Interview about Amsterdam with an American Living in Holland
I recently interviewed my friend Tegan, an American citizen who married a Dutchman, and has been living in Holland for the past 1.5 – 2 years. I also lived in The Netherlands from 2008 to 2010 and visited Amsterdam many times. It’s a great place to spend a few days or a week and gives a glimpse into the Dutch culture. Read More
Here’s the deal:
For the past 11 years since leaving Australia I have flown 100,000’s of miles around the world. As a student I was always on a budget so I learned the secrets of cheap flights for my various international trips. I have frequently gotten very cheap flights from the United States to Europe (London, Brussels, Frankfurt) and also insanely cheap flights to India (New Delhi) and Australia (Sydney).
Below I outline the 12 steps I take to book the cheapest international flights every time. Read More
My journey from home (in Sydney) began at 7am on Friday the 31st of January. I flew AirAsia who are said to be the best low cost airline in Asia and I confirmed this to be true. The only problem is that Kuala Lumpur is their hub and this airport doesn’t have edible food (in my opinion) only chocolates and microwaved stuff! Energy bars became my staple for 24hrs – yuck! Read More
Get my FREE Step-By-Step Guide to India Travel HERE.
One of my blog readers recently sent me this email asking some questions about his upcoming trip to India. I thought that many people may have similar questions so I decided to turn the email into a blog post. My answers are below in the bold font.
Get my FREE Step-By-Step Guide to India Travel HERE.
In February 2013, I was very lucky to get the opportunity to go to the once every 12 year Maha Kumbha Mela in Allahabad (Prayag), India. It was a wild journey to the largest spiritual gathering in the world where saints and sadhus, pilgrims (and scammers), tourists and everyone else under the sun congregate for a period of six weeks. I was fortunate to stay with the Uttar Kashi Purusha at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram on the more quiet side of the river. Below are 108 pictures I took over a 10 day period. Read More
Last weekend I went with my family to our favourite beach in Australia known as “Treachery“. As the map below shows it is about 3 hours North of Sydney and is located just past Seal Rocks. We first started coming here around 1997 and have come almost every year since for 2 to 3 weeks in the Summer. It is really an untouched wilderness nestled in the middle of Myall Lake National Park where there is a camp ground just behind the Northern end of the beach. Treachery is known for it’s laid back atmosphere, impressive wildlife and year-round excellent surfing conditions which at times can be rather treacherous. Check out my article: 17 Top Camping Packing List Items + What NOT to Bring
Click any image to ENLARGE.
Here is a quick map I made to show you were Treachery is in relation to Sydney. The beach faces South East which explains why it always has good surf because it picks up the South swells.
Goanna‘s are large lizards found throughout Australia. They can easily grow bigger than 2 metres (6 feet) and eat all kinds of other smaller animals. Thankfully they are quite shy around humans and I’ve never heard of any serious incidents except for scratched arms. Notice it’s huge claws and long tongue.
Photo Credit: Utopia Images Online (My Dad)
Treachery is filled with a wide array of bird life. In the morning I counted at least 15 different songs that created a deafening symphony. The above picture is of the famous Laughing Kookaburra (from the kingfisher family) which is known for its song that sounds like laughter. They are often seen eating snakes so they’re a good bird to have around.
One night we made a fruit salad for desert and this mother and baby Possum came down from the trees hoping for a piece of the action. In a previous year I fed one and it bit me! so that wasn’t happening again…
My sister-in-law was about to flick this little insect off a chair when she realized that it was a scorpion! It posed nicely for the camera before I moved it to into the bushes.
Photo Credit: Ogwen
The Seal Rocks area and in particular the Treachery camp ground has always had a small dingo population. They are ancient dogs brought by the Aborigine’s and have lived in Australia for thousands of years. They never bark only howl.
We placed the cast-iron pots on a bed of red hot coals and then covered them as well. After about 45 minutes we could smell the delicious scent of fresh, wood-fired, vegetarian lasagne. My Dad swept the coals off with a brush to see if our noses were correct – they were.
My parents are avid campers going to the remotest parts of Australia in there Landcruiser. Here you can get a glimpse of how well setup they are with a fridge, storage drawers and fold down kitchen bench.
