Trip to Amalfi Coast and its Fairytale Towns

In this blog I intend to tell in a more or less precise and enjoyable way, the experience of our trip to the Amalfi Coast. We take a flight to Rome. The flight arrived promptly at 3.30 pm at Ciampino and the bus departed promptly at 4.30 pm on the way to Termini.

We arrived in 40 minutes and once there we took the first train to Naples, at 5:45 pm. In about two hours we got to Naples (Piazza Garibaldi). Our hotel in Naples was right next to the Naples train station in Piazza Garibaldi. The hotel, had spacious rooms, as well as the bathroom.

Well, once in the hotel, we left the things and we got ready to have dinner. We head to a restaurant in the Piazza Garibaldi. We tried a few linguine frutti di mare, chicken wings and a pizza. It would not be the only dinner on the site. One of the waiters, a big man with a mustache talk with us for a long time.

At 9:00 pm we went for a walk along Corso Umberto I Avenue. The streets are full of papers, bottles and crap. After about a 15 minute walk, and being full and without a soul in the street we thought about turning around because that did not look very good. But we decided to continue, and in that we started to hear trumpets and sirens.

There were a group of people, and taxi drivers in their taxis, watching a television screen in a bank window. And of course there we understood everything. It was Saturday and a football match was going on between Juventus and Napoli and to top Napoli was winning. In the end you can imagine what that became.

Bikes and cars began to appear everywhere, and the Corso Umberto I avenue became a circuit of motorcycles and cars. People overtake on either side, and of course no one wore a helmet. Well that was beginning to look like a normal city on a Saturday night. Well, we got to the Castel Nuovo. We take a couple of photos and get back to the hotel at 12.

Day 2

This day, of course, we got up early in the morning. At 8 in the morning after breakfast we were already at the bus stop to go to the Amalfi Coast. The day before we had asked the bus drivers where the buses for that part of Campania can be taken. The stop for Amalfi and Positano is located just below the hotel, which is on one side of the train station.

We arrive at the stop and see the schedules. According to the signboard the Amalfi bus left at 8:55. We approached in front of the hotel to buy bus tickets to Amalfi and asked what time the bus goes to Amalfi. He tells us that at 9.55. The bus came at 9.30. We ride on it. Only another couple of Germans was going. We do not validate a ticket or anything.

After an hour or so we arrived in Sorrento and there it was where it was filled to the brim with tourists who were staying in this town and continued on the way to Positano. We eat something fast and we go through what they call one of the most beautiful roads in Italy, the SS 163 or the Amalfi Coast road.

This road is an idyllic coast road of about 100 kms, passing through beautiful villages and surrounding the entire tip that goes from Torre Annunziata to Salerno, passing through well-known towns such as Sorrento, Positano or Amalfi. The SS 163 is a road that gives panic with curves, cliffs, tunnels but what to say about the views.

At the end and after traveling just over 45 km in 2 hours in crossing Sorrento and reaching Positano, two hours are spent. In Positano the bus makes several stops. We got off at the second and so we take a few pictures from the top of the town, and then down stairs we reached the beach area. For me Positano is one of the most beautiful places. It is true that we only visited Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. From any side come some wonderful photos.

We took a walk through the village and after a short time, we went to Piazza Mullin or something like that. We continue to the Amalfi Coast. From Positano we took the bus at 13.00 to Amalfi. It takes about 40 minutes to travel the 18 km that separate both towns. Amalfi is completely different from Positano. Its most interesting part is evidently the Duomo, hidden between houses and that appears suddenly, majestically in the center of the town. From the area of ​​the pier there are some beautiful views of the whole town.

We took the opportunity to eat something there and then we took another bus to Ravello. It is located 5 km away from Amalfi on top of a mountain. There is a bus every half hour. Ravello, thanks to its location in the hills is known for its fantastic views as well as for its spectacular parks and its elegance, but above all, for its views over the Gulf of Salerno. The visit was short because we wanted to take the bus back from Amalfi to Naples at 5:00 pm. After about two and a half hours we get back to Naples again. This time we took advantage of to have dinner soon and to walk a bit around the downtown area.

Amarnath Yatra: Travel to the Ice Cave of Shiva

Pilgrims travel through impassable roads to get to the cave of Shiva lingam during the Amarnath Yatra. Situated at 4000 meters in the snowy mountains of Kashmir, Amarnath is among the most sacred sites in India. People climb right up to the Amarnath cave to worship an ice stalagmite that is formed around the month of July from the dripping of water that falls well within the 40 meters high cave. It is worshiped as a lingam of Shiva, the phallic symbol of devotion to this deity. The Amarnath cave is 145 km from Srinagar.

The earliest reference is in Rajatarangiri, an epic of the twelfth-century poem. It recounts the exploits of the Kashmiri rulers. The cave is called Amareshwara, or Amarnath and was the place where the legendary King Arya Raja worshiped an ice lingam. Queen Suryamathi decorated the cave with tridents and Banalinga in the eleventh century. It is believed then that this cave was forgotten until, in the fifteenth century, it was found by a shepherd who discovered the ice lingam.

The main features in the iconography of Shiva that is how you see it represented are the bull called Nandi, which is his mount, the snake around his neck, the third eye, the crescent moon, the Ganges river that descends from his hair, trident and a small double-sided drum. It is not uncommon in India, indeed, see Shiva worshiped through the representation of the lingam.

Today I will tell the story of the lingam in the Amarnath cave.

The pilgrimage or the Amarnath Yatra takes place over 59 days from July until August during the full moon of the month of August. In the cave, there is an ice stalagmite, more than 3 meters high, which as if by magic increases and decreases with the lunar phases. The devotees sprinkle with water, smear sandalwood paste and yogurt and decorate it with flower petals.

To get to the cave of Amarnath, devotees must reach via Pahalgam and then Chandanwari, where are set up tented camps and are provided food supplies. Then they start the climb to get to the Pissu Top. From Sheshnag, the climb is even steeper.

To get to Panchtarni, the last field, the oxygen comes down drastically and include waterfalls that descend from the mountains and snow-covered peaks in the shape of the mythical serpent's head. The recent alternative is from Baltal, which is only 14 km from the Amarnath caves to explore on foot. The route is shorter but steeper than the one from Pahalgam and can be completed in a day.

According to belief, the lingam size increases and decreases with the different phases of the moon. In some seasons the lingam melted early to the rising temperature and certainly also for anthropogenic causes due to the influx of pilgrims. The local people said that the cave was discovered by a shepherd. Close to the full moon of Shrawan, Sonamarg also gets crowded with pilgrims because this is one of the possible routes of the pilgrimage that goes up to the holy Amarnath cave.

It's all a mix of races, and not only united by a common belief is that the symbolic importance of the cave that here we also see Muslims. The pilgrimage to Amarnath becomes also a time to show their identity, beyond religious belief.

The trek is very hard as you have to face rocky terrain, snow-capped mountains, glaciers, unpredictable weather situations and overcome a trek of 5450 meters above sea level. The landscape is wild where rivers and waterfalls meet formed by melting glaciers and pine forests, whose green stands out in the blue sky. The walk is fairly easy with the crisp air and the blue sky. Our steps are combined with those of the pilgrims, who exchange a greeting and a smile and then resume walking.

The road becomes a path along the hillside, and what you see is proof of the immortal soul. The huge trees, the river that flows rushing between the rocks, the mountains get higher and covered by green forests so intense as to tire the pupil and there are even waterfalls, natural caves, huts of shepherds with some yaks and a few flowers on the way to Shiva.

The horses are used by most people for carrying luggage. The Gurjari horsemen incite the horses with verses that make them close to their animals. The horse goes between cliffs. But immediately after the pass, there is the descent for luck, and all around is a prairie of alpine stars. I was speechless, but also out of breath.

Meanwhile, the worst is over, so as we approached the cave, the devotees walk with even faster pace. In the distance, we see the cave, but you should still go down and cross a stream of cold water. In this stream, the sadhus undress and bathe in cool water to be purified before going to meet Shiva. Finally after a final stretch in the snow even we get to the cave.

3 Day Trip to London - Travel Without a Guide

It is a journey that I dreamed for many years and thanks to an offer, we fly to the discovery of one of the most important cities in the world: London. Although I already visited numerous cities such as Berlin, Lima, Bogota, Medellin or Buenos Aires. But somehow I never made it to London or the choice fell on another city, mostly Paris. Although my time in London was way too short, I still got a first great impression of the metropolis on the Thames.

London Travel wallpaper images

24 Hours in London

The plane leaves punctual and we land at Stansted. The sky that welcomes us is the classic London leaden sky and to be late April it is rather chilly. We take the bus, with tickets bought in advance on the web, and in less than an hour and a half, we are in Liverpool Street. Before taking the metro that will take us to the hotel we stop to have breakfast inside Liverpool Station. We have a nice muffin and a hot cappuccino and go to buy the card that will allow us to travel on public transport at discounted prices.

Our hotel is located in King Cross, in a quiet square surrounded by Georgian houses. There is a double room with private bathroom and English breakfast. We leave the trolley and go to the discovery of London. Our first stop is the British Museum. The admission is free and the museum is very interesting (not for nothing is one of the most important in the world). After a quick lunch, we take a nice ride to Oxford Street and next stop at Trafalgar Square. The statue of Admiral Nelson dominates from above, with the fountains on the sides and the National Gallery that frames them.

The next stop is the Harrod's store and on the way, we catch a glimpse of the legendary Big Ben. The stores are something exceptional, with aquariums, Egyptian statues, the statue of Lady Diana and Dodi Al Fayette. But our purchases are limited to a few souvenirs to bring back for friends and relatives. We take the subway and head to Piccadilly Circus to admire the statue of Eros and shop in the sports shop that has very low prices.

As the day draws to a close, we decide to return to the hotel not before taking some pictures on the Platform Nine and Three-Quarters of Harry Potter (recreated inside the King Cross station) and eating an exquisite fish and chips.

