Posts Tagged ‘travel


holiday: buddhist monasteries.




prayer wheels.

Om Mane Padme Huum.  Spinning these prayer wheels accumulates the same merit as chanting the mantra.  


buddhist mural.

Buddhist mural paintings adorn the exterior walls of monasteries in the northern region.


on holy ground.

On Holy Ground.  Monks and visitors to the monastery remove their shoes as a sign of respect.



Candles and other offerings are laid in front of images of the Buddha.


young monks.

Young monks enjoy a simple breakfast of sweet potatoes, rice, and milk.



buddha image.

A statue of the Buddha is central inside the monastery meditation hall.



Diyas burn brightly in front of sacred images.






dharma wheels.




buddhist tablet.

Buddhist tablet outside Pemayangtse Monastery in Pelling, Sikkim.


cardamom & tea.

These are a few of my favorite photos- and favorite experiences- from our trip to Sikkim and Darjeeling.  Our driver from Pelling, Sikkim, was a local boy who stopped along the side of the road to show us fresh cardamom growing in a field.  The leaves of the plants extend above the earth, while the cardamom seeds are close to the ground.  The driver, Lobsang, dug in the dirt and pulled out this cluster in which cardamom pods are nestled.  He then rinsed the cluster in a nearby mountain stream, revealing the individual pods.  Lobsang opened a pod to show us the seeds inside.







We arrived in Darjeeling at dusk, creeping along narrow roads winding through a tea plantation.  The road was so narrow that we had to back up into a turnout whenever we encountered another vehicle.  Darjeeling district is famous for its tea, and tea gardens are visible along every mountainside.  Sam and I toured one nearby garden, where we plucked some tea leaves, flowers and berries.







I have a small but glorious accomplishment to share with all of you today.  This afternoon I stopped at Pakeeza, my local dairy center where I go to buy fresh dahi (yogurt) and kulfi (ice cream).  After I placed the order, a man standing next to me complimented me on my Hindi!  He was pleasantly surprised to hear a foreigner ordering in Hindi and asked a few questions about my experience in Bombay.  This exchange was a pleasant reminder of how far I’ve come from my earlier attempts to communicate.  I walked home with a definite spring in my step.


india bargains.

One of the most daunting realities of life in India is bargaining.  The threat of having to haggle with people on the street haunted me before I moved here and well into my first month.  I avoided shopping on the street, taking to heart the words of caution from well-meaning friends and family members.  “You’ll be targeted because you’re white/a foreigner/don’t speak Hindi,” everyone warned me.  I frequented shops with fixed prices and promised myself I would learn to bargain at some point.  That day came much sooner than I expected when our local supermarket suddenly closed (temporarily- “due to domestic problems”).  I was forced to confront one of my biggest fears as I headed out to the corner to buy veggies from the local vendor.  Later that night I sent Sam out without me to find out how much Indians pay for the same items.  Guess what? Same price.  I tested it out when my father-in-law visited, too, and happily discovered that the men who work on my corner are extremely honest.

For the most part my experience in Bombay has been consistent.  Rickshawalas use the meter, veggie vendors quote the same prices to Indians and foreigners, and street hawkers will bargain down to a lower price than stores offer.  When my friend Laura visited in February we bought some souvenirs on the street.  I think the guy was so surprised to hear me speak Hindi (I know the numbers pretty well) that he gave me some kind of special discount on a few items.  When I checked out a local discount store that carries the same items I was shocked to see how little I’d paid on the street.

Having a series of such positive experiences has made me a little less vigilant when I’m out and about in Bombay.  Then, every once in a while, something happens that wakes me up again.  Yesterday I took a taxi from the American Consulate to a shop near Churchgate station.  Upon arriving at my destination the driver quoted 40 rupees, which was way too much.  Every driver carries a rate card that shows the charges according to the meter display.  When I asked him in Hindi to give me the rate card, he bargained himself down to 29 rupees.


ridin’ the kiney.

Daffy enjoyed his first ride on the Kinetic Honda scooter (“the Kiney”).  Travelling by scooter is very popular in Ahmedabad, as well as other Indian cities.  Except Bombay.

simple pleasures.

Good roads. That’s the most recent entry on my list of simple pleasures. Some may argue that good roads don’t exactly qualify as simple, considering the planning, money, and effort involved in constructing them. In the US, good roads are pretty much everywhere. In India good roads are hard to find. Except in the state of Gujarat.
Today we traveled 350 kilometers of the smoothest roads in all of India. Sam and I finally made the trip to Lothal, one of the most important cities of the Harappan civilization. Lothal was a valuable port city that was settled in 2400 BCE as Harappans migrated south in search of more fertile lands. They developed a city with a vibrant bead-making factory and began trading with other cultures outside of modern national boundaries. The inhabitants of Lothal enjoyed many modern amenities, including a drainage system and indoor bath houses. The settlement survived three major floods, though the last one marked the beginning of 300 years of decline. The city was eventually abandoned during the 1500’s BCE.
Exhilarated by the possibility of an actual road trip, we then headed to Velavadar National Park, which is home to an endangered species of antelope called black bucks. The park is closed during monsoon, so we only saw a few black bucks from the road.
What I enjoy most about traveling is the journey. Even when the destination turns out to be disappointing, the experience of getting there often surprises and thrills and entertains me. Exploring a landscape lush from monsoon rains…colorful three-wheeled scooters carrying a crowd of people to the next village…herds of buffalo lazily wandering out into the road…rainclouds slowly marching to meet us…and sharing it all with my best friend.


three and a half kg’s.

Today I went to Bath & Body Works. I knew they were having their semi-annual sale. I promised myself I would only buy a few items. Just a couple of body sprays to bring back to India. Maybe a hand soap or two. Something came over me when I walked into that store this morning. When I regained consciousness I was staring at 7 and half pounds of scented body care products laid out on my bed.