Vietnams wonderland

Martijn and I took a bus from Hue to Phong Nah-Ke Bang National Park while Oscar drove there with his scooter. We arrived in the evening in a hostel right by the river. The next day, I changed to a different hostel where two Canadian friends of mine, we met in Hue, stayed at and Martijn went on a two day cave trip. Phong Nah is famous for its various caves. Son Doong, the largest cave in the world, that even has its own ecosystem, is located in the heart of this national park. It’s very expensive to go there and the visit is limited to 500 people a year to assure the preservation of the cave. Nevertheless one can do overnight trips to smaller but still very impressive caves or visit public caves even without a guide.

The hostel I was staying in was right at the edge of the national park but we were already surrounded by massive jungle mountains. I joined Amir and Cole on the motorbike and we drove to the dark cave, mainly to do some kayaking on our own. Because I spend most of my time with those two guys, I didn’t do a lot of the touristy stuff but mainly explored on my own. I think the most fun was already just driving the loop through the national park and enjoying these breath taking views surrounded by nothing but nature’s beauty at its peak! I’ve never seen anything like this before. It takes probably an hour or a bit longer to drive the whole loop, depending on how fast someone drives. So my first day I had lots of fun kayaking and swimming in this magenta blue river that flows through the jungle and even into some caves! We tried to go into the dark cave on our own but we didn’t have any flashlight. Nevertheless the entrance of it was already very overwhelming.

In the evenings we mostly sat together with some other people from the hostel and I spend most of my evenings drinking some wine and enjoying very interesting talks with Oscar. He travels since five years and currently lives in Vietnam working as a guide in a national park in the south. I feel like he’s quite wise and he has this completely peaceful aura with a simile like he just won the lottery. He really inspired me and I was also able to learn a lot from him. Again it’s so incredibly how many different people I’ve met on my journey and I’m so thankful for each acquaintance I was able to make!

Sorry for this bad quality…

My next adventure in the National Park started again with driving deeper into the mountains, stopping here and there to fully embrace the views. We wanted to go to a little cave that Oscar and Brigita visited the day before. It’s a very small cave but there was no one else there which was very convenient. Just before we arrived to the cave the boys stopped because they spotted a beautiful swimming/ cliff jumping spot right next to the street. We had to climb down a little but then we had this beautiful place to ourselves and enjoyed swimming in this cold, crisp water. Well actually I was the only one swimming while they enjoyed their dives from the cliffs around. I even jumped from the highest cliff, probably around 10m. It was a bit difficult to overcome my fears but I felt so great and proud afterwards. That’s definitely something I learned from these guys, don’t think too much, just do it! After spending quite a long time at our private mountain pool we finally went to the small cave.

Climbing to the private pool

The little cave

That day I actually wanted to go to the paradise cave but it was a bit too late so on the way back we just visited the botanical garden where there is a waterfall and some hiking paths.

While driving through the park I always have the urge to just walk into the jungle and explore on my own but the problem is that the jungle is so dense that it’s impossible to just walk through it like I can do in Germany in the woods. But that’s also kind of the beauty of it, the chaotic, untouched purness of nature. Words can’t really describe the happiness and fulfillment I felt in this beautiful surrounding. I think this is the most beautiful place I’ve been to so far (although a lot of places in the north of Vietnam look very similar to this landscape).

The next day Martijn was back from his trip from what he only reported positive things! I’m really glad for him that he was able to do this trip and experience this adventure in the caves. This was also the last day that we would spend together because my next destination is Hanoi and for him it’s Cat Bah. I have to say it was very nice to travel with someone for a while longer then just a few days. We got along very well and became good friends over these two and a half weeks. So for our last day he joined me to go to the paradise cave. It’s one of the few dry caves and also one of the longest in the park although one can only walk 1km inside. We first hiked for like 15 min up the mountain and arrived at a small entrance leading down into the cave. It’s lit up so one can fully admire the mysterious underworld. As we walked down the constructed path a huge hall opened up in front of us. It’s weird how small these caves can make you feel. The cave was massive and the stalagmites and stalactites looked alian like. In general this made us feel like we are on a whole different planet. I find caves quite fascinating and this one was very beautiful as well!

In the evening we all went out for dinner and had a wonderful evening. It was a bit sad to say goodbye to Martijn but I’m sure we’ll see each other again. Oscar and Brigita left the next day as well but I saw them in Hanoi again which made me really happy!

I also learned some Vietnamese during my stay and with Cole and Amir I practiced it even more. Cole had a funny and very likeable way to learn it, he would just go to people and ask what the words mean, sometimes even ask the same word 100 times haha. This is also a good way to just interact with the locals which made them happy as well. The only problem with learning Vietnamese is that first of all the language in the south is very different from that in the north. Some words are just completely different, which also confuses the locals a lot. And secondly, that one word can have many different meanings depending on little, for foreign ears not notable, differences. For example cam on means thank you but can also mean chicken breast or piss off (very different and kind of confusing…). The third difficulty I experienced was that if you say something a bit wrong, they don’t understand at all and mostly don’t try to help you to find the right word based on similarities. But in the end I always had quite funny experiences when trying to say things in Vietnamese.

On my last day I went with some people from the hostel to the Elefant cave. It’s actually only accessible with a tour, at least that’s what people tell you but it’s fine, probably even better, to go there with some friends. Two girls from our group were already there so we had no difficulties finding the way. This day was actually pretty cloudy which gave this jungle mountain landscape a dramatic scenario. Every time I drove through the park I never got tiered or less fascinated by these views. It was always a new and exciting feeling. We stopped by a small, kind of hidden path by the road that led up the mountain through the jungle. It was a wilde path and therefore a bit challenging to climb (exactly how I like it). As I arrived at the end of the trail a huge cave entrence opened up in front of me. This massiveness was just so overwhelming, I never saw anything like that. We climbed down to the entrence and even the view from down here was so surreal. It felt like I was in some kind of fairy land. While I was making some pictures I realized even more how small we were compared to this cave hall, on some pictures one can’t even distinguish the people. It was by far the most incredible experience I had on my travels and I’m so thankful I was able to see it and even more experience it!

We climbed through the rocky interior in the dark (flashlight from the phones helped a little). The cave is not very long although there is another path, a hole that probably leads quite far inside the mountain but we didn’t dare to try to climb down. On the other side of the cave was another even more beautiful entrance (or exit into the jungle). This was so beautiful and kind of looked like hobbit land from lord of the rings. We stayed there quite a while, climbing up the hill and enjoying the view of this massive cave entrance. But I have to say I preferred the view from the inside of the cave, admiring the vegetation that starts of very tiny, kind of shy and grows bigger and bigger until its just part of the jungle.

This was the perfect finally of my adventures stay in this beautiful national park. It’s the peak of my travel and I’m so thankful to have been able to do all of this. After this I will only go to Hanoi for a few days and then back to Bangkok to fly back to Germany from there, so this really was my last adventure for now.

