Tag Archives: temple

The Jain Temple in Ranakpur

We visited a Jain temple in Ranakpur (half way between Udaipur and Jodhpur) that is one of the most well known for the religion and attracts practicing Jains from all over India and the world. Before we start, lets explain who Jains are and what they believe:

Jains believe that all living things have a soul that should not be destroyed. That means everything, literally, from animals to bacteria.

The Jain population in India is approximately 4 million strong. The whole population of India is over 1 billion (2nd to China) which makes the Jain group 0.5% of the general population.

Jains are strict vegetarians; some of them are so strict on their food they wont eat any vegetables that have roots because the vegetable itself will have millions of bacteria. In other words, food like potatoes, radishes or carrots that grow under the ground are sacred.

Jain temples are expertly carved as you can see in the photos. The time that it takes to do this expert work takes years and costs a fortune as you can imagine.

Jains are known to be a very wealthy group and excellent business people in India and abroad; just as they take their religious practice seriously, so do they in work.

On our drive to Jodhpur, we stopped to tour the 15th century Jain temple in Ranakpur. We did not know about it but our guide thought that we would appreciate the temple and our timing was perfect because non-Jains may only enter for a few hours each day when they are not worshipping. We paid and got the audio guide before entering the temple. We learned many things such as the Jains believe that if they crawl under a statue of an elephant in the temple it will bring good luck.

After further research for this post, this temple was dedicated to Tirthankara Adinatha*. We found interesting nooks and crannies that the audio guide pointed out including one of the pillars was slightly leaning to one side and this was done on purpose! The reason the pillar is not straight is to show that life is not always perfect and there is always something that is needed to get closer to God or excellence.

This temple is completely made out of marble and is said to be one of the most spectacular. I believe it too after walking through this place! Jains come from all over the world to worship there. The man who created the temple (Dharma Shah) dreamed about making a temple. He hired workers to build it exactly as he had seen it in his dream. There are over 400 pillars and no two pillars are the same when you look at the intricate carvings of animals, Gods, and flowers.

While I could never be a Jain because of my love for foods especially burgers and steak, I definitely appreciate the Jain people and their commitment. We saw Jains walking along the highway wearing white robes as the walked miles and miles on a pilgrimage to visit this temple and others in the Rajasthan region.

*Lord Rishabhdev also known as Lord Adinath was the first Jain Tirthankar of present time cycle. He lived before civilization developed. Because of this, he had the name of Adinath – the original lord. He became a Siddha, a liberated soul which has destroyed all of its karma.

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Shwedagon of Rangoon

For starters, I’m not a fan of the Yangon, Myanmar naming and prefer the old style of Rangoon, Burma. Part of it has to do with my inadequate language skills and the other reason is history. Did you know the name Burma comes from Portuguese? While that may be, much of the remaining colonial feel is all British as our first night happy hour beer was around the corner from our hotel at the posh Strand hotel.


We set low expectations for Burma believing that accommodations would be subpar, technology (school) a haphazard risk, and full board tourist gouging. Doesn’t sound like much fun but Leticia has been determined to visit Burma so we go. We consolidated our backpacks by only taking 2 for the trip and leaving 2 in storage at the airport – brilliant idea and so nice to travel light!

Our flight was on Air Asia which our dear friend, Ed de Chant (retired United Airlines pilot), has been adamant about us not flying any Asian airlines due to poor pilot training. Sorry Ed but we had slim pickings to choose from in getting to Burma. However, we do warn everyone traveling in Asia to abide by Ed’s words of wisdom; the accidents are not a result of plane problems (Boeing or Airbus) but pilot error. Fly with more experienced pilots and airlines.


We arrive safely in Rangoon to an impressive airport – to give you a comparison, nicer and cleaner than Rio – and we easily arrange taxi as well as our bus ride to Bagan which is a good thing because tickets were nearly sold out!


Daily newspaper prep


Buddhists, Shoppers, and Synagogue


Second impression is our hotel, Aung Tha Pyay, which I dare you to say 10 times fast! Not as bad as I would have imagined and moving in the right direction. For instance, there is a stocked bar in the refrigerator and a flat screen tv to watch Bollywood movies and football. And for the ladies, a Western toilet and hot water shower is always welcome. We requested a family room which we got for 3 people…they looked at us and yes, a family room in Asia is for 1 child, not 2! Doh! Less than 10 minutes later a new bed was added with sheets and everything. Consistent service throughout our stay speaks to the great job that management has done in training and this is a reflection of what you see around much of Rangoon.



Neon sign at the Shwedagon Pagoda!


