A Travellerspoint blog

June 2015

Ashrams of India

Ashram

The Ashram’s Of The East

India is the land of sages , philosophers , saints and spiritual healers . It is thus but natural that it is a land over flowing with Ashrams . These are centres of religious ,theological and spiritual growth . Here men come leaving all the heavy chores and responsibilities of the material life to savour the flavours of being sadhu’s or renouncers of the world . These ashrams are all over Haridwar and Hrishikesh , where i started my travelthon . I spent two days in the ashram od Baba Ram Dev in Haridwar . The compound is huge covered with a lush green garden and a huge patangili yog hospital . In the middle of the compound is a huge Statue of sage Patanjali meditating . The is rishi bhoomi indeed , all Baba Ramdev Style. The Ashram has rooms for visitors to stay in and a dining hall , which serves vegetarian food . The near by shops sell products that Ramdev and the patanjali yog centre manufactures through local farmers . These include Ghee , Honey , Toothpaste , Oil’s , juices , sherbets and many other such day to day products . It’s a flourishing enterprise of baba’s .Instructors teach yoga and why it is so important in fighting day to day ailments . Ram Dev once claimed he could eradicate homosexuality through Patanjali Yoga. Indeed abrade attempt to make the uttrakhand area of India into a Rishi Bhoomi.

The other ashram of course is the OSHO Ashram in pune it is the centre .Hailed as a ashram for free sex , it was known for it’s love , music ,dance and laugh philosophy .Mostly run by europeans and American’s who are followers of OSHO , the ashram works like clock work . It is the cleanest and most hygienic ashram i have ever seen . Sanyasis wear white and maron robes . The ashram is a centre for meditation and the teachings of OSHO .Before one enters a AID’S test is carried out . The security had been beefed up lately because a bomb had gone off at the near by German Bakery . This was of course later found to be the work of Hadley who was a friend of Mahesh Bhat’s Son Rahul. Mahesh Bhat himself had been a sanyasi at the ashram for a few years , along with the actor Vinod Khanna of course. OSHO’s provocative lectures , meditation which includes kundalini awakening , laughing and dynamic meditation. Swan’s flot around in the pond wich is full of gold fish , it’s a heavenly sight.

Right at the bottom tip of India is the Viveka Nanda Asram situated in Kanyakumari and the huge vivekananda rock some way into the sea. One has to take a ferry to the rock on which is situated the temple . Here also meditation is the key , pilgrims meditate focusing their energy on the OM symbol carved on the wall , which constantly keeps glowing .Food is vegetarian and the accommodation is simple and sparse . In the morning yaga and puja’s are performed by the priests .Their is the library nnd a grils school in the ashram also . Grand quotes from the great man adorn the walls of the ashram , with huge cutouts of the saint himself. A monk who truly put indian philosophy and religion on the world map.

Posted by Anuj Tikku 18:55 Archived in India Tagged ashram Comments (0)

Along The Mekong River

Vietnam and Cambodia

Across the Great Mekong River

This was the most amazing experience i had during my visit to Cambodia and Vietnam .The great river is the seventh largest in Asia and covers Cambodia, Vitnam , Laos , Mynamar . It forms the very fertile mekong delta in Vietnam .This is a lush green region of swamps , lakes and river which is also called the rice bowl .Rice is produced in this region and is a stable diet in the region , Rice is enjoyed in the orient , along with various types of soups and gravies . The river is mainly grey in colour , muddy at times and at times green when it reaches the swamps. Low trees with thick foliage cover the narrows straits of the delta. One has to use wooden boats to take a ride in these swamps . Jackets are provided to travellers in advance . One can see tea shops on boats and women selling biscuits , water and cola all paddling away in the river . Man selling vegetables , food and artefacts . It reminded me at times floating across the dull lake in Srinagar . I got a similar feel when i was going through the various floating markets in the lake . Selling snacks , shawls , perfumes , handcraft and saffron .

The bank of the mekong river is littered with wooden huts where the farmers live .They make their living of the river either fishing or growing crops . These are poorer areas on the country lots of women return here after working as escorts and prostitutes in the city . I travelled from Siem Reap to Pheno Phem on a large motor boat .It was a 10 hour journey through the mekong river . I at on top of the boat and enjoyed the rich of blood and wind blowing across me . I had the local Ankor Beer to give me company . The intoxicating smell of the river , near by vegetation and the open sky was all that i could see . As some of my fellow travellers became in grossed in conversation and chit chat. Little children pester the tourists and take their photographs these are printed on mug’s and plates as drawing room memorabilia . Sold for a few dollars which is a very welcome currency in this part of the world.

