Category Archives: Yoga Travel Adventures

Unforgettable journey to Burma now complete.

Unforgettable journey to Burma now complete.

January 2nd 2013 – Jan 16th 2013

Temples at Bagan

This journey is now sold out.

Join us on a journey to a country where the clock of development has stood still for many years.
Where the main city traffic is made up of thousands of bicycles. Where  stilted villages float on lakes and people never leave the water; where the sound of the dharma bell rings over the peaceful farmlands. Come to the Golden Land where red robed monks and a serene smiling people will enchant you with their grace and hospitality.

Also known as Myanmar, Burma is a land where Buddhism is the way of life. Courageously, having been repressed by a military regime for many years, the people have continued the path that leads to the End of Suffering. Thankfully, change is happening and there is democratizing of the infrastructures. Now this destination has been named as one of the Top 10 in the world.

Some of the highlights: Soaking up the peaceful air at Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset.

Exploring ancient temples of Bagan in a horse and cart.

Floating on a long boat on the serene Inle Lake.

Cruising down the Irriwady River through remote villages.

Exploring limestone caves at Pindaya  filled with hundreds of Buddha Images.

Savor the excellent Shan cuisine of fish from the lake,

Shopping in the bustle of crowded markets and shops in colonial Rangoon.

In keeping with the request of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung Suu Ki, we are avoiding large hotels owned by the military junta and will stay at carefully chosen properties to ensure that our visit brings benefit to locals.

We visit all the most important places: Yangoon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake. We travel by road, air and by boat.   All kinds of boats! From a river boat cruise on the Irrawaddy River an all-day experience with lunch on board, to sunset canoes on the lake. We walk, hike and are taken around in horse drawn buggies!  Temples, markets, scenery and great food.  This is not to be missed!

We are hosted by highly experienced and knowledgeable Engish-speaking guides

With all the eagerness of visiting a whole new culture, we practice Mindfulness on our Sacred Journey. We  tread lightly as we go. A short daily meditation together will keep our focus and our energies aligned with Present Moment Awareness.

A small group of friends in a foreign land: what can be better?

The dates include flying time from Los Angeles. If you are coming in from elsewhere, know that we begin in Yangoon on January 4th.  We return home to LAX on January 16th early in the morning.

Visas are required to visit this country, and so airtickets must be purchased immediately.

To book your flight: contact Laurel at: lspottl@aol.com. Call her at  805 5853721 direct.  We carefully researched  the best price, shortest route and most comfortable airline!

Cost of the two week all incl journey: $ 2,895.00

All local meals, transport and entry fees.  Not included drinks, tips, visa fee and international airfare.

For details and full itinerary email Maggie@easeintoyoga.com.

     A photographer’s heaven, we will experience sunset and   sunrise in spectacular  places.

 

 

 

Meditate in the temples, participate in prayerful practices or simply enjoy the wonder evoked by the place.

 

 

 

 

And in the end:  Seize the Day!

South Africa safari is now filled.

South Africa safari is now filled.

The response to our invitation was so positive, we will undoubted do this journey again.  Please drop me an email, so I know that you are interested in the next journey.

 

Maggie and Chris Mellor invite you on an unforgettable journey to their former homeland.

September 22 to October 7th 2011

A cultural, historic, gourmet, scenic and transformative journey!

Chris and Maggie are now United States citizens, yet their hearts remain in the land where they shared so many years, and still have family and friends.  For scenery, cultural diversity and sheer excitement of seeing wildlife in the many game parks, South Africa is unparalleled;  We want to share that with you!