Beach driving is fun – the trick is to lower your tire pressure so that the wheel has more surface area and to not stop because that’s when you sink. Also it’s helpful to drive in the tracks of others because the sand is more compressed there.
This picture is of the South Celestial Pole. It is a 15 minute exposure that captures the star trails due to the Earths rotation on it’s axis. The circle at the bottom is me shining a torch light at the camera in big arches. I did an earlier blog post with a series of these type of images called “Self Portraits – Painting With Light.”
On the day we were leaving the back door of the Landcruiser wouldn’t unlock so we had to unscrew a metal cargo barrier that blocked access so that I could crawl through the tiny space unlock it from the inside with my long arms.
The trip was very nostalgic and fun was had by all. I really love the Australian wilderness and feel lucky to be from this beautiful country.
All the best,
P.S Comments and questions are more than welcome. 🙂
On Tuesday last week I arrived back home to Sydney, Australia for a 1 month long visit to attend my brother’s wedding and for a general family reunion. I am very happy to be back enjoying the early Summer in Sydney after missing it for 7 years! Today, Sunday, I went with my Mum to the local Organic Farmers Market right near where we live on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It was great to see the thousands of people flocking for the fresh food picked ripe for our enjoyment and nourishment.
Click any photo below to ENLARGE.
As the sign says this market is open every Sunday morning ’til they sellout by around 2pm. It has been going ever since I can remember and was a nice novelty for me to return to after a long fast.
I came across some veggies that I’d never heard of such as broccolini. It’s obviously related to broccoli but with smaller florets and longer stalks.
I was looking at these 2012 Australian calendars for gifts and for my room back in the US when this man came over and told me he was the photographer! So I asked if I could take a pic of him for my blog.
Tropical plants were available including orchids and frangipani’s (plumera) – my favourite.
More photos from Sydney to come shortly.
On Friday September 30th, I woke at 3:30am to get ready to drive to the airport with two friends Narayana and Joey. We decided to go to New York City for 6 days largely because I’d never been there and also because I had some frequent flyer miles to burn. Plus we have a good friend, Austin, who has a nice apartment we could crash in. There were no issues with the flight and I was surprised how short the journey was, only 1 hour and 40 minutes from Chicago. By the time we arrived at the West Village apartment it was definitely past lunch time so we called a friend Trevor and found a fantastic little Thai restaurant with exquisite food for $8.
Soon after the meal Joey went with Trevor to stay with him at his place in Brooklyn while Narayana and I spent the night in Manhattan. The next morning we caught a bus which was hours late to Connecticut to visit Austin and his family at their home. It was very pleasant to be amongst the amazingly fluoro green forests.
Click on any photo below to ENLARGE.
That night we caught a bus back to New York City. The following day we met up with Trevor, Joe, Joey, Supriya, and Jeremy. Monday night (what you see in this pic) we went to Chinatown for some real authentic Chinese food.
The food was fantastic once again. That was really one of the highlights of New York City – the FOOD! We used the website Yelp to help us find restaurants that were affordable with good reviews and I can honestly say every meal was absolutely delicious.
We caught endless trains to get around Manhattan. I concluded they are like teleportation devices because you simply walk down some stairs and a few minutes later when you walk back up the stairs your in a different country or at least a completely different neighborhood with a distinctly different feeling.
We finished the night at Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker St that had the best cupcakes I had ever had. Austin got a free one because he stuck his hand out first… 🙂
On the Tuesday we had a touristy day where we had to check out Times Square.
Almost at the main strip of Times Square – it kind of reminded me of the street scenes of the movie Blade Runner.
A stretch limo pulls through the intersection probably transporting a celebrity. Which reminds me, I passed the pop star, Pink, in the West Village near Austin’s apartment on Monday. There were like 9 paparazzi shooting away like there was no tomorrow. And actually that was something I noticed in New York City – there are an unusually high proportion of extremely beautiful people there. I don’t know why but maybe because they are trying to make it big and New York is certainly is the place for that. Any thoughts?
