First I didn’t want to share the place because the spot was almost KL’s best kept secret. They had no ads, no events, no website – it was truly a hidden gem of KL.
I meant to write this a year ago, then it felt a bit inappropriate because of the political and economic situation. I just felt bad writing about souvenirs and pretty things to buy in Kiev while the country is in war. But now I look at it differently: yes, the economy is sh*t, but there are great people making great products, so if you are reading this and would like a suggestion for a meaningful hand-made Ukrainian product, here you go. At least you’ll support local talent and not the Chinese mass market.
As you’ve probably figured, I’m not a big fan of souvenirs, but I do like to bring locally made gifts to friends and family when I visit. So here you go:
What souvenirs to buy in Ukraine
1 week trip to Kiev. Visiting family, hugging friends, catching up and doing some chores – all in all it was a great trip! With a rotten apple spoiling a bunch (read the story here), but all in all, a very good trip.
Just after my mind recovered from the riddle of what souvenirs to bring from KL another challenge appeared – what souvenirs to bring from Kiev?
Here’s some ideas (all covered by one trip to the grocery store):
- Dark rye bread
- Dark chocolate
- Caviar (#yolo)
Ok, ok, just because KL doesn’t have all that in abundance and affordable prices, I’m bringing all sorts of food from home.
Supporting the local talent
On a more serious note, this is what I thought of, if you need proper souvenirs from Kiev. These are all projects very dear to me, created by friends or not yet friends but generally very pleasant folks.
Handmade bags and purses, made with love and meticulous attention to details from repurposed leather. A brand founded by a dear friend Anna, I now have two of their bags: “banana bag” like this one and a cross-shoulder clutch which went out to the theatre with me – we both looked very appropriately theatre-like.
The guys are soon opening a new show room and I do suggest you check them out: follow REmade on Facebook.
A new and very promising project – Sandra Prachuk Ceramics. Homeware, decorative trinkets and definitely heartwarming pieces. Check ’em out on Instagram and Facebook. Sandra is also REmade’s founder’s cousin – these women have talent in their blood!
These are the maps with a scratch layer that you can hang on the wall and scratch-off the countries you’ve visited to brag in front of your friends that come over. A girl I went to school with founded this project with her now husband and I couldn’t be more proud of them! They have a few really exciting projects coming up too, so do like their Facebook page to keep updated.
If you are (like me) a believer that books make the best gifts, check out Lviv’s Vydavnytstvo Starogo Leva (Old Lion Publishing – no English on their site, please use Google translate) – they have some very impressive books, I got about 10 Ukrainian books of theirs and two of the (very trendy now) colouring books for adults.
So if you happen to be in Ukraine and want to leave a few of your heard-earned dollars on our fruitful soil, I do suggest you check out these projects. Also please don’t disregard that food list at the beginning of the post. There’s a lot of interesting local food you can shop for in supermarkets, do make sure it’s made in Ukraine and not imported, mmkay?
Peace, love and support #MadeInUkraine!
So something awesome just happened again. Another documentary synchronicity happened and I had to share.
By the way, synchronicity (as first explained by Carl Jung) is when events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related. Which continues the recent Happy thoughts train (there’s one about perspective and travelling, one on meditation and my recent retreat and now this, also somewhat travel-related actually).
So let me tell you a story. Get a cuppa, wrap a blanket around your knees and sit cozy, here it goes.
Last week I went home for a short visit. Home is Kiev, Ukraine and it met me with a fantastic warm Autumn. Look, how pretty:
One thing I love about visiting home is that I can walk the streets. It might sound weird, but KL friends can relate – we rarely get a chance to have a truly enjoyable walk in the city, not to mention getting from point A to point B on foot – it’s almost impossible here.
So walking around, meeting friends and Family, doing chores, buying cheese and books (my suitcase was half cheese, half books and clothes tucked here and therein between – true story), I was carrying a backpack and having a bunch of things in there every day. A passport, wallet, some papers. Do you see where I’m going with this? Keep reading.
On my last but one day I was visiting friends and decided to get them a nice hipster pie as a housewarming gift (it’s also a very common tradition in Ukraine to bring something when you’re visiting someone’s place for the first time – we don’t come empty-handed: pastry, flowers, tea are usual things to bring as a gift). So walking the beautiful city centre streets with a pie in one hand, my phone in the other, 10 minutes later I’m getting into a friend’s car and… you guessed it… the backpack is open.
