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Sri Lanka Travel Guide / 26 Day Spiritual Journey

Are you thinking of Traveling to Sri Lanka? In this blog, I’ll give you a guide and highlights to Sri Lanka Travel Guide / 26 Day Spiritual Journey, including my favorite places to visit, expenses and how to get around. And let me first start by saying, it was an incredible Spiritual Journey!

Sri Lanka is often not on the radar as a top place to travel. For many years it was a turbulent place to travel due to the 25 year Sri Lankan Civil War. But that ended in 2009.  And having just spent 1 month traveling across much of the country, I can tell you that Sri Lanka SHOULD be on your travel bucket list. Read on and find out why.

The country of Sri Lanka is a laid back, relaxing large island with a glorious landscape. The land ranges from sandy beaches boasting great waves for surfing, lush serine jungles, safari full of elephants and more, ancient temples, cascading waterfalls and epic mountains for a hiking. It’s also home to one of the most scenic train rides in the world, more on that later. It’s religion is mainly Buddhist. The local  people are kind and less pushy to sell you something as in India and not as disillusioned by tourists as in Thailand. They are generally happy to see you. The two local  languages are spoken are Thamil and Sinhalese but most people speak English. Sri Lanka doesn’t have the wild party scene of Thailand nor the hectic high energy feel of India, rather it has a gentle flow where you can relax and explore the diverse landscape and beautiful culture. Tourism is growing but it’s not overrun like other countries on the backpacking circuit. It’s easy to get a visa. It’s best to apply online at http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/center.jsp. The 30 day visa cost $35 US dollars and can be renewed if you wish to extend your stay. It took less than 24 hours to receive my confirmation. You will get an email. Just save it to your phone. They actually didn’t even need to see it at the airport as I showed up in the computer system.

I stayed 26 days and loved each one. My favorite spots were Ella, the Nilambe Meditation Center near Kandy and traveling on the train from Ella to Kandy. I started my trip in Colombo, made my way down south to the beaches, then up to Ella for a few days, jumped on the incredibly scenic train ride to Kandy (A MUST DO), onto Nilambe for 5 days of meditation, back to Kandy and then Colombo to fly out. It was super easy to get around and I’ve detailed each step.

The only thing I didn’t like was the incredibly high prices for foreigners to visit the sites. Locals go for free or a small fee. But many of the tourist sites can be up to $30 for foreigners. So you really have to pick and choose your spots if you are on a budget. Also, be savvy of prices, especially for tuk-tuks. They often double or triple prices for foreigners. So get your bargaining skills down. I always inquired with locals or blogs to get an idea of prices. But other than that, it was a blessed journey through this diverse, ancient and spiritual land.

Below is a Guide, Highlights and To Do List based on my 26 Day Spiritual Journey.


The major airport is Bandaranaike in Colombo. You can purchase a local SIM card here for your phone and exchange money, (note, they would not exchange my Indian Rupees). There are many taxis all hours of the night. I arrived around 1:30 AM and everything in the airport was open. I did not stay in Colombo or explore the city at all. Most backpackers stay in Negombo, which is close to the airport, some beaches and many budget guest houses and hostels. I stayed one night in Seeduwa at the Airport Lounge Hotel which was super close to the airport. I paid $15.50 US / 2,419.55 LKR.  The manager was very kind. He helped me to exchange my Indian Rupees and for a fee and took me to the Fort Colombo train station in the morning where I went to the beach town of Hikkaduwa.

How to get out of Colombo and where to go?

Most people either head south to the beaches, or to Kandy.


There are many trains to going all over the island from the Colombo Fort Train Terminal. You can check the times at http://www.railway.gov.lk/web/ or https://www.seat61.com/SriLanka.htm.  It is usually NOT possible to pre-book tickets but you will always get on.  Something to know about the trains, for most of the shorter rides like to the beaches, you have the choice of 2nd or 3rd class. 2nd class does not guarantee you a seat. I had to stand with my two backpacks. The train was very full. Certain longer-distance trains like the train from Ella to Kandy have a designated 1st and 2nd class reserved car and sometimes a 3rd class reserved car, in addition to the many unreserved cars.  Only a few trains have a 1st class car and 1st class seats are always reserved. Additionally, some trains have an observation section with guaranteed seating and larger windows for views.  These are the only tickets that can and must be pre-booked from an agent. I never chose the observation car so don’t know the process. The only difference from 2nd class and 3rd class seats are armrests. None in 3rd class. But since you may not have a seat, who really cares. The announcements are NOT in English. There is an information office at Colombo Fort Station inside near the tracks if you have any questions. The information desk also has a key for the “tourist” toilets. It is sometimes difficult to see the station names at train stops, so I always asked a local on the train to assure I did not miss my stop. They are very happy to help.


Buses are the cheapest way to travel and were fine. You have the choice of local (red bus) or AC buses (blue and white). Whichever bus you take, it’s a good idea to get to the bus stand early if you have bags. There is big space by the driver where you can place your backpack. In all the travels, I never paid more than 180LKR for a local bus or 320LKR for an AC bus.

Where to keep you bags on the Sri Lanka busses

Space by the driver for your bags if you get on early enough

The AC buses are a trip!  They look like they came out of 1960s psychedelia. If you can imagine a funky, shiny electric blue and white, spiritual, magic bus complete with interior flashing lights at the front windshield surrounding glossy icons of Buddha and Ganesha. Like I said, trippy! These buses are pretty new and rather comfortable.

Psychedelic Tourist Bus in Sri Lanka complete with neon lights of Buddhist and Hindu deities.

Local Red Bus Sri Lanka

Local Red Bus. You can catch them anywhere on their route just my waving them down. Look for the destination on the front and make sure you are going in the proper direction to your next stop. For instance, your bus could be coming to or from Matara.

Ticket purchases are made day of travel. The bus stand can be chaotic, so I always asked a local where to get my bus and was guided in the right direction. Just hop on the bus and once it gets on the road, someone will come by and collect your money. Always ask them to tell you when your stop is, otherwise you might miss it.

In whatever city or village you may be, if you know the road your bus comes through, you can wave it down. The bus conductor will slow down so you can tell him where you are going. There are buses going all over.  You most likely will not wait more than 20 minutes before you find one going your way. Sometimes the buses just pass you by. I never really figured out why some stop and some do not.  There didn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason. They run from early morning until about 10PM. Any guest house or local can give you an idea as to what time your bus leaves and where to get it.


You can take tuk-tuks almost anywhere. Get your bargaining skills down because they will most likely start with double the rate. It is possible to befriend one and he’ll be glad to take you all over. I had such a driver in Mirissa. He always gave me a great rate and I called him whenever I needed a ride. Having a local phone can be very helpful.

Here is the route I took:


HIKKADUWA (6 nights)

This southeast beach town is about 3 hours by train from Colombo. Train ticket from Colombo was 160LKR for 2nd class ticket and 85LKR for a 3rd class. At one time, Hikkaduwa was the spot for hippies to hang. It’s still frequented by some backpackers and tourists. The undercurrent of the waters were very strong while I was swimming there; and at one time I felt myself getting dragged out to the sea. It was at that point that I went back to shore 🙂 I spent 6 days in this town. That is actually a bit long. There is not much to do but chill here. You can check out the underworld snorkeling, see turtles on the beach in the morning and there are a string of local shops, cafes and restaurants on the main road.  You can also book a tour to visit the turtle hatchery, whale watching and Tsunami museum. The agents and guest houses can book you for jungle, gem and safari tours. I did not do a tour. I was tired from my two month Spiritual Journey traveling across India and needed a break. I spend my days relaxing in my coconut bungalow at Chami’s Place (link below). It was just minutes from the beach. 


Stroll down the beach from Hikkaduwa

Stroll down the beach from Hikkaduwa


Monks on the Beach in Sri Lanka

Spiritual Journey on the beach. It was so sweet watching these monks stroll the beach



Just a short 10 minute walk from the railroad station is this tropical and funky garden hostel and guesthouse enclave. The best place I stayed at in Sri Lanka! The owner, Chami is a local Sri Lankan. He put his heart, art and soul into his coconut garden hostel and guest houses. The first night I stayed in a two bed dorm room and had the room to myself. But then he showed me his new Coconut Tree House with terrace. I fell in love with the space, so I upgraded. At the time of this trip, during slightly off season, the dorm room was $7 and tree house around $25. Check out the coconut paradise tree house on Airbnb.com. Just click on the photo below. The dorm rooms can be found on Booking.com. I got you hooked up with a discount if you use these linka.