I have to say this travel has been nothing but amazing for me. I learned so much, I met so many incredible people who each tought me something to improve myself. I’ve seen so many beautiful places, so much pure nature and got to know a whole different culture and way of life. This makes me feel so thankful and blessed and I highly recommend anyone, who has the opportunity to travel, to do it. It opens one’s perspective on life and the world immensely and one can learn so much that no school or teacher will ever be able to teach you. I’m already on my way back home but I know I will come back to Vietnam, especially because I wasn’t able to really see the north. But next time I travel I will probably try to stay in one place for a bit longer to really get to know the people and the way of life in that country. This is something that made me think a lot because as a backpacker you mostly go from hostel to hostel and meet other foreigners, which is also nice and was definitely a good experience. But next time I want to try to connect more with the people from the country that I’m staying in. For example in Thailand when I stayed in the monastery I really got to know Thai people and made good friends there. (back in Bangkok I met with Siri again and we had a wonderful day together before I left to go back to Germany).

Well I guess for my next travel I’m gonna be even better prepared, knowing what to bring, what to plan and how to act or better interact. But in general I think I handled things quite well and manged to grow from all the opsticals I faced during these three months. This is my last blog post now, I think this trip to Phong Nah was the best way to end my travel and I hope you enjoyed reading my blog.

I wish everyone a beautiful day, be thankful for everything you have and also open yourself to the unknown, it’s so rewarding. Something I learned during my travels is, that no matter how bad something seems to be, in the end it always turns out to be good, to be the right thing for you! (even if that means it was just another lesson for you to learn)

Goodbye, until my next travel ❤️☀️

Colorful Vietnam

I arrived in Hoi An early in the morning. It’s a small city with lots of lights and small houses. The so called old Town is the center of it and consists of small walking streets with lots of shops, restaurants or ancient buildings. During my stay here I mostly saw the ancient attractions from the outside. There is an old bridge and temples which are mainly Chinese and the rest of the towns architecture is a mix of French and Indochinese. I really liked the city from the first day on. Later in the afternoon Martijn and I walked a bit through the city and met his friend from Israel, whom he met in Cambodia before. She was already here for a couple of days and showed us a very good restaurant. After eating, I was really excited to go to the tailor shops to get my own designed clothes. This city is very much famous for its tailors and one can tailor here everything! it’s a very exciting feeling to make your own clothes and the next day when I picked them up I was so happy. They were exactly what I wanted and not even that expensive. In the evening I attended a cooking class from my hostel where we learned how to make spring rolls. This was again a lot of fun and I met Brigita from Lithuania here as well with whom I traveled to Hue a few days later.

The next morning, after I picked up my tailored clothes, we rented a bicycle and rode to the other side to the beach. On our way we passed the so called vegetable village, a small village with little vegetable fields around. Since it was noon, no one was outside but it smelled very fresh and good. As soon as we passed the bridge, huge rice fields opened in front of us and we could even smell the rise. It was a very nice ride to the beach and in general I just love riding a bicycle. We spend a very relaxing day at the beach and later went into town to the night market.

The city is quite magical at night. The shops are mostly closed but all the lights and small streets make it look like in a movie. By the river it’s even more beautiful, there are boat sells for half an hour and one can put swimming candles into the river so the floating boats are surrounded by candles. It’s a very romantic scenario and unlike anything I’ve seen befor in Asia. Although I think that this city is kind of a fake city, set up for tourists, I still enjoyed the beauty of it a lot.

On our last full day we went to the beach again, this time with Oscar, a friend we met at this hostel as well. That day we all decided to go to Hue and take a motorbike to do the Hai Van Pass. So we enjoyed our last day and evening in this beautiful town fully but we were also very excited for the upcoming adventure.

Our luggage was brought to Hue so we were able to drive without concern. Brigita spontaneously decided to join us and so all four of us headed to Da Nang. There we had our first stop to visit the Marbella Mountain. It’s an old temple complex on a mountain and it even has some small caves.

As we continued our ride, we entered the Hai Van Pass, a beautiful mountain pass through a national park. The roads were very curvy and the view breath taking! To the one side were the jungle mountains and to the other the coast. We stopped a couple of times to fully enjoy the views and nature around us. In the afternoon we arrived at the Elefant springs, a river that flows through a stone canyon. We all had lots of fun jumping over the stones and the boys even went swimming (I thought it was too cold). This spot was very much untouched and we were the only foreigners there which made this experience even more enjoyable. It was already pretty late so we had to drive ahead in the dark. I really don’t like it because traffic is crazy here. The Vietnamese always honk to pass you and the bus drivers drive really fast. The honking in the West has an aggressive or negative connotation but here it’s more a friendly reminder so that you know someone is coming from behind you. But it still took me a while to get used to!

Brigita was driving with Oscar so she was able to film a little 🙂

On our first day in Hue we slept in quite long and then took the motorbikes to visit the abandoned Waterpark. It’s a Waterpark that was actually finished in 2007 but for some reasons never opened. So now it’s a big attraction, especially for young travelers. We had to bribe the guard (which now we think was just a local dressed as a guard to get some money off the tourists) and then we followed a small path through the forest until we arrived to the first entrance, the big dragon. The architecture of this is amazing, a huge dragon from the outside and a labyrinth underworld inside, surrounded by a natural lake. It has a very misterious flair and is definitely worth visiting.

Further on is a small waterpark with slides and pools. Here one can see how quickly nature takes back everything. It was all pretty wild and overgrown but I think it would’ve been a quite cool Waterpark. The last part of it consists of a small arena with a platform to perform and a pool with fountains constructed into it in the background. I really enjoyed this little adventure and really liked the atmosphere of this abandoned Waterpark. To finish this day perfectly we went to a little mountain to watch the sunset in peace.

The next morning Martijn, Oscar and I went to the big market and brought lots of fruits for our journey to the next destination, Phong Nah Ke-Bang national park. I’m super excited for that, I wanted to stay in a national park for so long and now I finally will!

This post is again much shorter than it was before but it deleted itself again. I think it’s because I’m writing offline sometimes but yeah it’s very annoying…

Wish you all a great day! ❤️ And always be thankful for what you have! 😊

Vietnam from South to North

I arrived in Mui Ne in the evening. My hostel was directly at the sea with its own little private beach. It had the perfect location surrounded by palm trees. The hostel consists of one big dorm ‚house‘ a kitchen and a bar and of course bathrooms which are not directly by the dorm. It was an open house with approximately 25 bunk beds with mosquito nets so it was by far the biggest dorm ive ever been to. The first night i slept really bad because some people were talking very loud at the bar and since it was an open house one could hear every noise around. When I woke up in the morning I did some yoga at the beach and then enjoyed a good breakfast with this beautiful view.

Then I booked a tour with the hostel to see the famous red sand dunes. Two other british guys, Ben and Martijn, from the hostel booked it as well. We were picked up one hour later as planned and had to squeeze in a car with four other people. Because of that our stay at each attraction was a bit shorter than usually. Our first stop was the fery trail. Its a little trail through a river surrounded by sand mountains and jungle. It was very crowded, probably still because of Tet but i enjoyed it very much.

After this we squeezed in the car again and stopped for a few minutes at a view point from where we could see the fisher village.

From here we drove through a very dry and deserted landscape which kind of reminds of african barren landscape. There was a few trees and dry gras. Also there was a cemetery or better many mostly blue or white colored stone creeks. I’ve seen creeks like that in the south as well and I think they belong to the Christian vietnamese.

We firstly went to the white sand dunes which I actually preferred. Here we had 40 mins time to discover the landscape. Everyone there rented a quad or a jeep to get to the top but I wanted to walk even though everyone told us its not possible (they only wanted to make money …). Gladly Martijn and Ben joined me and i have to say it was a vit exhausting but vert nice as well. The white sand dunes are a lot bigger than the red but we made it back in time!

