Kuang Si Falls

Sabaidi from Laos! I am two weeks into a six week stay in Luang Prabang. It feels good finally being caught up on past adventures so I can start blogging about my time in Laos.

View of the Bamboo Bridge over the Nam Khan. There are two rivers that run along Luang Prabang forming a little peninsula at the one end of town – the Nam Khan and Mekong River. This is my view from the sidewalk when I walk from the volunteer guesthouse to my favorite cafes for coffee!
The convergence of the Nam Khan and Mekong River.

I am volunteering for six weeks teaching English to girls. My schedule is very busy. I have lesson planning in the morning for the four classes that I am teaching. Around 10am I take a van or tuk-tuk out to a buffalo farm about 40 minutes away from the guesthouse.

Tuk-tuk ride to the buffalo farm. I love the ride out to the farm especially from the back of a tuk-tuk. It’s nice getting a break from the businesses of town and into the country side.

The farm recently opened up to the public selling their homemade ice cream from the buffalo.

Buffalo on the farm

I teach two one-hour classes to girls. The objective of the lessons is to work on English with a focus on the kitchen, cooking, and working in a cafe.

I often use the site of the future cafe as my classroom. The farm has been in existence for about two years now but it only recently opened up to the public selling their ice cream. They will eventually open up their cafe for people to enjoy salads and sandwiches along with their ice cream. The farm is using milk from the buffalo to make their own ice cream and cheeses.
It’s very dangerous working at a farm that sells homemade ice cream!

Around 1pm we drive back to town where I grab a quick lunch and break before heading to a learning center where I teach an English class to six girls after school.

It’s about a mile and half walk to the learning center. The walk is one of my favorite parts of the day. The center is located away from the downtown, tourist areas of Luang Prabang so it’s an opportunity to see locals living life. This is a common site walking around town as well as to and from the learning center. Novices and monks walking the streets to and from their temple. Some of the volunteers in my program are teaching English to novices and monks.
Here I am in the classroom wearing my teaching outfit. As a teacher I must wear a collard shirt and the traditional female skirt known as a sinh. Because I teach on a carpet I have to take off my shoes and teach barefoot which I love doing!

When I am done with the English class, I help teach a women’s health workshop with an other volunteer to some of the older girls. We are helping them understand female health topics like puberty, menstruation, reproduction, and childbirth. More to come on this project in a future blog dedicated to this topic!

Once the workshop is done around 6:45pm I make the mile and a half walk back to the volunteer house for dinner. So it’s a full day and busy week but I am absolutely loving it!

Luckily we have our weekends free and I’ve been able to take advantage of some free time to explore the local area, enjoy some meals out, and take advantage of the great coffee and pastries in the cafes.

One of my favorite cafes has views of the Mekong River. Laos grows coffee so my favorite place to get coffee makes it from coffee grown on their plantation. It’s nice and strong! This is a fun place to come and watch boats on the river taking tourists to different sites.
The cafe I like going to has river side seating – which is the view from the picture above – or you can sit in their cafe. This was my view Saturday late afternoon enjoying a cup of coffee and their homemade banana bread with espresso butter. Yum!

More blogs to come from Laos about the different weekend trips and adventures as well as on the work we are doing with the girls. Kop chai (thank you) for following along!


Singapore Slowdown


Singapore was a quick stop in between adventures. I slowed down the pace in Singapore and spent a lot of time resting and relaxing. Nepal was a busy six weeks and I wanted to be rested heading into my next adventure – teaching english to girls for six weeks in Luang Prabang. I was able to take in a few sites and really enjoyed exploring this city. It was very easy to navigate and the people were extremely friendly and helpful. I wish I had given myself a few more days to explore this interesting and diverse city.

My flight from Kathmandu was at 10:30pm so I arrived early Monday morning into Singapore. I was pretty tired so spent much of the day working on my blog at the hotel but I managed to muster up the energy to walk around Orchard Street and the area around my hotel. I could not get over the shopping! And the number of stores – above ground, below ground…shops, shops and more shops!

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands mall – a great example of shopping in Singapore 


It was fun walking around because the city was getting ready for the Christmas holiday season so lots of decorations, music, and lights. I enjoyed seeing “Christmas” because I won’t be seeing any in Laos. The next time I see any signs of Christmas will be on Christmas Day when I land in Sydney!

