Category: Travel

Marvelous Semmering Railway in Austria

About 20,000 men were commissioned to carve limestone rocks to pave way for the track. It is remarkable that the excellent quality of the tunnels, viaducts and overall infrastructure of Semmering, guaranteed that the railway would be in great condition for years to come. It is no wonder that Semmering Railway is hailed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

But aside from amazing engineering, the reason travelers should experience Semmering is because of the spectacular views of the mountainous landscape in between the Austrian towns of Gloggnitz and Murzzuschlag. The train ride on this railway highlights everything that is majestic about the eastern Austrian Alps and the Hungarian plains. The trains originally used for the track were powered by steam engines; but were replaced with electricity in 1959. Nevertheless, the overall design of the old train line, including the old tunnels and viaducts have been preserved.

The Semmering Railway ride lasts for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, going over Semmering Pass and crossing the Australian Alps. During the trip, the train will pass over 16 viaducts supported by many arches, and through 14 tunnels. Another highlight is the main tunnel, which is famous for stretching 1,430 meters. The railway is actually part of the greater S-bahn railway that goes in between Vienna and Graz. It uses an Alpine crossing that had been frequently used during the medieval times. This crossing connects to Venice and later Trieste, to Vienna.

The vintage train and scenery are not the only things to admire during your Semmering Railway adventure. There are also a number of fascinating attractions along the way that deserve a look. One of them is the S-bahn railway culture museum situated in Mürzzuschlag. This museum features Semmering Railway’s history and impressive engineering. Semmering town, in which the train also stops, is a mountain health resort that delights visitors with its relaxing ambience and fresh air. Once in town, you can easily engage in outdoor activities especially in the summer.

Going for a hiking tour on the railroad train is quite rewarding, because you will get outstanding panoramas and get the chance to admire this railroad engineering feat up close. Another lovely town near Semmering is Zauberberg, is a hotspot for tourists exploring the Semmering area. This popular ski resort offers 14 kilometers of downhill slopes and a split park. The other prominent ski resort in the area is Stuhleck Mountain, which is frequented for its exciting snow parks.

Travel the World in Cheap

Swap homes

As a matter of fact, home swapping is rapidly becoming a trend and you can even find this method on some of the most popular travel websites. The fact is that the majority of travel expenses go towards accommodations. Therefore, when you swap your home with other fellow travelers you eliminate this particular line of expenses and your trip becomes much cheaper. It also has perks like a fully equipped kitchen, proper bathrooms, and things that you won’t find in a cheap hotel.


This is a term that relates to numerous people traveling within the same vehicle. For instance, you can look for someone who travels in the same direction and you can split the expenses in half. As you can imagine, the more people you get the less you are going to pay for the travel.


This is an old-fashioned method of traveling for free. Basically, what you want to do is try and stop people on the road and get them to drive you towards the direction they are heading. It’s a great way to meet new local people and it’s completely free, even though some hitchhikers offer some money in exchange for the favor.

Become a crew member of a cruise ship

This is a way not only to travel for free but to earn a few bucks as well. Enjoy visiting a wide variety of countries on a regular basis and earn money while doing it. Of course, there are some downsides – you will obviously have to work so there might not be enough time for sightseeing but generally crew members get some days off when the ship reaches its destination. This should be the best time for you to look around.

Use budget airlines

A few years ago, several airlines were created that offer incredibly low rates for their tickets. This is mainly due to the fact that you will be flying with almost no additional comfort but, after all, your main purpose is to see the world, not to fly in first class airplanes.

Cycling the Munda Biddi Trail

True enough, this 1000 kilometers off-road cycling trail leads you to miles upon miles of eucalyptus tree adorned forests. Instead of perfectly paved paths, Munda Biddi is all about getting down and dirty while exploring Western Australia’s bushland, river valleys and undeveloped forested terrain. This part of the region is perfect for off-road cycling, not only because of its landscape but also because of its ideal weather.

Cycling Munda Biddi is all about enjoying the beauty of nature. Along the way, you will see a wide range of flora and fauna, some of which can only be found on this side of the world. Following the entire trail means having to spend more than a week, mostly in the wilderness. During the day, you can conquer the outdoors and visit gorgeous natural landmarks. And at night, you can stay in one of the campsites or in one of the lovely small towns along the trail. The towns are about 45 to 45 kilometers apart. Munda Biddi is rich in Aboriginal culture and heritage. While here, seize the opportunity to learn more about this special group of people.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a hardcore cyclist to enjoy what Munda Biddi has to offer. The trail has different sections that will fit a range of cycling pace and ability levels. You can also easily access most parts of the trail by car. This accessibility gives you the convenience of starting the journey at whichever trail section you like. For cycling enthusiasts who would like to challenge themselves more, there are more difficult spurs and loops waiting to completed.

