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.
The Me Nam Chao Phraya is a major river in Thailand, even referred to as the River of Kings. On my second day in Bangkok, during my Rattanakosin Island walkabout, I ended up in a plaza across Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) where the Chao Phraya river has overflowed, swallowing most of the benches by the riverbanks. If you remember the flooding in Bangkok and Thailand in October 2011, you wouldn’t think that the overflow from the calm Chao Phraya River can be the cause for severe flooding in many of the provinces and its capital city. This photo, taken the next day when I explored Bangkok outside of Rattanakosin, was when I took the Chao Phraya Express Boat so I can have a closer look at some of the sights I have missed! Also coz I’m so cheap to buy the dinner river cruise ticket. Hehe 🙂 We passed under the towering Industrial Ring Road Bridge or officially, the Bhumibol Bridge, named after King Bhumibol Adulyadej (apparently, naming bridges after Kings is customary). By the time I left Bangkok the day after, the city was already frantic trying to prepare for the floods — communities passing and arranging sandbags, construction of 2-feet cemented walls by their homes’ doors, diversion of traffic in some areas. Although the Chao Phraya River caused misery to many Thai people, the River of Kings remain to be an important part of their daily lives — either for agriculture, trade or transport. I hope measures, by government and the communities, are being taken so that the October flooding won’t happen to Bangkok or to Thailand again.
Phuket was my 8th city/province in my 6-county 12-city South East Asia backpacking tour of four weeks back in October 2011. Of the entire time, I’ve only actually been in the beach (as in, in the water or the islands) twice. Viking Cave was part of the one-day island hopping tour of some Ko Phi Phi (or was it Phi Phi Leh) islands in Phuket, which looked so much like El Nido in Palawan. Although we didn’t really go into the Viking Cave (we were on a BIG boat for like 90 or so people), the scene just got my attention. I actually called it shipwreck cave coz of the bamboo structure in the facade. Only while reading Matt Smith’s Blog did I learn that it’s actually a platform where the “guardian” of the cave stays during he entire month that he watches over the nests of swiftlets, the highly-valued resident birds of the cave. He also shared that it was called Viking Cave because of the painting of ships in the cave’s walls. If you want to take a word tour of Viking Cave, you should visit his site.>
Bangkok is known here in the Philippines, and perhaps in many other countries, as a place to do your bargain shopping. Little do people know that it is in Bangkok where they will be introduced to Buddhism, whether it was their intention or not. As for me, I think Bangkok was my first official Buddhist induction—with Khao San Road, the backpackers mecca where I stayed (well, the next street), and Rattanakosin Island (as in the tourist area) being very Wat (temple) sections of Bangkok.
Don’t worry though, as being overloaded with Buddhism and Thai architecture is something that you should look forward to. I think the Buddhism and IndoChina-rooted/based architecture, religious and cultural heritage is something that is very different from other countries, especially the Philippines. So, without further ado, I give you an overview (so as not to spoil your personal discovery) of what Bangkok is beyond shopping. These photos were selected among the hundreds I took while walking from Thanon Khao San towards the tourist sites of Rattanakosin Island.
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.