First reaction – damn it, the wallet. It was missing. Second thought – nah, I must have left it at the bakery. No, it wasn’t there (we rushed back to check). Someone must have snatched it, but when? I was walking the whole time! Oh waaaaait… I did stop at a traffic light. Can you imagine?? They followed me, seeing where the wallet was (not in a trivial pocket), waited until I stop at the traffic light and took it like nobody’s business. I didn’t feel anything. Such professionals.
Sad as it is, my family is pro in dealing with such situations now (read about why we will never go to Paris Disneyland. Neither will our kids. No one is ever going to Paris now). So we took it as a learning experience, quickly blocked the credit card and counted the good things that came out of this experience.
Learnings from having a wallet stolen
- I took out all Malaysian stuff the day I landed, so at least there was a backup.
- On that day I decided to not put my passport into the wallet like I sometimes do. Never put your passport into a wallet – carry it on you and trust your intuition.
- Better yet – never put all your eggs in one basket (eggs in this case stands for cash and cards).
- Don’t take more cash than you need. I had just a bit and that just made it double-sad – the wallet was such a dear memory and the most valuable thing in it was… drumroll a driver’s license. Which is… double-drumroll… not renewable in Malaysia.Only in Ukraine. And I have a day. So no way it’s happening. And the sad part is that I had it valid for 50 years (I know, right?) and the newer ones are given for 5 or 10 years only now. Sad panda.
I don’t know if you’re still with me, the story is becoming a bit long, but I wanted to share it in details so you feel my pain and appreciate even more what’s coming next.
Synchronicity. It works
So not much damage, but the feeling is there. I’m not letting it go until the next morning when suddenly I accept the impermanence of things and let it go. The feelings for the wallet and the event, I mean. Here’s what happens next.
- Anton gets me a new wallet. A grown up proper ladylike wallet. Yay!
- I have a tingling little curiosity on day 3 to check Facebook messages, the “other” tab it is.
- There is in fact a message. “We found your wallet tucked behind a wall in our building. We found you by your name on the driver’s license”. So it wasn’t tossed out and I still have a driver’s license! Yay to having changed a name a few years back. There are at least 30 people I used to share my last name with. As far as I know, there’s only one Olha Yohansen-Veselova out there. And yes, keep trusting your intuition.
- That person’s office (where they found the wallet) is close to my parents office. They collected it on the same day.
- Someone happened to be going through KL from Kiev next week (not a common destination, so it’s pure luck. Or better put, true synchronicity).
So yeah. Great it happened and ending so swiftly. Like the last year’s story – very swift. I feel blessed and I just had to share it with you as part of the learning – there had to be a lesson in it, right? One thing I don’t know though: is it a yearly thing now? Last “Documentary” happened precisely las November. I do certainly hope it’s not.
Take care guys. Be safe but do keep an open accepting mindset always. And remember that synchronicity is real. And never lose faith in humanity, ok?
Want a surprise bundle of tiny yet meaningful goodies from Malaysia? Read on.
The first Tiny Black Box from Thailand was a great success, brought a lot of joy to the girl who won it and to me – picking up all those items from markets, designer shops and hidden little stalls on markets.
I though why not do it again? I want to put together another Tiny Black Box, this time from Malaysia.
Chances are, this might somewhat resemble the souvenirs from KL in a way, but I want to add a personalised twist to it this time.
So how? Simple: no shares, reposts and stuff (although I would definitely love it, the more, the merrier). Just leave a comment below (one comment per person, please) and mention one thing: what would you love to receive as a souvenir from Malaysia? Anything that associates with Malaysia, that could fit a small box and can travel through snail mail. Read a few posts for ideas, maybe?
The comments will close on Friday, October 9th midnight, Malaysia time, I’ll give each comment a number and will randomly choose one on Saturday, October 10th.
p.s. And if you are from Malaysia, do take part in this too, because hey, you travel too, right? You can use it as a souvenir for someone special as you go :-)
Pom Pom diving. No, no, it’s not a bathtub filled with pom-poms and you jump-dive into it in a “Geronimo!” manner. Pom Pom is an actual island in Sabah, Malaysia.
