Monday, January 30, 2012

Leisurely pace

It's been pretty uneventful these last few days. I've discovered I can easily sleep in quite late! We went to an amazing free photography exhibit of the World Press Photo Contest, which showcases amazing and often heart wrenching photo journalism. The exhibit can be viewed online as well. It exposes so many social issues such as this haunting photo of a girl who has birth defects potentially related to agent orange use during the Vietnam war. I was previously unaware of the potential link.Here is another study on the issue Association between Agent Orange and birth defects: systematic review and meta-analysis and a CBC report

We've spent time walking around and looking at the architecture. We went o the Petronas Towers at night to see them lit up. We also found some vegan dark chocolate at the nearby mall grocery store.

We spent some more time at the Guan Yin Temple enjoying a meal and dharma talk. The people were so kind, helping us find a place to sit and a serving of the extra special soup offered that day. A little lizard tried to hop a cab ride with us to the temple. The driver pulled over so J could safely release him.

Tomorrow we take a bus to Melaka where we will stay for five nights at The Hangout Hotel. We are upgrading to a room with private bath. Two weeks with shared bath gets a little tiring. Things have been quite affordable here. A nice bus for two is about $14.00 Canadian to Melaka which is about 120kms from here. We spend around $10.00 Canadian for two restaurant meals with drinks. We could even eat for a lot cheaper but we enjoy supporting the lovely veg restaurants.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, January 27, 2012

Way of the Bodhisattva

We've been in Kuala Lumpur for the last 2 nights and we are staying for 5 more. We are staying at The Reggae Mansion Hostel which is conveniently located right in the heart of china town and has 2 vegetarian restaurants within the block. We had delicious meals at both the Water Lilly Vegetarian Restaurant and Yin Futt Kuok. Below is a photo of the black pepper faux ribs and the Tom yam noodles from Water Lilly restaurant.

Today we made the 6 km round trip walk to view the Petronas Towers, which is 88 stories in height! We also went to the Prajna Guanyin Sagely Monastery which is part of the The Dharma Realm Buddhist Association . We had a lovely time. We listened to part of a Dharma talk (and hope to return to hear more), viewed the temple, spent time in the reading room and had a lovely vegetarian buffet lunch. We picked up 2 books (available by donation); one is a Buddhist dictionary Buddhism from A to Zand the other is parables on the role of vegetarianism and kindness to animals within Buddhist teachings "The Stories of Refraining from Killing and Liberating Lives".

One of the main statues in the temple is of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. One definition of a Bodhisattva says this; What do we mean by Bodhisattva? Bodhi means enlightenment, the state devoid of all defects and endowed with all good qualities. Sattva refers to someone who has courage and confidence and who strives to attain enlightenment for the sake of all beings. Those who have this spontaneous, sincere wish to attain enlightenment for the ultimate benefit of all beings are called Bodhisattvas. Through wisdom, they direct their minds to enlightenment, and through their compassion, they have concern for beings. This wish for perfect enlightenment for the sake of others is what we call bodhichitta, and it is the starting point on the path. By becoming aware of what enlightenment is, one understands not only that there is a goal to accomplish but also that it is possible to do so. Driven by the desire to help beings, one thinks, For their sake, I must attain enlightenment! ... Bodhichitta, then, is a double wish: to attain enlightenment in itself, and to do so for the sake of all beings. (A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night, p. 12) A great site for the basics of Buddhism is The Big View.

J and I have started to intensify our meditation practice with (hopefully) daily sessions. Today we followed a guided mindfulness based mediation which I received a copy of through the terrific Mindfulness Mediation course I took a few years ago. It was facilitated by Dr Speca via the University of Calgary continuing education. For online mindfulness resources check out one of my favorite websites

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's only been a week!

It feels like we've been gone for much longer but it's only been a week. We've crammed in a lot of sight seeing, walking (averaging more than 8 km a day), eating vegan food, etc, and we are looking to slow the pace in Malaysia. We leave for Kuala Lumpur tomorrow, January 25, 2012. We are booked for a week at the Reggae Mansion Hostel. Our room has shared bath and I think after this I will make a more concerted effort to get ones with private bath.