 

Itinerary  for our extraordinary trip to South Africa

Day 1: Saturday Sept 24 Arrive in Johannesburg early morning – check into lodge to freshen up and then visit   Cradle of Humankind, an extraordinary archeological site, near JHB.   This is a World Heritage Site and lays the history of humankind.  (Much revered by National Geographic!)) Early dinner and sleep at lodge. (L,D)
Day 2:  Sunday Sept 25. After a good nights sleep and hearty breakfast, we take local flight from nearby small airport to Durban (the now famous Kulula Air!)
From the brand new Shaka Zulu airport we drive two hours to the extraordinary private game,  Thula Thula .  Check into our luxury tented camp and take off on  our first game drive. Dine under African skies. This game park was chosen for its philosophy of socially and environmentally responsible life-style, promoting the best for all locals, animals and visitors.  Read more about it The Elephant Whisperer. Visit site at  www.thulathula.com (B,D)

Day 3: Monday Sep 26: After yoga and excellent breakfast , we are taken on a fully guided tour to Hluluwe – Umfolozi Game Park. This is wilderness as it always was. This is the historic land of the great chief Shaka.  Here we can see The Big Five. (B,L,D)
Day 4: Tuesday Sept 27:  Yoga and breakfast. Excursion to St Lucia Estuary  for day with picnic lunch, boat cruise to Hippo and crocodiles.  Return for afternoon game drive and dinner under stars. (B,L,D)
Day 5: Wednesday Sep 28  Bush walk and game drive – relaxing day at pool, with yoga in the shade. Time to integrate all we have done so far.  (Other options like cycling and other excursions  for those who don’t want to rest!) (B,L,D)
Day 6: Thursday Sep 29  Bush walk, breakfast, massage on your own verandah, yoga,  followed by lunch and game drive and 4 course gourmet dinner at Safari Lodge. (B,L,D)
Day 7: Friday Sep 30:  Yoga, breakfast,  bush walk. After lunch we go to an authentic  Zulu Village to meet traditional healer.    Evening dinner in boma. (B,L,D)

Day 8: Saturday October 1st: Bush walk, breakfast and transfer back to Durban airport.  We fly to Cape Town a 2 hour flight arriving early afternoon. Our descent into the Mother City should be spectacular.  Dominated by Table Mountain, this city is one of the most beautiful in the world!  We are lodged in a family run small hotel snuggled on the slopes of Table Mountain.  Dinner at an exciting new restaurant: Gold Museum, for a real African  vibe with drumming and all!  (B,D)

Sunday Day 9: We visit Robben Island former prison to political activists during the Apartheid Era. Our boat trip offers brilliant views of the city and takes us to the most famous prison cell in modern history.  Guides on this tour are former inmates, so delightful story-tellers.  Back on land, we drive a short way around Table Mountain for an elegant Lunch in Constantia, a verdant well-heeled suburb  (the Montecito of Cape Town,) under oak trees and enjoying the delights of Cape wines and food.  In the afternoon we head for Table Mountain taking the cable car up to enjoy a fantastic sunset.   Evening at the Waterfront.  This is a working harbor made visitor- welcoming with an array of shops, restaurants and street artists.  (B,L)

Day 10: After breakfast we set off for an  all-day Cape Penisula tour.  We see the topography that makes this place famous, and visit the old haunts of your hosts Maggie and Chris.   Stunning  views  all the way.  Lots of stops for exploration and photography.  Spectacular venue for lunch!  The penguin colony. Baboons on the roadside.  Safely home  to our lodgings, we freshen up and hit the waterfront for more exploration and (for those who like), shopping!   (B,L)

Day 11: After breakfast we take an historical heritage tour of Cape Town. The history of this country is everywhere to be seen. Lunch in town, cobbled streets, Green Market Square for informal trader shopping.  In the afternoon we have a   Cape Malay cooking demonstration.  (Malays are descendants of the slave trade that also colors the history here.) This cuisine is full of surprises, spices and delightful flavors.  You will go home ready to dazzle your friends with new culinary skills!  We explore museums, gardens  and  enjoy evening meal at Cape Malay restaurant. (B,L,D)

 

Day 12: After breakfast we check out our lodgings visit Kirstenbosch famous gardens before heading into the winelands of Franschoek.  Wine tastings and food.  Small villages, exquisite scenery and French Hugenout as well as Malay culture.   Our lodgings in the heart of this gourmet center of S Africa (Napa eat your heart out!) allow us to  freely wander the streets, museums, coffee shops and restaurants. Or chill out  at the hotel pool.  We dine in style. (B)

