In Sri Lanka, every full moon is an official holiday! We really love the connection between nature and spirituality that every celebrates here. A couple weeks ago the full moon was extra special, because it was also Vesak Day, a holiday celebrating major milestones in the life of Buddha – basically his birth, enlightenment, and death are all celebrated on Vesak Day.
We also got to have a special experience for Vesak and the Full Moon, by going out to on the water with SUP Yoga Sri Lanka at Duwa Villas! They had organized a special full moon ceremony experience including meditation, pranayama, some gentle yin SUP yoga, and a letting-go ceremony out on the water. We captured a little bit of video before it got too dark to share the experience!
It started to rain a little bit while we were out on the water meditating, but the rain felt cool and nice, like the baptism of a new moon cycle! It was so peaceful to just lie on our backs on the boards, feeling the gentle motion of the water and the refreshing touch of the raindrops. What an amazing experience! We can’t wait to try more SUP Yoga in Sri Lanka!
While in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we had the opportunity to attend Auntie Orn’s Organic Family Cooking class. The class takes place on a organic farm just outside of the city, giving participants the opportunity to see a working organic farm in action. Auntie Orn’s family and helpers are all some of the nicest people you will ever meet, and the whole experience makes you feel good on many levels. We learned how to cook three classic northern Thai dishes: Khow soi, tom yam, and panang curry!
We were picked up a little before 9am and driven to a very local market in the countryside outside of Chiang Mai city. We were very excited about learning to cook Thai food, as taking a class had been on our list since our first days in Thailand. At the market Autie Orn met us and showed us around. We sampled a few of the local items and we picked up a few things for the class. We were the only farang (foreigners) in the market and the locals got a kick out of me sampling some ant larvae which was in season and harvested in the jungle. It had a real interesting flavor and texture, even better with hot sauce.
After the market we drove a few minutes away to the farm owned by Auntie Orn. In the front was a cute kitchen and tables and the land behind it was planted with all types of fruits and veggies. There were three couples in the class, and the first thing each of us did was to plant a tree on the farm. It was a great way to contribute something to the land! After planting our banana and mango trees, Auntie Orn invited us back anytime to check on our babies. You could tell she really meant it and we hope to make it back in a year or so to check on our baby banana tree!
Next we started preparing the food. We used large a mortar and pestle to crush up lots of different stuff into a Thai curry paste which was the base of the khow soi and panang curry. We pounded and pounded to extract the flavors of the ingredients and produce an amazing spicy aroma. Our hunger grew as we saw how delicious everything was getting, and we couldn’t wait to try the final product!
Auntie Orn’s Cooking class was about to get HOT! She heated up three woks, helping us work our curries into shape. The final product was a HUGE feast and we were all very proud of our labors! We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore, and maybe it was because we had made it ourselves, but we all thought it was by far the best food we have had in Thailand.
While our food digested we went on a tour of the farm, learning about permaculture farming methods and how the farm would progress in the future.
After the tour we learned how to make the ever-delicious mango sticky rice! It was very easy and so so good, a great way to finish the meal.
The final part of the day was extra memorable. We all received a very special New Years blessing along with bracelets for good luck! The blessing was given with holy water and everything. We felt special to be part of such an amazing ceremony.
Auntie Orn’s classes are by appointment only and you can contact Auntie Orn to make a booking via her website!
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We discovered the amazing Surf & Yoga Mirissa during our second visit to Sri Lanka when we were looking for a place on the south coast to chill, get some work done, and live close to nature. Surf & Yoga Mirissa’s property is right in the jungle just 1km down the road from Mirissa’s main beach. The retreat features clean spacious rooms with super-comfy beds, hammocks to lounge around in all over the property, a surf shop and yoga studio, all the activities you could possibly want to do in south Sri Lanka, and the amazing Ahimsa Vegan Cafe!
There’s also breakfast and dinner available (vegan and non-vegan options) for guests, three yoga classes per day, and surf lessons available for all levels with awesome, experienced instructors.
