Friday, September 25, 2009

Same Same but Different

September 21, 09 - on the Mekong river in the border of Vietnam and Cambodia

I am on the boat in the border between Vietnam and Cambodia, whilst seeing life alongside the river. The boat is actually full of foreigners and locals. There are around 20 people inside with all bags, uncomfortable seats and hot weather inside the boat. Having said that, I feel awesome.

Sometimes it's just good to feel how life here in a very rural part of the world. And whatever happens in physical world is the reflection of our mind game. So, I feel so good, welcoming sunshine and enjoying this local boat.

Then I remember how easy life was in 7 Ulu Kapitan, alongside Musi River, Palembang, the place where I was born. The fun of swimming in the river. The playful feeling whilst playing with friends the whole day. The quietness of the night in the village. Those are what I imagine now. And I really miss life in the village. Same same, but different.

And the feeling whilst moving from one place to another is really great. It's just like opening the gate to other great things in the new place. I don't know things I'll see in the next few hours, but I'm excited to do so, whatever it is.

And it is a mix of fear, excitement, worries and everything. Heart is pumping quite hard. I really like it.

Okay, in 3 hours I will be in Phnom Penh. I'm getting so excited particularly with the story about people killed in Khmer Rouge era, when Pol Pot lead the country. This genocide happened between 1975 to early 1979, when hundreds of thousands Cambodian being tortured and killed.

Enjoying warm breeze in the border, OFF to sleep now.

Note: crossing border to Cambodia from Vietnam thru Mekong Delta is easy. USD 41 2D1N tour will bring you to some spots in Mekong Delta, stay overnight on the boat (which is awesome!). A day after, they will take you to the border and to Phnom Penh. All administrative work for visa on arrival will be arranged by the tour and VOA itself is USD 22. And same same is cool words I have been hearing quite often when I was in Vietnam.

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Saigon, Where Beauty and Awesomeness Are Caught in the Same Blink of an Eye

Written on the boat in Mekong Delta whilst relaxing and enjoying river view - Sept 20, 2009

Spending 2 nights in Saigon was just so awesome. I'm on the boat somewhere in Mekong Delta now, giggling imagining how fun, crazy and relaxing the city was.

The first day I arrived in HCM, I was welcomed by the warmth of Vietnamese smile. Mr. Khai, which is Viet's driver, picked me up from the airport to his apartment. Viet used to be my ex-boss in P&G and he graciously opened up his apartment for cheap bastard traveler like me. Not only did he open up his door for me to stay, he opened up his refrigerator; full of beer and wine, as well. But since I went out a lot, I only managed to drink his Budweiser.

If you were in the city, I might have been drunk in your apartment, Viet. :)

The one day city tour in HCM was awesome. It all started in Pham Ngu Lao, a backpacker street in the downtown of the city. It is basically street full of hostels, tour agent and bar/resto/cafe. Spending just 1 hour in this crowded area, I booked everything for my one day trip to Mekong Delta and Chu Chi tunnel trip.

Then the smile of Mr. Khai welcomed me again somewhere on Pham Ngu Lao street.

Rest of the daytime, I visited some must-see spots in HCM. Independence Palace is the place where the head of this country lived and led its people. It is basically full of rooms to welcome high-rank guest from other countries, to conduct meeting, dinner and some other government occasions. The place itself was initially used by former South Vietnam government, which was controlled by America.

On April 30, 1975, the troops from Northern Vietnam, called North Vietnamese Army (NVA) invaded the building, took over the formal government led by USA and pushed army to get out from the country. That was when Vietnam reunification started.

The highlight in Saigon for me is War Remnants Museum. If I had only 1 hour and needed to pick one place to see, it must have been only this museum. It tells story about the sufferings during USA colonial repression. They co-led with South Vietnam government to build its position in South Vietnam, with Saigon as its capitol. Later on they changed Saigon to Ho Chi Minh, after reunification.

What special in this museum, on top of story about USA colonial repression, is the story about Agent Orange and the suffering it created for that particular generation and one generation ahead after USA threw that toxic chemical material to Vietnam land. It killed many people, created birth defects to many babies and destroyed healthy environment. The museum itself is a bit depressing, but worth to visit though.
The rest of the daytime I visited Notre Dame church, Post Office building and Ho Chi Minh museum. The first two are the buildings made by French, which was built under French colony started on 1883. Notre Dame is very nice, standing in the midst of business district in the city. Post Office with its interesting detail inside is good as well. I sent postcard to a close friend. You know who you are. :)

As for the lunch, I brought Mr. Khai to try popular BBQ Pork Broken Rice in Nguyen Du Street, opposite to Coffee Bean Metropolitan, right at the Notre Dame Church. The place was recommended by Viet and Willy. I tried Pork BBQ + Chinese Sausage + Pork/Egg Paste + Vegie Soup and Passion Fruit - a full of awesomeness in very hot day in Saigon.

In the evening, I met Bill and Yani who are Indonesian I met on the plane to Ho Chi Minh a day before. We went to Natasha's Boat/farewell/birthday party, which was on the boat on the Saigon river.