Over the last 2 days we have been busy. We spent some time walking in Yoyogi Park. We had a yummy lunch at Sofa Vegetarian Cafe We had a great meal at Eat More Greens which included amazing vegan pie and strawberry doughnuts.

We had a great vegan Indian meal at Nataraj Restaurant which included vegan naan made in part with a Japanese spinach like vegetable called Komatsuna. It gave the naan a greenish color but it tasted just the same.

We took the train from Tokyo out to Kamakura. We spent the day walking all over. We walked along the sea shore and around a few temples. The sea was beautiful and we had a lovely dinner overlooking the shore at The Organic Hemp Style Cafe

One of the temples was Hase-Dera which was on a hill with a steep stair case. It also had a small cave which we walked through, having to bend down to the waist in some parts to get through. The highlight of the day was spending time at the Great Buddha of Kamakura. It was a breath taking sight. It was made in 1252 out of cast bronze and is 13.5 meters in height. Quite the feat of engineering for over 750 years ago! We were able to also go inside of the hollow Buddha and examine to craftsmanship.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


We spent today in Kamakura area. We saw many lovely things but I was also reminded up the terrible suffering that occurred during the tsunami. This area was not directly hit but as I looked at beach garbage it reminded me of the tsunami debris that is washing up in other areas. My heart goes out to all affected.

We also came across this little stranded starfish. It reminded me of one of my favorite guiding poems;

As I walked along the seashore, this young boy greeted me. He was tossing stranded starfish back to the deep blue sea. I said, "Tell me why you bother, why you waste your time this way. There's a million stranded starfish, does it matter anyway?"

And he said, "It matters to this one. It deserves a chance to grow. It matters to this one, I can't save them all I know. But it matters to this one, I'll return it to the sea. It matters to this one, and it matters to me."

I walked into the classroom, The teacher greeted me. She was helping Johnny study, he was struggling I could see. I said, "Tell me why you bother, why waste your time this way. Johnny's only one of millions, does it matter anyway?"

And she said, "It matters to this one, he deserves a chance to grow. It matters to this one, I can't save them all I know. But it matters to this one, I'll help him be what he can be. It matters to this one, and it matters to me."
- author unknown

I am grateful I had the opportunity to put him back into the sea.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Temple Town

So it's not really called temple town but yesterday we visited the sprawling Senso-ji Temple which is the oldest in Tokyo, the first building was erected in 645. It was very bustling which I am sure was partially due to the break in the rain.

The temple features Kannon, Bodhisattva of Compassion: Amongst the many Buddhas, Bodhisattva Kannon is known as the most compassionate, relieving beings of their suffering and responding to prayers with great benevolence. This Bodhisattva Kannon, the principle image of Senso-ji, has been an unparalleled source of benefits and miracles, saving and protecting countless people over the course of the 1,400 years since its appearance in the world. The way of devotion to Bodhisattva Kannon can be described as emulating the compassionate mind of this bodhisattva in our day to day lives, treating everyone we encounter with kindness. source

Speaking of kindness the temple also had a status honoring Uryu Iwako a noted social worker from the 1800's. It's the first time I've seen a statue of a social worker! She was known for her compassion for the poor and orphans and founded a midwifery institute and hospital.

Earlier in the day we went to the Harajuko area which is known for shopping, entertainment, and teenagers dressed up in cosplay outfits. There we stumbled upon J's heaven; tons of bicycle shops of every kind! He fell in love with a vintage Nakagawa bicycle frame that was sadly too small.

On the walk home from the temple we came across this lovely graffiti.

The day before we went to a great vegan ramen shop called T's Tan Tan. It was rather difficult to find as it is located in the JR Line Tokyo train station. We buy a day pass for the Tokyo metro but it does not cover JR line so we had to buy 130 yen tickets to get into the station. It was worth it! We've been very lucky with the great food options. Each morning we head to our favorite breakfast place and get a great meal with juice for 400 yen each.

Check out J's great photos so far at his Flickr stream

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, January 20, 2012

Subway success

It was quite cold and wet yesterday with a combination of snow and rain. We figured out the subway and made our way to a great vegetarian buffet for lunch called; It's Vegetarian. We also went through a grocery store, which we love doing when traveling. That's where we spotted the $80.00 melon.

