Tag Archives: buddha

Experiences from Sri Lanka – Which I will remember Forever!

I visited the beautiful island country, Sri Lanka last year December 2016, being from India I was very curious to find out being a neighboring country how different could we possibly be. Well, now I can say we are very different temperamentally, yet so similar in several ways. When we talk or write about a place we usually end up talking and discussing about the places, food and culture. What we miss out is talking about the experiences and encounters with the people and the locals of the place. So today I feel like writing about my experiences with the locals of Sri Lanka, of course not all are great, but few which are, they have really touched me in a special way and I think I will always mention (I still do) these while talking about my stay in Sri Lanka.

Sigiriya

The amusing obsession with Age: This is not really a situation I can classify as good or bad, rather it is plain amusing. I am 29 years old and as per normal society standards (that’s what most people say, I personally don’t believe in society) I do not look like a nearing 30 year old I am often told, not only by people of my country but in general by human standards (so I am always told). But I faced the most profound situations of being reminded that I do not look like my age almost 90% of the time I interacted with a local in Sri Lanka. Not sure if it is treated as an ice-breaker (quite interesting if it is) in the country, but I can almost count several instances where after a quick ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’ the very next line to me was ‘How old are you?’. First 2-3 instances I was baffled, in my mind I was thinking ‘Really?what kind of a question is that!’, but after, I started enjoying it and I used to give hilarious replies, like I am 35, with 2 kids (I am still happily not married with no kids) just for the fun of it. I am still intrigued if it was just me or if there is really something to this. Nevertheless! Very amusing I must admit!

Sigiriya.

As peaceful as can get: Well this might be a relative observation given that I belong to India. India is the epitome of chaos and craziness and every tiny situation is usually addressed with enough drama and noise, especially road and traffic situations. I happened to be a part of a road situation in Sri Lanka and the parallels of a similar in any country (rather any country) would be very different I am sure. So one of the days in Colombo I had taken an auto from my hotel to the railway station. During this ride, we happened to stop at a red traffic signal, unfortunately when the signal turned green due to some reason the auto ended my mildly brushing into a passerby on a cycle (no one was hurt). The events that followed after were thoroughly amazing! the auto driver realized that he had brushed into a cyclist and both of them started talking in a straight face manner in their local language. Very soon the traffic police intervened and after a short discussion us and the cyclist drove to the closest market and to my utter amusement I saw the auto driver got down, signaled me to wait in the auto, went to a local road side shoe store nearby, bought a pair of slippers and gave it to the cyclist. After this we were back on track and soon I was dropped off at the railway station. So! was this how a road rage situation is handled here?? i would infer what happened was that the cyclist must have demanded that a pair of slippers be bought for him and so it was agreed. I could imagine a similar situation in India where such an incident would be noisy with people hurling abuses at each other or even fists. Though I am not really very surprised, since being a Buddhism dominated country it is just befitting for the people here to be so tolerant and non-violent. Either ways I hope the peace remains and spreads on to its neighboring countries as well.

Dambulla Cave Temple

A helping hand: How often does one have the privilege of feeling cared for or to have someone go above the ordinary to help you. I was fortunate enough to have this experience. We had booked a taxi to Nuwara Eliya and during our way back we were discussing our plans of travelling to Sigiriya via a local bus the day after . The driver happened to overhear us and asked us about our plans, upon knowing he was really worried and was trying hard to convince us that going by bus was not a good idea. Later after dropping us back, he called up and arranged for us to go to Sigiriya in a taxi that was going there to pick someone else up for an extremely reasonable price. I couldn’t be more thankful to this find gentleman for taking the initiative and pain to arrange this for us without us even asking for it, just so that we could be safe. The world could use more such heroes who find the safety of others as their responsibility. Blessings to this man!!

 

One night stand with Bangkok

One night stand with Bangkok

What do you do when you have one day in Bangkok and want to make the most of it, how to come up with an itinerary that makes full use of the time. Not having the luxury of too many days leaves from work, me any friends planned a 5-6 days trip in Thailand, a perfect break! According to our itinerary we had 1 day in Bangkok! And trust me we made the full use of each minute! So here we go..
The Flight:
We had booked an early morning flight, well early in the true sense. Kolkata, India to Bangkok flight, departing at 12:05 am. We had a Spicejet flight that cost us really cheap, but this was the worst flight experience in my life. To start with the seats were unusually cramped up. For a 5feet 4inch figure too it was extremely difficult to sit properly due to excessively less leg space. The flight somehow managed to have all the unruly passengers at once. There was a huge group of middle aged men who were the loudest and the most uncouth, lets blame the mid-life crisis for that. Anyways the flight was on time never the less. We arrived at 4:00 Bangkok time. The flight duration was 2 hours roughly. After a smooth Visa on Arrival process that roughly took us about an hour, we were all set to step out into Bangkok.

