Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Delhi-McLeod Ganj, India: 30June07

Last stop at Delhi

I was kind of lucky. i met Mami, a Japanese girl, on the train from Varanasi to Delhi. i asked to use her room for shower and keeping luggage and she said OK. So i got a place to take shower before my night bus. We hang out a bit with breakfast and talked using my broken Japanese and her broken English. She is a baker, she makes cake back in Japan! We were almost the same age and it was a pleasant morning with her.

then i checked email and walked to Connaught Place from Paharagaj. It was just a 30 minutes walk and i finally tasted the India only McVege in the crowded McDonald. The coffee was so so. i started to miss the aromatic coffee back home.

On the way back, i met an annoying Indian young man. Probably only 18 and he just followed me all the way and eventually asked me for sex, even though i told him that i have a husband and kid waiting for me at the hotel. These people have no pride and obviously tarnishing the name of Indian people.

As usual, the private bus is always kind of disastrous. Not punctual and eventually i started to doubt whether they intended to get us to McLeod Ganj at all. One hour of waiting at the agent shop and another hour by another hour. After 3 hours, we were still in Delhi waiting for the bloody hell bus to depart.

In the end, the bus got us to some where and we changed to another bus. That oven-like bus broke down halfway and the driver managed to get it repaired. With the seems like continuously stops and reckless driver, somehow, we managed to get to McLeod Ganj at around 8am ,in one piece, and i took the 4pm bus from New Delhi!

Mami and me in a restaurant near to New Delhi Railway Station.

The restaurant staff making chapati.

The modern areas of New Delhi.

The vegetarian McDonald, find only in India.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: 17 Dec 07

From Wild-West tin-mining town into a futuristic cities

Kuala Lumpur (KL) emerged in 1860s when a band of tin prospectors landed at the meeting point of the Sungai Klang and Sungai Gombak (2 rivers) and named it Kuala Lumpur (Muddy Confluence). The lure of ore quickly turned KL into a brawling, noisy boomtown and the current affluent modern Asian capital.

Petronas Twin Towers, completed in year 1998 and the cost of USD 1.9 billion. Built by a Korean and a Japanese company separately. Height at 451.9m with 88 floors per tower. Designed by an Argentinian architect.
The only thing that is truely Malaysian is probably the concrete for construction. Even most of the workers are foreigners. :)

Sharing from my China friend, Qing Rong.
i knew her when i was in India.

双峰塔 原为世界上最高的摩天大厦(直至2004年台北的101大厦夺走了这一地位),美轮美奂,是国家石油公司的总部。这座钢筋和玻璃搭成的标志性建筑融合了传统的伊斯兰象征主义风格与现代的复杂精密设计。

KLCC - Kuala Lumpur City Centre.
Shopping... But actually it is really expensive for Malaysian standard.

Batu Cave, the Hindu holy site. Climb up hundreds of small steep steps to get to the temple.

Cameron Highland, Malaysia: 15 - 16 Dec 07

Cameron Highlands is Malaysia's best-known and most extensive hill station. The weather is cool and damp (altitude between 1300m and 1829m) and the fertile conditions make it an important farming area in Malaysia.
The cool weather temps visitors to exertions normally forgotten at sea level. However recent construction of hulking apartment blocks has somewhat changed the old-fashioned, English atmosphere.

Flower farm.

Hydroponic vegetable farm. 3 packages of lettuce for RM 5.

Strawberry Farm. Pluck your own strawberry. 1kg for RM 40, minimum half kg.

Cactus Farm. 6 or 7 small pot of cactus for RM 10.

Cactus Farm - Grapes!

Vegetable Farm - Tomato.

Night market.

Bamboo cake. Yummy.

Souvenirs stall.

The view from hotel. A lot of developments are going on. Probably not a very good thing to the valley.
Sometimes i would think, how much do we human beings need to destroy our mother earth so that we could kind of to enjoy the nature.