The ambiance and food at Chami’s was great. He seems to draw in the best people. Everyday a tribe of backpackers gathered for meals and talk under the stars, accompanied by great music coming off the speakers; and the food was amazing. Try the Veg Kottu, a veg stir fry with chopped up pieces of roti bread. The avocado salad was amazing too. Great breakfast and my travel friend said it was the best cappuccino he had in all of Sri Lanka. You can gather a group together and take the cooking class. We made a killer Veg Curry! Chami took us to the market to buy the ingredients and lead us in the art of making this Sri Lankan favorite dish. He can also book your island wide tours. And when there is a yoga teacher around, you can catch a daily class. I taught yoga here during my stay.

Chamis Place Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka

The larger family sized coconut guest house at Chami’s Place in Hikkaduwa


Julie Jewels Bertrand teaching yoga in Sri Lanka / Shine by Jewels

Julie Jewels Bertrand teaching yoga in Sri Lanka / Shine by Jewels


I enjoyed most of my lunches and sunset dinners on the beach at the Sunset Cafe, which is actually Chami’s mother-in-law’s place. It’s less then a 5 minute walk from Chami’s. It has two floors, upper balcony and a few tables on the beach. The food was great. I usually had either the deviled calamari or deviled shrimp dishes. These dishes were medium spicy sautéed with peppers, onions and tomato. Highly recommend. The owners and staff are lovely too.


Sun Set Coffee Bar Hikaduwa Sri Lanka Shine with Julie Jewels Bertrand

The view at Sunset Cafe where I enjoyed many lunches and dinners in Hikkaduwa



Salty Swamis is another good spot. Super clean with healthy food options. About a 10 minute walk south of Chami’s along the main road or beach. Have a cold coconut and healthy breakfast. The owner was cool and held my iPad for me while I went off to the beach to swim for a few hours. This place draws in a cool mix of yogis and bohemian backpackers. Great vibes. At time of this blog it’s ranked as #1 out of #119 restaurants in Hikkaduwa.


Chill vibes at Papa Mango's in Mirissa Beach

Chill vibes at Papa Mango’s in Mirissa Beach

My next stop on my spiritual journey was down to Marissa Beach. I stood on the street with some travelers I met at Chami’s and we flagged down a bus bound for Matara. It stops at Galle, Weligama  and Mirissa before it’s final stop to Matara. The bus was full but I eventually got a seat, yet I had to be strategic holding my bag. I think the ticket to Mirissa was less than a dollar, but I forget how much exactly. The trip was about 1.5 hours.


Mirissa is a charming beach town. The beaches are prettier than in Hikkaduwa. All along the beach are lovely restaurants serving fresh fish dishes and more. Prices are great. I never spent more that $10 on a meal. I didn’t go out at night other than for a meal, but from what I understood, the parties rotated from different restaurants/bars each night. I could hear the music from my guesthouse. Seemed like your standard party music with techno pop drum beats.  I stayed at the Bird House Mirissa, a funky little tree house bungalow hidden in the neighborhood about 10 minutes from the beach. I just love tree houses. This one is a little older, but super cute. I sat on the balcony watching the stars and exchanging stories with a traveler friend. Love those kind of nights.

WELIGAMA (day trips)

Most come to Weligama for surfing lessons. Water is always a part of my spiritual journey. If you are a beginner, its good because the waves are small. I didn’t stay in Weligama but took the bus there from Mirissa everyday. You can flag the bus down from the main road. All local red buses buses going north stop at Weligama. I paid $18/ 2800 LKR for my lessons. They used a foam board. I got up on my second try. I surfed for hours. I went back the next day and rented a board for $160 / 250 LKR for 2 hours. So much fun!!! You might also catch a good photo of the Stilt Fishermen in the waters.

Shine On Spiritual Blogger Julie Jewels Bertrand learning to surf in sri lanka

Learning to surf in Sri Lanka

Surf and Shine with Julie Jewels Bertrand Welligama Sri Lanka Surf

Surf’s up. I may be a California girl, but I’m a newbie at surfing. The guide had me up on my 2nd try!


GALLE (day trip)

Galle is a nice day trip. I took the bus from Weligama. It took less than an hour. Walking the streets in this old town was a treat. The architecture is old colonial reflecting the times of the Portuguese, Dutch and British rule. There are many churches and I had fun watching the locals play cricket. The main site to see in Galle is the old Portuguese Fort. It’s a massive site by the sea. Great place for sunset with the views of the sea and lighthouse. The Fort Shri Sudarmalaya Buddhist Temple was a beautiful site for meditating on my spiritual journey here in Sri Lanka. Stop for a tea or coffee at Pedlar’s Inn.

Shine On Spiritual Blogger Julie Jewels Bertrand Meditating in Galle Sri Lanka

Shining On into the sunset in Galle, Sri Lanka


Twilight time in Galle Sri Lanka

Twilight time in Galle Sri Lanka

ELLA (3 nights)

This was my favorite spot in Sri Lanka! Ella is a chilled out, small, hillside station town. Its diverse landscape of mountains, waterfalls, viewpoints, tea plantations, picturesque railroad track, palm trees, deep green fields and tiny but energetic village center is what draws most to spend some days while traveling Sri Lanka. Situated in the center of Sri Lanka, it’s the perfect spot to stop while making your way north or south.

The spots to see here are Ella Rock, Little Adams Peak, the MUST see 9 Arches Railway Bridge and train tracks, tea plantations and Ravana waterfalls. The small city center has a great vibe with lots of tasty restaurants serving local and vegetarian delights. This town is also full of Ayurvedic spas. I had a two hour massage at Healing Hand. Hmmmm, a must to sooth my achy bones from carrying my backpack for months! Sometimes Spiritual Journey Travel is not easy!  The guest houses are pretty inexpensive. Most are in a family home.

Shine On with Jewels Bertrand on the view point of Ella Rock Sri Lanka

Shining On the viewpoint of Ella Rock Sri Lanka


Demodara Nine Arch Bridge and Railroad Track Sri Lanka

Demodara Nine Arch Bridge and Railroad Track Sri Lanka



Nuwara Elia is another village that many visit. Although I didn’t make it here. It’s known as little England and it has the same cool and rainy weather pattern. Places to see are Horton Plains National Park, tea plantations, Ramboda Fall, Vitoria Park and Gregory Lake.



Another notable site that I did not get a chance to visit is Adam’s Peak. This peak is 7362 foot (2243 meter) high mountain known as the ‘Holy Footprint’. The footprint has a few legends. One being that when Adam was expelled from heaven, God put him on the peak to make the shock less terrible and he stood for 1000 years on one foot. Hindus, believe it was the world-creative dance of the god Shiva that left the giant footprint,  Buddhist theory is that it was left by the Buddha during the third and final of his legendary visits to Sri Lanka and lastly, Portuguese Christians claimed the impression to be the footprint of St. Thomas who, according to legend, first brought Christianity to Sri Lanka. The weather pattern here is cooler and rainy.


SCENIC TRAIN FROM ELLA TO KANDY ( approximately 5 hours)

The train from Ella to Kandy or visa versa is a must see! This in itself is a Spiritual Journey. It was a favorite from all who I met on my travels to Sri Lanka and is noted to be one of the best and most scenic train rides in the world. This serine 5hr? train ride takes you through a serine, lush green landscape full of waterfalls, mountain views, little villages and rice fields. You will feel like you are traveling in a time forgotten though a magical land. I had a first class ticket but really never used it. The first class seats are $9 / 1400 LKR. I chose 1st class because I thought the train would be over crowded in 2nd class like the case when you travel from Colombo to the beaches. This is NOT the case. The difference between 1st and 2nd are the windows are larger in 1st but do not open due to the Air Conditioning. 2nd class window open and you will get a seat. I spent the entire time sitting in the open doorway with my feet dangling out where I wrote most of this blog while gazing at the scenery with the wind blowing in my hair. It was an unforgettable experience that will last in my mind forever. At each stop, a vendor come by selling local street food so you won’t go hungry. Although most of the food is fried. I was lucky to get a yogurt, nuts and some sort of sweet nutty bar. 2nd class seats will run you 650 Rs / $4.20 and 3rd class 400 LKR / $2.60.