The entire length of the Munda Biddi Trail stretches between Mundaring and Albany. The starting point for people coming in from Perth is the Mundaring Sculpture Park, which is about a 45-minute drive away from the city. The first section of the trail highlights steep hills and the Cannin River, and then terminates at Jarrahdale and its towering forests. The second section, which is from Jarrahdale to Nanga, features sites like scenic Serpentine, the Machinery Museum, the historic Whittnish Cottage and Langford Park.

The Nganga to Collie route, which is the third section of Munda Bindi lets you enjoy the clear waters of Lake Brockham, the Darling Ranges and the Harvey River. At the end of this section, lies the timber and mining town of Collie. The last leg of the trail takes you to the apple capital of Western Australia, Donnybrook, which is situated by the picturesque Preston River. Then, you will also get to visit Nannaup, situated in the stunning Blackwood River Valley.

Costa Rica Wildlife Holiday

The Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

This colourful creature is absolutely unique, with the ability to morph from being red bodied with blue legs to green with black spots! Designed to survive in dense forests, the frogs are found throughout Central America. In the wild they are toxic, with their poison being created from the natural elements found in the habitat. These tiny reptiles are by no means endangered and you won’t have any trouble sighting them.

The American Crocodile

Another of the country’s more common inhabitants is the American Crocodile. Growing to over 10ft long, they are often seen much longer here. If you are on a Costa Rica wildlife holiday, you may see these reptiles congregating near bridges where tourists tend to stop and throw them food in exchange for a photo. Unfortunately, the crocodiles’ existence is now threatened, due to loss of habitat.

White-headed Capuchin Monkey

This clever little creature is seen all over the country and, hanging out in large groups of up to 40, they can live up to 50 years. They have been known to use tools as weapons and to get food, and they have also been seen rubbing plants on themselves, possibly for medicinal purposes. Some experts speculate this is what gives them their longevity.

Golden Orb Weavers

This stunning spider spins gold silk that attracts bees and offers them a means of camouflage in the trees. The webs are incredibly strong and have even been known to trap birds. This, the oldest surviving spider, has a nasty bite but would never attack a human unless threatened.


These stealthy nocturnal cats are rather small compared to some of the other wild cats, growing to about double the size of a domestic cat. They have huge feet that help them climb trees and, once an endangered species, now thrive in the country due to conservation efforts.

You Should Travel Young

  • It helps you in making decisions about life: A young mind has all the energy and enthusiasm to think about various aspects of life but making decisions about life requires a strong and mature mindset. While you take a trip, you get to explore new places, people and discover many new vistas that eventually helps you in making opinions and decisions too.
  • You become Smarter: Traveling isn’t only about discovering new places, meeting different people, but it is also about making choices that matter and affect you directly or indirectly. It gives you the power of deciding between what is wrong and what is right, hence giving you a mindset with the help of which you eventually become smarter.
  • You become an interesting person: This is yet another positive aspect of taking a tour that makes you likeable among others. The places you explore and the people you meet influence you in one way or the other, thus you tend to understand their perspectives and give yourself a new personality which is interesting and different too. You can notice the change yourself after taking a trip.
  • You’ll grow culturally and socially: This particular point clearly signifies the importance of taking an excursion while being young. The more you travel, the more you will get exposure and the more you’ll grow. Making a move takes you to different cities, places and get to know various cultures that teaches you the values and importance of culture and social life.
  • You learn to manage your life: Now this is something we all need to do but if you are wondering how you can manage your life while going on an excursion, then here is the answer. No trip is easy, you have to face many challenges and take hardships to reach your destination, and similarly, life has many ups and downs that can be managed once you start exploring.
  • It changes your way of relating to the world: Everyone has a different vision and their own type of intelligence. The behavior and actions of a human being also vary to different situations and even places. You might act normal at your home but accept it you are different at various places and with different people too. So if you go on an expedition, you get to know more things and act accordingly.
  • Because you deserve it: Like totally! I don’t think that this requires a justification even. It’s your life and your time so live and enjoy as much as you can because nothing stays forever and time doesn’t stop for anyone. So, book a cheap flight soon and explore that place you’ve been planning from long.