The last stop was the red sand dunes from where we watched the sunset. These were a lot smaller and of course very crowded. Also the sand didn’t look as red in the evening as during the day. Again we walked all thr eay up to the last dune to fully enjoy the sunset.

When we got back we decided to go out for dinner to the so called ‚food court‘. This was literally the best food place I’ve ever been to. In the middle of this place are dining tables which are surrounded by small restaurants with all different kinds of foods. The verity was incredible and I had really good indian food that evening.

I stayed here another night because the guys told me they wanted to look for a motorbike rent to Da Lat which was my next destination as well. Sadly we didn’t find any rental services that would offer a one way motorbike rent. But i didn’t mind too much and enjoyed the city tour and of course the beach. Although I think the beach here was not as nice as in Thailand or Cambodia and the water was a lot cooler and also blurry, I still loved relaxing in the sun.

Since Ben and Martijn had the same destination as I and we also got along pretty well, we decided to travel to Da Lat together. The seating bus was horrible, people were standing in the middle because there were fumes coming out in the back. It was a very rusty bus but finally, at around 10pm we arrived in Da Lat.

Da Lat

Because of the holidays prices for accommodation went up. In our first night we stayed in a hotel and moved the next morning to Cozy Nook hostel, the best hostel I’ve been to so far! The staff was very friendly, the facility was cozy and clean, the vibe was very good and we got a big breakfast every morning. The three of us rented a scooter for two days to do some sightseeing. We drove through this beautiful mountain landscape with pine-trees everywhere. This kind of smell and nature reminded me so much of Croatia. In general i think it’s incredible how diverse the landscape is in this country! On our way we stopped at a flower garden cafe with an amazing view over the mountains and the lake.

After this wonderful drive we arrived at the so called Elefant Waterfall. Its the biggest waterfall I’ve seen in asia and it was a lot of fun climbing the rocks. There was even a secret path that lead inside a small cave behind the waterfall.

We all enjoyed this adventure a lot and when we eventually drove back, we decided to visit the Crazy House, one of the main attractions in Da Lat. It’s a house complex of a mysterious looking underworld which is connected through roots bridges or labyrinth paths. The architectural skills are insane and one can even stay in some chambers there over night.

For dinner we went to a local restaurant where you could kind of cook your own meal. One can order diffrent kinds of meat or veggies and either get a soup pot on a gas stove or a BBQ grill on the table. This was a very funny and interesting experience but all the smoke around was kind of annoying for me.

In the hostel I met a girl that I’ve already met in Cambodia before and she joined us the next day to do the mountain hike. This mountain hike area had two peaks, a very touristy one where most people paied a jeep to drive them up and another heigher peak where one could only hike to. We started hiking to the smaller one first but it was kind of difficult to find the right trail so the first half we kind of just hike through this pine-tree forest until we finally found the real trail. On the top were some cafés and an incredible view over the landscape! We made a drinking and snack stop there and enjoyed the beautiful view. This view point was quite touristy and I had to take pictures with some vietnamese and chinese. It’s really funny, since I arrived in Vietnam it happened to me a lot of times that Vietnamese wanted to take a picture with me or even just from me. In general I think vietnamese are very nice and friendly although I also had unpleasant experiences but I guess thats everywhere like that.

After this break we decided to climb the other, higher peack as well. At first we still walked through a mainly pine-tree forest but as soon as we started climbing the second mountain, the forest changed and now it was more like a jungle again. This hike was quite challenging especially the last 360m were really steep and hard. We all arrived sweaty and exhausted. As soon as I made it up I felt so good and the view from up there was so rewarding. It felt like beeing on the top of Vietnam. I’m so happy we made this hike, it’s such an amazing feeling to have climbed it all!

The way down was not that fun anymore because we were pretty tiered and because of the pine-trees the ground was quite slippery and Katie and I almost fall a few times haha. But it was a beautiful and seccessful day. To reward ourselves we went to a very good pizza place where they made them fresh in a stone owan. It’s a small family run restaurant where you actually have to reserve in advance because they prepare everything fresh e.g. for a BBQ they kill the chickens they have fresh on that day. But we were still able to get a pizza which was so delicious and we had a nice talk with the owner who is from America but lives here now with his vietnamese wife. After this amazing dinner we had to drive back and since it was already night and Đà Lat is in the mountains, it was very cold. So I’m sure I’ll have to buy some warmer clothes soon if I want to go further up north.

When we came back to the hostel some people there suggested to go to the Maze bar and so we joined them as well because it was Katie’s and Ben’s last night here. This bar was designed by the same architects than the Crazy House. The iterior is established like an underground Maze with very mysterious and also creepy decoration. One could relax and drink in the open place on the 3rd floor and also explore the tunnels and labyrinths that connect the floors. I really loved this bar and it was even better then the Crazy House. We had a great and exciting night so the next day we slept in very long and had a relaxing day.

Unfortunately Ben had to go back to Thailand where he works so we went out for a nice dinner and another girl from the hostel, Mallory, joined as well. The next day Mallory and I wanted to go to the famous Datalan Waterfall where one can ride a roller-coaster down the mountain. So the three of us went to the park. The roller-coaster was much bigger then we thought and it was so much fun driving down the mountain with the waterfall on the side. Down in the valley we admired the main waterfall and nature around it. It is so beautiful to see the mountain junggle and the massive waterfall. After resting here for a while we took the roller-coaster up again to the main entrance. This was actually my last adventure in this city because at 5pm Martijn and I took the night bus to Hoi An. I have to say I really liked Da Lat. It’s not too touristy, the city is quite beautiful and of course the landscape around is just marvelous.

My next destination is Hoi An, an ancient city that’s famous for their tailors.

I wish you all a great day and hope you enjoy reading my blog. ❤️

Last stop, Vietnam

So before I continue my writing I want to inform you that this is going to be a way shorter post than I planed. I was already finished with the blog and just wanted to upload some more pictures but when I opened it and my whole writing was gone! That was really frustrating and now I’m not that much in the mood to write it all again but I’ll try.

I drove from kampot to the border with the German guy from the hostel because he had to make a visa run. At the border everything went perfectly smooth and I took a very cheap taxi motorcycle to Ha Tien. From here I caught the last ferry to the island Phu Quoc. This island is pretty big, it even has its own airport. My hostel was located in a small fisher village on the east coast. Sadly there were no beaches here but I rented a scooter and was able to see some nice places. So the area where I lived was very quiet and during the day was a street market beside the road. I also spoiled myself a little here because I rented my own room. It felt like pure luxury to have my own bathroom, a big bed and just some privacy! I enjoyed the stay in this guesthouse a lot.

On my first day I drove to a little park with a small trail to a waterfall. The park was very nice with lots of different trees and flowers. At the end of it was a small river and I walked along it until I arrived to this beautiful small waterfall. I really enjoy these little hikes very much.

After this very pleasant hike I drove to the beach coast on the west side. Most of the beaches here belong to hotels or resorts but I could still find a nice place. The water here is not that clear and cooler than in Cambodia. I still enjoyed the sun and later went to a small restaurant for dinner. Here in Vietnam people eat a lot of meat so sometimes it can be a bit hard to find something as a vegetarian.