The scenic Kandy - Ella train ride in Sri Lanka

The scenic Kandy – Ella train ride in Sri Lanka. A must do on your travels!


Spiritual Travels Blogger Julie Jewels Bertrand on train in Sri Lanka

KANDY (2 NIGHTS then went to Nilambe Meditation / 2 nights after meditation)

The main sites to see in Kandy are the Temple of the Tooth which is said to house a tooth relic of the Buddha. The temple also has an impressive Buddhist museum detailing the history of Buddhism from countries across the globe. Entrance fee is 1500 LKR / $10 for foreigners. Be sure to dress modestly and cover your shoulders and knees.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum

If you are still around in the evening you can catch the cultural dance performance outside the gates of the temple. Fee is 1000 LKR / $6.50. I did not go. Let us know in the comments if you went, how it was and if you feel it was worth the price.

The Royal Botanical Gardens is another lovely site. Price is 1500 LKR / $10 for foreigners. I enjoyed an afternoon here with two backpackers. The palm tree lanes were impressive. It seemed to be a popular date place for locals. It was cute watching them sitting under the trees in loving conversations.

Peradeniya Botanic Gardens Kandy

Love is in the air. It seems that this garden is the date spot in Kandy. So many couples enjoying their time together.

Take a nice stroll along the lake and then make your way into the shops in the city. There is also a large flea market located by the train station.

Scenic Kandy

The bus station is around the corner from the train station, so you can check prices and times of your next destination. You purchase onwards tickets day of. If taking bus, you have the choice of AC Tourist bus or local.

My favorite place to eat in Kandy is Secret Alley. You can find it on google maps. It’s a funky little spot tucked away in… an alley of course. They have a great smoothie bowl, coffee and salads. For the healthy eater and vegetarian, this is the best place to eat.

The alley to Secret Alley Healthy Food Cafe, Kandy, Sri Lanka

The alley to Secret Alley Healthy Food Cafe, Kandy, Sri Lanka



As for accommodation, I stayed at Hipster Hideout Lounge. It’s a lively backpacker hangout about a 10 minute walk from the Temple of the Tooth. They have dorm rooms and single room options. There is a large restaurant area where travelers gather, listen to music, play pool and share stories. The kitchen serves great food and there is a full bar. They usually offer yoga in the mornings. Hipsters is run by a super cool Sri Lankan local, aptly named, Lanka.  Hustler, the large bull mastiff is the mascot of the hostel. Be warned though, this sweet and large doggie thinks he’s a small lap dog. It was funny watching him play with the guests.

The Hipsters at Hipsters Hideout Lounge. Great hostel if you like music and meeting people.

The Hipsters at Hipsters Hideout Lounge. Great hostel if you like music and meeting people.



If you are not interested in a hostel vibe and want something more tranquil, stay at The Mango 



If you have some days to sit in silence, I highly suggest Nilambe Meditation Center. I spent 5 days of reflective silence at the beautiful Meditation Retreat Center just outside of Kandy. This Buddhist meditation center is lead by the soft spoken and humble, Upul Nishantha. It’s located in a lush mountain garden about an hour outside of Kandy. You will stay in basic buddhist accommodations which is a small room with a mat on the cement bed, a warm blanket, pillow and shared bathroom. The food they serve was amazing! It’s not as hard core as vipassana. Meditations are no longer than 1.5 hours at a time maximum. It’s broken up with walking meditation, working meditation, breakfast, lunch, snack and some free time. You are able to read as well unlike in the traditional Vipassana where reading is not allowed. This is silent, so no talking. If you want to read more, head over to my Nilambe Blog Post. Upul, the kind facilitator shares beautiful knowledge regarding the path of joy and happiness from a Buddhist perspective. I LOVED my visit here and will come again on my next journey to Sri Lanka.


DAMBULLA: Sigiriya, Pidurangala and Cave Temples (1 Night)

Sigiriya or Pidurangala?

Sigiriya is a massive ancient rock fortress and the ancient Sri Lankan capital. According to legend, King Kassapa build his city on top of this Lion rock. It’s name comes from the lion shaped gateway he had build on a plateau on the side of the rock. The journey climbing to the summit showcases impressive frescoes and the and the famous colossal lion’s paws imbedded the rock. Sigiriya is a UNESCO world heritage site. The landscape boasts 360 degree views, lily-pad-covered moats, water gardens and cave shrines. There are about 1200 steps up the 200m to the top. The journey up and down will take the average person about 1.5-2 hours. I heard there were many wasps so take caution. The fee is 4,683 LKR / $30 USD for foreigners and only 60 LKR (about 40 cents) for Sri Lankans. So if you are on a budget you may wish to climb the equally impressive Pidurangala and catch the view of Sigiriya from the top of this rock. Many go early to see the sunrise.


I chose to climb this rock as I needed to stay on budget. The price to enter the museum is 500 LKR, a mere $3.20 and includes a ticket to a temple. You enter the same place off the main road as you would for Sigiriya. Just follow the signs in the park area to Pidurangala instead. Caution, I saw a large alligator in jump into the canal. Many monitor lizards too. I love the monitor lizards. I have one who frequents my yard at my Thai bungalow in Koh Phangan. The climb took about 20 -30 minutes. The last part is a bit strenuous, steep and involves climbing strategically up and through rocks, but fairly doable for most people. I saw children and elderly climbing the path, but doing it slowly. There is a beautiful reclining Buddha statue embedded in the rocks on your way up. The views of the landscape and Sigiriya rock are incredible. I sat and meditated on the top while gazing at Sigiriya. It was so grounding yet so high up in the sky.

Sigiriya rock Sri Lanka Shine with Julie Jewels Bertrand Blog

The epic view of Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala Rock.


Pidurangala Rock Buddha Sri Lanka Shine with Julie Jewels Bertrand blog

Peaceful reclining Buddha at Pidurangala Rock, Sri Lanka

Getting to Sigiriya and Pidurangala.

I took a (2hr) local bus from Kandy to the village of Dambulla and spent the night at the Takashi Inn.  The bus cost 200 LKR / 1.30 USD. You can take the AC bus -for Rs.400 LKR / 2.60USD per person. The local bus drops you off in front of a bakery in town. I paid 50 LKR / $0.30 for a tuk tuk to take me to Takashi. But if you don’t have heavy bags, you could walk. It’s about 10 minutes. I took the slightly more expensive the room on the bottom floor in the line of rooms that have balconies. There are cheaper rooms on the other side of the property. The kind owner offers a great Sri Lankan breakfast for 350 LKR $2.30. It’s a close local bus ride to Sigiriya and Pidurangala and you can catch one anywhere on the main street. from the main road.  These buses run between 6:30AM to 6:00PM every day at intervals of 30 minutes and cost 40LKR $0.25. You only need to wave them down and ask if they are going there. I think it took me 20 minutes until the bus heading to Sigiriya arrived. If you wish, you can travel by tuk-tuk 800-1000 LKR. Sigiriya is about 25 km from Dambulla. Be sure to catch the last bus back to Dambulla at  6:00PM. Buses arrive just outside the main entrance to the sites.



From Sigiriya
I took the bus straight to the cave temple. Price is 1500 LKR / $9.60. You will only need about an hour or less here. There is also a massive Buddha in the front entrance. From here I proceeded back to my guest house to gather my bags and I was on one of the last buses to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.

Dambulla Cave Temple Sri Lanka Julie Jewels Bertrand

So many statues at the Dambulla Cave Temple. What a site to see!


This is of the most beautiful ancient cities I have seen on all of my travels to over 40 countries. And another must if your are on a Spiritual Journey in Sri Lanka.  I was actually planning on going to Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s first capital and also ancient city. But upon reviews, I decided to come here instead. Other travelers said that most of the ruins in Anuradhapura had been destroyed and that the grounds too large and spread out to do in one day. Considering my time schedule and budget, I am glad I chose Polonnaruwa. I arrived in the night, around 9:30PM. The bus dropped me off in the main street. It was a 10 minute easy walk to my guest house. Manal Guest House. Great guest house! My room had a balcony with views of serine rice fields. The room was super clean, decorated nicely in a zen like motif and bed was very comfortable, bonus! The staff was incredibly helpful and guided me on how to get to the ancient city. I enjoyed a nice dinner, free breakfast and in the morning, rented a bicycle from them and was off to explore the ancient temples.

