I must admit, there is some truth to the maxim one of my friends keep telling me – that “the amount of blog posts has an inverse relationship to how interesting your life is” – however in an attempt at not making that entirely true, I’ve got some blog posts coming up now even as my life is quite interesting indeed!
So, to start off, I’d figure that I post a bit of my backlog of travel pictures & places. As I wrote previously, during christmas I traveled to Bodhgaya and Varanasi, two holy places for buddhists and hindus respectively.
In my first post about Bodhgaya, I might have been a bit irreverent in describing it as a buddhist Disney Land, but that was indeed how it felt when arriving. Even after spending a couple of days there, I couldn’t quite shake that feeling, meaning that I mostly walked around with a bemused smile at all the various foreigners, buddhist monks, asian tourists and backpackers congregating.
The “Buddhist Disney Land” also showed it’s “underbelly” now and then – whether it was through 12 year old boys offering sexual services (clearly something they’re used to foreigners buying there) to fake schools that similarly aged boys would bring tourists in order to solicit donations. Main attraction however is not that (I hope), but rather the temples, with the big Mahabodi-temple next to the bodhi-tree being the greatest landmark. This temple was apparently built in 5th and 6th century, but the site was largely left to it’s own devices after the region was controlled by Islamic rulers from 12th century or so up until the British arrived.
After having chilled out in the city, eating Tibetan bread and hummus, for the first two days, I eventually ventured out of the city to the caves where Buddha medidated as an asketic for long years. Sure, there’s something special about visiting a place I remember fantasizing about when reading about buddhism as an 11-year old, though, in the end, the cave itself wasn’t at all as nice as the ~10 km rural walk to and from the main road (a walk most people miss as they come in tourist busses / go by rickshaws). I had planned on catching the sunset from the caves until I realized that this after all still is Naxal territory and described by local municipality as ‘unsafe’ post-sunset.
Back in Bodhgaya after my excursion, I managed a visit to the last temple (Myanamar) that I hadn’t seen. Starting after independence, it has become a trend for buddhist countries to each build temples in Bodhgaya, in honor of Buddha as well as to host the many pilgrim’s arriving. Each temple styled in national custom, temple-hopping becomes an interesting review of temple-styles across east Asia (see if you can guess all the temple styles from the pictures!).