On my second day I met an Italian guy and we went down to see the south of the island. We first drove to a big temple which is also the only temple on the island. It is a beautiful place to visit and I could really see the Chinese buddhist influence, for example the big painted vases or the fat laughing Buddha statue. Also the architecture is a lot different and reminds of a pagoda. It’s located at the coast so the view from the temple is amazing. Sadly the beach there is full of garbage…

From there we drove further south to a beach which my hostel host recommended me. The beach was not that big and very crowded, mostly Chinese. There is a couple of restaurants and cafés there but as soon as one goes away from that beachfront there is a lot of garbage. We still enjoyed the sun and layed in a hammock for the rest of the afternoon. Before we left we collected some garbage from the beach in a plastic bag I carried with me. It’s not much but at least something and I’ve seen quite a few tourists (mostly western tourists) do it as well. Since I traveled here in Asia I’ve become a lot more aware of the pollution of our planet. I think here people don’t really know the consequences of all the garbage, especially the plastic pollution. They are so used to just throwing things on the street or wherever and of course a lot of garbage comes from the sea as well. With the globalization and consumption everything here developed very fast and you get everything in plastic cups, bags and containers. It’s really upsetting me how we treat the earth and while in the west you don’t see it as clear as here because it’s been ‚taken care of‘, our waste is probably double of theirs. So yeah it’s really come to my attention to do something about it and find alternatives and solutions for plastic and deforestation. But in the end everyone needs to start by oneself so I’m eager to change my bad habits and reduce my footprint.

In the evening I had a great dinner at my hostel and enjoyed my last night chatting with some other people from there.

CAN THO

My next destination was Can Tho, a city in the Mekong Delta. I arrived at night and I expected to come to a small village but this is actually a quiet modern city. Because of the Vietnamese holiday called Tet, the Lunar New Year, the whole city was decorated with lights and during the day I saw flower sales everywhere.

The next morning when I woke up I wanted to get some proper western breakfast because I wasn’t up for soup. After walking for an hour through the city I stopped looking for food and just started to explore the city. One can really see the French influence in the architecture of the houses and the whole city layout. I enjoyed walking around and it made me especially happy to see all the flowers at every corner. There is not many tourists here but because of the holidays there were a lot of Asian people on the street. At around noon I finally sat down to get a vegetarian soup which was delicious! I than walked a little bit more around and even arrived at a university from which I first thought it was a park. There was almost no one there but the property was huge and full of little gardens because it’s a university for agricultural and biological development research. After walking around for like 5 hours I wNt back to the hostel to relax a little.

In the hostel I then met two people from France with whom I later went out for dinner.

I only stayed here two nights and since the floating market is the main attraction there I decided to get up really early and join my two French friends for the tour. We went on a small boat at 7am and drove for like 20 min on the Mekong. When we arrived there were some boats with fruit or vegetables and even food or drinks driving around. It wasn’t a real market though and I think it is mostly a tourist attraction and not the actual place where the locals buy their food. But still it was a lot of fun to see and experience it.

Ho Chi Minh City
After this pleasent trip I took the bus to Ho Chi Minh, also known as Saigon. This is the biggest city in the south and it really is very modern. The city is named after the great communist leader who encouraged the people in his country to finally become independent and built a democratic Republic. My hostel was pretty much in the center and there was a vegan Vietnamese restaurant right next to it so I had a delicious dinner.

The next morning I stood up quite early, did some yoga and then went out to walk around the city. I first visited the post office because I had to send some postcards back home. Directly in front of it was the Saigon Notre Dam. Both buildings are remainings of the French colonial time. I have to say it is so weird to see catholic churches in Vietnam. Especially in the south there are a lot of them although they look a bit different and mostly have exaggerated decorations.

From here I walked to a little water fauntain and had some lunch. Then I walked to the independence palace, mainly because it was the only place here with a park. It’s a very modern building and the interior is reconstructed like it was in the 50s to 90s. One can see the political meeting halls, everywhere very fancy furniture and noble colors, the presidential chambers and the bunker where all the war plans and comunication machines are. I found it very interesting and nice to see, especially the bunker with these big war maps and old communication centers. Outside is a little park and also some war cars or war air force to look at. I’m very happy I went inside and was able to see and learn about the political history of this place.

After this enlightening visit I had to go back to the hostel because some school friends from Germany just arrived. I was very excited to see them and spent my time in Saigon with them but at the same time it was weird to meet them here in Asia. They were pretty exhausted from their travel so we only went out for dinner. My friend from Spain, Andreu, whom I met in Thailand and Cambodia before, was in Saigon for one night so he joined us as well.

When we went out the next day almost everything was closed and places that were open were more expensive than usual because from the 4th to the 6th almost no one works. But it was nice because now we could experience new years eve in Vietnam. So that night we went in a rooftop bar hoping to see the fireworks but our view was to the wrong side so we only saw a bit of it and on a TV was a live stream. After it was done we went to the boulevard in hope to see some kind of party or celebration but when we arrived there was just some people taking pictures from the light and flower decorations or eating some street food. I enjoyed the light decoration a lot but we were all a bit surprised of how calm their new years celebration is compared to Europe. Someone told us it is more a family holiday and a lot of people from the city went back to the country side to their families. It was a nice experience but traveling while Tet holidays is more annoying than pleasant. Everything is more expensive and a lot of things are shut or don’t work properly for almost a month. But at that time I had no clue about that,these things I only experienced while traveling further up north.

Finding a bus the next day to travel ahead was a bit difficult as well. My next destination was Mui Ne and I eventually found one but the others didn’t and ended up booking a flight because nothing else was available.

My bus to Mui Ne was a very comfortable sleeper bus so I had a very pleasant journey to the coast.

My first impression of this country is very positive. It is quite modern and I love the architecture here a lot. The people are mostly very nice and want to talk to you (especially the children). The food here can be very good but sometimes there is not a weide variety of different dishes especially for vegetarians. And I’m a bit sad that there is not many places that have fruit shakes or smoothies from fresh fruit like in Thailand or Cambodia. But that’s complaining on a very high level hahah

I wish you all a great day and I’m sending you all some good energy and sun ☀️💪

Cambodian Islands

Welcome back to the next Chapter of my travel in Cambodia.

I took a bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, the country’s capital city. I only stayed here one night because I missed the sea in this hot weather so much. Phnom Penh has some nice attractions like museums and a variety of historical monuments that I would’ve actually liked to see and so I thought I will come back after the Islands and then go from here to Vietnam with a bus. But like so often on my travel, my plan changed and I didn’t end up going back. The city is very big and also very dirty. I didn’t like it there too much so I was happy to leave the next day.

From Phnom Penh I took a bus to Sihanoukville, just a one day stay so I could get an early ferry to the island. Sihanoukville is not that nice either. The chainese own most of the place, everything is even written in chainese and khmer and it’s very dirty with a lot of construction sides. The next day I finally went on the ferry to Koh Rong Sanloem.

Koh Rong Sanloem

I arrived in the north of the island in a small fisher village called M’Pai Bay. My hostel was 5 min from the beach and it’s called the Twisted Gecko. It’s a very nice place, the owners are both from Britain and I felt very welcomed. I had some bananas from the mainland with me and Yams, one of the owners, told me that the guy who runs the hostel across the street makes banana cake. So I went over and asked if I could make a banana cake with him. I spend my first day making a banana cake in a pot over the fire. It was actually very simple but fascinating to me because I never thought about baking a cake in this way. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it! He actually does a lot of baking and cooking over the fire for his guests and taught me how to make peanut butter as well (even though I was actually not one of his guests he always welcomed me with open arms)

On my first day I met a German girl in the hostel and as we thought about what to do today Yams offered to show us a waterfall near by. So Franzi and I waited until he was able to leave. We then walked up towards the mountains through the little Cambodian village that is located a bit further inland than the tourist places. After we passed the village we entered a small trail into the forest. We only hiked a little bit but I think I wouldn’t have found it on my own. We arrived to a little pool and a small but very pretty waterfall. The water was cool and refreshing and deep enough to swim a little. We were all alone, surrounded by nature and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon.