Temple Ruins of Pollonawara Sri Lanka

Temple Ruins of Pollonawara Sri Lanka

The best way to visit is on bicycle. You purchase your tickets at the museum. Your guest house can give you directions. You do not need a guide but there are many at the museum who can take you for 3000 LKR/$20. Honestly, the museum is so informative and inside the grounds there are plenty of signs telling you about each temple. From the museum go back to the main road, take a left, cross the river and keep riding about 10 minutes, the entrance to the temples is on the right. Ride along the pathway until you see all the other bikes parked. It will take you about 4 hours to see everything including the museum. Most of the temples and statues are in great shape due to the recent renovation project. The moss growing on the old stone made it look like a scene straight out of Indiana Jones. For me, this site is in my top 3 ancient temples I have had the pleasure to see. My other favorites are Hampi in India, Angor Wat, Cambodia and Macchu Piccu, Peru. I also love the Golden Temple in Amritsar, but that one is a whole different feel.

Temple dog at polonnaruwa sri lanka julie jewels bertrand

I just love temple dogs! Polonnaruwa was one of the most incredible temple towns I have ever visited and I have been to many across the globe!

I enjoyed the day with two sweet travelers, Jordan and Matthew. On the way home we got caught in a torrential downpour! The skies open and the rains came down in a fury. Wow. We took shelter in a local restaurant and enjoyed a delicious vegetable kottu and hot chai.

I then retired to my room for a good night sleep. In the morning I headed to the main bus station bound for Kandy. Omg. I honestly thought this bus trip would end my life! The bus driver drove like a wild maniac. I usually have no fear. I’m quit used to the crazy driving in Asia. But this driver took it to a different level. I actually wrote a long message to my sister telling her that I might die. It’s funny the things you reflect on in those moments of near death. Even during this scary moment, I felt nothing but gratitude for all that I had experienced in my life.

Fortunately, I made it back safely to Kandy where I was welcomed back by Lanka, Hustler and the staff at Hipsters. I enjoyed the sites for two days and then took the bus back to Colombo where I met up with the super cool and talented Social Media Marker, Content Writer and Editor in Chief  Head of aXtream Youth. Vindy is from Sri Lanka, we first met virtually on the amazing FB Group GIRLS LOVE TRAVEL. We enjoyed a coffee and exchanged travel stories and tips on social media at Tea Avenue.  Tea Avenue is just across the street from the Thai embassy where I needed to pick up my 2-month Thai Visa for my return to my home away from hOMe, Koh Phangan. She’s amazing. Contact her if you are looking to hire someone to increase your marketing projects, blog or events.

Me and Vindy sharing tips about social media marketing. Vindy gave me the route I took in Sri Lanka. It’s always good to have a local friend!

NEGOMBO (1 night)

After our meeting, I took a taxi to Aurora Budget Guesthouse in Negombo. Price for the night should have only been around $8.10 US /1,264.41 LKR. But this was an expensive trip for me. I may be a deep, meditative yogi, but I am sometimes so forgetful. I somehow forgot my bag at the cafe! With rush hour it took us 2 hours to get to Negomb which is when I realized I forgot my bag!  Oh my Buddha. I can not tell you how many times this has happened to me! My taxi drive was so good with me. He calmed me in minutes. We called the cafe and asked them to hold my bag. It was a long and expensive taxi ride!

It was great to get to my Guest House! The Aurora Guest House is run by a sweet Sri Lankan woman. Her english is not very good but she was so kind and helpful. The room was clean with a shared bathroom and free Wi-Fi. My room had a balcony but not a good view. There is a seating area outside on the ground floor. They offer a huge Sri Lankan or Continental breakfast for only 350LKR – $2.30. I had the Sri Lankan. It included tea, omelette, dahl, shredded coconut (YUM), and a fruit plate. Room rate was $9. I took a tuk-tuk to the airport in the morning. It would have been wiser to stay a little closer to the airport as it was a 30 minute drive, but I thought I would have enough time to go to the beach, which I did not.

I have to say, I loved my trip to Sri Lanka. I will come again and highly recommend it!!! I would love everyone to take a spiritual journey here to this divine land. If you do, I really feel you will come back home more at Peace.  Let’s spread the word. Feel free to share this blog on your facebook and with your friends.

Now I’d love to hear from you? Does this sound like an amazing spiritual journey to you? Have you been to Sri Lanka? What was your experience? Where have you been or would like to go on your Spiritual Journey?

Wherever in the world you are, Shine On!

With love,


PS: If you want a discount to stay at any of the guesthouses I mentioned, use this link. It’s a win / win. I get a referral fee and you get a discount. Love spreading the savings! https://www.booking.com/s/13_6/yogaje94

Spiritual Coach and Blogger Julie Jewels Bertrand


A trek up the hillside mountains and villages of Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal is one of the most epic experiences one can take. An amazing and powerful 8 day, 64 mile, 4130 meter (13,549 foot) climb high to the heavenly, Misty Mountain base camp.

They say “You don’t climb a mountain to conquer the mountain. You climb the mountain to conquer yourself.”

My Soul Journey Up To The Misty Mountains

Surrounded by the incredible views of the Annapurna Mountain ranges and Mt. Machhapuchhre (Fishtail), led by a compassionate and strong “Little Buddha” of a guide and paired with a fellow Kundalini Yogini trekking partner; not only did I climb to the base of the mountain, but I traveled to the core of my soul.

Just Like Heaven

A trip through the circuit is a magical journey through some of the world’s most glorious nature. Every step of the way is like candy for the eyes. From the landscapes of towering waterfalls, roaring rivers, luscious terraced fields to the wildlife of Himalayan Tahr, beautiful blue sheep, colorfully adorned mules, massive oxen and yaks, angel like flying hawks, tiny brightly painted birds and quaint villages with kind local villagers.


Our  days began at the ambrosial hour of 5am where my trekking partner and I performed our morning Sadhana, (meditation and yoga practice) followed by breakfast and masala tea. We would then trek anywhere from 4-11 hours, climbing up and down the trails, valleys, villages and mountainsides. Having just come out of a 10 day Kundalini Yoga Mind and Meditation course at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, we agreed to do our trek mostly in meditative silence. In doing so, I was truly able to feel what is to be ONE. To let go of duality and to integrate with God and Nature. I felt filled with overwhelming gratitude for this gift of life. My mind was humming in a state of pure neutrality.

How To and Who Can Do It

Although the trek is physically challenging, if you are in reasonably good shape, it can be done by most. I must say though, I was grateful for my yoga practice, which helped me hike up the hillsides and abundant tiny steps embedded in mountain trail. The trek can easily be done without a guide. Back in 2009 I trekked to Poon Hill without one, but on this one, my trekking partner wanted a guide, so I agreed. I am glad we chose one. Ajaya, who I nicknamed, “Little Buddha” was a wonderful! He carried our sleeping bags and down jackets, outlined our days, made adjustments as needed and was a huge part of the spirit of the journey. Without him, I’m not sure that my experience would have been as profound. You can expect to pay anywhere from 1300 – 2500 Nepali Ruppees per day for a guide. Which is $13-$25 US dollars a day. There are travel agents all over Kathmandu and Pokhara offering these services. Or you can hire an independent guide and thus eliminate the extra agency fees. Your guide or agency will arrange your itinerary, travel and accommodations, set up your trekking permits and suggest what to bring.

What You Need

If you go on your own, you can arrange your trekking permit from Pokhara. You may also rent or buy your gear and clothes at one of the many trekking shops in Kathmandu or Pokhara. I went in late May. The weather was nice. Hot days, cold nights, some rain and snow at Base Camp. I rented a sleeping bag, down jacket, waterproof hiking boots and trekking pools, which saved my knees and kept me standing on the sometimes wet trail. I bought two pairs of wool socks, a pair of snow gloves and two pairs of trekking pants. You will also want to bring a hat, scarf, two synthetic T- shirts that won’t hold sweat, a tank top, sports bra, a warm fleece or pullover, rain jacket, poncho and rain pants, long johns to sleep in that can also be worn under clothes on cold mornings and evenings and a pair of shoes or sandals for the night. Other than that, I had a mixture of protein powder, spirulina, chia seed in a zip lock bag, a bag of muesli for snacking, lip balm, IB-Profin, aspirin, sunscreen, arnaca and a plastic waterproof cover for my Samsung smart phone, which I also used as my camera. That was pretty much it. You may wish to bring along your camera. I wish I did, but my Canon D3 camera is a little big and heavy and I wanted to keep my backpack light. Have waterproof slip covers for your backpacks and keep a plastic bag as a liner for the inside of your pack. It will save your belongings in the rain.