London Travel wallpaper images

48 Hours in London

After the alarm rings at 8, we have breakfast at the hotel. It is an authentic English breakfast with bacon, eggs, beans, tomatoes, and tea. We leave and head to Big Ben. At the exit of the metro, I am literally speechless in front of the gigantic clock. It is magnificent and impressive. We walk around the Parliament, in Westminster but unfortunately, the abbey is closed. We rested a bit in a small park adjoining the houses of the parliament, overlooking the London Eye and the Thames river.

Then we go to visit the Westminster Cathedral which, with its white and red facade, is something very special. We walk to the Buckingham Palace just in time to witness the famous change of guard. Before reaching the Palace we stop at a cute store that sells only tea and herbal teas and, after various tastings, we are satisfied with our purchases.

Buckingham Palace is majestic and beautiful. After watching the change of guard, we take the subway to visit the Nation Gallery in Trafalgar Square. This museum, like most London museums, is also free. Inside it preserves priceless works of art ranging from the early Renaissance to post-impressionism. There is art pieces of Leonardo, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Raphael, Renoir, Van Gogh, just to name a few. From Picadilly, we move to Soho and Chinatown. Here beside the impressive smell, we find turkeys and chickens hanging in the windows of the restaurants.

We went to St John's Wood, the closest stop to Abbey Road humming one of John Lennon. We went down Grove End Road (where there were a synagogue and many people at the door). And at the end of the street, there it was the most famous zebra crossing in the world.

As we were, we went to the Beatles store on Baker Street. They had amazing things. And also incredibly expensive. Next, we went to the London Eye, or also known as Millenium Wheel, the famous Ferris wheel in London. It has a height of 135 meters, which makes it a great viewpoint of the city. Once down to earth we continue walking through Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square.

For lunch, we sit on the Trafalgar Square steps to eat Japanese food (sushi, sashimi and California roll) bought at the supermarket in front of Big Ben. Refreshed we take the subway again and we stop in Hyde Park. It is a nice ride among flowers of a thousand colors and squirrels. We enter Hyde Park Corner to travel from east to west the park, following the shore of Lake Serpentine full of ducks.

We arrived at Kensington Gardens, where there is the statue of Diana (which is a huge, round fountain, and in theory symbolizes a river). They say that finding this statue is part of his grace so I will not give clues. We are positively impressed by the perfection of the place. Everything is very clean and cared for.

After another roundabout, we move towards Camden Town. This is a very special neighborhood. I was struck by the shops that all have giant signs and was very special. We take the subway again and head to the Tower of London. Unfortunately, we cannot get in as it was closing. We take a few photos. Turning the corner, we see the famous Tower Bridge in all its beauty. It is beautiful, and we are off to take more photos.

We thought we would have dinner at Brick Lane, which, in short, is Little India and Bangladesh of London, but I was too lazy so we stayed in the neighborhood.

We go back to the metro again and make a stop in Covent Garden. After a nice stroll through the lanes, we have a nice slice of cheesecake and head for dinner in Leicester Square. The square is really beautiful, full of illuminated signs, cinemas, clubs, and theaters. We have a frugal dinner of a ice cream and, tired, we return to the hotel.

72 Hours in London

Even today we wake up early and have an English breakfast at the hotel of freshly made tarts and juices. We leave the trolley at the reception and take the metro towards Portobello Road. The market is full of tourists, but it is really very characteristic, with fruit and vegetable stalls and antique shops. We get to the end of the famous market and take a nice ride to Notting Hill. After some pictures of the houses, we take the subway towards Covent Garden.

We decided to have lunch at the fast food center with sandwiches. I was mostly intrigued by the fact that there are many stores in the city, but we remain quite disappointed. The cost is quite high, but is not up to quality! Unfortunately, it is almost time to leave London. We return to the hotel to pick up the trolley and then head to Liverpool street where the bus brings us back to the Stansted airport.

I left my heart in London. It was love at first sight. I return home with the certainty that sooner or later I will return. See you soon London!

Bhutan: Tales from the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon

A long time ago I promised that I would post a post about Bhutan. It's one of those things that you do not feel you can do because it's going to be too long, too complex and too frustrating to try to describe a wonderful place. I feel a huge responsibility to try to explain the experience in the most vivid way possible. For now, I will try to describe only one aspect of the visit to Bhutan: the passage of time, the use of time and the advantages of time. Ah, and travel on the road.

Who was going to tell me just a few months ago that I could visit this strange country of the Himalayas, so picturesque and unknown. The truth is that after a short search I got the corresponding flight to Bhutan. The only airline that operated that time to Bhutan is the country's own: DrukAir. I leave for Bhutan via Calcutta, where I have to spend the night to take the flight the next day to Paro, the only city of Bhutan with international airport.

Day 1: From Calcutta to Paro

We wake up at 5.00 to go to the airport. The hotel gives me a picnic bag with a sandwich (I do not taste it), a pear, biscuits and a very spicy meatball that I leave almost whole. The taxi leaves us at the Calcutta airport. Finally, at 7:45 am our flight to Paro departs. I read the Druk Air magazine for a while to learn some things about Bhutan. I learn that the national symbols are, in addition to the flag and the emblem, the cypress, the blue poppy, the crow and the takin, a sacred animal of Bhutan.

From the plane the views are exceptional. We fly over immense mountain ranges that almost touches the wings (it is a saying, of course, but it is not very exaggerated). In just one hour of flight we landed in Paro, in the middle of a spectacular valley between mountains crossed by the river Paro (from now on, the word Chhu will mean river water. So the Paro river is called Paro Chhu. The airport is beautiful, adorned with typical Bhutanese colors and forms, very similar to those of other countries in the Himalayas.

When we pass the control, we already have our bags outside and our guide is waiting for us, dressed in traditional Bhutanese fashion. It is mandatory for those who work in official bodies of the country, to wear traditional clothing. We advance the clock half an hour with respect to India.

It's about 9 in the morning when we start our journey through this fantastic country. The guide tell us that many people come to see the planes land (very few a day) because of the spectacular effect of hearing them approach the valley (without seeing them) until they appear between the mountains a few moments before they land.

However, in part of our trip we were staying right in front of the airport, and we had the opportunity to see those four flights land and take off during the day. Staying in a hotel in front of the airport was something that would be totally sordid anywhere in the world (except for those with bulletproof windows), but in this case it was more of a luxury to be able to see four planes of different sizes go out and get to the airport.

We marched in the van to Paro, a beautiful city at 2360 m altitude and about 7 km from the airport. The road is very narrow that barely fit two cars. The guide give us a bottle of bottled water and we go to the city. We see buildings and shops with typical Himalayan structure. We pass near a park where we see several men (dressed in typical clothing) pulling with bow. They tell us that this is the national sport. They are authentic experts. It is curious to see them practice this sport. When they hit the target, the group of the successful one starts dancing and singing. They tell us that at this moment a nephew of the king of Bhutan is in the group.

The day is splendid. Even hot. For us, undoubtedly, the most spectacular is the tiger's nest, Taktsang, hanging on a cliff over 700 meters high in the vicinity of Paro. Today it's time to climb the most spectacular monastery in the country, and probably one of the most beautiful in the world. To get there we walk for about an hour. There is the option of riding a horse, which is very annoying for those who walk. There are many people, perhaps the only place we have visited that could be said that there were enough visitors.

There are places that, either because of the circumstances of the moment, because of their beauty or both at the same time, make you feel stupefied, forget to blink and end up shedding a tear. Taksang Lhakhang is one of them. I do not know which are the most beautiful places I've had the luck to see, nor does it make sense to make a 'ranking' of the most beautiful. But there are places that can touch you, and this has succeeded.

We descend from the beautiful Goemba. We stopped at Kichu Lhakhang, an ancient monastery, and at Dungtse Lhakhang, a Chorten where you have to carry a flashlight.

At 12.45, after a long walk, we eat at a restaurant where we have the opportunity to taste Bhutanese food. They offer cooked salad, fish (with many thorns, but delicious), roasted potatoes, roasted broccoli with chili, red rice and veal in sauce and for dessert, apple. Everything is very rich. We have to get used to the strong and spicy flavors because that is what awaits us the next few days.

We are very tired and when we decide that it is best to go to the hotel to rest, they take us to see the National Museum of Bhutan.

National Museum of Bhutan

Located in an ancient Ta Dzong fortress, from the 17th century, on top of a hill from where there is an exceptional view of the city, the river and its valley. The Museum contains a large collection of objects that cover the entire history and culture of the country with special dedication to the Buddhist religion.

The chapel dedicated to the Deity of Health stands out. As the photos inside are not allowed (as in almost all the official buildings of the country) I cannot offer you the corresponding images. But it's worth the visit. When leaving the Museum we see under the hill a school with uniformed students dressed in beautiful colors.

We continue down the hill towards Paro and make a stop to see the famous Rinpung Monastery (Dzong Rinpung). Today it is the seat of the Court of Justice and in it Buddhism is taught to future monks. We visit the interior and observe the coming and going of young people in all the rooms. This Dzong should be named a World Heritage Site. We went down to the river and crossed a beautiful wooden bridge.

And now, almost exhausted, we go to the hotel, quite far from the city, but beautiful, in the middle of the forest, with very large wooden houses that serve as a room. After a comforting shower and a well-deserved rest I leave the room for dinner. It's 7 pm and it's completely dark. There is a rich roast chicken with salad, broccoli, and fish (the same kind I took at noon).

Day 2: From Paro to Thimphu

Another excellent day of sunshine! And a great breakfast with tea, butter, a spiced ham, jam and two fried eggs (here they do it on both sides)! And this again in form to endure what is needed.

