Sunday, December 16, 2007

9 December 2007 - Kuala Lumpur

Arrived KL right on time. I felt a little sad but at the same time a big relief. We have done it again and this time I felt a good sense of accomplishment as we went to many places that were not covered in past trips. As in all trips there were some challenges along the way but it did not have much impact on the trip.

With the end to the trip, I suddenly felt tiredness, not in the physical sense. Hmmm it's time to take a look at Nepal again. 2008 - Nepal it will be.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

8 December 2007 - Delhi

While the group of 10 left for Agra in the wee wee hours of the morning (3.00am), the remaining 4 (Sue, Linda, LSW and SF) roamed the streets of Manju Tilla. Not that there was much roaming on that one street colony. We had an appointment with Thrangu Rinpoche at 9.00am. We got news that he was staying at White House and managed to secure an audience with him. How lucky.

Lunch appointment with Aunty Sikkim. Her husband came to pick Linda, LSW and myself at 12.00pm to her posh restaurant, 15 minutes away from our 'haunt'. She took great efforts to prepare lunch for us and when we were done we asked for the bill. No, it was on the house. We refused profusely and we paid her INR500 (not sure if that was sufficient to cover the bill as the meal was really elaborate). I was very touched by her generosity.

Her husband sent us back and we just lazed around till 6.00pm where we headed for the airport to meet the rest of the group who were returning from Agra.

It's home run!!!!!

7 December 2007 - Delhi

The many times that I had been to India, I had always given Red Fort a miss. This time we made it there but I did not make it into the Fort as I was hijacked by some good shopping. Whilst the whole group went inside, Linda, Shawn and I chose to stay out as the outside interested us more than the inside. Ha ha ha. The irony was I stayed out to do some great shopping but ended up not buying anything. When the group came out after a hurried look around, they shopped till they dropped. Such good bargains. Don't believe me - go see for yourself.

We also went to Akshardam. Akshardam seemed different from the last time I visited. It had somehow lost some of its energies. It was so crowded and the souvenier shops were quite bare compared to year 2006.

6 November 2007 - Tsopema to Delhi

Had a very early breakfast at Emaho Cafe as we intended to pull out of Tsopema early. Lama Yeshe joined us for breakfast and gave us 'khatak' for a safe journey. Lama Jampal Dorje joined us for the bus ride to Delhi. It was another 16 hours bumpy ride. The crazy singing sessions were gone. It was replaced with Om Mani Padme Hung and the likes of that. hehehhehe.

Nearing Delhi we had a tyre puncture. It gave us time for some stretching and WC job

5 December 2007 - Tsopema

Rented 2 Qualis together with Richard's Innova we went up to Guru Rinpoche's caves. Spent about an hour or two, hanging lungthars with Jampal Dorje doing a small sur puja.

Then back to Drikung Monastery for lunch. After lunch we went to Mandarava Cave again, yes it was opened.

4 December 2007 - Dharamsala To Tsopema


Arrived Tsopema in the afternoon. Ontul Rinpoche was still away in USA and so was Ratna Rinpoche. We were whisked to our rooms, no hassle of registration hehehe. Linda, Shawn and I took a walk round the lake and as we passed Mandarava Cave we noticed it was still open. We peeped in and saw Ani-La. My karma has finally ripened as in all my previous trips I was never able to go into the cave as it was either closed for renovation or Ani-La was out. It was just three of us and Ani-La explained in great detail (in tibetan language ha ha ha) the story of Guru Rinpoche/Mandarava. She then quickly ushered us out asking us to circumambulate the lake before 8pm as she said after 8pm it will not be auspicious (with my little understading of tibetan or did I get the message right, I am not sure).

We haven't had such dinners for a long time. The food was great at the Drikung Cafe.

Friday, December 14, 2007

3 December 2007 - Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj

It's once again shopping time.

Entrance of His Holiness Dalai Lama's residence

2 December 2007 - Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj


Handicap Children's Home

His Holiness Karmapa's Monastery

1 December 2007 - Dehra Dun to Dharamsala

Very early morning drive to Dharamsala. We started our journey around 8.45am after all the farewells and photo taking sessions. Khenpo Samdup had breakfast with us and he gave us each a picture of Achi Drolma for our safe journey. Chen Cong Si saw us off and I kind of felt sad when the bus moved off.

Had lunch mid way where we bumped into a group of Malaysians (mostly Indians). They were on their way back from Shimla where according to them, was snowing. Arrived Dharamsala at about 3am on 2 December. The driver apparently lost his way and instead took a road that bumped us right through some tunnels and stone filled roads. I must say it was one of the MOST perilous journey of my life.

Checking into Pema Thang was effortless. Maybe because the person in charge that night was just as sleepy as we were. Good Night folks!!!!!!

30 November 2007 - Mussoorie

Another hill station just about less than an hour ride away from Dehra Dun. It is actually some kind of a honeymoon resort or where the rich goes for a spin.