How To Get There

You can get to the trailhead easily from Pokhara. Just a 30 minute drive to Nayapul via a hired jeep or taxi. You should bring around Rs 2000-2500 a day for food and accommodations. My trekking partner only brought 2500 RP in total!!! So I pooled my money with hers. But that left me with not enough cash to get me though the trek. Fortunately, Ajaya, our “Little mBuddha” of a guide, kindly lent us some money. So we pooled it all together and had just enough if we stayed on a tight budget. We had to be thrifty with eating and sleeping. It was kind of fun. It made me grateful for each meal I had as we carefully rationed our daily expenses.

Overview of the Meditative Journey

Day 1 – Trek to Ghandruk
We arrived to Pokhara the previous night from Kathmandu. I think we paid around $10 US dollars for the tourist bus. The bus left at 7 AM and we did not arrive into Pokhara until 5 PM. But we did have a 3 hour delay due to a road close from a landslide. We also stopped for a 20 minute lunch and another 10 minute rest stop. We spent the night in Pokhara where I got last minute gear – Rented waterproof hiking boots and a new pair of hybrid trekking pants that zipped off into shorts for the hot days. I recommend both!

We hired a private car to take us to Nayapul at the trail head. Our first day of trekking was five hours. It was easy walk. The trek takes you along a river and across a very long, swaying suspended bridge.  Since it was May, the weather was hot but we had a little refreshing rain. My trekking partner was talking a lot with our guide and I was still in a meditative mood from the Mind and Meditation retreat we had both just finished. So after an hour, I asked her if we could implement a silent walking meditation. She happily agreed. For the next hour we walked in peaceful silence to our lunch spot. In the quiet sound of silence, I was completely present to the nature around me. I felt the earth with each step of my feet grounding me as I watched the butterflies and birds flying around me. We stopped for lunch in the village of Klue. Lunch was tasty. I had veg and cheese momos and masala tea. Momos are my favorite Nepali dish. They are hand made, doughy, pasta like filled dumplings. You can get them stuffed with veggies, cheese, potato and meat for those who eat meat. I’ve been a lacto-vegetarian since I was 17. I still eat eggs, cheese and yogurt from time to time

We still had 3 more hours to our first guest house, The Rhodie, in the cultural village of Ghandruk. Ghandruk is one of the two largest Gurung villages in Nepal. The Gurung people are a Buddhist, ethnic group who migrated from Tibet in the 6th century. From the village, you see stunning views of the Annapurnas, Machhapurchre and the traditional roof-top houses clustered on the canyon wall along the terraced lands where wheat and barley are grown. Already I could feel the spirit of this magical land. Tired from the driving and 5 hours of walking, I enjoyed a traditional bowl of Veg Thukpa soup for dinner and retired to bed at 9 PM.

Views from Ghandruk

Day 2 – To Chomrung

Our alarm went off at 4:45 AM. We immediately went into our morning meditation which entailed 37 and a half minutes of Long Ek On Kaurs. This is a powerful Kundalini Yoga meditation which is part of my 90 sadhana. The Kundalini Yoga master, Yogi Bhajan taught this meditation almost exclusively during his first year in the United States back in 1969. It was also his main personal practice. It is extremely powerful and energizing. I’ll create a video blog on this meditation in the near future. It has been said that a person can attain liberation by chanting this ashtang (eight-part) mantra for 40 days, for two and one-half hours before sunrise (the ambrosial hours). As for my commitment from my Mind and Meditation Teacher’s course, our group is doing it for 90 days for 37 and a half minutes. After our meditation, we were greeted by incredible early morning sunrise views of Mt. Machhapurchre, which displayed a radiant aura off of her signature fishtail outline. Photo below.


With a full belly of apple banana porridge, black tea and a clear mind from the morning meditation, we were off. It was four hours until our stop for lunch. In our meditative walk, we encountered teams of mules colorfully adorned in traditional hand-made, embroidered accessories with bells around their necks that sang melodically on their walk. Many had been carrying heavy loads supplies up the mountain. I’ve always been sensitive to animals. I know mules are strong, but I felt how tired they must be with all the work. I sent each one of them reiki energy and gave them a prayer as they passed by.

After an hour we stopped at a fresh water river to cool off and soak our bones. My knee were giving me some issues and the ice cold water was healing and refreshing. I sat for a while with a sweet mute/deaf villager. We spoke with our eyes and no words. He was a kind and gentle soul. I offered him a few rupees after I chatted with him. He smiled with his heart as I offered it.


We still had three hours to reach our next stop for the day, The Heaven View Guest in Chomrung. It was a LONG 3 hours. We had many stairs to hike up the mountainside. I personally find the stairs harder than climbing the natural terrain. Along the way, a painfully thin, stray dog joined us. He walked up the trail with us for hours. When we arrived, I had a bowl of soup. I wished I had extra cash to buy him a meal, but as we had only just enough to get through the trek, there was not a cent left for extras. So instead, I shared my soup with the doggie. I had some protein powder I brought along. I made sure I had a scoop to replenish my energy. It was only one day and the poor doggie was hungry.


Dogward Dog: Doing meditation and later giving reiki to my doggie friend

After my afternoon meditation, the sun was casting a luminous silvery glow on the signature fishtail of Mt. Machhapuchhre. It had been a long day and I was exhausted from the arduous climb in the rain. I went to bed early so I could be ready for the next day’s trek. I looked for my doggie at breakfast, but he had left in the night. I sent him a prayer and off we went.


Day 3 to Bamboo

We embarked for our trek to Bamboo Village at 7:20 AM after meditation and breakfast. This trek was much easier for me but harder for Laurie. I had gone on ahead at a quicker pace and was about 20 minutes ahead of them. Laurie’s eyesight is not so good and apparently she had fallen down the hillside. She had a long tumble but thankfully she was not hurt. She gave our guide Ajaya a scare and he stayed very close to her for the next days. He asked me to stick close to them also, but I was finding it difficult to walk that slowly. So onwards I went. This gave me extra time to sit alone by passing waterfalls and rivers to chill and meditate while waiting for them to catch up. The trek to Bamboo was another series of long climbs up and down. The sun was hot. I walked mostly a tank top and shorts. Leaving early allowed us to beat the rain storms which were coming daily between 1 and 3 PM.

Note: In the quiet mountains outside of the villages and cities, where you are mostly alone or with other trekkers, it’s ok to dress in shorts and tanks, but in the villages, towns and cities, be sure to cover up legs and shoulders. Nepal is a modest country and although some travelers dress skimpy, it’s somewhat disrespectful to do so in Nepal. Be mindful and use your discretion.

Bamboo is situated by a river and has a cluster of guest houses and gardens growing fresh vegetables. We stayed at the Buddha Guest house. There were many trekkers staying here. I saw a few injured ones. One young European guy had pulled a muscle and needed to stay for a few days to recover. Another girl, who was wearing regular running shoes, had a huge nasty blister on her toe. I was glad I had a good pair of trekking shoes and no major injuries other than my aching knees. When we arrived at the Little Buddha guesthouse, I was pretty tired. I ordered my favorite childhood comfort food, mac and cheese. It had been a years since I had this dish Yum!  Exhausted from the trek and in a carbohydrate coma, I fell asleep right after lunch.

A few hours later, I woke in a cold sweat from a nightmare where I was faced by an old, yet familiar ghostly demon. In this dark dream, I gasped and said, “Oh no, not you again.” Then the ghost gave a maniacal laugh and said, “Time for you to die”.  As I awoke I felt that yes, perhaps I had died and so had the old demon. It reminded me of my favorite poem from my dear sage of a yoga teacher, Guru Singh:

“Everything’s dying to be reborn

Infant day is the early morn

It’s dark as night when the day shall end

And Into the light you’ll be born again”

I felt like a caterpillar coming out of it’s cocoon, spreading her wings in her new and complete transformation… Metamorphosis. I was trying to recall more of the dream, but Ajaya was knocking on the door to check on us and Laurie was asking him a series of ongoing questions about dinner and the trek. It seemed like her endless questions was out of a nervous anxiety. I recalled back to my corporate days in New York when I had that same nervous anxiety. I was grateful that I was in a state of peace. I had no questions, I need no answers, I just was… completely present. Ajaya, being the perceptive little Buddha of a human spirit that he he, could see there was something going on with me. He asked me if I was alright. I just gave him a slight smile and said, I’m ok. I just had a bad dream. Sensing that I needed space, he asked Laurie to step outside of the room so I could be alone. I spent some time in quiet reflection and fell back asleep. I woke up at 7 PM, skipped dinner and meditated for another hour and was asleep again by 9 PM.

