Category Archives: Video Diary

Travel Yoga in a Rice Paddy in Vietnam

Travel yoga can be a challenge, especially in remote locations or areas that simply don’t offer yoga classes.

Luckily I’m spending the summer in Hoi An, a town that has managed to create a perfect balance between touristy offerings (waxing! Western-style lattes! Fast WiFi!) and authentic Vietnamese culture (coffee! plastic chairs! swimming in your pajamas!).

That means that yoga studios don’t dot every corner like in over-touristed Luang Prabang, but the yoga classes that are offered here in Hoi An are dynamite.

Stephanie of Hoi An Yoga in Hoi An, Vietnam invited me to do “rice paddy yoga” just outside the city.

The surroundings were gorgeous – you really are in the middle of rice fields, and on the way there I biked past many people working in the paddies. They were wearing traditional hats, raking the land with rusty tools, the whole nine yards.

I had never done yoga outside before, and being able to breathe fresh air while watching the sun set over the river was a truly spiritual experience.

When you’re in Hoi An you can book with Stephanie by visiting http://HoiAnYoga.com.

Click play now to check out my yoga adventure:

Have you ever done yoga in a strange location before?

How do you keep up with your yoga practice while traveling? 

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Quick+Dirty Takeaway

1. Travel yoga is a great way to stay fit on the road - you can do it inside during bad weather and outside during great weather!

2. Travel yoga in Asia is a lot cheaper than yoga back home - $5-$7 per class instead of $10-$15 per class or more.

3. In Hoi An, you can do yoga on the beach and yoga in a rice paddy with Stephanie from Hoi An Yoga.

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!

Angkor Wat Revealed [VIDEO]

Angkor Wat is the biggest tourist destination in Cambodia, and one of the most visited religious sites in the entire world.

I took a one-day tour of the Angkor grounds, starting with watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat, the largest temple in a labyrinth of seemingly endless ruins.

One-day entrance to the Angkor area costs $20 per person. I also paid $15 for a tuk tuk “tour,” which didn’t include a tour guide so much as a driver to take me from one site to another (totally needed – it can take 10-20 minutes to drive between the various ruins sites).

Many people cycle through Angkor, which is a great idea if it’s not 100+ degrees outside (which it most definitely was on this day!)

angkor-wat-horse

Here’s what struck me most about Angkor Wat:

  • the enormity of the ruins
  • the Hindu relics that demonstrate the Cambodian pilgrimage from the Indian Subcontinent
  • the fact that the Angkor empire has fallen so far from its position as the most powerful empire in Asia

angkor-wat-girl

Today the Cambodian people are ruled in much the same way as they were a millennium ago, but without the glory of the powerful Angkor kings.

angkor-wat-floating-rock

Their nation remains one of the poorest nations in the world, still devastated by the effects of war and corruption.

angkor-wat-lily-pad

I as wandered around the ancient ruins, it was incredible to imagine what life must have been like in Cambodia over 1,000 years ago.

The irony was that although the empire has long since fallen, many Cambodians live in much the same way as they did back then – in stilted bamboo huts with no electricity, no possessions, and not enough food to feed their children.

To watch the video, click play now: 

Correction! In the video I say the Angkor area is 400 sq miles, but I meant 400 square kilometers.

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Quick+Dirty Takeaway

1. Angkor Wat is a must-see tourist destination for anyone traveling in Southeast Asia

2. One -day entrance costs $20/person, but you get more bang for your buck if you buy a 2, 3, or 7-day pass (and believe me, you'll use it - there's no way to see this place in one day!!)

3. Subscribe to The Happy Passport Youtube channel for more travel tips, video blogs and quick+dirty tours - http://bit.ly/1l4HAJs

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!

72 Hours in a Remote Village in Nepal

"Why must you wash your body every day?"

The 72 hours I spent in a remote village in Nepal have been burned into my memory – so much so that I’m writing a BOOK about them!

(no really – you can pre-order it here: http://amzn.to/1py99Ly)

In those 3 days….

I spent 8 hours on a motorbike but only traveled 50 miles (Pokhara to Chitwan – roads mostly made of ROCK.)

village-in-nepal-2

 

I saw a buffalo get MILKED

 

village-in-nepal-4

 

I got to hold a one-day old baby goat

 

village-in-nepal-3

 

But that wasn’t all…..

  • I got food poisoning and threw up in a river
  • I stepped into a scene straight out of Oregon Trail (ox-pulled carts in 2013!)
  • I lived with no hot water and no indoor plumbing (while having food poisoning. Just think about that for a second.)
  • I washed my hair in a field full of garbage.
  • I fell in love with a wonderful family who took me in, offered me their home and took care of me when I was sick.