The Taxi ride:

20141201_141153
Pink taxis plying on the road

 The taxi service was pretty smooth, after having booked a pre-paid taxi we were utterly pleased to be directed towards a striking Pink Taxi. What more would be so pleasing for a bunch of girls at 5:00 in the morning, more than a hot pink taxi. That just set in the right mood. The roads were empty, clean and the sky a gloomy blue. The taxi driver was a pretty old man with wrinkles with a very warm smile. Yes he did not understand a word of English. So we have to wake our sleepy brains up to try and explain him where we needed to go. We had a hotel reservation near Khao San road. Unable to understand us and vice-versa we showed him the hotel reservation printout, although he was unable to read it. He did take help from a passerby to read him out the direction. He had lovely Thai music playing, we did not understand the language but it calmed and relaxed. Our first pic in Bangkok was one with the pink taxi taken by the driver!
Morning in Khao San road:
DSC_0491
Board at a cafe in Khao San

We arrived at the hotel which was perfectly place on the main road, no alleys or hassles to find out the hotel, since we had reached

DSC_0492
Open air street side cafe!Lovely place

early at around 7:00 am. And the check in time being 12:00 pm, we had a lot of time to laze around until we got a room. So instead we munched on a few freebies kept in the waiting area, had some fresh coffee and headed out to explore what was around. The morning walk felt lovely, fresh air, empty roads, it was just the best start to a lovely day. We kept walking by closed shops, eateries and banks until we met a guy, whom we asked if there was any market place nearby. Fortunately we were a stones throw away from the famous Khao San road. We fastened our pace. And we knew we had reached Khao San the moment we could see restaurants with lazy tourists like us and colorful eateries, roadside stalls selling local food. The road sides were lined up with tables and chairs, with empty, some full with people busy enjoying there morning breakfast.

We walked across the several restaurants admiring the various unique decors, names and themes that each place had. The entire stretch of the road somehow had a unique freshness and warm feeling to it, very welcoming and bright.
We decided upon a unique place that caught our eye. It had a very welcoming living room type décor with super comfy sofas and waitresses dressed in pink, by now pink had already seemed to become the color of Bangkok. We ordered continental food but to our surprise it was lip smackingly delicious.
There were a couple of there tourists too who interacted with us, clicked pictures with us as well. Well the one think I loved about eating in Bangkok. You do not need to pay taxes. What a relief to be able to pay for exactly what you eat, also that almost all of these places offered free wifi. Sipping on some fresh juiceOn our way we could not stop having a few tall glasses of freshly made fruit juice.
By the time we were back in the hotel it was 11:00 am and were allowed an hour early check-in.
Chao Phraya River ride:
Chao Phraya River
Chao Phraya River
At the hotel we all took a quick one hour nap while the other was in the shower, that way we had our share of power nap while utilizing the time. We were ready in sometime and also set to explore the traditional side of Bangkok, also referred to as Old Bangkok. We asked the hotel receptionist for directions around old Bangkok, and they were really helpful to guide us with all necessary details and a map.
And we took off, admiring the many shops on the way and after making our self a quick coffee and ready to eat noodles easily available in the departmental store. Within 10 minutes of walking we reached the Chao Phraya River side. The hotel guys were so helpful in advising us to not take a tuk-tuk (local 3 wheeler transport) which would cost us around 100-150 thai baht, and instead go via the quickest and cheapest transport, the ferry which hardly cost ur around 10 thai baht. Not only that the ferry ride is too beautiful. The river side if full of big fishes which is amusing to watch.
Feeding some ferocious fishes in the river
Feeding some ferocious fishes in the river
Imagine yourself in a ferry and any direction you see there is heritage and tradition and the culture of the Bangkok. The ride itself seems like an attraction. One of the local guys helped us identify the ferry with a reddish orange flag as the one that would take us.
Old Bangkok:
20141127_162822