There are crazily around 50 people, most of them are couchsurfers, having great time with all drinks, foods and positive party attitude. We ended up the night until 5 AM in the morning, doing club-hopping. I managed to sleep only 1 hour at Viet's apartment. I headed to Mekong Delta in the morning.

Very relaxing day in Mekong Delta - most of the time I am on the boat, at the back of the boat - stretching, laying supine.

Having said that I had great day tour in Saigon, it was just nothing if I didn't meet great people in Saigon. Mr. Khai with his warm personality of Vietnamese. Viet, who I couldn't manage to meet, who graciously offered his very nice apartment for a cheap bastard traveler. For all couchsurfers I met on the party; Natasha the superstar, Alex 'pa*e ta ch*tt*' guy, Anju 'the only member of tonic-tonic club', Adam and Steven who were the party magnet, my lovely gin-apple juice friend Kat, and many more couchsurfers who brightened up my day in Saigon.

I had a blast there and I hope you too have a blasted day! My last words in this note: drink responsibly. :)

Have a blast!

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Friday, September 18, 2009

About Traveling and Spiritual Journey

I'm in the airport heading to Ho Chi Minh for another backpacking trip. Having come too early, I am sitting on a seat in Dunkin' Donuts, enjoying my chocolate croissant whilst writing this note.

Some people really can't get the idea of traveling too much. Some people are traveling too much, for me. While standing here in the airport, my sister may be standing on the mountain somewhere in Rinjani. For me, she has been traveling a lot more than me, lately. So some people really travel that much.

And I keep questioning, "Why you travel that much?"

Based on my experience, in the beginning people travel because they want to see places, and unfortunately they are touristic places. They usually see places as many as they can do in their tiring day. If they need to push themselves, they will do.

But it will stop at the moment when they appreciate spiritual journey rather than trying to see all possible places to see.

It is about neither religion nor to what god you're praying too, but it's more on how you discover yourself.

When we travel, we will meet many strangers who will open up our mind to new things. We see that life is full of people with different skin color, perspective, sexual orientation, habits and the way of seeing life. We accept the idea of living life with differences unifying life rather than ruining it. At the end of the day, we are practicing love that makes us all one.

When we travel, we will have sometime being alone. When we are alone and we leave our past behind where we are from, what would we do? Will we act in different way - the way we talk to people, the way we treat people, the way we treat our biggest secret, and the most important, the way we treat our self? Have we been fair to our self?

I love calling it as 'discovering our self'. Being in hectic life everyday may make us not knowing who we are. And when we travel, we release the past with ease - no one knows you in the city!

"I don't use yesterdays mental garbage to create tomorrows experiences. I create new thoughts. I release the past with ease."

I was thrilled last week after re-watching 'Seven Years in Tibet'. And it is the perfect example of opening self to spiritual journey, rather than being a, tourist.

So, rather than trying to see all places in the city, for me, having great spiritual journey is more fulfilling. It changes life forever. Priceless.

And I know some of you are now on the road, enjoying life, sun, moon and snacks on your hands. I hope you have a life-changing journey back to your home.

Happy Idul Fitri, everyone!

OFF now - for a week, maybe.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I am different but I am proud of myself

“Did you do it today? Saying I love you to the person in the mirror”

I woke up this morning and excitedly headed to the mirror in my bathroom, and said, “I love you”. Well, it’s maybe a bit exaggerating, uncool but what a heck. If that will make the whole day the best one in my life, why wouldn’t I do that?

Though you are still naked, why would you care? Your room is your world.

You may be an unwanted person in your community. People don’t really ask to have lunch with you. You may not be as tall as the people around you and when you’re in a concert, you need to stand on tiptoes to see your superstar. You may not be the best performer in your team, and somehow you are too hard to yourself, keep pushing yourself to be the same with perfect people in your team. You may be a person bullied everyday and it makes you think, “Am I really that bad?”

But it’s the right time for us to love our self. Appreciate our self. We’re simply beautiful people in the world. We’re just as beautiful as the most handsome or the most beautiful superstar, in a different way. It’s okay to be different. Living in colorful world is much better than living in black & white. It’s time for us to say, “I AM different but I’m proud of my self.” It’s time for short people to be in concert, stand on tiptoes and sing out loud!

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009


On my way back home, I see dark-yellow sun from the front seat of my car. As if the luna knows that this is end of the trip.
The sky is cloudy and romantically gloomy. I love the feeling of ending a trip. Fulfilling as we take something from the earth for us to give back to community, daily life and friends. It can be smile for every morning in the next few days. New spirit of doing things. Be in love, tirelessly.

Oh Luna, you are beautiful. You're flawless in your way.

And what I like from this feeling is that I still have faith that the journey will never end. This is only small step in the whole big journey. OFF now.

Monday, September 07, 2009

What Are You Deleting From Your Life Today?

Our life becomes much more complicated lately since information era came in. We can describe life as system with its components and relationships. Relationship exists from two components interaction. Since information era came in, it’s been easier for two components to interact in a way we couldn’t imagine before. When number of relationship increases; number of transaction, conflict, commitment and appointment increase as well. It adds complication in life. When we’re overwhelmed with many things in life, we may want to start thinking of deleting things in our life. At the end of the day, we want simple life that leads to happiness.

