Spa Girl Abroad: Sanctuary Thailand

DSC01093It’s not simply the fly-ferry-longtail boat¬†journey to The Sanctuary
that will leave you wanting to disappear into this lush jungle-beach ‘alternative’ resort forever (and ever…).

(Don’t worry, you can also arrive by speed boat…check out the spa’s website for further info ūüôā

Longtail Taxi Boat

Longtail Taxi

I adore Sanctuary Thailand! In wintertime, I found myself dancing around a moonlit beach bonfire, rocking in the New Year alongside the most eccentric and varied group I’d ever met: de-toxers and re-toxers, jet-setters, yogis. During my summer visit, I loved the young, health conscious, and flashpacker (upscale backpacker)-solo-traveler vibe.

The Sanctuary Thailand boasts a full-service Spa and Wellness Center, a full-on yoga and meditation schedule with classes held in a gorgeous open-air shala over looking lush jungle, accommodation ranging from mat-on-floor dorms to luxury tree houses, a delicious restaurant, and a Wellness Center offering a comprehensive detox program.

spa time for a thai massage

Spa time!

Gorgeous houses and private rooms are scattered throughout the jungle-beach property. Several accommodation-spa-yoga packages are available.

I’ve stayed in the gorgeous dorm above the restaurant for 200 baht per night ($4!), and in the Wellness Center’s Detox Dorm during a week-long cleanse.My 5-day detox (3.5 days fasting) was a less than $500 and included dorm, cleanse, my “last meal”, plus yoga, spa treatments, and unlimited steams (the clove-spiced steam room before or after a thai massage is to-die-for!).

the dorm gets a clean up

Dorms at Sanctuary

The Wellness Center not only offers 2-14+ day detoxes, but also sells Kombucha, wheatgrass shots, and hosts plenty of reading material which can be enjoyed from any hammock or cushy chair on the property.

The restaurant’s menu includes tasty and healthy food which would appeal to any Modern Day Wildwoman (or man). You can order anything
from Thai to Indian, vegetarian to meat-eating with salads, salmon,
and steak. I indulged plenty in the Raw food section which not only
caters to detoxers, but anyone! And trust me, raw food tastes
especially delish during the hot Southeast Asian summer. I sampled
raw treats like ‚ÄúNot yogurt‚ÄĚ (blended raw papaya, full of good-for-you enzymes) to ‚ÄúRaw Pad Thai‚ÄĚ (made with raw radish) and raw soups.

Raw Pad Thai

Raw Pad Thai

striking a pose<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
like the good ole days in LA LA la

Coconut kisses,


Capturing Your Essence: Asian Superfood Soup


Continuing to channel the good juju cultivated during my stay in Asia, I’ve created another Asian dish. Superfood veggies such as red cabbage, chard, and kale make up the bulk of this soup. Dried black fungi are a cancer-fighting superfood well-known in Chinese Medicine. Fermented Miso gives a little protein, satisfying umami taste, and healthy probiotics. Avocado and toasted sesame oil add omega-3 fats for a happy brain, and a whole egg adds additional satisfying protein and choline for brain health.

You’ll need:

1 cup dried black fungi (find at Asian market)
1 egg
2 cups-ish Swiss chard, chopped
1 cup-ish Kale, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 avocado
4 tbsp miso
1.5 tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil

Bring water to a boil, add chopped veggies (including dried black fungi) and let veggies cook until tender.

Add egg, allow to boil until egg looks cooked through (can leave whole or break it up in pieces).

Turn stove off. Add miso and sesame oil to pot and stir. Serve in bowls, add avocado to top of soup.

To your health! ūüôā

Beach Girl @Home: Happy Holidays!

It’s hard to believe three years have passed since my last California Christmas (or Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, or Fourth of July for that matter).

I’d read somewhere in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras that in order to succeed ‘out there’ in the world, one must begin at home. ¬†One must learn how to communicate, keep peace, and understand others in the structure of their own family, to the best of their ability. This home practice in turn, allows one to then appropriately¬†‘deal’ with the ‘outside world’. Coming home to celebrating the most LOVING and KIND Holiday full of LAUGHTER and PEACE, in my life, is a true testament to the aforementioned blurb read in Patanjali’s ‘Rules’.

