Tag Archives: Buddha

The Great Buddha, Nara, 2016

We walked along the path to the one of the oldest gates in Japan. It was tall and made of faded wood. On the steps of the gate a deer stood defiantly as if it dare us to enter.

Inside the walls of the gate were huge wooden guardians on either side of the entryway, casting a watchful eye over all who passed through.

We headed down the steps and were confronted by a wall. Peeking through the slats of the gates, we could see a beautiful ordered green garden leading to an enormous white temple with dark wooden embellishments and golden horns on the roof.

On the other side of the gate was the largest incense holder I had ever seen where people were burning and praying.

We walked around the walls to the side entry gate, paid our fee and entered the garden.

Walking into the temple through the front entrance, I was immediately struck still in awe. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting it, or perhaps because it appeared to be trapped in a building that could barely contain its greatness, I was stumped by the largest Buddha I had ever seen in in my life. It was so overwhelming that not even photos could show just how big and amazing it was.

The main sitting Great Buddha was flanked by two bodhisattva statues in gold and two more guardians, one on each side; this time in stone.

We moved around the statues in an anti clockwise direction, continually being drawn back to the Great Buddha and it’s awesome size.

There was a model of the temple complex towards the back and a hole in one of the temple pylons that was the same size as one of the Great Buddha’s nostrils. Children were lining up to crawl through the hole which is said to guarantee enlightenment if you can fit.

On the way back out of the temple complex, my daughter wanted to burn some incense. I like to think it was to pay her respects to the greatness that we had just seen, but it was more likely because everyone else was doing it.

We left the temple complex, walked back through the park with the now snoozing deer, their bellies full of biscuits; through the small town and caught the train back to Osaka where we dined on traditional Okonomiyaki pancakes and Asahi; hoping that it wouldn’t be so long before we saw our friends again.

No more sight seeing and temples for us, nothing would have been able to top the Great Buddha at that point anyway, so it was off to Disneyland for a different kind of wonder.

Related posts: Nara, 2016Castle and shopping in Osaka, 2016Osaka, 2016Onsen in Nantan, 2016Markets and Manga in Kyoto, 2016Gion, Kyoto, 2016Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016Kyoto, 2016Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

Sigiriya and Dambulla, 2015

Sigiriya Rock was the next item on the agenda for our trip. My husband, daughter and I decided to give climbing the actual rock a miss in the midday heat and took a walk around the gardens instead.

The grounds were surrounded by a moat and contained many ramparts and water gardens with lily pads and lotus flowers. The view of Sigiriya Rock from the gardens was great and we bumped into the friendly Singaporean couple from Kandy again.

Dambulla Rock Temple turned out to be one of my favourite sites of the trip. The golden temple and golden Buddha at the foot of the mountain were large and shiny and there were lots of monkey families to keep us company on the walk up to the rock temple.

Dambulla is actually 5 caves built into the rock of a mountain with over 150 statues of Buddha. Overwhelming to say the least. The temple was whitewashed and quite striking on the outside. There was also a large sacred fig tree on the grounds with coloured flags twined in the branches.

The first cave was completely filled with a reclining Buddha and there was barely room to get in and see the statue. The second cave housed the great king and many sitting Buddha’s. There were even paintings of Buddha on the roof.

The third and fourth caves had stupas and Buddha’s in various poses. The last cave was one of the smallest and most dilapidated, but also the one I like the most- there was just something about the atmosphere in there.

After the walk back down, we stopped for lunch at the luxurious Thilanka, Dambulla on the recommendation of an uncle. The resort was isolated with a beautiful long pool and tennis courts. The food was tasty and it would have been nice to stay a few days in this little oasis, but alas, it was back on the road for us.

Related posts: Kandy, 2015Upcountry, 2015Ebony Springs, 2015Ella, 2015Mirissa, 2016Galle, 2015Cooler Colombo, 2015Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Kandy, 2015

Next stop in our road trip around Sri Lanka was Kandy. My parents, husband, daughter and I started with the main attraction first- the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic- said to house the tooth of Buddha.