Decorations hanging in the entry way of a shopping center.
Decorations hanging from trees along Orchard Street.

While still warm and very humid, the weather was overcast on Tuesday. When I left the hotel it had started to rain so I picked an indoor activity. I spent the afternoon at the National Museum of Singapore. I joined the free tour and had a wonderful experience walking around the exhibits while learning more about the history of Singapore. It was really very good and I recommend it to others. It made my time in Singapore more enjoyable knowing more about the history of the people and country.

National Museum of Singapore
It was pouring rain when I finished walking around the museum so I decided to wait out the rain in the museum cafe.

Luckily the rain stopped about an hour later. I took the metro to the Gardens by the Bay and spent the rest of the day exploring the garden and watching the evening light show.

View of the Singapore Flyer and Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay by day…


…and Gardens by the Bay by night!
Every night there is a light show set to music. The show I watched was set to Christmas music. Again it was a lot of fun getting in a dose of the holiday spirit.
Night view of Singapore from the Dragonfly Bridge

Wednesday was all about walking around the different neighborhoods of Singapore. I took the metro to Little India. I walked around the streets and temples of Little India before walking to the Malay Heritage Center, Masjid Sultan and Arab Street. From there I took the metro to Chinatown. I loved that within a span of a few hours I was able to be in Little India walking around a Hindu temple, Arab Street visiting a Muslim mosque, and Chinatown taking in a Buddhist temple.

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
Masjid Sultan Mosque
Inside the mosque
Bussorah Street with Masjid Sultan
Shops on Arab Street
More shops on Arab Street. So many fabric stores. I love walking around neighborhood shops.
View of Chinatown exiting the metro station.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum in Chinatown
Inside the Buddha Tooth Temple and Museum
After visiting the Buddha Tooth Temple I spent some time just wondering around nearby streets. I love architecture so really enjoyed walking around Singapore streets. Such a mix of old and new.

Singapore was a great layover city to explore. I left a lot unexplored but I figure it’s just another reason to visit again! Up next – Laos!


Final images of Nepal

Prayer wheels

I had an amazing six weeks in Nepal. As with any good travel and adventure there were ups and downs, but I would not change any of it. Before moving onto Singapore here are a few final images and memories of my time in Nepal.

Shrines and temples were everywhere in Nepal. I passed these four alone getting from my hotel to Kathmandu Durbar Square which was only about a mile and a half away.


I could not get over the traffic and narrow streets especially in Kathmandu.


I found walking around Kathmandu both exhilarating and terrifying!
While you technically drive on the left in Nepal, there aren’t any lines on the road so it’s common to see cars and motorbikes going wherever they need to in order to keep moving. This was a common sight at intersections. There were no stop signs or traffic lights. Crossing any intersections definitely required a pedestrian to be paying attention.
The view from the backseat of a taxi.
It was a toss-up for what was more stressful for me – riding in a taxi or walking! I really enjoyed my time in Kathmandu but the traffic was awful and I found walking to be difficult.
All the pickup trucks were brightly decorated.
Electrical lines in Nepal.
Momos! I loved eating these dumplings. They were a staple in my diet during my time in Pokhara and Kathmandu.
This sign in a restaurant bathroom made me laugh. Most toilets in Nepal aren’t made to handle toilet paper so you have to put toilet paper in the trash. This sign could not have been more accurate!
I loved my time in Nepal. It was a great place to start my travels. It was the change and challenge I had been craving. I felt blessed and humbled by my time in Nepal. It was hard leaving but I have a feeling I will be back!

Kathmandu Sightseeing

33BD0902-963A-4E79-9A33-ABD05E71140BIt was a long travel day to get from Pokhara to Kathmandu. It took nearly 10 hours on a bus. Once again the ride was bumpy especially since I found myself in the last row again. There was lots of construction as we approached Kathmandu which made the trip even longer.

The tourist bus station in Pokhara. The different bus companies line up around the lot. Plenty of stories to share about my bus rides in Nepal! You will have to ask me about them the next time we see each other!
My last look at the Himalayas from the tourist bus station!

I had two full days to explore Kathmandu. I spent Friday doing a tour of Boudhanath and Pashupatinath.

Boudhanath – one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


View of the shops and buildings that surround the stupa. Visitors aren’t able to go into the stupa but we are able to walk around the perimeter.