It’s been extraordinarily special moving home just in time for the Holidays as a newfound closeness with my Mom and Stepdad (whom I consider as my ‘Dad’) has developed. Through the ups and downs of travel, feelings I’d stuffed down emerged via Skype, text, e-mail, you name it. What can I say ? Distance makes the heart grow fonder, closer,…and braver.

Background: I didn’t have the most peaceful upbringing, and refuse¬†to believe¬†any family is ‘normal’. However, I know mine was anything but. Childhood was, most times, NOT peaceful, always moving around (ten schools by ninth grade), hardly a routine, a sibling who demanded our parents’ attention (albeit negative), a nasty divorce and bankruptcy, plus loads of yelling,¬†especially¬†during Holidays. Can you imagine chaos?

Our Holiday situations always left me wishing it was a random day in March opposed to the ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year’. Luckily, things have changed around here. The people causing the drama are now more or less settled down or out of the picture; us few remaining are calming down. At the age of twenty-six, I’m living in a home with a Mom and a Dad opposed to a single-parent home for the first time. Yes, I’d lived at my Stepdad’s for a year prior to Asia, but this time is different. Over the past few years being away, he’s actually become my Dad. And with this shift comes a deep look at my inner self–the peace, the stability, the warmth, the LOVE, has allowed me to slow down, observe that the tendency to be quite the reactive human being opposed to responsive,¬†runs deep in my veins as a samskara (Sanskrit for ‘habit pattern of the mind’) which needs to be broken.¬†It’s time to change. Christmas was a symbol of all this change. Just a family having FUN. I’m taking deep breaths and thinking before I respond.¬†Respecting eachother. Loving Life. Slightly normal! Whatever that silly word means.

On Christmas Eve’s Eve morning (does that make sense?), Dad was in a silly mood and said, “oh, Elisa, you have Gypsy Feet, you’ll be off again soon enough, dancing around with your Buddha Bells, singing ‘ding ding ding, om, om, om“, along with a little dance of his own.

Later on in the day, still laughing at his comment and inspired by another friend and blogger, Megan at Across the Pond, the idea for a Christmas-India-Yoga-fusion video came about. We got down and boogied, throwing caution to the wind in lieu of some major ham-mage in front of the MacBook Pro camera. Each time I replay the video, a bit more gratitude for my Mom and Dad, their youthful spirits, their love and support, washes over me. Grateful to be home this Christmas, at my roots, so that in Christmas future I can bring this positive experience to perhaps my own family. ¬†Or at least be able to bring it ‘out there’, to paraphrase Patanjali.

To be your best ‘out there’ in the world, why not be your best at home? Just like our yoga practice, which we practice again and again, why not practice keeping peace within the structure of our own family?

P.S. I’m dreaming of dancing again in Southeast Asia. Although, not for a while. Here’s to Dreaming, keeping the Gypsy Feet at on the Ground, and Accepting the Love.

Ding, ding, ding, om, om, om ūüėČ

P.S.S. Want to know about my Christmases past?

Two years ago, I hopped on a plane last-minute from the depths of Winter in Seoul, South Korea to appreciate Christmas and ring in 2011 hippie-style. Relaxing, rejuve-ing, yoga, Thai Massage, a 5 day detox, and an all-night NYE jungle party ensued at Sanctuary Thailand, where the jungle meets the ocean on a secluded Koh Phangan cove. Highly recommended ūüėČ Yet, I recall a certain longing for my family during the holidays.

Last year, I hung out with Dr. Patricia Bragg, ND, of Bragg Live Foods, on Christmas Eve. We’d just begun working together and I was ambivalent about going home due to a disagreement between myself and another family member. We ended up having a great time! I was new to the island, and Dr. Bragg made me feel like I had family on the island. Seriously, it felt like spending time with a Fairy Grandmother who shares common interests. We spent Christmas Eve roaming Honolulu. Christmas Eve was a full day of chatting with shoppers at Kahala Mall, searching for thrift store treasure, picking up health food at Down to Earth Natural Foods, and admiring the Christmas decorations in Downtown Honolulu. Another bonus? She helped me weed out the less-than-ideal family situation was eating away at my spiritual garden (I travelled to California in early 2012 to resolve)…More later ūüôā

Be. Here. Now.

“This is the reason I’m back here. Now, I get it.”


I’d left so much of myself here. I’m tied here. My past is here,

the happiness and the pain.