After this wonderful experience we went back to the hostel and had a relaxed and chill evening playing Mario card.

As I woke up the next morning the sky was pretty gray. I went to the little cliff bar where I did my yoga workout every morning which gave me good energy for the day. Back in the hostel I took my time and talked with Franzi until in the afternoon the sun came out again. So I went to the beach to lay in the sun for the rest of the day.

The Cliff bar

The next day I booked a boat tour to the Sunset Beach on the west coast. There are only few trails through the jungle, so all the beaches on this island are separated from each other. On this boat tour we had 3 snorkeling stops and of course a longer break on the Sunset Beach. While driving around the island we were able to see the beautiful untouched nature of koh Rong Sanloem. It’s known as the snake island so there are not that many birds on it. The jungle mountains that stretch over the island make it impossible to cross it by foot. It was so relaxing driving along the cost and seeing this beautiful peace of art called nature… A little bit before the Sunset Beach the boat stopped and all the passengers got their snorkel equipment. We could snorkel from there to the beach as long as we wanted. Of course I had my little action camera with me to take some nice pictures of the underwater world. Although the first snorkel spot was a bit blurry, due to the storm two weeks ago, I was still able to see some fish and choral.

When I got out of the water I arrived at a long and beautiful white sand beach. There are only two hostels there and some tents for rent. One is real shut off from the outside word on this beach. I think there is a hiking trail to a beach on the other side of the island but mostly if you want to go somewhere else you have to take a taxi boat. We stayed there for like 3 hours so I relaxed at the beach and enjoyed a mango banana smoothie.

At around 4 o’clock we headed out again to the second snorkel spot not far from Sunset beach. The water here was a lot clearer and I saw an even more beautiful and fascinating scenario of coral, fish and sea urchin.

Sadly at this spot there were very few fish and as soon as I came near them they swam away so I just stopped trying to get a picture of them. The next stop was not too far from our beach and from there we could see the sunset as well. We all jumped in the water again to do some snorkeling before it would’ve been too dark. At this point I was already a bit tiered so I didn’t snorkel that long.

As it was my first time making pictures under water a lot of them are a bit blurry but now I know for the next time how to improve my fotografic skills. After watching the sunset we returned to the pier of M’Pai Bay. I have to say this day was perfect. I had great company, an adventures trip under water and a relaxing afternoon at the beach. Right now I’m truly tasting the sweetness of life!

While I was on my boat trip, Franzis friend Jassi arrived. So today we all together went to the Clear Water Beach the most beautiful beach on this island. It’s a 40 min hike from the village and the humidity in the jungle makes it feel like 40 degrees. Otherwise I really enjoyed the hike and it’s so worth it! We arrived at a beautiful white beach with very few people there. I’ve never seen such white sand and the water is so clear! It was so nice and easy to swim there and it felt like being completely weightless. We relaxed at the beach and swam all day.

On my (planed) last day it rained all morning so my plan to go to the Clear Water Beach again was overthrown and we stayed in the hostel mostly playing Mario Card. In the afternoon the sun came out a little so we went to the beach near the village. After that we had dinner at one of the restaurants on the coast. My stay here was very nice and I enjoyed it very much. Little did I know by that time that I would spent another three nights on the island. In this night I couldn’t sleep at all, I had fever, was shivering, had to throw up and had very bad stomach cramps. The next morning I was way too waek to go anywhere. I don’t really know from what but I was pretty sure I got food poisening. Luckily I had some medication and I also got some from the hostel. So this day I stayed in bed all day just sleeping and drinking water or tea. The next day I already felt a little bit better so that I was able to eat a little and go out to the beach in the afternoon. On my final last day I was already feeling good again and enjoyed the day on the beach under the trees. But my stomach is still a little bit upset, it takes up to two weeks until it’s fully recovered. When I left the island I was a bit sad because this place was somehow magical to me and I think I could’ve stayed there for at least another week but my time is short and I still have to go to Vietnam.

My last days in Cambodia

From Sihanoukville I took a way too full bus to Kampot. It’s a city lokated at a riwer and it’s the most clean one I’ve been to so far. It’s not very big, the people are very friendly and everywhere are small shops, cafes and restaurants which gives this city a neat flair. My hostel was a bit out of town so it was nice and quiet and the walk to the city center was only 20 minutes by foot. The good thing was that one could also rent motorbikes or order food from the hostel so if you’re really lazy you can just stay there all day ;). But since I only stayed there three nights I wanted to do some tours and side seeing. The first day I made one of the tours that were offered from the hostel. I was the only one who wanted to do it that day so it was just me and the tour guide. He is actually from Germany and lives in Kampot for five months now. Our first stop was the Tempel cave. It’s located 30 min out of town. The entrance of the cave was a bit further up the mountain and when we climbed all the stairs we arrived at a big entrance. The Tempel is known to be the oldest in Cambodia and its actually already a wart of the cave now.

Further in the back starts the labarinth of the cave. Two Cambodian boys guided us through and I have to say this was really a challenge for me. The path we took was very tight and small so one had to climb and crawl. I actually don’t feel very comfortable with small spaces but I overcame my fear and for that I was really proud and happy when we got out.

That’s the hole we came out of…

After this successfull adventure we drove to a beautiful lake for a drink break. There is not much to say to this trip but I think the pictures say more than 100 words anyways.

Our next stop was now the pepper farm. Kampot is known to have the best pepper in the world. When we arrived at the farm a British volunteer showed me the pepper plantations. They grow them around a brick column to make sure the plants grow straight up and keep them in the shadow with a net.

The guide told me that in the Khemer Rouge era all this land was abandoned and it was not allowed to grow pepper anymore. So after this suppresion the people were afraid to return to their old homes because a lot of land was still in the possession of Khemer Rouge officials who continued living there. This land was brought only 10 years ago from a french/Cambodian couple. The pepper farmers then had to first relearn the pepper growing techniques that kind of got forgotten through the dark past. It takes a lot of skill and constant observation to make the pepper right. They need the right about of sun, water and space. When they are ready to be harvested they pick the green ones first to make the black pepper and the red ‚fruit‘ to make the red and white pepper. When I tried it, it was much stronger then the pepper I know from Germany.

To finish this adventures day perfectly and relaxed we went to a hotel where one can swim in the infinity pool in exchange for having a meal there. The hotel is located 5 min from the pepper farm right in the mountains. From the pool I had a beautiful view over the landscape and the food I had was good and quiet cheap. I think this was a very nice way to finish my trip in Cambodia!

Cambodia was very adventurous for me and I certainly learned a lot. The nature here is just breath-taking and the people are mostly very friendly and generous as well! I enjoyed my travel here a lot and I’m so thankful to be so fortunate to do it!

Thank you Cambodia and maybe see you soon.

