Read on for the story of our Buddhist temple stay, and how these guest rooms are a hidden travel gem.
In 1959, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi arrived from Japan to be the head of the Soto Zen temple in San Francisco. Plus, we felt great about supporting the Zen Center, and taking part in the Buddhist practice.
One of the foundations of Zen Buddhism is to live in the moment — something that people often forget, leading to stress and unhappiness. This group practices Zen Meditation in the style of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, as taught at San Francisco Zen Center for over 50 years. Before we descend into the caves, let me tell you more about my trip with Contiki, a tour group company for 18-35 year olds. This cave was first discovered about 500 years ago by a young Maori, who was chased by a pack of dogs living inside (hence the name Ruakuri).
The further we walked, the more we felt like we had entered a subterranean alternate universe. While I was on my walking tour, other Contiki friends signed up for Black Water Rafting, which also takes place in Ruakuri cave. Waitomo’s glowworm caves are a dazzling experience, and truly must be experienced in person. If you come to Auckland, I encourage you to make the trip to Waitomo — an easy journey, thank to Contiki.
Most of the travellers came alone, and had different reasons for joining the trip to New Zealand.
The Contiki motto, #NoRegrets, sums up this mindset — and is proudly plastered on the side of the bus. I’ve been on some tours where the guides keep to themselves, but Mon and Dys were the exact opposite.
Alex Streeter is a legend in Japan, where he travels every year, and has a storefront in New York’s Lower East Side.
I’m excited to reveal that her futuristic dress collection is back, in a limited quantity run. Artist Zoetica Ebb and I have known each other for years, and I’ve long admired her multimedia work. Her Alien Botany collection reflects her fascination with the cosmos and alternate history.
Other boutiques in The One had collaborations with characters popular in the 1980s and 90s.
This mall seems to be dedicated to mascots. Garfield and Rubber Ducky are the faces of the label B. The One is also home to the Gudetama theme restaurant, which serves dim sum that looks like the Sanrio egg character.
In this photo diary, I’ll share our photos from the Square of the Dead (Jemaa el-Fnaa), which has a dark history to match its name. We’ll also take a stroll in Jardin Majorelle, the garden of French couture designer Yve Saint Laurent. Anyone who comes to Marrakesh must see the ancient marketplace, the Square of the Dead (Gemaa el Fna). Even during this less busy time, the Square of the Dead can feel overwhelming to the senses. The marketplace is a bit touristy, but still conveys the feeling of time standing still. Incredible that the medina has been the center of activity in Marrakesh, ever since the 11th century!
Just ignore the words, keep on walking, and don’t let them grab you (as the more aggressive sellers might do). With a car, we got to visit off the beaten path places — such as Berber villages several miles from Marrakesh. We visited Jardin Majorelle, which was designed by artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and 30s. The winding garden pathways lead to the French artist’s house, built in Moorish and Art Deco styles. Since 1980, Majorelle Garden was owned by fashion legend Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Berge. We originally came to North Africa by taking the ferry from Algeciras (southern tip of Spain) to Tangier (northernmost point of Morocco). I joined about 30 young travellers on their Sun and Steam tour, and it felt like a big road trip with friends. You can find international clothing brands in Britomart, but I went straight to the local designers. These NZ stores were advertising winter fashions, since the seasons are reversed down under! I encourage you to chat with the friendly Prateek; I enjoyed hearing him talk about the inspiration for these drinks. I’m a fan of anything ginger, and adored the Ginger Monkey (an infused whisky sour with egg white foam). One of the most popular main courses is the free-range pork with vindaloo, apple and ginger. Tender layers, perfectly cooked, in a spectacular balance of sweetness and heat. I leave you with this night-time scene from Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter, a reclaimed area by the waterfront with over a dozen international restaurants.
Coming up, I’ll show you more of Auckland and the North Island, on my Contiki journey.
Find out why people in the US and Europe are going head over heels over Japanese meditation Zen gardens originating from Kyoto.The ancient tradition of Japanese garden design has found new life in the west in modern times.
Somehow this symbolic representation of water and islands tends to create a soothing environment for those within the vicinity.
In recent years neuroscientists have conducted in depth research regarding the psychological implications of the Kyoto gardens. The meditative quality present in these rock gardens is what has earned them the label of Zen meditation gardens.
Since the concept has gained popularity in the west there are quite a few places where you will be able to experience the garden.
Some people have become so infatuated by the concept of Zen gardens that they count them in the list of stress relieving products.
