Stunning Sigiriya Rock

Stunning Sigiriya Rock

Stunning Sigiriya Rock I was next slated to visit my third UNESCO site in as many days, Sigiriya Rock.  This rock is so imposing that I could see it from the road of my homestay.  Measuring over 200 meters high, it towers above the surrounding area.  The fact that it is a giant plateau versus a mountain makes it that much more alluring and different. I had read a few travel blogs that recommended getting there early to beat the crowds and the heat.  As it is a giant plateau,…

The Wacky Wagah Border Crossing

The Wacky Wagah Border Crossing

The Wacky Wagah Border Crossing If someone were to ask me what the craziest experience or thing I witnessed during my two months in India, even though there were quite a bit, the Wagah Border Crossing would top the list.  India and Pakistan have had a tumultuous relationship, including fighting in four wars, that has stretched back to Indian independence in 1947.  Flash forward to present day, their relationship is still very sour, and there is only one possible border crossing via land, at the Wagah Border. To add a…

The Golden Temple of Amritsar

The Golden Temple of Amritsar

The Golden Temple of Amritsar While not originally in my travel plans, Amritsar was a last minute addition on my way to Delhi before I would leave India for Europe.  I’m really glad I took the efforts to get to this city, because both the Golden Temple and the Wagah Border Crossing, remain two of the more memorable experiences of my trip. Amritsar, located in the state of Punjab is home to the holiest temple to the Sikh religion.  This impressive structure is gilded in gold and is open 24…

My Experiences Staying in an Ashram in Rishikesh

My Experiences Staying in an Ashram in Rishikesh

My Experiences Staying in an Ashram in Rishikesh Although very stereotypical, I knew I wanted to stay in an ashram during my time in Rishikesh to have a different experience than the hostels I have stayed in thus far.  Made popular by the Beatles, Rishikesh is now a tourist mecca for Indians and foreigners.  Some come for spiritual enlightenment and to “find themselves”, while others come for yoga teacher training or to simply see what all of the fuss is about.  I like to think that I belong in the…

Holi Festival in Vrindavan and Mathura Part II

Holi Festival in Vrindavan and Mathura Part II

Holi Festival in Vrindavan and Mathura Part II After spending a couple of hours relaxing from the morning’s craziness, we headed into the town of Mathura, where a parade was set to occur starting at 2pm.  It was obvious as we approached the street that the parade was set to be on, as we could hear loud music blaring, announcing the coming parade.  Some women and children observed from the balconies and rooftops above, not wishing to be in the midst of all the action.  As we weaved our way…

Holi Festival in Vrindavan and Mathura Part I

Holi Festival in Vrindavan and Mathura Part I

Holi Festival in Vrindavan and Mathura While hanging around Big Brother Hostel in Agra, a few of us were sharing our plans for Holi, set to be celebrated on March 24.  My plan at this point was to celebrate it in Jaipur, as that was the next scheduled stop on my list and I had heard that almost any city in North India was a good place to celebrate.  A few people spoke of their experiences heading up to Vrindavan and Mathura, about 60 kilometers north of Agra.  Here, the…

Touring the Taj Mahal

Touring the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is an obvious must see for anyone who travels to India.  Conversely, I had heard no so great things about the city of Agra, where the Taj is located.  Some people even advised me to not even spend the night there, but arrive in the morning and to leave later that night.  Because I wasn’t super pressed on time, I decided to spend at least one night (which stretched into 2) there, in order to not feel rushed. I arrived in Agra from Varanasi on a 13…

Varanasi, the Holy City

Varanasi, the Holy City

Varanasi I have always been intrigued about Varanasi and I knew that it was a must-see destination while in India. Home of the holy Ganges River, Hindu pilgrims come here to bathe in the holy waters as well as perform morning and evening rituals to honor it. It is also THE place in India where Hindus go to die. Being cremated on the banks of the Ganges River is a huge honor, and elderly people will traverse from all over India just to die in Varanasi so they can be…

Chinese New Year and Monks Almsgiving Ritual in Chiang Mai

Chinese New Year and Monks Almsgiving Ritual in Chiang Mai

Chinese New Year and Monks Almsgiving Ritual in Chiang Mai On February 8th, was the start of the Chinese New Year, the year of the monkey.  I’m a little embarrassed to say that I never ventured to Chicago’s Chinatown in my 3 years of living there.  Thailand has a huge population of Chinese people, as well as being a very popular tourist destination for Chinese travelers as well.  Chiang Mai is known for having great festivities to celebrate, so I decided to check it out. Around 6pm I left my…

Buddhist Meditation Retreat in Chiang Mai

Buddhist Meditation Retreat in Chiang Mai

I had heard about an overnight introduction to a Buddhist meditation retreat in Chiang Mai by a local Buddhist University.  Always looking to try something new and experience the local culture, I researched further into it and decided to give it a try.  It is only held once a week, starting on Tuesday at 1pm, and ending around 4pm the following day.  Luckily, I had planned to head back from Pai Tuesday morning, so it fit perfectly into my schedule. To be perfectly honest, I did not know much about…