Search Results for: label/buddha

King of the Hill on Lantau Island

I was excited by the prospect of many things in Hong Kong. The food, the Star Ferry, the nightly light show, Victoria Peak and of course Ocean Park.

But top of my list for as long as I can remember has been the big seated Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island.

I can pinpoint the first time I became enthralled by the thought of going to visit this attraction. I was writing a Hong Kong destination guide in a job from hell and was asking my colleagues if any of them had ever visited the city in order to collect as much information as I possibly could. One of my colleagues told me he had taken a day trip out to Lantau Island and climbed many steps in order to reach (what was then) the largest seated bronze Buddha in the world. This sparked my interest – I have always been fascinated (I refuse to use the word “obsessed” again as it has come up several times in my last couple of posts and I’m beginning to even worry myself) with the Buddhist culture and have even collected Buddha figurines from my trips to Asia.

Full Moon Poya

Low and behold, when Daggat and I arrive in Kandy later the same day as I had visited the orphanage for elephants, he informed me that I was lucky enough to have been visiting the city during the Poya festival – a celebration held once a month on the day of the full moon. He was so excited by the prospect of telling me this that I could only assume that this was something to be thrilled by, even though I’m ashamed to say I had no idea what it was. He told me that the festivities would start late afternoon and that we should watch the procession first, before going to the Temple of the Tooth, as it would be much more atmospheric that way and also because the temple would be closed during the procession itself. And of course, as someone who knows about these things, I trusted his judgement and so we queued up alongside the gates of the temple and waited for the celebrations to begin.

Again, I can only stress how both amazing and surreal this experience was. Here I was, stood outside the gates of this magnificent temple, surrounded by both locals and tourist clamouring to get a good view of the procession, and all I can hear is the sound of drumming and chanting and I could see buddhist monks stood surveying the scene in their orange robes from the windows of the temple. The procession began with dancing and drumming rituals performed by local children and adults dressed in robes and local dress, then came some traditional Kandyan dancers (a performance of which I later went to watch in the local theatre) and lastly a procession of elephants and the sacred Buddha’s tooth replica itself, which was carried back into the temple encased in a golden shrine atop of one of the elephants. The noise from the procession seemed overwhelming, yet the onlookers and indeed the rest of the city, seemed to have stood still – everyone watching the festival with awe.

Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia: Part 2

balloon ride over cappadocia
What I loved about our particular pilot was how he knew exactly where to dip in the valleys so that you could get close to the rock formations.

balloon ride over cappadocia

All of the holes you can see that are carved into the side of the rock were homes for pigeons, who were considered to be very valuable in the years before artificial fertilisers came to pass (pigeon poop was used as a fertiliser for crops back then. Too much information?) The entrance to some of the pigeon holes were decorated with painted symbols and drawings and we managed to get close enough to snap some photos.

10 Things You Should Know Before Travelling to Vietnam

The facilities are good, use them

Before I got to Vietnam I had visions of squat toilets all over the country, like that of many other South East Asian destinations and so steeled myself for having to ‘hover’ on a regular basis.

This turned out to be a misconception and the only squat toilet I encountered was at a service station at the side of the road. Apart from this, the plumbing tends to work in much a similar way to Greece: don’t block the pipes by flushing the toilet paper down; instead use the bin provided and everything will be fine.

As with anywhere in Asia, arm yourself with plenty of tissues and antibacterial gel in case you’re caught short with no supplies. You may also be charged to use toilets if they are situated at popular tourist sites. Don’t be cheap and think you can get away with paying the minimum price unless you are male and are used to using public urinals. I made this mistake and was shown to an exposed toilet bowl with no door that could be seen from the street!

It WILL rain – there’s no best time to visit Vietnam

If you are travelling from one end of the country to the other, it will rain at some point during your trip. The seasons vary throughout the country and I encountered rain in both Hoi An and Hue. Even though it was still warm, the rain was heavy at times, but don’t let it dampen your fun.

Ponchos can be bought for a minimal price when you are there (the thinner plastic ones are good just for walking around whereas you should invest in the thicker, longer ones if you’re planning on riding motorbikes and cycles a lot).

Also, don’t bother packing an umbrella – it just adds to your baggage weight and even the lowest class of hotels tend to offer them free in the rooms. Note -  Make sure you return the umbrellas before you leave as you will be charged for them otherwise.

The trains never run on time

Once you’ve spent a few days in Vietnam you’ll realise that the Vietnamese are a laid-back people, who are never in a rush to get anywhere. This translates to their public transport system also.

Having used a few sleeper trains during my stay, it became custom to never expect to arrive at your destination at the intended time, even if you had set off within an hour of your departure time. Just go with the flow and be ready and alert to leave the train at your station when you arrive because they don’t hang around for long and you never know where you might end up if you have to stay on the train until the next stop.