Who Started Playing Jumanji in 2020?

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I haven’t published anything on my blog since December 2018. The current circumstances have, however, pushed me to retreat into my innocuous little writing cave once again.

Dealing with 2020

So far 2020 has been wild, hasn’t it? Bushfires in Australia, flash floods in Jakarta, a volcanic eruption in the Philippines, and then a full-blown pandemic!

It’s almost like somebody pulled out Jumanji and decided ‘what the heck, let’s have a crack at it’.

Honestly, out of all the movies you’d wish you could be living in, this ain’t it. But it’s what we’ve got right now and it feels surreal at this point.

When COVID-19 became a major ‘oh heck’ moment and lockdown was implemented, I wasn’t too fazed at the time. I felt comfortable working from home and kept myself occupied with painting, reading, and chatting with friends.

My outlook has shifted considerably since then. So much so that I am aware that it’s having a noticeable impact on my attitude.

I even cut my own hair during the lockdown. It didn’t go so well, but I don’t care. I’ve also realized that my writing style and tone now reflect my erraticism.

Truth be told, we’re all experiencing this pandemic in unique ways. Mostly due to varying levels of privilege we have or don’t have.

I feel like COVID-19 has just made prevalent inequalities in our society even more pronounced and has highlighted flaws in our collective systems and the global economy at large.

It’s bizarre how everything is right now. We’re living through uncertain times. (Yes, I know that phrase has been tossed around a lot lately, especially in advertisements, but what can you do?)

Right now, I’m worried about my friends and everyone else I care about. I hope we get through this pandemic with our physical and mental health somewhat intact.  And maybe, some years down the line, we’ll look back on all of this and just be like ‘damn, so that happened’.

I’ve also been seeing this bothersome narrative online about how ‘this is the best time to be productive and learn new things! Follow your dreams’. I mean that’s all fine and dandy, but it’s also okay to cut yourself some slack and just binge-watch some of your favorite shows every now and then without feeling guilty about it.

Your version of productivity doesn’t have to fit the version you’re seeing online.

Side note: I’m so glad I deleted my Instagram and Facebook accounts last year. Being away from these platforms has shielded me from a lot of those ‘inspirational’ posts and picture-perfect moments that, frankly, just made me feel bad about myself and my life in general.

No one’s life is as good as it appears on social media, and that’s a fact.

I went on a completely different tangent there, sorry. Back to the pandemic productivity fetish.

This productivity obsession needs to end

It’s natural to have days when you aren’t feelin’ it, you know? I’ve had those, too, and I would just like to get through this rough patch without self-proclaimed self-help gurus making me feel guilty about how I’m spending my time.

I’ve been productive on some days but other times I’ve just been trying to do the bare minimum to get through the mind-numbing madness that is 2020. And you know what? I’m going to pat myself on the back for that.

I watched this video yesterday and it helped get a load off my shoulders. This is exactly what a lot of us need to hear.

I’ve been rambling for too long. I just hope everyone out there is doing okay.

Stay indoors as much as you can and practice physical distancing. Wash your hands frequently and use tech to stay in touch with the people you care about.

I know it’s hard, but we’ve got to do our best right now.

I’m just going to wrap this up and share some music I’ve got on repeat to calm myself down during this nightmare.

Thank you for reading and Godspeed!

  1. Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger
  2. Simple Minds – Don’t You Forget About Me
  3. Led Zeppelin – Kashmir 
  4. Seal – Crazy
  5. Des’ree – You Gotta Be
  6. Aloe Blacc – The Man
  7. Jason Mraz – Look For The Good
  8. José González – Stay Alive
  9. Capital Cities – Safe And Sound
  10. Tom Misch – It Runs Through Me

The L Resort – Krabi

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While staying in Bangkok, I decided to plan an excursion to Ao Nang, Krabi. I packed my bags and was on my way to Don Mueang International Airport around noon. I boarded my flight and arrived in Krabi a short while later. A bus shuttle from the airport dropped me off to my beachfront hotel, The L Resort, in Ao Nang.