As soon as we had breakfast, at 8.30, and after taking a last look at the valley from my cabin, we went to the main road in the direction of Thimphu, the capital of the country. There are approximately 50 km but it takes an hour because the roads are not the best of the country, of course, and that which we take now is the best. We go through the valley of Paro Chhu observing incredible landscapes, villages, landslides due to the recent monsoons, forests.

We arrived at a bridge where there is a crossroad (Dantak confluence) and a police checkpoint because this is the obligatory step for those who bring goods from India. It's called Chhuzom La. Two rivers, the Paro Chhu and the Thimphu Chhu, come together under the bridge, and together (and some more water courses) give rise to the Wang Chhu that takes direction towards India to join the Ganges. This area is called Chuzom (union between rivers). And I see on the other side of the river a village with brass houses.

I have not said so far that Bhutan measures its progress by the Happiness Index and not by the Gross Domestic Product. That index is unique to this country and is the official way of saying that people here are happy regardless of wealth. I do not doubt that people are happy here.

Continuing with our route, I will add that in this zone of union of the rivers there is a religious monument with three stupas of Nepalese, Tibetan and Bhutanese styles. There are several huts where souvenirs are sold. The chimney of the police post is not to be missed.

We continue towards Thimphu. As soon as we arrive we can tell that it is the capital of the country. Bustling, a lot of traffic. It seems that there are never accidents and that they only have one traffic light in the whole city. However, I still think about how it is possible that we have not had any clashes with other vehicles.

We started touring the city and my first stop is at the Post Office. I buy postcards and stamps. And here we get a big surprise. They make us stamps with our image with the same legal value as any other stamp in the country! Each stamp of 20 DU. So we have to make the corresponding photo and in a few minutes we have our stamp template of Bhutan with our photo. Incredible, but true! Then they explain that it is a privilege that the King of Bhutan has granted to foreigners on the occasion of the anniversary (I do not remember how many years) of the Monarchy.

Then we went up to the Folk Heritage Museum. Here we could appreciate how was the life of the Bhutanese in ancient times. There are dozens of objects of all kinds. We have not been able to photograph them either.

Nearby is the National Institute for Zorig Chusum. Here young people learn painting (almost all religious Buddhist type), ceramics, embroidery, chiseling, masonry, weaving. I buy some objects made by the students (the School keeps 10%). We have been able to enter the classes (they are now at recess) and we see the young people with their typical clothes but typing with their mobile phones or listening to the headphones, like any other young person from any country in the world.

When the students have returned to the classes after recess, they allow us to continue talking with them and take pictures while they study. The next visit was to the National Library. It contains the largest book in the world (Guinness record) and a large number of religious books and prayers. Here they have allowed us to take pictures.

It is time to eat because it was already 1 pm. We go to a typical restaurant in the city. I eat noodles (very rich), roasted chicken, some meatballs that I did not like at all, vegetables, fried potatoes (also very rich) and creamy ice cream. I have left aside the hot sauces.

Now a short walk to feel better and then climb to the top of the city, to the mountain. We are at 2700 m altitude and we notice it a little. From here there is a beautiful view of the Dzong (which is the political and religious center) and of the entire city. We also see the Parliament building and a little behind, almost hidden, the Royal Palace.

Our guide explains that the King is very admired by the population. We went to a forest area full of flags for prayers and strolled for a while. From here we can see the houses where the people live. Thimphu extends throughout this beautiful valley and grows rapidly.

The next visit has been very interesting as we have moved to the Takin National Reserve. In this area we find lots of takin, the sacred animal of Bhutan. It is a bovine half yak, half goat, sheep or something similar, which has an interesting legend with religious and mythological connotations. It is the national symbol of the country. In addition to takin, in the Reserve there are also deer called sambar.

Next we visit the stupa of the National Memorial Chorten. There are full of people offering prayers. They do it three times around the monument walking in a clockwise direction (never the other way around). Here I could observe people from all social classes.

It's already getting dark and we're about to see a fabric factory. This manual work is very laborious and therefore the clothes are a little expensive but have great quality and beautiful colors. I decide to buy a fabric.

We leave the loom and go to a nearby coffee shop for tea and typical local cakes. After resting for a while we headed to the Dzong of the city. They open to the public at 5:00 pm because it is at this time when the officials who occupy it finish working. I find it more grandiose than Paro's. We can take pictures but without turning to the side from where the Royal Palace can be seen.

There are huge cars parked at the entrance of the best-known brands. The visit is very interesting. In the main area there is a huge statue of the "current" Buddha (the "future" Buddha is in Bumthang and they know who he is, according to our guide). We cannot take pictures inside this Buddha enclosure as the cameras were taken.

Under the enormous figure of the Buddha there are three thrones, one for the father of the King, one for the King and one for the chief monk of the Buddhists. Here the enthronement of the current king of Bhutan took place. In the enclosure there is also a huge collection of Buddha figures.

It is already night and we left the Dzong. We are going to the hotel on the other side of the river, from where there is a magnificent view of the illuminated city. After resting a few moments we return to the city to make a night visit. We see stores of all kinds open until very late. In one of them I see clothes of all the "western" brands. In the souvenir shops there are many masks, necklaces, Buddha images, various sculptures. I take advantage of the opportunity to buy a beautiful book written in dzongkha, the Bhutanese language, in a bookstore.

At 8:00 am there is a good bustle in the streets as people leave work and begin to take buses and minitaxis. We go back to the hotel. Today we have roast chicken dinner, spicy rice, tofu, broccoli, roasted potatoes and apple with honey. We have internet at the price of 50 rupees, 25 minutes. From my room there is a beautiful night view of Thimphu. I leave the curtain open so that the morning light wakes me up tomorrow.

bhutan wallpaper travel tigers nest Paro Taktsang

Day 3: From Thimphu to Punakha

A day of splendid sun rises. Today we have a frugal breakfast, nothing great. Before leaving, I leave some postcards in reception to be sent. While preparing the van I take the opportunity to photograph the Olympic stadium (in front of the hotel, on the other side of the river) and a walk next to the river.

We left in the direction of Punakha (71 km from Thimphu). We see on the way the new University of Bhutan, which has been operating since 2003, and the expansion area of ​​the new city with multi-storey buildings. We continue in a northerly direction while the river, which we have followed until now, is heading south.

The road is all curves and with firm in very bad condition. No wonder our guide told us this morning that it would take us 3 hours to get there, including the stops, of course. We stopped at a small lookout to see a Dzong that is now used as an Institute of the Dzonkhá language.

We continue on the terrible road. The landscapes are now beautiful. The mountains are full of blue pines and rhododendrons. The road climbs steadily until we reach an immigration checkpoint. They explain that when China invaded Tibet many Tibetans went into exile in Bhutan and now they have been granted Bhutanese nationality. At the control they sell goat cheese hanging on elongated strips such as dominoes, apples, dried meat, drinks. We stop to stretch our legs.

We continue ascending until we reach the Dochula pass (3250 m). At the top there are 108 stupas in commemoration of the rejection that the Bhutanese troops made of an Indian raid in 2003. The view from here is incredible and is the only place from where we can observe the Bhutanese Himalayas. The sun gives it a spectacular appearance.

There is also an area of ​​prayers. A dance group tries at this point some steps and songs for a commercial. Nearby is a small monastery adorned with paintings of scenes of the kings of Bhutan and their families and the 2003 battle with the King in arms accompanied by his army.

After a walk around this beautiful area we continue the trip again. Now the road begins to descend strongly which increases the possibility of crashes because it is very fast and there is a lot of traffic. We are witnesses of some overtaking that cut the breath. Also, in some sections there are landslides. The road is arranged by the locals. I see that they take their young children to work. We see trucks loaded with potatoes. Our guide tells us that the potatoes are raised in Bhutan and exported to India, fried there and exported, already fried, back to Bhutan, live world trade!

As we descend, blue pines disappear and rhododendrons abound. We stopped near Thinlegang to stretch our legs a little. A little further on we stopped near a crossroads, in Yuwak, an agricultural village. Here is a nice restaurant with a spectacular view of the valley. It's time to eat. Today roast chicken (as always). After lunch we make a small tour through rice fields, to the so-called Temple of Fertility or Chimilhakang. Couples who cannot have children or parents with children who have health problems come to this temple. Inside there are several phallic objects and a Buddhist school.

We walked a bit through the village. The houses are very humble. We continue towards Punakha where the only thing that stands out is the fantastic Dzong. It is on the other side of town, next to the confluence of the Mo Chhu River and one of its tributaries. This Dzong was the seat for a time of the Government of the Nation.

To see it you have to cross a beautiful wooden bridge over the river. The enclosure is immense. Its main courtyard serves as the setting for the Punakha festivals that the King attends as "Sir" because it is the title granted to him by the English when he mediated between India and Tibet many years ago.

Punakha as such has little to do except the Dzong. We have wandered a little. It has a dirty and neglected appearance. On the outskirts of the town is our hotel at Zangdopelri. From there, there are beautiful views of terraces of rice crops and the pine forest.

At 6.15 it is almost night. I go up to the room, wide, with TV, cabin type. The bathroom leaves a lot to be desired. Dinner is planned at 7.30 pm. There are asparagus with goat cheese sauce, roasted chicken (for a change), fish with garlic sauce and guavas. It is necessary to rest that tomorrow it waits a hard day because we will have to cross numerous valleys and mountains (we calculate 6-7 hours of way).

Day 4: From Punakha to Trongsa

I get up, clean myself and leave the suitcase ready. I have a small terrace in the room that overlooks the countryside. Nice view. The hotel girls do not seem to have a very good face today. It is likely that the bustle of this morning has something to do. We have breakfast with tea, jam, butter, local sausages and omelet with coriander, very rich.

We left without further delay and make a first stop in the village of Wangdue Phodrang where there is a very busy Sunday market. There are all kinds of vegetables and fruits. A lot of atmosphere. I would like to reflect it as accurately as possible in photographs, but some women in the posts do not want to be photographed, others do not have any impediment.