More outrageously large flashing billboards. On these streets there were lots of dudes outside stores and clubs hustling to get us to go to some comedy show or something. We just kept walking and then their standard line was “where are you from?”. Jeremy said “have you heard of Russia?” while we kept walking. The guy then said, “is that where you’re from?” We didn’t answer and kept walking and then he said, “I’ll meet you on Jersey shore.” Quite funny.
Just north of Times Square is Central Park which is literally breath of fresh air and a God send that they’ve at least kept some nature.
As soon as I saw this hotel I thought of Home Alone 2 where he stays at this Hotel Plaza and racks up a huge bill on his dad’s credit card. It also made me think of the homeless lady who saved him from the bad guys. Quite a beautiful scene.
Our next destination on this day was the David Lynch Foundation New York City Headquarters. The elevator surprised me when I noticed there was no 13th floor! Crazy. I hate to break it to them but the 14th floor is actually the 13th floor. I found out that practically all buildings in the city are like this.
The destination this time was ITALY or “little Italy“. We wanted to sample some authentic Italian food and had some sublime fresh homemade pasta – bellissimo!
We went to the fashion district SoHo and stopped by the newish brand UniQlo. I was impressed by the quality and the prices.
I bought an ultra light down jacket for $79. It only weighs 7 ounces or 200 grams and is super warm. Plus it folds into a little pouch that you can fit in your pocket! Score.
I was perplexed to see this Chinese man carrying two huge trash bags in the Asian style. Quite a sight and symbolic of the diversity of culture in the city. Did you know there are as many as 800 languages spoken in New York City?!
It turned out that Gene Hackman had nothing to do with the show but that was a way to get us to come. Joe, Joey and Narayana were called on the stage to impersonate lines from different movies. They each got a crappy gift. It was an okay show with some really hilarious acts but mostly it was mediocre.
Last but not least, we had a great a time and started wearing fancy clothes and didn’t want to leave. If you haven’t been to New York City I highly recommend it. It seems like this city is really a world city with so much influence on fashion, media, finance and education etc it can be totally mind boggling and addictive. I will go back there for sure.
I welcome your comments.
On an afternoon in August 2004, I boarded a jumbo jet in Sydney, Australia bound for the United States. After a long and arduous 30 hour journey, I arrived in Maharishi Vedic City – a few miles to the north-west of Fairfield, home to Maharishi University of Management (MUM).
I enjoyed a delicious dinner at the friends house that I was staying and was in bed by about 9pm. I awoke the next morning at 7am feeling great and as if I had always lived in this strange new land. The thing that I found remarkable was that I proceeded to not have any form of jet lag despite my extended journey.
The only explanation I could give for this phenomenon was that my friends’ house was built according to the principles of Maharishi Vastu Architecture. This style of architecture follows the guidelines as prescribed in the ancient Vedic texts of India and revived by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The most salient aspects include orientation or direction of the building, proportion, placement of rooms and sustainably built using local and natural materials.
Click on the images to enlarge.
Since my initial taste of living in Maharishi Vastu Architecture I have traveled all over the world and tasted some of the finest Vastu houses and buildings around.
^ In 2005 I was lucky to move into a brand new residence hall building on the MUM campus just outside the large meditation hall (dome.)
My experience of Maharishi Vastu Architecture is more or less the same regardless of the location in the world. I am always struck by the deafening Silence that pervade the walls of these buildings. I generally sleep extremely well, like a baby, and always feel expansion of the heart and mind while occupying a Vastu building.
In 2006 I had the opportunity to visit Maharishi European Research University (MERU) in Vlodrop, The Netherlands for about 2 months. This place is the international headquarters of the Transcendental Meditation movement run by Maharishi himself. Then in 2008 after graduating from MUM I moved to MERU to be the assistant to Dr. Harris Kaplan and Dr. Bevan Morris (President of MUM). For the first time I experienced Maharishi’s Vastu house from the inside and was utterly impressed by the galactic Silence permeating the building. The other noticeable quality is bubbling bliss and simply a magical feeling regardless of the day or night.
^ Maharishi’s house, Vlodrop, The Netherlands
^ The local newspaper did a story on us at Vlodrop. In the background is Harris and Arlene Kaplan’s beautiful house.