Day 4 – To Deurali

We woke up while it was still dark for meditation. The air was crisp and my mind felt pure and clear. The effects of chant from our meditation were vibrating throughout my body and skull. I could feel the energy rise up my spine to my crown and then flow down, grounding me down to mother earth. It was like I was melting into the rocky earth and misty air. Like a shooting star in the immense cloudless sky. Ahhhh, oneness. Consciously and silently clear.

By the time we finished meditating, the others in the guest house were rising and so was the morning sun. We left for our trek to the village of Bamboo at 7:20 AM. Still profoundly affected by the morning’s experience, I walked ahead and just gazed in awe at the magnificent scenery. Everything looked different. I mean, the whole world was the same, it was exactly the way it always was, but the way I saw it was totally different. I was looking at it from a different set of lenses.  On the walk I saw a tiny, brightly colored, turquoise bird. I realized how much beauty is missed by getting caught in chatter and chaos. Chaos of the mind, the chaos of distraction and useless chatter. Having spent most of my life living and working in the busy radio advertising world of New York City prior to moving to Los Angeles and now Thailand, I was keenly aware that there were still old stories and patterns that needed to be shed. Many of us, me included, keep ourselves so busy. Busy with the drama and the illusionary stories of our mind. We are so busy creating what we think our lives should be. It brought me to a Tom Petty song – Here Comes My Girl

“Every now and then, I get down to the end of a day,

I’ll have to stop, ask myself, “What’ve I done?”

It just seems so useless to have to work so hard,

And nothin’ ever really seem to come from it…

Yeah, every time it seems like there ain’t nothin’ left no more,

I find myself having to reach out and grab hold of something

I just catch myself wandering, waiting, worrying

About some silly little things that don’t add up to nothing”

Life can get like that. In our journey of human existence, we get lost in the matrix and miss beautiful life that is right in front of us. As I walked on, I was so present. I viewed the world around me. From the most minuscule details such as an army of tiny ants, teaming up in an organized fashion to carry a large, dead insect to their home, the beautiful turquoise bird that I would have missed had I been talking, the lush green trees, the small intricate insects, the natural black tourmaline crystals that formed into the rocks. The land was so alive, so vast and splendid. I felt as small as the ants and as large as the mountains. Pure integration. Physically, the trek from Bamboo to Deurali was the easiest so far. Not too many of those tiny stairs carved into the hills. The trail was mostly in nature. I had no knee problems. Perhaps it was the reiki, perhaps the meditation or nature, I’m not sure. But I felt strong and fit.

I was so far ahead of Ajaya and Laurie that I stopped by a stream to meditate while they caught up with me. The meditations were getting stronger while out here. The 37.5 minutes of Long Ek One Kaur chanting seemed to fly by and messages of awareness were being downloaded as though my human system was undergoing a complete system upgrade. After the meditation, I sat back in gratitude. I was so grateful to have been given this time and space to explore my inner self in the beautiful nature in this spiritually, powerful land. I was a long way from New York. A brief memory came back to me of sitting in my Manhattan office at the radio station years before when I prayed for a moment like this. Miracles do happen! Lives can change. I’m still grateful for those big city, New York days. I had some amazing experiences and successful career, but also a lot of pressure and stress. It served it’s time and place. I would not be here today, if not for the time I had there. It was all part of the journey. And for this, I was grateful.

“Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the top of the mountain.” ~Richard Nixon.

We beat the rains again. A hard, cold rain was coming down as we sat for dinner by the roaring riverside Shangri-La guest house. I chatted with the Inn keeper as I ate momos and drank masala tea. He was about 30 years old, I believe. But it’s hard for me to tell age. We talked about his family and his experiences living up in the mountainside village. He had a simple but pure life. As an only child, his main focus was providing for his mother. Families are more tight here in Asia than in America. Typically in the United States, we leave home at college and are then off in our own worlds. We love our parents, but we are more independent. I thought about my mother. How much I loved her and that I had probably call her as soon as I had stable Wi-Fi. A little while later some trekkers came into the dining room. They were excited and talking loudly, so I retreated to my bedroom to read my book, “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari”, and then went to bed.

Day 5 – To Annapurna Base Camp

I woke up at 5 AM. Had another weird dream. More old stories were rising to the surface. As they came up, purged them and threw them out like garbage. I worked it all out in my morning meditation and let them go. Speaking about garbage, I was shocked to see how some people thought it was ok to leave their trash up in these incredible mountains. Along the way I started to collect all the trash I could fit in plastic bags that I found. As the other trekkers saw me do this, it inspired them to do the same. Collaboratively, Ajaya, Laurie and others all pitched in to clean the trails.

The morning trek was filled with the most incredible views imaginable. It would take us 5 hours to get from Deurali to ABC. Our walk was breathtaking. We were situated in a valley in between the high mountains. There were massive, cascading waterfalls on our left and right, a roaring river along our side and the beautiful snow capped mountain top of Annapurna in her full glory facing us the entire day. Along the trail were little clusters of purple, lavender, red, yellow and orange flowers. I came into contact with another tiny bird in a rainbow of bright colors. She had a black head, red neck, yellow and orange throat, green belly with black wings. She was flying into the blossoms of pink flowered trees. So small and so easy to miss. I watched her for sometime. My Samsung J5 smart phone could not capture her so clear. But her memory will forever be imprinted in my mind.


We stopped for lunch at MBC – Machhapuchhre Base Camp. I spoke with a couple, a Russian woman and her American husband, as I ate my cheese omelette. We decided to keep trekking and go straight to Annapurna Base Camp. The air was much cooler and thinner as I walked along the snow covered trail, alone, ahead of the others again. A few hours later, maybe less, I can’t remember, I arrived! Success!!! I waited by the Base Camp sign, dancing in the snow until Ajaya and Laurie arrived. I was feeling FULL POWER! The air was full of mist and I felt spirit surround me. The feeling was indescribable. Euphoric… Nirvana.

After a group celebratory dance at the sign and snapping some photos, we walked to the Guest House of the Base Camp. Laurie went to the room and I sat with Ajaya. He and I shared life stories. He told me about his voyage in becoming a Tai Chi Master and Trekking Guide. I spoke with him about my journey in radio advertising and leaving it to become a yoga teacher and energy healer. We shared photos of our families via Facebook. We had both lost our fathers and discussed how that was a turning point in both of our lives. I told him about my first trip to Nepal back in 2009 shortly after my father died. How I was so lost and confused at the time. Not only had I just lost my father, but that year, my beloved cat of 19 years and my 13 year old angelic, chocolate Labrador also died. To put the icing on the cake, the U.S market had just crashed, I lost my job and was basically losing my faith and courage. My dark night of the soul! Not knowing what to do or where to turn, I bought a ticket to India to further my yoga teacher studies. After the yoga teacher training, the hectic energy and pace of India was getting too much for me. Since Nepal was so close, I bought a ticket out here to chill out. What I thought would be a 3 day trip turned into one month of bliss. I told Ajaya that on that trip, I fell in love with his country. How it immediately grounded me. It was here, that I first learned how to do reiki. One of the spiritual tools that continues to be an integral part of my healing and spiritual journey. He asked me if we could make a video about my experience in Nepal. I happily agreed. So sitting on a bench on top of the misty Annapurna Base Camp, we made a 5 minute, one shot interview. I could see his face light up when I spoke about my love for Nepal. Especially when I gave the acronym for Nepal:


N ever

E nding

P eace

A nd

L ove

Laurie came out while we were watching it. She remarked on how peaceful and integrated I looked. How I had seemed like a different person even in the two short weeks she had known me. It was true. The changes were coming at a rapid pace. There is something about this country that does that. Maybe not for everyone, but if you are ready for it and are committed to doing the inner work awakening shall come. After all, it is the birthplace of the Buddha. The energy can not be denied. I prayed I could keep this peaceful, easy feeling forever.