Day 13: After breakfast we visit a local village, have a picnic lunch at a very innovative wine estate Solms Delta. Here we will  see how far South Africa has integrated its painful past and is building a future that benefits all who live there.   In the afternoon you will be taken to Cape Town airport and head  the shortest route  back to USA. (B,L)

 

Day 14: Arrive in USA on Friday  October 8th

This will be a small group journey.   The itinerary has been carefully planned for you to experience the best of this land, just slightly off the main tourist route.  We have also avoided multi-national hotels and venues, and use eco and socially responsible  companies to host us.  The journey  will be personalized by your hosts, former residents of this country, who unashamedly are still deeply in love with all of it.  Please commit right away if you want to come. Oh, yes the yoga!  Daily at the safari camp, and then wherever space permits! We will circle  together often in conversation  to enrich our experience as we travel together.

 

 

International Air: currently $1700 return.  Book through Classic Travel to be on same, best priced, connected,shortest flight . Leave Thursday September 22 at 10.00pm, return Friday Oct 8th.

Includes all local transportation, both ground and air, all shared accommodations with breakfast and all scheduled entrances.  All meals are included, other than 1 lunch and 3 dinners in the Cape Town leg. (That is to allow for personal preferences in the gourmet centers.)

Not included:  Beverages with dinner and lunch, tips, personal insurance, laundry and shopping.

Does not include international air.
This will be an incredible journey.  Carpe Diem!

Namaste and love,  Maggie and Chris – AKA Soul Gypsies

Action steps:

1.       Email your response. YES

2.       Book your flight.   I highly recommend you book with Laurel at Classic Travel.  Tel: 805 585 3721  Email: LSottL@aol.com. She will get everyone on the same flight ensuring that you are picked up at JHB airport.  Please talk to her about your travel insurance as well.

If you are using airmiles, talk to me, to see where you can slot into the itinerary and adjust cost.

3.       Pay Deposit to Maggie.  Email Maggie for details.  Staggered for your convenience.

 

Southern tip of Cape

We meet him in the Bush!

 

 

 

 

Penguin beach along Peninsula Drive

Views forever from top of Table Mt

Wine tasting in Franschoek

 

One Giant Leap in Ubud

One Giant Leap in Ubud

It is unbearably hot and noisy in Ubud.  We trudge the uneven pavements, impeded by parked cars.  This charming cultural center of Bali, was not built for traffic.  I could tell my husband Chris has had enough, as we plop down on shady steps of the Arma Museum Gardens.  Finally we are rid of the pesky unsolicited Balinese guide, who insisted we should hire his friend as driver tomorrow, and that his father was responsible for the one painting I was really enthusiastic about.  Finally a cool breeze kisses our sweaty brows. No more fumes and noise.  Little stream, garden, statues, modern art.

“All I want is a day off” grumbles my husband.

“Hmm” I wonder to myself, “what do you call this then?”

I love all of our experiences in Ubud: rice fields, interesting shops, temples with offerings, tropical fruit and jaffle for breakfast at our guesthouse, the Yoga Barn situated right on a rice field, coffee and FaceBooking from our laptop at Pundi-Pundi, and exploring the gorgeous silks at The Silk Barn.  Admittedly walking the crowded streets, getting from placed to place is very uncomfortable.

“What will cheer him up?” I ponder.

He gives me a clue:

“Did you notice those scooters are four-stroke? Much less noise and pollution than the old 2-stroke!”

No, I had not noticed.

“We should get one to get around”, he says.

My stomach contracts.  Now I feel some fear. I remember riding a motor bike in Bali 35 years ago.  A small slip, exhaust burn on my inner leg, which became infected with a tropical bug which took months to heal.  I still have a faint scar!

“Yes, darling, let’s research that. Tomorrow.”  I bite my bottom lip and agonize at the thought of hanging on the back of a tiny two-wheeler. Balinese are typically much smaller than the two of us.

We leave the serene museum grounds and almost get killed crossing the road.  Traffic comes from everywhere, especially at the most inauspicious place we choose.

