Tag Archives: China

Jokhang Temple, Lhasa – A Beautiful Journey to the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism

By Lakshmi:

No visit to Lhasa could be considered complete without a stop at one of the holiest sites in all of Tibet – the Jokhang Temple.

And so one morning, we headed out on a pilgrimage to the heart of Tibetan Buddhism.  As we approached the square housing the temple, we passed by many rows of shops that sold everything from prayer wheels and incense to mandala paintings and little statues.  This was so similar to the scene you encounter en route to a Hindu temple, with one slight difference that made us smile.  We saw Buddhist monks shopping for textiles and instead of walking on, we stood there just gawking at this trio, pretending to shop so we appeared discreet.

As we got closer we saw people throwing juniper leaves into huge clay burners, leading to the air smelling of juniper incense.  The smell was evocative of the scent of incense sticks at Hindu temples.  And what we saw next was identical to a scene I have experienced at many a temple since my childhood.  We saw adults, children, the elderly all prostrating repeatedly in front of the temple.  Some were doing it a few times, many several hundred or thousand times and a few for several days too.  This was indeed the best visual depiction of devotion.

After circumambulating the temple a few times, we walked in and encountered swarms of people smiling with warmth and genuineness towards us.  The children were enthralled by Sathya, since she was petite and they kept looking in her direction and smiling.  The Gods could not have extended a warmer welcome to us.

The temple was dimly lit with yak butter lamps and in this dimly lit space we saw many of the jewels.  The many paintings, the holy statue of Sakyamuni, statues of King Songtsem Gampo, Princess Wen Cheng and Princess Bhrikuti and of course the Dharma Wheel.  There was one other realization that dawned on us as we observed the swarm of faces dimly lit by the lamps…there was a look of genuine contentment painted across the spectrum, and any hardships or troubles that existed seemed lifetimes away within this place of worship.

We proceeded to the top from where we got some beautiful views of Barkhor Square and the throng of worshippers lining to come inside.

As we walked away from the temple towards another line of shops beyond the square, we were awakened into reality with a poster of Aishwarya Rai, the Indian movie actress.  And in the distance we heard hindi music playing.  But my spiritual journey was not yet complete.  It was completed when I saw and got a silver Tibetan Ganesha, the only one of its kind sitting at a table among the many Buddha statues.

To learn more about visiting the Jokhang Temple, click here:

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/tibet/lhasa-jokhang-temple

Marriott Sky City Hong Kong- A Peak Season Delight

Marriott SkyCity Hong Kong
(www.marriott.com)

By Siddhi: 

Staying at airport hotels has never been a part of the way we like to travel. We love getting a place, no matter how small it is, in the heart of the city so that we can walk out the front doors in the morning and be swallowed by a new life and new culture. Much of the thrill of adventuring has been in trying to live in the epicenter of all action. But sometimes, booking a hotel during peak seasons on a budget proves to be a very trying task. Especially when you’re in one of the most popular cities in the world around Christmas and New Year’s time.

Last December, after spending winter break in Tokyo, we decided to stop in Hong Kong before coming home because it has mutually remained one of our favorite cities in the world regardless of how many new places we experience. Hotel prices in the soul of the city were ludicrous. So we decided to stay at the Marriott Sky City, located just a few minutes away from the airport.

Sitting right on the banks of the stunning South China Sea that is geographically the touching stone of so many oriental landmarks, Sky City feels like a luxury resort on every level. An indoor pool, full service spa, expansive golf course, and tremendous gym with specialized amenities (it was my favorite part of the hotel. I could work out at three in the morning and watch the planes land gracefully in the distance against the nighttime lights) are only a few among the many perks of paying less during peak season and staying near the airport. The buffet breakfast (additional cost) at the SkyCity Bistro was very comprehensive and ensured a filling, uplifting start to long days of fun and exploration in Hong Kong.