The two highlights of our stay in Rangoon were pagoda Shwedagon and the food. The pagoda is very large and you walk up quite a few steps to reach it. It’s considered one of the oldest in the world (est. 2,600 years) and claims to have some of the Buddha’s hairs which drives many a follower to visit. The main golden dome dominates the skyline of the city and it’s very impressive. As you walk around it, there are a number of smaller temples and monuments including a prayer spot for each day of the week. Since I was born on a Sunday, I went to Sunday and performed the ritual of pouring water on the Buddha six times while making a wish; if the kids stay in school, I have no fear that my wish will come true! Shwedagon is my favorite temple of all the religious spots we have visited.



Dining in Rangoon left us both happily full and impressed with the quality of our meals and service. We covered both low to high end: 999 Noodles which is a 2nd generation dive establishment that serves great local Burmese food for a grand total of $11. We spent the same amount on 2 rounds of beers at the Strand Hotel which was just as rewarding for its historic significance. We escaped the city by visiting Rangoon Tea House which sits on the second floor of a busy street; however, you wouldn’t know it thanks to the jazz music and large open space that immediately calms you. They serve traditional tea faring food which includes Crab Rangoon, Bao and Samosas along with Burmese minced meat with spices on a piece of Naan. Ohhh, we ate to our hearts content and Leticia had the largest coconut water I’ve ever seen. We expected to have a low key dinner after the lunch fest but…that changed quickly at Gekko, a Japanese/Korean trendy spot near our hotel. Leti went in with the plans to order a Miso soup and share some edamame. But when the rest of us ordered Korean BBQ ribs and fried chicken along with some spicy string beans, well, everyone indulged! Dessert was a nice mix of creme brulee with passion fruit poured on top. Fortunately, the walk home was short and we rolled into bed.


The stories of Burma will continue and we shared some wonderful life experiences including ballooning over Bagan at sunrise but I’ll let the rest of the family share that with you. One final message is that the people of Burma are really kind. I had many experiences of simply talking to locals because they are curious about us and others where a local would help us simply because they wanted to.


Green noodles w fish eggs – Yum!


Bicycle taxi


Angkor Wat, once a magical place

Have you ever gone to a magical place that became a disappointment the second time you visited? Well, that place for me is Angkor Wat. When I first visited Angkor Wat in 2008 with my good friend, Rebekah, we had the enormous temple for ourselves and we were able to embrace the marvelous details and grandiosity. Siem Reap was a cute little town with a handful of restaurants and shops. Yes, there were some beggars and kids trying to sell you anything at the temples. But overall it was a calm place where you could just enjoy your time at the temples.

Sebastian will be sharing the background on this wonder of the world in a separate blog and I could not have left Angkor Wat out of our world tour for obvious reasons. On a personal level, I wanted my family to feel the WOW factor that I had years ago when you enter Angkor Wat.

We certainly did say “WOW”  when we arrived at the bridge to enter Angkor Wat. Only this time around it was about the hordes of tourists and buses of Korean and Chinese groups pushing everyone around to take selfies. For example, in order to climb to the 3rd floor of Angkor Wat, we had to wait in line for 20 minutes and push your way through to see the temple from the top. By the time we returned to the bottom, that line was twice as long! Flashback to my visit with Rebekah and we had the entire area to ourselves.

Siem Reap roads are just as busy as a big city. For instance, Pub Street, where a handful of restaurants were located years ago, reminds me of Carnaval for tourists today with big crowds that you need to push your way through.

Another humbling experience was a quick 20-minute family foot massage. The masseuses were 2 16 year-old boys the size of our kids who charged $1 for the massage. Great learning experience to our kids that don’t hesitate to download a $1 app from the AppStore while kids almost their age are working to earn $1 on a school night. We had a family discussion and reflection about this experience for our kids to absorb the realities of the situation for other children around the world in less fortunate circumstances.

On a positive note, we stayed in a very comfortable hotel – Shining Angkor. We also had a great farewell dinner at Mie Cafe. Our local guide, Lee, was knowledgeable and shared insight on the current political situation of Cambodia as well as its history with neighboring nations Vietnam and Thailand who seem to take advantage of the Cambodians on a regular basis. And, surprise surprise, we even found a Brazilian restaurant – Gigi Brazil. I couldn’t recall the last time I had some yummy pão de queijo, pastel and churrasco and we really loved this break from the Asian food circuit.

In the end, I know this mass tourism is good for the people of Cambodia as the increased tourism brings great improvements to their quality of life (at least in theory). At the same time, I am torn because it meant that the place I once considered to be very special, is now gone to the massive tours. So I sit here in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar this week thinking that in 5 years time the same fate could happen to the beautiful Bagan and places that we have enjoyed here. Only time will tell.


Rebekah and I – 2008


Ohh the tourists – Angkor Wat


Angkor Wat


Ta Prohm