I wish you all a nice and relaxed day ❤️

Hallo Cambodia

I crossed the border from Aranyaparthet to Cambodia by foot. I’m never gonna do that again hahah. It was horrible, they charged me twice as much for the visa and told me that there was no bus to Battambang, where I wanted to go to first in Cambodia, and then charged me 80$ for the taxi. I didn’t know where else to go or what to do and that border was not a nice place to walk alone, there were thieves everywhere and mostly just men. So I had no choice but to go and I felt very uncomfortable and frieghtend. So yeah my first impression of Cambodia was very negative! Finally I arrived at my hostel. A very nice place called Ganesha Family Guesthouse. They had refil tanks for water although one had to pay 50 cent for a 1. 5 Liter bottle but that’s definitely worth it. They also sell strwas made out of steal or bamboo and backage boxes out of paper. It’s really nice to see that they do something about the plastic pollution in Cambodia!

The first day I met a girl from France with whom I spend the two full days I had in Battambang. We took a Tuk Tuk to a nearby mountain where we visited a temple and the killing caves from the Khemer Rouge regime where they now built a monument and buddah statues to replaces this horrible past with good energy. But let me tell you something about the history of this country because it is very important to me and before I came here I actually knew very little about it.

Cambodian history starts already more then 2000 BC. They were early farmers and the pupulation grew fast. 150 AC they already formed a first civilization but didn’t live united under one ruler. Jayavarman II united all the states under his reign in the 9th century. This was the start of the highly developed agricultural Era of the first Khemer Cambodia also known as the Era of Angkor. Nevertheless this Era declined in the 13th century and from that onwards Cambodia lost their power and was captured from Thailand and Vietnam who fought over it until in the 1860s it became a French colony. Under the French reign some economic development took place. Later during the Second World War Cambodia was captured by the jepanese and then a few years later taken back by the French and was made semi-independent. In 1953 they were declared independent under the reign of king Sihanouk. In 1955 first elections were held and Sihanouk with his ‚Buddhist socialist party‘ dominated politics until the 70s. During that time Cambodia tried to stay neutral between the competing countries UdSSR, USA and China which was not an easy task! After he was removed by the National Assembly an official who had good connections with the USA replaced him! During the Vietnam War the Vietcong had many war bases in the jungle of Cambodia which remained even after the war. As a consequence to that the USA started to bomb the country to stop the rise of communism in the country side of Cambodia (the Khemer Rouge for example). This actually only strengthened the Khemer Rouge so that they had enough soldiers to take over the country. The Khemer Rouge regime terrorised Cambodia mainly from 1975 to 1979 although they were formed much earlyer known as a branch of the communist party in Cambodia and were not dissolved until 1999! They closed and stopped all connection to the outside world, moved the people from the city’s to working camps and mainly killed all interlectuals. Religion was abandoned, the monks were either killed or had to work for the Khemer Rouge and the temples and monasterys were even used as prisons. They were reckless and didn’t just killed their own people but mainly turtured them to death. I can’t describe what they did and how cruel they were but there are carved stones on the memorials today where one can see how the people were treated. The main problem was that no one from the outside world knew what was going on because they shut themselves off completely! Luckely Vietnam freed the country from this regime but then the USA and Thailand started to support the Khemer Rouge in refugees camps in Thailand so they could fight the Vietnamese (they believed the Khemer Rouge were a liberation front). Again only the hate against communism was the focus and no one listen to the stories the people from Cambodia had to tell! This went on another couple of years until countrys like Australia finally started to put the leaders of the Khemer Rouge to trail and started to recognized the Genozid! The supporting countries never stood up for their second hand crimes! Now this country is very poor. A third of this population was killed during this time and one can still see the scars and trauma of these people…. Corruption in government and authorities is still very current but the people are moving on and trying to be positiv. Tourism has actually helped many families, it is the main economy they have and although the Cambodian are more shy then the Thai, when you get to know them a little they are very friendly and nice. (my history knowledge could be wrong in some details but that’s what I was told by a Cambodian guide in Angkor)

So yeah when Casse and I visited the killing fields and killing caves in Battambang it was a very sad experience for me… The cave is actually not that big. It’s kind of half opened and one can still se some turtured equipment.

Statues in front of the killing caves should illustrate how they turtured

After the killing caves we went down to a hole in the mountain where we watched batts flying out of the cave for 40 min! This was so nice and beautiful to see.

Our evening was still not done because we decided to go to a circus show near by which is created for a school fundraiser. It is a bit expensive but for a good cause so I guess it’s okay. The show was really good! During the show they told a story of a Cambodian market and connected their artistic skills with acting. The acrobatics were incredible and even dangerous and the whole crowd was cheering! So yeah this was very nice and we completed our adventures day successfully and with a lot of joy.

The next day we were not sure what to do in the morning but after breakfast we talked to Marcus a German who lives in Battambang and volunteers in a school. He organized us a tuk tuk driver, his name is Vireak kong. He is a very interesting person. He is not only a driver but also founded a school in his backyard for the poor children who can’t afford to go to school. So at first he drove us to the Tempel which was used as a prison during the Khemer Rouge reign and right beside are the killing fields. Today there is a big memorial on it with reliefs showing the cruel events that took place and a big stone wall where the history of this place is carved. On top was something like a Chappell with thousands of bones in it, representing the victims… I didn’t make a picture there, it was just too depressing. But on the other hand I think it is important for everyone who lives or visits this country to get to know the history and to visit these sad places.

Vireak kong then showed us the real Cambodian fish market, although I didn’t go in because I can’t bare the smell, I could see it from the outside and it is so different from our fish market. They have huge pots with fish just standing outside, cooling them with some ice cubes and selling them to restaurants, private costumers or street food sellers. We continued our trip and went to a rise paper farm where we could see how they make the rise paper for the spring rolls. It’s incredibly how fast they work and the spring rolls we tried were probably the best I’ve ever had.

Near this place was a place where they made banana chips (I love banan chips so much, everywhere where I can, I have to buy them haha) so this was very interesting for me to see! They cut them all by hand, Casse and I tried it as well but it was very hard and took so long. The woman working there told us that first they cut them and dry them in the sun on bamboo boards and later either leave them like that or fry them in a pan. Of course I had to buy a lot of chips and they were delicious!

This was our last tour stop and now Vireak kong had to go back to his school because from 4pm to 7pm he has classes to teach and he kindly took us with him. We were very excited to see the school and maybe teach some French and German. The school is actually just a backyard, there were even two cows standing biside the ‚classroom‘. The classroom has a roof, three whiteboards and some wooden benches and tables for the children. In the back were some chickens and the stable was to the left although during the classes the cows were moved to a different place. This school is a language school, the children here learn English, German and French. Vireak kong can speak a little bit of all three but he welcomes volunteers who are native speakers sincerely. The children were a bit shy at first but when Casse started to ask their names they started to warm up and were very curious. A lot of these children walk for an hour or more to come to the school to learn. It showed us a lot how privliged we are and that we probably should start appreciating it more! It was a lot of fun for both of us to teach the children and see how ambitious they are. It was such a beautiful experience and I’m so thankful it. The school is for free and they don’t have to pay for any uniforms or school books, unlike the state schools. That’s why Vireak kong is dependent on donations. I would now love to encourage you all to send some donations so they can build a proper classroom with a library. It doesn’t have to be much, $5 is not a lot for us but it already helpes this school so much.