Sometimes, taking a breather in an airport meditation room can put us in the right frame of mind to fully embrace what’s on the other end of our flight. Airport meditation rooms can be just what we need to relax our soul in the midst of challenges like these. If you find yourself with extra time at one of the following airports – and you’re in need of some peace and tranquility – consider visiting the highlighted meditation rooms. You’ll find the yoga and meditation room at SFO by following directional signs throughout the airport (they feature a yogi in a lotus pose).
When you arrive in the studio, settle into the 150-square-foot haven that “gives modern travelers a space that fosters and supports quiet and reflection,” says the studio’s design director Melissa Mizell.
If you have an hour or so to kill at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, think about stepping away from the crowds and the bustle to spend time in this airport’s yoga room. The meditation and yoga space at DFW is just a partitioned-off little area, (rather than a dedicated, enclosed room), but it serves its purpose. The screened off section of the airport helps travelers unwind and undo any stress they may be feeling.
The makeshift studio offers mats for yoga and a little “LiveWell” walking path for those who want to just move a bit before they fly out. Burlington International Airport recently jumped on the trend of providing meditation and yoga space for travelers. This airport meditation room comes courtesy of Evolution Yoga, a local studio that solicited donations from local businesses and then put the experience together. Eugene Richards, interim director of the Burlington International Airport, says that traveling can be stressful and they try to take a little bit of that out through services like the yoga room. At Albuquerque International Sunport, there’s a “sort of non-denominational chapel,” as one passenger puts it, that might as well be considered a meditation room.
O’Hare Airport’s yoga and meditation room sits on the mezzanine level of the Terminal 3 rotunda.

It has floor-to-ceiling mirrors, yoga mats, and a video monitor that plays images of nature (accompanied by soothing sounds) or proper yoga techniques.
The serene meditation area at San Diego International Airport opened in 2014 in Terminal 2.
Airport executives called upon artist Norie Sato to create a peaceful place for quiet reflection, and she did just that by providing tranquil design touches like simple wood benches and a non-denominational sculpture altar. The mediation room at SAN has glass panel walls that depict waves of water dotted with sunlight. At Schiphol International Airport, stop by the meditation center and still yourself in an area filled with high ceilings, stained-glass windows, and chairs positioned around a central podium. This airport meditation spot even has a place where you can meet with representatives of different faiths. Yoga mats and a SkyTeam yoga video help many travelers through their yoga experience in this meditation room. Do you know of any great places for meditation at airports that you can share with our readers? It can be considered a well known fact that Chris Hinze has become an experienced traveler in the last decade. Back from Japan, Chris Hinze started to work in his studio and in the autumn of 1998 the CD Zen & the Art of Dance and Meditation was released. He used the intriguing sutra-chants from the Zen monasteries in Japan as the basis for this CD.
The duet by English blues singer Dave Jeffs and Zen master Sokun Tsushimoto Roshi also deserves special attention. Chris Hinze starts with the intriguing sutra chanting from Zen monasteries in Japan, which form a thread throughout the entire musical story and also serve as a source for his mystical flute improvisations.He combined these special chants with the soundscapes of synthesizers, African tribal singing, Gregorian chants, contemporary jungle and ambient-techno sounds and trance-like rhythms of authentic Japanese drummers. As a result of the fast life our culture demands and the over-achievements we are expected to deliver, all of us are in desperate need of peace and quiet. The front hall is decorated with sparse but graceful elements, like this meditating Buddha. The door leads to the meditation hall, where all are welcome to take off their shoes and enter.
The Zen Center offers lovely guest rooms for $105-$162 a night, which includes a healthy breakfast with the residents, and lunch and dinner by donation.
We are an informal meeting of friends who sit for 30 minutes and then read one of Suzuki Roshia€™s talks together. After exploring Auckland, I hopped back on my Contiki bus for a ride to Waitomo, home of the famous glowworm caves.
Instead of agonizing over routes and directions, I could just sit back, chat with fellow young travellers, and enjoy this mystical view from the Contiki bus.
Before arriving in each destination, Monique gave us an entertaining overview of the various activities we could add on. Our guide pointed at underground waterfalls and explained the spectacular natural formations. In fact, they are calcite formations made over millennia, from water running down the roof of the cave. In certain areas, you’ll see thousands of these creatures radiating blue luminescent light. Our guide shone a flashlight on a ledge, and we saw that each had dozens of long, sticky threads hanging down. They took leaps over small waterfalls, and linked up to float through while looking at the glowing worms. The interiors are new and clean, there’s great air conditioning, and even WiFi and charging stations. They joined our group dinners and nightlife excursions, and knew every single person by name. Quite a few had done Contiki trips before, and loved the experience so much that they were back for more. I asked Glam Nail Studio (based in Vancouver, Canada) to create starry nail art inspired by his works. Let me know what you think of my friend’s designs, and it would be fantastic if you can share this post to support her!