About Botataung Pagoda

Located In Yangon, Burma’s former capital Rangoon, are the three very first pagodas of what is nowadays called Myanmar. They were built by the Mon and the first of these three pagodas is the majestic Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma’s best known and most visited pagoda. The Shwedagon Pagoda was followed by the Botataung Pagoda and the Sule Pagoda. The histories of these three ancient pagodas begin sometime in the 6th century B.C.This was a long time before the first Burman/Bamar appeared in this area.

Today I will visit the Botataung Pagoda, which is arguably Burma’s second oldest pagoda and you are heartily invited to accompany me.

Here we are now, in front of the Botataung Pagoda at Botataung Pagoda Road in Yangon, the former Rangoon. To our right is the Strand Road from which we have come and to our left is the Yangon River its banks lined with jetties (the closest is the Botataung jetty), wharfs, warehouses, etc.

This pagoda’s history goes like the Shwedagon Pagoda’s and Sule Pagoda’s back to the early times of the Mon kingdoms; the times of the small fishing village Okkala (the later Dagon), Mon king Okkalapa and the merchant brothers Tapussa and Bhallika. I am sure that no one who has so far written about this pagoda can justifiably claim to know when exactly the Botataung Pagoda was built, by whom exactly it was built and why exactly this spot was chosen as location. Much too little is known in order to unearth the truth. It is all speculation what explains that there are various legends and stories about the origins and genesis of the Botataung Pagoda in circulation. Some of them seem to be more credible than others but this does not necessarily mean that they are true. As always, the answers to the a.m. questions (when, who, why) will most likely remain were they are; hidden behind the a curtain of myth and legends. Maybe that is better because facts are by far not as interesting as legends. Here is the story of the Botataung Pagoda as far as it is known to me.

Some 2.300 years ago a mission of 8 monks from India came to Dagon and brought some relics (one hair and two body relics) of Gautama Buddha with them. They were received by the Mon in grand style and a guard of honour comprising 1000 (tataung) military officers (Bos) escorted the monks with the relics to the place where the relics were enshrined and the Botataung Pagoda built. This is essentially all that is known about the early history of the pagoda. Then the curtain closes and nothing further is known about what happened in the period of time between the completion of the Botataung Pagoda and the year 1943. It is to be supposed that nothing happened beyond the usual, which is that people came to worship and perform devotional acts.

On 08 November 1943, however, this changes dramatically and the curtain in front of the Botataung Pagoda opens again with a mighty bang; bhooommm! After the smoke has dispersed and the dust has settled nothing but rubble is left of the old Botataung Pagoda. What has happened is that during an air raid of the RAF aimed at the wharves in direct neighbourhood of the pagoda the Botataung Pagoda fell victim to a direct bomb hit.

However regrettable it may be that the old (original?) Botataung Pagoda was destroyed the fact remains that the findings made in the course of the removal of the debris and the following excavations have most likely more than compensated for the loss of the old stupa structure. What most probably would never have been found without the pagoda’s being destroyed by the bomb was an ancient relic chamber over which the stupa had been built. According to records the relic chamber contained a golden casket shaped like a stupa that, in turn, contained a small golden pagoda on a silver stand housing the hair and the two body relics of Gautama Buddha, a large number of precious stones, some 700 gold, silver, brass, marble and stone Buddha statues, numerous miniature pagodas, stupas, shrines and pagoda htis of various sizes, and a large number of terra-cotta plaques. Some of these plaques have as it is said historically significant inscriptions in Pali and Mon language that do beyond all doubt prove that it was the Mon who built this beautiful pagoda. What else these inscriptions say I do not know. Maybe they could tell us more about the genesis and early days of the Botataung Pagoda when it was known as Kyaik-de-att in Mon language.

The new Botataung Pagoda stupa, the one standing behind the wall in front of us, is said to be built in the style of the one that was destroyed. However, three significant changes were made to the reconstructed stupa. One of them is that this pagoda stupa is made of concrete (and not brick or stone), the other one that the stupa is hollow (and not solid like the original one) and the third one that a large part of the treasures found is, including the Buddha hair relic, now displayed inside the stupa so everyone can see them. The other part of the treasure, the most valuable part of it, such as the two Buddha body relics and precious stones are locked away and cannot be seen by the public.

