Monthly Archives: January 2017

Dubai – An Awe Inspiring Mega City

Everything about Dubai made my head spin.  On many occasions I felt like a tiny ant lost in a mechanical world.  More than once I had to abandon journeys on foot because giant buildings and 12 lanes of traffic came between me and my destination.

Though at times I felt frustrated by this mad artificial universe, I was also equally amazed and overwhelmed with awe.  More than once I was reduced to tears by the magnificence of this strange metropolis.

Seeing the glittering lights of the city from the top of the tallest building in the world was an undeniably special moment for me.  I’d desperately wanted to visit the Burj Khalifa since I first heard of the plans to build it.  The fairy tale like quality of a tower stretching up nearly a kilometer (830m to be exact) into the sky spoke to my inner child in a powerful way!

The experience was made all the more dramatic by the fact I nearly missed my slot to visit.  I had to run through a seemingly never-ending tunnel of moving walkways to get there, just in time to use my extremely expensive non-refundable ticket.  The relief, combined with a journey to the top in an elevator traveling up to 10 meters per second, left me feeling like I’d been reborn, as I suddenly found myself ejected onto the 148th floor observation deck!

Giant skyscrapers looked like tiny toy buildings beneath me.  Dubai wasn’t dwarfed by the soaring tower though.  My bird’s eye view allowed me to witness its sheer scale, ever-expanding into the surrounding desert.  I was also mesmerized by the most impressive intersection of roads I have ever seen, allowing miniature cars to glide with ease through the city and beyond.  I came back down to earth with even more appreciation for the construction of this unbelievable place.

I’d experienced the Burj Khalifa from the ground for the first time a couple of days before.  Every evening there is the spectacle of the Dubai Fountain, where water, music and light are used to create pure magic in front of the glistening tower.  This show is repeated several times throughout the evening and is free for everyone to enjoy.

Strolling through the Dubai Mall was another of my favourite activities.  Hearing the call to prayer reverberate through the huge shopping centre was an extremely powerful experience.  It was strange to witness this against the backdrop of such large scale consumerism, but the pristine shiny chambers provided the perfect acoustics, and actually enhanced the effect of the beautiful spiritual song.

When the hypnotic waves of melodic perfection had finished penetrating my soul, I was off to see the giant aquarium!  There is something for everyone in the Dubai Mall.  As well as watching the beautiful sea creatures, I loved to watch the people watching them.  There was always a row of people happily pointing and taking pictures of the large section of the aquarium that is free to the general public.

Another relaxing place to while away the hours in the mall is at the waterfall.  I wish we had waterfalls in our shopping centers at home, maybe people would be a little less stressed!

If fake waterfalls aren’t your thing, there’s always the olympic sized ice rink, indoor theme park or cinema.  The possibilities for non-shopping related activities are endless.  I can’t comment on the shopping as I didn’t do any, but I can imagine the joy that over 1200 shops in such lovely surroundings would bring to an avid shopper!

All the air conditioned malls, tunnels and towers left me craving the outside (a place that I frequently forgot existed here!).  It is VERY difficult to walk anywhere in Dubai though, as my disastrous attempt at visiting the Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary demonstrated.  After getting within 500 meters of the place on the bus, I was forced to abandon my trip due to a fenced highway between me and my destination that was impossible to cross.

This experience made the successful walks all the more enjoyable.

I managed to navigate my way along tiny pavements, through, under and across vast roads and buildings, out into a space open enough to observe the majestic skyline.

It was the marina that really stole my heart though.  There is magic everywhere we go, but near the water it’s much easier to see it!  All the shades of sunset reflected in the gentle ripples, and combined with the twinkling city lights to create an enticing glow, inviting me to stay.

I longed to jump into the water, buy a boat, or live in a glittering apartment overlooking the beautiful marina.  Anything to be a part of this special place.  But instead, I took a piece of it with me to hold in my imagination and my dreams.

That’s how I cope with leaving places I love all over the world.  They leave impressions on me that I couldn’t leave behind if I wanted to.

