Saturday, December 28, 2013

Homeless for the Holidays: A Christmas Story

I realized the first Christmas story was about a homeless husband and wife. Mary and Joseph were turned away at an inn. Far from their home, Mary gave birth in a stable.

Mary & Joseph were homeless for the first Christmas

Working as a travel writer, I often find myself alone in a foreign land. Part of my adventure is finding my home away from home. Seven days before Christmas I give thanks to people who have opened their homes and hearts to me this year.

There are friends like Isabel who always keeps her home in Singapore open to me. She loves her neighborhood so much. It has rubbed off to me. Her beloved Tiong Bahru is now my adopted home in Singapore. While I enjoy the market ,the restaurants, cafes, and curio shops in her hood, what I enjoy the most is our unending conversations till the wee hours.

Isabel's Tiong Bahru Neighborhood

In Sydney, Ange and Mike opened their home to me, with lovely Bella following me like Mary's little lamb. Opening one's home means sharing intimate bits of your life, for that I am most grateful.
Bella's wine and cheese welcome 

But there too are strangers who have made foreign places feel like home. I have said this before..."you don't choose places, places choose you." I visited Indonesia three times this year. The Indonesians feel familiar to me. They exude a warmth just like Filipinos do. As a travel writer, I am blessed to be invited to stay in fabulous resorts. In Bali, there is no shortage of many fantastic resorts all over the island.
Indonesian Hospitality at Santika Nusa Dua

One unique place in Bali is Tugu Resort. The owner is one of Indonesia's largest antique collectors. So impressed with his vast collection, his daughter Lucienne kindly extended an invitation to stay at their Bali resort. Each villa is tastefully decorated with antique pieces. Given a choice my heart sighed at one villa. Painted with green walls, it was the perfect kind of cozy and elegant. There was a plunge pool. But my favorite details are the door and the orange bathroom. I could spend my days writing here everyday I thought to myself. I then realized this is my dream home.

my favorite villa at Tugu Bali 

In June, I was wowed by what Ayana Resort had to offer. With its amazing Rock Bar, the waves crashed below me as I watched the sun set from this elevated bar voted the best by top travel magazines.

Rock Bar at Ayana Resort in Bali 

But my joy was getting a special cocktail from the bartender who spoke fluent Tagalog. He was an Indonesian who worked in a bar in Ortigas for years.

A Tagalog speaking bartender at Rock Bar concocts me a special drink

The resort’s amazing thalassotherapy pool was something else. Imagine marrying the joys of a day in a pool and varying pressures to ease your aching muscles from head to toe.

But what felt like home is Ayana's sister property, newly opened Rimba Resort. I loved living in a sustainable environment using wood from old boats and natural wooden sculptures for wall art.
Rimba's sustainable interiors using old wooden boats 

bamboo chandelier & old boats in Rimba resort's lobby

In Ubud, my friend Anna not only pointed me to the direction of her favorite guest house, but also gave me specific directions where to go for the best coffee and free wifi when I was cramming an article.

At home amidst the vast antique collection in Tugu Lombok

In Lombok, I was all by myself in this island to explore what it had to offer. I found great beaches to soak up the sun, resorts perfect for families and lovers, but the best gem was finding authentic culture of the island. French resident and gm of The Santosa kindly shared his family's favorite place to eat Lombok food.

feeling right at home at Tugu Lombok's antiques

Stephane (the GM of the Santosa) and his sons share their favorite resto serving Ayam Taliwang

In Yogyakarta home was a hotel, which was once a sultan's palace. The hotel staff at Royal Ambarrukmo made sure I felt like royalty. They treated me as guest of honor to their royal high tea and the royal dinner, with the traditional service fit for a sultan.

at Royal Amburrokmo Lobby

feeling special at Royal High tea at Royal Ambarrukomo at Yogyakarta
The traditional procession to bring the food and tea for Royal High Tea 

A wise priest once told me, "Home is where you're at." My neighbor Lory makes me feel right at home when I'm in Manila. Hearing her voice call out from her third floor garden balcony
"Maida!!!" as I get off my car is my cue for us to catch up with eachother's lives. Home is telling my mom the joys and trials I am facing or showing dad photos from my travels. Home is sharing a simple meal of okra in an Indian canteen with my best friend Rissa whom I had known since I was 8. We don't need fancy restaurants just good food and endless talk about eachother's lives.

Tonight, I am at home with my solitude in the company only of words. I ask myself: Have I made this world feel a bit cozier, warmer for someone this year? Did I make someone feel more at home wherever they are physically or in the state of life they are in?

Give thanks today feeling at home where you are at or feel even more grateful for feeling right at home in your own skin.

I realize we will never be homeless in this world, with the love of God and the loving kindness of people everywhere. Thank you to every single person, who has made this great big world feel warmer and like home wherever I go.

Wishing you a merry Christmas, the best of the holidays, and a blessed 2014!

Christmas 2013  at Manila Hotel Lobby
*This post was written a week before Christmas, but with my laptop being repaired and the series of holiday events & traffic I only got to post it today!

copyright. Maida Pineda 2013

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