Here is the official school page: https://beehiveschoolcambodia.com/

They don’t have an international donation account so the donations are going to Marcus account and he then gives it to the school (he is a teacher there as well and helps with the development a lot)

Marcus Wöll

DE69701100883067731474

Thank you so much ❤️

My stay in battambang was very nice, I enjoyed it a lot and was even a bit sad to move on. My next stop was Siem Reap. I arrived in the evening because my bus had complications and we had to wait for another so yeah traveling with busses in Cambodia requires patience. But when I arrived my Spanish friend, whom I met on Koh Chang, was already waiting there for me. It was nice to see him again and in the evening we went out in the city. It is very touristic here due to Angkor Wat which is just a couple km away from the town. There is a big pub street where you can find bars and restaurants in European Stil with European prices. A lot of souvenir shops or clothing street shops are there as well. Around this area are street food cars, where we always ate, it’s local food and very cheap compared to the restaurants. In general I think that Cambodia is not that cheap for travelers.

On the first day we visited the national museum of Angkor to get some more information before visiting the actual temples. It was an interesting visit but nothing compared to seeing the real temples. The next day we went to get our Ticket for Angkor which is $62 for 3 days. Luckily Andreu, my Spanish friend, had a motorcycle so we didn’t have to pay a tuk tuk. We started our tour with the smaller temples where not many people visited so it was nice and quiet and we could enjoy these massive ancient monuments. It is so incredibly to see these temples and buildings and its unimaginable for me that they built it all without proper machines. It is an unexplainable experience to walk and touch those huge temples. But what was probably even more fascinating for me were the trees growing out or over the ruins. Kind of like nature taking back her property. This reminded me that no matter how much people take from nature, it will always outlast everything and eventually take it all back! This was so beautiful for me to see and feel. I enjoyed this trip to Angkor so much although it was tiring because the sun was so hot especially in the afternoon. I didn’t think that the area of this ancient city and civilization was so big! This city had a population of more than 1 million people in its peak and had over 1000 temples and buildings ! The Khmer Empire consist of Mayamar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Library in Angkor Wat

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Apsara, dancers for the king

Andreu and I infront of the middle Tempel in Angkor Wat

The next day we stood up at 5am so that we could see the sunrise at Angkor Wat (the main temple). This temple is on a square formed island surrounded by 10 meter deep water which was all built by hand. To built Angkor Wat 300.000 slaves and 5000 Elefant were needed and it only took 37 years to be finished(that’s why the price for visiting one day is 37$). Andreu and I took a tour guide for this massive temple city because after watching the sunrise we realized we want to know more about this temple. There were already a lot of people there in the morning but in the afternoon this places was way too crowded! Around the temple area is a huge wall with one entry in the middle for the king and two entries on each side for elefants, servants and guests. Angkor Wat was built under the ruel of Jayavarman VII dedicated to the hindu God Vishnu. Nevertheless many believe that this most powerful king felt like a God himself and at the entrance is a statue of Vishnu with eight instead of 4 arms and it is a representation of the king as a God. This Tempel should be the heaven on earth and was actually not a Tempel but a holiday city for the king and his guests. Only in the 15/16 century it was changed to Angor Wat (Angor=City Wat = Tempel) by the Buddhist. The king himself actually practiced a lot of Buddhism himself and is today mostly known for his love for beautiful dancers, cigars, rice wine and meat. So the people still offer food, drinks and cigars under his statue at the entrance.

Inside, in front of the main building are various smaller buildings for example librarys and there used to be a lot of wooden houses for the guests. The main ‚castle‘ is again surrounded by a wall. Inside are other buildings and the main has three big towers, representing the three main gods Bhrama, Vishnu and Shiva. Angor Wat was designed by an astrolegist and is in perfekt harmony with the sun circle. (the people still use it as a clock for their agricultural circle. For example when the sun rises on the left over the Brahma tower its the rain season and when it rises at the right side over the Shiva tower it’s the dry season. When the sun rises exactly over the peak of the middle Vishnu tower it’s the equinox) It was also said that the middle is the center of the world and it is in exact relation with the cardinal points. This is so incredible how exact and progressive they’ve worked! It’s hard to discribe the massiveness and beauty of this place. All the other temples we visited after that were just as beautiful and interesting. Angkor Throm is like 3km away from Angkor Wat and this was the permanent residence of the king, again many massive buildings and temples with incredible stone carvings and statues on each wall! I especially enjoyed all the carved details which are perfectly synchron although our guided told us that if someone made a mistake his hands were chopped off and the stone had to be replaced, so yeah all this beauty had a high price to pay….

But I have to say after the second whole day in Angkor we were very exhausted and decided to relax the last day we had in Siem Reap.

I went to a fitness gym 30 min away from my hostel which was really nice! But on my way there I saw the other non touristic side of Siem Reap. It is very easy to forget the poor side of the country in the center but it’s still there and very much in need of approvement. Children taking baths in dirty dumps and poor living conditions. But its also nice to see how happy these children are and that they are still playing outside all day or helping their parants! Still, I can’t get ride of the guilty feeling inside of me for living so reckless and in luxery while they have so little… Every luxery has its price and we in the west defently live on the expenses of others….

So yeah my first week in Cambodia was very eventful and also emotional for me. Now I’m on my way to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. But I think I’ll go to the coast soon because I really miss the sea hahah

Have a great day and be thankful for everything you have ❤️

Wat Marp Jan

Wat Marp Jan

I arrived in Wat Marp Jan in the afternoon on the 27th December 2018. It’s a huge area surrounded by the jungle so even on really hot days one could go near the forest and feel a cool breeze coming out. There are sounds of geckos and various birds to hear all day and there is a small lake with lots of big fish in it as well. When entering the monastery there is first the kitchen and eating place on the right and a toilet house for guests on the left. In the middle, between kitchen and the morning meditation hall, there is a Buddha statue greeting the entering guests. The next big building consists of the morning maditation hall on the front side, a living house for the staff to the right and on the backside is the dorm room for women lay guests, where I was staying for the next 10 days. I slept in a dorm room and mostly I was by myself because I was sleeping in one of the smaller rooms and many people who stayed there just slept outside on the floor. My bed was very uncomfortable! It was actually just a wooden board and a very thin mat on it (I actually used 3 mats and it still felt like I was sleeping on a plain floor haha) so every morning I woke up with back and neck pain…

The dorm room for lay women
My bed

Further back goes a steep road up the mountain, surrounded by the forest where small cottages for the monks stand. Half way up is the monastery office where people can go to talk to Ajahn Anan, the Supreme Abbot of this monastery and founder of Marp Jan. After that there is another hall for men lay guests and a meditation hall for the monks. On the top of the mountain is the big meditation hall for evening meditation and events or celebrations. A small meditation hall is right next to it as well (which was my favorite place in the monastery). Right now there is a big construction side behind the hall to build a monument for Ajahn Chah, the founder of the forest monk lineage.

