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Wellness

Mass(age) Tourism: Ayurvedic therapy for anxiety in India

Top of the list of the things that I wanted to do on my trip to Goa was to immerse myself in the traditions of ayurvedic therapy during a lazy week on Palolem Beach.

I went online to find a practitioner, and as soon as I saw ‘psychosomatic massage’ I knew that I had to go outside my comfort zone and give this authentically Indian experience a try.

Ayurveda is a system of medicine that originated in the Indian subcontinent, often referred to as the ‘science of life,’ based on its translation from Sanskrit of Ayu (life) and Veda (science or knowledge). This method is over 3000 years old and it focuses on full-body healing.

Pain before pleasure

I booked my massage with a man named Ranjeet, who was described as a healer on TripAdvisor by the many travellers who swore by his methods. I was fascinated by the techniques he must use – especially as one woman said that the ‘relief was worthy of the pain’. How painful was this therapy going to be?

As a highly anxious person, I’m always looking for ways to unwind and reduce the intrusive thoughts in my mind, so I was prepared to experience a little pain…

Always check the reviews

For safety reasons, it’s important to always check the reviews before you book a massage as sexual assault does happen in rogue clinics in Goa. As I was a solo woman traveller I wanted to keep myself quite literally, in safe hands!

A small dark room

I had a degree of trepidation as I approached the hut, the place I was going to get my mind, body and spirit back in balance. I entered the small dark room, containing only a chair and hard bed not knowing what to expect. However, Ranjeet completely put me at ease – very important when you’re a woman in a room alone! He had a great sense of humour and I quickly realised mid-treatment that you have to have that to be an Ayurvedic therapist.

I do consider myself a ‘massage tourist’ as I’ve tried therapies all over the world – from Balinese massage to cupping therapy so I love to contrast different styles. Psychosomatic massage is certainly different to anything I’ve tried before – a few elements were similar to getting a seeing hands massage in Nepal – but it’s a whole different genre.

For a start, it was very long – 90 minutes and he asks you about what you want to get out of it, with the aim to release the tense emotions (blockages) that have built up in your body. It’s important not to eat for a couple of hours beforehand, as if you have, and they work on your stomach then your breakfast may make a reappearance.

‘Emotional Blockages’

A part of the job as an Ayurvedic healer is to analyse the tension that they feel in your body. He told me that the left side of the neck represents pain caused by a woman and the right is for men. The female pain was older than 10 years and the masculine tension was very fresh and much more pronounced.

I hadn’t had an argument with a female friend since my early twenties but my partner had inadvertently caused me grief on the trip. He’d been very ill during and after we trekked to Everest Base Camp and then again in India where he had his bag stolen. So yes, his theory was right but it could be a lucky guess, based on my age and sexuality.

Another diagnosis was that my lymphatic drainage system wasn’t working as I didn’t drink enough water. Apparently, dehydration makes skin more sensitive so that was something that I didn’t know.

‘Healing’ hands

Once the treatment began, it was incredibly vigorous as it’s a deliberate attempt to create heat from friction to make your muscles more malleable. The peak of the pain came when he stuck his finger under my armpit which was like nothing I’d ever experienced before or since. Although if I’d experienced childbirth, I probably wouldn’t be saying that! Helpfully, Ranjeet warns you when pain is imminent.

He surmised that I’d suffered from depression in the past and he identified the pressure points for stress, anxiety and anger, which he then pressed – hard. It took me through the gamut of negative emotions and then back to relief when he stopped let go after what felt like an incredible length of time.

Ranjeet refers to the agony of the massage as ‘sweet pain’ and encourages you to laugh and cry to let go of your feelings. As a deeply repressed British person who is wound pretty tight, I could do neither of those things! It took all of my willpower not to walk out the door.

The Aftermath

You do need a few sessions to work out the various knots and embrace the intensity of the treatment. Apparently, it hurts less a second time, and I would love to try it again to see if I could learn to accept the pain and release it more successfully! That evening I felt slightly weepy and light-headed but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

He told me that I would be in pain the next day and I certainly was – I also had small circular bruise marks on my skin due to the amount of pressure on my blood vessels. The bruises were a sign that he’d really worked hard on my ‘blockages’, so I wore them as a badge of honour.

