Many a traveler on the tourist trail leading from the Taj Mahal into the desert state of Rajasthan goes to the ‘pink’ city of Jaipur and then very often is headed for Pushkar, Udaipur or Jaisalmer further west.
What about the blue city of Jodhpur? What’s wrong with it? I often wondered. Is it not recommended enough by guidebooks like the ‘lonely plant’? are people really rushing their way through this most beautiful part of india? it is probably a combination and it’s a pity anyway, i would say. More than once people told me they arrived in the morning and then take the train in the evening again. Those are the moments I praise myself for having all the time in the world (let’s not talk about the money)
Contrary to Jaipur everything is in walking distance here and condensed around and under the Mehrangarh fort. It was easy to spend two weeks in this gorgeous atmosphere spinning between the blue houses, wandering around the tiny streets, photographing ‘the guard’ at the fort (among many other characters I stumbled upon in the alleys) and going to Ramesh (‘a real Bombay barber’) for my regular shave and face massage. (watch the video at the end)
Namtso Lake is the highest saline lake on earth. Renowned as one of the most beautiful places in Tibet. Its cave hermitages have for centuries been the destination of Tibetan pilgrims.
Namtso has five uninhabited islands of reasonable size, in addition to one or two rocky outcrops. The islands have been used for spiritual retreat by pilgrims who walk over the lake’s frozen surface at the end of winter, carrying their food with them. They spend the summer there, unable to return to shore again until the water freezes the following winter. This practice is no longer permitted by Chinese authorities.
Angkor, in Cambodia’s northern province of Siem Reap, is one of the most important archaeological sites of Southeast Asia. A Unesco world heritage site, it extends over 400 square kilometres and contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations.
With over two million visitors each year, what strikes me most is that Angkor can still give the traveler a true explorer’s feel. Of course taking your time and going well off the main trails helps a lot. I rented a bike for three days to explore the huge area. To get kinda lost and be fully alone amidst ruins peeping from underneath the centuries old trees. immersed in the mystical atmosphere…
Angkor, the largest religious monument in the world was recently in the news because people regularly lower their pants for nude pictures. They might very well have confused Angkor with the temples of Khajuraho in India, where the sexual practices at the time are depicted rather vividly.
Even though not felt as utterly urgent, Lumbini has been on my list for many years as I had been on a pilgrimage to the most important sites associated with the life of the Buddha in India, but I never made it to Nepal (apart from a quick passage through Kathmandu on my way to Tibet).
Now that I have been Trekking The Annapurna Trail, Lumbini was conveniently on my way out of Nepal and back into India. It’s situated on the grassy plains of southern Nepal and the climate here is pleasantly warm in november. A few months ago it was unbearably hot here as I heard more than a few people utter sighingly.
It was very weird to approach Lumbini by bus as even two hours before the actual arrival sign posts said we were in Lumbini. I was headed for the Korean temple, the only place where non-nationals can reside. And all my encounters with Koreans had been great so there we went, me and the cycle rickshaw driver in the quiet of dusk flanked by trees and the lovely smell of dewy grass.
Even though many rent bikes to explore the huge area I did it all on my two feet the next day. Also to test my brand new real fake comfy walking sandals. Pretty much every buddhist country has a temple and/or monastery here. Even non-buddhist countries like Austria, France and Germany and it has to be said (and who would expect it – not me) the German temple is simply stunning, adorned with the most exquisite art and wall paintings. in-cre-di-ble…
I did not enter the grounds where the actual spot is of Buddha’s birth as it was always flooded with people. just circling around it gave me much more peace and quiet and it was even better to soak in the specail vibe here coming from the legacy of one of the most revered people that ever walked the earth. Even though Kushinagar (the place where he passed away) really moved me much more I gotta say.
Siddharta (prince) Gautama’s life was very much associated with trees. His mother gave birth under a tree, he found enlightenment under the bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, gave his first sermon under a tree in Sarnath. I enjoy photographing the statues of baby buddha surrounded by the trees here.
Lumbini is also the playground for Nepal’s school youth who naturally are more interested in fooling around with each other than connecting with their heritage. but I was no different their age so I willingly play along as once again they wanna go on the photo with me looking at me as if I were a movie star and verily, I realised in the end how annoying is must be to really be one! So I count my blessings and appreciate how luckyI am to just simply be me…