The Khali Temple in the Khalighat section of Kolkata, India. I was here with my friend Subroto who was showing me the area. This is also where Mother Teresa’s home for the Dying Destitute is located. And it’s also where you can find Bhola The Goat. Yes, this goat is named Bhola, and he is cared for by the people of the temple.
Up until now I’ve never seen anything quite like Bhola. He seemed larger than your average goat with personality to go with his size.
He’s apparently well known around here. Not only for his size and presence, love the henna died coat, but also for his tricks. His handler wanted to show his moves to us.
We were told he is well cared for and is considered almost sacred by the temple. It’s a miracle in itself considering they sacrifice his brother goats there to the God Khali all the time.
He must be well cared for. What goat would want to do this unless there’s something in it for him. Oh and I was told he likes whisky. Maybe that’s why he’s so cooperative and also because he knows he’s always close to death’s door.
These men who came by know Bhola and some of his bad habits like smoking. Yes apparently he likes smoking too, at least someone taught him how to. But today it looks like he’s only interested in eating cigarettes not smoking them, which can’t be good either.
The whole point of this story? Only in India is it possible to see a very famous temple, a home for the dying started by a saint to be and a smoking, whisky drinking goat that can do tricks all in the same block.
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This is the Hindu pilgrimage town of Pushkar in Rajasthan, India. I came here for the annual Pushkar Camel Fair. When camel traders and animal herders ascend on this town with 50,000 horses, cattle, and the star attraction, the camels.
Pushkar is like no other town in India you will visit. The village area wraps around Pushkar Lake, considered one of the great Hindu pilgrimages of India. Some of Mahatma Ghandi’s mortal remains were scattered from a ghat or staircase at the lake. That ghat now bears his name.
The town itself, complete with wandering cows, pandas or Hindu priests offering flowers and pujas for big baksheesh centers around the main street or Sadar Bazaar. It’s a mix of traveler hippie food joints, cafes and shops and ghats to the lake. Just a great mix of travelers, pilgrims, and locals here.
It’s also where you’ll find one of the only Brahma temples in the world. They’re waiting to enter after the midday break. Brahma is the Hindu creator God and of the few of these temples that exist, this one is the most prominent.
And these are the fairgrounds, where all the business of camels takes place. I arrived about 5 days before the official start of the fair. This is the time when you’ll see the most camels and trading.
It’s a hot, dry dusty environment, filled with every sound a camel could possibly make. Camel herders discipling and training the younger ones, a scene you could find just a little disturbing.
It’s pure India though, filled with constant movement, musicians and gypsies swirling around you for baksheesh and thousands of camels constantly on the move around the grounds. Sensory perception overload.
The fair takes place every year coinciding with Kartika poornima, sometimes called Devi-Diwali, the festival of lights of the gods. Pilgrims from all over India come to bath in the holy lake of Pushkar. When the business of camels concludes, the crazy fair begins with snake charmers, children balancing on tightropes and the giant bath in the lake.
What makes this gathering so special? For me it’s a window to nomadic life that still exists for these people, conducting business the same way for thousands of years. Maybe there’s cel phones and other modern aids used but a life centered around the movement of camels hasn’t changed.
Laos is a country that is very appealing to me. It’s in the heart of Asia but for some reason has remained a low tourist traffic area on the South East Asia circuit.
Whether it’s backpackers or luxury travelers, the big numbers are not there yet. It’s surprising because it has amenities and activities to fit both group’s needs as well as amazing travel value!
The combination of a mysterious past, a former colony of France that has still held onto some of its traditions, the predominately Buddhist culture and boundless adventure activities puts it high on my list of places to recommend to the traveler looking to get off the beaten path in this part of the world. That’s something that is increasingly challenging to find.
One of the most unique adventures I recently enjoyed in Laos was visiting The Gibbon Experience. This is a jungle adventure that takes you into the Bokeo Reserve of Northwest Laos on a zip trekking tour of the forest and a chance to spot and listen to the singing of the rare Black-Crested Gibbon.
Their singing or calls, are some of the most unique sounds in nature. I can best describe them as a combination of whales, birds, and synthesizers, seriously!
You can find zip lining adventures all over Southeast Asia and if that's all you're looking for The Gibbon Experience in Laos might not be the right fit. Emphasis is not placed on zip lining. It's merely the mode of transportation to cut across the vast jungle in search of gibbons. It's also the quickest way to the treehouse you'll be perched in on your one or two night visit.
Even with the emphasis on nature you will experience the sensation of gliding over the forest canopy with lines reaching up to 600 meters!
Join me in this episode of Far East Adventure Travel zip lining at The Gibbon Experience, Laos.
When I visited Nepal in May of 2015 the country was in the middle of one of the worst natural disasters in it's history. Fear was felt everywhere as the second biggest tremor registering 7.3 shook the country on May 12 followed by more aftershocks.