The small meditation hall (my favorite)
The evening meditation hall
Ajahn Anans office
The nature around the monastery
Ajahn Anan

So yeah I was pretty overwhelmed by the size of this monastery. My first impression was surprise! Everything was very different from what I expected. The monks drove around in golf cars. They had phones, although they didn’t use them too much. I also expected more smiling or happiness since this is known as the teaching to true happiness but mostly peoples face impressions were neutral. The next morning I was very surprised again! Many people come to the monastery every day to offer food to the monks, not leftovers or something but offering them the best and fresh prepared food. So the monks didn’t eat as basic as I thought they would. We had a big buffet every day with various dishes and a lot of sweets! From 9am to 12am one was allowed to eat, having breakfast at 9am and packing a snack for lunch at like 11:30. After that one was not allowed to eat anything anymore, leaving more time for the practice and not being concerned with worldly needs. Due to the huge amount of food it was really hard not to eat more then necessary and the monks didn’t cut down on food eather and even enjoyed fruitshakes or other isced, delicious drinks in the afternoon. This actually confused me a lot because in buddahs teachings, which we were signing (they call it chanting) every day it is said that one who practices the Dhamma (true path) should only eat to nourish the body but not to enjoy it because it leads to desire, craving and worldly attachment. But I guess that’s different from monastery to monastery.

Buffet in the morning

Food offering to the monks

Now let me lead you through my everyday routine:

  • At 4 am in the morning one was awakened by the sound of ringing bells and hauling from the dogs who live at the monastery. I then had 30 min to get ready and walk to the morning meditation hall. From 4:30-5am was meditation. Afterwards we started the morning chanting till 5:30. Chanting is kind of a mix between singing and speaking. The text is in Pali, the language of the earliest Buddhist scriptures, closely related to Sanskrit. It is used as a meditational guide. If used properly and continously it can lead to a state of trance and deeper understanding of Buddha’s teachings.
  • From 5:30-7am the lay guests should clean the kitchen and eating area or women should help out in the kitchen preparing food or cleaning. The monks would go into town to receive the offerings from the people
  • At 7am people from the towns and city’s near by came to the monastery to offer food, after that they participate in the meditation and chanting and then stay in the monastery for breakfast. The lay people can offer rice from the kitchen as well which I thought was a very nice experience. It is incredible how much they care and respect the monks and the cultivation of giving and helping is visible everywhere in Thailand!
  • While the guests and lay people chant, the monks would take their food. When they are finished, the lay guest are allowed to take theirs and at last the people who visit only for the morning. There were always be a lot of left overs, so all the food prepared for this day was then given to the construction workers, the hospital or the police station in town.
  • After the brunch, we started packaging the food or cleaning all dishes and tables.
  • At around 10am we were finished and now had time to either clean in the dorm, take a nap, go shower, read from the books given to us from the monastery or of course meditate. So from 11am-3pm we always had time for ourself.
  • From 3pm-5pm we had chores to do around the monastery. I was mostly cleaning the bathrooms and in the beginning always with someone else and in the end by my self.
  • From 5pm-6:30pm one had time to shower, meditate or read again. I mostly went up to the small meditation hall and stayed there from 6pm-7pm
  • At 7:30pm everyone would come to the big evening meditation hall for evening chanting. First 30 min chanting and then 30 min meditation. After that a record from Ajahn Chas teachings
    was played which were always in Thai so I didn’t unterstand anything…
  • Between 9 and 9:30pm we returned to the dorm to go to sleep.

This was my every day scheduled. I have to say although it may not seem hard or difficult I actually wanted to leave from the first day I arrived.(eventually I got used to it and sometime enjoyed it very much!) When I asked Ajahn Anan if I can shorten my stay to 8 days he said I should stay and practice keeping promise and that only through obstacles one grows. Which is actually very true and now I think it was a good experience but for a first retreat 5 day would probably be enough.

The first three days of my stay there was another European woman staying there. She helped me a lot at first to understand the regulations and dayly program. I also made friends with a Thai woman, her name is Siri and we became pretty good friends although our age difference is 15 years. She was very nice and even gave me one of her outfits because I only bought one with me. It felt good to have a friend there. Especially over new years and doing chores together was a lot more fun too.

I was a little bit sad in the beginning because I thought there would be a lot more teaching or guidence but I was very thankful for the books which are free (monks are not allowed to take money). Also I’ve come to realize that this kind of life is not for me and that I want to find my own way. Meditation although is something that I will practice more from now on and through that I’m sure I’ll find the truth which lies within me.

New years in Buddhist tradition

The 31st was actually a very normal day although the dorm grew from 4 people to around 60 or 80. A lot of Thai people come here over new years, stay a night or two and then leave again. Except for the first 3 days, I was the only foreigner there. So from the 2nd January till the end I was the only lay woman there because everyone else left.

On new years eve a lot of people from all around were coming to the big hall on the mountain. There was first a meditation, followed by chanting and then Ajahn Anan gave a speech. In between we had little breaks where drinks were offered as well(of course no alcohol because in the Buddhist faith alcohol is seen as an evil delusion). At around 11:30 we startet chanting and chanted the same song 108 times into the new year. At the end a monk rang a bell and the ceremony was over.

Our chanting song for New Years, a lot of people sat outside because the hall was full

My dear friend Siri and I

After that everyone received a necklace, which is a symbol for protection, from the monks. And then at like 12:30/1am we went to bed because wake up at the next morning was again at 4am. I have to say it was very nice to see this, the gathering and community and friendliness of all the people. Although it didn’t feel very much like new years to me and I missed my friends and family a lot…

The next day my friend Siri left and I was very sad about that but at the same time I now had more time to practice and be for myself. The last days I also didn’t talk much, most people didn’t understand me anyways, only a few monks spoke English but I only talked to them when they addressed me first…

I think my practice got a lot better here. While it was really hard for me to focus and concentrate my mind in the beginning I was able to hold my concentration longer in the end. But it’s a very tiring fight and I felt kind of a headache very often. I’ve also come to understand more about my mind and staring to see things how they are and not how the mind projects them to be(feels good to have some peace and quiet up there although it’s still just temporary) . Getting rid of all the chaos of thoughts, feelings and sensations that come into your head every second is the first step to experience a constant state of happiness without the ups and downs. Practicing loving-kindness within your meditation is the first step to virtue. Truly wishing everyone to be free from suffering and to be happy. This rises the level of good and loving thoughts in everyday life! Giving without wanting anything back, compassion for others and friendliness come naturally with it and I’m already seeing the positive effects these things have brought me in my life. Doing good and being generous is so important in our society today where everyone is stressed, greedy and selfish! Let go of it and you’ll be rewarded with far more than money or any material thing can give you! Remember, nothing is gonna last for ever, everything is in constant change, rising and fading, its just the circle of life.

I’m still afraid to let it all go, afraid that nothing is gonna be there anymore but with time and deep reflection and contemplation of the course of life, my own thoughts and everything around me. I’m sure I will be able to gain a deeper understanding of it all. Although I have to say I don’t want to go to a monastery or anything like that, I even think that reading the books has too much impact on what I should rather find out for myself. Not while sitting in a hall and meditating but better out there in the world, in nature (the oldest lasting but still changing thing we know on this earth) through interacting with others, listening to their thoughts and of course sharing love to any being there is on this earth. I’m still not sure about my purpose or what to do with this life but I know it’s very uncertain and the only right thing to do is to learn and be open to everything. Through my travel here in Thailand I’ve already learned a lot and met so many incredible and helpful people. I really love this country and the culture. But now it’s time to move on… So I’m on my way to Cambodia now and already very excited to see what this place is gonna teach me!

(I’ve only written a small part, what I thought was the most important to know, down. So if you have any questions or if I didn’t express my self correctly please feel free to write me) 😉

I wish you all a very good day!

Thank you Thailand for this beautiful trip!