Malaysia

A beautiful story of Pol

August 8, 2014

I was walking down the road in the city center, right next to Petronas Towers in KLCC and something grabbed my attention, but because I needed to run for an appointment, I didn’t pause. It was a simple phrase scribbles on a large world map. It said “This is my dream”.

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An hour later, I rushed back to find out more.

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This is Pol, and this is his dream: “to make a journey, not a trip of 15 days or a month, a long journey, a journey of no less than 6 months, enough to change a “normal” lifestyle while one different and unknown”.

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Pol is from Spain, he’s on his way to Sydney now, he’s travelling on his bike and has been on the road since April. He makes bracelets and sells them on the streets of cities he passes by to fund the trip.

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It’s so inspiring to witness such a beautiful dream. Say hi to him if you see him. And get a bracelet or two – they are good energy :-) Good luck Pol, may your journey be safe!

p.s. check out Pol’s website, it’s in Spanish, but Google translate does a great job :-)

Malaysia, Outdoors

One Epic video

August 1, 2014

Remember the story about building a house I shared earlier?

That experience moved and inspired me, so much that I’m going to run that half marathon this weekend, the projects are moving and the three days in sweat and laughter (however weird it just sounded) are bringing great results even now!

Here’s a cool video about those 3 days of an EPIC house build, created by an amazing duo – Clarissa and Sathesh. You guys rock!

p.s. If you’re in Malaysia and would like to build a home for a local family, read more on the EPIC Homes page.

Cambodia

Things to do in Siem Reap

July 6, 2014

This was a spontaneous trip for Anton’s birthday, it was his first time in Cambodia and a second one for me. I’m so glad we went without a plan and a place booked – the trip turned out amazing and we didn’t want to leave!

Here’s a list of our new finds and things to do in Siem Reap.

Things to do in Siem Reap

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One day tour around Angkor

We asked for an extended Small Tour that takes around 8 hours and altogether costs $90 for two:

  • $20 for the tuk-tuk
  • $30 – tour guide
  • $20 each for a dy pass to Angkor

This time we started at 7:30am, went straight to Angkor Wat and went clock-wise, since most tourists would take the other direction. It helped avoid huge crowds. A bit.

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Everything was arranged by our hotel, but if you really want to make out the most of this tour, book a guide that people you know have recommended. Both tours I took, I now wouldn’t recommend the guides. They were ok, but not great.

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Massage

After a long tour, go for a massage. We went to the Lemongrass Garden (there are two of them, both on Sivatha Boulevard, one next to KFC, the other across Molly Malones).

The traditional Khmer massage, one hour of pure relaxation, at a very clean, professional place. And the best part is – it’s only $10. So yes. Just go for it.

Things to buy in Siem Reap

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Buy local at Handicraft Market

Each year more than 2 million people come to Siem Reap and they spend around $100 million on souvenirs alone. However, the people living in the Siem Reap province continue to rank 3rd poorest in Cambodia. You see, very little of that money goes back to the community because most of the souvenirs are imported.

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So buy local-made souvenirs, ok? I shopped at the AHA market, it is open from 10am to 10pm, it’s a very picturesque bicycle ride, so I’d strongly recommend going there by bike.

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We found some really great handmade Khmer ceramic pieces (this cup is my favourite!), incense sticks, room spray and watercolor paintings. People there are very friendly and you can ask them how they make their pieces, very often they craft right there.

Oh, and of course the flip-flops! I need a replacement – my most favourite ones, I wore them for an entire year in the office!

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Shinta Mani Saturday market

Every first and third Saturday of the month there’s another local market held on the street in front of both the Shinta Mani Club and Shinta Mani Resort from 4pm to 9pm.

Noteworthy:

Where to stay in Siem Reap

This time, as I said, we had no plan and nothing booked. So from the airport we got a taxi to the city center, sat down in the first café we liked to grab breakfast and looked up places to stay nearby on Instagram.

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The second place we checked out was the Golden Banana Hotel and we fell in love with it!

They have three hotels, all next to each other – Golden Banana Boutique Resort, Boutique Hotel and Golden Banana Superior. We chose the latter, it was $42 per night with breakfast and I think it’s totally worth it.

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p.s. you can check out my last year posts about the trip to Cambodia here.

Girls living in...

Girls Living in… Shanghai

July 3, 2014

Hiya folks! The Girls Living in.. interviews are receiving great feedback and this week I’m delighted to show you another vibrant city through the eyes of a very inspiring girl. Let’s look at Shanghai with Nat’s eyes!