In 2009 I traveled to India with Dr. Morris and experienced a wide array of Maharishi Vastu buildings in different parts of the sub-continent. We were first in Allahabad, then later moved to the Brahmasthan (central point) and then went North to Uttar Kashi in the Himalayas.
I had already been to the Brahmasthan in 2008 for a couple of months after Maharishi’s funeral cremation in Allahabad. It definitely has the strongest quality of dynamism (or sound) in the silence. In fact, one morning I was actually woken by the sound of Vedic chanting but then I realized it was the sound of silence!
^ Here is the main campus at the Brahmasthan. There are literally hundreds of buildings already built and under construction spread over three campuses.
During my travels throughout Northern India I went through many towns and noticed buildings that looked like they built according to the principles of Maharishi Vastu and then realized that it was another Maharishi Vidya Mandir School. There are over one hundred of these schools across India with more than one hundred thousand students!
^ Gajoli ashram, Uttar Kashi, Himalayas, India
^ Kunsi ashram, Uttar Kashi, Himalayas, India
^ View down to Uttar Kashi “Valley of the Saints” from the Kunsi ashram
After this India trip I returned to Holland and also made some visits to Fairfield, IA and India again. In India I had a very nice and long stay in Bhopal at a fantastic campus built according to the principles of Maharishi Vastu.
^ Here is one of the buildings at the Bhopal campus where I stayed for three months in ’09 – ’10.
Then just a few months ago I attended a conference in Rendlesham, 2 hours to the Northeast of London in England. I was thoroughly impressed by the countless Vastu homes that have been built in this Village.
After a long, all day drive from Holland, through Belgium, France on a ferry and up to Rendlesham I was welcomed to a nice couples home. Upon entering the house and after meditating I was completely refreshed from the tiring journey. The deep well of silence enclosed within the building as if nourished my soul.
The three day visit to Rendlesham made me think of all the dozens of Vastu buildings I have visited around the world and how they all have this divine quality of subtle light and positive energy. I am truly a believer of the value of Vastu architecture and have realized that if done right it will be the same regardless of the country it is built in. I believe that by building a Maharishi Vastu home you are creating a little oasis of coherence and peace in your life. Maharishi coined the tag line for Maharishi Vastu as “fortune creating” and I think this it is true on every level.
So I guess you’re wondering if I’m living in Vastu now?…
In fact, over the past 7 years since I left Australia I have lived in different Maharishi Vastu buildings for about 5.5 of those years. And if I have my way I will never have to spend another day in a building that isn’t following these simple yet deeply profound principles.
Now I have a big goal of creating a Vastu village in Queensland, Australia.
If you have any questions about my specific experiences at any of the photographed places above please feel free to leave it in the comments sections below.
Also for more information about this style of architecture then visit MaharishiVastu.org
Lastly, here is a video slideshow showing many of the Vastu homes in Maharishi Vedic City, USA.
In December last year I ventured over to Europe for a meeting in Brussels and then soon after went to South India. I traveled with David Jung (my work colleague) to some very beautiful places in India during a 20 day period. After this little adventure we returned to Europe for some more meetings and business talks. We ended up changing our return ticket to Fairfield, Iowa three times and the trip turned into 10 weeks instead of 3.5 weeks.
Below is a photo blog of these winter adventures in South India, Belgium, Holland and England.
One of the first things to do once in India is to get RUPEES! I find that the best way is to either withdraw from an ATM or do an exchange with a forex company such as this one www.vkcforex.com. My other recommendation is to get a lot of 10 rupee notes because otherwise you’ll be dishing out 100 rupee notes which is more than $2 and this quickly adds up.
Here is a view of a typical Indian street with mainly motor bikes and auto rickshaws like the one I’m sitting in to take the picture. The streets are very noisy and usually quite polluted. So I normally use ear plugs and definitely cover my nose with cloth!
Another street view from a little local restaurant in Tirupati, South India.