The hotel and the surroundings.

Tea plantation.

Lata Iskandar, the waterfall.

The tea plantation.

Monday, December 10, 2007

29June07: Sarnath-Delhi, India

Buddhist Pilgrim: Deer Park, Sarnath

i got a running nose now. i hope to be well soon. i woke up at six thinking to to join the monk in chanting but i couldn't see them in the big shrine hall! Well, they actually do their morning chanting in another smaller hall.
Then i took the breakfast together with the monks and it was the same as last night dinner. i particularly like the bun things. i drank some tibetan salty milk as well. It tastes good when it was hot.
The young monk, Tsering, went sighseeing with me and showed me around the temple main building. We walked to different traditions and nations of temples too. It was pretty much amazing that, in a small place like Sarnath, there are just so many temples built by so many countries. Korean, Japanese, Burmese, Thai, Tibetan and Chinese temples are all around. The Japanese temple as expected was the most beautiful one in Zen style. There are several other Tibetan temples as well, but the one that i was staying, Thrangu Rinpoche's temple, is the most impressive one with a very beautiful Zen style garden too.
i walked 3 rounds at Dhanekh Stupa and Asoka Pillar, making my 3 wishes. i remember my tibetan Buddhism teacher said, make a wish at the very first moment that you see the Asoka Pillar, then your wish will come true. i think he would want us to make a wish in regard to our spritual strike. :) Too bad that the museum was closed, so i didn't see the lion capital of Asoka Pillar.
i didnt feel particularly inspired or touched to be able to come to this holy place of Buddhist. This was especially true when people approached me and trying to sell me some 'genuine' antic statue, secretly. The impression that i had over Sarnath was however good. This is a definitely a small and clean town.
Now Varanasi Old Town (not Ganges River), top as the dirtiest place that i had ever visited. Even on top of Chennai.
The monks helped me to arrange an auto-rickshaw to go back to Varanasi so that i could take the night train to return to Delhi. i was heading to my 10 days meditation retreat at the Northern mountain area, Dharamsala.

In the monastery. The two Tibetan monks who speak better English and been there to take care of my needs and one of them even showed me around the tiny Sarnath town.
It was coincidentally the monk's summer holiday and there were not many monks in the monastery.

Place to Stay
Vajra Vidya House (Non-profit and runs by the monastery of Thrangu Rinpoche)

Khajuhee, Sarnath, Varanasi
15 minutes walk from Deer Park or the main town.
Fan, 2 single beds, attached bathroom, big, clean, including food: 3 meals with monks - 300Rs

The stupa behind is the 34meter Dhanekh Stupa, which marks the spot where the Buddha preached his first sermon.

Chukhandi Stupa mark the spot where Buddha met his first disciples.

The Japanese Temple.

The deer enclosure, deer park.

A tibetan monk was chanting in front of the Bodhi tree by Mulgandha Kuti Vihar.

Street scene.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Varanasi-Sarnath, India: 28June07

