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"Incredible India"

India living up to it's national slogan

sunny 85 °F

I have to admit, I haven't been very good at bathing in this bucket lately. Our last few weeks in India were emotionally draining as India's in-your-face culture, sights, colors, smells and sounds can be taxing on the senses. The national slogan of "Incredible India" certainly doesn't disappoint. Unfortunately, it's "incredible-ness" resulted in me moping around miserable and on the constant verge of a breakdown. Poor Micah has endured a lot lately!

We have since moved on to Nepal, but India did produce some amazing experiences. Dharamsala, home to the Dali Llama, and Rishikesh, where The Beatles wrote a majority of their "White" album, were spiritual playgrounds. I was in all my glory with fresh mountain air, yoga classes and an Ayurveda cooking and nutrition course.

We visited the magnificent, Golden Sikh temple in Amritsar and experienced eating shoulder to shoulder on the floor with 1,000's of Indians and their families on pilgrimage. The temple provides free meals, 24/7 with a volunteer run kitchen and feeds over 80,000 people a day. Everyone is encouraged to jump in and lend a helping hand washing dishes, peeling potatoes and serving chai. A short taxi ride out of Amritsar to the Indian / Pakistan border allowed us to witness to the spectacle that occurs nightly when the border closes. It's equipped with thousands of spectators sitting in grand stands, a dance party, flag waving, cheering and a showdown by the plume wearing, boot stomping guards on both sides. It felt like a sporting event.

About 2 of our weeks in India were spent traveling through the desert cities, and ancient sandcastle-like forts of Rajasthan. The highlight for me was a 2 day camel safari. To the dismay of our bums, we rode camels for 5 hours each day, breaking mid-afternoon to enjoy chai, chipati and dal cooked over a fire. All the while, our camels munched happily on the trees providing our shade. In the evening, we watched a beautiful sunset, with another chai in hand, over giant sand dunes before turning in for the night to the sounds of our camels chewing, belching and pooping. I made the ironic comparison of it seeming like we were sleeping in a planetarium. There were more stars than I imagined the universe to even hold. We awoke with our blankets surrounded by a complex highway system of footprints that was build by visiting Dung beetles over night. (I hope I kept my mouth closed while I was sleeping.)

Our next stop was the awe inspiring Taj Mahal. India showed us many of the negative effects that tourism can produce and it was most noticeable here. It has created an annoying scene of relentless rickshaw drivers, a two tier pricing system and souvenir sellers. Do people even buy snow globes anymore?! The Taj Mahal was beautiful but this is where dear India started to weigh on me.

My full emotional breakdown occurred in the holy city of Varanasi. The city is a pilgrimage site for Hindus. People come here to die and be cremated at the burning ghats along the polluted Ganga River. Every 20 minutes, another ornately wrapped, deceased body is carried through the people, cow and motorbike crowded streets on it's journey to the burning ghat. Personally, the atmosphere was very unsettling as death is something that is celebrated and not mourned in the Indian culture. It's very different from what we know. Our guesthouse was within 50 yards of the largest cremation ghat that burns 24/7 with multiple fires. I found myself feeling sick, temperamental, emotionally drained and overwhelmed. I tend to be the person in the room that becomes upset when I sense someone is unhappy. I think my body is too tuned into energy to be able to cope with the death, overcrowding and nightly celebration of singing and prayers that occurs in Varanasi. In addition to this, tourism has yet again reared it's ugly head with in your face touts, unofficial guides, boat drivers, drug sellers and children begging you to take their picture in exchange for Rupees. It was all too much and I spent a majority of the time jailed up in our windowless room.

After Varanasi, I couldn't escape India quickly enough. A 12hr government bus ride from India landed us in the quiet, small town of Lumbini, Nepal which archeologists have declared as the birthplace of Buddha. We've since called the more energetic city of Kathmandu our home as we've settled here for Passover. The Chabad House here holds the biggest Passover Seder in the world.

It's hard to believe we only have about 2 weeks of our trip remaining! This weekend we'll be heading north to start 7-days trekking through the Himalayas. I'm hoping to keep my remaining toenails in tact-I lost my 3rd one a few weeks ago with a shrug.

Now that my emotional state is on the mend, I'll try to be a more consistent bucket-bathing blogger! I've got new videos and photos to post as soon as we have faster internet.

Much love from Nepal

Posted by bucketbath 09:42 Archived in India Tagged children desert culture temple india fort bus the trekking river golden safari buddha varanasi fire ganga bath llama cooking camel nepal dali tourism motorbikes mahal taj dal experience yoga rajasthan kathmandu pokhara volunteer ghat journey stars cows beatles rupees sikh hindu cremation spiritual rishikesh bucket nutrition dharamsala souvenir ayurveda rickshaw chai lumbini sandcastle beetles incredible passover dung senses planetarium amristar emotional pilgramage chipati touts beggers governement chabbad seder toenails Comments (4)

Life outside the bucket

Going to school 6 hrs/day while I "vacation" in Chang Mai

sunny 75 °F

I've been practicing and studying hard these last 3 weeks. The Thai Massage School of Chang Mai is teaching me how to master using my hands, fingers, heels, elbows, arms, knees and feet to work on the energy, or Sen Sib, lines of the body. It's a full body workout for the masseur and the recipient!

