Near the park is the New Market, an enormous covered market crowded with tiny stalls selling mostly clothes but also food, jewelry, toys, and various household goods. There is also a dark smelly cavernous meat section that probably hasn't changed much since the time of the British. The market spills over to much of the surrounding city blocks. Unfortunately it's infested with touts more than usual.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Friday, March 24, 2017
Which is a large rock that, when struck with a stone, makes a sound as if it were metal. Quite astonishing. Consequently, the region is called Ting-Ting.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The mountain views are even moire spectacular at Rabdentse, Sikkim's second royal city, now in ruins. It's location with the backdrop of snow-capped Himalaya peaks is fabulously scenic. I was the only visitor so early in the morning. Nearby is the Pemayangtse Gompa, one of the most important Buddhist monasteries.
The mountains around Rabdentse are criss-crossed by unmarked paths. There are many ways to discover these paths: logs worn smooth by passing feet, broken branches, exposed roots, lack of rocks... But I used none of those and simply followed the discarded candy wrappers. Sikkim is very clean, in fact smoking is forbidden in the state, but the tourists can't seem to break the habit.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
They have a large beautifully appointed prayer hall, and the monks were sitting in four rows, chanting. The chants were punctuated by Tibetan horns, bells, and drums. The ceremony was no different from others I have seen in Tibet. I watched and listened for a long time.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
The main city is Gangtok, like Darjeeling climbing up a mountainside, all the way up to the ridge and spilling over to the other side. It's more orderly and less charming than Darjeeling, but there is still a lot to see here. It's more modern when you walk the streets, but almost rural in the spaces in between, which are reachable only by interminable narrow stairs.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Darjeeling is in India, but almost all the faces here are Tibetan or Nepali. The dominant religion is Tibetan Buddhism. The two main roads wide enough to carry traffic are unbelievably choked with SUVs, but since the place is so steep there are narrow alleys and loooong stairways all over then place.
The main attraction - beside tea - is a British-era 60cm narrow-gauge train called the Toy Train. Its steam locomotive is wheezing down the hill to Ghum, just a few km away but the train is slow and the scenery pretty. At one point, it does a 360-degree loop to get over an especially steep section.
Friday, March 17, 2017
The old town begins on top of the ghats. It's narrow in the south and widens to a large neighborhood in the north. It's a dense maze of narrow twisting alleys, often so narrow that I can touch the walls on both sides. It's very easy to get lost even with GPS. The buildings are very old, poorly maintained - I saw some that have collapsed - and very uneven. The alleys are crowded with people at shop fronts, cows, and of course motorcycles. Lots of trash, because there was no collection during the Holi festival they say, but I am not sure I believe that.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Children find this inefficient. They mix the color powder with water and fill bottles, balloons, and water pistols to do maximum damage. Everyone's clothes, the streets, and even the cows are soon covered in red, purple, or yellow colors. For some reason my big white shirt seems to have attracted a lot of extra attention, and my face was changing colors every few minutes.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Monday, March 13, 2017
Khajuraho has 22 temples, all a thousand years old and in almost mint condition. The ornamentation, the multiple bands of statues all around the temples, the friezes with elephants and warriors, and the interior is almost perfectly preserved, in sharp detail with almost no weathering. No surface here is flat, other than the floor. It's absolutely incredible, and a UNESCO world heritage.
The statues are not quite what you would expect in, say, a church. There are various gods, and thousands of curvaceous women in exotic dancing poses - this has got to be bad for the back, especially for women as top-heavy as these! And it doesn't stop there, many panels are clearly taken for the Kama Sutra, with a preference for the more complicated poses, and some are just orgies in sandstone.
We are lucky that the Mughals never took control here; Islam is even more prudish than Facebook and would have wiped out this architectural wonder.