Another highlight was the complimentary shuttle service to the Tung Chung MTR subway station, which was how we connected to the rest of the city. It’s about a 35-40 minute ride to Tsim Sha Tsui, the hub of all culture and action in Kowloon (and to this day one of my favorite places on the planet). The commute isn’t ideal, but time flies watching locals and observing the beautiful seascapes through the train windows.

If you’re not visiting Hong Kong during the peak holiday season, then try to look for a hotel near Tsim Sha Tsui. Deals surface constantly. But if you are visiting at a time when hotel prices are through the roof, consider staying close to the airport at Marriott SkyCity. It was worth every penny.

Proxies, Soap Operas, and Priorities: A Crucial Small Town Lesson

By Siddhi: 

The pixels of sand in my virtual hourglass fell tantalizingly slow as I sat at the edge of my black swivel chair.

Goddamn it, a voice of fatigue screamed weakly in my aching head. Just work, just this once.

After two minutes that had stretched out into infinity, the screen lived up to its sadistic tendencies.

“Error”.

It was the 38th proxy I had tried on a list of supposedly functioning sites that Yahoo Answers had so incompetently provided me. The final strand of my well-tested patience had been robbed by the woes of censorship.

I was in the village of Dalingshan, China. My father, who spends the majority of his time commuting back and forth from Dongguan, had invited me to spend a month with him as I helped teach English to local children.

The first week or so of the Facebook and Gmail deprived, small-town rural experience was certainly interesting. It forced me to actively hunt for alternate sources of entertainment and thrust my head on into a cultural hurricane I was totally unprepared to tackle. It was exciting.

But after the first seven days, Dalingshan had become the bane of my fifteen-year-old existence. What the hell was I supposed to do in this godforsaken place?

When my father was done with work, we would take his car into the greater regions of Dongguan to experience city life. This was a commercial hub that, aside from its Pizza Huts and Wal Marts that I must guiltily admit provided me with some comfort and signs of civilization, at least gave me something to do.

Every time we entered and exited Dalingshan, the letdown and euphoria that became instinctually attached to my desire to escape my rural confinements were accompanied by a rather amusing image.

Without fail, at six o’clock in the evening, a modest crowd would begin gathering around a rusty black television that sat on the floor of roadside shop. On the screen flashed the hazy images of a Chinese soap opera.  The first time I saw these locals flocking around the ancient TV set, I didn’t know whether I should revel in the cultural gathering or feel remorse towards their fairly disheartening circumstance.

By the time we returned to Dalingshan at about nine or ten at night, the size of the eager crowd would triple at the least. The people now occupied the space of three whole shops to look at that single screen. They laughed, they cried, they screamed. Some in genuine enthrallment with the fictional scenario unfolding in front of them. Others in drunken bliss. Regardless of why they were there, and I’m sure some came for reasons other than just the barely visible images on the TV, they came without fail. Every, single day. And during those few hours, they incarnated the spirit of humanity and an absolute, unadulterated willingness to live in the moment. In this case, with strangers, too.

The more frequently I saw this scene, the more my internet-less, boredom induced cynicism began to evolve into something more valuable. I didn’t know why those locals huddled around a soap opera struck a deep note with me until I removed myself from the moment and thought about where I came from.

I was a teenager from a well-to-do suburb of New Jersey. My town was continually ranked as one of the best places to raise a family in the US. We had one of the best school districts in the state and a ceaseless current of Ivy-bound overachievers who adorned our hallways with the gold medals of national accomplishment. Where else would you possibly want your kids to grow up?

Maybe in a place where families still eat dinner together. Maybe in a place where the concept of an uncompromising tradition of social gatherings is just as important as the numbers on the standardized test scores and transcripts. Maybe in place where people ,despite their respective problems and backstories, would come together and just live for a few hours.

Kind of like those people with the TV in Dalingshan. A town where people who had almost nothing more than the clothes on their skin and the smiles of their children found a way to make their individual relationships with the rest of the community a priority.

My proxy-less situation still tainted my immature 15-year-old perception of Dalingshan with the paints of routine drabness. But the image I took away from the experience is something that made me question the priorities of our goal-oriented society. And I seem to be remembering those people with the TV now more than ever.