WIth all that daily physical exertion, living life in Chang Mai has been a welcome change of pace. I have enjoyed waking up to an alarm and having a set schedule everyday. I even unpacked my trusty backpack and stored it out of sight under my bed. I'm not forced to wear dirty clothing that has been rolled up into a ball and jammed into the bottom of my bag. I've had the luxury of a cup of coffee and a hot shower every day. I've even snuck the afternoon power nap back into my life. Slowing down has made me a little homesick and anxious (in a good way) to return to NYC. I'm ready to jump back into over scheduled business mode! It's going to be difficult to prep myself mentally to hit the road with my overzealous, I don't need to eat or sleep, run around for 10hrs a day, sidekick, Micah. I'm going to have to put myself through a mini boot camp to get my brain and body back into shape so I can rejoin the whirlpool we call our Bucketbath. I'm also feeling a little anxiety over trekking through India and Nepal now that my big toenail has officially fallen off (remember that trek at Kawah Ijen, Indonesia?). Stay tuned for another Joanie breakdown video. It's an emotional masterpiece waiting to happen.

No sense in worrying over that now. I'm too busy geeking out over my studies at the moment. In addition to learning how to give relaxing 2 hr massages, I'm also learning how to treat chronic ailments, aches and pains such as: constipation, headaches, neck stiffness, menstrual cramps, anxiety and a long list of others. I had no idea Thai Massage had such healing properties. My roommate, and fellow NY'er, is also studying here with a master in Chang Mai. It's been fun to work on one another, exchange information, and swap "guess what I did at school today?" stories. We're also working on a new business venture once we get back to NYC. Sparkes Wellness meets Motivated Nutrition!

I can't wait to get home and share all of this new knowledge and test out my skills on each and every one of you! Chronic constipation anyone? I got this! Book your massage now!

$30/ 30min, $50/1hr, $75/1.5hrs

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I'm going to continue to enjoy my clean clothes, hot showers and afternoon naps as Micah sprints his way through Bangladesh over the next two weeks. (He's scheduled to fly out of Myanmar tomorrow.) I'm cheering him on. Perhaps he'll wear himself out and I'll be able to talk him into afternoon naps by the time we reunite!

Here are a few photos from my "vacation".

Sporting my Thai Massage scrubs

Sporting my Thai Massage scrubs

Wat in the old city of Chang Mai

Wat in the old city of Chang Mai

Thai Cooking class

Thai Cooking class

Elephant trek

Elephant trek

Sparkes Wellness and Motivated Nutrition

Sparkes Wellness and Motivated Nutrition

Posted by bucketbath 08:05 Archived in Thailand Tagged food indonesia travel india trekking thailand backpack new york bed house fun life school mai packing nyc neck bath relaxation hot dirt power chang thai nepal clean pictures energy breakdown showers bangladesh business massage rescue bucket exercise running clothing prep masterpiece wellness ijen nap study sen workout masseur healing whirlpool anxiety bootcamp mental jogging sprinting cheering geek heartaches stiffness cramps roommate sib masterthai Comments (6)

Cambodian Hoedown

A video from Angkor Wat

And don't forget to pre-book your authentic Thai massage for April!

$30/ 30min, $50/1hr, $75/1.5hrs

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Posted by bucketbath 06:43 Archived in Cambodia Tagged people trees temple travel ruins cambodia thailand indian new map fun burma angkor ta wat funny roots trip thai myanmar reap pictures siem silly massage bucket moving brochure prong lara croft jones rambo slapstick Comments (4)

New Years Resolution: Magic Hands

Buckets splitting up? A Thai Masseuse? The intrigue continues.

We have gotten so good at bucket bathing that we’ve decided to temporarily split up and cover more ground. That means we are about to have 2 half full buckets for all you optimists out there.

Micah is itching to navigate the tough infrastructure of Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh and I’ve found the distraction of a 5-week Thai Massage certification in Chang Mai, Thailand. I can’t pass up the opportunity to advance my holistic knowledge and get a certification directly from the source.

The next leg of our trip is Cambodia. From there, Micah will fly onto Yangon, Burma and I’ll bus it back to Thailand. My course goes from Jan 9-Feb 10. Our buckets will reunite in New Delhi, India around mid February. That’s double the adventures and double the blog posts. Micah will rough n tough it through 2 countries while I study (giving and getting massages) for 5 weeks. This bucket split will allow him to take some amazing photos without me impatiently waiting under the shade of an over sized Buddha and it’ll provide me with the skills to come back to the states and dish out some kickin' souvenirs from Thailand!