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Natalie and I have known each other for many years, back from the times when we were both working in one famous American chain restaurant wearing very funny hats and striped t-shirts for a uniform…

She then left for Shanghai and I was seriously considering moving there too, but then Germany happened, and this blog started and life turned out the way it is now.

Nat also came to visit me in KL, she was celebrating the 2013 with us (remember, I told you the story?) and I wanted to pay her a return visit and will probably do so next year. Especially after this interview. So read on, it’s Shanghai time!

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So, Nat, what brings you to Shanghai?

I came to Shanghai in 2007 to visit my friend who was studying here and guess what…it was love at first sight :) So next year I moved to Shanghai and there weren’t even a single second that I regret my decision.

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What do you do?

I teach in kindergarten, so my every single day is super fun and unpredictable. (And Nat is also a fashion blogger, apparently a shy one, so I’ll advertise for you ;-) – Olya)

What is your regular day in Shanghai like?

I always prefer to wake up early as I ALWAYS have so many things to do. and here we go:

coffee…work…woooork….coffee…WOOOORRRKKK..friends…more woooork…movies….restaurants….dancing…home….peace

But honestly, my days are all the same but so different:)

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When it comes to Shanghai, what’s your number one favourite place to be?

Ouuuu…this turns out to be the most difficult question. I’m truly in love with Shanghai and have about dozen of my favourite places.

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I enjoy to explore new hidden cafés, they all are so different and incredibly cozy at the same time. I love small alleys and big shopping malls, narrow streets of French Concession and the Bund, parks and gardens…Shanghai is truly a city with so many faces. But one of my favourite places would be Museum of Contemporary Art or simply MoCA – a place with great exhibitions hidden in People’s Park.

Shanghai’s best:

Cafe: It would definitely be “The Cottage Cafe” on Taojiang Rd. 25a which I discovered a couple of months ago. Super cute place with decent coffee and great atmosphere.

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But for the best coffee in Shanghai I prefer to go to Cafe del Volcan on Yonkang Rd. It is super tiny, but believe me, totally worth it.

Shop: As I’m really into vintage so I would name the best vintage shops in Shanghai: Emporium, William the beekeeper (that unfortunately closed earlier this year – Olya), Lolo love vintage. Those are definitely the places to find something unique for a good price.

Secret hideout: Here comes my weird choice, but it would be small bamboo alley where I like to take pictures. It is hidden on a way to a Japanese cafe on Changle Rd. Nothing to special about it, but there is something about the light…and it is so peaceful…

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Site: THE BUND. It is super tourist-y, but the view is just amazing. I love Bund in early mornings when Shanghai is just waking up and there are not so many people.

How are the people in Shanghai? Are they nice? Helpful? Do they speak English?

O wooooow, they are so different. To my biggest shame, here I met people from the countries I’ve never heard of. Shanghai is a super social city with great people. Sometimes it seems that I hear more English than Chinese around:) so dont’ be afraid to come here without knowing Chinese.

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If I came to visit you in Shanghai for just one day, where would you take me?

To begin with, you are very welcome here!! And more than that, can’t wait to see you in SH. We will start with coffee, walk on the Bund, go to Yu Garden, eat lunch somewhere in Ferguson lane, check some galleries on Mogashan Rd., get lost on small streets of French Concession and finish our day in one of my favourite Thai or French restaurants. And if we still have any energy left, then get ready for salsa :)

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If you had to leave Shanghai, what would you miss most?

It’s the definitely the atmosphere!

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Any cons you found when living here?

What are the things to consider for someone who’s planning to move to Shanghai?

I moved to Shanghai 6 years ago and it was very different back then and the biggest problem for me was FOOD. But now, with so many options around, it is a blast!
If you move to Shanghai, do a serious research as there are much more options here than you can imagine….or contact me. I would always be glad to help.

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You can follow this lovely lady on her Instagram

And don’t forget to check out Nat’s blog: City Love Fashion project

Indonesia

Pulau Weh, Indonesia

July 2, 2014

This New Year celebration was supposed to prove the saying we believe in that says “How you celebrate the New Year’s eve is how you’ll spend your year”.

So we met the year of 2013 on our balcony eating cold french fries and sipping home-made drinks with a bunch of friends, watching the fireworks over KL skyline. Nothing to complain about here, but the year did turn out quite homey, calm, some parties, friends coming over and being in KL mostly.

Celebrating 2014

This year we wanted to create an adventure. Because this is the only way to make these moments special – do something about them and create them yourself, right? So we decided this time we’re going somewhere special.

