Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pilgrim to India: July - August 2007

Happy New Year!

From my understand from my sutta study class, in the Maha Parinibbana Sutta, the buddha mentioned that, after his pari nibbana, his followers should make visit to the place of his birth (Lumbini, Nepal), the place of his enlightenment (Bodhgaya, India), the place of his first discourse (Sarnath, India) and the place of his death or pari nibbana (Kushinaga, India). This in fact became the important force for me to make the 3 months trip to India. For pilgrim and to see this great nation of India, a land of culture, wisdom and real lives.
It was like a reflection of the impermanent, my computer hardisk clashed not long after i came back from India. i was a dummy who thought this kind of thing could never happen to me, so i do not have a back up. i lose part of my pictures in India and almost all of my pictures in the beautiful Nepal (Pokhara, Lumbini and Kathmandu Valley). What i left was just a few hardcopies and a few softcopies that i burnt it into CD and sent to a friend, who at that time was in UK. When i went to UK later, she burnt the CD to me and i got a few pictures back.
I would like to keep a few of my pilgrim pictures over here, before the end of the year.
In year 2009, i wish all be happy and peace. Sukhihotu.

Lumbini Garden.
In the building behind, the visitors can see the foot print of the baby buddha (it is said so) and the ruins of the original garden.
Lumbini like any other buddhist holy places, formed an international village of temples from all different country and tradition.
I crossed the border from Gorakhpur, India to Nepal.
People just come and go from the border without custom.
I missed the custom in India (it is a small cubical in a row of shop house) and i actually went back and ford around the border, trying to find it.

This bodhi tree is said to be the descendant from the original tree that buddha gained enlightenment.
i am not sure whether the tree gives extra inspiration, but the shade under the tree is just so good as a place to do meditation.
Different pilgrim groups from around the world will sit near to the tree, with a monk giving sermon to the disciple.

Sarnath, the big stupa behind is to commerate where Buddha gave his first sermon.

Coming from the pilgrims crowded Bohgaya, Kushinaga is relatively peaceful and calm, like a small village. (at that time of the year, it was end of scorching hot summer and went into the flooding rainy season, which have less tourists or pilgrims.)

The ruins of Nalanda, the first Buddhist University in the world.

Rajhir, many of the teachings from Buddha were given on this hill.
It wasn't an easy journey to make alone from Bohgaya to here.
The transportation was a bit tricky. i owned to many people for their kindness to help me in the transportation.

The famous Mahabodhi Temple in Bohgaya.
Well... When i was at these holy buddhist places and even at this momement when i looked back, i would say that, instead of feeling in the pilgrim, i feel more like another visitors who knows a bit of buddhism, and went sightseeing to the places.
The benefits of going there by myself instead of going with the pilgrim group are may be, i get more time to wander around the places, do whatever i wanted and appreciate the places in my own way.
But for the side of spiritual inspiration, i guess i could possible to gain more if my trip was with a buddhist teacher or monk.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Spring & Summer 2008

Tribute to Montreal

We stayed first at Mont-royal East, and then we moved to Bernard West. The East is the French speaking area, while the West is the more English speaking area. Bernard West itself, is actually a Jew community. Both places are unique in its own and in fact, Montreal is just unique.

Olympic Stadium and Montreal Tower.
The dome's roof is supposed to be able to open, but it only did once ...
This structure is so expensive that, it puts the Montrealer in debt for a long long time.

Montreal City view from Montreal Tower.
The green iron bridge is Jaques-Cartier Bridge.

Quarter Latin of St Denis.
It is a fine dinning and shopping areas.

A hotel advertisement at the gay area.
Montreal have a large community of gay and people are rather open/acceptance about this.

It is like a small zoo where children learn about different kind of ecology.

Botanical Garden.
The Chinese Garden is completed with the help of expert from China.

As long as there are Chinese, there is a Chinatown.
i can even get the Malaysian Ipoh Old Town Coffee or Tea here!

Saint Joseph Obrituary.
This is such a majestic and giant structure that, it worth to pay a visit even for none religious purpose.

Notre Dame at Old Montreal.
Beautiful and serene.
Celine Dion's son is baptised here.

Mont-royal Avenue, right outside the window from our room.

Jean Talon Market.
This is a bit like the market in Asia and we like to buy our fresh supplies of food here.

St Gabriel.
i never associate beach with a lake before.
For me, beach means by the sea.
But in Quebec, obviously many beaches people are talking about are by the big lake.
So, it is fresh water beach.

Every summer at around July, there is a two weeks international fireworks.
This is Austrian fireworks.
The bridge, Jaques-Cartier, is closed during the fireworks day, for the public to watch the fireworks.