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The L Resort, Krabi

The location and scenery were better than I could have hoped for. I visited in early September, so the beaches weren’t crowded at all. Tranquil aquamarine water and long-tail boats floating in the distance are the sort of images you’d conjure up if you tried to picture Thailand’s seaside paradise. Well, that’s exactly what I got.

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The laid-back island vibe and picture-postcard views were breathtaking. My cozy room at The L Resort was spacious and tidy; it was equipped with all the modern amenities as well. The white and purple color scheme was incredibly relaxing while the wide, panoramic windows drenched the room in natural light and afforded a lovely view of the outdoors.

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The hotel has 48 guestrooms and two beautiful outdoor pools. Breakfast is served at Wanna’s Place where the food selection is absolutely scrumptious. On top of that, the staff is very friendly and is happy to share tips with travelers, so you’ll get the best out of your holiday.

During my stay here, I walked around town and tried out a few restaurants. There are lots of eateries, bars and souvenir shops dotted along the street. While you’re here, be sure to book a tour and visit the nearby beaches. The four islands you can hop to while you’re in Ao Nang are: Railay Bay, Chicken Island, Tup Island and Poda Island.

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Railay Bay

On my final day, I stood by the beach during sunset and gazed at the mesmerizing view. The sun dipped beneath the horizon in a brilliant display of warm, peachy tones that painted the sky like an artist’s canvas. It was truly a memorable weekend. The hospitable staff and management at the L Resort elevated my experience tenfold.

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Ao Nang, Krabi

Planning to visit Krabi? Check out The L Resort and book your perfect holiday!

Seasons greetings!

 

Shop Till You Drop – Bangkok!

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The capital city of the Land of Smiles is the best place to shop till you drop. From high-end fashion to budget trends, Bangkok has got it all and more.

Across Central World

Across Central World

The BTS or Bangkok Skytrain makes it easy to travel around. You can visit the MBK near National Stadium and then Siam, which is the place to be for all high-end shopping. Siam Paragon, Siam Center and Siam Discovery are the major malls located in this area on Rama I Road. Just a few minutes away on Ratchadamri Road you’ll find more malls, namely Central World and Big C. As you go down from there on to Phloen Chit Road, you’ll see Gaysorn Village and Amarin Plaza.

I got an amazing tailored jacket and shirt from En Elle Tailors. Their shop is located  on the 2nd Floor of the Amarin Plaza. The fabric felt great and it was tailored exactly to my specifications. This made an excellent addition to my wardrobe. The owner, Mr. Singh, was very professional. I would highly recommend their shop and services.

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If you’re looking for budget options, you’ve got to check out the Pratunam Wholesale Market on Ratchaprarop Road, it’s a great place to browse and buy souvenirs. Practice your bargaining skills and jump right into it.  You can really save money if you intend to buy in bulk.

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Koh Kut – Back to Nature

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By Maria

During my internship in Bangkok, I decided to take off to Koh Kut on a long weekend. The island is unique because it is sparsely populated by people and feels untamed and untouched by human interference. The lifestyle is laid back and you really get to connect with nature because the quaint town is essentially a jungle paradise.

I decided to travel the long way via the Boonsiri Ferry. From Bangkok, all the passengers hopped aboard the bus from Tani Road, which is in close proximity to the popular tourist spot, Khao San Road; after approximately 5 hours, we arrived in the Trat Province. We were then taken to Laem Sok pier. From here, we boarded the Ferry that brought us to Koh Kut in about an hour and a half. You can book your tickets for travelling on the Boonsiri Ferry website.

Boonsiri Ferry

The Ferry came to a halt at Ao Salad pier; from there,  a pickup transported me to my abode for the day at the Jungle Koh Kood Resort. It was a much needed break from the fast-paced life in Bangkok. The food was great, the atmosphere was splendid and the staff was extremely friendly. Though the the staff did not speak English very well, it was still a good experience.