The temple complex was large, vast and white washed. Part of the grounds weren’t even open to the public. We had to wear sarongs to enter where brightly coloured lotus flower offerings were for sale. There were lots of school children visiting in groups and many stupas.

Intricately carved stone made up the floor of the entry which was next to elephants on the walls and the temple itself was surrounded by a moat. The tunnelled ceilings were painted beautifully. The main area in the middle of the temple that held the tooth was carved in wood with elephant tusks at the closed door.

Upstairs was a room full of more permanent offerings, like gold leaved trees. The Audience Hall next door was an impressive structure with many pillars with designs carved into them.

The temple was located next to the lake- a beautiful blue green oasis in the middle of the busy city. We had lunch at the newly renovated Olde Empire Hotel and met a lovely couple from Singapore. We went shopping and found retro buses renovated and painted artfully.

We stayed up the hill at the Serene Grand Hotel with signs all over the balcony doors to keep them locked due to monkey activity. And they were not joking. We watched a few of the cheekier ones ransack a room in the neighbouring hotel after moving a chair on the balcony and opening the door to get in. The views of Kandy and the lake from up here were beautiful.

My daughter’s favourite thing about Kandy was the cultural show. With fast moves and many different costume changes for each region in Sri Lanka, it kept her entertained from start to finish. There was the peacock dance, the many different types of drummers, the fire dance, the witch and the masked man. The show ended with fire walking.

Related posts: Upcountry, 2015Ebony Springs, 2015Ella, 2015Mirissa, 2016Galle, 2015Cooler Colombo, 2015Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Singapore, 2013: Part 1

When my daughter was 8 months old, I took her on our first trip without my husband to Singapore. My friend Cynthia had just moved there and she had a daughter the same age, plus a live in helper called Rosie, so I figured all I had to do alone was make it through the 9 hour flight.

The flight turned out to be fine and when we arrived my daughter made herself at home right away playing with Cynthia’s daughter, all her toys and one of the cats that dared to come close enough.

I borrowed a pram and we set off to see the city starting with Chinatown and the peaceful Temple of the Tooth. I loved the garden with so many little Buddha’s in the red walls and the cheap vegan restaurant downstairs was a favourite of Cynthia’s.

In the afternoon we cooled off with a swim in the pool of the apartment block that Cynthia lived in with her partner, Tony. Looking after two little girls of the same age turned out to be not so hard as sleep times, meal times and bath times could all be done together.

One night we all got dressed up for dinner and went to East Coast Park for chilli crab. It was delicious. For lunch the next day we headed into town to catch up with mutual friends Karen and Mitch for Ramen. Tony worked at Google and had us over to the all you can eat cafeteria at his office for lunch on another day where you could get anything you wanted from seafood to ice cream. There are so many good places to eat in Singapore that the possibilities were endless.

My daughter did us a favour by sleeping through a shopping trip where I stocked up on all my H&M goodies. When she did finally wake, she found her first changing room experience interesting- mirrors always seem to be a hit.

I was keen to visit Haw Par Villa as I had been there as a child when it was called the Tiger Balm Gardens. Although parts of it were falling into disrepair, it was still colourful and interesting. My favourite part was the dragon mural wall and the white lady on the lake fountain.

Related posts: Singapore, 2012: Old vs New, Singapore, 2012: Part 1, Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1998, It’s an Asia Thing

It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

It’s the people, it’s the place.

Welcoming faces.

Tasty tropical mangosteens.

Unrivaled hospitality.

Old colonial leftover hotels with kamikaze cocktails.

The locals love for children.

The lethargic heat.

Respect for the ferocity of the sea.

Whitewashed walls and stupa’s.

Joy and jubilation mixed with enthusiasm.

Busy bustling markets.

An easy going attitude.

Short eats and orange Kandos chocolate.

The way that everyone wants to do something for you.

The cool breeze and beautiful clear blue water of the Indian ocean.

The acceptance of the foreigner.

A peaceful temple oasis in the busy city.

Where the locals go.

Their willingness to go above and beyond.

Members only clubs.

The genuine wish to make your trip better.

Homemade margarita’s and little girls dresses.

Their sense of humour and camaraderie after years gone by.