Quebec Day, 24 June.
The celebration of Quebec Day is way much appreciated than the Canada Day (1 July).
Both are like national day, but one is at the provincial level.

Chutes Monte-a-Peine-et-des-Dalles.
This waterfalls is around 2 hours drive from Montreal.
From time to time, eventhough it is dangerous and not allowed, but some people still dive from the falls ... for fun ... and died.

Hair-cutting at the private cottage by Lac Breeches. :)

Tam-tam at Mont-royal Park on Sunday, throughout the Summer.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quebec City: Spring & Summer 2008

Spring: 14-16 May 2008

A restaurant at Old Quebec.
Leaves started to grow ...
Old Quebec is 400 years old in this year.

The main street of Old Quebec.
Le Miserable is in the town.

My boyfriend told me that this is a city hall ... :(
But in fact, this is the famous Le Chateau Frontenac.

St Lawrence river view from the hill.

Nearby this street is said to be the first settlement of Quebec City, 400 years ago.

They get 12 feet of snow for the winter.
The snow is obviously that thick that, it just takes forever to melt down totally.
So i got this last chunk of snow here.

Montmorency Chute.
It is not a wide waterfalls, but a rather tall one.
So the thundering sound effect is good.

Summer: 16-18 August 2008

A family picnics with Mathieu's mother side relatives.

The roof of Civilisation Musuem.
It is a green roof, the musuem grows vegetable here and donates the cultivation to charity.

One of the famous tourist landmarks.
(Don't remember the name ...)

In conjunction of Quebec City 400 year celebration, there was a huge street celebration.
When the wind blows, the blue things created a feel of sea wave.
There is a projector show, "Images of Time" at night.

One of the many First Nation reserves near to Quebec City.
This White staff from the reserve's musuem is actually a First Nation.
This tribe of First Nation has all their tribe members looked like White since hundred years ago. (In contra to the brown skin of most of the First Nation.)
This is due to the mix-marriages between the Huron women and the White men.
Many Huron men died in the war, so the Huron women started to marry White men.
This guide has 25% of Huron blood. If he married a White or non-First Nation, then his offspring will lose the First Nation status.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chapais, Quebec, Canada: 29June - 3July 2008

Chapais is Mathieu's hometown. He completed part of his education here and had his childhood here. It is a small town 8 hrs drives from Montreal. It is a town grown from mining and when the mining stopped, the town inevitable becomes quiet. Currently, it serves as a stop for the logging trucks between the Northen and Southern bigger city.
This place is so far-north-in-the-middle-of-no-way that, it gets really cold winter and even no maple trees can survive such a harsh weather. We see only small leaves trees, such as pine trees.

A small town near to Lac St Jean. (On the way to Chapais.)

One of the lake at Chapais.
When we were there, a waste dam used during the mining time was broken and some waste water polluted the lakes near by.

The place is pretty much wild that, there are quite many outdoor activities to do, such as, camping. Years ago, the people here can just roam around the wild and "choose" a piece of land to be registered with the government for rental and built their own camping hut.
This one that we went belong to Mathieu's father's friend.

Mathieu and his brother went fishing in a weather like that.
I didn't like this idea at all (i mean fishing), but i went with them.
Then i so called used my "mind power" and dowsing and whatever i can manage, to prevent them for getting the fish.
It ended up that, they got only two "victims" for the whole trip, at that so called best fishing spot.
But they released a few small fishes as well.
They said, never to go fishing with me again.

Cooking becomes a tricky thing when it rains!
So a small "tent" was setup so that we could cook the meal.
i feel the camping was "real" when we had to cook with lake water (no tap water).

Due to the rain, the lake areas were flooded.
So during the return trip, the truck had to cross almost 10 inches deep of water.

Before the White people came, the land around Chapais is occupied by the First Nation (like Malaysian, bumiputra or orang Asli).
The government bought or took over the land, built the First Nation a village called "reserve", so now most of them stay in the typical Canadian kind of house.
There was a "display" or musuem kind of facilities showing what a First Nation's house used to be.
There are still tensions between the First Nation and the other Canadian.
Some First Nation think they were driven out from their land and marginized, while other common Canadian think, no tax if the first nation is living in the reserve and no limit for the first nation to catch fish (eventhough they are living a modern life now) ... are kind of unfair.
Well, it is just a complicated issue.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Toronto, Ontario, Canada: 5-6 September 2008

Some people i talked to has very strong feeling to Toronto: "i hate Toronto". i think it is bizzarre to use such a strong word on Toronto. It is a big big city, like any other metropolitan. It might not as cultural as New York or as vibrant as Montreal, but there is nothing hateful about Toronto that i can feel. May be i just haven't stay there long enough to know the place.