The next day, I was lucky enough to get a chance to visit Soneva Kiri. It is a renowned luxury resort on the island. They have beautiful beach-side and jungle-view villas that are perfect for a family retreat. The resort is truly heaven on earth. With excellent service and absolutely delicious food, you really will wish you could just stay here forever. I visited the resort’s chocolate parlor and loved their selection of treats. For all chocolate connoisseurs out there, this is what dreams are made of.

I was very impressed to see that the resort is truly dedicated to sustainability and is taking active measures to not only preserve the environment, but also places great importance in giving back to the community.

I was told that the resort seeks to invest in the local community by helping them better communicate in English and provides world-class training. This is an example of a business having an inclusive long-term vision.

I was shown their on-site bio-fuel plant,  composting activities, organic farm and a marine-life conservation program.

Soneva believes in the ‘SLOWLIFE’ philosophy, it is an acronym that stands for Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness, Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experiences. This is the ideology that the resort maintains. Combining luxury, sustainable tourism and the idea of going back to nature rather than declaring war on it. In this day and age, we would all benefit by adopting such ideals.

If you want to travel to the resort directly, well you’re in luck. Soneva Kiri has its own airport on a nearby island, Koh Mai Si! Guests can catch a private plane from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and arrive via a 1-hour-and-15-minute flight. Then, a speedboat will transport you to the resort’s jetty in a matter of minutes.

After that wonderful experience, I moved on to my next abode, the Mark House. This is an affordable lodging option that is just a stone’s throw away from the beach and lies next to a river. There are also a few restaurants nearby, so you won’t have to venture out too far for a hearty meal while you’re staying here.

The property has numerous bungalows and a swimming pool. The owners are hospitable and laid back. The aesthetic of the cottages is quite quirky with weirdly wonderful decor.

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Credits: e-Travelers Club

After spending a good amount of time at the beach and watching the sun disappear beneath the horizon in a glorious display of colors reminiscent of a renaissance painting, I headed back to my bungalow and called it a night. The next morning, I was on my way back to Bangkok with a ton of great memories and revitalized spirit.

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Credits: e-Travelers Club

 

 

A Foodie’s Guide to Bangkok – Shabu Land

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Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hotpot dish. An array of thinly sliced meat and vegetables are provided, which you can cook in the hotpot yourself.

I got to experience this style of cuisine at a really cool family restaurant in Bangkok. Shabu Land offers an all-you-can-eat buffet. Great price for great quality food.

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My hot pot was filled with the aromatic and iconic Tom Yum Goong.

The meal was absolutely delightful and the iced lemon tea I had, was refreshing.

Do try it out when you’re in Bangkok.

shabu land

 

A Foodie’s Guide to Bangkok – The Manhattan Fish Market

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Looking for hearty seafood in bustling Bangkok? Look no further, The Manhattan Fish Market has got you covered. Their appetizing menu consists of soups and chowders, pasta; fried, grilled, poached, flamed and baked goodies; salads and sides, sharing platters, desserts and refreshing beverages.

From their menu, I tried ‘Spaghetti in the Sea’ and I loved it. I also tried ‘Passionate Peach’, a delicious chamomile tea with lemongrass infusion. The ‘Lemongrass Cooler’ was equally delightful.

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Location: Central World, 999/9 Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330

Website: www.manhattanfishmarket.com

A Foodie’s Guide to Bangkok – Sunrise Tacos

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Care to excite your palate with delicious Mexican flavours while you’re in Bangkok?

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Head to Sunrise Tacos, one of the most popular Mexican eateries in Bangkok, on the 4th floor of Terminal 21. The restaurant overlooks a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge and has a funky, vibrant atmosphere. Terminal 21 is an impressive themed mall, located close to Asoke BTS (sky train station) and, therefore, is easily accessible.

The chef recommended that we try the Santa Fe Salad with margarita storm; American Cowboy Tacos with hot sauce; classic chicken quesadilla and of-course, the delicious carrot cake, which we enjoyed with a cool glass of vanilla milk with cinnamon.

This incredibly photogenic carrot cake tasted even better than how it looked!