Despite the uncertain future and the constant fear of another big earthquake, including rumors of an even more devastating one, Nepalis continued their daily prayers and worship.
Tibetan refugees and other Buddhists were seen one their koras of Boudhanath stupa and Hindus prayed at their neighborhood temples and shrines.
In Patan the Bunga Dya Festival celebrating the rain God was delayed due to safety concerns with the two chariots that are pulled throughout the streets of Lalitpur District during the event.
In part 5 of My Beloved Nepal a look at some of the temples of Kathmandu that were damaged or destroyed during the earthquakes of 2015 along with scenes of continued daily worship in one the most significant spiritual centers on the planet.
Guangzhou is the third largest city in China after Beijing and Shanghai. It's historic name is Canton, recognizable for it's world-famous food, one of the eight culinary traditions of Chinese cuisine. It's also a busy important transportation hub and commercial center hosting the biannual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.
For many, like myself, it is a major transit stop for traveling to and from Asia. I have traveled through Guangzhou before, never stopping for more than a couple of hours.
On my latest trip through the massive city my itinerary included a 20 hour layover. In my mind not quite enough to get a really meaningful experience but also way too much time to linger around an airport hotel and terminal. Also for many passport holders an opportunity to be a guest for 24 hours in a country that normally requires a visa in advance of arrival.
So I decided to put the effort in and check out a couple of things in the city so I would at least have some memories and things to talk about other than a great hotel restaurant and Chinese television.
The effort was really in the getting back and forth from the hotel I was staying at that was an approximate 15 minute drive from the airport to the city. Almost an hour long MRT(subway) ride after a 15 cab ride from the hotel to the closet MRT stop.
Figuring out what to do with only a few hours combined over one evening and a portion of the early morning was another challenge. Not really enough time to devote to a significant museum or historic neighborhood tour I finally deciding on walks in a couple of spots.
Since I arrived in the late afternoon I would go to busy Beijing Road where there's shopping, restaurants a couple of sites I could take a peak at and lots of people watching opportunity. The next morning I would get up early, around 6:30, grab some breakfast and head back down to the city in the crush of rush hour and walk along the Pearl River, China's third largest river.
With traveling time back and forth into the heart of Guangzhou roughly between 4.5-5 hours over my layover this was a tiring schedule. A hotel closer in the heart of the city might have saved me another hour or two in transit time with a little more pressure to get back to the airport before my departure flight.
Regardless I have to say I'm glad I spent some time in Gaungzhou even with the lengthy train rides. I've got some wonderful little memories now of this megacity and inspiration/motivation to visit again.
Join me now for a quick peak of Guanghzhou, China on Far East Adventure Travel.
Sankhu, is a historic town that sits on the old Tibetan salt trade route in the Kathmandu Valley, 17kmh away from the capital of Kathmandu.
I made a few trips to the village in May 2015 that had suffered severe damage and loss from the series of earthquakes and aftershocks that began on April 25.
This was a well-preserved traditional Newari town with many entrance gates to the village, and at least 100 different temples and shrines in the area.
I listened to many stories from villagers who had lost their loved ones-brothers, sisters, parents, and neighbours. Almost twelve hundred homes damaged, 200 completely destroyed and at least 2000 forced to live in nearby tents or move to another village or town. It was one of the most heart-wrenching experiences during my visit in May.
I also met some brave women and men from the Canadian Armed Forces on disaster relief and local people with more money than others willing to share their temporary shelter with other families of Sankhu. Truly the best of humanity.
The post My Beloved Nepal-Earthquake Stories Part 4-Sankhu Devastation appeared first on Far East Adventure Travel.
Soon after I arrived in Kathmandu on May 12, 2015, the day the 7.3 earthquake struck the country fear, like a virus, once again spread throughout cities, towns and villages everywhere.
People had just started to resume regular life, minimally their usual routines amid the crumbling buildings, destruction and homelessness that many faced. Tented camps and communities were seen around the Kathmandu Valley with many local volunteers helping their fellow Nepalis in time of need.
When the second biggest earthquake struck it sent many people back outside to sleep outdoors, fearing more collapsed buildings, injury or death.
I continued to wander the streets of Kathmandu and other towns in the Kathmandu Valley speaking with local people and seeing how their lives were affected by the earthquakes.
It was truly inspiring to see Nepalis, themselves affected in some way by the earthquakes helping their fellow citizens. At the same time the stories of fear, loss, death and destruction was overwhelming. I was humbled at the incredible strength and resilience these people demonstrated in circumstances that would be far too difficult for most.
The post My Beloved Nepal-Earthquake Stories-Part 3-Fear And Homelessness appeared first on Far East Adventure Travel.