This is the road up to Tirumala, the home of Venkateshwar or Balaji. The temple town of Tirumala is located on the top of beautiful hills surrounded by lush forest. It is one of the most well known temples in India with around 60,000 people a day visiting it! The other interesting fact is that approximately 100 million dollars per year is collected in Dakshina (donations).
The atmosphere on the top of the Tirumala hills is really quite amazing and very well kept. To give you an idea of the scope of this place there are about 12,000 employees for the temple grounds alone!
These foot prints are where Venkateshwar once stood. This spot had a great view of the temple in the distance to the East.
Here is the view of the main temple. In the center you can see the solid gold ornately decorating the roof of the temple. The darshan queues can also be seen in a circular shape surround the main temple grounds of Venkateshwar. Sometimes people wait for days to get a 10 second view of the deity. I was lucky to get 3 minutes viewing this time.
This is a closeup of the solid golden temple roof. It is rather impressive…
This the statue of Venkateshwar or Balaji who is an incarnation of Vishnu. Notice how the eyes are covered? It is said that if they didn’t put the covering the whole Earth would be scorched from intense darshan or light. The other cool thing about this temple is that any wish you have while standing in front of the statue will be granted. I made some very big wishes and they already started coming true.
We met a nice family with cute kids who showed as around the 7 hills of Tirumala. David is receiving a Tilak (or dot) on his forehead.
These hills are covered with large untouched jungles where saints have walked and meditated for millenia. The atmosphere up there was really special and much less polluted than down the hill at the bustling town of Tirupati.
I stumbled upon a great little outdoor shop with all kinds of different Indian art.
Our next destination was the small town near the Southern tip of India called Rameshwaram. This town is home to one of the 12 Jyotir Linga’s. It was the tail end of the monsoon so there was quite a lot of water everywhere. The food and accommodation was very basic here so we had to be very careful…
This temple was very powerful with the qualities of Shiva – silence, peace and bliss. There are 22 wells here that they dunk a bucket in and then poor it over your head. It was a very pleasant experience with each well having a different feeling or flavour.
The next day we took a four wheel drive out to Danushkodi which is the start of Ram’s bridge to Sri Lanka. I bathed in the confluence of two seas here and it was very nice.
In this NASA satellite image you can see the remnants of Ram’s bridge. It is believed that this bridge was built by Ram’s army around 1 million years ago in order to walk across to Sri Lanka to save Sita (Ram’s wife) from Ravana (a demon). It really was an amazing experience to visit this place and also to see the place where Maharishi first came to after his years of Silence in the Himalayas.
The temple grounds here were very beautiful. There was this great elephant at the entrance to the temple who was very good at posing for the camera! I find elephants to be really incredible animals. Some people have told me that an elephant never forgets anything and this was felt when I looked into it’s big, glossy eyes.
Here is another view of the amazingly ornate carvings on the temple pillars.
Most of our travels were done on buses. The gigantic bus stands all through India are very well organized and transport lakhs of people every day. You can literally just turn up here and find a bus that is going exactly where you want and the cost is unbelievable. For example a 7 hour journey on a luxury bus cost us $2.50.
On my birthday we arrived at the Southern tip of India, Kanyakumari. This place is home to a goddess and has a very special feeling. We were lucky to stay in a lodge just meters from the temple grounds.
The streets surrounding temples are always laden with souvenirs and handicrafts such as shell covered mirrors.
We drank coconut water everyday – it is sooo good and refreshing!
Ambitious salesmen tried to sell us plastic pearls for 200 rupees. He proved they were real by putting a flame on it. There are a lot scams like this throughout India which definitely keeps you on your toes :).
Thousands of pilgrims visit Kanyakumari everyday. It was very interesting to watch all the different types of people and to see the fantastic array of colours.
Just outside the Kanyakumari temple is the confluence of three oceans – Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. The water here was so nice to bathe in, it was like warm silk.
South India is filled with palm trees, rice paddies, banana plantations and sugar cane fields.
There are never ending amazing sights to be had while traveling India. Here you can see a baby fast asleep on the back of a speeding motorbike with it’s mother balancing precariously.