A fortress by the sea.

Polite service staff.

Fancy restaurants in renovated dutch hospitals.

Their persistence and patience.

Orderly school children walking in a line.

Dining on the beach with the added danger of the strong swirling currents of high tide rising.

A Rastafarian brothers greeting.

Listening to the crashing waves as you drift off to sleep.

Early morning exercisers and sunset surfers.

Palm trees aplenty.

The familiar tune of green sleeves as the bread seller passes by.

Friendly tuk tuk drivers.

The largest roti in the world made while you wait.

The elephant on the side of the road and the monkey on your balcony.

Crashing waterfalls.

Dogs with a death wish daring elaborately decorated trucks.

Windy climbing roads.

Their craziness about cricket.

Hillsides of tea above rocky rivers.

Tranquility, peace and quiet.

Flower sellers following you up and down mountains for a sale.

Showing me what is not in the guide book.

Speciality hand rolled white tea.

Cooling afternoon rains

Egg hoppers and fresh coconut sambol.

A private tea taste testing.

That Singaporean couple we bumped into 3 times before we finally exchanged details.

Stone crafted to look like wood.

Drinking out of coconuts.

Dizzy display of Kandian dancing.

150 Buddha’s in a cave.

Feeding an elephant and then watching the herd bathe.

Seafood platters and long island ice teas.

It’s all this and more.

Thanks to all my family in Sri Lanka for making my family trip a delight. Hope to see you all again sooner rather than later.

Related posts: Sri Lanka, 1998, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994 , What’s your obsession

Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994

In 1994, my parents and I joined the Holsinger Reunion Trip to Sri Lanka. My mum was technically a Berenger, not a Holsinger, but I am sure we are related somewhere down the line. Not that this really matters anyway as anyone Sri Lankan and older than you is considered an aunt or an uncle.

We all wore yellow t-shirts with green writing that said “Hollies Reunion 94”on our trip around the country. I met lots of cousins from England, Australia and Sri Lanka and we had lots of parties. The young cousins and the older aunts all put on dance and acting shows of varying skill levels. Mum joined the “I Will Survive” dancing number and my cousin and her father sang to “Unforgettable.”

Being 16 at the time, I remember being very angry that my mum wore a red dress to the reunion ball when she knew I was wearing that colour too. We all spent Christmas together and New Year’s Eve at a house on a lake where we had dinner at 2am because the Lankans like to get maximum drinking time in before they eat.

In Colombo, we saw the Sri Lankan cricket team practicing on the next field when we played our reunion cricket match.

There were monks, a big white Buddha, dancers and monkeys in Kandy. Dad and I were the only ones brave enough to have a snake on our shoulders at a rest stop where we drank out of coconuts.

We went to the Pinawela elephant orphanage and saw the lion’s paws and rock frescos at Sigariya. We visited the buddas at Polonnaruwa and the temples at Anuradhapura. We went to Dambulla rock temple where we saw many colourful buddas in a cave.

At the beach, I swam in the deepest water I can ever remember swimming in and we stayed at the Tangalle Bay Hotel which was shaped like a ship.

Upcountry, we stayed at Loinorn tea estate which my uncle was managing. (He now has Ebony Springs). My family are Sri Lankan burghers, so they had a driver, a cook and a servant who looked after me when I was sick. The estate had a big house, a rock fresh water swimming pool and lots of tea hills to explore. They also had a golden retriever called Goldie who liked to sit around with her legs out like a seal. We got a personal tour of the Bogowana tea factory and I climbed Adam’s Peak at dawn.

We went to The Hill Club in Nuwara Eliya which was run by another uncle and visited family in Negombo.

On the way back to Australia we went to Malaysia with my aunt, uncle and two cousins.

In Kuala Lumpur we saw an orangutan smoking the Asian way in the zoo.

There was great food and good shopping in Malacca. Years later, I still regretted not buying silver sunflower ring that I found there.

We took a day boat trip to Pulau Kapas. We couldn’t afford to eat at the resort on the island so we sat on the beach and listened to their stereo system which played Ace of Base all day instead.

Related posts: England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, Travel rememberings, I first started travelling