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There was not a lot of choice in this case, because we were planning a trip together with 4 of our friends who have been to so many places and two of them had a thing – they try not to go to the same place twice.. So yeah, we were chosing between Cambodia and Indonesia, and since it had to be a beach getaway, we gave in to Pulau Weh.

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Getting to Pulau Weh

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Getting there is complicated. The morning flight from KL to Banda Aceh, taxi to the ferry, the 4 hour wait for the ferry ticket counter to open and then another 2 hour wait for the boat. Then it turned out the speed boat won’t go and we have to buy new tickets to the big boat.

And oh boy, was the boat big..

2,5 hours  on a boat, with all the locals smoking around, eating and littering where they sit, was tough. But we made it. As a bonus to this trip (and we’ve already been on the road for 12 hours by now) we saw the dolphins that were sending us off – such a great thing to experience!

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I’ll fast-forward to three days from then and won’t say how we were placed in the staff room by accident and the weather was not good and we felt so disappointed and miserable and wanted to leave and get a plane to Bali – anywhere, but out of that island.

All because one thought was nagging me this whole time: coming ALL this way down here, it has to be for a reason, there has to be something worth all the trouble.

Paradise on Earth..

And it was – the weather cleared out and the sea gave the beach back so we could enjoy it.

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It was so peaceful and quiet, reading, beach combing (that’s the fancy word for wandering around gathering sea glass), playing on the beach, running with the kite.. It was great.

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Most of the time we stayed at Freddie’s hotel, which was really nice and the food every night was simply amazing! Go there for the food.

I would also recommend the Casa Nemo bungalows on the same side of the island. And their amazing parties that we missed because we didn’t know they’re happening, hehe.

Pulau-Weh-Indonesia-via-TinyBlackBird.com-05And then, of course, the same way back, which was rather tiring, but we were so well-rested (9 nights is a lot of nights) and calm and peaceful that all ended up very well.

And you know what? Looks like so far the saying is proving to be true (knocking on wood). We’ve already been to Cambodia, Cameron Highlands, Tioman, going to Thailand in two weeks and then Perhentians for more diving.

How did you celebrate 2014? Is the saying true for your year so far? Share in the comments below, I’d love to hear about it!

How-to's, Malaysia

Where to buy souvenirs in Kuala Lumpur

June 22, 2014

I never thought that would be a problem to buy souvenirs in Kuala Lumpur, not until I was going back to Ukraine to visit my family. I thought, hm.. so what is it that I’d get them from KL?

So first thing I went to Pasar Seni, the Central market. There’s plenty of over-priced, low-quality made-in-China kind of souvenirs and something locally made is rather rare to find. Still possible, but rare – like the soap and incents shop or the locally wood-carved postcards. Other than that, Pasar Seni is a bit disappointing.

But in that area there are two interesting shops I wanted to share with you – something local, hopefully supporting the community and a nice souvenir to bring back home.

KL City Gallery

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KL City Gallery is right next to the Independence square, 10 minutes walk from Pasar Seni. Here’s how they describe themselves:

“Kuala Lumpur City Gallery is part of the ARCH group’s vision in promoting the country’s heritage and culture.

While ARCH promotes collectibles and gifts made of wood veneer, our Kuala Lumpur Walks and Tours Map is the indispensable map of Kuala Lumpur’s architecture and living heritage, and now we have the centre – Kuala Lumpur City Gallery.

Located in a 116 year-old building, this landmark is a must visit for anyone who wants to know all about Kuala Lumpur!”

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You can get really nice KL souvenirs there – books, postcards, wooden miniature charms, phone cases, framed pictures and more.

You can also see how they’re making all of it right on the spot:

Peter Hoe Beyond

There are two shops – one on the corner next to Pasar Seni (called Peter Hoe Evolution) and that one you can’t miss, but another one is hidden. It on the street where the Chinese and the Hindu temples are at 145 Jalan Tun H S Lee.

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Peter Hoe Beyond is a shop and a café in one place. I strongly recommend having lunch there – their homemade food is very nice. While you wait for your food, take a stroll around the shop – there’s enough to get lost in – home decor, textiles, lots of souvenirs, clothing even!

Here are some not-so-good-looking iPhone pictures I took.

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Lunch was a homemade potato and leek soup and some salad. They serve and decorate with things you can buy in the shop – how smart is that!

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And you can always get tea as a souvenir, Chinatown has lots of tea shops with great variety. My favourite shop is called Commom Wisdom Teashop, ont the other side of the same street – 135, Jalan Tun H. H. Lee.

