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Entries about temples

Chapter seventy four - Luang Prabang

Culture vultures

Day 267: Luang Prabang, Laos 22/06/2012

Up nice and early for another warm bacon sarnie and we are soon on our way to Luang Prabang. In the minibus with a whole host of people we recognise/have met before - the backpacking trail is a pretty small world it seems. The bus ride is ok but slightly too long to be deemed completely comfortable and we eventually roll into Luang Prabang about two in the afternoon. We take a moment or two to check the map and get our bearings and are soon checking into a nice little place run by an old man, on whom I practice my francais.

We take a shower and then potter around the town - a truly stunning, serenely peaceful riverside town, with an abundance of culture and colonial charm. There are lots of smiling faces around LP and during a quick stroll around, to a nearby temple, we some very excitable young kids playing around and a very grumpy monk taking one of these by the scruff of the neck back to his mum. Trouble for the little boy I daresay. I entertain his friends with my breakdancing skills a bit further down the road and we have an incredible tea. DIY barbecue is the order of the day, pork and glass noodle soup done over the coals on the table in front of us.

Day 268: Luang Prabang, Laos 23/06/2012

After a decent breakfast we find ourselves successfully negotiating the rental of two of the local shop's finest bicycles. We manage to take on the roundabout at the bottom of the road safely, which is no mean feat given my level of cycling proficiency and the traffic coming from the wrong side of the road.

Some sumptuous temples and some serious culture for us vultures and we enjoy an easy morning riding lazily through the streets of Luang Prabang. There is one slight problem in that our bikes don't lock and so we end up carrying our bikes up the flights of steps to the sights we want to see. Hard work but enough to keep us fit...

We check out prices/arrangements for the bus to Hanoi and it seems that it will be a twenty four hour plus journey minimum. Oh well, needs must. We see a temple/pagoda at the top of a hill and decide to take a cross country route to get there. Some serious hill work on the rickety old bike (mine feels like it might break beneath me) allows us some breathtaking views over the city and the surrounding mountains and countryside. There is a rarity on this trip as Demolition Man helps two Lao kids fix the chain on their bike not once but twice. Another superb DIY BBQ is fantastic.

Day 269: Luang Prabang, Laos 24/06/2012

A quiet day today to prepare for tomorrow's epic journey to Hanoi. After a spot of lunch and a gym session, we have a mooch about town (we have become such townies) we have a very quiet afternoon. After teaching three young local lads the game of Uno, I have a couple of hours helping one of the boys with his English, a very rewarding way to pass an otherwise quiet afternoon. The lads tell me that private English lessons cost a fortune - 150 000 kip a month (about £11) for an hour a day of private tuition. A bit humbling when you consider how keen and how enthusiastic he is about it.

We go out for the evening, stumbling across and amazing night market, where as well as some beautiful trinkets and locally produced goods, they do an amazing barbecued chicken and milkshakes. Disappointed once again by England crashing out on pennos.

Posted by tevs 07:06 Archived in Laos Tagged temples culture laos luang_prabang bbq Comments (0)

Chapter thirty four - Kandy

sunny 28 °C

Day 131: Kandy, Sri Lanka 08/02/2012

Get up and go early doors. Being sat idle this close to the beach is killing us as we wait for our skin to recover fully. Pick up some breakfast from the bakers and catch the bus back to Colombo. This is quite busy and despite a minor (major) panic when our bags 'disappear' (the conductor has put them in the boot) and our shoulders are squashed together by other passengers, we have a fairly easy journey back to the capital. We are then straight onto another uncomfortable vehicle for the journey to Kandy (4 hours) and arrive more than ready to stretch our legs.

Tuk-tuk from the bus station to one of the cheaper hotels in the Rough Guide. More expensive than anticipated for a pretty basic room so we hunt about. It seems the prices have all gone up since the book was printed. Eventually go back to the first room.

We go for a walk and have a quality evening. We find the Kandy Garden Club as described in the book and have a quality tea of devilled chicken and prawn and fried rice and noodles, which comes to about 4 quid with drinks. We then head next door into their bar area, which is basically a working men's club thrown back to the 1960's (I would imagine). We have good cheap beer (rum for Gemma) and a game of snooker in their billiards room, where the return of Tommy O'Sullivan occurs and a high quality tactical battle occurs. Of who can go the longest without potting a ball.

We take the wrong turning on the way home and are chased by some dogs before finding our way back and being welcomed by a giant cockroach in the bathroom (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R28-wB9RINg).