After walking through the market we climbed to the top of the village where the majestic Dzong is located. There is a group of uniformed school children visiting the campus, and today it is Sunday. The uniform is the typical costume of Bhutan, the Gho (male suit) and the Kira (female suit).

We left Wangde and the road becomes hellish, horrible. The good thing is that the landscapes compensate for the bad of the trip. We cross amazing valleys, rhododendron forests and mountains. Frequently we are interrupted by herds of cows that cross the road anywhere. There are beautiful waterfalls, tiny villages, houses on top of the cliffs defying gravity. The show makes the tired journey more bearable. We have passed through Nyatoka, Polula, Gumina , Rachau following the valley of the Dang Chhu river, magnificent. We go up to the Lawala pass (3340 m) and we see the first yak, lonely, elusive.

Now we go down a bit until we take a detour that takes us southwards to the town of Gangtey where its monastery stands out, very old and not as sumptuous as those we have seen before. That gives a "special touch". In the square of the monastery we got a surprise. Suddenly Buddhist monks begin to arrive and sit in two parallel rows. Behind these rows sits people from the village who bring them food. According to what they explain, it is because They thank the monks for asking favors for a deceased who has just died.

According to the Buddhist tradition, the deceased is 45 days among his people and how many more favors, prayers, etc. Do for him, the better your future life will be in the other world. Young monks are responsible for distributing food (huge pots filled with rice and vegetables). Meanwhile, the relatives of the deceased are sitting by a wall watching all this. I see many monks already very old. We go through the interior of the monastery, very austere.

From here we continue through the valley to an Information Center on cranes. Too bad it's closed. The cranes arrive in Bhutan from Tibet, where they breed, and spend in these valleys between 3 and 5 months. It is a protected area. In this area electric cables are prohibited so that birds do not trip over them. The energy is obtained through solar panels.

We continue a little further and we arrive at a good hotel that is on a hillside with magnificent views of the valley. They feed us cabbage soup and a dish based on veal, pasta, shredded cheese and parsley. There is no dessert. In the dining room we meet a Cypriot girl who is alone in the hotel because she was going with her group to do a 28-day mountain route and a week after she started she got altitude sickness and had to return. We share the time of the meal with her. Two kestrels watch from the roof.

Then we retraced all the way again to the Lawa La pass and now we take the main "road" in the direction of Trongsa.

We enter an area of ​​wonderful landscapes. We pass the Pele La pass (3392 m) and see a few yaks grazing. After taking a few photos, we continue along the catastrophic road going (bordering incredible precipices, rather) in the National Park of the Black Mountain , with magnificent waterfalls, immense forests and a fantastic landscape. The cliff that we have on the other side of the road (driving on the left) is terrible. The bad thing is that on the way back he will touch us on our side.

We stopped at the stupas of Chendebji, one of the typical sites of Bhutan. We rest for a while and take pictures. The Tibetan stupa is very beautiful.

We continue through the upper area of the Chandiji Chhu river valley and stop at a typical Nangar shop. Without stopping for a long time we continue in the direction of Trongsa and stop at a viewpoint from where there are magnificent views of the Tongga Dzong and the waterfall that forms the Trongsa Chhu river, which join the Chandiji Chhu River a little lower and form the Mangde Chhu.

There is a path that starts from the viewpoint where we are, goes down to the river, climbs the waterfall and reaches Trongsa. Our guide tells us that it is better not to do it because there are many snakes. Also, after the car crash today, we no longer know where we have the kidneys. We arrived at Trongsa at 5:00 p.m. and stayed at the Yangkhil Resort Hotel, magnificent, with wonderful gardens, bungalow- type rooms with views of the mountains, very clean and maintained, very large bathrooms and in prefect condition. We are at 2150 m of altitude.

We had a good time enjoying the hotel, drinking tea and pasta, connecting to the internet to send and see emails. At 7.30 pm we had fish with spicy and spicy fish, mashed potatoes, delicious, roasted vegetables, very delicious also, spinach, beer. For dessert we have noodles with milk and cinnamon. The beers are 650 ml and are worth 85 ngultrum here although in the other places they are worth 100.

We went up to the rooms because there is not much else to do here and we also come very tired from so many hours of travel and so many changes in altitude. The weather has accompanied us well throughout the day because it has been sunny and it has only been cloudy in the mountainous area of ​​the National Park of the Black Mountain and when arriving at Trongsa, which is also between mountains. The view of Trongsa between the mountains is magnificent.

Few places in the world have such a pristine and untouched nature as Bhutan. The snow-covered peaks, its green valleys and the incredible beauty of its rural landscapes impress those who visit it for the first time, an unforgettable memory.

I can affirm that Bhutan is the most incredible place I have visited in my life. Bhutan is wonderful, despite the world around it. Bhutan was the confirmation that there is always something to see and that our motto "I have nowhere to go, so I will go anywhere" cannot be more true.

The next day we left the country to continue our journey to Sikkim. But that's another story, and it should be told at other times.

In summary

From the window of the plane, we observe for the last time the Jomolhari and the other mountains of Bhutan. Last, because there are countries to which, honestly, we will not return. The world is big, beautiful and very varied. There are many places to visit and I doubt I will repeat Bhutan. However, I am convinced that this trip will never be diluted in memory, and I will visit it very often, in my memory, I hope. There will be more and more full of landscapes, intense moments and experiences.

Trip through Hills, Tea Plantations and Spices in Munnar

From Mysore we had to go down to Kerala, and transport options are also few. Our friends from Hampi told us about an alternative to the 15 hour bus from Mysore to Kochi that we found interesting. Our intention was to go to Fort Kochi to be there one day and then continue to Munnar. We took a taxi from Mysore to Bangalore and from Bangalore an internal flight to Kochi. We arrived at the Kochi airport and chaos began.

The airport is about 60 km from Ernakulam. So on arrival we took a taxi and asked the taxi driver to drop us off at the hotel. We arrived almost at night, quite lost and without any idea of ​​where we were going to stay. Walking down the street we were stopped by a guy who offered to rent us a room in his house and so there we went!

Munnar: Hills, Tea Plantations and Spices

Day 2

It's Good Friday. We had as plan to go direct to the hills of Munnar. Munnar is a very tourist hill station, an area of ​​beautiful mountains and plantations, as well as an interesting natural area. After breakfast we start the road by stretching out in the car with the sunrise to our right. We prefer to take advantage of the first hours taking pictures and walking in Fort Cochin and its beach.

At 11 we board the car and once again hit the road. It took us a long time to leave Cochin. When arriving in rural areas, luxurious houses appear in the middle of nowhere, which are mansions of emigrants in countries such as Dubai, Oman. The stores and shops are almost all closed and the shopping center of some towns seems spooky. I'm not used to seeing everything closed.

Sometimes we come across a procession, parading in a row on the edge of the road. Many carry crosses in black made with cardboard. We begin to climb the hills. The road is steep. The landscape is jungle, with huge granite stone mountains, in which the rivulets of the dry waterfalls seem painted. In the rainy season it should be spectacular.

There are several tea plantations and spices, as well as the already classic immigrant mansions. The landscape is of an intense green. Our first stop is near a river where we take a little dip and we help the caretakers of some elephants to give them their morning bath. We bathe a 40-year-old elephant who did everything his caretaker ordered.

Our driver took us along a little traveled road to see lakes and landscapes more rural than those seen on the general road that goes to Munnar. Following the path we stop at a couple of waterfalls, to have a very natural pineapple juice and to know where many of the country's spices come from. They showed us things in the farm of spices, cocoa, cinnamon, pepper, curry leaves.

We also had the opportunity to see a huge plantations of trees where the rubber is removed. The labours makes a cut in the bark which begins to secrete a white liquid that is collected in containers made of coconut. Then that liquid is put in molds where they heat and rubber comes out, with which all kinds of things are manufactured.

The road continues its way up to the little more than 1500 meters high that Munnar has. The landscape is totally of a tropical jungle, until we start to see the first tea plantations. After having seen so many photos, the landscape is still more surprising, as more and more hillsides full of plantations begin to appear on each curve.

It is a landscape very different from what the day was bringing us. It is around 3 pm when we arrive in Munnar. The area is full of tourists who have come from the plains or the coast to take advantage of these holidays. There is no where to eat because the sites that have not closed, are overcrowded. We entered some with a moderately good look, but the queues and the spicy smell, throw us back.

At the end we eat at a hotel restaurant. The food is pretty good for our taste. The driver wants to take us to Top Station to see the views, which we accept willingly. We see that it is 34 km only but what we did not know is that it will take 2 hours more up to that point. Anyway, the landscape is worthwhile.

We parked the car at 2300 meters, and walked between all those plantations to the Top Station. There is some fog that does not let us see what we really could have seen. We get to start again the way to some viewpoints in the hills like Echo Point and see Lake Mattupetty, in the dam of the same name. We went through several plantations and spice factories.

These sites usually offer a series of very similar activities like visit to spice plantations, elephant rides, rafting, jeep rides. There are some villages with colorful houses and above all, tea plantations, with that intense green that characterizes them. Arriving at Lake Mattupetty which is actually a reservoir the landscape becomes more forestry.

There are a lot of people everywhere and there is no corner where a car has not stopped and a family has gone down. Anyway, the mountains on the other side of the lake are pretty and there's a forest, dotted by some plantation. The lake is crossed by boats and boats loaded with weekend tourists depriving it of its natural charm. I guess it will not be the same on a normal day.

For my taste the area of ​​Munnar, does not have the charm of Periyar-Thekkady despite its impressive hills. Returning we stopped in several places to take pictures of the tea fields.

We arrived with the last lights to the hotel, which has no sign. So we passed 3 times through the door, without imagining that it was the hotel. It is a small hotel. The room does not convince me, because it is at street level. The manager of the hotel is a very nice man and cannot wait for us to be at ease. I ask about other rooms and the first one is like an apartment, with views, a round bed and sofas. It does not convince us.