Here’s the video

For Every Action is an Equal or Greater Reaction

I fell asleep early, only to be rudely awakened by an intense migraine. It felt like something was squeezing my head and that it would explode. Altitude sickness! We were high up at 4100 meters. I tossed and turned in my bed for some time, then took a paracetamol pain killer that I still had from the hospital, but never taken after a fall off my motorbike in Thailand. After years of being over prescribed pharmaceuticals when I lived in America, I almost never take them. I wished I hadn’t taken this one. It was not the right pill and not the right time. My stomach was empty as it had been a long time since dinner. Fifteen minutes later, I ran outside to the toilet and began to vomit. I was running a fever, in pain and sweating like crazy. It was now 2 AM. I woke Laurie and rushed to find Ajaya. He took my pulse and checked my eyes.

“Altitude sickness”, he said. “We have to get you down”. Do you have enough strength to walk down?

“Yes”, I replied.

“Ok, get your bags, let’s go.”

As soon as we walked outside, a wet snow storm started to fall from the sky. He looked at me, I looked at him, we gave an mutual nod and on we went. He carried my bag as well as his belongings, all the sleeping bags and some of Laurie’s stuff. She stayed behind as she had bad eye-site. She said she would meet up with us the next day. Ajaya told her to wait for us in Deurali.

We both had torches, but the dark night and storm made it difficult to see. The path was covered by the snow and it was hard to know if we were on the correct course. All I could see were the reflective lights shining off of Ajaya’s hiking shoes. As we walked on in the darkness, I really thought that I might die here. Sometimes I am so obstinate. I did not want to call for a helicopter, nor did I take altitude sickness pills for the trek. I am always trying to use my own personal power. But most of the other trekkers had taken the altitude pills either. And they were ok. It was just my luck. Maybe I didn’t drink enough water during the day. It was cold which made it less inviting to do so. But here’s the interesting part. During our descend, I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t freaking out. I remained calm and peaceful. I trusted in God and trusted in and my “Little Buddha” of a guide. He kept turning around to ask me if I was ok. “I think so”, was my constant reply and the only words I spoke during that descend. I did pray a lot. I prayed to God, Jesus, the Angels and every spirit guide I have come to know. I turned on Reiki and allowed it’s universal life force energy to flow through me. The wet snow was hitting my face, but my body had gone into warrioress mode. It carried me valiantly thought the night as I reflected on my life.

It’s interesting, the thoughts that go through your mind when you think you are going to die. I was grateful for all of my life. For every experience. I thought to myself, if I actually die at this moment, there is really nothing that I missed. I lived a very rich and colorful life. Years of highs and sure, some years of lows. My radio career allowed me to experience life in the fast lane and my yoga journey grounded me down, thanks to the guidance of the master teachers, gurus and many students. I had experienced great loves that lit the light of my heart and painful breakups that forced my heart to crack open and bleed on the floor. And the past two years, living abroad and traveling across SE Asia were a dream come true. A freedom ride, breaking out of the spoon fed societal chains. I lived out the “American Dream” and then bravely walked away from it all to follow my own path and discover my soul. After such a long ride on the ever changing waves of life and love, I was now finally in a state of neutrality. This was it, I guessed. I asked God to give my mother the strength to survive if I died. I knew she would be devastated as any mother would. And she already lost my dear father after his 10 year battle with ALS. I wished I could get a message to her and tell her not to be upset. I wanted her to know that I celebrated life to the fullest and that she gave me the courage to blossom into the woman that I had become. The movie “Everest” ran though my mind as I wondered if I would live. I tapped back into the reiki energy and spirit guides and powered on for the love of my sweet, kind mother. Me living abroad for so long was hard enough on her. I couldn’t let this happen to her.

After a few hours, maybe less, maybe more, I’m not sure; my mind and body were in complete survival mode and I had no conception of time or space, I saw a dim light. It hardly looked like much of anything. Was it even a light or a mirage? As we drew closer I was exhuberantly relieved to see that it was the lights of Machhapuchhre Base Camp. It was still dark as we crashed into the dining room where many of the porters and guides were sleeping. Our abrupt arrival woke some of them up. Ajaya took my pulse again and asked me how I was feeling. My pulsing migraine had subsided somewhat and on the whole decent, I did not vomit. He suggested we might want to call for a helicopter or continue walking down to Deurali, but I was exhausted.

“Let’s sleep here” I said. “I think I’m ok.”

“Are you sure, maybe we get a helicopter”.

“No way, I said. I’m American. My health insurance sucks. It will be too expensive. And I’m not dying. We made it here. I’ll be ok”.

I got out of my wet clothes, drank a bunch of water, crawled in my sleeping back. He rubbed my hands and feet with friction to bring the blood back. I immediately fell asleep. He kept waking me every hour or so to see how I was. Still ok.

A few hours later, I shot out of bed. It must have been around 7 AM. I barely made it out of the sleeping bag. Projectile vomiting. Oh no! I cold hear some of the trekkers giggle at the sounds of my illness. But as I walked out, my looks must have given them quite the scare. I was covered in sweat and looked like death. Their laughter turned into half fear and half compassion. I stumbled back into my room and fell asleep until 11 AM. As I awoke, I felt both weak, yet strong. I had made it through the night. The new day had dawned. Another death, another transformation. Full Power. I looked at Ajaya and said,

“Let’s go.”

“Are you sure”, he said.

“I am,” I replied.

And off we went to Deurali, where we were supposed to meet Laurie. When we arrived, we were both surprised to discover that she was not there. We were told she went on. I just didn’t have the energy to make it any further and by the looks of the sky, there was another storm coming in. The weather had dropped. It was getting cold. I drank a full bottle of water, crawled in my sleeping bag, tossed another two thick blankets that the guest house had given to me on top and went to bed. I was still sweating and knew I had a fever. But I had no strength to even eat. A few hours later, I woke up. I knew I needed my strength, so I had a bowl of vegetable soup with egg, drank some more water and went back to sleep.

I woke up at 5 AM. My fever was gone. The sleep and soup did me good. I had a power breakfast of porridge with fruit, muesli, honey and my protein powder. I drank some black tea as I spoke with a mom who was on the trek with her two twenty something year old daughters. The daughter was telling me about her dream involving the Australian, broody rock musician Country Barnett and an apathetic opening act on roller-skates. I brought me to her song “Avant Gardner” where she belts out her lyrics in deadpan angst. A few lines in particular seemed to parallel my day:

My hands are shaky

My knees are week

I can’t seem to stand

On my own two feet…

Oh no, next thing I know they call up triple O

I’d rather die than owe to the hospital til I get old…

The paramedic things I’m clever cos I play guitar

I think she’s clever because she saves lives

I giggled. I was starting to feel normal again. No stomach issues, no headache, no fever. Just overwhelming gratitude. I thanked Ajaya for his guiding me down and together we moved on. We were a power duo now. A forever bond had been formed. I asked him if this had ever happened to him before.

“No”, he said.

I laughed and replied, “So I’m you’re first. You’ll never forget me”.

“Jewel, how could I forget you” he said with his little Buddha, gentle smile.

Ajaya is very well spoken. He speaks and understand English perfectly. In his early twenties, he’s already a Tai Chi master. Deep and philosophical beyond his years, pure, kind and sweet. I had such admiration for him. We spoke a few words on our path, but so much was said in the quite, interconnected depth of our silence. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it. Talking without words. I was happy to share this journey with him. I know many guides would have forced me to helicopter out. And I can already hear the comments that may come from others who think I should have. But other people’s opinions do not hold any significance upon me any longer. I believe this journey unfolded EXACTLY as it should have. I later thanked him and told him I would not change another minute of it. What a gift this experience was. He flashed that Buddha smile and said dhanyabad, yogi master. Which means thank you in Nepali.

We stopped in Donovan for lunch. I was exhausted. He hadn’t even broken a sweat. As I crashed on the outdoor picnic table gazing at the incredible scenery, we both started laughing out loud at the whole series of events. It’s funny how you can do that when you are “out of the woods”. We learned that Laurie carried on all the way on to the Hot Springs. That was a long ways away. He asked where I wished to say for the night.