The long and winding road

Pashmini shawls are cheap. The photo tells it all. And as if they had not shopped enough, they got Khenpo Samdup to bring them shawl shopping again in Dehra Dun that afternoon.

We also visited the Tibetan Clinic. They sell a host of things ranging from incense to medicine.

29 November 2007 - Dehra Dun

Arrived Dehra Dun around 10.00am. There was about an hour delay. We had our lunch at President Hotel. Just 3 doors away there was a McDonald. Yes yes yes!!!! Sue, Amy and Chan bought their burgers. And me too - I bought 2 vegetarian burgers and they tasted real good. Also bought some goodies ...... a packet of 'soh ta pang' (crackers) cost me INR85 (around RM8), a packet of Cadbury (INR120 - RM12), Marmite small bottle (RM15) etc etc. Aiyoh! the crackers ah made in Johore Bahru leh and it would have cost me around RM2.50 back home but what to do ..... sudah beli already. And without saying the choco would have cost around RM5 only.

After lunch we headed for Songtsen Library. Two to an apartment - a big clean room with bath with real good hot water & toilet, kitchenette and sitting hall.

Audience with Holiness at 3pm. Followed by H.E Thritsab Rinpoche, Togden Rinpoche and then Khenpos and Lamas etc. Whole day was spent visiting

28 November 2007 - Lucknow to Dehra Dun

Free and easy day. Did not wander far off from the hotel as the previous week there was a bombing case. Just across from our hotel there was a Himalaya shop. Toothpaste that will cost RM9 is only selling for about RM3.60. Linda, Shawn, LSW and myself sapu a fair bit of the stuff ranging from shampoo to toothpaste, cold and pain balm, facial scrub ....

This time we made it to the railway station in good time after that first bad experience in Delhi. Seen a COW in a railway station before??? This can only happen in India, I guess.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

27 November 2007 - Lumbini to Sravasti to Lucknow

Had another very early breakfast in hotel as we have to make it to Sravasti and then head on to Lucknow on the same day. Because of the bomb that went off in Lucknow a couple of days earlier, we did not want to take any chances. We had to forgo the stay at Sravasti.

Arrived Sravasti for lunch. After lunch headed straight for Jetvana Gardens, Angulimala Caves, etc. Then on to Lucknow. Had late dinner in Lucknow

26 November 2007 - Lumbini

To Lumbini Gardens in the morning. Things weren't the same as in previous year. It was kind of quiet and stall were getting less. After Lumbini Gardens, we rickshawed to Holiness' Monastery, Great Lotus Stupa. We hit right smack into their lunch/off hours and we were told the gates will be opened again at 2.00pm. It was only noon then. Started throwing names like we are from Ratnashri Center Malaysia etc etc. We asked to see Khenpo so and so and finally it worked. We were ushered in thru the back way as they did not want to be seem double standard as there were quite a number of people waiting to go in too. We were shown around and had tea with some lamas. We then adjourned to our favourite haunt for lunch - Peaceland.

After lunch, we went on to Kapilavastu. And faith would have it that we had a tyre puncture right in front of Bhante's temple. After paying our respects in the middle of the road and exchange of pleasantries we journeyed on to the kingdom of Buddha's father.

25 November 2007 - Kushinagar to Lumbini, Nepal

Morning went to visit Buddha's Mahaparinirvana Temple, then on to Matha Kuar and the surrounding temples. Lunch at Lotus Nikko Hotel. Lunch for a group of 14 cost INR4100 (RM400). A small bowl of soup cost RM8 and I had 3 bowls. They gave us the impression that it is limitless servings but for every bowl served, they charged us RM8. A night stay there cost around RM350 vs the one we stayed in RM150. So take note if you are travelling to that part - do not take more than 1 serving of soup hahahaha.

Left for Lumbini right after lunch. No problem at India/Nepal border except for a bribe of RM100 as I intentionally did not apply for visa for the group. The visa would have cost each person USD30 vs the RM100 for the 14 of us.

Massive jam at the other side of the border.

24 November 2007 -Varanasi to Sarnath to Kushinagar

Checked out of hotel early as we intended to make a hop over to Sarnath as it will be deemed as incomplete for a pilgrimage without visiting the place where Buddha preached his first sermon.

A temple was hosting an exhibition of the Buddha's relics that morning and we decided to try our luck. We were in line for almost an hour and we did not seem to be going anywhere so we decided to push off before the roads leading out of Varanasi were closed due to yesterday's bombing.

23 November 2007 - Varanasi

Stomach upset. Must be from yester's lunch at the mid way stop. Last night I 'throned' about 3 times. Decided to give the morning boat a miss as I did not want to risk of not finding a toilet in the midst of River Ganges.