We stand, while a boy show us the garden and, above all, a cabin that is about 200 meters below by a path of stones. The cabin is a luxurious with a huge bed and even kitchen. The place is ideal for a couple.

Given the time and how complicated everything is, we ask to prepare something for dinner. They make us an omelette after they had to go down to the town to get the eggs that took half an hour. We eat it, more for the effort that they have put, than for how tasty the food is. At least it does not sting much. We sleep, surrounded by tea plantations.

Munnar: Hills, Tea Plantations and Spices

Day 3

It's 6:00 and the clarity lets us see through the window that we are at a considerable height above the town of Munnar. Everything looks green on the plantations. There is only one more couple in the hotel. When we got up, I saw a plantation where grew various spices like nutmeg, pepper, mixed fruit, cotton trees, climbing trees and birds. The plantation is a Garden of Eden.

When we reached the top, a small, serious man with a mustache were waiting for us. He was the boss of the manager who had come to visit. At 7 o'clock we started the planned trekking, without breakfast. It does some cool in the morning. The sun begins to be seen in the distance and the slopes begin to cause the first sweats.

We get with our guide through the middle of the plantations. He shows us caves, the odd animal, but the most beautiful thing is the perfection of the tea plants for everything. It's like a green blanket that covers the whole mountain. The treeking lasts about 2 hours of ascent. We must be about 300 or 400 meters above Munnar.

The views are spectacular. The descent is somewhat faster, but between the shower and the expected breakfast we have done at 11:30 am, an hour later we go to see the tea museum and factory. The driver proposes to take a walk through the market of spices, fruits and tea from Munnar. He accompanies us and explains a lot of fruits and vegetables like jackfruit for example and many others that I do not remember. We buy red chilis, tea, pepper, cinnamon.

We ask the driver before going to the museum to take us to eat a thali in a local restaurant. At 2 o'clock we listen to the explanations of the transformation of the leaf of the tea in the different varieties. We went to see the machine that makes the process. There are machines for everything.

From there we went to see a 30 minute film explaining the transformation of the Munnar area from its beginnings until today. We now only had the farewell to Munnar with the women collecting the tea on the steep slopes of the hills. After the walk through the plantation we headed to Ooty.

One Day in Brooklyn Off the Beaten Path in New York

Sorting through my photos of New York, I realized that I had completely forgotten to talk to you about Brooklyn. Better late than never I want to say! Through my travel blog, you will understand that Brooklyn is the one I prefer before Queens, Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island! Let's go!

On the other side of the East River unfolds Brooklyn, one of 5 boroughs of New York. To visit Brooklyn is to visit a borough undergoing a transformation. If it were a full-fledged city it would rank fourth among the most populated cities in the United States behind NYC, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Brooklyn is the trendiest borough in New York after Manhattan and is even considered as New Manhattan.

brooklyn bridge wallpaper images

36 Hours in Brooklyn

It's 5 o'clock in the morning when we woke up at the hotel right next to Times Square. The jetlag remains after the first day in New York when we went to bed after seeing the NBA game. The first thing we do is look out the window and see again the impressive views we have of the Empire State Building from the bed. We immediately recharge energies to prepare ourselves and start with this day of this trip to New York.

We leave a few minutes before 7:00 in the morning from our hotel for breakfast at one of the most recommended places in the area. We ordered a pasta and a cappuccino for a price that we have been paying more or less for breakfast these days. We think it is pretty cheap considering that we are in the heart of New York.

Today the day is sunny, so we take a few minutes before the tour to take some photos of Times Square now that there are not too many people. So with the coffees in hand, like two other citizens, we went to one of the most visited places in New York, two blocks from our hotel.

At this time of the morning, it is a real luxury to walk through this area of New York. Despite the fact that the city has been in operation for a few hours, most tourists have not yet arrived in this area. So that it is still possible to take a picture without many people. We take the opportunity to sit at the famous red tables for a few minutes to enjoy the atmosphere of this place, more than symbolic of New York.

When we realize it is almost 8 o'clock in the morning, we race to the Hotel. At 8 o'clock we start our journey to the Bronx, the neighborhood that will be our first stop. As we go through Manhattan, we started to move away from the nerve center of the city, making our way to the Bronx. We see the famous Yankee Stadium, which has become an attraction in itself.

From here, we cross the street, seeing the elevated metro, so characteristic of this area of the city. We get closer to the graffiti that remind us of several famous baseball players, who are honored in this part of the city.

The second stop in the Bronx is the 42nd station. After this stop, we move from one graffiti to another on the bus. The next stop in the Bronx is at Simpson Station. Here we walk around the area. After taking a photo, we approach the subway station to see it inside.

It's 10 o'clock in the morning when we leave the Bronx and take the highway to cross East River and into Queens, another district that we will see today. We pass through Malba, one of the most exclusive areas of New York. After this brief tour of houses, we continue the journey to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park. It is the largest park in Queens and one of the most emblematic of the city, passing also by the US Open tennis stadium.

In Flushing Meadows, we also see the Observation Towers. We spent no less than 20 minutes in the area, but we start to feel the cold outside. We have a coffee and continue to Brooklyn, to enter Williamsburg, where is the largest Orthodox Jewish community in the city. But before entering, we passed through the First Calvary cemetery. We get stunning views with Manhattan in the background.

We did not take more than 20 minutes to reach the center of Williamsburg, where we found a Jewish community invades the streets. After this last stop, we make our way to the Brooklyn Bridge. It's just after 1 noon when we make our way to a pizzeria, the place we have chosen to eat.

Here we have to make a queue of 30 minutes to get a pizza. Once on the top floor of the restaurant, we ordered a small pizza with pepperoni, double cheese and onion. We also order soft drinks and coffee at a price that we can say is expensive for what we have eaten.

At 3 o'clock in the afternoon, we left and pass through the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. We go straight to Brooklyn Heights Promenade, from where we have the first views of the New York skyline. As it could not be otherwise, it leave us with our mouths open.

We can only say that Brooklyn Heights Promenade takes our breath away and more on days like today. The sky looks blue, practically without clouds and although it is quite cold, the sun begins to caress the face at this time of the afternoon. It has become one of the most romantic places in New York, where it is not unusual to see marriage proposals, anniversaries or newlyweds.

From Brooklyn Heights Promenade we have views not only of the skyscrapers of Manhattan. We also see the Statue of Liberty, the first time we see her on this trip to New York and the majestic Brooklyn Bridge.

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is one of the favorites for tourists, couples, families and of course, athletes who come to run and enjoy one of the views most impressive in the city. It is surrounded by flowers, trees, benches and several playgrounds for children.

After spending almost an hour, totally engrossed with the incredible views, we retrace our steps, to continue through the area. This time we take the opposite direction to the Empire Fulton Ferry Park. Here Jane's Carousel is located, another of the symbols from this area of ​​the city. From here we can admire the Manhattan Bridge so close that we can almost touch it.

Following the walk, we find one of the quietest areas of the Empire Fulton Ferry Park and is the beach of New York, as some call it. After having the first contact with the impressive skyline of New York we enter the neighborhood adjacent to Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Here the red-brown houses full of charm become the protagonists of this area of ​​the city and where the quiet streets are part of the itinerary. We arrive at Front street from where we can enjoy unique views of the Manhattan Bridge standing out among the brownstone houses.

It is almost 5:00 in the afternoon when we decided that the time has come to have that experience that many consider essential in New York. It is to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. So we thought about it and we approached the stairs that give us access to Brooklyn Bridge. Among those 100 things to see and do in New York, probably this should be among the top 10.

The Brooklyn Bridge joins the districts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. At one time it was the largest suspension bridge in the world as was also the first suspended by steel cables and today one of the symbols of New York.

We have almost no time to stop and take pictures. As we approach the end we were a little overwhelmed seeing so many people. Since we still have some time until dusk, we stop to take a soft drink to rest a while.

It's almost 6:30 pm when we start thinking whether to go back to the Brooklyn area crossing the bridge or by subway. Seeing the time it is we decided to go by subway, arriving by 7:00 pm to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade area. From here we have stunning views of the New York skyline, with a sunset in the background. It made it the best farewell we would have imagined for a day like today.

Despite the cold, we cannot resist a walk from north to south to Empire Fulton Ferry Park to see the sunset from there. As the afternoon progresses and it begins to get dark, the cold also begins to become more apparent. The temperature have not exceeded 12 degrees throughout the day, but at this time of the evening, it is no more than 6 degrees.

After all day on the street, we begin to look for a place where we can warm up and dine. But before we cannot stop going back to Brooklyn Heights Promenade, from where we take the last views of Manhattan at night. It was already dark and it was time to go to Dyker Heights.

At Christmas time the residents of this neighborhood adorn their homes with lots of lights. The most decorated houses are between the 11th and 13th avenues and the 83rd and 86th streets. It was difficult to take pictures because there are so many people.

It is almost 9 o'clock at night when we decided that it is time to retire. So we go back to the subway and we make our way to Times Square where we have our hotel. Here we hope to find a place to dine hoping that there are not so many people like yesterday. This time at night there was nobody and we could take many pictures despite the cold.

It did not take more than 20 minutes to get back again to the nerve center of Downtown Manhattan. At this time it is fully lit and full of people. When we approached the restaurant, as we intuited at this time is full of people. So we decided that the best option is to go to a sushi store that we have right in front of the hotel. We carry a few sushi boxes that we tasted in our room, facing the incredible views of the Empire State Building.

Supermoon over the Bronx in New York

We had a typical American breakfast with pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon. Before going to Bronx, we went to Harlem, to a mass of gospel music. The church we chose was Greater Refuge Temple located on Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd. The mass started at 11 but we got there at about 9:30, and by the time we went there was no one and we took a seat.