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Chef Luis came up to us and described the  philosophy at Sunrise Tacos. Produce is selected carefully and GMOs are avoided. Selecting sustainable suppliers is also a priority for the restaurant.

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Credit: etravelersclub.wordpress.com

Location: Terminal 21 shopping center 4 th floor Klongtoey Nua, 88 Soi Sukhumvit 19, Khlong Toei Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110

Website: www.sunrisetacos.com

The Furry Avengers

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A ray of light, a spark of hope amidst an abysmal veil of darkness, that’s what superheroes are to me. Knowing that no matter how hopeless things may seem, never backing down and hanging on to the slimmest chance of overcoming the odds.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has done an exceptional job of creating an immersive, intertwined tale with extraordinary, lovable characters that somehow seem very relatable.

I know I’m not the only one who sat wide eyed in front the computer screen while watching the Avengers: Infinity War trailer and geeking the heck out. Honestly, it was beyond epic. I got goosebumps!
I can’t wait for the movie to come out and see what happens next.

I drew some of my favorite Avengers as cats.
I used color pencils and markers to make this drawing. It was so much fun!

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Do you have any favourites? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Journey to the Heart of Sri Lanka

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A tear drop in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a true treasure for the world to discover. As the years passed it became known by many names throughout its fascinating history.

Rulers, conquerors and invaders through the ages left their mark on this land which resulted in a unique cultural, social and political blend. Braving the turbulent challenges of a more recent past, the tropical paradise moved swiftly in healing its wounds and became a sought after destination for leisure, spiritual and adventure travelers alike.

My journey into this Wonder of Asia began in Negombo. I had a comfortable flight with Srilankan Airlines and reached my hotel at the crack of dawn. The sun drenched the quaint west coast city and enhanced the splendor of the beautiful golden sandy beaches.

My abode was at the Beacon Beach hotel, located in a major tourist beach resort area.
Fishing is a major industry in Sri Lanka and the town is largely inhabited by fisher-folk. Several buildings and churches from the colonial area can be spotted in this city.

After attending the PATA Annual Summit, the much anticipated tour of the country began. It was organized by Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau.
Our lovely hostess and guide made the journey exponentially more enjoyable.

Early morning after a hearty breakfast we were on our way to visit the Dambulla cave temple, a World Heritage Site (1991). Dambulla is known to be one of the best preserved cave temples in the country. This site is situated 148 kilometes east of Colombo.

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We visited the 5 major cave temples; each consisted of beautiful paintings that cover more than a surface area of 22,000 sq ft along with statues related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There are a total of ~153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses. This temple complex dates back to the first century BCE. While walking towards the temple ground, numerous monkeys could be seen.

We came downhill the cave temple and a short distance away along the asphalt road, the more recently built monumental Golden Buddha Statue and The Golden temple came into sight.

Our next adventure for the afternoon the Safari at Minneriya National Park. For wildlife sustainability, the park is a protected area.

Large herds of elephants are the major attraction here, but the Minneriya reservoir is home to a variety of large water birds such as Lesser adjutant, Painted stork, and Spot-billed pelican.

The Purple-faced langur, Toque macaque, Sri Lankan Sambar deer and Sri Lankan Axis deer along with the endangered Sri Lankan leopard and Sri Lankan sloth bear also inhabit Minneriya.

PAS Tour Kandalama c)Saif Ismailji

Breakfast at the Heritance Kandalama Hotel

We settled in for the night at the luxurious Heritance Kandalama Hotel, its recluse location and harmony with the surrounding environment made it one of the best hotels I have stayed at while touring Sri Lanka.

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Sigiriya

Early morning we were cruising down the road once again, on our way to another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sigiriya. This is an ancient city and a fascinating place to explore. We arrived at the Sigiriya Rock Fortress and learned about its dramatic and epic history, one laced with betrayal and murder.

DSC_3580The leviathan Column-like rock stands at 200 meters.  It has been chronicled that this site was chosen by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) for his new capital.
The palace was built on top of this rock and decorated with colorful frescoes. We passed through the beautiful gardens at this site, namely the Water Gardens, Boulder Gardens and Terraced Gardens.

