A NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

I think that was the first time I fell in love with vivid, purple skies. Chasing sunsets have been a never ending pursuit ever since.

I was re-visiting my old New York photo album on my hard drive and stumbled upon this photo that I took of the city’s skyline. I was reminded of the time when I deliberately wander without any set plans or directions in the Big Apple. It was a cold December day, only a few days shy of new year’s eve. I traversed from the Upper East Side down to Chelsea, in hopes of finding something different from the sophisticated facade of the city. I guess I don’t deal well with too much prim and properness, even if I thought I could. After a while, I noted that I’m intrigued by something more organic and raw yet balanced.

I was all excitement when the cab driver dropped me off in front of an art gallery, which name has, unfortunately, left me yonks ago. I was a gallery virgin at that time, so it took me a few head tilts and awkward smiles before I finally was at ease with my surroundings. Thank God the gallery staff were not at all judgemental*.

A few galleries later, I finally arrived at the Chelsea Market. I was instantly in love with the place. From homemade aprons to purposeful art installations, mocha nougats to freshly caught seafood sandwiches, trinkets and gizmos; the place spells warmth all over it. I waited and waited, trying to store everything that I saw into my brain and just immerse in the ambiance. A guy came and set up what looked like a small set of cymbals, followed by a snare drum and a mini bass drum. Dressed in a pair blue jeans, a camel-coloured suit, and a fedora hat, he didn’t look at all like a musician, let alone a drummer. I was skeptical. Or maybe I was THAT clueless. But then he started to croon some jazz tunes while hitting the drums. ‘That makes more sense‘, I thought to myself. He asked me if I had any song requests. I shook my head, saying, “Just not any more Christmas songs**”. He laughed. I moved on.

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I decided to go back to the hotel since I was due for dinner soon after. When I got out of the market, I was gobsmacked by this view of the sunset. It was by far the most memorable sunset that I have ever had instilled in my mind. My camera died literally just after I took a picture of it. The photo that I took really didn’t do the scene any justice. I stopped walking, wishing that I could somewhat freeze time, and just enjoy the beautiful view in front of me. I think that was the first time I fell in love with vivid, purple skies. Chasing sunsets have been a never ending pursuit ever since.

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Five years have now passed since then. I miss that feeling, that sense of wonder and excitement that you get when you trail onto the unknown field. All the jitters when you could not find an empty cab to get to your next destination, the happiness when you were served a warm delicious Middle Eastern grub from a street stall on a very very cold winter night, that connection with people that you chat with at random.

I think a solo travel is way overdue.

 

*P.S. Or maybe they were, but they were just that polite.

**P.P.S. I have no hatred towards Christmas songs. In fact, I love it. But at that time, I felt that listening to any more Christmas songs was too overwhelming since that was literally everyone’s play list, everywhere. Like, literally.

 

MARIGOLDS

Imagine having a yoga session on the open air terrace pictured above with fresh mountain air. Deep sigh. Namaste.

Back in bali for the third time in six months. I’m starting to like this island, and thinking that maaaaybe in the near future I’ll relocate to this peaceful place. I might be biased, though. All these times I’ve been going there, it’s always been for leisure. This time around, however, I purposefully went for work, with leisure slipped in between meetings. Or should I say during the majority of the trip. OK fine it was a workcation. Why would you do it any other way when the supposed workplace is calling you with the delicious smell of babi guling or bebek bengil and sounds of the sea breezes? The holiday mood is too hard to resist.

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I got lucky this time around. A friend and I got to spend a few nights at one of the boutique hotels in Ubud called Bisma Eight. We’ve been eyeing for this area because: for me, I love greeneries and Ubud has it everywhere, as far as your eyes could see; for him, he wanted to try something new since all these times he’s always stayed by the beach whenever he visited Bali. It was a mutual agreement. The narrow street leading to the establishment didn’t look too convincing, to be honest. I was expecting something closer to a quiet, long and winding road, with views of the surrounding rice paddies. Rather, our rented car had to drive through a local housing area, complete with a school, a laundromat, and a massage parlour. So much for a secluded retreat-like accommodation, I thought.

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For a tiny fraction of a second, I doubted my decision to stay there. But, all doubts and negative thoughts were washed away once we arrived at the establishment. The moment we got to the reception, we were greeted with a polite welcome from the hotel staff and delicious thirst-quenching mocktails. It was herby and fresh; just what we needed on a scorching hot afternoon. Once done with the check in, we were guided to our hotel room, a canopy suite. It was not too shabby at all*. I love the mood and choices of details that they put around the hotel. The colour palette spelled calmness, relaxation, and simplicity.

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The hotel offers a lot of services including in-room massage, free yoga classes, cooking classes and many more. Imagine having a yoga session on the open air terrace pictured above with fresh mountain air. Deep sigh. Namaste.

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I’m not going to elaborate too much further. The pictures (hopefully) will tell all about the ambiance of this hotel. I’d highly recommend you to stay here if you’re looking for tranquility. Plus, as counterintuitive as it may sound, the town centre is only a stone’s throw away, so you can easily go for a stroll when your inner Carrie Bradshaw is calling. One winning point for them: the infinity pool with the jungle and surrounding mountains as the view. I wish I didn’t have to go back home!

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Bisma Eight

Jalan Bisma no. 68, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali

 

P.S. Some interesting things happened during my trip. That would be a story for another time ;)

*P.P.S. Not too shabby is obviously an understatement.

GREEN

It has everything that you may find in a Utopian – if not otherworldly – story where humans live on giant grass and wake up to the sound of a rooster’s crows.

I can’t wait to be back in the Island of Peace in the next few weeks. I’ve only gotten the chance to clean up the piles of photos on my memory card and hence the belated Bali post (and when I say late, I meant reaaaaaalllyy late with a capital R). These were taken about six months ago on a trip with my bests. The lens on my Olympus OMD was broken just before the trip (cue a long “whhhyyyyyyy?” from me), so I had to use my old old Olympus lens, which surprisingly did better than expected at its job.

 

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We stayed at The Santai, a newly established accommodation in Kerobokan area. I love the architecture and overall mood of this place. I highly recommend you to book one of their Balinese massage session. It’s soooo great there’s no word to perfectly describe it.

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During our short stay, we visited an establishment that had been on my go-to bucket list for a long time: The Green Village. In short, it’s a property compound located in Ubud which properties are built out of bamboo. It may look like just another boutique/luxury retreat but the philosophy of the founders lie way deeper than just business prospectus (let’s be honest here, there always have to be a way to monetize it, no matter how much you hate it).

Green Village was founded by Elora Hardy, the daughter (and step-daughter, respectively) of a note-worthy couple, John & Cynthia Hardy, who (surprise-surprise) founded the Green School. If they sounds familiar, it might be because you’ve watched this particular TED talk featuring John Hardy and his dream of a green school.

If I have to use one word to describe the compound, it would be ‘magical’. It has everything that you may find in a Utopian – if not otherworldly – story where humans live on giant grass and wake up to the sound of a rooster’s crows. We had the privilege of going on a private tour to one of the tallest, most recently added property in the area. We were prohibited from taking any pictures there as the house was a private property. But do trust me when I say that I WISH I LIVED THERE. THE VIEW BUT OH THE VIEW. AND the serenity of the whole place… I can’t. I just can’t.

I highly encourage you to go there and book a tour to the bamboo factory, the Green Village compound, and the school to really get to know the philosophy behind this great idea. It feels so re-assuring to see that there are people who still care about making a difference and doing good for the community. More information about this project can be found here and here.

 

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Until next time, folks!