We do not have a photo because they could not be taken out, but the show was amazing. When we left before the end of Mass, there was a line that went around the church, and people were entering as we were leaving. We left the church and it was raining, but not very hard. Before going to the Bronx, we went for a walk to 125th Street, where the Apollo Theater is located and a million sports stores.

It seems incredible that so close to Manhattan there is an area so different from this one. We made a route through Columbia University, Cathedral of Saint John the Divine and the Apollo Theater, which took us almost two hours to get to know the essence of the neighborhood. When we finished the route we decided to go for brunch and we had an hour of waiting to eat there, something that was already becoming a constant throughout the trip and that was becoming quite tiring.

I liked the idea of ​​taking brunch especially because of the soulful acts that are on weekends at that time, but we were not lucky and we did not find live music. While we were deciding whether to wait for an hour to eat there or not, I could see that there was no action in the room. So we decided to leave so we did not waste much time and make more use of the daylight hours. If there had not been an hour of waiting obviously we would have stayed, because the food that I could see looked great.

And from Harlem we went to the Bronx. I had prepared a small route through the Bronx visiting the most famous places, but what we found when we got off the Metro made us want to take a long walk around the neighborhood. We leave the Metro at Intervale Ave to visit the area where some of the images that most identify the neighborhood are located. I had read that the Bronx is not what it used to be, that there was enough security on the streets now, and that it was only insecure if one traveled at night.

Right next to Intervale Ave, on the corner of Westchester Ave, are the elevated subway with which the Bronx is identified, and some of the best-known graffiti in the area. But what impressed me most was seeing the amount of shoes hanging from the cables that were there. There are several explanations about the meaning of this. Some qualify as trophies of the bands and others, such as the way used by them to mark their territory or remember their dead.

The initial idea was to go down from there, to the Yankees Stadium passing by the Fort Apache Police Station, but the weather did not invite to walk. Surely there are a million more romantic places than Gun Hill Road in New York. But here, in the Bronx, it was where the Supermoon surprised me, magically emerging behind the rails of the elevated subway.

Although times have changed, and prejudices have been diluted in so many raids by this no man's land that nevertheless retains that image of implacable urban hardness. The fact is that it passed by, with nocturnality and without treachery, when the luminous globe was caught on the rust of the Gun Hill Road station, before the surely astonished eyes of the passers who had not seen anything for at least 18 years.

They say that the Moon approached to the point closest to Earth, but anyone would say that it was able to smell that pair of worn and sweaty sneakers that hung on a cable of light in the Bronx, waiting without doubt the
unrepeatable moment. Astronomers say that on the night the Moon shined 30% more and was 14% larger than usual.

And despite all its powerful influence, scientists argue that it had a minor effect on terrestrial events, but perhaps contributed to the new wave of wars and cataclysms. In Gun Hill Road the earth trembled, but it was due to the effect of the limping meter that, in a moment of nocturnal delirium, seemed able to take the travelers of line 5 to a lunar base.

Someone told me one day that this place owes its name to one of the most talked about battles of the American revolution, but for a long time it was also the scene of the urban battles of the seventies, when the South Bronx won the unfortunate nickname of Fort Apache thanks to the cinema. Another film called precisely Gun Hill Road now narrates the vicissitudes of a Hispanic prisoner who comes out of jail and finds his old neighborhood almost unrecognizable.

Hip hop is still playing in all corners, but the black and Hispanic rock has joined a new wave of whites expelled from the paradise of Manhattan, looking for a hovel for less than a thousand pesos per month. After all, the Bronx was Jewish and Italian, before falling into disgrace and distance. The maps situate it to the north, but nobody doubts that here is the authentic south of this New York of the inverted geography.

It's getting late, and the Supermoon is already a pale reflection in the unreal waters of the East River. The echo of distant bombs sounds on the radio. The world turns lately at an uncontrollable speed, and I wonder if all this is due to a conspiracy. Since it was time to eat and we did not know where to go we went down to Herald Square with the idea of ​​making a purchase and walking as little as possible on the street.

We ate at a TGI Fridays. It was the first place we saw and we entered without thinking. After lunch we made a purchase and went to the apartment to dry a little. At about 9 pm, I go out again. We went to the Radio City Music Hall area. It is amazing how it is decorated at Christmas.

We strolled through the area, enjoying the people, Christmas music, shopping and everything that the Big Apple carries in this time. There are no words. I do not know how when I prepared the trip I thought that after all the day we would be able to finish the night in the Greenwich Village.

Something that I really wanted to do was go to a restaurant where there was a jazz performance, something very New York style. But the tiredness and a beginning of cold that I began to notice after taking all day made that we had to cancel the reservation and settle for a light dinner with fruit in the hotel room.

Supermoon over the Bronx in New York

A Cheese in Exchange for a French Kiss in France

Well, this is the account of a trip by the car on a vacation in France. On this occasion, I let myself be carried away by the recommendations of a tourist office about charming villages here. Of the rest of French towns that I see on that trip, I am not going to speak to you here but of the town of which I remember the best moment in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

Perhaps and first of all, I must first explain French realities. In the first place, I am not talking about a French kiss. I am talking about a light kiss on the cheek between friends. There are between two and three kisses in the south of France and usually two in the north.

But there could also be four or only one, and who knows what happens if you meet someone from the south in the north. Therefore, carefully observe the person who is greeting you. If he or she bows, go for it, but let them guide you. And knowing this, you will understand why my moment with the French is called a cheese in exchange for a kiss.

Well, I arrived at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port after lunch. The idea was to spend the afternoon and then arrive at Bayonne at night. At the entrance of this village in the south-west of France, I see charming, typical medieval villages without castle but walled. There are narrow streets, all surrounded by mountains and are very green.

It is the last French town on the Camino de Santiago, and for that reason, there is a lot of references here to this whole subject. And of course, as tourists we were, I saw what there was to see. The church that, of course, is called Nôtre-Dame, is small and highlighted by the stained glass windows of its walls that had very intense colors. What else, a bridge famous for being a farewell to the pilgrims. Then I went for a walk around the wall. In short, I do what a tourist does there.

But also a tourist, I am curious and usually stop in everything that catches my attention. That day, in the main square of that little town, there was a kind of market in the street. It had handicrafts (many of them were cow figures) and edibles of all kinds of that region. It was very alive and full of people speaking French everywhere.

Well, from that flea market, I went to a French cheese stand that caught my attention. The place was very small, and the cheeses were protected by a glass. I could see them through it. In a zone of the position, I see a French girl in her thirties. She is tall, and thin, wearing an apron. She is neither very good looking nor ugly.

Normally, what is done in these places is that they usually give you a small piece of cheese for free to try. If you like it, you can buy it or leave it. But, oh, hell! In my case, that little girl did not want to give it to me for free. The French girl told me she wanted me to try the piece of cheese in exchange for a kiss.

At first, I play the fool and I pretend that I do not understand what she says. But of course, it was a little late for me to get up and her language of gestures indicated me to the place where I had to give it to her. And the place was not the cheeks but the lips.

The situation was, if I give her a kiss I can try the cheese and if not, then I cannot try it, but I should buy it directly. I cannot stop thinking at that time of the sales marketing techniques of that French girl in particular.

What do you do in those circumstances? You kiss, or you dismiss the French girl (that is, without saying goodbye). Well, at the end of the story, I do not know if it was what you had done in my place or what you expected to happen. But I told her that the custom in my country was to give two kisses.

In the end, the French girl seemed fine. We greeted each other. She introduced herself (I do not even remember her name). She gave me a piece of I do not remember what cheese she was cutting, and I tried it. At the end, I indicated her that I was going to keep seeing the rest of the market and then I would buy it.

And what happened, what do you think, because I did not buy the cheese? I thought that bringing typically sweet French cheeses was not the most convenient for the car trip afterward.

Even so, it is a moment that for me is inevitable to remember every time I see a cheese. And a kiss in exchange for cheese has a rhyme. I hope you liked it since I cannot help but smile when I remember it and summarize it in a Vive la France!

On the Way to Corbett National Park and Ranikhet

While the heat sets in Delhi, where the thermometer exceeds 40 degrees, we took advantage to go a little further north. The goal was to enjoy the days to go to a remote corner and that I could not do in a weekend. Reducing my initial ambition which required to take a flight and a lot of preparation, I decided to leave for Uttarakhand to Ranikhet in the heart of Corbett National Park.

This time, I left a little unplanned. The whole trip was fixed, but flexible enough to allow me to cash the possible hazards of a trip off the tourist trail. So I arrived in the night, after an hour in the Delhi metro to the Anand Vihar bus station where I boarded a bus to Ramnagar. Cradled in the front between bags and people, the little air that infiltrates can withstand a minimum of 8 hours of travel. Each stop of the vehicle is a nightmare.

The first surprise was not long in coming as I arrived at 2 am. Ramnagar was not an end in itself, but the gateway to Corbett National Park, the oldest in the country and the launch area of the Tiger Project. This National Park, the oldest in India, was created in 1936 under the name of Hailey National Park. It was then renamed in 1957 to Corbett National Park, in honor of Jim Corbett, the legendary hunter who become protector of wildlife.

The animals are truly wild unlike some other parks like Ranthambore, where I learned that tigers were regularly fed. The guide I had talked to on the day before on the phone had advised against coming saying that the visits had been sold and that I cannot access the park.

Fortunately for me, it turned out that I could go on a safari in the afternoon and that even more, I could even spend a night in the park. So I opted for this option which was frankly expensive but that seemed to me worth the cost/blow.

ranikhet images

Day 2

I left on late morning with the driver who was quite friendly. But it was a little frustrating to see him like everyone else during the two safaris where the only goal is to see the tiger. The 50 km separating Ramnagar from Dikhala was for me, the real attraction of the stay in the park. The driver drove gently on dirt tracks, on the lookout for animals.