In 1960 another ancient relic was added to the Botataung Pagoda treasures. This is said to be a tooth of Gautama Buddha. The one king Alaung Sithu of Pagan failed to get from the former Nan-chao kingdom, now China’s Yunnan Province, in 1115 A.D. The Buddha relic was presented to the Botataung Pagoda by the Chinese government. This tooth, too, is locked away. In 1981 the Botataung Pagoda got yet another treasure, king Mindon’s Royal Palace Buddha Bronze Image. More to this later.

The construction work for the new pagoda started the very day Burma gained independence, on 04 January 1948. The wall to the right of the entrance is protected by a huge naga lying on top of it with her long body stretched over the entire lengths of the wall. The naga’s head is raised and the mouth is open. Ready to attack in defence of the pagoda. Oooooh, so frightening. The same over there with the wall left to the entrance.

OK, we go first into the small building in front of the wall of the pagoda compound to the right of the main entrance. There we have to pay our entrance fee and to leave our slippers. We have entered the pagoda compound now and in front of us is the entrance to the main stupa.

The pagoda platform is spread over a total area of some 221.830 square feet/20.608 square metre and the Botataung pagoda comprises the main stupa and a total of 18 pavilions surrounding the stupa. The pavilions are housing many Buddha statues of various sizes, eras and in different mudras.

The new stupa is resting on a square platform with a side lengths of 96 feet/29 metres and is 131 feet/40 metres high. As for the design pattern it is like the Shwedagon Pagoda. 1. The base of the Shwedagon stupa, a cone-shaped structure that gradually tapers towards the top, is a flat supporting block called plinth. 2. On top of this follow rectangular terraces (paccayas). What follows are 3. octagonal terraces (shit-mhaungs), 4. the bell (khaung laung pone), 5. the turban band (baung yit), 6. the inverted alms bowl (thabaik mhauk) with lotus petals, 7. mouldings (phaung yits), 8. the Lotus throne (1 row down-turned lotus petals, kya mhauk, and 1 row up-turned lotus petals (kya lan), 9. the banana butt (nga pyaw bu), 10, the umbrella (hti), 11. the cone, 12. the vane and 13. the diamond orb (sein bu) on top of the vane.

Before we go inside the main stupa we turn left and go over to the large artificial lake (well, actually it is an oversized pool/pond). Now we are standing in front of the ‘lake’ and you can see that there is a superstructure comprising a bridge and an island-like platform built over the surface of the water. There is a water fountain to the right of the bridge and in the water are hundreds, maybe thousands of small turtles and fishes constantly fed by the visitors of the pagoda for good luck. At festival times you can here at the beginning of the bridge buy small fishes (young catfish) to set them free in the pool what will also bring you good fortune. The bridge is covered with a tired roof (pyatthat) that is embellished with decorative bargeboards. The same goes for the Botataung Pagoda Guardian Nat Shrine on the platform.

After having crossed the bridge we have now arrived at the nat shrine. In front of us in one part of the shrine we see the life-sized Botataung Bo Bo Gyi and in the other part the female nat Mae Daw. Every Buddhist Pagoda in Burma has a Bo Bo Gyi guardian nat but here in Yangon the three most revered Bo Bo Gyis are the one of the Shwedagon Pagoda, the one of the Botataung Pagoda and the Sule Pagoda Bo Bo Gyi. These nats are very important not only for protection of the pagodas but also for the devotees.

You can see many worshipping people here because Bo Bo Gyi nats can as you already know fulfil wishes and make dreams come true. From the mountains of flowers, pagoda umbrellas, fruit baskets and other gifts as well as the banknotes (in the hand of the fully extended right arm) donated to and arranged around Bo Bo Gyi by devotees you can see how much they venerate Bo Bo Gyi and how deeply they believe in this guardian nat and his supernatural forces.

It is time to return to the main platform and continue our Botataung Pagoda circumambulation. Leaving the bridge we see to our right a Bodhi tree guarded by nagas that are placed on the octagonal walling around the foot of the tree, behind that the Hamsa Prayer Pillar and behind that in direction entrance a smaller stupa. I am not sure what it is but it could be a scaled down model of the main stupa.

We continue our walk clock-wise around the stupa along the structures to our left. The Buddha statues they are housing are of course worth being looked at but we will go to see the what I believe to be for Burmese Buddhists most precious Buddha Image here; and that is Buddha’s Bronze Image of the Royal Palace in Mandalay. The statue is in the building on the northern side of the platform. And that is exactly where we are going now. While we are walking please look to the right in direction of the main stupa. There you can see the planetary posts placed at the cardinal points around the stupa with people performing their cleaning ritual for good fortune.