I’ll be taking levels 1-5 at the Thai Massage School of Chang Mai. It includes 90 hours of comprehensive study and a 60-hour internship working with special needs children and the senior community. On top of that, I’ll have an additional 2 months to practice on Micah (a tough critic), which means you are sure to be putty in my hands come April.

To help defray some of the cost of the course and living in Chang Mai for a month, I’m preselling massages that I’ll give upon my return in April. Buy ‘em up while I’m selling at Thai prices. As soon as we get back to NYC, I’ll have to switch back into competitive business survival mode!

Buy a few for yourself and while you’re at it, buy a few as gifts! I’ll travel to any of the boroughs in NYC. (Sorry Staten Island and NJ-you don’t count). I’ll be in Meyersdale sometime in April to see family, so PA isn’t left out either. And, (for all you massage newbies out there) Thai massage is done in comfortable clothes, you don’t even have to go through the unsettling experience of getting naked. I’ll meet you at the park, or sit behind you at the movies, or stroll into your office on your lunch hour. You name the place. (Ok. Maybe not the movies, but you catch my drift.)

I’ll offer these prices until April 1. You can pay through the PayPal link (below) and then I’ll reach out to you via email. Help me love you up…Thailand style!

$30 for 30min
$50 for 1hr
$75 for 1.5hrs

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Have a happy and healthy New Year!

Posted by bucketbath 09:29 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand new year up burma mai chang myanmar bangladesh break massage bucket Comments (6)

Downsizing for a Bucket Bath (Joanie)

From a duplex loft to a 30 L backpack

sunny 81 °F

Packed and ready to go

Packed and ready to go

====News Alert!====
Micah and I have both quit our jobs (in my case MANY jobs), the lease on the loft is up, and we are backpacking across southeast Asia for 7 1/2 months. In 1 week, we are going to be boarding a plane to Beijing and in April 2012, we are planning to fly home from New Delhi, India!

We've been planning this trip for months and it's hard to believe that soon we'll be jet setting across the ocean to explore a new continent. It doesn't feel like reality yet. What are we thinking? We are busy New Yorkers! I have a business and 4 other part time gigs. We have friends and a social life and an amazing loft to come home to at night. The entire world is a subway ride away. But as most NY'ers know,(NY artists anyway) living here is a love/hate relationship. I, personally, have been experiencing a little bit of "struggling artist" burn out and am ready to experience life at a different pace for awhile. I'm even more excited that Micah and I can do this together!

The thought of picking up and moving has been a little stressful, but downsizing has been less complicated than I thought. Luckily, I went through the experience of ridding myself of about 70% of my personal belongings during my last move less than a year ago. Most of my life is still in boxes and I haven't missed a majority of it. I'm ready to shed completely and start with a fresh slate. The biggest challenge has been figuring out exactly what I'll need to pack into my 30 L backpack and not carry more than absolutely necessary.

The whole concept of living out of a bag on my back reminds me of a turtle shell. Yes, it's nearly 8 months, but do I really need a full wardrobe, accessories and an armory of sudoku books? I'm beginning to realize that this turtle is probably only going to be concerned about being able to maintain an acceptable level of personal hygiene every day. Thus the name of our blog: Bucket Bath. That's code for exciting, unpredictable adventure...much like trying to bathe in a bucket!

I have agonized and revised shopping lists for months on what to pack in my "shell", without having to compromise too much fashion sense. I know, I'm showing my true girl colors right now, but I refuse to be the American traveler in the T-shirt, cargo pants, Chacos sandals and a bucket hat. Wait! I now own cargo pants and Chacos...but I'm NOT wearing a bucket hat! (The day I made the Chacos purchase in EMS was a very humbling experience.)

I'm happy to say, my packing is finished, and my trusty, new "home" is sitting in the corner ready to go. :) It's actually been ready to go for 3 weeks now. Girl Alert!-I even started putting outfit options together and cataloging photos so I have options to choose from while on the road. I'm amazed at how many combinations you can make out of 2 pairs of pants, a pair of leggings, a t-shirt, 2 tanks, a tunic, 2 dresses, and a long sleeved shirt! I have 25 combinations so far. Lucky magazine, eat your heart out! (Micah is slapping his forehead right now) Micah hasn't even started packing. It's ok. I'll graciously help him strategically choose outfits when the time comes. (Again with the forehead slap)

We're excited to go, but sad to leave all of our friends and family for the next few months. We're hoping to keep you connected to our lives as we document our "Bucket Baths" across southeast Asia - fully clothed, of course. Please keep us updated on your home adventures. We've started this blog to keep in touch. Please leave us comments. Send us emails. Send us an address and you may even get a postcard! Stay tuned for what I'm sure will be humorous video posts as well.

-Joanie

Posted by bucketbath 20:50 Archived in USA Tagged travel packing nyc beijing bath asia southeast bucket moving clothing Comments (5)

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