Day 132: Kandy, Sri Lanka 09/02/2012

Well, a great day had in the sweetest city I can name...

Woke up, had a rip off breakfast of banana pancakes and briefly go online to see the clown Capello has walked. We head out and walk towards the city centre, taking the route around the lake, where we see some big fish, a snake and some water monitor lizards, big, scary, prehistoric looking smelly reptiles. Creepy.

We set our sights on walking up to the huge Buddha statue that sits at the top of a big hill here in Kandy and first have a walk through the city centre. There is a fun second hand market and some clothes stalls (I buy a fake Reebok skin to surf in - turns out to be about twenty sizes too small for me). We make our way up the steep hill to see the Buddha statue (turns out to be a temple) in the midday sun, the hill being at about a 45 degree angle, making for a hot, tiring journey. It is definitely worth it, with some outstanding views of the city below us.

A tout joins us for our walk home, getting mad when we decline his kind offers ('why you waste my time?'). Another trip to the Kandy Garden Club tonight, but the Crucible impressions are not repeated.

Posted by tevs 05:10 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged temples hills buddha sri_lanka kandy Comments (0)

Chapter twenty one - Madurai

sunny 30 °C

Day 96: Madurai, Tamil Nadu 03/01/12

A decent lie in after yesterday’s excitement and after a quick breakfast we are off out of Rainbow Cottage for our journey across the state border to Madurai. After visiting the border a couple of days previously it became apparent that, due to tensions between Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the border was shut, effectively becoming a DMZ and we would have quite a walk on our hands to even get near a bus to Madurai. However, the border was obviously reopened and there was an abundance of buses waiting to whisk us to wherever we wanted. As a result we walk straight onto a bus direct for Madurai, having run into the Kiwi couple we shared the safari with.

A fairly easy ride over to Madurai (about 4 hours), which is of course extremely busy (we are in India). Some more stunning landscapes to be seen on the journey – more jungle lined mountains and incredible views into the valleys below.

Find a hotel fairly easily, grab a bite to eat (roast chicken – mmmmm) on the rooftop and before long it is my turn to feel a little unwell. We heads to the room and spend the evening watching some tv in between the frequent power cuts.

Day 97: Madurai, Tamil Nadu 04/01/12

A few bits of housekeeping first thing – check emails and get the laundry done – before we make our way to the huge historic temples in the city centre. These are some hugely impressive structures, with a massive amount of detail, incorporating countless individual stone statues and symbols on the sides of the temple monuments, in an array of bright colours. Incredible to think these are hundreds of years old.

There is of course lots to experience around the temple sites, with a bustling, hectic market region and lots of people leaning towards the tourists – beggars, touts and market traders – for the first experience of this type of activity for a long time in India, and something we remember from the other big Indian cities. Some great market stalls to be seen, most of them well worth a look.

A spot of lunch, where Gemma’s biriyani is so hot she thinks she has been temporarily blinded. As the temple is not open to visitors until 4pm, we go back to the room and head back around 7pm to see inside (and check the status of the laptop, which is in for repair). I am told that I cannot enter the temple in my shorts and I am given a tea towel skirt thing the local men all seem to wear. Very fetching. The laptop is shown to us in pieces, which is how we will be receiving it back – luckily not, just an explanation.

The temple meanwhile is extremely interesting, if a little creepy, with a huge number of holy men, statues and rituals to be seen.

Posted by tevs 06:00 Archived in India Tagged temples history madurai tamil_nadu Comments (0)

Chapter eleven - Hampi

sunny 33 °C

Day 61: Hampi, Karnataka 29/11/11

Up early in Benaulim (6:20ish) for our 7:40 train to Hospet and on to Hampi. First things first, I jump onto our neighbour’s bike to hurl down to Annie’s and pick up our tardy laundry. Gemma meanwhile visits the German bakery to pick up some breakfast and lunch. None of that train food for us it seems.

Quick shower and a painless taxi to Margao and we are waiting on Platform 2 with about half a million other European backpackers destined for Hospet. A spectacular train journey (even though I slept for some of it) sees us roll through tropical, densely forested hills, past magnificent waterfalls and eventually into the Flintstones-esque landscape of the boulder hills around the Hampi area.

Before alighting, the rickshaw touts are already somehow on the train (they must get on the stop before Hospet) and giving it the hard sell. Do one! So annoying.