It has several malls dedicated to Chinese streetstyle, all within walking distance of the subway. Plan-It Fez Tours took us on an extraordinary road trip throughout the country, which we captured in this travel video. The name likely refers to the public executions that took place in this plaza, around the 11th century.
You’ll encounter monkeys performing tricks, snake charmers sticking out their tongues at cobras, and water bearers in traditional Moroccan costumes. The price for a large, freshly squeezed cup is also a fraction of what you’d pay at an American juice shop. They coaxed the reptiles with music, and put their faces close to cobras who reared their heads and hissed.
This man draped the animal around our heads and shoulders, and encouraged us to stick out our tongues. I loved these little tagines, or triangular clay pots that can hold spices or other belongings.  Each is only $1 US , so I got some for my cat to use as food bowls! From the minaret, we heard the muezzin singing the call to prayer — and felt like we had time-traveled back into time. We saw locals gathered in a circle to play a game, which involves using tall fishing poles to grab a soda bottle. We passed Chleuh dancing-boys (who crossdress as women), storytellers, musicians, peddlers and magicians. For the less adventurous eaters, there are grilled meats, dried fruit and nuts, and the ever-present orange juice carts.
Be prepared for stares, and for the vendors to approach you and yell out names (I got called Lady Gaga and Barbie). I spoke with friends who did Morocco on their own, and they told me they felt stressed by logistics such as public transportation. Our Plan-It Fez guides introduced us to locals and translated Arabic, making immersive activities such as a henna workshop possible. Our guide Mohammed told us about the fascinating history of Marrakesh, from its earliest days through the French protectorate and independence. There were a lot of tourists around, and I was more impressed with the lush landscapes at our Royal Mansour hotel. We saw glitzy nightclubs pumping with music and women in sequined headscarves on the boardwalk… and then turned into the Tangier medina, which looked like scene from Medieval times.
I hope you enjoy our Morocco travel video – please take a minute to watch, and let us know what you think!
We went all around the North Island, stopping to take in the spectacular nature, nightlife, and a daredevil activity or two.
I was rewarded with the perfect sunny weather and a pristine view of the harbour, with the Sky Tower hovering over the central business district. It’s very similar to this blue cropped leather jacket, or less expensive Elie Tahari one. New Zealand’s Karen Walker has been making a splash worldwide, particularly for her fabulous eyewear and bags. I could have spent an hour in this store, a treasure-trove of peacock taxidermy, exotic perfumes, dapper hats and other oddities.
At Cassia, he fuses the authentic flavors from his childhood with the seasonal, local produce of New Zealand.
The Kashmiri Dragon above is exceptional: a hit of chili powder, vodka, fresh lime, and Six Barrels feijoa syrup.
This green fruit tastes a bit like guava, and is found only in NZ and parts of South America.
The industrial design once again breaks away from one’s expectations of an Indian eatery. I encourage you to come by for an innovative meal and cocktails, which will change your perceptions of Indian cuisine.

Their motto, #NoRegrets, is in line with my approach to travel: challenge yourself, see new places, meet people, and never look back. They’re offering my readers a discount code for 10% off all NZ trips, if you book with Contiki Asia by May 30!
Famous in the west as the Japanese Zen garden the essence of the style revolves around the use of certain natural elements to create a tranquil environment.
The aim is to use these rocks and other elements in such a manner that suggests innate symbolism.
The pit is filled with sand or gravel and then the rocks are carefully composed on the surface of the pit.
To some people the structure and design of a Zen meditation garden reflects the actual geographical position of Japan with the raked sand being the ocean and the rocks symbolizing the island of Japan. The principle of suggestive symmetry automatically works the brain to visualize a tree just by connecting the spacing between the rocks. The westerners tend to feel that the Japanese rock garden has a Zen like atmosphere and ambiance; Zen being a version of Buddhism that focuses on introspection and enlightenment. Not surprisingly it was a priest from 13th century Japan who first came up with the idea of such a garden.
You will even be able to find table top versions of the gardens that consist of a tray composed with sand and stones in much the same manner as the real garden. There are several airport meditation rooms around the world that allow travelers to rest and recharge – their body and their spirit – while waiting for a flight. If so, enjoy some solitude at the RDU Meditation Center in the ticketing lobby of Terminal 2.
It’s easy to get to before you head to baggage claim and it features recently upholstered bancos for resting. You can meditate and exercise in the yoga room that’s inside of the SkyTeam Lounge, in Terminal 4 (opposite Gate 10).