We have almost reached the building with the Royal Palace Buddha Bronze Image and on our right hand side you see the pagoda bell hanging between the two whitewashed pillars. The bell was completed on 05 May 1913 and has survived the bombing without damage.

Here we are inside the building and over there is the Royal Palace Buddha Bronze Image. The hall has beautifully with mirror glass mosaic decorated walls, ceilings and pillars throughout.

Now you want to know what it is that makes this Buddha image so special for Burmese Buddhists, right? Here is the answer. By order of king Mindon this Buddha image was cast in his palace in Mandalay. The material used was a mixture of gold, silver, bronze, iron and lead. It is said that some not further specified sacred relics of Gautama Buddha were consecrated by king Mindon and then enshrined in this statue that became known as the ‘Royal Palace Buddha Bronze Image’ also called ‘Royal Glass Palace Bronze Image’.

Following the annexation of upper Burma by the British in January 1885 and king Thibaw’s and queen Supayalat’s being exiled to India the British took the Buddha Image to London and exhibited it in the Victoria and Albert Museum were it was kept for some 66 years. After being granted independence by the British effective 04 January 1948 the Burmese government requested the restitution of the Royal possessions taken from the Mandalay Palace by the British. The British government fulfilled the Burmese request and on 17 June 1951 the Buddha image arrived in Rangoon. From 16 May 1981 on the Botataung Pagoda is home to the Royal Palace Bronze Image.

Now we leave this building through the vestibule and walk back to the main stupa in order to take a close look at the interior where a part of the Buddhist treasures unearthed during the excavation after the bombing of the old Botataung Pagoda is displayed.

We have reached the main entrance to the interior of the stupa and walk through the door at the top of a short flight of steps. And now we are in a maze of narrow walkways with very high ceilings. All walls and ceilings are completely covered with intricately carved and gilded floral and Buddhist motifs. It is truly amazing. The matt glossy gilded surfaces of the walls are protected with glass panes.

A few yards into the hollow inner of the stupa we stay in front of a donation box and the walkway is parting into one leading to the left and one leading to the right. We take the left one and turning constantly left right, left right we follow the zigzack course of the walkway. Although the air-condition is running noisily at full blast the air in the stupa is warm and stuffy. To our right are many small triangular bays for private prayer and to our left (the outer wall of the stupa) glass showcases in which the Buddhist treasures are displayed.

In front of the glass showcases are century-old and ugly rolling-and claws grids covered with generations of paint coatings. These grids are providing protection and security. Another problem is that the glass panes in front of the exhibited objects are often not clear. My personal opinion is that this is not the most attractive way to display these ancient treasures Buddhists are so proud of to the visitors but maybe others see nothing wrong with it. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the feeling triggered by looking at these ancient Buddhist treasures is very hard to describe; awesome may be a fitting term.

Alternative Culture of Berlin

The Street Art Capital of Europe

Booking in to any of the city’s modern youth hostels makes an excellent starting point. The alternative culture of Berlin is but one facet of this complex metropolis. The best hostels capture a more mainstream ethos and the budget experience need not be a compromise on quality, yet they will set you right in the centre of a thriving hub of alternative living. On the surface, this aspect is perhaps best exemplified through the street art. From Kreuzberg to Alexanderplatz, there is no shortage of buskers, street-performers, galleries and independent artists’ studios closeted away in niches or on display in squares. Few cities in Europe can match this commitment to alternative expression, and the best establishments pride themselves on creating a truly immersive experience for the visitor.

A Performance Tour

One of the great benefits of staying in one of the youth hostels in Berlin is the connections you can forge. Often staffed by locals who are part of the network of alternative social groups of the city, they are a wealth of information just waiting to be tapped into. For example, many hostels run alternative tours or offer free entry into niche bars and performance spaces. You can discover hidden pockets of art, comedy, music, dance and philosophical discussion, with a distinct underground flavour, that you might not easily stumble across on your own.

Alternative Nightlife

Like other European capital cities, Berlin draws young people in droves for its eclectic nightlife. Thousands of travellers come every month to experience the bars, restaurants, theatres, music halls, and clubs that have infiltrated so many city streets and suburban enclaves. Knowing where to go and what special events are on can be hard for a tourist, but the youth hostels offer an easy and safe base to delve in to the most innovative and niche nightlife scenes in the world.