 

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The Magic Is In You – Floating On A Cloud

The sky is putting on a show for me as I write this post.  Glowing light reflects on a slowly changing infinite variety of soft shapes floating through the sky in front of me.  I feel myself becoming lighter with an inner glow emerging as I gaze through the window.

I wonder if the sky is getting more beautiful every day?  The more I look the more I see, in a never ending exploration of an ever changing dreamscape.

sunset-housesitting

 

Cloud Meditation

Choose a time and a place where you can observe clouds.  It doesn’t matter if you’re lying on the ground, walking, or looking out of a window, as long as you are comfortable.  Focus on an aspect or aspects of the clouds that you find most appealing.  Is it the slow drifting movement that reminds you to slow down?  Is it the way they are suspended in the air that reminds you to feel lighter in your mind and body?  Do you find comfort in the soft shapes, or is it the vast open space of the sky holding the clouds that speaks to your heart?

Whether it is one or some of the above aspects you choose to focus on, or something different entirely, let it be something that inspires you.  Take a few minutes to focus on this magic, and feel it resonate within you.

Know that by taking this time to focus on the clouds, you are strengthening your own cloud like qualities.  You will feel more softness, lightness, spaciousness, peace, or whatever it is that you desire, whenever you choose to remember this experience.  All you need to do is look up at the sky, and this will remind you of your inner cloud magic!

Share your cloud gazing experiences in the comments below 🙂

 

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La Fortuna – Was It All A Dream?

My time in La Fortuna was far from perfect.  I got very sick, spent way more money than I intended to, and missed a lot of the things I went there for.  However, my overall memory of it is shrouded in a hazy dream-like wonder.

As I stepped off the bus I was welcomed to town by this little guy, whose magical doggie healing properties made carrying my heavy rucksack up the hill to my hostel much more bearable!

I had no plan for La Fortuna, so happily went along with some other backpackers for a whirlwind tour of the region.  I was so lucky to be driven around in a car all day, stopping when we wanted to, exploring the area and checking off some of the major sights.

When we arrived at the hanging bridges in Arenal, I felt like I’d finally arrived in the Costa Rica of my imagination.  The forest was packed with excited tourists, and it was pouring with rain, but I was high up amongst the tree tops at last.

I paused on the bridge, feeling it bounce slightly beneath my feet.  It was a strange and unforgettable sensation, being suspended in the canopy, enveloped in mist, held in the embrace of the rainforest.

Unfortunately, the mist that made the forest all the more beautiful, hid the famous Arenal volcano from view.  We drove through the trees over winding bumpy roads in an attempt to get closer and perhaps catch a glimpse.  At one point a faint outline began to appear through the cloud, only to disappear again for the next few days!

Whilst waiting for the volcano to show, I passed the time at possibly the best hot springs resort in the world.  I spent an entire evening at Baldi Hot Springs with friends from the hostel, and the next day I went back again alone to soak up more of the blissful magic!

I can’t recommend highly enough visiting hot springs at night.  It’s like a lucid dream that is too perfect to be real, and you’re enjoying far too much to wake up from.  With 25 thermal spring water pools, there was always something new and amazing to discover as we made our way through the dark steamy oasis.

That’s not to say I wasn’t utterly mesmerized in the light of day by the sight of cascades of water filling crystalline pools, surrounded by lush vegetation.  My heart was full to bursting as I explored every corner, feeling all the muscles in my body relax into the hot soothing water.

From floating in paradise, to drifting away in a strange and troubled sleep, I found myself in bed sick for the next couple of days.  So much for the ‘healing’ properties of the spring water!  It was difficult to be annoyed though, as after camping and staying in dorm rooms, a rest in my own private room was just what I needed!

Covered in thick cloud, I’d given up hope of catching sight of the elusive volcano.  I’d almost forgotten it was there, and I certainly didn’t realise I had a view of it from my balcony!  So on my last day in La Fortuna, as I was lazing in bed, I was awestruck when the clouds parted to reveal the mysterious, slightly threatening peak.