Check out this video I made during my time in a tiny farming community somewhere outside the Southern city of Chitwan, Nepal.

To watch now, click play:

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HOTEL REVIEW: The Holy Lodge Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel

(this post is my overall review of my stay at the Holy Lodge Kathmandu Guest House. To find out what happened when I first arrived, check out Part 1 here.)

WHAT I PAID

Why is it that so many hotel reviews NEVER INCLUDE PRICES?

I think it’s because many of the people reviewing are getting kickbacks from the hotel or something. If those people list prices, it’s bad for the hotel because they can’t charge more.

My review is totally unbiased – I have no affiliation with the Holy Lodge and I didn’t receive any kind of discount to stay there.

I paid 800 rupees (about $8 USD) per night and stayed there for a total of 3 nights.

I booked the room through HostelWorld.com. I paid $2.40 deposit to hold the room, and paid $21.60 when I checked out.

I’m really glad I had my booking printed out and with me when I checked in. The staff seemed to have my reservation, but they also seemed surprised when I told them the rate I was guaranteed online.

At first, I thought this was because they had hoped to charge me more. Looking back, I now think it was because I could’ve gotten the room for less – there was sort of this energy of “Um….well, ok, if you want to pay more than we would’ve asked for, fine by us.”

kathmandu-guest-house-

WHAT I GOT

800 rupees per night got me:

  • My own private room that had two twin beds. This was perfectly fine with me, I used one bed for my stuff and the other for sleeping.

  • A shared bathroom on my floor with a hot shower and a Western-style toilet. The toilet was separated from the shower, which was nice because you could still use one if someone was in the other. (p.s. scalding hot water is a friggin’ LUXURY in Nepal, and this shower never disappointed, even in the middle of the night)

  • Free WiFi that reached my room – not lightning-fast by any means, but totally usable.

  • A great location in the heart of Thamel within walking distance of everything I wanted to do and see

  • Assistance booking a tourist bus to Pokhara – I got a pretty good deal (700 rupees) and a guaranteed seat on the bus.

WHAT I LOVED

  • I really ended up liking the staff, even though we got off to a rocky start. The guys working at the Holy Lodge are all young Nepalese dudes, and they never really get a break. They are at the hostel 24/7, and switch off taking breaks and sleeping. There was always someone there to answer my questions, help me out, make recommendations and give me whatever I needed.

  • Most of the staff spoke excellent English – we couldn’t exactly have a conversation about Chaucer, mind you, but they understood what I was saying and were able to communicate enough to get the job done.

  • The way the building is set up, there are only 4-5 rooms per floor, and they wrap around in a way that gives you a good amount of privacy. This place did not feel like a hostel to me – the other people staying here were couples in their late 20s/30s, couples in their 50s/60s, solo females, etc. I didn’t get a party crowd vibe at all, even though the location is in the middle of Thamel.

  • They have a great rooftop terrace with nice views of the city during the day and the stars (if you can see ‘em) at night.

NOT MY FAVE

  • My room was opposite a rooftop bar that had live music every night. I don’t know if you can stay in Thamel and get away from the noise, but man – it was as if the band had set up their amplifiers underneath my pillow. Thank God for noise-canceling headphones and prescription Valium from the plane ride.

  • The restaurant downstairs. Overpriced, and the food is just so-so. I asked where I could get a decent bite to eat at the front desk, and – duh – of course they recommended their restaurant. It’s fine for when you’ve just arrived and are still getting your bearings, but once you’re ready to venture out, you’ll find much cheaper, tastier fare outside.

  • I didn’t love how I was offered airport pick up for “only 650 rupees!!” – like that was some sort of deal. The airport to Thamel costs locals 350-400, and tourists shouldn’t pay more than 500. When I found this out, it sort of left a bad taste in my mouth.

View from the roof of the Holy Lodge Kathmandu Guest House
View from the roof of the Holy Lodge Kathmandu Guest House

MY RATING

Would I stay at the Holy Lodge Guest House Kathmandu again?

Definitely. But only with industrial strength earplugs.

Have you stayed at the Holy Lodge? How was it?

additional photos: nepalhotelrooms.com, hostels.com

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Quick+Dirty Takeaway

The Holy Lodge Guesthouse is located in Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal. It's a great choice for solo female travelers, especially those looking for budget accommodation without the "hostel feel."

Holy Lodge Pvt. Ltd.
7 Corner, Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal
Phone no: + 977-1-4701763
Mobile: 9851036785/ 9851082990/ 9851040518
www.holylodge.com
info@holylodge.com

1. The Holy Lodge is a clean, comfortable guest house in a great location. It has the three essentials I look for wherever I stay: my own private room, hot water, and WiFi.

