Ways to use a lovely bunch of coconuts

A huge pile of coconuts in Marinduque, Philippines.

I was impressed with the number of ways people in the Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand used coconuts. I didn’t know that you could use the whole coconut in a variety of ways from the outer skin to the meat. Here are a few ways you can put coconuts to good use aside from drinking the juice:

Our Filipina granny showing us that coconuts can be used as hats, bras and knee pads.

A yummy coconut jelly drink made with the coconut meat in Marinduque, Philippines.

Coconuts can be burned and covered overnight to make charcoal. The family we stayed with in Marinduque used the charcoal every day to cook.

Coconuts can be shaved on the outside and be used as coconut bowls. Our wonderful friends in the Philippines were so nice and used their machetes to cut a bunch of bowls for our friend. 

Coconuts are great for machete practice. Though the local Filipina women were laughing at my horrendous ability to cut coconuts with a machete. It took me 10 minutes to cut one successfully. I would be so fired if I ever tried to sell coconuts.

Coconut meat shavings can be used to make a variety of desserts.

Coconut shavings can be used as kindling to start fires.

These coconut meat shavings were used in a salad at Mindful Farm in northern Thailand. The travelers who were staying on the farm cook every night together.

At Tacomepai farm in northern Thailand, the rougher parts of a coconut was smartly used as a sponge to clean dishes. On this farm, plastic is forbidden and residents and guests reuse as much material as they can.

 

 

 

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How long food takes to grow in Marinduque, Philippines

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It’s been a great experience learning about farming and gaining a much greater understanding of how long our food takes to grow naturally. I’ve grown up getting my food from stores and markets in Canada so it’s easy to be so disconnected from our food and the people who grow our food.

I have a much greater appreciation for the work of farmers after spending time in villages in Cambodia, farms in Thailand and one farm in Marinduque, Philippines. My friend and I spent 8 days in Marinduque island with my friend’s brother, whose family owns a big piece of land. They have rain about six months of the year and it’s dry season the rest of the year. Of course the amount of time food takes to grow depends on weather.

Given that Marinduque gets about 6 months of rain in the year and sun for the other half, here is approximately how long their food takes to grow:

Squash: 40 days

Tumeric: 1 year

Coconut tree: 7 years

Pechay: 1 month

Okra: 40 days

Cucumber: 2 months

Garlic: 1 month

One pineapple: 1 year!

 

The Jatiluwih rice paddies in Bali, Indonesia

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While I was on Bali island in Indonesia, one of 13,466 islands that make up the country, my friend and I rode our mottos to see the unique Jatiluwih rice paddies, a popular place for foreign visitors. Jati means “really” and luwih means “beautiful.” The rice fields were dug in terraces on the slope of Mount Batukaru around the middle of Bali. When the rice almost reaches harvest time, the colour often varies between green, and dark yellow.

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Indonesia has one of the most stunning landscape and it’s why the motto rides are the best way to explore the country in my opinion. The entrance fee was no more than $2.50 US, about the same price as most temples and sights. Compared to Europe, the value for these places around Asia are much more  beautiful and unique. The Jatiluwih rice fields are definitely worth a visit.

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Thailand cost summary

The coast of Koh Chang island in the south of Thailand. We were living in a treehouse for a few days built by our awesome Thai friend.

 

In January 2014, my friend and I spent a month in Thailand. We were in Bangkok for a few days, in Ko Chang island for a week, and two weeks in Chiang Mai. We stayed at friends’ places, a few guesthouses, in a tent, and on farm stays.

At the time we were in Thailand, $1.00 US =30 Thai Baht. All of these costs are in US dollars.

BANGKOK

Accommodation

  • Free: 7 nights accommodation with two friends who lived close to the BTS (Bangkok Train Station) station.
  • $20.00 per person (split 3 ways): 3 nights at Nasa Vegas hotel. You have to pay extra for internet. But there is an internet cafe across the street and you can get unlimited internet for a day for about $5.

Transportation 

  • $0.50 to $1.50: Each BTS train station trip in Bangkok.
  • $1.50: Train from the airport to the BTS .
  • $0.30: Each trip on the public busses.