And I’d irresponsibly left it in a storeroom.

I’d traveled here and there, and everywhere, all the while

out of sight, didn’t necessarily mean out of mind.

Sifting through the storage unit, I was dutifully listening to the wonderful Hay House Radio App (download it, it’s free!), when opening a random box stopped me in my tracks. Opening this box was like opening a box of treasure.

I kid you not, gold light seemed to spill out upon opening my cardboard box of treasure…

It seemed I’d stumbled on a box of “me”.

Who I was before all of ‘this’, before the gypsy travelling, the yoga trainings and teachings (when I packed this box, most likely in a hurry before hopping a plane to Seoul, I’d recently become a devotee of Bikram, but didn’t even know what a Sutra was, knew I loved the chanting music played at Bryan Kest Power Yoga but no idea this devotional chanting is named ‘Kirtan’, and thought Ayurveda was some kind of mystical shampoo)…

The energy of the box encompassed “me” before travelling, just an early twenty something from California who loved collecting bikinis and laying out on the beach, exploring the Santa Monica and Channel Islands Farmer’s Markets, spending a day wine tasting in Downtown Ventura or Paso Robles, refurbishing furniture from thrift stores into Beach and Shabby Chic and listening to Classic Rock, dayhiking in Malibu…a young and somewhat naiive me… a ‘me’ before a massive love and heartbreak which would rock me to the core. The aforementioned which was the very impetus to make me question who I am, my reactions, how I relate to the world, get back to my roots and what makes me tick, and most importantly, teach me how it feels to be human and love. Love and the sheer pain of losing it–and I would never take this feeling back for the world. Anyways…I digress…the treasure box…

Although none of my friends would remotely call me a simple person, I have to say, this box encompassed a simpler time. Even my signature vanilla perfume was at the top of the box, along with a framed tear out from an inspiring book which quoted, “Every Day is a Good Day“.


Treasure Box.

I had to revisit. Remember who I was. Remember how present, or not present, I was in each chapter of my life. This “letting go” couldn’t have happened in Hawaii, Asia, or elsewhere. I realize that now, it’s time to fully be here and live my life. The message is loud and clear. It’s come from so many sources all along. I’m heeding the advice now.

Live my life. Be here now. Be fully present where I am now.

And today, it’s letting go of my past by clearing out what’s mine in the store room. Old photographs, knick knacks, clothing, stuff. Most things are neutral, others bring joy, and some hold painful memories. Especially satisfying is getting rid of these things that leave even an inkling of an ‘ick’ feeling; keeping little scraps of things that give a ‘good’ feeling and select photos worth adding to the scrapbook reminds me how connection and love make the world go ’round (even when I feel like disconnecting for a bit to go in introvert mode).

Oh, and definitely keeping a few bikinis ūüėČ

Hosting a yard sale this weekend, wish me luck!

Remember, out of sight does not necessarily mean out of mind, whether subconsiously or conciously.

What have you not let go of, and how may it be affecting you? I want hear all about it! Leave comments below.


commute from hell.

not even going to try and sugarcoat this anymore. no post subway AM walk along yangjae stream can even make up for this one. this is picture proof of the commute from hell.

every morning at 8am,
i push past hoards of people, secure my little corner of the subway standing near the handicapped seats which are at the end of each car, and face the connector door thingy. listening to my ipod, i focus on the music and pretend i’m far, far away; all the while most being squished between the body heat of other random human beings trying to make their way in this crazy money-driven rat race. looking around, these people are so exhausted, all have black undereye circles, most who had the random luck of actually getting a seat are nodding off. this society is exhausting and exhausted.
i miss my car. i miss the concept of a “personal bubble”. i’m trying to carry an inner happiness with me even to the subway, but man, this is trying. hey, this is what i signed up for…or didn’t really know i was signing up for, i suppose.
and this is what you get for $1 AM commute and living in one of the most crowded cities in the world.

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Endless Southeast Asian Summer: Haad Tien Beach, Koh Phangan

Day 4 of my vacation and I’m getting into a good groove and finally relaxing.