An alternative to the alternative

A key to the appeal of alternative culture anywhere is its ability to shape-shift. Ideas and trends are forever being challenged, renewed, and recycled and many people seek to find an alternative to the prevalent alternative culture! Berlin has a breathtaking array of evolving cultures to explore on the doorstep of the excellent youth hostels, and from permaculture tours to clandestine candle-lit book clubs, there’s enough to keep you busy for weeks.

Early Christmas in Prague

The tradition goes that on the 5th of December the children gather round the three figures of Saint Nicholas, the Angel, and the Devil as Saint Nicholas asks them if they behaved well during the year. Naturally, most children jump up excitedly and say “Yes!” They’re then asked to sing a song or recite a short poem, which they do with much enthusiasm knowing that they will be rewarded with sweets and other treats.

But if they misbehaved and their answer is “no” they receive a sack of black coal or hard potatoes! And if they were deemed really bad, they are put into a sack and taken to hell!

This story, told over many generations, scares the local children of Prague enough to almost guarantee good behaviour!

There really was a Christian Saint Nicholas. He lived in Greece, just a couple hundred years after the birth of Christ, and Mikulas Day is celebrated in honour of Saint Nicholas and his life.

Saint Nicholas became a priest and, later, a Bishop of the early Catholic Church. True to the Christian concept of giving up belongings and following Christ, St. Nicholas gave up all of his worldly goods. He was well known for helping out people in need – especially children.

The practice of hanging up stockings originated with Saint Nicholas. Legend has it that one day, one of the small bags of gold that were thrown into poor households by Saint Nicholas fell into the stocking of a child. News got around and children began hanging their stocking by their chimneys, hoping that St. Nicholas would arrive.

It wasn’t until the 1800’s that the spirit of St. Nicholas’ life evolved into the creation of what we now know as Santa Claus.

Around the time of Christmas in Prague, the city comes to life in the Old Town Square between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. You can wander through the city centre from Old Town Square to Wenceslas Square, stopping off at the red-canopied wooden huts for wooden toys, embroidered lace and traditional Christmas decorations. You may want to buy a Czech glass bauble ornament – they are known for their quality and aesthetic appeal and make a wonderful souvenir. Be sure to take children to see the nativity scene at Old Town Square, where they can pet sheep, goats and the Christmas donkey.

The market stalls, which resemble wooden huts, invite tourists to treat themselves to a host of culinary delights and tasty beverages, and are open until midnight. As evening falls, lights are illuminated and the Old Town square becomes a magical feast for the eyes.

Tourists come early during holiday season to experience Christmas in Prague in a very unique way, not seen in other parts of the world.

When celebrating Christmas in Prague, be aware that it will be very cold and you may even experience a downpour of fresh snow. Layers are recommended as well as boots and thick socks if you intend to do a lot of walking.

Make sure to plan ahead and book early so that you can get the best prices available for flights, airport transport and accommodation at this expensive time of the year.

Ananda Temple

One side of the Ananda’s central structure measures 175 feet/53 metres. The roof above the central structure comprises five in circumference successively diminishing terraces, each one building up on the previous larger one. Out of the innermost, smallest and highest terrace rises the ‘Sikhara’. This is a 25 layer beehive-like superstructure topped by the golden stupa, which in turn is capped by a ‘Hti taw’ as the upper umbrella of a temple or pagoda is called in Burmese.

The temple’s Sikhara has five in vertical sequence arranged windows and reaches a total height of 168 feet/51 metres above ground. The four smaller structures rising from and above the four corners are small pagodas and down-scaled copies of the main sikhara. The overall design serves the purpose of creating the ragged shape of the Himalayans.

Caused by the heavy earthquake in 1975 the graceful temple sustained severe damage. However, it was relatively quick repaired and the Ananda is still Bagan’s most beautiful and best preserved temple.

The Ananda was built by king Kyanzittha, who is also known as Thiluin Man or ‘Soldier Lord’. He ruled the kingdom of Pagan for 28 years from 1084 A.D. to1112/13 A.D. and lead the capital Pagan into what has become known as the ‘Era Of Temple Builder’. Since he was a deeply religious man he carried the building of religious monuments to a whole new level what developed Pagan into what was called the ‘City of Four Million Pagodas’. But this is not all; under Kyanzittha’s rule Pagan also prospered greatly in economic and cultural terms. This he achieved thanks to the highly skilled Mon people brought to Pagan by his father king Anawrahta after the victory over the Mon at Thaton.