The famous Toronto CN tower.

Toronto have a very big Chinese community.
Like any other part of the world, the Chinatown is always in the city centre.

The stadium used to be called "sky dome".
The roof can be opened and it should be interesting to watch a baseball game here.
(The Olympic Stadium in Montreal only managed to open its roof for once. :P)

i knew Viet Ha when i was travelling in Vietnam. She was backed to Hanoi for her internship from British Columbia University in Vancouver at that time.
She is now working in Toronto.
It was really nice to see her again and i think i remember very much that, she said when she first came to Canada, it surprised her that, tap water is safe to drink directly.
She said "it is such a luxury".
While her friend, Nice from France said, he doesn't know that tap water might not be safe to drink directly until he first went to Dominican Republic.
In New York, i remember i saw quite many advertisements from the authority to encourage people to drink tap water instead of to buy bottle water.
While in Montreal, some people i met do not drink tap water because "the water is clean but the water pipe is dirty".
The tap water in Singapore is safe to drink directly but not many people i know would do so. Most of us still prefer to boil the water, likely to out from our old habit.
So it actually strikes me a little bit to "understand" that, we got a luxury that we never really appreciate or we are taking for granted.

The old town hall is a very beautiful historical building. It is now the court.

Like a friend said when she was in Singapore, there are so many construction and digging going on.
So as for Toronto.

Casa Loma, the mansion on the hill.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Niagara Falls and Kingstons, Ontario, Canada

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada: 2-3 September 2008

i never imagine Niagara Falls will be a place look like Las Vega or playground.
In my mind, it should be a place like Taman Negara or National Park.
To our surprise, around the Falls, the town is just look like a big playground, with things like: hunted house, different theme of wax musuems, casiono ...

At night time, spot lights are "shot" on the falls. (The greenish thing at the left side of picture.)
One of the building at the right is a Casino while the other one is some kind of viewing tower.

The fall at the left is called American Fall (at the American side) while the one at the right is called Horse Shoe Falls.
Horse Shoe Fall forms the misty clouds at its "curve" and it is the famous "Maid of the Mist".
In fact, i was a bit dissapointed because the falls are not as huge as i imagined.

Across the Rainbow Bridge is the American side.

In the boat heading to the "Maid of the Mist".
A close encounter with the American Falls.
Most of the people wore the blue raincoat which came with the boat ticket, but we prefered to get the showers from the falls.
This is where is got my engagement ring as well, right on the boat, in front of the falls.

The American Falls.

The boat drove right to the middle of "Maid of the Mist" and everyone took a real shower from the falls.

Horseshoe Fall, which forms the Maid of the Mist.
Beside from boat for you to get near to the fall, there are trips to walk behind of this fall as well.

Seeing the speeding water "falls" down.
The sound and the height and the speed of water gave a very powerful imprint in my memory.

The nearby small town, Niagara-on-the-lake (it is beside of one of the America 5 big lakes, Ontario Lake).
In contrast with the Las Vega liked Niagara Falls, this small town is touristic yet peaceful.
We feel almost like in Europe.

Niagara-on-the-lake is famous with its ice wine, thanks to its weather and soil.
There are many fruits farms and vineyard along the way to the town.
But the grapes to make wine don't taste good to just eat like that.

i do not remember what river is that, but the opposite side of the river belongs to the America.
At this point, i think i realised that, Canada and America do share a very long border!
There are many rivers or lakes or parks which are shared by both.
i haven't really get the "feel" of this in Montreal.

Rockpoint Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada: 3-5 September 2008

Erie Lake, one of the big 5 America Lakes.
We had 2 days camping at Rockpoint Provincial Park.
We arrived from Niagara Falls to there at 9pm. Basically we just drove around the wood in the darkness, trying to find our campsite.

One of the interesting of Rockpoint Provincial Park is the fossil by the lake.
The lake is so big that one would think it is the sea.

Kingston. Ontario, Canada: 7 September 2008

The beautiful and historical town hall.
Kingston is a small town by the lake (or river, couldn't really remember now), between the big city, Toronto and Montreal.
Many of the old buildings are made from limestone.

The Sunday market.
There are some street performance as well.

There is a large prison in Kingstone (i suspect that is due to the limestone produced by Kingston, the material to build the prison.)
So, there is an interesting small prison museum.
Things display in the museum, including the weapons and equipment created by the inmates using very basic material, such as tooth brush, fork ... , for the purpose of escape or "self protection".