The yoga instruction is also top-notch, with a variety of styles being taught and teachers who can cater to all levels! Honestly, it’s the perfect place to jump headfirst into the yoga+surf life!
Ahimsa Vegan Cafe, the super-cool shipping container restaurant on site, has amazing healthy plant-based offerings! It’s open every day except Sunday from 11-3:30! Be sure to try the signature Ahimsa Bowl – a mix of roasted veggies, salad, veggie protein, and delicious homemade peanut sauce!
Mirissa Surf & Yoga also strives to be as eco-friendly as possible, with composting, recycling, and regular “karma yoga” beach cleanups! The owner, Priyal, and staff of Surf & Yoga Mirissa can guide you to all the best sites and activities in the area! They’re a super-friendly crew of surfers who will be sure to make you feel at home in Sri Lanka! There’s also no less than FOUR cute, friendly doggies who call this place home. So there are lots of furry friends for those of you who miss your pets so much, like us!
Check out their awesome video for more of a taste of this amazing place!
While in Chiang Mai we were fortunate enough to go on our second tour by Grasshopper Adventures – Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour. This was again a night time biking tour which took us though the old city highlighting some incredible temples and history. Our guide was absolutely fantastic and his knowledge of the city was scholarly. Here is a video showcasing our experience!!!
After meeting up at the Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai headquarters, we mounted our bicycles and headed off into the city. Again, we were very impressed with the quality of the bikes offered by Grasshopper — so comfortable and with front and back lights!
Our first stop was at Chiang Mai Pae Gate. It was built as the main entrance to the walled city, easily accessible to traders coming though on the nearby river. We learned that the city had several ways in, each for specific types of people, historically. One exit was reserved only for the dead on their funeral marches.
Next we rode to several amazing temples, each with Buddha relics and lots of good energy. We used a kind of rope and pulley at Wat Lok Molee to send holy water which automatically dropped over the temple. Apparently doing this together would guide our spirits back to each other in the next life. “I don’t know, one life with you might be enough…” said Carrie, maybe joking but probably serious. I am a piece of work sometimes.
Near the end of the tour we walked through the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang, located right in the middle of Chiang Mai Old City. The temple is partially collapsed on top and reminded us a lot of places we visited in Cambodia.
Our final stop was at the Chiang Mai Gate Night Food Market We were treated to some amazing coconut pancakes, mango sticky rice, and some smoothies. Food always makes me quite happy, and even though we had taken a feast of a cooking class earlier in the day, I was happy to eat again.
Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour was a great look into the history of the northern Thailand city. We learned much about the Lanna empire which existed independently before they were absorbed into the Siam empire (Later Thailand) and how the younger generations are trying to bring back their historical culture.
While spending time in south Sri Lanka, we were fortunate to come across Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat. They run monthly week-long getaways in the Bandara Watte Villa, a beautiful colonial escape surrounded by many local animals including wild peacocks. Located in the jungle nearby Weligama, Sri Lanka, their adventures are equally focused on surfing and yoga, using experienced local surf guides and certified yoga instructors. They also feature a “give back” volunteering day where participants visit a local school, teaching the children yoga and donating school supplies.
Unlike a lot of the yoga camps in the area, Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat takes you surfing almost every day. Weligama Bay near the villa is the perfect spot for beginner surfers. For more experienced surfers there are many opportunities for close by beach and reef breaks in Unawatuna, Galle, Ahangama, Midigama, and Mirissa. We loved how they used only local surf instructors; the guys were super nice and helpful especially for the newbies.Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat also features a “give back” day when you get the opportunity to check out a local school and lead activities for some children. The kids really love it and it’s a great opportunity to see into the lives of little Sri Lankans. They have so much energy, and by the end of the hour all the adults are dripping sweat, the kids still running circles.
The morning and sunset yoga practice is at the Bandara Watte Villa. You listen to the sounds of the jungle while peacefully drifting into a meditative state. If you get lucky a peacock will show its feathers.