By traveling to Japan in 1997 he finally realized what he had been planning to do for years. They are woven as a running theme through the entire musical story and are the source of inspiration for Hinze’s mystical improvisations on the flute. Very important for the general feel of the album are the contributions by the American coloratura soprano Claron McFadden. The drummer group Wadaiko Ichiro, whom Hinze first met in Japan, gave him permission to make a recording of their workshops and also the opportunity to sample their rhythms. This unique CD comprises no less than 60 minutes of silence, divided over three pieces of 25, 20 and 15 minutes. And last but not least the input of Abbot Sokun Tsushimoto Rossi, Daitokuji-San and Abbot John Toler was of tremendous value for me. As a result, the Zen Center became a gathering spot for creatives in the Beat and hippie movements. The SFZC also has locations in Tassajara and Green Gulch, for more isolated retreats and intensive practice. These accommodations aren’t listed in any hotel sites, and are an incredible value considering the location and experiences offered.
I hope you’ll also get the chance to visit, take a class, or rent a guestroom in this Buddhist monastery. I am a priest in the Suzuki Roshi lineage, and this is the same group that met at the acting studio in San Carlos for several years, revitalized and made public again.
I found my Contiki group to be very inclusive, especially thanks to the friendly tone set by our tour manager Monique and driver Dyson. These fascinating creatures emanate a blue light that attracts flying insects, which then get stuck on the lures and eaten.
Others were going through life changes, and this was their opportunity to try something outside their comfort zone. For example, I paid $26 US for a pair of metallic shoes from this brand — originally, they were over $200. Just exercise your usual caution (such as giving a firm no to touts, and keeping your belongings secure). They told me about taxi drivers who tried to scam them, and touts who constantly approached them. Nevertheless, I enjoyed spending time here with the jovial Mohammed, and seeing St Laurent’s illustrations in a special art display.
Mixologist Prateek Arora made me a Tanqueray Tan with grapefruit and East Imperial Burma tonic — fine ingredients that elevated the flavors. The sand in the pit is artistically raked on a daily basis in order to create the impression of rippling water. Of course this enlightenment is to be achieved through deep meditation which is what the garden atmosphere is ideal for. Although he had visited this country before, he was always very busy performing on stages or recording in studios.
Jesuit monks were among the first western practitioners of Zen Buddhism, and some of them like Father Lasall even became Zen masters.
This famous group is also very popular in the Netherlands, judging by their immensely successful Benelux tour. Each piece begins and ends with the sounds of gongs and bells in the tradition of Zen meditation as practiced in Japanese monasteries.
I had the privilege to stay with him in the autumn of 1997 at the Seisen-An Temple in Ouda (Nara prefecture Japan). We played in my studio five days in a row without written music and without time limitations. This unique cd comprises no less than 60 minutes of silence, divided over three pieces of 25, 20 and 15 minutes.
I wanted to compose for an international group of musicians, making use of everybody's unique musical potential. On the right, he prepared The Herbalist, a perfect balance of Domaine Canton French ginger liquer, kaffir lime, cucumber, Angostura white rum and Benedictine. In some cases sand can be substituted with gravel and in others both sand and gravel can be used together. With this knowledge at the back of his mind Chris Hinze thought it right to combine the Gregorian chanting of Claron Mc Fadden with the sutra chanting of the Japanese monks.
The atmosphere is highly influenced by the contributions of American coloratura soprano Claron McFadden.
He took part in several Zazen sessions during his stay at the Eihei-ji and Buttsu-ji temples.
He introduced Chris Hinze to several important Japanese Zen monasteries like Tenryu-ji and Buttsu-ji as well as to Zen masters like the abbot Sokun Tsushimoto Roshi and the female Zen priest Shundo Aoyama Sensei. The beautiful flute-playing of Chris Hinze introduces us to the CD, accompanied by the chanting of the heart sutra by the Japanese Zen monk, Daitokutsi-San. If you have a copy of a€?Not Always So,a€? please bring that too, as that's the book we're currently working our way through. This resulted in unique recordings of Zen monks, both instrumental and vocal, which in turn became the basis and the source of inspiration for Hinze’s compositions.
The periods of silence are also introduced by Chris Hinze on flute (and just as a frame allows a painting to come into its own, the music allows to hear the silence). The Wadaiko Ichiro drummer group, whom Chris Hinze met in Japan, gave him permission to make recordings during their workshops.
The beautiful flute-playing of Chris Hinze introduces us to the cd, accompanied by the chanting of the heart sutra by the Japanese Zen monk, Daitokutsi-San. If youa€™re new to meditation, please send me a note and Ia€™ll be glad to meet you a little early and talk about the basics of this approach.
He felt grateful for being granted the opportunity to make beautiful recordings in some of the temples: chanting of the monks, sounds of bells and drums etc. A radiant album for a wide public of music lovers, in which the meditative content is seen from a totally different side.

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