After spending some time at Boudhanath I went to Pashupatinath, the holiest Hindu pilgrimage destination in Nepal.

The Bagmati River flows through the complex.
Lots of temples, shrines, and statues throughout the complex as well.
The Arya Ghat cremation grounds are located here. The Bagmati River is an extremely sacred river for Hindus. Open-air crememations occur here where the ashes can be swept into the river.  This was a really powerful and meaningful place to spend some time as it was a place filled with life and death. It’s hard not to be reflective at a scared site like this regardless of religious beliefs and customs.
I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening walking around Thamel.
Kathmandu, especially Thamel, is filled with shops, restaurants, people, taxis, and motorbikes!
I spent my second day walking around Kathmandu Durbar Square. It is a complex filled with temples and shrines, both Hindu and Buddhist. I went on a Saturday, a day of rest for the people of Nepal. It was filled with tourists and locals.


One of my favorite moments was watching a group of women congregate and listening to them sing/chant. I sat for 15 minutes or so off to the side listening to them.


This was another favorite moment of mine. I took some time to just sit and take the world in. I sat on the stairs next to the woman in the pink scarf. She was there with her husband and small little boy.
My view from the steps. The local children loved throwing grains to the pigeons and chasing them.


Just one of the many dogs in Nepal.



Pokhara was a great place to visit and I really enjoyed using it as a homebase for three weeks. I loved being by water again. Here’s a few highlights from my time in this town.

Across the lake is the World Peace Pagoda. After we were done with our trek a few of us from the trekking trip took a boat over and climbed up to the top. It offered great views of the lake and town of Pokhara.
View of Pokhara from Peace Pagoda.
When I arrived back into Pokhara after Chitwan, I did a three day meditation, yoga, and introduction into Buddhism retreat at the Ganden Yiga Chozin Buddist Meditation and Retreat Center. The center is associated with the Kopan Monastery.
There was a prayer wheel in the lower level of the center. There were 16 of us from all corners of the world. I enjoyed learning more about the Buddhist philosophy especially as it relates to loving kindness and compassion.
This was my view from the roof of my final hotel that I stayed in. When I was done with the retreat I had three days to relax and just enjoy the town of Pokhara. I took advantage of the time to catch up on sleep, writing in my journal, doing some blogging, and taking advantage of the spas! I was also able to catch up with a volunteer I had met at Her Farm. He was at the farm for a couple of days before his travels took him to Pokhara for some volunteer work. We had kept in touch so it was nice knowing someone in town to make some plans with.
On my final day in Pokhara, I was invited to join one last trek with Archana and 3 Sisters. They picked me up early in the morning and we drove to Sarangkot to watch the sunrise.
The views never got old. I absolutely loved my time in Pokhara and trekking in the Himalayas. I hope to go back one day. I woud like to spend more time their and do a longer trek next time.
A fun story: This is Archana. Archana studied abroad and lived in the United States for six years. Of all the places to live in the US she lived in Monterey! During my planning stages two different people mentioned the trekking company 3 Sisters to me. They told me they had connections with the women that run the company because a family member of theirs had studied in Monterey. I looked into the company while planning but it didn’t look like trekking was going to be possible in my orginal plans. I got to Nepal and things began to shift. I had time for a trek after all. I reached out to 3 Sisters to see if there were any upcoming trekkking trips. Lucky me there was! There was a 5-day trek to Ghorepani/Poon Hill. Perfect. I signed up and traveled to Pokhara. My first day there I met Archana. We got to talking and in our conversation I learned one, she will be my trekking guide, and two, she was the connection to Monterey! She was the one that shared mutual contacts in Monterey! What a crazy, small world! Archana and 3 Sistres Trekking could not have been nicer or more helpful. When I arrived into Pokhara I was a bit frazzled after the nine hour and very bumpy bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara the day before. My trekking shoes needed to be fixed as the soles of the boots were coming undone, the cord to charge my phone was no longer working, and I still needed to pick up a few essentials for the trek. Archana could not have been more helpful in pointing me in the right direction to make sure things got done and got done properly. While 3 Sisters specializes in providing women trekkers with women guides and assistants, they do have male guides for groups/couples that have males trekking. I highly recommend 3 Sisters as a trekking resource for anyone traveling to Nepal. And if you’re lucky enough to have Archana as a guide tell her hello!
After watching the sunrise we grabbed breakfast at a guesthouse before trekking two hours through villages.
During the trek we came across wild poinsettia- both red and white. I have never seen it growing wild before. It’s beautiful.
I am forgetting the name of this plant. It looks like watermelons but it’s not! I learned that this plant was used for washing clothes before detergent was invented. They would boil them to release the seeds while putting the clothes in to wash. It’s very toxic!
This was a common site throughout Nepal – bamboo holding structures up during construction projects.
After an early morning and day spent trekking I enjoyed one last beer at sunset on the lake. Next stop – Kathmandu!