What an amazing treat to be lying in bed with such a view.  It was almost worth getting sick for!  However, having spent a small fortune and recovered enough to travel, it was time to leave this popular yet mostly hidden wonderland.  Frustratingly, there was so much more to discover in this area of geological wonders, but I had already spent far longer than I’d planned to there.  The cloud closed over the volcano again, and it disappeared, as though it was all a dream.

Where do you go when you dream?  Have you been somewhere so magical it makes you feel like you are dreaming, even though you are awake?  Leave me a comment below 🙂

 

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Wild And Free In Puerto Viejo

My first week in Puerto Viejo on the caribbean coast of Costa Rica was everything I needed it to be.  After many months of housesitting in the UK, snuggled up with other people’s pets in lovely comfortable surroundings, I found myself the other side of the world living in a tent.

I didn’t know it at the time, but a hurricane was on its way.  Apparently it is very unusual in Costa Rica, but given my countless previous near misses with disasters it didn’t surprise me in the slightest.  Anyway, I was blissfully unaware of the storm that was looming as I optimistically pitched my tent outside Rocking J’s, a popular hostel in Puerto Viejo.

Hurricane Otto was still a few days away, but rain hammered down relentlessly on my previously untested tent.  After the first night I knew I’d made the right purchase, when after 6 hours of non-stop heavier than I’ve ever experienced rain, there was not a single drop inside.  I slept a lot easier the next night.

I’m not a seasoned camper, and there is something immensely satisfying about withstanding such extreme weather in a tent that is small and light enough to carry in your rucksack!  When the rain finally stopped in the morning, I looked around in awe at the airy spacious bubble I was living in.  It gave me the most amazing sense of freedom to know that I could travel anywhere in the world with this miraculous mobile house.

It wasn’t just the rain that was extreme.  When the sky cleared, the blazing heat of the sun made it impossible to do much more than collapse on the beach under the welcome shade of a palm tree, which was fine by me.

I would cool off every so often in the huge crashing waves, trying simultaneously to keep my bikini on, avoid drowning, and watch my bag didn’t get stolen!

The humidity meant nothing dried here, and all my clothes were left smelling of mildew no matter how much I washed them.  I practically gave up washing myself too!  I bathed in the sea and showered in the rain.

By the end of the week I’d completely surrendered to my unpredictable surroundings.  I still didn’t know it, but the hurricane was getting closer.  The rain was getting heavier and longer, shortening my time on the beach, and forcing me into the water, which was where I really wanted to be anyway.

As I played in the crashing waves I reached up my arms to feel the rain that was pouring down and merging with the swirling foam of the ocean.  Again and again I was engulfed by the sea, happily coughing and spluttering as I inhaled salt water.  I became as wild as my surroundings, bursting with joy, and freedom glistening in my eyes.

In that moment I knew the meaning of ‘pura vida’, a popular Costa Rican expression which translates as ‘pure life’.  They say it when things are good, when things go wrong, and basically whenever they feel like it!  A week ago, I felt like I needed calm surroundings in order to relax.  Now I found the opposite to be true.  I was at the mercy of the whirlpool around me and bursting sky above, and was happier than ever.

However, even with my new found oneness with the storm, when I heard about Hurricane Otto rapidly approaching I decided it was time to leave my wild caribbean paradise.  From the reaction of the locals I’m sure it would have been safe to stay, but a Costa Rican friend had said the road to Puerto Viejo may close if the rain continued.  He was right, it did, but we were fortunately back in San Jose by then.

So I hurriedly packed up my tent and left Puerto Viejo, hoping but not knowing if I would come back.  There was so much more of this amazing stretch of coastline to explore, but for now I would have to settle for the volcanoes, hot springs and rainforest of the interior of Costa Rica!

It’s so easy to get stuck in our comfort zones.  When I’m at home I spend most of my time in a lovely safe bubble!  When was the last time you surrendered to the wild forces of nature?  Was it intentional, or did weather / a natural disaster / some unpredictable event catch you off guard?  Leave me a comment below 🙂

 

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