Escape from the Holy City

We took the river boat ride early in the morning. We saw people bathing, washing clothes and utensils and performing ritual by the river. Just beside of the burning ghat, they were people doing dhoby. There were even people sieving beside of the burning ghat in hope to find some small jewelleries from the ashes in the river.
When we walked in the small alleys of Old Varanasi, there were many times that we would bump into some 'untouchable' carrying the deceased towards the burning ghat. Growing up in a city so closed to death, the people here were probably very familiar and 'unmoved' with death.
i don't like this holy city. Besides from the 'holy' name, this place, including people and the street are dirty. The small streets were very narrow and always full with dung and rubbish. Walking in such a small street, i felt every dirt was just so closed to me. As long as you are tourist, there will always somebody there to either ask you to buy something or even endeavoured to cheat you. The rubbish floating on the Ganges and the waste water was channeled into the river as well. i couldn't relate this place with "holy". i couldn't stand here, so i decided to set off to Sarnath.
Dario and Eneko decided to stay for another day. So we did the last sight seeing together, the millitary guarded Golden Temple (Vishwanath Temple). The Hindu and Muslim have been killing each other for years to get this piece of temple/mosque holy ground. You torned down my mosque to build temple and i would do the same to your temple. This piece of land was nothing impressive at all, except for the heavy millitary. We were not allowed to bring anything, including beg and camera to enter the place.
The journey to Sarnath was unbelievable smooth with friendly and helpful Indians. The guest house ran by the monastery of Trangu Rinpoche was the best i ever had in India. Very clean and big. i could even eat with the monk in the canteen. The place is serene and quiet, in the middle of a village. The Rinpoche was in Hong Kong, so i didn't have such a good kamma to visit him. A young man, Tsering, who speaks better English attended to me.
Sarnath was my first buddhist pilgrim site, the place where buddha gave his first sermon.
i had a quiet and peaceful sleep.

The morning by Ganges River. People were doing cleaning despite the condition of the river. :)
Varanasi, the city of Shiva was previously called Benares and Kashi (City of Life). Hindu pilgrims come wash away all their sins in the Ganges.

This was about 6am in the morning and the river is bathed in a mellow lights.
A meditator by the holy river.

My morning puja.

The burning ghat, Manikarnika Ghat.
The tourists are not allowed to take the burning picture in respect to the deceased and the family.

The temples and guesthouses by the western bank of the river.

The dhobi ghat.

The women were washing away their sins in the Ganges.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Varanasi, India: 27June07

Holy Ganges River

Like usual, sticky, stink and sweating when we arrived at Varanasi in the noon. The riskshaw driver didn't get us to the guesthouse that we wanted to go, instead got us to the one that he could get commission. I wasn't angry but i know that we have to play tough with the people like that. So i raised my voice and kind of show that i was furious when i talked to him and the guesthouse owner. In the end, we paid him only a small fees and walked almost an hour to get to the guesthouse that we wanted to stay.

Unfortunately, the guesthouse that we took so much efforts to get to have quoted us an expensive price of 550 Rs. So although we were tired and in the great need of shower, but we still decided to proceed to find another guesthouse. Then, it started to rain and the whole ghat areas were flooded with dirty water. We negotiated with the guesthouse owner again and finally got a room at 250Rs, with river view but we need to squeeze 3 persons in 2 single beds. At least we had a place to settle down and we did not need to walk in the water with human waste, animals waste, human body ashes and ....

Varanasi is the holiest India Hindu city. But unfortunately, the people here are basically trying everything they can to cheat you. Dario and Eneko bought a water at 25 Rs while the normal price is 10 Rs. Dario said, "This is a holy city but you guys are cheaters!" i don't trust anyone here at all. This place is also unbelievable dirty to me. Very very dirty. i won't want to touch the river water. The Spanish guide book that Eneko was using said "This is the biggest toilet in the world!" i couldnt' understand what kind of mind would put Mathieu to bath in this river.

The buffalos bathing in the holy river, Ganges River. If the Ganges River could wash away the sins, then these buffalos should be really pure.

The river bank of Ganges River.

Part of the river 'scenes', rubbish.

View from our guest house.
Our guest house is so near to the burning ghat that we could smell the BBQ (human meat in this case) smell in the air.

