Tag Archive | Travels

Australia’s Got Talent 2012 Winner Andrew de Silva in Negombo

It’s not every day that you get a chance to see a winner of Australia’s Got Talent perform and sing right before your eyes. My friend Neil influenced me into watching different reality shows on Youtube. I always end up in awe of the performances, sometimes even teary-eyed. But it never crossed my mind to be able to see a winner perform live.

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We were staying at Jetwing Negombo hotel where Andrew de Silva had a concert on 4 October. The hotel left a concert leaflet in my room but I was too occupied to even notice. It was only at dinner time that I learned about the concert when my colleagues talked about watching. Our group, being gatecrashers, just stayed at the corner but apparently the music was just too nice we can’t help but dance. Andrew then called on us to dance with him down the stage and some of the guests joined in. The gatecrashers ended up starting a party like it’s nobody’s business! Andrew posted the video of us on his Facebook.

Australia's Got Talent 2012 Winner

After I’m back in my room, I immediately Googled Andrew and watched his performances in Australia’s Got Talent. His song during the semi-final round was so sentimental and meaningful, I can’t help but cry. And he composed it himself! His story is also one that inspires people to appreciate life and to keep going no matter what the challenges are.

At a young age, he was already living his dream as a member of the popular Aussie music group, CDB. He was then diagnosed with cancer which forced him to leave the group. He also suffers from stuttering. But despite these odds, he never gave up on life. His family is his inspiration and driving force. Andrew is Australian but his roots are Sri Lankan. Andrew and his family stayed at the hotel as well so we got to bump into them a lot the next day. His daughters are so amiable!

Meeting Ketut Liyer of Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, LoveOne of my favorite books is Eat, Pray, Love written by Elizabeth Gilbert. Although I’m usually disappointed with movie renditions of books, the movie Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts was quite good, I even watched it twice. I didn’t know much about Bali aside from its beautiful beaches which did not entice me so much because we have beautiful beaches in the Philippines too, add Phuket and Krabi in Thailand where I’m currently based. But the glimpse of Bali I saw from the movie and the fact that Ketut Liyer is for real made me dream of stepping into that majestic island.

In March, my dream came true. I went to Bali for an official trip and extended my stay for 3 more days to visit Ubud. My Indonesian friend helped me find a car to rent. I was very lucky that the driver Danny speaks good English. He was kind enough to drop me to several tourist spots on the way to Ubud which I will write about in my next posts. I only paid about USD20 for the one way trip and a funny driver/tourist guide. I told Danny I want to see Ketut Liyer so he has to help me find his house. It was easy though because everyone in Ubud seems to know Ketut.

When we reached Ketut’s place, I was overwhelmed with thrill. I love books and seeing a character of one of my favorite books is like seeing a fairy from those childhood storybooks. I recognized the gate of his house right away and I was like oh my God this is it, the place where they shoot the movie!

Ketut Liyer house Bali

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Finally he was in front of me. I couldn’t contain the excitement. When it was my turn, I sat across him. He held my hand and read my palm. I did not come there for the palm reading, I was not interested in any way. I just want see him but well the experience would not be enough without the palm reading ‘ritual’ so there I was smiling while he read my palm.

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As I waited for Danny to get the car outside Ketut’s house, I saw two cute twins playing with their mom. I asked if I could take a photo of the kids and that was the start of my conversation with Pushpita, Ketut’s granddaughter. Pushpita was so warm and friendly my heart could just melt with her tenderness. She told me interesting stories when they shoot the movie at their house and seeing Julia Roberts in person. Then I remembered I don’t have a place to stay yet so I asked her to recommend me a hotel. Fortunately, they have a room available at their new bed and breakfast for USD20 per night so I stayed. Oh the thrill of staying at Ketut Liyer’s place! And my room was very pretty. I also liked the Balinese massage Pushpita had arranged in my room, how soothing made me sleep like a baby after.

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Ketut Liyer house Ubud

The compound of Ketut’s place has Pushpita’s house, Ketut’s house, a house which displays his paintings, a temple and near the temple is a gate leading to the B&B, out of sight from the area flocked by tourists. It was such a peaceful place with plants, birds, and a massage area where I used to hang out in the evening for stargazing.

Beautiful evening in Ubud Bali

In the evening, Pushpita invited me for dinner. She was so accommodating that even if I’m just a guest at their B&B, she asked me to have dinner with her like a friend. While eating, Pushpita had to rush inside the house to check on the twins so I was left by myself. Suddenly Ketut came and seemed like he was looking for something. He could not tell me in English and I could not make what his gestures were saying until I saw that he was wearing only one slippers. I helped him look for it and we found it below the dining table. The thought of looking for a slipper with Ketut kinda amuses me.


In the evening, the family gathered near the temple to just talk and savor the calmness of the evening so I joined them. Then Ketut led me to his house and showed me his treasured possessions from his old wooden box. Some were Elizabeth Gilbert’s letters and a copy of Eat, Pray, Love with her message. I’m not sure if Ketut can still properly see at the age of almost a hundred years old. He pointed to me where his name appeared in several pages in the book like a child, it really made me smile.

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Staying at the garden in his house while listening to the chirping birds and flowing water from the small grotto as the wind kissed my cheeks was very comforting. I had been very busy that a break like that reinvigorated my soul. My visit to Ubud was one of my most memorable experiences not only because I met Ketut Liyer but because Ubud is one of the most magnificent places on earth!

P.S. Anyone interested in going to Ubud, drop me a word and I can connect you to Danny and Pushpita 🙂

Ruins of Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya ThailandMy mind was mulling over a quote from the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It goes like this, “A friend took me to the most amazing place the other day. It’s called the Augusteum. Octavian Augustus built it to house his remains. When the barbarians came they trashed it along with everything else. The great Augustus, Rome’s first true great emperor. How could he have imagined that Rome, the whole world as far as he was concerned, would be in ruins. It’s one of the quietest, loneliest places in Rome. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. It feels like a precious wound, a heartbreak you won’t let go of because it hurts too good. We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked at around to this place, at the chaos it has endured – the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic, it’s just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”

I could have been at the right moment, right time and right place like that of Liz if only I was in Augusteum. But no, I was in Ayutthaya. As my mind digested the depth of the quote, my heart was filled with awe at the magnificence of Ayutthaya. I felt joy beyond words.

It is said that Ayutthaya means “invincible city”. One of UNESCO’s world heritage sites, Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. It was founded in 1350. Within 417 years as the capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya had been ruled by 33 kings of 5 dynasties. It became one of Asia’s economic and trading hubs. It is surrounded with three major rivers, namely the Chao Pharaya, Lop Buri and Pasak. With its beauty as the ruins stand today, I could not imagine how magnificent it had been before the kingdom fell from the Burmese in 1767.

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Kingdom of Ayutthaya

The first time I visited Ayutthaya was in 2011 with my cousins who came for a few days vacation. A few months after our visit, Thailand was flooded and unfortunately Ayutthaya was among the adversely affected areas. It can be reached after about 1.5-2 hours drive from Bangkok. There used to be an elephant show back then but we were told it was banned now. Good news indeed because I heard baby elephants suffer from torture while being trained to dance, paint, etc. There is also a small floating market about 15 minutes by car from the ruins. Tourists can also pay for an elephant ride at the floating market. The costs vary depending on how many hours you would like to ride.

Elephant riding in Ayutthaya

I may not be in Augusteum but the splendid beauty of Ayutthaya that endured the ravages of time is enough to assure me that indeed, ruins can be a road to transformation. Even if things fall apart, there is still a chance to stand back up again, anew.