We began to calmly ascend the massive rock, counting down the 1200 steps to the top. We were met with adorable yet mischievous monkeys along the way. After climbing about halfway up, we approached the gateway between two enormous lion paws.

The name Sīhāgiri has been derived from this very gateway, which translates to “Lion Rock”. Getting to the top is an exhausting endeavor, but undoubtedly worth the effort.

The beautiful bird’s eye view of the surroundings and the gardens below had all the visitors in awe.

We left Sigiriya and continued on our journey. En route Kandy we visited the Ranweli Spice Garden in Matale. Our guide informed us about the importance of the various spices and herbs in  Sri Lankan cuisine and Ayurveda.

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After the relaxing and educational tour of the well-kept spice garden and a freshly brewed cup of herbal tea offered to us by our kind host, we once again hit the road passing the Mahaweli ganga (river) and arrived in the lush and beautiful hill city; Kandy.

Here we witnessed various traditional Sri Lankan dances and later a captivating fire-dance known as Gini Sisila took place outdoors. The talented performers manipulated the element of fire as though it were a natural extension of their being. They calmly guided the audience to where they should stand and began their daring four minute act. They walked briskly over a patch of hot coal and with that, the performance came to an end.

DSC_3756Later that evening, we bedded down at the beautiful Mahaweli Reach Hotel.
Next morning we went to explore the renowned Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha.

This is one of the most important places of worship for Buddhist all around the world. The temple has numerous statues and paintings depicting Buddha’s life story. One of the more notable architectural features of the temple is the golden canopy, built in 1987 over the main shrine.

Within the massive temple complex we visited the Sri Dalada Museum and the Raja Museum, the latter is the resting place for the renowned elephant, Raja Atha (also known as Maligawa Raja). He was a Sri Lankan tusker elephant that passed away in 1988 at the age of 75.

Raja participated at the annual Esala procession in Kandy for around 50 years and was the sacred casket bearer of the final Randoli perehera for 37 years. He was known for his noble behavior and became one of the most celebrated elephants in Asia during his lifetime. He was declared a national treasure due to his valued services.

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We were on the road again and on our way to escape the tropical climate, heading for the refreshingly green, temperate hills of Nuwara Eliya. The view from our vehicle window was mesmerizing.

The lush tea gardens rolled past and enlivened our spirits. We stopped at the Glenloch Tea Factory where we were given an informative tour with explanations regarding the cultivation, drying and packing process of the world famous “Ceylon Tea”.

We were told about the different kinds of tea made and how they differ from one another. Our hostess at the factory told us the main process difference for black tea as compared to green and white tea is that black tea gets fermented and the oxidation gives it the signature dark brown color, whereas green tea and white tea are not fermented.

The factory also has its own secret tea blend; the Golden Flush, the preparation process for this is kept hidden. After the tour we were offered various freshly brewed tea samples.

We retreated later that evening at the charming Jetwing Saint Andrew’s Hotel, the beautiful mansion lends a glance into the British colonial era.

DSC_3988Sun-up we were all packed and ready for a 5 hour long road trip to Mount Lavinia (colombo). We arrived just before sunset at the historic Mount Lavinia Hotel and made it in time for a demonstration held by Sri Lanka’s most renowned chef, Dr. Pubilis Silva.

He showed us that Sri Lankan cuisine is not only healthy and delicious due to the herbs and spices used, but is also surprisingly easy to make.

With that our tour came to an end. We said goodbye to our lovely hostess and guide who showed us what Sri Lankan hospitality is all about.

The day before our flight back home, we stayed at a cozy service apartment overlooking the beach at the Marine City Complex, courtesy of Serene Vacations, Dehiwala.

The journey was an unforgettable one. The contours of the beautiful island nation have a poetic allure. The warmth of the people and their optimism is contagious.

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Mount Lavinia Hotel

Thank you for reading and do check out my previous posts about Sri Lanka as well!

@maria9saif