Stop #3 is Nepal with 2 couples and 8 kids. A journey we will never forget. From Nagarkot to view Mount Everest, Pokhara the boutique jewel of Nepal, Chitwan National Park with rhino safari, and ending with Kathmandu shopping galore. What do you say when your doctor friends offer their frequent flyer miles to travel to Nepal with them? Yes, of course! But, with their 4 and my 4 small kids? Crazy, I know. But, we did it and there is plenty to write about.
First, I’ve got to say that if you are a coffee addict like me, you need to be prepared. You might find good coffee in Kathmandu but instant coffee may be your only option. Here is a coffee addict travel hint: Buy an Aeropress before you leave home! You can drink fresh grounds pressed to perfection with just adding the hot water. Perfect to prepare a weary body for a day long trek. Here is what we travel with (I already admitted my addiction!).
We spent time in 4 areas of Nepal in order to see as much during those 10 days as possible. The first night we slept on top of Nagarkot and woke up to the sun rising over Mt. Everest. That day we traveled the harrowing road from Kathmandu to Pokhara and were surrounded by the Annapurna mountains which includes 17 peaks over 7,000 meters. With the help of porters, we did make it to 5,000 meters and enjoyed our coffee, the many tea shops, and Dahl on the trail.
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Traveling up into these mountains, it was inspiring to see so many Nepalese carrying heavy loads on their heads and backs up inclines that put our tallest American mountains to shame. How do they do it? I realized that they they know no different. I reflected on my life which began in America until I was 26 and moved to Asia. This move stripped me of material goods and comforts that I had known my whole life. As I have lived among the poor of rural Cambodia, I am continuously challenged to become more and more a minimalist. To leave behind comforts and choose a life that includes more walking and less riding, more carrying and less delegating, and the scenic incline instead of the easy paved path.
The next stop was Chitwan National Park to take an all day safari to see alligators, rhinos, and elephants, along with many beautiful birds. This area was unusually hot and flat being in South Nepal but sneaking up on bathing rhinos made it well worth it.
Lastly, we enjoyed the rest, air conditioning, electricity, and city comforts in Kathmandu. The shops were picturesque with unique items for sale including leather artisans, beautiful Persian style rugs, knives and swords, and many other interested goods.
Now, you’ve got to let me know! Would you consider taking your family to Nepal?
I’ve gotta say that our trip to Borneo was not on top of the list for coffee but what we did find was a jewel for tea stops. Unique to Malaysia is the cinnamon lemongrass tea. This amazing creation is delicious, refreshing on ice, and easy to repeat.
Lemongrass Cinnamon Tea
Serve over ice.
On this quick trip we got to see orangutans in protected and wild environments. It broke our hearts to see so much of their natural habitat replaced by palm trees as far as the eye could see. But, the few moments of intimate interaction with this amazing intelligent creature was priceless. (Speaking of priceless, AirAsia has some amazing deals to fly into Borneo for cheap.)
On this wonderful vacation I got to enjoy my husband and kids, my brother and his family, and my mother. Wonderful times of natural beauty and wonderful people in my life. The interesting part is that I had a feeling of sadness in my heart that held me back from enjoying this moment for all of the beauty Borneo and family had for me. I had recently gone through a difficult season in my life and it seemed the blues followed me wherever I went during these months.
Looking back there are some incredible lessons I learned. First of all, is acceptance. I didn’t feel happy but what made that worse was my own judgment of how I felt. Telling myself that I should feel happy, that I was ungrateful for the blessings in my life, hurt worse then my own sadness. The feeling of guilt we often put over ourselves can often be worse than the pain caused by others. I learned to accept the feeling of sadness that I felt and not judge it. I learned that the feeling of sadness would come and go and would actually leave me more quickly if I would just accept it. I learned that anxiety creeps in if I begin to judge myself for the feelings that I was experiencing.
I left this place knowing that there were glimpses of joy as I watched a mother Orangutan prepare a nest for her baby for the night, as the baby swung branch to branch and enjoyed leaping on the back of her weary mother totally uninterested in the sleeping. And, even as I write those memories down, I can smile knowing that this scene is a gift to me in times of sadness and happiness for years to come.
Doi Suthep Mountain in Chiang Mai is where the story hit bottom emotionally, as we ascended upward. No good story can begin without a good cup of coffee. The secret in Thailand for good coffee is to always assure your getting the real thing. Often hotels and restaurants want to replace their delicious home grown coffee with instant. Well, we were pleasantly surprised to find a coffee shop on the mountaintop on one of the hardest days emotionally for us. We were facing harsh rejection from people we loved. This caused pain, confusion, anxiety, and depression. It couldn’t have been a better day for some coffee comfort.
We had a free day as a family and decided to head up into the clouds to Doi Suthep mountain. We opened the car door and we were surrounded by fog and the cool air blew on our faces. We were instantly greeted by the Hmong people in their traditional wear with their beautiful jewelry for sale and smiling faces of children playing to the side.
We looked ahead at a trail that went to the top of the mountain near a waterfall that flowed through poppy fields. We stopped for a traditional Thai tea but was surprised to find fresh brewed Chaang Doi coffee. A personal favorite!
As we sat admiring the view, our children played with the Hmong kids, learned to shoot a bow and arrow, and ran trough the poppy fields. My heart began to feel the weight of pain drip and fade away. Each time the wind blew its breeze on me, the cool air felt like waves of refreshment and hope of healing.
This is what I came to realize in the quiet of that day:
I’d like to say that the pain stayed behind on that mountain that day but honestly it took a few more mountain top experiences and hugs from loved one for the pain to no longer be felt. But, that day did come.
Are you suffering from pain today? What part of nature speaks peace to you?
Coffee Across Asia
Why acoffeewithfriends? What are Marc and Ann doing now? The reason is that “a Coffee with Friends” reminds us of the intimate conversations we’ve had over the years with friends and family. The times of laughter and tears. It brings excitement for the new friendships that will come our way. It also reminds us of the travels throughout Asia and America. This is part 1 of the coffee series.
Today we want to give you a tour. Let our beautiful memories of coffee shops throughout Asia take you and your tastebuds to quaint coffeeshops hidden in the corners of Asia.
First Stop: China
What could be better than home grown processed coffee in the hills of China by the Hani people. Their coffee is bold, smooth, and rich.
Second stop: Vietnam. In Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam you can always find the hustling loud coffee shop as early as 5 AM. Coffee slowly prepared at your table and some of the strongest boldest coffee we have ever tasted. Throw in the sweetened condensed milk and you will burst with energy.
Third Stop: Thailand. In the hills of Chiang Mai, I stayed 2 months for the birth of my first baby. What kept us going? Stopping at the Doi Chaang Coffee Shop. This smooth cup has a natural mocha flavor.
Finally, back to our hometown: In Khmer language of Cambodia one would say “cafe duck da koo duck khak” or iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Delicious coffee served on the side of every road for less than a buck!
Tell us of your coffee journeys in your part of the world!
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