The “schedule”:

 yoga at 8:30am,



 swim in the ocean,

 lay in the sand,

 hang with amazing people,

 (repeat as necessary),

¬†a Thai massage (hey, when it’s 250 baht, or $5, why the heck not get a massage everyday?),

 maybe take another yoga class,

 sometimes meditation at 6pm,

 eat something Thai for dinner and hang with more incredible people,

 practice ukelele while everyone eggs me on (thanks for putting up with my newbie uke skills,everyone),


I found myself practicing yoga at the Blooming Lotus studio near my hut at Haad Yuan, then taking a quick hike over the hill and spending most of my days at The Sanctuary “Alternative” resort on Haad Tien Bay.

                              Haad Tien Bay

A few things attracted me to this side of the Bay. One was the floating hut in the water. I’d swim out a few times a day and either hang with whoever happened to be there (all were cool, save for one grabby Frenchman who I quickly swam far away from), or if I found myself alone, I took the time to appreciate a quiet moment, the scenery, and meditate. Away from any resort noise, away from any ambiance music.¬† Just me and the big open sea.

                                          The Hut at sunset
Lounging at The Hut, just me, the ocean, and my trusty h2o-proof camera case.

Another bonus: the restaurant has a Raw food section on their menu. I’ve always aimed to eat at least a percentage of my diet “raw” and love creating new raw recipes myself, so to have a special raw menu to nourish and inspire me was perfect. The menu included things like “Not yogurt” (blended raw papaya, full of good-for-you enzymes) to “Raw Pad Thai” (made with raw radish) and Raw soups.

And the Wellness Center (which offers 2-10 day fasting cleanses, but no! I was eating on this vacation!) sells Kombucha, the probiotic tea that I’ve loved since my UCSD days (could buy it with meal points on campus, feeling a kombucha buzz between classes),¬† and have recently started brewing my own batch in Korea.

The Sanctuary basically was screaming my name loud and clear.

As I spent more time there, and started talking to more and more folks, I found other solo femme travelers and yoginis. I liked where I was staying up at Bamboo Huts on Haad Yuan. The people and food were spectacular, too, and everyone was so encouraging with the new ukelele. However, I loved the young, health concious, and solo female traveler tribe that seemed to be forming over at Haad Tien. The guys were awesome, too! So, I asked my new amigas and amigos over at Haad Tien where they were staying and some of them said dorm. I’d questioned the whole dorm idea but then I took one look at the gorgeous “dorm” above the restaurant and I was sold.¬† For 200 baht a night ($4!), it was cheaper than my private hut by just enough to justify an extra Thai massage or two, and I wasn’t spending time in my room anyways!

                                   Dorms at the Sanctuary

Packed up my backpack and headed over the hill to Sanctuary…

I checked into Sanctuary’s dorms and was given a welcome glass of their Ginger Lemonade. Cleansing and refreshing after lugging my giant backpack up and down the steep hill in the hot, humid, and lovely I might add, weather. And a 50% off coupon for their spa.¬† Sweet.

It was stillearly and my dormmates were still asleep, so I quietly plunked my backback down, whispered “hello” to one gal who was just waking up, stripped down to the bikini, and headed out. On the way to the water, I rented snorkel gear. It was the first 100% clear day since I’d arrived and I wanted to explore the crystal water.

Over the next 3 days, I finally settled in.  Funny things start happening when you slow down.

First, I found this meditation in the August ’10 Yoga Journal. It became the meditation I used the entire trip out on the little floating hut.¬† Ha, yes, I tried meditating myself. For about 5 minutes at a time, but hey it’s a start!¬† I hope this meditation will help me thrive for the rest of my time in Korea, because it really rang true when I read it: “a lotus blooms even in the muddiest of waters”. I want to thrive even in a city as (well, to me) as urban and unnatural as Seoul.

Om Shrim Mahalakshyraim Namah: The mantra of Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of all the wealth and prosperity in the world.


Then, taking a walk through the jungle, I saw this:

No other astrological signs were present on other coconuts.  I know, I know, it seems silly, but I really saw this as a sign for my Gemini self. Be mindful, be present, observe and learn how you effect others, and nature. What you do helps or hinders the world going round.

I met a superb group of gals and wish I could have spent more time there with this group. It seemed like each day was full of meaningful (or silly) chats, a sauna/steam here and there thrown in, a dip in the sea. Every young woman here had a lot going for her. Each girl I spoke with was striving to make her mark on the world; from UN humanitarian efforts to teaching underprivileged kids to working with NGO’s in Africa teaching sustainability, saving sea turtles to simply following her dream to teach yoga. The guys I met were also equally incredible, with fantastic travel stories all over India and Asia and all over the world, with brand new ideas and dreams for themselves. I’m just so inspired by this trip and the people I met.