Pom Pom is a very small flat island, 2.3 km in circumference, it has two resorts – a dive and a non-dive one and only a few people actually live on the island. There are no seasons in that area which makes it a perfect diving site all year round. There’s no public transportation to the island – you need to fly in to Tawau, then take a car to Semporna and then a boat to the island. The car and the boat are covered by the resort and quite surprisingly, from our dive experience, it was one of the fastest islands to get to (no waiting in between each leg of the commute).
The whole package – diving, accommodation, food and a return transfer to the airport – is a bit on the pricey side, but boy was it worth it!
Celebes Beach dive resort is still a tiny resort, I think it has 10 or so rooms only, but they’re planning to expand.
There are no cars, no shops, barely any roads on the island, so do take everything you need.
The resort provides all the food and they also sell soft drinks, so no worries about that one. But it’s still Malaysia, so don’t expect cheap alcohol there. I don’t think there was any alcohol at all actually, just some beer. So take note.
Diving at Pom Pom
Now to diving. We went after getting inspired by colleague’s advice (read his posts about it). Booked 5D/4N stay with 10 dives package. It was plenty for our comfortable pace of two dives a day, but we only covered maybe 10% of the possible dive sites.
What can I say, the place is famous for all the macro life you can see underwater – nudibranchs, shrimp, little crabs and finally – the holy grail for underwater macro enthusiasts – the Mandarin fish! The resort hosts yearly underwater photography competitions, here is the link to this year’s album of best pictures, truly remarkable!
You need to have a very good eye to spot things like this:
(you see that purple fella in the middle of the photo, don’t you?)
And this. That’s an Orangutan crab I suppose:
Unfortunately we didn’t take the camera for the dusk dive (that’s apparently the only time to see Mandarin fish in all its beauty) because it was our first sunset/night dive and we were, well, we were a bit scared of the unknown.
Even though we are both at almost 50 dives each, we only did our first night dive here in Pom Pom. Here’s the article about this special fish so you can get the context on why there’s so much fuss about it. So here is a perfect shot of mandarin fish by Celebes Dive Resort’s own Nurul Yazid. We saw about 10 of them in one dive, just saying (
Nudi, lots of nudi
Of course, there were TONS of different kind of nudibranchs. Nudis are my favourite things to spot, but now the definition of macro, of course, changed a bit, so nudi is more micro to me. There are smaller things to spot underwater, now I know. After all the teeny tiny things we now can spot, finding a nudi it easy-peasy.
This one’s my personal favourite:
Now, to bigger things. This is the juvenile harlequin sweetlips – the cutest little sweetie:
These are the things that if you touch, you die in a slow painful death:
Well, maybe not exactly die, but it would be rather uncomfortable either way. So rule of the underwater-thumb (whut?) is: don’t touch anything that’s either too pretty or too ugly – that’s most probably venomous. But to be honest, the complete rule should sound be: DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING.
Lionfish aka Pterois:
Same lionfish, but from the side. I’ve never seen them swimming like this, they would usually sit somewhere hidden, but here, they’re the kings of the sea.
I accidentally landed on hard coral while getting into the water at low tide on our first dive and ended up having a pretty nasty cut that’s still healing a month later. The coral on the other hand was perfectly fine. So touch nothing, divers :-) But overall it was a fantastic trip! Great diving, friendly people, the clearest sea I’ve ever seen and a strong feeling we will come back.
So see you soon, Pom Pom!
p.s. And as always, thank you Anton for taking and editing the photos :-*
Meditation has circled around me for a while now – I’ve worked at a company that promotes mindfulness and meditation for 3 years and I’ve tried to meditate, I really did, but I just couldn’t get it right. I always thought it’s something that you either can or can not do. And since this year is very much about personal growth and overcoming and challenging some of the beliefs I have, I thought I’d give meditation another try. But if you know me, you’d know that I need to “learn the rules of the game” first, so to speak, so I headed to a two-day meditation retreat to study the basics.
Actually it was more like this: the day I though I’d give meditation another round or trials, someone from the team posted about the upcoming retreat and that she just came back from one and loved it and swoosh! went the thought: “Oh my, synchronicity! It’s meant to be” and next thing you know, I’m already arranging the details with Kechara people. What’s Kechara?