I enjoyed chatting to the local boatman who was ver pissed with tourist fromTaiwan and China , because they don’t tip well and are very stingy . My boat stopped near a floating restaurant . Here i tried having fired snake . These i gulped down with beer and green salad . To me it tasted like fried fish . Now i can safely say i have enjoyed eating snake meat . I rested myself for a while , before we departed to see a floating children’s school on the river . I donated two bag’s of rice to the poor children here and prayed for my fathers soul. The children were joyful and also touched by my loving gesture of help.The mekong was like a mother to the region in it’s belly it caries more then a 10,000 species , as it meanders through nurturing the region .

Posted by Anuj Tikku 17:30 Archived in Vietnam Tagged river Comments (0)

Buddham Sharnam Gachami!

Buddha

Buddham Shrnam Gachami!

The other thing one notices in the profound effluence of Buddha also known as Gautam , Siddhartha the blessed one . The Buddha is omnipresent everywhere . In the holy shrines of Kathmandu .In the carvings on the pillars of the Darbar , which is the town centre of Kathmandu . I saw him in the same meditative posture called the Lotus Position , this time it was a stone statue which made uo the pillars of an ancient Kali Temple . His image came in brass metal inside many temples in which the Hindu’s worship. Nepal being a Hindu country has shown to be greatly influenced by Buddha’s teachings .Kathmandu is full of roaming monks who wander across the mountains preaching the dharma of peace and non- violence.India, Nepal ,Bhutan, Tiebet and most of South East Asia is the seat of the Buddha

Images of the awakened one meditating under the great bodhi tree , all smiles radiating peace can be seen in wall painting . In Cambodia i was amazed to see the Buddha meditating under the many hooded Sheh Nag l who is a Hindu deity . Shesh Nag is the serpent on whom lord Vishnu resides.A blend of Buddhism and Hinduism can be seen in the archilogical remains of the Ankor Wat temples , in siam reap . It is said that Ankor Wat was looked after for years by Buddhist Monks after the Hindu Kings abandoned it . It was kept going by these monks . So along with Statues of Shiva , Vishnu , the carvings of Mahabharata and Ramayana , we also see buddha in his meditative posture .This amalgamation of deities and mythology is indeed very fascinating and shows how the two faiths are similar in many ways .They both preach non violence , peace , open to excepting other faiths and cultures . Buddha as a symbol of joy is sold as the laughing buddha in the streets of Thamel in Kathmandu .

This religious cocktail is also present in Vietnam and places like Bali in Indonesia . Hinduism blending with Buddhism . We can also see that idol’s of the great legends of Mahabharat reside as statues on the beaches of Bali . Huge rock temples with holy springs are places to which people thong to , they bathe say there prayers and light up essence sticks. At times you can see the temple priest with a long beard carry out some of the rituals as astrologers and soothsayers perform their trade in the vicinity.

The Buddhanath Stupas in Kathmandu is a site to behold .It is one of the largest Stupa’s of it’s time and many Tibetian’s come to worship their . Lotus is the Buddha’s Favourite flower and is always given as an offering to the enlightened one . With monks going around the stupa chanting the holy words that resonate all around , with the music of Buddhist chanting. Buddha tatoo’s are a rage here and so is Buddha paintings.

You see his benediction and the belief of people in his faith and ideals Buddha truly is one of the greatest and profound spiritual teacher of our time.

Posted by Anuj Tikku 16:27 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Diva's of Pagasus Bar

Manila Phillipines

A “men’s wellness club” is how the floor manager Via defined Pegasus when we asked her what type of establishment the place is. Pegasus is located along Quezon Avenue is known to offer the most expensive service of its kind. In Greek mythology Pegasus is one of the best known creatures, a winged pure white coloured divine stallion. According to legend, a spring would emerge wherever the winged horse struck his hoofs to the earth.

Pegasus the club could have been any place as there were no signboards identifying the place, except for the colourful neon lights giving the name of the Grecian horse. The floor manager informed me that women guests were charged 500 pesos for admission. Via handed over my charge to the uniformed ushers hanging around the lobby.