Hammock-ing with Din from Israel:

The rest of the vacay was spent relaxing.

 Swimming.  Eating.  Chatting.  Snorkeling.  Beach. Sunning.  Hammock-ing.

¬†Yoga-ing: I mixed it up and took a few yoga and meditation classes at the Sanctuary’s yoga shala, just as gorgeous as Bamboo Huts. Again, the only (very welcome) “distraction” was jungle noises: a symphony of cicadas humming through the jungle as the sun went down. I learned a few dancing/moving meditations by Osho, which I thought were really cool–15 minutes of shaking, 15 mins of dance, 15 mins sitting meditation, and 15 mins savasana/yoga relaxation pose.


jungle-ing and pulling a Columbus (exploring ūüôā¬†¬†in ‘flops and ‘kini.


After only three short days on Haad Tien, and just beginning to recharge, I started the journey back to Korea by saying goodbye to Koh Phangan Island and taking a ferry to Koh Samui, where I’d stay for the day/night and catch an early plane back “home”.¬† Stay tuned for a tale about that adventure…

Haad Tien from above, the lil floating hut in the bay

Wish Upon a Rock

I’ve seen rock stacks along the California coast, especially at Surfer’s Point in Ventura, and along hiking trails. I never realiazed that stacking rocks is actually a Buddhist meditation. I always assumed it was artwork, which I suppose it could be looked at in the same way. Art is after all, a focused meditation.
Collect rocks with smooth surfaces and stack them carefully, making a wish or prayer while doing so. Letting the rocks fall is bad luck…so you have to be very, very careful. Best of luck!

Spa Girl Abroad: Onyang Hot Springs

Onyang Hot Springs South Korea

I’ve been feeling the pull to venture out for a solo daytrip for a couple weeks now…and what could be better than a day at the hot springs after dancing, singing, playing, “heavy-weight lifting” with 4 year olds all week???

So I ventured off in the AM, not quite settled on which hot spring to go to…I just headed out to Seoul Express Bus Terminal and figured I would wing it.
At the suggestion of my “Korea Sparkling” guidebook (a freebie I picked up at a tourist office), it was between Icheon Hot Springs and Onyang…both a little over an hour outside Seoul.
I asked the lady at the ticket window, “which better, Onyang or Icheon?”
She replies, “Onyang!”…and so I hopped on the 10:10am bus.
I was pretty excited to be off doing something on my own, and somehow got the idea that I was going to some rural area. I was a lot disappointed to see that Onyang looks a lot like… of Seoul! :/
Anyways, the actual Onyang Hot Springs are located inside the Onyang Hot Springs Hotel. I paid 5,500 won to get in, was handed towels and locker key, and in traditional Korean bathhouse style, stripped down to my birthday suit! The layout of the hotsprings is similar to any Korean bathhouse or jjimjilbang, with several baths of different temperatures and wet/dry saunas.
Onyang is the oldest hot spring in Korea, and is supposedly a tourist hotspot. However, I was the only Westerner there and could feel quite a few stares, but I just looked these ladies in the eyes and gave ’em a big smile that said, “don’t worry about me, I’ve done this Korean spa thing before”…
I beelined for the outdoor pool, where the sun was shining and I was thinking, “suntan suntan suntan”. Ahhhh the power of a little sun. I lazed in the pool for a while, then layed out on the ground around the hot spring pool. It felt so good to just allow the healing waters and sunlight do their magic. At one point, a Korean lady offered me her spot in the shade, which I politely declined. It’s so funny how they want to be whiter and us Westerners want to be darker.
My favorite part about the outdoor pool was what I want to call “massage waterfalls”. These are amazing! It was almost as good as getting a deep tissue massage. You just stand in the pool, underneath the waterfalls, and direct the water towards your shoulders, neck, back, tight hammies, anything. This week in particular, my stress had manifested itself in my neck. Fun. Been getting acupuncture all week for it. And I was able to get lots of those kinks out with the waterfall massage.
After a few hours at the springs, I hopped on another bus back to Seoul. Slept like a baby the whole ride home.