ORBIT REFLECTION SERIES: a 40-day journey to Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos & Thailand

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To celebrate my birthday, I asked my dearest friends to write me a letter which I read each day during my 40-day trip to Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.

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Gross national happiness” is within you.

In our art tour in Bhutan, we visited an elementary school during their morning assembly. The students started chanting their morning prayer, then all of a sudden I was in tears. I didn’t understand a word, but it struck a chord in me.

Bhutan is an impossible dream, but when the timing is right, Bhutan will come to you. Being here to celebrate my orbit on earth was bound to happen. I am meant to be here. I am where I should be.

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Humility & Generosity

I watched the sun rise and the sun set on top of a temple in Bagan, Myanmar. It was a breathtaking view, I was reminded of how lucky and grateful I am to be alive.

At an alms giving ceremony to the monks, I witnessed that there is no giver and no receiver, just giving and receiving.

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“The moon is full, and so is my heart.”

In Luang Prabang, Laos, I stumbled upon a ceremony in one of the temples during the evening. It was Vesak or Buddha day, a holiday tradition observed by Buddhists. There were monks chanting and people holding candles, glowing beneath the moonlight – it was a mesmerizing sight.

On my journal I wrote – “Today is a present… Realization and inner transformation occured. Strength and power, remembered.”

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I ended my journey in Thailand where I met a buddhist nun whom I sat next to inside a bus. She told me “Today can be your last day, today is gone Tomorrow, so smile and embrace the world.”

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“The foot feels the foot when it touches the ground.”

In the countries I visited, I always had to remove my footwear to enter its sacred grounds. The weather was hot and humid, it felt like walking across burning coals, but what an experience it was to feel the earth under my feet. It kept me mindful. It kept me grounded.

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Reading the orbit letters made me feel grounded as well. There were letters that made me smile, laugh and cry. There were things I’ve forgotten and was reminded of again, things that might be difficult to say, so it was better written. I am touched by how my friends and family sees me. I am reminded of the memories we shared, also how I’ve affected their lives in some ways. I am reminded that I’ve always been a happy and positive human being. Perhaps happiness then was more personal, but now it’s more about sharing this joy with others.

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Coming Home

Coming to Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand felt like being home. I always see the Philippines in each country, I even look like a local. It felt familiar yet each experience was different. Every country I stayed in brought a lot of learnings and discoveries about myself and about the world.

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I went on this journey empty, and now I’m full…

I realized that this is the best version of me so far. I am who I am today because of the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, the experiences I’ve been through, and because of these, I am the happiest person in this planet.

On this 40-day journey, I met travellers who asked me of my age not because I look it, but because as they say, of the wisdom I speak.  So YES I am 40! I feel beautiful, I am at my happiest, and the best Jazel I can be.

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* * * More detailed stories on Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos & Thailand coming soon.

 

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NYC EATS – Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

Take a bite, it’s alright!

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Searched for the best brunch place near Central Park and ended up at SARABETH’S (40 Central Park St.) Of course, there was a queue when we arrived, but it was worth the wait.

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Salmon & Eggs Benedict / Strawberry French Toast / Capuccino
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Aruruteynkyu Primrose for coming all the way from Massachusetts (?) to hang out with me and for this yummy brekky treat 😉

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Croissants aux Amandes /  Croissant with salmon and cream cheese / Cheese Pretzel / coffee

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From RAFIQIS food truck with the best Tilapia fish and rice for $5
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Onion Rings, Hotdog Sandwich with lotsa pickles before watching a Broadway musical

Stumbled upon this little resto in Broadway and had this delicious bowl of comforting soup. The place was slowly filling up, good thing I got in early and found meself a space.

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KUNG FU LITTLE STEAMED BUNS RAMEN 811 8th Avenue, New York

Crossed the Brooklyn Bridge in search for the Smorgasburg flea food market. We thought it was not too far from the bridge, but we were oh so wrong. It was a hike, I tell ya! A pilgrimage for food!

