The Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic has affected lives all over the globe, including ours and millions of people wishing to travel and visit iconic travel locations and wonderful destinations.
While the pandemic definitely had the most devastating impact on informal economies (particularly “no work, no pay” jobs and hand-to-mouth income brackets), the global aviation and tourism industry has also taken the economic brunt.
To get us through our collective travel deprivation despair, here’s some iconic travel locations (some quite obvious and some less known) you might want to add to your post-pandemic “revenge travel” bucket list (or even “religious places to visit”, as it turns out) once we take to the skies as borders reopen and the world is safe again.
Yep, today is a personal post. I mean, of course, everything I share with you on this travel blog is from my personal experience but this one is different. It’s my birthday blog post! Today, I turn 26 and to commemorate the completion of my quarter life (assuming of course that I live to 100 years), I would like to share with you my 25th year in travel.
In my CouchSurfing profile, I shared that one of the most amazing things I have seen in my entire life is the sunrise at Mt. Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas. Mt. Kangchenjunga is the 3rd highest mountain in the world at 8,586m (28,169ft).
No, I did not climb Mt. Kanchenjunga but I watched the sunrise from the Tiger Hill in Darjeeling, a popular tea estates tourist spot, in West Bengal, northeast India. Darjeeling has an average elevation of 2,050m (6,710ft). Tiger Hill in Ghoom, where you can find the world’s highest railway station, is about 11kms from Darjeeling.
In order to see the sunrise at Kanchenjunga, Julie (my VSO co-vol, friend and travel buddy in India) and I had to wake up at bloody 3:30AM at an “I-don’t-know-how-cold-nut-I’m-freezing” temperature! Being in India for a while by then (October, 7 months in!), we didn’t really expect them to be serious about the pre-arranged shared jeepney to Tiger Hill, the viewing point, to go by 4:00AM! But yes, they did and even called us up before 4 to make sure we were on our way.
With the number of shared jeeps, vans, cars and other vehicles heading that way—there’s like about 200 vehicles at the parking lot and that’s a conservative count—the traffic was really bad especially when it was already nearing Tiger Hill.
Upon alighting, we were told to just go to the ticket booth to pay for the Rs 10 entry fee to the hill’s “viewing deck” area. Since we thought we could rough it out anyway, Juls and I decided not to go for the extra Rs 20- and Rs 30-rupee tickets for the viewing deck that’s inside a taller building.
We joined the multitude of jacket- and sweater-clad (sometimes with bonnets too coz it’s too freaking cold!) of local and foreign tourists first on the right side of the building for an earlier view of the sunrise, you know, ala-Breaking Dawn!
I thought that was it! That we were unlucky to see Mt. Kanchenjunga because it’s too cloudy! But I was wrong! Because, the sun’s rays are to hit Kanchenjunga in the opposite side of the viewing deck. Juls was the one who saw it just when we were about to walk down!
Forgive the photo quality here (click to enlarge; I can give you original resolution ones if you’d request) but I assure you, the white snow-capped mountain peaks of Kanchenjunga turning into varied hues of orange is indeed a sight to behold.
It was an amazing moment for me. Like, really amazing. It’s not everyday that we get the chance to witness a natural beauty, some say a testament of God’s gift to humanity, and be blessed with the feeling of a better day unfolding before our eyes, sharing it with strangers from all walks of life. Sunrise at Mt. Kanchenjunga is amazing, isn’t it?
After the sunrise,I think Juls and I descended from the main viewing deck and found our way to the shared jeepney. Yes, the day has just begun as the Rs 150 tour is good for three points of interest in Darjeeling (Tiger Hill, Ghoom Monastery, and Batasia 360 degree loop), stories of which I will tell in my next posts.
For now, I leave you with memories of my time with Mt. Kanchenjunga and experiencing cloud 9, perhaps figuratively and literally! Happy wandering!
I first read about Buddha and Nirvana when I was in high school. Or at least that’s what I remember. But all I used to remember was this prince who meditated so hard that he became enlightened. No, don’t blame my teachers. It’s probably due to my lack on general interest for history at the time.
It was only when I traveled to Bangkok as part of my Backpacking South East Asia in 2011 that I had my first real encounter with Buddha, Buddhism and Nirvana.
Of course, I am not saying that I know a lot. But I think I know enough to say that I think the teachings of Buddhism (at least the ones I heard of) ring true, even today. Or, perhaps, especially today.
But anyway, this post is not really about Buddhism and Nirvana in the religious sense. More of in a historical and artistic note I think. You see, I have seen several versions of Buddha’s Sleeping Position (reclining for some) as he enters Nirvana–from golden statues to simple stone form to massive temple-sized carving.
I don’t know if it differs based on the sects or schools of Buddhism but one thing is for sure—all of these show the Buddha in a rested and peaceful state. I guess Nirvana really is enlightening. Or something like that. So, below are some of the Buddha’s Sleeping Positions that I have seen from different countries and states.
And, as bonus, I also included here a photo from the 4th Generation Bodhi Tree at the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India. It is under the ancestors of this Bodhi Tree that Buddha was said to have attained enlightenment and entered the Nirvana.
Of course, I will be a liar if I’d say that I reached Nirvana or was “enlightened” in the same sense that Buddha did but I did feel great, as in kind of at peace, when I went to Bodh Gaya with my co-volunteers. Maybe someday, you can try it for yourself too.
If you want to visit the Mahabodhi Temple Complex and the other Buddhist temples at Bodh Gaya, you need to get in at Gaya Jn train station in Bihar and take a shared (Rs 20) or hired auto-rickshaw (tuktuk, Rs 150) or taxi (about Rs 500-700 at night). Leave a shoutout if you need more info. You can also read on our experiences or see more temples and activities (esp monks) at Bodh Gaya. If you really want to, you can also watch my videos/playlist for the Bodh Gaya trip.
Life is short so take a leap of faith. Let’s wander, explore and discover. Come and journey with me.