Caught up with group for breakfast after their boat ride. They disembarked on the other side of Ganges to collect sand. And dear Uncle Chan actually jumped into the river to have a dip. Can't remember who but I think it was Linda who said that there were some corpses in the river that morning.

Suppose to be out of hotel for city sightseeing by 9.00am but because of the early wake up for the Ganges we decided to have an extra hour in the hotel. We went to the University of Varanasi, had a chai again another round of shopping. On the way to Sarnath we had a minor accident which stalled us for more than an hour and a half. They demanded from our bus operator INR51,000 for the damage. What damage? The car was hardly scratched. After one and a half hour of haggling, the price was reduced drastically to INR5,000. During that time we saw some police cars and ambulances racing passed us. Well, we thought it was the norm in Varanasi or rather all Indian cities. Little did we realise that during that time 3 bombs went off at the Court House killing 9 people. Hell broke lose in the traffic. Roads leading in and out of the city were clogged and after sitting in the bus for 15 minutes we did not move even an inch. We were advised to walk back to the hotel instead of heading for our lunch destination as all roads leading in and out of Varanasi had now been closed. Did not disclose this to the group as we did not want them to panic since we were already getting out of Varanasi the next day. But by evening all TV stations carried the news. Shawn's parents saw the news on Malaysian TV and they called to check on us. Lunch, dinner and everything else were done in the hotel.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

22 November 2007 - Bodhgaya to Varanasi

Mid way lunch. It's a plaza with no shops. Not joking!!!!!! There is an only eatery there and I suspect I had mild food poisoning from this lunch.
It's a rickshaw ride to the Ghats. Good experience for Shawn. I was worried for her safety but she told me she thoroughly enjoyed the ride. She loves adventure

Nostalgic! One would experience different sets of feelings while on a night boat ride and a morning ride. During the night one would see the burning of corpses. The size of the fire will depend on the financial capability of the next of kin.

21 November 2007 Nalanda & Rajgir

We started off very early in the morning to Nalanda. There were lots of sing-along sessions in the bus with Amy being the live wire. And of course they had their first experience of doing their wee wee job in the open. It was reallllly hilarious

Nalanda Group Photo

Aunty Por at Vulture's Peak. It was a long track down some stoney paths. Aunty Ah Kook had a fall on her bum. No worries, well cushioned.

Toilet jobs in India

20 November 2007 - Gaya/Bodhgaya

Good ole Gaya. A 30 seater bus picked the 14 of us and we were soon on our way to Bodhgaya. Lai, Linda and I were excited as we passed familiar sites. Soon we were at our hotel - Buddha International Hotel. A word of advice to fellow travellers- do not stay there. The toilets do not work, the doors creaked and your breakfast takes hours before you see it on the table.

Lai went with Deepak to the hotel we stayed over in 2006 but the rates were doubled from INR1,400 to INR2,800 so it was out of our budget. After breakfast we went to Mahaboddhi Temple. While the group were at the temple, Deepak, Lai and I went to check on Mahayana Guesthouse and we were so lucky to be able to secure 8 rooms. Originally they were fully booked. We moved out of Buddha International the very next day.

Mahaboddhi Temple was packed. It coincided with Kathina. Sangha and lay people from all sects gathered to do offering.

In previous years evenings were spent indoors at the hotel but this time round we visited the temple grounds. It was really enchanting.

19 November 2007 Delhi-Gaya

How can anyone sleep in India. The excitement was bursting in me wanting to walk the familiar streets of this tibetan colony. I can't tell how many times I have visited this place but each time I set foot at this place, it is like a wonderland come alive to me. I guess no one will be able to feel what I feel as this really comes from within.

Went to visit old friends at the colony - Aunty Sikkim, Tenzin, Drikung Uncles and at the same time hope to bump into familiar faces.

Deepak was suppose to come at 11.30am. Cold sweat burst when he did not show up by 12.30pm. We were suppose to catch our train to Gaya at 2.10pm. He finally showed up and we were packed into 2 separate cars to go to the station. To sum it all, it was so chaotic that we almost missed our train by just a minute or two but it was an experience well remembered and all were laughing and talking about it on the train. Amy trying to break the "human train", Aunty Por and Aunty Ah Kook trying to get across the wooden cart and someone whacking Linda's bum hahahha.

That's why I always tell my friends that every visit to India is different from another.

Monday, December 10, 2007

18 November 2007 Its India again - here we come

We gathered at KLIA as early as 3.30pm eventhough the flight was at 6.00pm. It's better to set everyone into that climate of punctuality.

I can't believe it!!!!! Look at all the luggage!!! And Chu even had a whole box of goodies. Amy and Chan had one luggage load of foodstuff. Of course I did not know it was a goody bag until much later when we were in India.
Arrived Delhi in good timing but by the time we reached Majnu-ka-tilla it was way past midnight. On arrival the tour leader, Deepak, had garlands of flowers for everyone. It was very welcoming