This magnificent protected natural area alternating hills, sal forests, gullies, swampy areas and meadows is furrowed by the Ramganga river. This peaceful river, halted by the Kalagarh dam, gives rise to a lake bordered by large grassy plains in the center of the park. The alarms of deer and monkeys are regular to let us know that the Tiger is not very far, immersing us then in a very particular atmosphere.

Nevertheless, this discreet predator remains quite difficult to see. Maybe we will have the chance to observe him strolling nonchalantly in the undergrowth, in a grassy meadow or come to drink or bathe near a water point.

The driver seemed to want to give a good taste of the safari which, comparatively, were a little disappointing. I arrived at the camp at around 15:30 and planned to go on safari almost immediately. So I settled in my quite spartan dormitory before leaving.

The safari consisted of a tiger hunt. A dozen jeeps followed each other almost in line to the edge of the forest, at the limit with the grasslands where graze the animals. Once there, everyone turns off the engine and wait, until almost one hour out of the three hours of safari!

As we were impatient, our driver agreed to take us a little further, where we made a very nice observation of a group of wild elephants. A dozen adult females, three young, including a baby (a few weeks old) were grazing while regularly spraying themselves with dust.

It was very impressive, especially since they were really close. I shivered as they crossed the road. I also observed a male wild tusker with long tusk, moving isolated. When I returned to the hotel it was not even 5 o'clock, and I am not able to stay in the enclosure! Knowing that I would not find anything, I went for a walk in the town. Sure enough, there was nothing. Not even places to eat.

I listened to music and followed the trail. I arrived at a site and only saw many men and they only looked at me. One finally gave me the forward gesture and I went inside without really knowing where I was going. All the women were sitting on the floor. Finally someone managed to explain to me that it was an engagement ceremony but that the boy and the girl would not see each other until the wedding in the following week.

They made me dance and everyone was so embarrassed that only a very invasive girl danced with me with the consequent attention of adults. They formed a circle. The children took me aside, mage me sit in a chair. They brought me food. I was very happy to have shared that time with them. They gave me a tiny pendant of little beads.

A woman came to ask me if I was married and smiling I went back to the hotel. I spent some time in the garden. The truth is that it was an incredible time and it was nice to be outside. There I met a girl I had seen at another hotel during breakfast and we were chatting. We had the same safari the next day and we agreed to go together.

I went to sleep, but the sheets still do not convince me. I have slept in my bag and since there were many mosquitoes outside and once I saw in the room, I put the mosquito net. I had already been warned that there is usually no place to hang the mosquito net.

My plan for these cases was to put the suitcase horizontally behind the head to create a high space and join the mosquito net there so there was air between my face and this one. Then the rest of the body did not matter to me, since I have it covered with the sack. Instead I put the two pillows horizontally behind my head.

I sleep in the heart of the park in a camp protected by fences. I feel the beating heart of the jungle, with all the protagonists who act at night.

Day 3

After the breakfast I load my bag to go towards the beautiful slopes and forests of the foothills of the Himalayan range. The safari was relatively similar, although we had waited less. I had little patience or hope to see a tiger among all these jeeps, even though silent. We watched at length the group of wild elephants, the same as the day before, as well as huge groups of chitales and many birds.

We went back to Ramnagar, taking advantage of the crossing of the park to make our last observations. We have the opportunity, in particular, to see a gharial in the Ganges from less than 100m.

The rest of the trip was to be more sporty. I planned to reach Almora to spend the last few days trekking in the green Himalayas. To save time, I jumped on a bus to Ranikhet (mid-course) right out of the park. In this mountainous region of Uttarakhand, the state of the roads is poor. After 4 hours on the 100 km, I swapped the local bus for a shared jeep bringing us to Almora after 2 hours to finish 50 km.

It's pretty folky, but overall rather fun, and practical if not comfortable. We wanted to settle here for the weekend. Almora is a small town, located 1650 meters above sea level in the Kumaon region, which is known for its stone temples dating from the 10th century. It is them that we went to see from Jageshwar, a big village housed in a valley and around which are beautiful walks.

Beautiful wildflower fields and rhododendrons, bordered by forests of pines and oaks, surround the city. In 1869, the British army bought a piece of land from the villagers of Ranikhet to create a mountain camp where soldiers could escape the summer heat of the plains.

Day 4

Perched at 1820 m altitude, on a ridge in the foothills of the western Himalayas, Ranikhet offers an astonishing panorama, from the surrounding hills to the snowy peaks of the Himalayan range, less than 100 km north-east. The Nanda Devi, the second highest Indian peak at 7,816 m, is clearly visible.

As for the panoramic view of the peaks of the Himalayas, it will be necessary to return in winter, but it is certain that the region is very beautiful. I see colorful villages, terraced crops, pine forests, some banana trees and palm trees seem to be arrived there by chance.

The city now hosts the Kumaon regiment of the Indian army, whose presence accentuates the impression of tradition and heritage of the past. The charm of British colonial buildings is still noticeable. The houses stretch out on the ridge, on either side of the bazaar district, but, following Mall Road, it is possible to quickly find oneself in the middle of green spaces planted with trees and flowery meadows.

Unlike the larger resorts of Shimla or Dalhousie, Ranikhet remains pleasantly hidden. Its tranquility invites serenity. I reach the main attraction of Jageshwar, the complex of 124 stone temples, most of which are dedicated to Shiva. There are lingams in most of them of various sizes. The place is very popular as I witness the many stalls selling offerings and religious souvenirs.

From there I enter a path through the village and then the pines, leads to Vridh Jageshwar. Here I discover, at the top of the mountain, a new stone temple and some buildings. We were supposed to reach Binsar, another historical place, on foot by a path along the ridges, but we got lost and had to change our plans. Never mind, nature was beautiful, and despite the sun a bit strong in the middle of the day I took full advantage of it.

The return to Delhi was hectic. After sitting for 12 hours tossed on the benches of an ordinary bus, the journey was worth it! At night, Mori Gate looks like a film with a wasteland dimly lit, truck carcasses, starving stray dogs, and men with uncertain gait observing with unfeigned interest the westerners who seem lost.

Arjun: The Warrior Prince

Arjun voiced by Yudhveer Bakoliya combines hand-drawn and computer graphics. The plot unfolds rapidly and gives way to scenes of battle, sometimes quite bloody. The film was meant to be enjoyed by adults, and the emotional content is there.

Western critics held that Arjun The Warrior Prince was too old-school and the film could be considered a bit too outdated and traditional. Subtitles are been criticized for their vagueness, and the women who appear in the film do so only to get married or to take care of men.

Yuvraj gets excited like crazy, alone with his wooden sword against a cloth mannequin. However, night fell. It is time to sleep. The young prince is of course unable to fall asleep. His housekeeper tells him a story of a great warrior, that could help Yuvraj to sleep.

Long back, the King Pandu had abdicated the kingdom of Hastinapur in favor of his brother Dhritarashtra and had gone to live as a hermit in the forest. He had five sons collectively called the Pandavas. On the death of Pandu, the family moved back to the palace. Dhritarashtra had hundred children, called the Kauravas.

The five Pandavas were thus faced with their ​​the Kauravas, trained together in weapons by Drona. Arjun was the smartest, especially with the bow. Drona had high hopes in the young Pandava. But as time passes, rivalries and jealousies between Pandavas and Kauravas became more vivid. During an exercise, Duryodhan, the eldest of the Kauravas had even tried to drown Bheem, the youngest of the Pandavas.

The old king Dhritarashtra had understood that his own succession would be difficult and the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas appeared difficult to avoid. Duryodhana wanted the crown of Hastinapur at all costs, even if he needed to kill his cousin Arjun.

Arjun: The Warrior Prince tells a small part of the Mahabharata, simplified and romanticized. Perhaps to avoid countless digressions, many aspects are ignored. Thus, for example, the viewer may be surprised to discover, without explanation, that the king Dhritarashtra is blind and wonder about the fact that his wife Gandhari accompany blindfolded. Their age difference surprises.

The religious aspects, hidden at first, gradually illuminate understanding culminating in the initiation of Arjun. The film can happily be seen as an extraordinary and fascinating history. After 30 minutes, we get familiar with many characters. The fact remains that the gap with western references is immense. The war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas is not the Trojan War.

Arjun is neither Achilles or Aeneas, and is much more than that. The motivations of both the Pandavas as Kauravas are very human. We are therefore based on familiar ground. The epic is however another dimension when the gods are involved, with Krishna and Shiva first. Arjun becomes divine warrior. The housekeeper punctuates softly his story to the young Yuvraj by explanations that we are also intended.

We can therefore see fights and battles that punctuate the narrative. Arjun: The Warrior Prince is bloody, as if to illustrate the troubled times of this great fratricidal war. Young boys will certainly be thrilled, girls may be less. Basically, the only meaningful characters are male, while women are far behind.

Even Draupadi, the wife of Arjun is entitled only to a few words. The text of the Mahabharata is even more cruel to Draupadi. She is actually the wife of the five Pandavas and not only Arjun as shown in the film. On the contrary, the sets of Arjun: The Warrior Prince are often beautiful.The fights are addictive and well choreographed.

This technical success is accompanied by interesting digital effects. Camera movements are perfect, suggesting that part of the animation was done by computer. Some scenes were played by actors and then redrawn by hand. This method differs from the motion capture, and increases realism by enabling smooth natural motion. Finally, the evocation of the divine is remarkable, and is the opposite of what we see in most Indian mythological films.

The sound is no exception. The sound effects are impeccable and the voices are very nice, especially that of the housekeeper. The background music of Dhruv Ghanekar perfectly accompanies the action as in the final battle. Arjun: The Warrior Prince includes six songs from the Vishal-Shekhar duo. Animated films are usually for young audiences. This is also the case of Arjun: The Warrior Prince.

Arjun: The Warrior Prince

Timeless Trip Through Tranquebar

Tranquebar is very little not mentioned in the tourist guides talking about South India and so much it allows me to discover it in its most preserved state. I am very interested in history. All political structures, all traditions, all religions did not come about by chance. They owe themselves to certain situations, certain personalities, certain turning points in a development. Before I go on a journey, I always tries to study the history of the place in question.

