Day 8: Haridwar

Srila Rockstar

I love this swami! He sits on a golden throne in front of a family restaurant ringing his bell and wearing more eyeliner than Alice Cooper. His name is Chotiwala and he makes the best curd in Haridwar, a holy city in northeast India where Lord Shiva lets down his locks in the form of a river—the mighty Ganga.

Haridwar reminds me of Varanasi (in an uplifting kind of way). Both cities are very old with teeming ghats running along the same river. Sadhus are plentiful, living modestly and worshipping their deities of choice. The aarti ceremonies are awe-inspiring, using fire and song to glorify the five elements. And Lord Shiva is everywhere…

…watching over us with deep affection.

Giant Shiva

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Final Night in Jaipur

During my last evening in Jaipur, I visit the oldest museum in Rajasthan, the Albert Hall Museum. Inside, I admire the exquisite decor and myriad of paintings, sculptures and textiles from India and other regions of the world (including ancient Egypt).

Afterwards, I enjoy a traditional Rajasthani dinner and head back to my treehouse hotel, Jaipur Inn. Overall, my stay in Jaipur is bittersweet: although I’ve learned so much, met so many amazing people and seen things forever ingrained in memory, two days had not been enough. I could have done so much more with more time. In other words, if you are planning a trip to the Golden Triangle, do yourself a favor and stay at least 4-5 days in Jaipur.

Last Cup of Tea

My last day in Sri Lanka started with coconut roti and a fine cup of Ceylon tea. After stuffing my luggage with herbs, tea leaves and incense I bought from the outdoor market, I rode the train back to Colombo, boarded my plane and waved goodbye to the Pearl of the Orient.

Tree of Knowledge

Throughout my second day in Anuradhapura, I explore more temples and stupas and acquire firsthand knowledge of Sri Lankan history. For instance, I learn that a fig from the same Bodhi tree where Siddhartha Gautama reached enlightenment beneath was planted here in 288 BC, eventually becoming the oldest planted tree on record. Since it was heavily-surrounded by colorful flags and a golden fence, I was unable to snap a photo that gave its ancient beauty any justice.

In addition, I learned why some statues near the Jetavanaramaya stupa had European-styled sideburns painted on their austere faces. Occupying Sri Lanka from 1815 to 1948, British officials mandated that various statues integrate a British likeness to them, the two below being altered in 1936.

Feasting on a Sri Lankan dinner, I wonder what other sacred statues around the world have been altered with European noses and big, bushy sideburns.

Sri Lanka: the Pearl of the Orient

This week I’m posting photos from my travels through Sri Lanka, the island with many names: Ceylon, Teardrop of India, Resplendent Isle, Island of Dharma and my personal favorite—the Pearl of the Orient.

At present, its capital is Colombo. Its official languages are Sinhala and Tamil. And it’s medley of faiths include Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. The first leg of my journey starts in Colombo, where I explore the streets, visit the national museum and watch the awe-inspiring sunset.