Kechara is a Buddhist organisation. “Using creative and contemporary methods to reach the spiritual seeker via their natural interests, be it reading, shopping, art, travel, dining, etc, Kechara seeks to provide a comfortable and nurturing environment for spiritual aspirants to learn and equip themselves with tools to develop inner and outer peace.” So back to meditation.
The retreat teaches the basics, how to sit during meditation, how to breathe, what to do, what’s contemplative meditation, what’s walking meditation, how to eat and meditate, awareness through movement class, sunrise meditation. All that in two days at a beautiful place, built with lots of love and taken great care of. Oh, and the food is amazing.
While I was writing this, a new article came out on Kechara founder’s, Tsem Rinpoche’s blog: “It is a misconception to think that only Buddhists or Hindus can meditate. Those who believe this do not understand the true meaning of meditation. Meditation is a method through which one can calm the mind and achieve a state of deepened consciousness. Everyone wants a peaceful and stress-free life, and the processes and principles of meditation have been scientifically proven to yield these desired results. On top of that, there are many other benefits that one can achieve from engaging in meditation, resulting in greater productivity and happiness in both work and home life.”
And, adding to that, it won’t take long to see the results. Meditation and calligraphy, to me, are some of the most rewarding activities these days because I can see progress and results of effort put into these activities so fast. With meditation though, you see its impact when you DON’T meditate for a while. Like those good vitamins that you get used to taking and then you miss a pill for a day and your hairs starts falling out. Wait, what?
Jokes aside, meditation is awesome and I’m very grateful to have learnt it and that’s it’s part of my life now. It’s a pity it’s so fussed about these days in the media, that it’s almost intimidating for many people to approach. But hey, people were intimidated by brushing their teeth every day a few decades back, so high hopes for meditation to stick around and become a new habit for the humanity.
I’ve also done a five-day silent retreat with them (which is an expanded version of a two-day one). FIVE days in silence, people! Yes, I can see you, Vipassana attendees, smirking, but to those of you who haven’t locked yourselves in a cave for 10 days, trust me, silence for the whole five days is definitely a refreshing experience.
p.s Kechara opened a registration for their upcoming retreats, so if you’re looking for a beginners meditation retreat in Malaysia, check out their schedule.
Ah, time flies.. A lot of cool things happened in the past few months: I went to practice meditation to Kechara Forest Retreat (twice!), flew over to Singapore for a Scrum Product Owner training, and we have also spent five amazing days in Pom Pom for our 3rd wedding anniversary with Anton. So much to share, to show, to (hopefully) inspire you guys to go and do things you’ve always wanted to do. So stay tuned for the future posts, ok?
But today I wanted to ask you this: why do you travel?
To me, travelling is much more than checking off a country on a map and moving on. It is not a getaway to escape the routine for a few days. At least, not any more.
One of the biggest gifts travelling gives me is perspective. The feeling of coming back home, to my routine (so dreaded at times yet so appreciated after some time off). Cherishing simple things we often forget to notice, like hot water in the shower, air conditioning, security of our home and a favourite tea cup
more of a tea bucket in my case, hehe.
Perspective, as defined in Merriam-Webster, is the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance. But how do you define what is true or not? I think it’s so subjective that the only way to keep the sharp and clear view of life, you need to constantly shift your perspective. Heck, I even have a tattoo with a symbolism for perspective, that’s how important it is to me!
And only recently could I identify the reason for this itching feeling of wanderlust that wouldn’t go away. When I did, that troubling feeling of unsettledness suddenly let go and I felt peace. It’s hard to explain, but I hope you know what I mean – the moment you admit something to yourself or when you realise what was bothering you all this time, but you just couldn’t get it – the feeling of acceptance and relief. The main reason why I travel is to gain perspective.
This year has definitely become a year of consciousness, acceptance and purposeful living. And purposeful travelling too! I hope to write more about it soon since it has changed the way I feel about many things, especially, travelling.
Now my question to you: so why do you travel? What drives you to get that ticket and go? Share with all of us in the comments below, I would love to hear your perspective!
Hey hey! Long time no interview :-) I’m delighted to bring you one more of the Girls Living in… interviews – a series of posts where I interview girls who live in cities all over the world and share that city with us. This one is very special – it’s about Munich.