According to legend king Kyanzittha developed the idea to build this temple inspired by the stories of eight Indian monks who told him that they had lived in the ‘Nanda Mula Cave Temple’, a legendary temple in the equally legendary Shandamadana mountain what is actually the Nanda Devi mountain in the western Himalayas (Sanskrit for ‘abode of snow’).

The construction of the Ananda Temple was completed in 1091 A.D. This set at the same time an end to the life of its very able architect who was executed by king Kyanzittha himself in order to avoid the temple’s duplication.

Entering the Ananda’s main structure through its western entrance there are two footprints of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. They are mounted on pedestals and each of them is as prescribed in the old scriptures divided in 108 parts. In the sanctum behind them are two images depicting king Kyanzittha and his ‘Ga nar par mouk kha’ (primate/arch bishop) Shin Arahan, the Mon pongyi who converted King Anawrahta to Theravada Buddhism.

Shin Arahan died in 1115 A.D. at the age of 81 after having served four kings, namely Anawrahta (who ruled from 1044 to 1077), Sawlu (who ruled from 1077 to 1084), Kyanzittha (who ruled from 1084 to 1112/13) and Alaungsithu (who ruled from 1112/13 to 1167). Behind the two statues is the huge statue of Gautama Buddha who, indirectly though, might be connected to the temple’s name.

The inner passageways are lined from wall to wall and floor to ceiling with rows of niches containing seated and standing Buddha images. The Buddha statues in the lower niches are protected from being damaged or stolen by metal grids.

Outside on ground level at the temple’s corners are ‘Chinthes’ and ‘Manokthihas’ (mythical creatures half-lion half-man that are like nats symbolic of guardians. Their heads and torsos are human and their hindquarters are that of a lion.) Up at the corners of the main sikhara and terraces are statues of nats. Wherever one goes in Burma it does not take long and one sees them; they are important guardians and therefore worshipped by everyone and omnipresent; at home on alters, in nat houses on balconies, in gardens, in trees, in temples and pagodas.

The Ananda Temple is a corridor temple. Its proportions are of exceptional harmony built on the architectural concept of a so-called ‘Greek cross’ of which all four arms are of equal length with a centre dome.

The lower floor of the temple is a chessboard patterned maze of passageways that divides the ground floor into 84 fields that are symmetrically arranged around the centre. The antechamber/vestibule of the western main entrance is one end of the two axes that constitute the centre cross with each of its ends pointing at one of the four cardinal points. The antechamber or porch has on the left and right side an entrance. If one draws a line connecting the two entrances the line divides the vestibule in two equal halves.

The next passageway is the outer corridor that is running parallel to the four sides of the inner structure, thereby forming a square as does the next corridor that forms the inner square of the two.

The inner passageway is running along the four sides of the centre cube with its four niches pointing in direction of the four cardinal points. Each of these niches is housing a huge teak Buddha statue. Entering the Ananda from west and looking straight down the corridor into the temple’s inner part one sees the lower part of a pair of legs and feet. That are the legs and feet of the statue of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha (c 563 to c 483 BC), which is facing west. Gautama Buddha is the 28th Buddha in a long line that is shrouded in the mist of myth and legend beginning with Tanhankara the 1st Buddha.

In the niche to the east is a statue of Konagamana, the 26th Buddha, in the one to the north Kakusanda, the 25th Buddha and the one to the south Kassapa, the 27th Buddha. The present statues are all made of wood. There are people who say that Kassapa (south) is made of bronze. This is not true because only the original was. This copy here is carved out of teak. The statues of Kakusanda and Kassapa are said to be the original statues whereas those of Gautama and Konagamana are later copies. The originals were destroyed; Kassapa most likely by alchemists. As for Konagamana some say by a fire ignited by a careless worshipper’s candle or oil lamp others say by temple robbers. The fact remains that new statues had to be made.

The statue of Gautama Buddha has a height of 28.5 feet/9.5 metres. All of the four Buddha statues are of almost the same height and depict the respective Buddha in a standing posture but with two different cape styles as well as different arm positions and hand gestures. These different symbolic postures/gestures and ways of positioning legs, feet, arms, hands and fingers are called ‘mudras’ what is Sanskrit and means ‘sign’ or ‘token’.

To protect the Ananda the architect put according to king Kyanzittha’s instructions, outside the temple eight nat images and a total of one hundred forty eight crested chinthes’. These statues are guarding the entrances, the corners of the base and terraces/roofs as well as the sikhara of this temple.