Chitwan National Park – Safari Jungle – Part II


Day two was pretty low key although we did an other Jeep safari ride in a different part of the park.

Sunset towards the end of our tour.
We made it back in time to finish watching the sunset with a beer on the river. Fairly relaxing except for the crocodiles that we could see in the water or hanging out on the shoreline!
I had a wonderful visit to Chitwan National Park. It was fun exploring a new area with a new friend. After three days it was time for me to head back to Pokhara and Morgane left for Kathmandu on her way to India. 


Chitwan National Park – Jungle Safari Adventure – Part I


It didn’t take long to find the next adventure after the trek. One of the other women on my trek had some free time, too, so we decided to travel south to Chitwan National Park. We spent four days doing a jungle safari. It was a fun visit to an other part of Nepal that was so vastly different from the mountain region we were in the week before. Here are a few pictures to summarize the adventure.

Our hotel was located right on the Rapti River.
Elephants were often seen crossing the river. The elephants we saw were trained for government use. Their handlers would take them into the jungle in order to feed on the elephant grass.
Elephant grass was very abundant in the forest. It’s height added to the excitement of being in the jungle since it was hard to see over it. We had to be heads up for wild elephants, rhinos, the sloth bear, tigers, and of course monkeys, birds, and insects.
The only big wild animal I came across was this rhino feeding in one of the protected army barricades. Apparently this rhino was known to the locals because he often fed in this area because it was protected. He was an older rhino so the danger level was low in this moment!
On the first full day of our trek we took an hour long canoe ride down the river so we could walk back in the jungle.
These are the trees that locals use to make the canoes.
Morgane and I met the week before on our trek. We are both taking 5 months to travel and Nepal was the first stop for both of us. One of the wonderful things about solo travel is the opportunity to meet people. I went outside my comfort zone when I left for my trek because I didn’t have the next week planned. I have a tendency to plan and prepare! But keeping some flexibility in my schedule allowed me to travel with a new friend to a place I wasn’t planning on traveling to.
After our canoe ride we took a couple of hours to trek back to our starting point. I’ve never been so alert on a hike before. I had to look down to watch my footing in the mud since the ground was uneven with footprints from tigers, rhinos, and elephants. I had to look forward, backwards, left and right to make sure I wasn’t surprised by anything big. Plus I had to be heads up with the monkeys in the tress. We were told to look at the monkeys at an angle since they often pee. We didn’t want to get urine in our eyes. It was both comforting and disappointing that we didn’t see any big mammals. Perhaps my encounter with some brown bears this summer in Lake Tahoe was enough excitement for this year!
Did I mention crocodiles yet? Oh yeah we had to watch out for crocodiles, too!

Ghorepani-Poon Hill Trek – Part 2

The morning of day 4 before setting off for Ghandruk.

Day 4: Tadapani – Ghandruk

While we had amazing views of the mountains we also spent some time walking in lush forests.
We hiked in and out of rhododendron forests throughout the day but when we popped out this was our view! It was hard walking because I just wanted to stop and stare at the mountains.
We ended our day in Ghandruk, a major settlement of the Gurung, an ethnic group of Nepal.
Everyday we had dal bhat, a traditional meal, for lunch.
We did a half day hike on day 4 so we arrived at our guest house in time for lunch. This was the view from the dining room.
With a free afternoon we wondered around the village and had some fun dressing up in traditional clothes. 

Day 5: Ghandruk – Nayapul – Pokhara

Leaving our guest house on the final day of trekking.
Day five was a long day of hiking down through villages back to our starting point – Nayapul.
After five full days of trekking we made it back to Nayapul for our pick-up back to Pokhara.
Taking time to enjoy a cocktail on the lake once we made it back to Pokhara. Cheers!