One of the highlights of the retreat was the food! The chef, Mahendra, creates local dishes with a twist of western fusion. The curries he makes are some of the best we’ve had, the spices deep and complex, but comforting and familiar at the same time.
Whether in Sri Lanka for a short time or a long trip, Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat is a great way to see and do a lot, without worrying about anything. The staff is top-notch and the venue is classic, you’ll quickly feel at home and not want to leave!
We had a very wet, exhilarating blast of a time during our first Songkran Thai New Year celebration! In Chiang Mai, people converge around the Old City‘s moat with water guns, hoses, buckets, and refill barrels! Our friends from the USA picked Songkran week to visit us in Thailand so they could join in on the madness! We had tons of fun acting like kids, dueling with Thai families, dodging water gun fire all around us and sneak-attacking unsuspecting tourists! Who’s coming to Thailand for Songkran next year?
The amazing Tuk Tuk Safari offers tours around Colombo, Galle, and Kandy. The tours are not just in any tuk tuks, these babies have roll-back tops, coolers of beer, custom music playlists, cool drivers, and classic paint jobs! Our driver, Donald Duck (yes, that was literally what his nametag said), picked us up in downtown Galle and welcomed us to his safari! He wore a fun colonial safari outfit, and kept a great smile on his face as he showed us our sweet ride.
We hadn’t really researched the places Tuk Tuk Safari would take us around Galle, which led us to an afternoon full of surprises. At first we drove a little ways, ending up in Kabalana where we bounced up a dirt road to a little house in the palms. By a beautiful outdoor kitchen we were served an incredible spread of curries: jackfruit, dhal, sweet onions, cucumber, potato… plus rice and of course papadam. The curries were super special, and we both agreed it was one of our top three favorite meals in our two months of traveling Sri Lanka. For dessert we had some very nice pineapple, jackfruit, and soursop, along with fresh curd and treackle (coconut sap, Sri Lankan maple syrup). So yum!
Our second stop was to the famous stilt fishermen of Ahangama. The Sri Lankans erect sticks into the reef areas where there are many fish. They climb up the sticks and sit on little shelves for hours at a time. The spot we stopped was made for tourists so you can go experience it like the locals. I climbed up there, getting super wet in the process, so Carrie could snap this classic shot!
Tukkin’ down the road, we veered off after an airport and headed inland. Down a few skinny local streets, we came to a sign: “Spice Garden”. They had a nice garden of all the local things out back, along with boat tours around Koggala Lake. We took a quick tour around the garden then found ourselves in their showroom where they sell amazing Ayurvedic products along with homegrown spices. We had a lot of fun learning about everything that could be cured by natural products. We try to not use any chemical products so we bought a few things to take on our travels.
The next stop on Tuk Tuk Safari was the Turtle Conservation Center in Koggala, Sri Lanka. They take in sea turtles injured by boats and nets and try to heal them or give them a comfortable place to live their disabled lives. There is also a turtle hatchery behind the building on the beach. One of their turtle tanks was packed full of hundreds of baby turtles!!! Cute little tiny things. We love turtles and we really appreciated what this place is doing to help.
Donald Duck now drove us to our final stop, the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Unawatuna. Built in 2005 in an effort by a Japanese Buddhist sect to build temples in conflict zones (Sri Lanka was in civil war until 2009), the temple offers incredible views from a hilltop overlooking the bay. The sunset was turning fantastic and the whole scene was super magical. When the sun was nearing the horizon, we hurried down the hill and caught the last glimpse of the red ball falling into the ocean. With a lot of light still, we walked down a path to Jungle Beach, a secluded spot with a nice beach and calm water.
Dark now, we headed home. Donald dropped us off at our hotel and we said goodbye. Tuk Tuk Safari far exceeded our expectations, taking us to all new spots even though we’d already been traveling in that area for weeks. Everything was organized perfectly and Donald Duck was an outstanding tour guide! We really hope to do their other tours of Colombo and Kandy at some point. Tuk Tuk Safari just offers such a cool and unique experience!