Right next door to Buddha’s and Silks, my destination, we see the fateful signs “Money Change and Bike Rental”.  I escape into the opulent silk store avoiding the glint in my husband’s eye.

I return without any purchases.

“Would you be comfortable on the back of one of these with me?” my very considerate husband asks. He is sitting astride the tiny bike, his long legs in straddle pose.

Now what, tell the truth or fake it?   30 years of marriage feels at stake.  That is why we are in Bali in the first place, to celebrate our longevity as a couple. I look away and watch a foreigner teeter on her bicycle on the other side of the crazily busy road.  There is a screaming in my head.

My voice tentative and small:  “Sure . That might be fun darling, let’s try it”

His face lights up. Soon we have negotiated an excellent deal $5 a day .  A quick lesson on where everything is, simply handing over the passport number, no need for license, no need for helmets, I take a photo of my very tall husband on a very small scooter.  Hilarious.

I hang on,on the back.  Soon we are in the river of traffic, dodging, yielding and flowing.

Oh, this is fun. We are both happy!   He is an excellent driver. I am comfortable enough to pull out the little camera and capture the terrain as it races by. The friendly Balinese are smiling at us.

“Darling, I whisper in his ear “It is not only because we are so big – we are also so old!”

It is a giant leap: from Fear to Fun.

Yoga Shakti in Bali

Yoga Shakti in Bali

Yoga Shakti in Bali

Click the link above to view what happened:

In Ubud Bali, at the Elephant Cave Temple, is a Chinese man with his pet python.

Always one to try something new and kinda scary, I took the python from him.

Chris filmed in in slo-mo, serendipitously.

The four us, serpent, Chinaman, me and camera, form a trancey dance.

Thanks also to the lovely soundtrack: Close to Silence by Thomas Otto.

I love his exalted  contralto!

Retirement in Bhutan

Retirement in Bhutan

In terms of lifestyle, old age  here in the Himalayas has very little resemblance to that stage of life  in the west, particularly California.  In the Himalayas it is widely believed that this time is to be spent in spiritual activity, to gain merit and to direct every thought, word and deed towards a better lifetime next time around.

Our yoga group visited the Queens’ Memorial Chorten, a major landmark in the main city of Bhutan, Thimphu.

I joined a group of crones sitting in a circle chanting and swirling prayer wheels. and they delighted in teaching me the local version of the well-know Buddhist mantra Om Mani Padme Hum.  They corrected my pronunciation with peals of toothless laughter. I couldn’t noticed an empty  bottle of the other spirit kind, tucked away under my new sister’s skirt. These women are in their final years, know it, and are doing what they believe is right: spending time gathering merit. One of the ladies urgently tries to tell me something.  “What is she saying?” I ask Rinchen, our guide.  “She says, ‘next lifetime we will surely meet again as friends.”  I am so touched, and wonder will our next life will  be here in Bhutan or at Retirement Village in the States.Check out the movie! Maggie learns the Mantra in Bhutan

A Great Confluence

A Great Confluence

All the elements are here: the confluence of two rivers, wind propelled prayers, a beautiful earth  and sunlight.

In Bhutan, we are 12 yogis leaning out the bus window, to capture this lovely spot, this beautiful moment.  The  chortens are from Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, a confluence of different shapes, different yet neighboring cultures, offering the same reminder of the sacred that pervades everything.

Is not every moment a great confluence of past, present and future expanding into an eternal Now?

From luxury to mud

From luxury to mud

A muddy river runs through it, the lush green valley of the Elephant Nature Park.  This sanctuary for rescued and retired elllies lies one hour north of Chain Mai.  It has been our home for two spectacular days.  From luxurious space pod accommodations of the Bangkok Novotel, to a simple hut in the jungle, surrounded by freely roaming ellies. And a lot of mud. Who knew that getting into the swift-flowing monsoon fed river with Mae Perm, my beloved grand old ellie lady, and hurling  bucket-loads of water over her thick grey skin, could feel ecstatic!  I, with hundreds of other people, have flown half-way around the world to do this.

At work  in our jungle office.