KO CHANG ISLAND

Accommodation

  • $60.00: Total price for two people at Garden Lodge for 4 nights. The price included Wi-Fi, free water from a filter and a full kitchen to use. The price includes $0.30 per cup of coffee and tea.
  • $3.30 per person for one night on the beach in the tent.
  • $2.50 per person per night for three nights at a treehouse on the beach. The owner was so nice and made a full BBQ for us with delicious fresh fish for free.

Food

  • $1.00 to $5 per meal.

Transportation

  • $70.00 for having a scooter for 6 days in Ko Chang. My friend and I split this in half so it costed me $35 for the 6 days.

CHIANG MAI

Accommodation

  • $4.00: per person per night for three nights with VR guesthouse. 
  • Free: One night free with a friend.
  • $3.30: shuttle ride from Chiang Mai to Mindful Farm, a vegetarian farm that integrates.
  • Free: scooters for two days from a friend.

Mindful farm

  • $7.00 per day for accommodation and meals for three meals a day for three days.

Mae Hong Son mountain loop

Aside from meals and accommodation, my friend and I divided everything in two.

  • $73.00 (split 2 ways): 200 cc Honda Phantom rental for four days.
  • $8.00 (well worth it): Mae Hong Son Map.
  • $6.00 (split 2 ways): Entry fee for waterfalls and geysers.
  • $10.00 per person: Tacomepai farm homestay for accommodation and three meals a day ($3.33 per person per night for accommodation and $1.67 per day for three meals a day)
  • $20.00: 91 grade gas to travel 600 km (split 2 ways)
  • $5.00: One night stay in a village guesthouse including water
  • $1.00 to $5.00 per meal for three days.

Total cost per person in Mae Hong Son: $96 for four days

Total cost for one month in Thailand: $463 

Don’t let fears shield kindness

People bartering on the streets of Port Louis, the capital of Delicious Mauritius.

Right now I’m in my birth country Mauritius, a small island-country, off the south-east coast of Africa.

I’m sure most of you know people who are so paranoid about the world that they over shelter their children and tell them all the scary stories about how they will be killed, attacked or rape if they mingle with the wrong people. No exaggeration.

Even though for the next few months I’m living in the same country as some people here, we live in completely different worlds. In their world, people constantly at risk of getting mugged, attacked and people outside their circles cannot be trusted. I feel guilty that I let some people’s irrational fears led me to create an unnecessary guard during my first two weeks here. What I’ve experienced so far in Mauritius on the street, public transit and financially destitute communities is nothing but genuine kindness and people who are helpful.

The most vibrant and funniest women I’ve met in Mauritius. They love to joke, dance and have big hearts. They were teaching me how to dance saga, a catchy traditional dance style in Mauritius.

My grandma lives just 15 minutes from the city centre so I just walk around only in the daytime. It’s true that in Mauritius, it’s not generally safe to walk around or go around at night unless you have a car and with a group of people. But in the daytime, common sense will protect you.

In my first two weeks trying to navigate Port Louis, when I got lost, I asked a man for directions and he kindly offered to walk me part way to my direction. I made sure I held my valuables tight and prepare for the worst and even thought, “I shouldn’t let him walk me all the way, then he’ll know where I’m going and what if he and other people try to steal something later on. I don’t know what it’s like here.” As soon as I knew where I was, I thanked him for his help and continued on.

But he is not the first person to be so kind to me and I realized that I got sucked into other people’s unjustified fears. I’ve been traveling on my own for a year and a half, and like anywhere else, I use street smarts and my intuition to judge who I can and cannot interact with.

Packed van coming back from an all-night beach jam West of Mauritius under star-covered sky. While most people don’t go out past 6 p.m. in Mauritius, if you find the right crowd, it’s safe and fun.

Another time I went the wrong direction and I asked a woman in her 50s where to go. She said, “I saw you walking up the street and the other woman sent you the wrong way. If I didn’t have to be at a meeting I would drive you myself.” Then she took time to draw me a map of where to go. She was really sweet.

There are so many busses around Mauritius and it’s not always clear where to go, so I always ask. I asked an old man about the bus before everyone got on. Before he said down, he asked if he could sit beside me and I said yes. He told me a bit about his life, and where he grew up. He got off a few stops before mine and he told me to enjoy the rest of my trip.

I’m not naive of the dangers that exist in every country, but there is a difference between being cautiously prudent and being unjustifiably paranoid. Irrational fears create an unnecessary barrier to experiencing the kindness of people who live next to you.