This is how system, component and relationship work. Two components interact and they create relationship. If the first component interacts with the third component, it creates another relationship. When the number of component in life increases, the number of relationship increases as well at a disproportionate rate.

It works this way; one component creates no relationship, two components create one relationship, three components create three relationships, four components create six relationships, a hundred components create 4950 relationships. When the number of component increases arithmetically, the number of relationship increases geometrically. And it goes like this.

It’s quite geeky but understanding of this concept is worth it.

Life goes that way too. We have relationships with things in life; friend, parents, blackberry, car, pets, even if it’s only about our stamp collection. And when the number of things relating to us increases, the relationship increases at disproportionate rate and we need to spend more energy for that. We will end up at one point that we can’t do anything to maintain relationship. We’re overwhelmed.

It’s been three months I committed to simple life in a way to live gratefully. Simplicity means happiness in our life and I would do anything to get it.

Lastly, we need to delete some components in our life. What are components in life we can really, consider to, delete?

  1. Deleting relationship. There are some relationships we can really remove from our life, consciously. And removing relationship doesn’t mean that we are anti-social person. No.

  2. Deleting technology. Technology can add value to life. But it is paradox of technology that it doesn’t really make our life easier, but it keeps us work longer and harder. Lately we see more people finish working late than, say, a decade ago.

  3. Deleting control. Having control of things is good. Being on top of things is great thing to do when we are working in a project, or, planning for a vacation. But being control freaks is overwhelming and limits our capacity to do many great things in life.

  4. Deleting negative thinking and living gratefully. How do we start our day? If it’s raining, can we still think positively and live gratefully? Many things in life can really ruin our mood in a few minutes after we wake up. Even when we’re sleeping; bad dreams can do. However, we can choose whatever reactions for things in life. Live abundantly!

  5. Deleting burden of life. We really think it’s important. And we don’t want to let them go; traffic jam in the morning, overwhelmed in finding files in our notebook, difficulties managing bank account. Delete them.

  6. Deleting 80% unimportant task. There are many unimportant things in life, task or project, which control 80% of our time, but contribute to only 20% of value. Minimize them, delete them.

Deleting things in life is fulfilling. It is a journey and won’t be easy. We will go in detail in each post about 6 things in life we need to put into trash.

Happy deleting things in your life!

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Seventh Reason Sanne Should be Back to Jakarta

"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf" - Jon Kabat-Zinn

It's been 3 days I am in Bali, enjoying the isle of gods for several times in my life. I never get bored with this island as every time I came, the feeling has been completely different. Maybe the god guiding my legs is always different and this time is for god of togetherness. It's the first time I bring my parents to Bali and it's just great to see smiles, laughters and countless amazement from their faces.

And today we ended up the afternoon in Kuta, sitting on the beach whilst starring at the beautiful sunset. Thanks to the rain a day before, so we got completely clear sky. And getting chance to surf in Kuta beach was even better, seeing the sun from the front of wave. Awesome. Though I put 'beginner' status in my mind that I didn't ride all wave, I felt awesome. I was proud of being a, beginner.

Lately I have been spending time with great people from couchsurfing. From several trips I did to the beach, I got chance to see how laid back people could be. And it was just soo great to have spent time with them. Life was just so easy with them around. You, reading this writing, you know I'm talking about us. :)

One of the great, super-positive people I have spending my time with is Sanne. She was completely stranger for me at the beginning and it turns out that she's one of the most amazing people I ever met. Super-positive aura comes out from her soul and it blesses you when you're around her.

To know that she would come back to her country this Sunday, it was hard for me to leave to Bali several days ago. It means that I will not spend my time during her last days in Jakarta. It means that I will not have chance to say good bye face to face. Or should I believe that there will be no good-bye for best friend?

Well, she will go and for sure we'll have chance to meet again. Just like any travelers I met on the road in China, Southeast Asia and Jakarta. We'll meet again someday. I really believe that day by day 'let's make this world smaller than we think' is really true. Culture interactions happen more often over the past decade.

Should I have chance to define reasons why Sanne should be back to Jakarta, I can mention thousands of things. If I can't, I can still ask other great Jakarta couchsurfers to mention them. Okay, Sanne has seen 6 reasons why she should come back and now it's the 7th.

It is a black picture.
Neither beautiful sunset nor nice rice field like what we have in the previous reason.
Not the laughter at Pangandaran with laid-back travel companions.
And it's not JCo which she's always curious with.

It just is. Just black. We don't know what makes her back. It's her who knows the reason.

No matter how hard we try to define thousands of, if not millions of, awesomeness in Indonesia, it is her who will decide and make her path to come back to here. I do believe making our own personal choice is the best way to enjoy life. Life is just great outta there, maybe it's not in Indonesia. Maybe it's not for her.

When we say, "never say goodbye...", maybe we just love her too much that we should keep her with us. But loving someone means we need to let go. Best friend knows when to stop and let his friend start another journey.

And black is just the best reason for the 7th reason.

Mark your path and fill the 7th reason with your own journey, Sanne! We're happy for whatever path you choose and will always be. See you somewhere.