parts of the plant used and how it is processed.
Before the British planted tea they tried coffee but the crop was wiped out by the coffee leaf disease, also known as coffee blight. The first tea-plant arrived in Ceylon in 1842 but it wasn’t until 1867 that Englishman James Taylor began the first tea plantation.
Sri Lanka’s climate and soil are perfect for tea growing. Three kinds of regions now grow tea – low, mid and upper. Each region produces a different product from the same plant due to the different growing conditions and soil.
Nearly all of Sri Lanka’s tea becomes an export. Local people are left with “tea dust”, literally the left overs from the floor and machinery sold locally.
of all tea to preserve the highest quality product and the reputation of the industry.
Tea leaf picking in Sri Lanka is ALL done by hand (unlike most other countries) and done by women. Many women spend their entire lives in the tea plantations. Their daughters and granddaughters follow in their footsteps. It’s a back-breaking and arduous process. Only the new growth and the first two leaves get harvested. Each plant requires picking every seven days.
Making the picking even more difficult is the steep slope the plants grow on, often in terraced plantations that follow the natural contour of the mountains.
Me with our guide learning the difficult job of picking
Glenloch is one of the few factories that has a special permit to allow tours. The Sri Lankan Tea Board is fastidious about cleanliness and health standards, so only a few factories are open to visitors.
Glenloch has been in operation since the 1800’s and is now the fourth largest tea factory in the
Conveyor built with black tea
world. One of the founders of Glenloch was Sir Thomas Lipton. During our tour some of the original machinery was on display. Much of it was man or horse powered back in the day. Today’s process uses automated technology but still employs many people. In fact over a million Sri Lankans are directly or indirectly employed with the tea industry.
Walking into the factory you are surrounded by the sweet and earthy smell of tea. It is a lovely aroma and permeates the factory. Our lovely Sari robbed guide took us through the factory and explained the steps to turn leaves to tea;
The women pickers bring their days harvest to the muster shed for weighing. They are expected to pick 15 -20kg a day.
Immediately the leaves are spread on large troughs in a process known as withering where circulated air from below dries the leaves. This takes about 24 hours.
The leaves are then sent to the roller. This machine, now automated but formerly horsepowered, mashes the leaves into a black pulp. This process releases the enzymes in the tea.
Here the green tea follows a separate process of steaming instead of rolling. This process halts the oxidation and keeps the green color.
Ready for auction
The black tea is then sent to a fermentation area where the temperature and humidity level dictates how long the fermenting process takes, anywhere from 20 minutes to five hours.
Next the tea proceeds to a dryer to stop further fermentation before going through a grading process for size. Larger tea particles are more highly prized.
The tea is then put on a conveyor belt and packed in to large paper sacks (in olden times it was a very heavy wooden tea chests) and shipped to the auction house and brokering companies for shipment around the world.
Four kinds of tea
Following our tour we had a tea tasting where we enjoyed the darkest black tea, a medium black tea, green tea and the special white or silver tea. This last tea is very expensive, made essentially by using only the buds of the plant, dried in the sun but not steamed or rolled or fermented. This tea has a unique and light and nutty flavor.
For me however, my favorite was the black tea, but during this tasting I found I also enjoyed the green tea. I’m not usually a fan of green tea, but maybe I need to drink more Sri Lankan Green Tea – it was really smooth and delicious.
Women working in the tea plantation
So how about the next time you make yourself a cup of tea (black, green or white), take a moment to think about where it came from. The remarkable journey from high in the mountains of Sri Lanka to your tea-cup. And give a little prayer up for the women who picks the leaves, day in and day out, to make your lovely cup possible.
Sri Lanka – Shining Island. Fabulous.
Want to learn more about tea around the world? Read our blog about tea in China here.
Note – Hi Everyone! We are still on a blog sabbatical as we work on some upgrades and cleanup of My Fab Fifties Life. In the meantime, here is a repost of a blog I posted a year ago today from Thailand. That was a memorable day to be sure! We will be back with some fun, new, fresh blogs real soon! Happy New Year!
Well as I’ve said before, Mama said there will be days like this.
We had an excellent Christmas Day here on the island of Samui, Thailand. Very relaxing and lovely.
Today, December 26th, we vowed to get up and run, since we had taken the last five days off from running. We headed down the hill to a flat area near the beach. I told Arne I wanted him to stay with me until we passed a house where three dogs had growled at us the other day.
So as we walked down the hill, we passed another house with three dogs, one very nasty and viscous looking, but all behind a tall secure fence.
About 20 yards past the house, suddenly we heard a noise and turned to see all three dogs flying down the hill, the vicious one in the lead teeth barred. Someone had opened the gate and released them and immediately they came after us. In clear attack mode.
At the hospital emergency room for the first in a series of shots
The mean one took a bite. Leaving a broken wound on my husbands thigh.
The dogs retreated and we stood there in shock and shaken. My husband was not gravely injured, but the only way back to our apartment was to walk past that house again.
We both got a big stick.
As we approached the house the three dogs were back behind the gate. We hollered and yelled trying to get someone’s attention but no one came. We walked back to our apartment and immediately went to find the proprietors of our Airbnb.
Of course they were horrified. They told us there had been some problems with these dogs in the past. They walked with us down to speak to the owners. The conversation, which was in Thai, seemed to lean towards the fact that we shouldn’t worry because they had vaccination records for the dog.
That didn’t cut it for me.
I asked for an explanation as to why they let the dog out right as we walked by? The answer was the dogs needed to poo.
That didn’t cut it for me.
They offered to pay for the doctor. Duh.
Our Airbnb owner told us where to go for the doctor so we headed out. After three tries we ended up at the Koh Samui hospital emergency room where Arne was treated by beginning a series of both rabies and tetanus shots that will take place several times over the next month. At a total cost to us of around $150. I expect the dog owner to reimburse us. Time will tell.
Additionally our Airbnb owner wants to go with us to the Tourism Police to help us file a report. This will start a process against the dog and the owner.
We will go there tomorrow.
Here is my philosophy on this – Dogs shouldn’t bite. Plain and simple. I don’t care what country it is. I am as much of a dog lover as the next guy, but owners need to be responsible to train and monitor their animals. And there are no second chances.
Here in Thailand elephants and monkeys are regularly trained and used for both work and entertainment. I know many people feel strongly against such uses of animals. You won’t see me riding an elephant for tourism purposes, but I am also not going to condemn something that is a centuries old practice in a country where I am only a visitor. That doesn’t mean I will participate or support the practice.
But when it comes to dogs that bite, in a neighborhood with pedestrians, children, scooters, cyclist – I draw the line. Even as a visitor from another country. There is no room for error and no second chances. This dog must to go.
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