We took the subway over to the The Museum of Modern Art but the main building was closed. We did get to see the The Crafts Gallery Exhibit That's where we saw a piece of art titled Song of Autumn by kashima ikkoku which featured Our Animal a praying mantis which we've seen on nearly every trip.

We managed to stay up a little later and had a lovely meal at a vegan place called Ain Sopf

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How far will we walk to reach a vegan restaurant?

Apparently 12km. Yesterday we thought it would be a good idea to take a long walk and get to know our area. We walked a little over 12 km and arrived at the Tokyo Loving Hut. It was more of an Loving Hut express, with out the extensive menu of other Loving Huts we have eaten at, but the boxed meals and desserts they offered were very good.

Before the day began I used the showers at our hotel. Unfortunately I am now quite sure I conditioned my hair with hand soap. We had decided to save our shampoo and uses free stuff whenever we can in hostels/hotels. (We were concerened with being able to find supplies on the road but now that we've been in a few more spots I think we will be able to manage finding supplies).The lack of english labels is making that challenging. Over the day we saw a lot of random temples, a lady feeding stray cats, large vocal crows, beautiful buildings, parks, a lake, etc. There are also funny signs and things that remind us that we have no idea what's going on.

We had to take a cab back to our little hostel as our legs were quite tired. The room is not bad but it could use a chair and table and a slightly thicker sleeping mat. But it's clean and good value and location. As you can see from the photo it's compact. I've already bumped my head twice on doorways.

Near our hostel their is a an amazing traditional fancy vegetarian restaurant called Bon they food was more like art and came in small multi courses. We ate in a very traditional room in which the table is low and you sit on cushions while your legs are in a sunken area underneath the table. There was toasty heating blanket for our feet. Many buildings seem to use electric heaters to heat a room at a time. The weather is cool and wet but still pleasant.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Weight

These are the bags for the trip. One 50 litre back pack and one 15 litre day pack each. They are osprey bags and the day pack zips onto the back pack. They hold our clothing, shoes, 2 snorkeling sets, toiletries, medications, vitamins, cameras and electronics, towels, coats, a sheet sack etc.

We are striving to travel lightly and mindfully and have carefully considered what we've packed and what we've left behind. It reminds me of this song "The Weight."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2 weeks to lift off

January 17, 2012 we depart Calgary to start our one year travel adventure. We start first in Tokyo for a week's stay at the New Koyo Backpacker's Hotel We don't have a set itinerary for Tokyo yet. Over the year we have a loose itinerary; from Tokyo we fly to Kuala Lumpur and plan to stay in Malaysia until around the end of March, then we plan to spend April-June in north India, Nepal & Bhutan, from there we will travel to Europe for the summer, in the late fall we will go to Arizona so J can take a hand built bicycle course and finally we will end the trip with about 2 months in NYC, arriving back in Calgary January 2013.

So why now? There were a lot of contributing factors. We know we only get this life once and that it is short. That became all too real when our highschool friend passed away suddenly in 2010. We also know that some regions may not be as easy to travel to in the future. Our kitty Mia passed away in 2011 which left us with no furry dependants. As well this Ted talk motivated us to take a year off now rather than wait for retirement:

How are we doing it? I quit my job and will need to look for a new one in 2013 while J has a sabbatical. We have ruthlessly went through our possessions selling or giving away unneeded items, stored personal effects at J's parents, and rented out the house furnished through a rental management company. We are tapping into savings and attempting to travel on a budget. We are also supported by many lovely people helping us with tasks such as J's sister taking care of mail and at home financial management, our dear friend Kate clearing the snow, J's parents for storage and moving and so on.

During the trip I will be blogging and posting photos. Not all photos will make it to the blog but you can check the rest out on J's Flickr stream as well as on my Flickr stream or my instagram. I plan on taking photos with my iPhone and gopro while J has his professional SLR.

I know there will be difficult times when we miss friends, family, familiar surroundings and our home but I am so lucky to be traveling with my soul mate. This video reminds me that home is where ever we are together.