What souvenirs do you bring from your trips? Do share in the comments below, I’m curious to know.

Girls living in...

Girls Living in… Melbourne

June 20, 2014

Hiya folks! Welcome to this month’s interview of “Girls living in..” This time I wanted to try something different and look for the city I haven’t visited yet. To be honest, this one made me seriously want to go check out this town – so yummy the pictures are.

Please meet my dear friend Lennise, who is a student in Melbourne. Lennise is a very positive, inspiring bright girl, she sings and plays ukulele and her beauty stops the cars on the streets ;-) Lennise shares all the secret spots of Melbourne, so let’s jump straight in.

Introduce yourself and where are you from?

Hello there! I’m Lennise. I grew up in one of the world’s finest metropolitan cities, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). As a typical Malaysian, my taste buds and I enjoy searching for great food. Apart from that, I love soaking up in cultures through music and art.

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I’m currently in my final year at the University of Melbourne. I’m about to graduate with a degree in Commerce – majoring in Accounting and Management. Despite being in Melbourne for about two years now, this lovely city still has a lot to offer.

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What is your regular day in Melbourne like?

Well, I do things differently during the weekdays and the weekends. So lets break it down:

Weekdays: I start my day off with some light meditation before heading for a run around Carlton Gardens – it’s about a five minutes jog from where I currently live. Then I rush back home and get ready for classes, which start about 10AM. As I have classes 3 days a week, the timing of my morning routine varies (some days I just like to sleep in).

After classes, I would grab lunch with my friends/cousins and devour it by the South Lawn (if the weather permits). Then I would head straight to the Law Library to get some work done. Depending on my workload, I would sometimes stay there until it closes. In between my work session, I’ll have a coffee run towards the café that’s just right outside of the building. On sunny days, I would bring my laptop and coffee to a bench table at University Square to carry on my work.

Girls-living-in-Melbourne-Lennise-via-tinyblackbird.com-11I usually end my weekday chilling at home or on special occasions, would hit the bars with some friends on Thursdays (it’s Ladies’ Night at Spice Market!). Fridays would give me a chance to explore the city’s nightlife – from visiting jazz bars to hitting the clubs around town.

Weekends: These are my recuperating days especially if I had a long Friday night. For a more chilled weekend, I would head to one of Melbourne’s many delicious brunch places – usually they’re around the city, as I’m a very lazy traveller. I would pop by to the library after to bond over with my books for a couple of solid hours. Later in the evening/night, I would catch a movie with friends or drop by at one of those café shops on Lygon Street for dessert and/or coffee.

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When it comes to Melbourne, what’s your number one favourite place to be?

Work: The Law library for a great view overlooking University Square or to the Frank Tate building for a cozier study-feel.

Bar: Fall from Grace – it’s a bar with great music and a sliding bookshelf entrance.

Music: I haven’t been to many live-performing music scenes as I would’ve liked to but Paris Cat Jazz Club is on top of my list so far.Girls-living-in-Melbourne-Lennise-via-tinyblackbird.com-07

Eateries: Plenty. Mamacita is one of my top favorite restaurants. Chez Dre or St. Ali or The Grain Store or Proud Mary for brunch, depending on where I want to travel and how much am I willing to spend.

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Melbourne’s best

Café: I’d go for St. Ali or Proud Mary. LOVE both their café atmosphere and their coffee is simply superb. But if you’re looking for somewhere within the CBD area, Flipboard café is never a letdown.

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Shop: Hah! I’m not much of a shopper but Bourke Street has quite a number of lovely shops. But if you’re more into fashion boutique stores, I would recommend Chapel Street. For cheaper/sale items, I would travel to either of these two outlet stores: Harbor Town (Docklands) or DFO (South Wharf).

Secret hideout: During daylight, either the Loft balcony at Building 1888 or the System Garden – both located at the University of Melbourne. When night falls, Hihou Bar is the place to go.

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Site: National Gallery of Victoria is a must-go if you’re an art fan. Currently they are holding a showing of Italian Masterpieces from the Spain’s Royal Court. If you’re around Melbourne (or going to be) during this winter, do pop by for a splendid tour.

How are the people in Melbourne?

Quirky and perhaps interesting. They are quite friendly but you probably have to break the ice first. It might be different in the suburbs (I can’t tell cause I live in the city) but I reckon the city ‘Melbournites’ are more reserved.

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If I came to visit you in Melbourne for just one day, where would you take me?