Chris is putting hundreds of photos and video clips onto the hard drive, so we can take even more!  Loads to follow.

Temples, temples everywhere.

Temples, temples everywhere.

It is probably a past life thing, but Chris and I both love temples, especially Thai temples with their out of this world extravaganza of golden architecture.  And we love markets, of which there are plenty in this town.  Now when a market happens in a temple, that is ultimate.

Throngs of people bustling through stalls selling food, weavings, jewelry, clothes, housewares and endless kitch.  Musicians take there place in the middle of the pathways, so a cacophony of sounds fill the air.  We love this harmonious chaos.

I had fun with these kids and send you a free hug too!

Sunday market Chaing Mai

And now,  we are off to the jungle!

Three things to settle in, in Chaing Mai

Three things to settle in, in Chaing Mai

That our culture acts as our operating system is so apparent when one meets a different culture. The Thai have a very different operating system, and I am hungrily absorbing it. Smiles, gentleness and an easy going attitude to the nitty gritty of life.  “Can do” says our cab driver.

Our first therapy is foot massage.  While there are massages to be had everywhere in Chiang Mai, on the streets, in the markets and in temples, we fall into this lovely little shop.  Ah, to let go  the weariness of travel and  accumulated toxins of a too- busy life.

We stumble into the next-door temple, a magnificent golden pagoda right on the busy noisy road. Is that really  Donal Duck  in the garden?

The sound of chanting draws us in, and for our second therapy, we join the monks at evening prayers.  Call and response, but mostly we are mutely in awe.

The third therapy is a good meal.  Eat where the locals go.  Ha, that turned out to be a 45 minute wait for Shabu shabu.  Well worth it, for a couple of hours selecting  from 28 different dishes circling in front us, to cook in our own personal cauldron of spicy soup.  Greens, seafood and a variety of tofu and meat, there was something for everyone.  The side bar of sushi and tempura ensured that we slide off the barstool every now and then.

Santosha = contentment = easy!

Somewhere over the Pacific we lost Friday.

Somewhere over the Pacific we lost Friday.

I have the perfect window seat on Cathy Pacific flying out of Lax on a perfect Thursday.   Marina del Rey, Point Dume, Santa Monica mountains and soon, Big Sur laze below.  Truly it is a blue planet. I can even see the distant Sierras where we were in Yosemite, just two weeks ago.  Oh, and look, there is Point Lobos one of the most beautiful nature parks in the world. California, you are gorgeous!   We cruise silently through the blue sky over the aptly named Pacific.   An auspicious and luxurious beginning of the journey.   All the  exertion of planning and obsessing over details, are, thankfully, over.
After lunch and several movies, I slide open my window shutter, and see it is still bright daylight out there. 10 hours into the flight and it is still blue.  Folks inside the cabin however are now showing signs of fatigue and increasing misery at the cramped seating and spill of newspapers and food wrappings.  Crying children, and grumpy adults avoid eye contact in the bathroom lines.   I too have shifted from exhilaration to a desire to disappear into sleep. On the computer screen that tracks our flight, I see that the darkness of night is following us. Another 4 hours to  Hong Kong.

Hong Kong airport, the emporium of designer label shopping, goes on for ever and ever and ever, Halleluja! Who cares about shopping? All we want is sleep……

The Novatel Hotel in Bangkok airport is  a luxurious space station.  Stepping into the palatial foyer is like stepping into  a clear lake, reflecting lights and trees and high tech columns. It is after midnight when we check in.  It could be any time of day in this round-the-clock  landing pad.   Bleary-eyed from lack of sleep and the exhausting business  of retrieving bags from the carousel, we are relieved to land in our futuristic pod with a spacious bathroom, huge heavenly  bed and best of all absolutely dark and quiet. How is it we don’t even hear any planes, and we are still virtually at the airport?   A wonderful end to a day that seemed it would never end.

I wake this morning and peek down from our pod window to the lake-foyer- below.  Hey, where did Friday go? It is Saturday and time to leave this very expensive short term refuge and head to Chaing Mai, Northern Thailand.