So let’s jump straight in. Introducing you to Anna: a very talented young lady, fashion blogger, amazing wife to her husband, my classmate from high school, a girl with an awesome instagram and just a very positive smiley sunshine as she is.
Introduce yourself and where are you from?
My name is Anna, recently I turned 27 years (Omg, is it a lot?) and I’m Ukrainian.
Well, this was a completely spontaneous decision to move to Munich. It all started when I found this interesting position at STYLIGHT, where I’m currently working at. It’s a huge online shop. I fit perfectly well for that job and me and my hubby decided: why not? Let’s try Munich this time. So here we are – living in Munich since July last year.
What do you currently do?
Currently I’m working as a PR manager at STYLIGHT for the Russian speaking market. I started as an intern in Influencer Marketing, working with international bloggers and executing interesting collaborations with them. It was definitely a cool experience, however it’s time for a change for something new.
As I also run my own fashion blog, now I think I’ve reached that point, where I’d like to dive completely into it and devote more time to this project. I’m having lots of thoughts and ideas as to my future occupation, but I can’t tell you what it will be as of now, since it’s all in process (hihi). But you know, when these ideas come, you’d better go for it and make them a reality. So that’s what I’m doing right now :-)
What is your regular day in Munich like?
My regular day starts with nice breakfast and then cycling to work. Oh, I love cycling, but when we moved to another apartment the distance to work became too long, so I gave up on biking. BUT! Hopefully it will change soon.
Then it’s work, work, work, sometimes a short photo shoot for my blog during lunch time. After work it really depends on the mood and the weather. Sometimes I’d go to the gym, sometimes – have dinner at some nice new place or just walking around and enjoying the weather.
I remember when we just moved, going out after work or on weekends was a small adventure in itself. When you still don’t know anything about the city, a small walk around your neighbourhood could be as exciting as traveling somewhere far. So yeah, I mean in some regards, we’re still discovering all that hidden places, knowing which makes you local.
When it comes to Munich, what’s your number 1 favourite place to be?
It’s definitely a Schwabing area. I just love strolling around there, going inside nice book stores, or just biking around ending up with a cup of cappuccino and käsekuchen (cheesecake), preferably sitting outside. What we have also discovered recently, is the Rosenheimer area, especially Bordeauxplatz with lots of cafés with terraces on the street. Reminded me of Paris.
Also when the weather is warm (since Munich can be really moody due to the close mountains) it’s super nice to walk down Isar or have a picnic at Englischer garden.
Café: Well, I have several of them. Depends on the weather and what you might be looking for.
So if it’s sunny spring or summer, this café is the best – Goldene Bar. The outside terrace is right next to the park & river, making it especially pleasant to watch people pass by while having some Aperol Spritz.
Oh Julia! is a super central café, a bit hidden in the inner yard of a shopping mall, but it’s just so lively and atmospheric, that you can’t miss it when you’re in Munich. Sunday brunch having a warm salad with goat cheese, mmmm, the best! On Sundays it’s almost empty, which gives you more air to enjoy the place.
L’Cotidiano is also a very popular café. Saturday brunches are the most crowded ones, but it’s totally worth it.
Shop: I have three favourite shops in Munich. Sorry, can’t decide which one is better, cause they’re all different and super cool.
- Kauf Dich Gluecklich. This shop has it all! Cool clothes from different brands, last popular Nike’s sneakers, cool magazines and anything else you’d need for your stylish outlook.
- & Other Stories. This one holds the first place out of the 3, but all because it’s all about style rather than particular clothes. Even the styling inside the shop is awesome. They have cosmetics, their nails polish palette is amazing, shoes and bags are of super good quality, they also have jewellery and clothes.
- Stierblut is a multibrand boutique, a bit more expensive than others, but man, they have so MANY cool pieces in there. This store is an ultimate resource of my style inspiration.
Secret hideout: I don’t know really, couldn’t make up my mind on this.
Site: for sure it is Gärtnerplatz. It’s especially cozy when it’s sunny, and all the nice cafés are around.
How are the people in Munich?
As I lived in Sweden and Italy before, I have something to compare to. People in Munich are definitely different from other Germans, since it’s Bavaria and even Bavarian German is different from hoch Deutsch (the language – Olya). I feel that people here are very much into work, even though Germans themselves say that southern parts of Germany are way more relaxed than the northern, for me it’s still not the same relaxing as Italy hahaha.