Some kind of puja by the river bank.
As usual, there were sadu (the holy man) trying to give us blessing with a small donation.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Khajuraho-Varanasi (via Mahoba), India: 26June07

Bitchy Tourists

The train to Varanasi was at midnight from Mahoba. In order to catch the train, we would have another 4 to 5 hours of bloody bus ride. Indeed, it was another extremely over crowded and 'oven-like' bus ride.
We explored to the western group temples in the morning. It was amazing. Very beautiful and smooth and 'soft' sculptures. The erotic images were not all around but among of may be musicians or dancing sculptures. The style of the temples were almost the same, except for the worshipped God at the main shrine hall. eg. Temple A looked almost the same from Temple B but Temple A is for the worship of Vishnu and Temple B is for Siva.
When we roamed around the street, a young Indian muslim invited us for Kashmiri tea. As we had a few hours to kill, we went to his shop, despite the potential "be friending, see the shop and try to sell you things. " It ended up with some interesting talk about tourists who come here for sex and he was really not trying to sell us things. It was obviously that, many local people here think a lof of foreign women are here in Khajuraho or India for sex with local Indian men. For them, women are disposable and foreign women are loose. This is something that i would never think of. I have never been to any places in India where people talk so openly about them having sex with tourists. The young local men especially think that Japanese women are the 'top bitch' among the Asian tourists. This kind of conversation surprised me a lot. May be with the erotic temples and karma sutras sell openly, sex is not a taboo here, like the other part of India. It is probably just part of the life here and if you grown up with all these, it is just not a big deal anymore.
After this, i started to feel really uncomfortable when people ask me whether i am a Japanese. I would think, do they have something else in their mind??

Part of the western group temples.

One of the erotic sculptures.

Another beautiful sculptures.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Khajuraho, India: 25June07

Vous parlez francais?
All kind of languages ...

We did't wake up as early as we wanted. We then took an Indian breakfast and rented bicycle to roan around the small town. We started from the eastern group temple and the temples are just magnificiant. There aren't erotic sculptures but the curings are so fine and beautiful.
The town is really small. We didn't explore to the western group temple as it was so hot and it wasn't left us that much of time after we went to internet and other logistic things. We decided to explore to this part of the temples tomorrow.
In a way, this town is a really incredible place. People here spek all kind of languages from Spanish to French to Japansese to Korean. All of them just learnt the languages from tourists and yet they are all have such a good command of the language.
The power cut for the day was so frequent that it was really annoying. Due to off season, many shops were not open. But in a way, we got more deals when buying thins as even for shopping lone, you could ge an 'off season' tourist rate. :)

The girl and mother were selling bangles by the streeet.

A jain temple.
Jainism arose in the 6th century BC as a reaction against the caste restraints and rituals of Hinduism.

The jain statues.
Jains believe that liberation can be attained by achieving complete purity of the soul.

The beautiful sculpture on the temple wall.
It looks so 'soft' and natural with the well proportioned human features.

Part of the town. The building behind is actually a school and the stall is a dhobi stall.

The beautiful sunset near to the western group temple.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin, Singapore: 27Oct07

A Welcoming by Knobby Star

The wetland plan.
This is my first visit to Chek Jawa after my month of travel. Everything looks kind of 'new' to me.

The new Chek Jawa Boardwalk.

Seagrass Lagoon. The nursery of sea creatures.

What is this slimy, gross thing?

The sponge crab creates its own disguise to hide under. It uses its pincers to snip a cap out of a sponge or ascidian.

Knobby seastar. It is even bigger than our plams.
Chek Jawa experienced a mass death during last December. Fresh water from Johore River flooded here and killed many creatures.
One of the victim is the giant knobby star. We have not yet seen its return until today.
Chay Hoon was shouted with excitement with her 'discovery'.

Warty sea cucumber. During hgh tide, its tantacles gather supsended detritus in the water.

Butterfly fish. A large 'false eye' on its dorsal fin fools predators into thinking that it is a big fish! If a predator does attach it, the fish unexpectedly swims 'backwards'.

Spiky sponge. A sponge is an animal. It filter-feed on bacteria, plankton and organic particles.

Carpet anemone. Small and sticky tantacles cover its oral disk.
This is an animal closely related to jelly fish.

The Chek Jawa beam at coral rubble area.

The viewing point.

House number one from the British colonial era. Of course this is the renovated version. :)

The beautiful sunset at Pulau Ubin.