Our lovely couch surfing friends we miss so much that we met in the Philippines. We became instant friends after meeting in the travel community. Good energy attracts good energy.

 

“When someone gives you an opportunity, take it.”

On the way to Delicious Mauritius and the flight where I unintentionally made a key contact.

It’s amazing who you can meet when you leave yourself to be open and talk to people without an agenda.

I came to Mauritius mid-April this year to be with my grandma while she recovered from eye surgery. I bought the cheapest ticket I could find online from Singapore to Mauritius just two weeks before my flight. After I bought my ticket, I saw on the ticket that the flight from Malaysia to Mauritius was in business class. I thought it was a mistake or glitch in their system.

When I checked into the flight, I was still dressed like a backpacker in my shorts, tank top and flip flops. Even when I was giving my boarding pass, one staff person whispered loud enough to her colleague, “Oh she’s in business class.” I so didn’t look the part.

So I get to my big seat I’m completely clueless on how to use the chair. I thought the staff would give some kind of orientation. Silly me.

After two hours, I regained more energy and finally said hello to the guy next to me just to be friendly and asked if he was visiting Mauritius or if he lived there. I had no idea who he was obviously. He told me he’s been doing business in Mauritius for a long time and we just chatted about his background, family and my volunteer work.

I told him while I’m in Mauritius I wanted to visit some NGOs while I have time there visting family and attending weddings. He kindly offered to introduce me to a manager of one of the biggest Corporate Social Responsibility departments in Mauritius and also invited me to one of his workshops. I cautiously accepted because I was wondering why he was being so nice to do all of this. I even asked him, “Why are you doing this for me, you just met me.” He simply replied, “We all have to start somewhere and I’m  happy to help you. When someone gives you an opportunity, you should take it.”

I had nothing to lose and I got a good vibe from him. My intuition has guided me well the past year when it comes to judging personalities. So I contacted him as soon as I could and when I saw the invitation for his workshop, I learned what an established and well known business he was and I was shocked to learn that the five-day intensive course was worth a few thousand US dollars. When I went to the payment portion of the form, it said “Approved.”

I was so embarrased that I asked him on the plane how to pull out the TV and eating tray. I said, “Sorry, I’ve never been in business class before.” Keep in mind I was wearing mini shorts, a tank top and flip flops. Thankfully he judged me for my substance and not style. My family and friends always ask me what I was wearing when he made the offer and the are surprised that he did given the way I looked.

Tomorrow will be the first day of the workshop and I am preparing for it. I’m both excited and nervous but it’s been awhile since I’ve had a challenge so it’s time to step up and work my brain again. I won’t have another post until late next week because I’ve been told I will be getting three hours of sleep for the next week since there are daily tests, projects and group work.

Lesson of the story: Talk to people without an agenda and if someone offers to help you, take it.

Global time conversions

Real time bathroom stall updates in the public washroom in Taiwan. Not only is it efficient in Taiwan, you get all the info you need and more.

After traveling around different parts of Asia, there are very different attitudes towards time or a lack of acknowledgement of time. Of course every community has people who are very punctual and people who are very “late” by our Western value of time. But you can definitely feel a difference depending which communities you are in.

Here are some general time conversions as you navigate through different places:

  • 30 real time minutes=30 minutes in Taiwan
  • 30 real time minutes=45 to 90 minutes in Cambodia
  • 30 real time minutes=1 to 3.8 hours in hippy communities
  • 30 real time minutes=45 minutes to “whenever my massage is done” in northern Thailand
  • 30 real time minutes=1.5 hours or “whenever I feel like it” in Laos
  • 30 real time minutes=10 minutes in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is probably the most intense and quickest environment that is most definitely not a zen place to be if you want to relax in the main city. Everything in the city feels so fast and rushed, especially when you’re at restaurants. I remember when I went to dim sum with my family at a restaurant and the second you finish your meal, they yell and rush you out and throw the next plates for the next customers. Any second wasted on us getting ready to go is money being wasted in their eyes.

On the other extreme end of the non-existent time spectrum, you have Laos PDR, which stands for “Please Don’t Rush” as the airport sign told me. Even at a restaurant that has two customers or less, the food can take up to an hour and a half to come out. Service generally happens whenever people feel like it. So assume there will likely be delays in your journey.