Entering the main hall was another experience. The bright purple and pink lights on stage lit up not only the stage but also the room in patches. The few customers were foreigners out for a jaunt, like me. Onstage, a couple in black–suit-and-tie were lisping karaoke songs. The darkness excited me, creating a sense of privacy. There were chairs surrounding small tables all over the hall and I chose one with a good view of the stage. The waitress who brought the menu card looked like she thought she had come for a stroll on the beach. The menu, it seemed, was less revealing. Except for the prices as the drinks were not exactly maximum retail price but maximum ripoff price. There was a reason for the beverages to be priced skyhigh as it was “courtesy” to buy the club-girl you preferred to spend time gossiping a drink.

Competition was stiff among the girls. Most of the clubgirls’ earnings depended on the nature of their job. It was a sort of climbing up the hierarchy, with an increase in price as they worked their way up the ranks. At the base level, the Guest Relations Officer, the ones who accompany guests through the drinks and entertaining conversations, charged 100 peso an hour. The next level in the hierarchy were the dancers and performers on the stage, who charged 200 peso per hour for sitting at the guest’s table. Finally, there were the centrefold models who charged 500 peso per hour.

A band was playing onstage and when they finished with a staccato drumbeat, I looked to the next event of the night. The milky white spotlight directed my attention to the centre of the stage, just as the all the other lights were switched off. Then pirouetting into the beam of the spotlight a Filipino appeared, accompanied by other dancers. Their performance was spellbinding, a mixture of ballet and the Brazilian samba. The spellbound audience watched as the dancers moved all over the stage, their hips moving provocatively, their shoulders puffing through the air and their cleavages swinging like sails in a storm, all of which seemed to have hypnotized the viewers. Their variety of performances lasted for about 30 minutes. I did not want the show to end. When the curtains finally fell, I decided to return the next night. I was charmed and wished I was also a part of Greek mythology.

Posted by Anuj Tikku 12:37 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Four Floors To Floor you

Singapore

Singapore is a city where cleanliness is a mantra, where chewing gum is outlawed and not flushing a toilet in a public bathroom carries a fine. Here prostitution is legal but not pornography, and that too carries a hefty fine. I presumed that the government found that regulating the flesh trade was easier than trying to ban it. Although there are many places in Singapore where you "working girls" girls are available, the one-window place with the widest of choices is Orchard Towers.

Orchard Towers is, for tourists to Singapore and residents alike, a household name. For those who unfortunately have not visited Singapore might have heard about the place from friends lucky enough to have been here.

Orchard Towers is an 18-storey office building in Singapore on the corner of Claymore Road and Orchard Road. The first five floors are a combination of bars and retail outlets with the remainder leased as offices. During the day the building functions as a retail and office-style building but during the evening and night the colours change for the first four floors are the centre of Singapore’s red light district.

It reminded me of Delhi’s GB Road where a wholesale market of sanitaryware products thrives during the daytime while the night is reserved for aficionados of music, dance and the flesh trade.

The bars of Orchard Towers at night are the hunting ground for women of the night, giving it the nickname "Four Floors of Whores." The bars are all different from inside. Some small, some big, some with enchanting music, some with head-bashing numbers, some with really nice girls, others not. Exactly the sort of place where whores would be expected to make a living and where men would seek a bit of loving, even if temporarily. But the place is not sleazy if the fun-seeker is looking for strip shows, sex shows or peep shows.

The place is perfectly safe for couples to go and enjoy a good time. If a person visits the “Floor Floors” with his girl friend or wife, the whores do not bother the couple. There are a bars where couples can enjoy live music and watch the girls getting picked up by customers.

If a person goes only for a drink alone or accompanied by friends he too can have a nice time just drinking in the atmosphere. The girls do not go out of the way to draw attention and even if they do and are told that the visitors are only interested in the drinks, they do not mind and move on.

I had been warned beforehand by my friends about the main difference between Orchard Towers and GB Road. They had advised that if ever I was interested in picking up a girl, to make sure she was a girl and not a “hijra.”. Fifty percent of the bars in “Four Floors” have "lady-boys." After a few drinks it is very easy to get fooled as some of these “lady-boys” look more beautiful than the regular girls. Visit “Four Floors” if you wish. But don’t get floored by their looks.

Posted by Anuj Tikku 12:32 Archived in Singapore Tagged singapore Comments (0)

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