India poses a certain challenge in this regard, as this country has only been understood as a unit for a relatively short time and did not really have a common history before. Many think of India as the long colonial era, when the subcontinent was the crown jewel of the British Empire.

But before the British, the Portuguese had long since settled in the country and remained even when Britain had capitulated to Gandhi. But also the French and other European powers dreamed of a colonial empire in Asia and formed their own Indian colonies.

Before I was able to devote himself to this subject, I plunged deeply into an earlier part of Indian history to the time of the mighty Chola kings of South India. Thanjavur used to serve as their capital, and here Rajaraja I built the first large Chola temple, the Brihadisvara Temple.

Day 1

I was already able to gain first impressions yesterday in the late afternoon. Today I had to experience this impressive building again in the morning light. At the shoe delivery I was welcomed as a regular customer. The shoe watcher immediately remembered me and even gave me the same slot as yesterday. In the blazing sun, the various buildings of the temple did indeed have a different effect. The tall Nandi in front of the entrance now stood out better,

I enjoyed this second visit very much, because I no longer had to search for the artistic highlights of the temple design for tourist interest. I could simply leave the special mood of this sanctuary and had time to observe the pilgrims on their temple visit. And I wanted more, more chola architecture.

An hour later, the parking lot of the next temple could already be started. In the silk weavers city of Darasuram, the relatively small Airateswara Temple is also a World Heritage Site for the Chola Temples. This mighty dynasty in southeastern India glorified its power mainly through the construction of ornate temples, which were to surpass anything that had been done before.

The temple of Darasuram is the smallest specimen of this category, but I considered it the most beautiful. Extensive sculptural decoration covered both the exterior and interior of the walls, as well as the numerous columns. Unlike the previous South Indian temples lacked the temple towers colorful paint. Their figure-splendor, golden in sunlight, nevertheless made a towering impression.

While I admired the temple extensively, I already organized the next part of the program for a visit to a family silk weaving mill. This really did not turn out to be a road-haulage touristic, but provided a real insight into the hard and tedious work of silk processing. The family owns only two looms, in which pure saris are created with pure handcraft and ancient patterns.

After examining the weaving work, I saw some especially nicely patterned saris. But even the silk weaver knew that I certainly would not need and buy saris. So he showed some silk scarves, which are made of the same materials as the saris.

Also near Darasuram is an hotel, where I enjoyed the great variety and impeccable food. Only a so-called salad proved to be linguistic as well as culinary corruption of the American original. It consisted of a layer of chopped raw food cubes, home-made mayonnaise without any seasoning as a topping and a few walnut splinters as decoration.

At the end of my lunch I was late to Gangaikondacholapuram, a city founded by the powerful Chola King Rajendra I, after he had advanced with his armies to the Ganges, and had brought from there vast amounts of holy Ganges water. Unfortunately, this actually impressive temple was more than a construction site. Everywhere stood scaffolding and hidden essential parts of the figurine jewelry.

This left my visit rather short. Equally short was my visit to the oldest temple in Kumbakonam. It is too modern and rather cheesy extensions or even improvements and much of the old, ornate jewelry was covered. I was disappointed.

After so many explorations in the Indian Middle Ages, there was now a leap in time right into the colonial history of the early 17th century. Not only British, French and Dutch competed for a large and profitable colonial empire, smaller nations wanted to try their luck as well. I take the road to reach the small town of Tharangambadi or Tranquebar located on the coast.

In 1620, a Danish expedition landed in southern India and rented a small fishing village from the Nayak kings of Thanjavur. It is Tharangabadi, whom they called Tranquebar. A mighty Danish fortress was supposed to protect this tiny colony, and at the same time began an attempt to establish Protestantism in India.

That's why Tranquebar even created India's first printing press. 250 years later, the Danes abandoned their colonial experiment and left it to the British. At that time, the British Customs Agency established a residence for its chief local official right on the beach. This historic building now served as an accommodation. It is a magnificent colonial wooden building with a wide wrap-around porch on the first floor.

With only eight, but very spacious rooms, this small, fine hotel, is all named after Danish ship. I booked a sea-view room and enjoyed a fantastic view of the Danish fortress to the right. There is an ancient temple to the left and the surfacing sea right in front of me.

Forgetting the torrential rains that ravaged Tamil Nadu, Tranquebar snorts under a pale sun. On the narrow beach along the untamed ocean, young women laugh heartily when the waves crashing come to lick their feet. Whole families of Punjabi tourists loudly show their happiness to be there.

On Parade Square, the large square separates Dansborg, the imposing fort built by the Danes in the 17th century. The street lamps, a copy of those found in Berlin, Paris or Copenhagen, recall that once upon a time, Tranquebar was Danish.

Only the restaurant disappointed me a bit because it served neither beer nor fish. It only has vegetarian food and non-alcoholic drinks. Nevertheless, this night spent in the expansive bed of a history exhaling building is an unforgettable experience. So history can leave the pages of a book and become tangible.

Timeless Trip Through Tranquebar

Day 2

Shortly before sunrise, I awoke to the sound of the sea and let my gaze wander over the area. The sky was slightly pink, but there was no trace of the sun. Even though the morning light gained strength later, a true sunrise could not be admired. Nevertheless, the views of the sea and the neighboring Danish fort proved impressive.

I could totally enjoy the breakfast. In addition to the usual buffet ingredients there are numerous omelette or Dosa variants. I chose a masala omelette. While the egg dish was being prepared, I chose a table outside near the beautiful swimming pool, where I already placed a bowl of cereal and a fresh pineapple juice.

When I got myself another cup of coffee from the buffet, I had to drive away a mighty black crow, who was just serving my cereal. The masala omelette could be described as spicy but some papaya and pineapple pieces rounded off the first meal of the day in a pleasant way.

I go out to explore the former Danish colonial city. The neighboring temple was unfortunately still closed, but at the nearby Zion Church, the oldest Protestant church in India from 1701, I managed to open the gate that was not locked. Formal rigor awaited me inside and out. I leisurely strolled up and down the 200 m of the main street to the Danish city gate. I roamed around the almost-restored Danish fort.

The main road to Chidambaram had been closed today for an bullock cart race. I endured with composure and helped to bypass the blocked route via Google Maps. Shortly before 12:00, I reached the famous Nataraja Temple of Chidambaram, in which Shiva is revered as king of dance.

According to the guide, the temple was supposed to close at 12:00. So I hastened to catch a few glimpses inside. However, India rarely adheres to written rules. I landed in the middle of noon when a puja, the noon prayer was celebrated with lots of bell and drum accompaniment and loud songs, interrupted by silent fire rites of the priests.

A local beside me filmed the ceremony with his smartphone. Before I could adapt to his behavior, an angry priest rushed at the compatriot and forced him to erase the shot. Even after the puja, there could be no question of closure. All areas of the temple remained well filled with devotees and tourists. I was particularly struck by the myriad colorful mandalas that covered the floor of the temple corridors every 5 meters.

Unfortunately, in Chidambaram a considerable part of the temple was also a construction site. The most complete 1000-column hall of India with exactly 999 columns was currently completely closed. Nevertheless, I found the way to the remote small Sivakami Amman temple. The lobby is decorated with beautiful ceiling frescoes and elaborate columns.

However, there was no separation between the vestibule and the actual shrine. As soon as I held my camera in the direction of the priest in the shrine, I got a loud, angry No! As I had become accustomed to walking on hot stones and rough ground, I almost forgot to pick up my shoes on leaving the Nataraja Temple. Only the resolute cry, Your shoes, sir, that forced me to return in time.

The next destination was Puducherry, or Pondicherry. This city was once the most important colony of France in India, before it lost here too the war against the British. Although politically defeated, culturally their stamp has been preserved to this day. Even the police officers of the widely ramified federal territory Pondicherry wear uniforms in the style of French cops.

The old town of Pondicherry, the so-called French Quarter, also breathed tangible French flair. I chose the restaurant at the prestigious hotel as the venue for my midday meal. In the courtyard of the hotel, I was looking forward to a menu of genuine Creole cuisine, which combines and refines French and Indian components.

As a starter I am served a salad, bite-sized potatoes, egg pieces of the same size and quartered mini tomato in a spicy mayonnaise dressing, supplemented by baguette slices of liquid herb butter. This rather European treat was followed by a pleasantly spicy Creole seafood curry with cumin rice and chapati. It was accompanied by beer and finished with a white coffee.

A digestive walk through the French Quarter led me first to the candy-pink colored Our Lady of Angels Church, past other French colonial buildings to the Gandhi statue right on the sea and along the waterfront. I then go to the magnificent neo-Gothic Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the somewhat disappointing Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

The final destination of the day was the small town of Mamallapuram, also located on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. Masses of tourists were still moving through the streets in the evening, but after dark, anyway, I did not want to go sightseeing anymore. Upon reaching the hotel I was greeted with a cold juice. Instead of the jasmine flower wreath, they hung a necklace of shells and sea snails around my neck.

That I had to wait about 10 minutes to get the room ready. The lush tropical garden also had a positive effect and the pool with its dolphin statues and ball lamps could even be described as fantastically beautiful. But all this ended immediately upon entering the semicircular room. It was not actually dirty, as I had feared, but immensely in need of renovation.

In many places the paint peeled off the ceiling, while the light switches wobbled in the wall because the fixings had become loose. However, the management did not seem to care that this impression of the run-down would be talked about in times of the internet and would be devastating. After all, even I chose the hotel despite the many mixed reviews on the Internet, because it simply had the best location in the city.

For today I was just happy to have arrived and to have a bed. My French lunch was still so heavy that there could be no question of hunger. So I was content with one of the smuggled beers. Its sweetish flavor gradually turned into sweet dreams.