Treat Yourself

Even though I felt like I was a long way from absorbing the spirituality that pervades everyday life in India, embracing Ayurvedic medicine felt like a big step toward it. I’d only been in India for two months at this point, so I was just an infant traveller in this mammoth country.

Anyone that backpacks around India deserves a massage – journeys are long and sometimes uncomfortable, at times you have very little personal space and sometimes figuring everything out can be stressful at times.

It’s a wonderful reward after long days that it takes to absorb the overwhelming and intriguing sights of India. You might even inadvertently heal something along the way. Ayurvedic massage is a uniquely painful bodily experience that your mind and muscles will never forget

Asia Insider Tips

Exploring Java, Indonesia: Yogyakarta & Borobudur

I embarked on an incredible cultural journey with the Ministry of Tourism, Indonesia and one of my favorite parts of the trip was exploring Yogyakarta & Borobudur. Read on to discover the best things to do and where to stay in these beautiful parts of Indonesia.

How to get there:
Traveling from Jakarta, we hopped on a short flight to Yogyakarta and immediately began our three hour road trip to Magelang, Central with a pit stop at Sekar Kedaton Restaurant which was both delicious and Instagrammable.

Where to Stay: Hotel Plataran Heritage Borobudur
Brand new to the Borobudur area, the charming Plataran Heritage Borobudur is the perfect place to stay if you want to experience a chic and charming colonial style hotel with stunning views of the pool on one side and the Menoreh Hills on the other. The light and airy rooms were the my favorite part of the hotel but the grounds were absolutely stunning as well.


Things to do:

Borobudur
Borobudur, one of the world’s most beautiful and largest Buddhist temples is worth waking up at 3 am for if capturing spectacular photos with beautiful light is important to you. We were escorted to the base of the temple where we were given flashlights and found the ideal spot to capture the colors of the sun. Keep in mind that there will be tons of tourists surrounding you also trying to capturing the moment so I suggest wandering through the temple and finding a peaceful place to reflect after you get your shots. It’s a special place and this is important.

Yogyakarta
Located in the heart of Java, Yogyakarta is home to the fascinating and fun Javanese culture. There was so much life and culture to be found in this city and I absolutely loved it.

Where to Stay: Phoenix Hotel
Approxmitaely 1-2 hours away from Borobudur temple (depending on traffic), The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta MGallery by Sofitel is hands down one of the best places to stay in Yogykarta. Beauty is to be found at every corner of this iconic landmark with balconies overlooking the pool and courtyard and a vintage white Mercedes that offers tours around the city.


Things to do:

Dress up in Javenese attire


Travel throughout the city by Becak

Feel like royalty at the Royal Palace

Explore the Taman Sari Water Castle

Learn to make Indonesia’s traditional fabric: Batik at Plentong Batik Village

 

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. I was invited as guest by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. As always, all opinions are my own.

 

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Asia Hotels Insider Tips

Off the Beaten Path: Tana Toraja, Indonesia | Trip of Wonders

Bali immediately comes to mind when most people think of Indonesia,  but If you’ve been to Bali before and are looking for something beyond this popular island, consider making your way to Tana Toraja, a region of South Sulawesi. Toraja will hands down become one of the most unique experiences you’ll ever collect during your travels. We had the opportunity to join the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism on an adventure to this beautiful place, rich in culture and it was full of wonder, knowledge and mystery.

How to get there:
Traveling from Yogykarta, you’ll have to connect in the city of Makassar before landing on the island of Palopo by propeller plane. You will then begin a three hour drive up into the highlands of South Sulawesi before arriving to Toraja. Note: the long, narrow winding roads may cause motion sickness so be prepared beforehand.