South India, particularly Kerala, has a lot of influence from Christian missionaries. As a result there were Santa Claus’s everywhere! Some of them are really scary with skeletons and all kinds of weird things…
Our next stop was a beachside town in Kerala called Kovalam. The food in Kerala is incredibly fresh and delicious. I heard that most of the spices come from this state and this contributes to the exquisite tastes.
We found many wonderful artists here.
Lal the tailor made us some very cheap custom yoga pants.
This is Lighthouse beach at Kovalam. I was able to go surfing here a few times. It was paradise with much less pollution than other places in India.
Another amazing artist. I bought an wonderful artwork here for one of my brothers.
A nice place to have a meal! The pond was filled with fish and there were kingfisher birds all around feeding on the fish while we ate our Indian breakfast.
I was able to visit my friend Harshal at his university in Chennai. I hadn’t seen him for 9 years! His university is called the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the campus was really impressive. Recruiters come here every year to pick up the cream of the crop for companies like Google, Facebook and different investment banks. It is ranked amongst the 10 best schools in India.
The view from the back seat of a rickshaw in Chennai on a rainy evening. They all have metres but no one uses them. I recommend always agreeing on the price of the ride before getting in. If you’re not happy with their proposed price the best thing to do is to walk away and they’ll usually come down closer to your price.
This is the view from the top of our cheap hotel in Chennai. The pollution in this town is fantastically asphyxiating!
Brussels train station – back to civilization.
Sampling some local Belgian fries. They are made completely fresh including cutting the potatoes only moments before frying them.
Me outside the Atomium in Brussels. This structure was built for the 1958 world fair in Brussels. Everyone loved the design so much that they left it there.
One of the balls of the Atomium. The lights were moving around like electrons in an atom.
Here is the view from inside the lift that goes up to the top of the Atomium in Brussels. At one point it was the fastest lift in the world.
We ate dinner inside the top most ball of the Atomium structure in Brussels. It was an unusual but cool experience.
Our bed and breakfast just outside of Brussels.
Working hard on some really cool, “secret” Internet projects.
The road up to MERU (Maharishi European Research University) in Vlodrop, Holland was very slippery so this truck had some trouble.
Buildings at MERU, Vlodrop.
This is the old, abandoned building at Vlodrop that they want to knock down. I am guilty of smashing some windows with snowballs. 😛
These are the elephants that welcome you to MERU and the new master plan for the campus is seen behind.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi‘s magical house where he took Mahasamadhi in 2008. It still has such a sublime feeling of peace and bubbling bliss, especially upstairs. Here is a blog I wrote about my experience of Maharishi’s funeral ->
In one day we drove through Holland, Belgium, France and then caught a ferry across the English channel to the UK. The ferries are huge and quite luxurious inside.
We attended a conference at Rendlesham which is about 1.5 hours drive northeast of London. It was a fun weekend and nice to see Maharishi Vastu architecture in action. The main feature of these buildings is that they face East to receive the nourishment from the first rays of the sun every day.
A typical scene in London.
Catching the underground in London back to our car.
Next we caught the ferry back to France and then drove back to Holland. It was a killer day with 17 hours of travel!
Then we flew from Dusseldorf, Germany to Dublin, Ireland and on to Chicago, USA. Now back in snowy Fairfield, IA at Maharishi University and very happy to see all my friends again! 🙂
So that’s a quick recap of my Winter Adventures in India and Europe. I hope you enjoyed the pics and if you have any questions please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer.
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Using Mobile (Cell) Phones in India
Handling, Exchanging & Sending Money to India
Travel on Indian Trains, Planes, Buses, Cars, Auto & Bike Rickshaws
7 Tips for Eating in India as a Tourist Who Avoids Getting Sick
6 Tips for Safe Drinking Water in India
Indian Hotels – 9 Tips To Have The Best Experience As a Tourist
How to Stay Healthy in India as a Western Tourist
Shopping in India – How to Bargain Like an Indian
Indian Temples – 11 Tips to Enjoy Your Visit to an Indian Temple
Communication in India
Pictures of India & 6 Tips to Become a Better Photographer
Pollution in India
108 Faces of the Maha Kumbha Mela – Allahabad, India 2013
My Experience of Maharishi’s Funeral Cremation, Allahabad, India, 2008