2. Only book your first night online to secure the room. After that, negotiate in person. The longer you stay, the better rate you’ll be able to get.

3. Skip the restaurant downstairs and venture out into Thamel for tastier, cheaper fare

4. You don’t need them to pick you up from the airport - there are plenty of cab drivers waiting at the airport who’ll bring you to Thamel for less than 650

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!

Culture Shock in Kunming, China

“KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.”

I’m awoken from a dead sleep when – “KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.”

Ok, ok, Jesus.

I fling the door open, still half asleep, and see my driver from last night standing with another man, both of them frowning at me seriously.

The driver cues the man, who takes a deep breath and announces “LETS. GO.”

They both regard me, satisfied with their English instructions. I get the feeling new guy has been recruited by the driver because of his mad English skills.

“What time is it?” I ask.

They look at each other, and the new guy answers deliberately, proud as punch, “Ten. Oh. Clock.”

And then again, in unison, “LETS. GO.”

“Ok, ok, I’ll be right down.”

Christ almighty. I’m not sure if they mean “Hey, wake up, get ready, we’re leaving in 30 minutes” or “We are leaving in 2 minutes with or without you. Good luck.”

I throw clothes on in a frenzy, sloppily pack my bag, and make it downstairs in time to climb back into last night’s workhorse of a van.

It’s only after the third massive jolt and hitting my head on the roof of the shuttle that I finally manage to look out the window – holy CRAP.

I’m amazed at what I see – we’re descending from a steep hilltop, the twisting dirt road winding around a ramshackle cluster of dilapidated homes that double as small shops, restaurants and garages. A man squats in the mud, slurping a bowl of steaming noodles from a tray while stray dogs trot past like back up dancers in a Broadway musical.

I inhale dirt and bright colors and cement and wetness; everything wet and dirty and cold. “This is poverty,” I think suddenly, a bit taken aback at the obviousness of my own epiphany.

The shuttle makes its way out of the small settlement (neighborhood? ghetto?) and reaches for the highway like a teenager who can’t wait to leave home for college.

One of the other shuttle passengers makes small talk, excited to practice his English. I’m not quite sure where he came from (and btw, where was he last night when I needed him?), but I appreciate his friendliness.

The large, sweeping facade atop the main Kunming Airport building stands stark against the sky like an ancient temple. I wonder at such beauty, such superior design adjacent such filth, such destitution. The wings of the temple seem to mock the people living their lives just a few miles away, breaking their backs to eat a few noodles in the mud.

It’s cold and misty, but I can just barely make out a few rolling hills in the distance. Large signs adorn the airport, advertising all of the incredible adventures one can have in Kunming and the surrounding regions – see elephants and tigers in our SAFARI PARK! Take a hot air balloon ride over this AWESOME RIVER! Indulge your senses at our MOUNTAIN SKI LODGE! Live with NO HEAT and eat your breakfast IN THE MUD!

Oh wait, that last one’s mine.

What a curious, curious place. I remind myself that in every city around the world, the area nearest the airport is almost never the nice area.

Would I have ever, ever stayed in that hotel had I seen it in broad daylight? Probably not. My room was freezing, yes, but it was clean, and I was picked up and taken the airport in plenty of time to catch my flight.

So no, there are not “hotel stands” at the Kunming airport, at least not that I could see. But yes, you can simply walk outside and get a hotel. And apart from a bumpy shuttle ride and the sudden appearance of a few deep thoughts about poverty and governments and inequity and fairness and irony and entitlement and “we have it so much better than we realize,” you’ll probably get through it in one piece.

Just be sure to bring enough cash.

UPDATE: THERE IS A HOTEL INSIDE THE KUNMING AIRPORT! I don’t know how I missed this the first time, but there is an expensive hotel that doubles as an hourly lounge. It’s on the second floor. Go to the main arrivals area on the second floor and take the glass elevator up two stories. A proper hotel room is around $90 USD. You can also hang out in the lounge and pay by the hour, but I’m not sure if there are showers. The room was overpriced but very nice and it was worth it to not have to get a cab and deal with the hassle of leaving the airport.

Have you ever been to Kungming airport? What was your experience like?

photo credit: arup.com

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Quick+Dirty Takeaway

1. Be sure to ask what time you'll be leaving for the airport in the morning - it may have nothing to do with what time your flight leaves, and everything to do with when the shuttle driver feels like leaving.

2. You can stay inside the Kunming Airport and avoid this entire fiasco!

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!