What to expect:
Home to the indigenous people known as the Torajans, you’ll be surrounded by stunning nature and the most unique architecture you’ll ever see. The homes are inspired by the boats from China that the Torajans used to travel with and the people of Toraja have one of the most complex funeral traditions in the world, giving this destination in Indonesia a bit of an eerie vibe.

The Ma’nene ceremony that only happens every three years was going on in the Sareale Village while we were there. I personally did not feel comfortable witnessing this so I cannot speak on my experience but for the Torajans, life doesn’t end after death. The tradition involves digging up the dead, cleaning and grooming them as a mark of respect between life and death. An interesting experience to say the least.

Things to do:
Visit Londa
Londa is where you’ll witness the ancient burial cave where thousands of Torajan families are honored. Lanterns are offered for guests who’d like to explore the caves.

Traditional village of Ke’te Kesu
Immerse yourself in Torajan culture by witnessing the art form of the Manganda dance and connect with locals at the Kete Kesu village. The dance’s main purpose is to show gratitude after war, to Mother Earth and the Gods.

Where to stay: Toraja Heritage Hotel
Boasting some of the most beautiful views, the Toraja Heritage Hotel is considered one of the best places to stay in Toraja. The rooms are replicas of traditional Torajan homes. The hotel also offers a spa, outdoor pool, restaurants, bar and coffee shop.

This #TripOfWonders trip has very much expanded my mind even more and has proved over and over again that the beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people and cultures.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. I was invited as guest by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Insider Tips Middle East

Bastakiya: The Historic Side of Dubai

When it comes to Dubai the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind is a vision of a futuristic city filled with skyscrapers and gravity defying architecture. While this image is definitely true, there’s another part of Dubai that often gets overlooked. Bastakiya is one of the oldest areas of Dubai, located in the Al Fahidi District its houses and buildings date back to the 1890’s. Bastakiya was originally inhabited by wealthy Iranian textile and pearl traders who settled in the area and today it has been turned into a historic oasis filled with museums, cafes and art galleries. 


Bastakiya was originally quite larger than the area that is left today. In the 1980’s during a phase of rapid commercialization, much of the area was destroyed to make room for modern offices and apartment buildings. Interestingly enough, during the time the area was being demolished, a British architect who was friends with Britain’s Prince Charles wrote to him and asked him to intervene given the historic and architectural significance of the area. Prince Charles visited the area on his scheduled visit to Dubai later that year and at his request the remainder of the area was preserved.


Today Bastakiya is one of my favorite places to go when I need to experience a burst of history. Although Bastakiya is physically located in one of the busiest part of Dubai, when you walk through its tiny Levantine lanes draped with North African wall hangings it’s hard to tell which part of the Middle East you’re actually in. One of the reasons I love exploring Bastakiya is because of the many small shops which sell souvenirs you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the city. From vintage post cards to calligraphic wall hangings, this is the place to go if you’re looking to bring a meaningful and unique memento back home from your trip.


Once a year Bastakiya is transformed into a dreamlike display of art for the Sika Art Festival. Because of the uniqueness of the area, it was chosen by the Dubai Municipality to host the festival. During this time Bastakiya is submerged in art of all forms including murals, paintings, sculptures, displays, and performances. Artists from all around the Middle East are invited to display their work at this time. If you’re planning a trip to Dubai I would definitely recommend visiting when the festival is taking place, normally around March. While you’re in the area make sure to stop by either the Arabian Tea House or the quirky Make Art Café for a complete Bastakiya experience.


When you’re in the area make sure to walk a little farther towards the Creek where you’ll see rows and rows of abras or old fashioned fishing boats that will take you to the world famous Gold Souq for just AED1. You’ll be blown away that in a city as modern as Dubai such authentic and historic forms of transportation still exist. It will be a fun and welcomed changed from the sleek and sophisticated metros and buses. In the Gold Souq you’ll be blown away by the hundreds of shops dripping with 22 and 24 karat gold jewelry. The opulence of the gold in contrast with the rustic souq will be sure to leave a lasting impression. There’s truly no other place in the world like Dubai!

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