 20141127_161619

Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha @ Wat Pho
Old Bangkok is mesmerizing with architecture that is intricate and colourful. Old Bangkok is house to most of the famous attractions like, the Grand Palace, the inspiring beauty of Wat Phra Kaew, the traditional learning centres Wat Pho and Wat Mahathat, the latter widely considered one of Thailand’s first universities and a centre for meditation. Sanam Luang, a historic park next to the Grand Palace traditionally used for important Royal or Buddhist ceremonies, and the National Gallery. We deboarded from our ferry at the Grand Palace.
Grand Palace is an epitome of wonderful thai architecture. Its intricate detailed work and maintenance is commendable. It still hosts important ceremonies today. After Grand Palace we headed to Wat Pho.
 Wat Pho or better known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha is a must visit just to witness the magnitude and massiveness of the place. Please be aware that all these places have strict dressing rules, women are required to not wear short or revealing clothes. Although Wat Pho has the arrangement of a robe incase you are not dressed appropriately for the place. But yet it is advised to either carry a cover up change or clothes like we did as advised to us by the receptionist or be dressed in not revealing clothes. You are also required to take off your shoes before entering. What strikes the most about the place is the massiveness of the reclining Buddha. The figure is 15 metres tall, 46 metres long, so huge it would make you wonder how it even got inside the building. The Buddha’s feet are 5 metres long and decorated in mother-of-pearl illustrations of auspicious ‘laksanas’ (characteristics) of the Buddha. 108 is a significant number, referring to the 108 positive actions and symbols that helped lead Buddha to perfection.* The rest if the area too is big enough and worth taking a walk through. There are many English speaking guides but I felt its better to gain knowledge about the place online than waste 200-400 TB unnecessarily.
While these 2 attarctions were on one side of the river, the next place Wat Arun was on the opposite side of the river. We again took the cheapest and quickest way out to the other side of the river by the ferry at 3TB, it opposite to Wat Pho. Make sure to keep Wat Arun at the end of the list since it looks stunning during sun-set when it lights up. When we arrived it was still sunlight. Same dressing rules apply.
Wat Arun: Temple of the Dawn
Wat Arun: Temple of the Dawn

Wat Arun is not only beautiful but adventurous too. The Temple has a unique structure and architecture. As you start climbing up the stairs of the temple the stairs start becoming steeper and steeper, and the stairs gets narrower. It does get scary at the heighest point, we did muster up the courage to climb up but trust me looking down the stairs was pretty scary. There is a railing to hold onto for sure, I would suggest don’t miss the climb. BY the time we got down, it was just about sunset, as we made ourself comfortable on the lawn on the banks on river Chao Phraya, the temple lit up. It was so inspiring as symbolic to us to be present there to watch it light up against the setting sun.

Wat Arun bu the evening..Gorgeous sight!
Wat Arun bu the evening..Gorgeous sight

After we were done soaking in so much tradition and beauty of Thai architecture and culture we knew it was time to enjoy the night-life. Since the ferry services last only till around 7:30 pm we had to make a quick chase to get back to Khao San via ferry, we were lucky to get onto the last ferry. The river ride is even more beautiful at night with the spires of the Thai architecture lit up all around. We go of and headed towards Khao San. Its transforms into a different place at night. Unlike morning it was bustling with energy and tourists of all kinds and places. The energy is infectious that it gets onto you. After an entire evening of walking and climbing we settled down for an obvious foot massage, very easily available at evry 10 minutes distance. Trust me the foot massage acted like an energy bar for me. As it it took away all the exhaustion. We set off to explore almost the entire stretch of Khao San, it has amazing clubs and eatries. We tried the local pad thai noodles and must say it was cooked to perfection.

20141127_201348 You can also find many vendors selling fired crickets, flies, scorpions, cockroach, but incase you are 20141127_201404not a fan of fried insects you can click a picture of them or with them for 5-10 THB. Now that’s business!

20141127_225102
Sea food platter! YUM!
20141127_212616
Street side delicious street side noodles

You can see restaurants, bars, clubs of all sizes, colors and styles, and most of them seem pretty inviting with great continental or local thai cuisine. Indian food is usually expensive there. For shopping I would suggest this is not the best place as its on the more expensive side. Shopping for souviniers is easy though as bargaining is possible. With this we ended our one day in Bangkok, we made the most of it and loved every bit of it.

Stay tuned for our next blog entry on the other side of Bangkok.
Home