People here like outgoing, sports, mountains, cars, and, of course, various beer fests, like Oktoberfest & Fruelingsfest. They are straight to the point, sometimes a bit harsh and rude, but at the same time will always help you out. All in all they are easygoing and pretty easy to communicate with.
If I came to visit you in Munich for just one day, where would you take me?
I’d take you to a walk through the city centre, then we could go to the English garden’s biergarten just to feel the atmosphere how locals are hanging out on weekends, then we would go to some nice exhibition at Brandhorst Museum, then would have a burger for lunch. Some dessert with a coffee at random small café on Türkenstrasse. For dinner we would go to the Teatro Tapas Bar, it’s always fun there. And who know how we would end our night? Let some adventures happen.
If you had to leave Munich, what would you miss most?
I’d miss its stability and calmness. You see, Munich is neither a big city nor a small one. But somehow it’s so quiet, simple and convenient, that you get used to in immediately and don’t really remember how it can be different. It’s super green and there are way too many things you can do in your spare time.
And I’d also miss Munich’s location – it is the perfect, trust me!! It’s so close to everything. 1,5 hours by train and you’re in Austria. 3-4 hours by car and you’re eating pasta in Italy. 1 hour by train and you’re enjoying mountain lake views. This is what I call the best place to live in. It’s really central and transport connections are very convenient.
Any cons you found when living here? What are the things to consider for someone who’s planning to move to Munich?
One of the biggest cons of living in Munich is the situation with housing! It’s insane here, especially for foreigners. First off, it’s crazy expensive and you better have a really good job to have a good life. Secondly, it might take you ages to find an apartment! In Munich you’re not the one who is deciding on the interested apartment, it’s the landlord, and be prepared for screening interviews and tons of other papers. Sounds pretty tough, right? Well, I’m sorry to say, but it is.
Either you will need to get super lucky, or connections will help you. That’s how it was in our case – common friends. So if you ever decide to move to Munich, be ready for a high standard of living, but also make sure you have a lot of patience to find your dream place to live in.
Other than that, Munich is lovely! Nice & cozy and traditional in a good sense of it.
Thank you dear Anna for sharing your Munich life! Follow this beautiful talented lady’s whereabouts here:
That moment when the meaning of the phrase “we live in Malaysia, we can go diving over a weekend if we want to” that we heard on day 1 of arriving to Malaysia fully sinks in. Actually, you know what? We can!
And so we did. We booked the dives, accommodation and ferry tickets with B&J dive shop, booked the bus tickets online and voilà! We were ready to pack the dry bag with masks, booties and log books and hit the road. You can see a detailed post on how to get to Tioman from Kuala Lumpur here. Getting to Tioman can sound tricky, but it’s very straightforward, just takes time and is complex because of all the means of transportation you take and the waiting in between.
I was super excited to try out my new wetsuit I bought in Hong Kong in the outlet mall (of course, of all the things I could have gotten in HK, I found a freakin’ wetsuit). Slowly but steadily we’re on a regular schedule of two dive trips a year and I couldn’t be happier about it.
By the way, this trip also turned me more realistic about this dream I had – to become a divemaster. I found out that you need to renew your status every year and it’s $400! And if you miss 2 renewals, you do the course again and that’s a whopping six weeks and around $2k! But if I ever become a divemaster, I’ll choose clownfish as my fish symbol. I love nemos!
Coming back to Tioman was very exciting and reasuuring – the ABC area stayed the same and better since two years back when we got our dive licences there. B&J built a gorgeous shop, a new hotel and kept the quality high. Tears of joy. And diving was spectacular, as usual.
Then on Saturday, our only full day, it was stormy, but we still managed to do two morning dives and the visibility was actually much better than on a sunny day!
Which was Sunday. Sunny and promising, but underwater it was a bit meh – current and dark (the “snow” on photos is particles swimming around in the current).
Then we jumped on the afternoon ferry straight after the dives and were off to KL. So squeezing in five dives over a long weekend is entirely possible. Yes, you’ll spend a lot of time commuting and waiting in between, but the change of scenery you get is totally worth it.
Anton, thank you so much for taking and editing all the pictures, you are amazing!
Next on: Pom Pom in August. The Diving Saga continues!