March 29, 2011

These doors has monetary as well as rich cultural values

Location: Luang Prabang, Laos (19° 53′ 0″ N, 102° 8′ 0″ E)
Date: 5 November 2004; 11.20am
Camera: Canon EOS 300D with kit lens

I have a fascination of the door art of different cultures and traditions. Each has rather different emphasis of what their doors should look like or its significance. Hence, the Chinese uses the door as both protective as well as wealth symbolism. To Tibetans, doors are very much a functional item for protection against the harsh weather conditions. And for many Indo-Chinese cultures, the door decorations/carvings are a demonstration of their wealth. Often their doors are exquisitely craved and gilded in gold. The doors of the royal families are normally a piece of exquisite art itself such as this one at Luang Prabang. Such doors are commonly regarded as great cultural treasures and are meticulously preserved as a showpiece of architectural culture.


March 26, 2011

Ladakhis look more like Tibetans than “Indians”

Location: Leh, Ladakh, India (34° 10′ 3″ N, 77° 35′ 24″ E)
Date: 18 August 2009 6.20pm
Camera: Canon 300D with EF 70-200/f4 IS L

Ladakh is nothing like the rest of India. It is cold, mountainous and not as crowded as most parts of India, which tends to be steamy and sweaty with humanity. The rest of India is mainly dusty and flat where the representation of Hinduism is everywhere. Some parts of Ladakh are even more dustier and very dry- high altitude desert- but the predominate religious manifestation is that of Buddhism. The major exceptions are Kargil where the majority is Muslim and perhaps Leh, where there is also a significant proportion of Muslims.

The people of Ladakh are also quite different from “mainland” India. Again apart from the Kargil region and Leh, the predominant population are rather Tibetan-looking. In fact without thinking too much, one could have thought that one is visiting Tibet or the Sherpa region of Nepal. The language too is like a Tibetan dialect. Such is the wonder and beauty of Ladakh.

Traveling is a way of living. It allows you to expand your eyes, mind and improve your listening skills, as you encounter a variety of people on your journeys. Reader's Digest supports travel bugs and wanders from all walks of life and believe that a good traveler knows every penny spent is a penny fewer from the next town. Traveling is a way of life and a travel budget is how you survive. We wish the best for Peter throughout all his adventures.

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March 16, 2011

These places will not see any foreigners for 3 months- Tibet

Location: Yarlung Valley, Tibet, China (29° 8′ 38.76″ N, 91° 48′ 0.72″ E)
Date: 26 May 2005; 10.45am
Camera: Canon 300D with kit kens

The Chinese government had done it again- they closed the province of Tibet to foreigners again! The closure this time is total- not even foreigners on packaged groups are allowed to enter Tibet for a period of three months. I have bemoaned how some places in Tibet are becoming a “once a lifetime” destination due to the now frequent and arbitrary closure to foreigners. The reasons given by the Chinese government this time are ostensibly“bad weather and insufficient supply of accommodation”. Well, the weather in China had not been bad until today and there were reports from the hospitality industry in Tibet expressing puzzlement at the so-called heavy demand on accommodation. In fact the real reasons are the anniversary of the Lhasa unrest three years ago and the timing of the convening of the parliament of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India. The government was trying to avoid leakage of any scenes of demonstrations or unrests of any kind that may result due to these events. While politically I have less of a problem regarding the so-called Tibetan issue, I do have lots of reservations regarding the governance and the iron-fist treatment of minority-dominated provinces such as Tibet and Xinjiang by the Chinese government.


March 14, 2011

The Whirling Dervish whirling into a trance…… Turkey

Location: Sirkeci Railway Station, Istanbul, Turkey (41° 0′ 54″ N, 28° 58′ 38″ E )
Date: 19 April 2010, 7.50pm
Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

One of the unique experience of Turkey is to watch a Whirling Dervish Dance.; Whirling Dervish are members of the Mevlevi Order, named for their founder Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi. The dance also known as Sufi Whirling is a customary dance performed within the Sema, or worship ceremony, through which dervishes (also called semazens) aim to reach the source of all perfection, or kemal. This is sought through abandoning one's nafs, egos or personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning one's body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun. However today the dance is performed in many places especially in Istanbul as a tourist entertainment. To most tourists watching such a dance is more of an experience with a unique tradition of Turkey; it gets a little boring after 15 minutes.


March 4, 2011

A Tibetan town with 2 important monasteries and a beautiful mosque

Location: Kirti Monastery, Langmusi, Gansu, China (34° 5' 16 N,102° 37' 41 E)
Date: 28 June 2004, 4.10pm
Camera: Canon 300D with kit lens

Langmusi is a small Tibetan town on the border of Sichuan and Gansu. In fact, the northern part of the town is in Gansu while the southern half lies in Sichuan. The town at an altitude of 3,325m is situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by alpine forests and mountains. The town only has a population of around 4,000, with more than 1,000 of them belonging to the two Yellow Hat monasteries found in the village, Sertri Monastery on the north (Gansu) and the larger Kirti Monastery on the south (Sichuan) side of the town. Apart from these two monasteries, there is also a very interesting mosque in the town; the mosque is so “Chinese” looking that one could have mistaken it as a pagoda. This town is also the location of the only Sky Burial Grounds on the whole of China that is open to the public (well, it was still in 2004). The town has a very peaceful feel and is ideal for spending a couple of days hiking around the hills and mountains to discover more pretty remote villages.