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90 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn

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Mashed plantain, tomato sauce, cilantro with chicharon – delish!
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Indian Prata with sidings
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Sugarcane juice and tostadas

Went to SERENDIPITY to have their famous frozen hot chocolate.

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SERENDIPITY NYC 225 E 60th street

Ate it with some nachos and got weird stares from other customers. So What?! We like our sweet with savory 😉

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473 Bergen Street, Brooklyn
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too many choices
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ended up ordering a salmon cream cheese bagel – best!!!

CHELSEA MARKET

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I was dying to try their lobster roll. The place was packed but eventually i got meself a seat, elbow to elbow with other customers. I was too shy to take a photo of my sandwich, so i just savored every expensive bite of this soft tangy lobster roll. Oh, It was delish…

GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL

Of course I had to see this magnificent space! What’s also great about this is that they have Shake Shack inside, haha 😉

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If you want to try “Shake Shack,” avoid the crowded ones like the branch in Broadway. Try going to the food court area at the Grand Central Terminal instead. Get the famous cupcakes from Magnolia bakery while you’re there.

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89E, 42nd street
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Cheeseburger, Fries with cheese, and Strawberry milkshake
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late night Vietnamese bo bun
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Berry delightful dessert at a french patisserie

Bangenge sa busog yah!

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The moon is full and so am I.

ARURUTEYNKYU NEW YORK CITY.

Burp.

MEXICO: Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca

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The Day of the Dead is about giving respect and honouring our loved ones who passed away, but here in Mexico they do it in a festive and colourful way.

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On a dia de muertos tour arranged by my amigas, I went to the southern part of Mexico in a place called Oaxaca (wa-ha-ka). Packed in a small bus, fellow travellers and I were brought to a local public cemetery. 

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There was a stage with loud blaring speakers, a street market selling food and souvenirs, people offering us pan de muerto (a special bread during the day of the dead) and hot chocolate de oaxaca for free.

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There was a bit of pushing and shoving to get inside the cemetery.

Once inside, a sensory overload!

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Friends and families gathered around elaborately decorated graves, the air a mix of marigolds and smoke from burning candles, mourning melodies sang by hired musicians accompanied by their guitars.

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It’s like one big fiesta for the departed.

It feels good to be alive!

MEXICO: Skulls & Bones

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In Mexico, death is not something to be afraid of, here it is celebrated.

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Marigold is the “day of the dead” flowers in Mexico, used in offerings to the spirits.

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I made a shoutout in 2011 about me being in Mexico for the Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead), years after I’m finally here.

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Dia de Muertos is a big event in Mexico, it’s as big as the Christmas celebration in the Philippines.

Everywhere I go, I see skulls and bones in all shapes and forms. Papier-mâché skeletons, candy skulls, aylavett!!! I want to hoard everything!

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I have a fascination for L’art Vanite, and in fact on my very first art exhibit – T.R.I.P (To Rest In Peace), someone saw my artwork of a hand-colored photograph of a cemetery and said it reminded him of the cemeteries in Mexico. I have a knick knack collection of crosses and skulls. I also make it a point to visit cemeteries wherever I travel, and so Mexico is the ultimate place to witness and experience all that.

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UP NEXT: Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca

MANILA in M E X I C O

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On the road from the airport to the city, I see eateries and sidewalk vendors selling their wares.I see crazy drivers cutting in and zooming by. I see busy street and crazy traffic.

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The sound, the smell, the order in the chaos –  everything feels familiar.I could very well be in my city.

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Then I see colourful houses and buildings, some hand painted signs in Spanish (which I adore!!!). Okay, this is not Manila. 

Si, I am in Mexico City!

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Mexico is a place that feels like home

— but not quite.

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I’m excited to be here! I can’t wait to try out real mexican food, go gaga over their folk art, understand Frida Kahlo, and most especially to experience the Dia de Muertos.

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