Tag Archives: temple

The old capital: Kandy

Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka and the last capital of the ancient King’s era. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988, this is where the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic – one of the most sacred places in the Buddhist world – is. With a large lake in the centre of the city, and surrounded by beautiful hills with lush vegetation, Kandy is also quite different from the rest of Sri Lanka I visited.

"Sri Lanka" Kandy
Kandy

With a lot of time on my hands, I decided to explore the city at slow pace and savour what it had to offer. Starting from the central market. I am totally fascinated by markets and their energy, and spend hours just watching people selling food of any sorts. The market in Kandy was colourful, full of life and chaotic, as you would expect. I loved it.

Next was the lake, which is artificial and was created in 1807. I walked its whole perimeter, stopping every now and then to take photos. The nicest view is from its northern end, and one late afternoon I sat there for a long time waiting for sunset and hoping in an amazing one. It wasn’t amazing but the view over the lake was stunning anyway.

But the main draw in Kandy is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, or Sri Dalada Maligawa, which houses the relic tooth of the Buddha. Built in the 17th and 18th century, and partially reconstructed after the bombings in 1998, the entire temple complex includes the main temple and several other shrines, covering a large area – I spent over 2.5 hours exploring it all.

As you leave the temple area, do not miss the opportunity to discover more of this city: at the Kandy Cultural Centre you will have the opportunity to see artists in action, while walking the side streets in the city centre is an opportunity to see some nice local shops and observe street life!

A visit to Kandy is not complete without watching an evening performance of Kandyan Dance, characterised by elaborate costumes, amazing dance moves and show-stopping stunts. There are three venues for this, and I chose the Kandy Lake Club as it was supposed to have the best costumes. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Check the photos out.

Dambulla: Cave Temple and markets

Dambulla, in central Sri Lanka, has the largest and best preserved cave temple complex of the whole country. Known as the Dambulla Cave Temple or the Golden Temple of Dambulla, it is made of around 80 caves, although only 5 of them are open to the public. Built at the base of a 160m-high rock, these caves have been converted into shrine rooms and contain statues and paintings related to Buddha and his life. There are a few statues of reclining Buddhas, up to 15m-long, as well as statues of standing and seating Buddhas. The whole complex is quite impressive and in 1991 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But there is more to discover in Dambulla than the world-renowned cave temple! This town also hosts the largest wholesale produce market of Sri Lanka, something that wouldn’t usually appear on a tourist wishlist but is actually a great place to see and photograph people. I spent over an hour there, going from feeling quite shy at the start (hundreds of men were staring at me as I walked around huge vegetable bags and trucks and started taking photos) to being pulled here and there as some workers really wanted to feature in my pictures! I ended up having really good laughs with some of them.

So allocate some time to Dambulla in your Sri Lanka trip, either as a stopover or as a daytrip from Sigiriya, and you won’t be disappointed!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dialogue

A dialogue between two cities (London and Luang Prabang) via their most common forms of public transport and places of worship.

Featuring in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Split Second Story

Walking past a Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang in the early morning offered some unusual opportunities to document the monks’ lives.

Featyuring in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.

Luang Prabang: not only temples

Since 1995 Luang Prabang, in the north of Lao, has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its high concentration of beautiful Buddhist temples mixed  with European-style colonial buildings.LaoPhotogallery_025

Located at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, Luang Prabang is a charming town and very easy and pleasant to walk around. When I visited the unbearable heat after 10:30am was not ideal for sightseeing, yet other options were available for the rest of the day.

So here’s my random list of things to do/see in Luang Prabang:

  • If you visit at mid-April, be prepared to get soaked in the New Year celebrations (see my blog post here).
Buddhist temples
Buddhist temples
  • Visit some Buddhist temples: there are many beautiful ones but definitely not to miss are: Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Mai.
  • Pop into the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre: they have very interesting displays and information about ethnic groups in Lao.
Old Quarter in Luang Prabang
Old Quarter in Luang Prabang
  • Stroll along the streets in the Old Quarter and enjoy the colonial architecture.
  • Wake up at dawn for the Alms giving ceremony (see my blog post here).
  • Visit the Royal Palace/National Museum: probably not the most interesting I have ever seen, but worth an hour of your time.
The National Museum
The Royal Palace, now National Museum
  • Cross the bamboo bridge over the Nam Khan river and go for a stroll in the village on the other side. Then stop at the Dyen Sabai restaurant and chill with a drink while enjoying a view over the river and the surroundings.

    The bamboo bridge over the Nam Khan river
    The bamboo bridge over the Nam Khan river
  • Go to the Library and buy some books for the children in the villages. This is in collaboration with Lao Kids. You may also find students or monks who want to practice their English. (You can do the same at Big Brother Mouse, whose presence is all over the internet. I went there too but I preferred the Library).
  • See a performance of traditional Ramayana dance. During the New Year celebrations there were free performances every day. During the rest of the year, shows are on at the Royal Palace complex.
  • When it’s too hot, go to the swimming pool. La Pistoche is the place to be for both tourists and locals. Nice place for a day of splashing and chilling!
  • When you have exhausted all options above, there are dozens of spa/massage places where you can get pampered for an hour or two at superlow cost. I had a great one-hour foot massage for US$5!

And now you can enjoy more Luang Prabang photos!

A visit to the Marble Mountains

AKA: the ascent to heaven is best not done wearing flip flops.

The Marble Mountains are marble and limestone hills located between Hoi An and Da Nang, about 20Km from Hoi An. You can visit them independently, and reach them by motorbike/xe om/ local bus, but I chose the lazy option and joined a tour. Lucky enough I was the only person on it, so had a private guide and driver for half a day!

So, back to the Marble Mountains: there are five of them and they are also called the Mountains of the Five Elements (water, metal, fire, wood, and earth).  They are of great importance to the Vietnamese and are dotted with Buddhist and Hindu temples and pagodas.VietnamPhotogallery_079
They were also a base for Viet Cong fighters during the  war.

Nowadays the most visited peak is the Water mountain – Thuy Son – which is also the tallest.
After visiting a couple of cave pagodas there, my guide told me that we would follow the path to heaven and led me to the very top of the mountain through narrow, slippery and steep tunnels. Caving and rock climbing in flip flops!
(Now I know how I will go to heaven, I thought at some point…).

Climbing out of a vertical tunnel
Climbing out of a vertical tunnel

When I reached the top I felt like I had climbed the Everest! This was also an opportunity for lots of photos of the coast and the other four mountains.

I also visited the largest and most impressive cave on the Water mountain (Huyen Khong cave), where a huge Buddha statue towers over everything and stalactites resemble animals and human faces. Sunlight streams enter the cave from the roof, and create a very dramatic atmosphere.

Inside the Huyen Khong Cave
Inside the Huyen Khong Cave

The Marble Mountains are also famous for their stone engraving activities, although marble now comes from other areas of Vietnam instead of being extracted locally. Several souvenir shops located at the base of the mountains will try to sell you marble objects of any sorts, the most popular being the “Happy Buddha”. Rubbing its belly supposedly brings good luck!

And no, I didn’t buy one but under my guide’s advice I made sure that I gave a good belly rub to one of the big Buddha statues on the Water mountain :-).

The Happy Buddha
The Happy Buddha