Hospet, after the bliss and relaxed vibe of Goa, is a shithole. However, a 100 rupee tuk-tuk into Hampi reveals a beautiful ancient city full of history and surrounded by mountains and banana plantations. We manage to find a room at a hotel highly recommended by the Rough Guide (Mowgli Guesthouse), have tea (a thali for me, lasagne for Gemma) and watch a film at a joint next door.

Back to Mowgli and the non-recessive Evans destructive gene kicks in. Gemma and myself are sat on the swing outside our room and the rope at my end miraculously snaps, sending the two of us tumbling to the floor. How proud my dad will be!

Day 62: Hampi, Karnataka 30/11/11

Up earlyish and we head out for Hampi to check out the temples and the nearby monuments. We catch the boat across the river to Hampi, which with this being India is packed to the rafters. Take a walk around the temples and the monuments, which are about 500 years old, some of them being incredible works of art. Some of the slopes to climb are pretty steep to say the least and at one point an old lady asks us to help her up to the shrine she is visiting. We help her up and she performs puja before blessing us. And then asking for money. Her shrine has a psychedelic coloured monkey on the wall and a giant millipede the size of a hosepipe.

Absolutely gagging for a drink and the we stop for one, where the waiter asks if we would like a special marijuana lassi. No thanks. Meet a little boy selling postcards as we wait for the boat back across the river and he is both charming and heartbreaking in equal measure. Back to our hotel where we eat (pizza and bbq chicken – have realised that it seems we do not eat Indian food in our commentary here – this is not the case, we have had lots and lots of incredible Indian food) before we go to watch a film on the big screen next door.

Day 63: Hampi, Karnataka 1/12/11

We have now done two whole calendar months in India (October and November)! Here’s to the next two…

I have my second bout of the sub-continental stomach, which sees me confined to the bathroom and the hammock outside our room (which has been fixed). Gemma, meanwhile, ventures into Hampi alone to run some errands and sees some sights – monkeys in the post office apparently – and is told off for showing too much flesh in her shorts near the temple.

My time recuperating leads me to some conclusions. The travellers in Hampi seem to be of a stoner/pothead disposition and the French are falling further and further down the league table of life. Gemma returns errands complete and we discuss where are going to go next. Gemma goes off to book the overnight bus to Bangalore. Back she comes, checks my temperature and sends me to bed. Do not feel too good.

Go to watch tonight’s film, Red with Bruce Willis as a CIA agent. Pretty good. Very uncomfortable night, shivering, feverish and diarrhoea. Nice.

Day 64: Hampi, Karnataka 02/12/11

Sleep in until about ten after a rough night and the oh so rare of luxuries, a steaming hot shower, makes me feel a lot better. Join Gemma for a cup of tea (not for her obviously) and we talk, type, read and I eventually decide to eat. Something safe like boiled eggs on toast should make me feel better. Mistake – back to shitting myself.

Discover in Hampi another drink to bring back with the fresh lime soda – ginger, honey and lemon tea. Healing. We do very little for the rest of the day – visit internet café and laze about. Tonight’s movie is Due Date with Robert Downey Jr. and the weird bloke from the Hangover. Good one.

Day 65: Somewhere between Hampi and Bangalore 03/12/11

Wake up and feel a lot better – because we have not seen as much as we would have liked whilst in Hampi due to illness, we hire a bike and go to visit the surrounding country. Head into some pretty rural areas, with Steve McQueen a little unsteady to start with, slightly heavy on the throttle, we take in some outstanding scenery. Farmland, mountains, monkeys, people as well as goats, cows, buffalo and tractors with road wide bales of hay block the road surface.

We visit a dam and skim stones in the lake, delve further into the mountains and have a drink at a ‘hotel’ called ‘Whispering Rocks’. Would absolutely recommend this place to anyone in the area – a secluded spot in the middle of the mountains, with bamboo huts, at rock bottom prices and also a room carved into the rock face as well as livestock including peacocks.

On the way back we visit a temple frequented by lots of monkeys. Shoo them away with a pathetic leafy stick to have teeth bared at us. Come on then. Not scared.

Head back to Hospet, where we spend time at a highly recommended hotel, where we are told we absolutely cannot use the internet facilities even if we pay. However, a huge wedding eats up some time and makes for an interesting spectacle. Catch our overnight bus to Bangalore and prepare for the night ahead.

Posted by tevs 02:39 Archived in India Tagged temples india karnataka hampi Comments (0)

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