“Let’s go all the way”, I said. “I’ve got this. And the hot springs will be my reward”.

I didn’t realize it at the time and I’m not sure if I would have made it if I did, but that day we clocked in nearly 11 hours of trekking, minus the 30 minutes at lunch and a few other 10 minute breaks. We laughed and shared stories on the journey. We stopped to pet the Himalayan wild life we encountered along the way. Large oxen and bulls, beautiful Blue Sheep, adorable talkative goats and dogs. The trail was long and winding. Up and down. When we arrived at the base of Chomrung, he pointed up to the top… way up to the top.

“We have to climb all the way up there”, he said

“Oh my Buddha”, I said. “How long will that take”.

“Two hours up and 30 minutes down” he replied.

“Are you kidding me” I said. “2 hours up that mountain”! “LB, your killing me”, I jokingly replied.

He smiled and said, “easy”.

“Easy for you”, I replied.

Well, I had made it this far. My strength and determination was taking charge. Something in me had to do it. I was determined to make it to the finish line on schedule. Yeah we had some delays, some setbacks. And I know it wasn’t a race. But my internal drive motivation was taking control.

We stopped outside of a village guest house to draw up my energy. An old man was sitting on the stone terraces patio making a fence out of bamboo. He had a large knife and was slicing the long strips in half. Another older man came by to talk with us as the rest of the family sat on the edge to listen.

“Where are you coming from”, the man gently asked.

“Deurali” we answered”

His eyes widened. “Deurali”! “And where are you going”

“Jhinu” hot springs we said

“To Jhinu from Deurali,” you guys are crazy.

We looked at each other and laughed. We sat and chatted with them for about 5 or 10 minutes and onwards we climbed. I moved slow, but steady. It was so effortless for the little Buddha.

“My little Buddha, are you even tired”, I said.

“No”, he laughed.

“Maybe you should run” I said.

“Yeah, why not” he smiled.

And on he ran to the next level. When I finally reached him, he was sitting on the edge of the steps, laughing.

“Show off”, I said.

As we continued onward. We stopped to take many photos at each of the view points. At one spot we came across the sweetest black and white goat tied to a post. It looked at me and started talking. I went over to pet it. She seemed like she was begging for me to take her off the rope so she could run wild. We played with the her for a few minutes. She loved the attention. As we walked off, she cried out loud. It was breaking my heart. I wanted to take her home with me. I can still hear her calling. Kept turning to look at her as we climbed upwards. What could I do. I sent her some reiki energy and a prayer. I’m sending her another prayer as I write these lines. May she be safe and find peace up in the village.

When we reached the top to the little Tibetan town, I spotted a German Bakery serving chocolate brownie cake. I had to indulge! I ordered it from the kind Tibetan woman and sat at a table outside gazing at the vast hillside I had just climbed. The terraced landscape, the greenery, the goat somewhere down in the valley. It was an incredible sight.

After the bakery the entire trek was downwards. 30 minutes straight down. I’m not sure which I found harder. Climbing up the tiny imbedded rock stairs or the decend down. We crossed the suspended bridge and finally, made it to the finish line. The inn was so cute and a refreshing site. It was multi colored and reminded me of a children’s playroom. I saw a couple I had met at ABC.

“You made it” they said.

“Yeah”, I replied.

“We heard what happened, your story is already a legend”

“Ha” I laughed.

I was so tired but I was still standing, backpack and all. As I spoke with them for a few minutes.

Ajaya had gone to look for Laurie. When he came back I was just standing and reflecting with my backpack still on me.

“Jewels, relax, take off your backpack and sit a while, or do you want to trek some more”, he said.

Honestly, at that point I could have kept going. It had been an 11 hour day and we were on the trail for 8 days, but I felt that I could have done anything. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. And I was ready to do it all over again. And I know someday I will. Perhaps even before I leave this beautiful country of Never Ending Peace and Love.

But not before a long soak in the hot springs. Little victories, big reward. Namaste!

Now let’s hear from you. Many of you are on the same journey and can offer insite. Tell us how you would describe karma in the comments below. As always, be kind and let the light shine.

Have a blessed day.

Jewels Bertrand


I’ll be sharing spiritual tools and tips here on Shine Your Light as I journey across the globe to the core of the soul.  Sign up if you want to be inspired. And share this post with someone who you feel might resonate with it.


If you would like to travel with me on a magical, tropical island in Thailand, I’ll be hosting my next Sacred Healing and Meditation Retreat on January 29, 2018. All the details can be found at http://jewelsbertrand.com/retreat/

Yoga Retreat Thailand

Kundalini Soul Journey Retreat Jewels Bertrand

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Greetings from Bangkok,

As I write this blog, I sit curbside and barefoot on the vibrant Koh San Road, Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” coming through my earphones mixing in with the chaotic sounds of tuk tuks beeping their horns and weaving through the crowd of back packers, food trucks and wandering dogs. In the back of my mind I am brought to the opening scene of “The Beach” where Leonardo DiCaprio zig zagged in and out of the dark watering holes of this very street. It’s midnight and I’ve just arrived after spending a sleepless night with friends back home in Venice Beach, California. Tonight is a special night for me, as it marks the very beginning of my Gypsy Wanderlust Soul Journey. A one way ticket with no time frame and no destination other than following my path as it lies brightly illuminated before me. 

I made the journey from Los Angeles to this backpacker section of the city barefoot. Yep, to and through LAX, on to Tokyo right to Koh San Road, Bangkok, barefoot. Pretty ironic since just less than 5 years ago you wouldn’t see me in anything but high-heeled Prada or some other over priced designer shoes. Funny how life can literally spin on its heels and shift your world. So why though, why am I barefoot in Bangkok? It’s an interesting story, and one you may even relate to. 

A few months ago before I made the decision to finally embark upon this dream of mine, I was on a two-week vacation here in Thailand. I was staying in a quiet, little beachside town in the northern part of Koh Phangan. The second I arrived I slipped right into island mode with the locals and ex pat community. I met the best group of angel travelers in that peaceful enclave. These are the very people who inspired me to finally do this. Let go of my home town comforts, shoes and all, and set sail into the unknown. To travel from where I am, to who I am and follow the current. Even if just for a little while. 

Our lives can become so structured and sometimes it’s difficult to breathe into ourselves. We all have responsibilities. Rent, work, school, kids… life. I was so caught up in that cycle a few years ago. My life was insanely intense. I felt like a hamster on a wheel. I worked hard, I played hard, I even practiced my yoga hard. I was putting so much energy to a system I didn’t even vibrate with. I felt like I was losing sight of me. I was more concerned about who I was wearing, rather than who I was.

When I moved from New York City to Los Angeles is when I first said goodbye to the system and the matrix. I jumped off the hamster wheel and let go. I gave notice to my job, let go of my six figure salary, sold most of my stuff and moved to Los Angeles with nothing more than two suitcases, 4 boxes and large mortgage I had to somehow figure out how to pay. It was a bold move but I went forward, fearless with a heart full of faith.

And that’s what brings me here today. Since that day, I’ve been playing with a new set of rules. More like, no rules. I can remember days sitting in my office in Manhattan dreaming of doing just this. And as a testament to the commitment to walking my path, I made a deal with one of my fellow Wanderlust travel friends, that the day I finally do it, I go full on, Barefoot to Bangkok! So I paired down my possessions once again. This time to eight boxes. There is something so cathartic about doing that. I even sold a pair of $750 Louie Vuitton high heels for $88! I won’t be needing them here in Thailand.

The point is, I’m living my dream. It may not be your dream. But you have a dream too. And I invite you to not let your dreams fade into the distance. Because the days turn into months and the months turn into years; and you find yourself in the same place with your dreams slipping away. It took me a decade to do this, but I’m doing it. My prayer to you is that you reach out, go for it with faith and courage. Let go of fear and doubt. Because fear and doubt are fate killers. When you slip into fear mode you get out of synch with the universal rhythms. Stay in synch and allow the journey to unfold. And know there is a way through every block.

Now your turn, I’d love to hear from you. In the comments below let us know…

Have you ever left your comfort zone to follow your dreams? What exactly did you do?

What beliefs do you think may be getting in the way of your dreams?

As always, thank you for reading, watching and contributing. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say on this topic as it’s a really important one!

Dream On and Shine Your Light,


Shine By Jewels