The corridor walls and the upper terraces are lined with one thousand four hundred fifty tiles. At the base are about four hundred of them. They are depicting scenes from the ‘Jatakas’. The name Jataka has its roots in the Sanskrit word for ‘birth’ or ‘born under’. They include all of the stories of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha’s different existences before he became ‘Buddha’, the ‘Enlightened one’. The early canon of Buddhism, the ‘Tipitaka’ (Pali for ‘Three Baskets’), comprises a total of five hundred forty seven such stories. These Jatakas that also contain references to the earlier Buddhas and Gautama Buddha’s teachings on mental discipline and morality are used to instruct about moral virtues and the law of ‘Karma’ (Sanskrit for ‘action’). Karma is ‘ones actions and their effect on this and/or future lives’. The story is depicted here at the Ananda Temple very detailed in a series of 80 most skilfully carved tiles. It takes real masters to create something as beautiful as this. These ones are not as usual Terracotta tiles but carved from volcanic stones from Mt. Popa. They are arranged in two tiers and can be seen on the lower part of the outer passageway of the Ananda Temple.

Apart from the fact that the Ananda temple is one of Burma’s main Buddhist pilgrimage sites that is throughout the year of considerable importance to Buddhists (as well as foreign visitors) the certainly most important time is the Burmese month of Pyatho (December/January) when the Ananda Temple Festival takes place. Other pagodas and temples too have festivals and most of them are celebrated during the dry season but the biggest of all is the Ananda festival. This year (2015) the festival is celebrated from the 4th of January to the 19th of January and the festival’s high-time is on the day before the full moon day, at the full moon day and the day after the full moon. Its zenith is an impressive morning procession in the temple’s courtyard on the full-moon day of Patho. This annually held festival is a particularly large, colourful, entertaining and joyous affair and an event not to be missed when being in Bagan.

The main reasons for the festival are to worship Gautama Buddha, celebrate the founding of the Ananda Temple, commemorate important events in its history such as its consecration and collect donations for the funding of repair and maintenance of the temple buildings.

One of the interesting aspects of this festival are perhaps the caravans of bullock-carts with people that come from all over the country to sell their products, celebrate here and make donations; the former being most probably more important to them. The travelling shop owners and their families live here in encampments as long as the festival lasts. Afterwards they move on to the next pagoda festival or return home.

Tourism in Mombasa

Mombasa is not short of tourist hotspots given its strategic position as a port city. Many local people from interior Kenya have been guilty of overwhelmingly filling the city to capacity during December holidays. From the white sandy beaches, wild habitats and coral reefs, to variety of fishes and snakes, mangrove swamps and coral islands, Mombasa city is a tourism gem for Kenya.

Nature and Wildlife-Related Tourist Attractions-

Haller Park

Arguably the largest wild animal sanctuary in this city, Haller Park is situated in Bamburi estate, a few minutes to the Kenyatta public beach and Bamburi Cement Factory.

  • The park hosts numerous species of animals from crocodiles, snakes and spiders to turtles, hippos, giraffes and water bucks etc.,
  • The park is home to hundreds of insects and several botanical gardens
  • You will get an opportunity to share water taps with friendly monkeys
  • The park offers a serene environment, with overgrown indigenous trees that makes you feel that you are one with nature

Also known as crocodile farm, this hot spot is located in Nyali and it is rated the largest crocodile farm in East Africa.

  • If crocs are your kind of thing, the Mombasa mamba village will surely sort you out, from the educational videos about the conduct and lifecycle of crocodiles to observing the beasts feast.
  • The highlight of the place is the marvelously grilled crocodile that is served hot!

A marine protected zone, Mombasa marine national park & reserve showcases the Kenya’s best in terms of marine life from the sea urchins and coral reefs to diverse fish life

  • You can enjoy fishing, scuba diving, deep sea diving and snorkeling here

Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary

Established in early 1930s to preserve a wildlife corridor situated on an ancient elephant migration area, the Sanctuary currently harbors and protects endangered African elephants while conserving indigenous deciduous trees and riparian flora.

  • The sanctuary is breath taking and it features meandering water sheds, rolling hills, overhangs and sharp ridges
  • Flora and fauna here is diverse comprising of a primordial and exceptional cycad woodland that can grow to almost two hundred years
  • You can also enjoy bird watching

Nature Rides

If you would love to get intimate with nature and obtain a 1-on-1 encounter with the locals in their traditional settlements and smell the air filled with scents from palm and mango trees and ocean salt, you may consider taking nature rides and cycle around the city.

Enjoy the amazing creeks, climates and typography of the city on your bicycle