I made a schedule :)

Morning: Head to St. Ali or Proud Mary for brunch. If you’re a super early morning riser  (you sure you know me? ^_^ – Olya), I’ll take you to Mt. Dandenong for scones at Miss Marples.

Afternoon: Travel to South Melbourne market and have $1 for one oyster. Then chill around at South Wharf Promenade for the lovely view and a nice cuppa. If you wish to shop, the DFO outlet is just a 5-minute walk away.

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Evening: Mamacita or Jinda Thai for dinner, depending on your preference. Then drinks at Fall from Grace or if there’s the rooftop cinema showing, head to the Rooftop Bar & Cinema for a nice movie underneath the stars.

Night: We’ll pop by the Supper Club for some drinks and have their famous sticky date pudding. It is also one of the best places to have smoke a cigar. Then we’ll end the night by strolling to Carlton Gardens to view its gorgeous fountain.

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If you had to leave Melbourne, what would you miss most?

Definitely the coffee. Hands down, Melbourne has the best coffee culture in the world. Also their many secret bars/pubs.

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Any cons you found when living here?

What are the things to consider for someone who’s planning to move to Melbourne?

It’s an expensive place to live in. I guess I might be slightly biased as I’m a student but survey studies have found that Melbourne is one of the top ten most expensive cities to live in. So my advice is to budget and do your research appropriately.

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To check out more insider Melbourne pics, follow Lennise on her Instagram.

Hope you liked it and please share your favourite spots in Melbourne in the comments below. Share, like, spread the word. Until next time!

Happy thoughts

Getting wiser

June 18, 2014

Last Sunday I turned 26. It’s weird how sensitive I am to the day of my birth and this one was probably one of the toughest yet most eye-opening – I was celebrating it alone.

Anton was away for work and I woke up alone on my birthday. No gifts, no flowers, just me. And you know what? It was amazing. What I realised and reflected on was so wonderful, I wanted to share it with you.

Happiness is an inner state of mind that comes ONLY from within

It took me a while to get there, to not blame anyone for not being happy and not to wait for something to happen so I become happy. Happiness is a conscious choice.

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We create our own special occasions, celebrations and special moments

If you just lay in your bed and do nothing, nothing will happen. Get up and do things, plan a trip, ask your friend out for a movie, read a book, do something – nothing happens on its own.

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Do more of what scares you (in a good way) – like a marathon, building a house, crazy work project. I learnt that these scary things, after being done or completed make me so happy and I feel like I have grown, accomplished, won it.

Life then is pretty much a kaleidoscope of these highlights – events, accomplishments, pleasant memories. As you look back, what’s your highlight of last year?

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Here are my highlights of the year of being 25:

  • we celebrated my birthday in Phuket – the weirdest trip ever.. lesson learnt – check the weather and seasons before booking the flights
  • became a certified PADI diver
  • moved to a very nice place where I’m happy (here’s how to rent in KL, just in case)
  • started running and am now training for the marathon (I’ll write more about it soon)
  • went to Cambodia, Thailand, Ukraine, Bali, Pulau Weh (Indonesia), Tioman, Cameron Highlands, Penang (Malaysia)
  • had a very good health-check year, fixing some chronic things – getting at peace with health, good eating and understanding more how my body works
  • got a car, broke a car, fixing a car as we speak
  • had a very juicy year at work
  • started DIY foods with Anton
  • revamped this bebeh and started a very exciting project “Girls living in..
  • became at peace with the fact that the time is running, there’s only this much you can do every day, but every day counts.
  • read only 12 books, watched countless movies, series, online learning materials
  • learnt to feel the time, plan realistically and not rush

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Thanks for being with me this year, supporting and encouraging to do more, become more and daring to dream big!

Lots of love,

Olya

Malaysia

Chinese tea ceremony

June 13, 2014

So my dear friend Natasha, who happened to be born almost the same day with me, also happens to have a YouTube channel of short snapshots of Asia that she films on her iPhone while travelling around.

Hey, I’m a travel blogger, I like that stuff too! – I said and off we went to look for interesting video-worthy experiences.

If you speak Russian – good for you, if you don’t, in this video we’re having a tea ceremony, or rather, tea tasting in a tea shop in Chinatown. We spent about an hour there sitting and drinking teeny tiny cups of tea with the shop owner who was so kind to explain us everything.

So now you know how to hold the cup right and how to brew Chinese tea, and see me speak funny.

Check out more of Natasha’s cool videos, and follow her on Instagram. Psst, I might appear there again soon ;-)