OMG .. Bali closed for the day!

O my goodness gracious me! Did you know that on Nyepi day, Bali is closed for the day. It seems it’s a day for meditation and absolute silence in Bali, – which this year falls on Friday, 23 March, the entire island of Bali will be closed for 24 hours to all traffic, including air traffic.

In keeping with the strict traditions of the holy day, Bali grinds to an absolute halt from 6:00 a.m. on Friday, March 23 until Saturday, March 24, 2012.

On the eve of Nyepi, celebrations are held when floats of huge colourful paper demons are paraded through the streets of cities, carried to the beach and torched, making a bright bonfire. Each one then quietly retreats to their homes to spend the entire day in silent reflection, free from any noise. Homes may also not have any open fires, nor any lights lit at night.

Also, on this day, no one is allowed on the streets and on the beach, including tourists. Flights to and from Bali will be suspended. While this may sound eerie, it seems those who have gone through this absolute quietness of a whole island find it a most exhilarating experience. See more here

The observance of the day is all-pervasive and includes:

  • The requirements that Bali visitors stay confined within the grounds of their hotels for the 24-hour period and not leave the premises, except in cases of medical emergency.
  • All streets are empty and closed. No one is allowed on the roads. All businesses are closed. Only emergency vehicles are permitted.
  • Bali’s airport is closed during the 24-hour period. No flights are allowed to land or take off from the airport. Technical stops are allowed but no passenger may disembark or embark on a flight during this period.
  • Television and radio stations are closed and cable broadcast companies are asked to suspend their signals to Bali during the proscribed period.

Top of my list for things-to-do in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

My number one ‘must do’ in Gujarat’s largest city, Ahmedabad, is the “Heritage Walk of Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad is the former capital and is sometimes known as its old name – Karnavati: it is also the fifth largest city in India, with a city population of approximately 5.6 million

On the banks of the River Sabarmati, Ahmedabad was founded in 1411 by Sultan Ahmed Shah to serve as the capital of the Gujarat Sultanate, and was named after him.

Our guide tells us that according to legend, the Sultan Ahmed Shah, while camping on the banks of the River Sabarmati, saw a hare chasing a dog. Really impressed by this act of bravery, the Sultan, who had been looking for a place to build his new capital, decided to build it in this forest area on the river bank and christened it Ahmedabad.

This old city, with many of its original walls, is fascinating, but not a place most travellers will explore on their own. It often seemed we were in peoples’ backyards, as indeed we were.  Walking round here alone I think I’d be lost in the labyrinth of streets for hours, if not days.

However with the guides, all who are volunteers with a love of history and architecture, I didn’t get lost as we weaved through the various ‘pols’. These are unique neighbourhoods around a cluster of houses with narrow streets, common courtyard and community wells.  Each pol was, and sometime still is, protected by gates and secret passages: this is why you need a guide!

They not only told us about the different buildings, but also some of the history, art, and religious and or cultural traditions. As I have said – this is a must do.

The walk starts at Swaminarayan Mandir (8am) and finishes at Manek Chowk at 1030.

These photos just give you a tiny taste: I loved this so much I went twice in 3 days, each time with different guides who imparted a slightly different flavour to the walk.

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Sason Gir: home to the Asiatic lions

Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary (Gujarat) is one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries of India. It’s also the only known home of the world-famous Asiatic Lions in Asia.

It covers some 1,412 sq km, and in November 2010 I had the privilege of being hosted by Gujarat Tourism  to their first International Bird Convention,  (search for ‘Gujarat’ to see other blogs I’ve  and written about this fabulous State) and after that, thanks to RAO Tours I explored parts of Gujarat I hadn’t seen such as the Sasan Gir

Mainly made up of dry deciduous forests with short and gnarled teak trees, thorn bushes and grassland, it’s obviously a perfect home to its (approx.) 360 lions.

During the jeep tour, my guide tells me there are some 450 plant species, 32 mammals, 310 birds, 24 reptiles and over 2,000 species of insects. It also has nearly 300 Leopards , 30,000 Spotted Deer, Antelopes, Striped Hyenas, Jackals, Nilgai, Sambar, Wild Boar, Ruddy Mongoose, Jungle Cats, Indian Porcupine, Gazelles and Crocodiles to name a few. Most of these provide the meals for the carnivores!

The birders in the group were thrilled with the bird population, (see Alan McBride ‘s diary) and even I, a non-birder could tick off a number in my book of lists!

The jeep safari’s almost guarantees a lion sighting – although, as I was in the last jeep, I was upset not to get good lion photos. However, like many missed photos, the image of the original remains firm in my memory.

I stayed at the Vanvaso Resortand loved it so can well recommend them: it has been built with care and attention to detail – combining nature with luxury accommodation . I loved my bedroom and the bathroom was a combo  of indulgence and the jungle ambiance.

I also visited the Lion Safari Camp where I had a tasty BBQ meal and was fascinated with the Siddis who trace their ancestry to Africa. They are believed to have come to India as mercenaries, slaves and labour. Here in Gir, there are villages of the Siddis, who are well-known for their dances and ability to live with the lions.

Ranjit Sinh Parmer ( CEO Palaces of India) joins us on the jeep

Enjoy this slide show of some of my photos from the area: as always, copyright to all my photos are owned by me

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pecha kucha: I help 79 men become monks in thailand

 

monk takes photos at the Grand Palace in Bangkok
monk takes photos at the Grand Palace in Bangkok

 

Pecha Kucha Night is a presentation format for creative work originally devised by Astrid Klein and Mark

Dytham of Klein-Dytham Architecture (KDa) in Tokyo, Japan in 2003.

The name derives from a Japanese term for the sound of conversation (“chit-chat“). A Pecha Kucha Night is a non-profit orientated event that is part of an international network and consists of a format where presenters show a data slide-show of 20 images, each of which is shown for 20 seconds, giving a total presentation time of 6 minutes 40 seconds.

Each event aims to have a maximum of 14 presenters. Presenters (and much of the audience) are usually from the design, architecture, photography, art, music and creative fields. The event format has been replicated in more than 172 cities including London, San Francisco, Seattle, Rotterdam, Shanghai, and Berlin, as well as in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Nelson. Events are usually limited to one each month per city and to a minimum of four events per year.

Pecha Kucha Nights Auckland is currently organising their twelfth event, Wellington hosted their fourth event in late 2008, and Nelson, Hamilton and Dunedin have recently joined the New Zealand contingent.  The next one in Christchurch New Zealand is on the 2nd April and features this blogger – the kiwitravel writer – anda presentation on  how she became involved in helping create Buddhist monks from 79 ordinary men to celebrate and commemorate the King Of Thailand’s birthday.

Below are some additional links to more information about Pecha Kucha Nights in New Zealand andinternationally:

http://pecha-kucha.org/ 

http://www.pechakucha.co.nz/

http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/commentary/

Happy Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year: travelling in Penang, Malaysia, (a couple of years ago)  temporary stages were all around the city during the days leading to the Chinese New Year. Large semi-solid structures are at temples or outside affluent establishments or homes where people have financially supported the theatre or opera that is about to be staged.

Happy Thai new year
Happy Thai new year


For a few days before New Year opera plays nightly. Outside a supermarket two colourful dragons cavort, their fluttering eyelashes making the dance look flirtatious. As in many warm climates, evenings are when places come alive in a different way to the daytime busy-ness. Locals wander the streets talking to neighbours, eating meals in noisy gaggles and now in the Chinese New Year, watch local theatre.


As with all travellers, I too watch the theatre of life that unfolds itself daily, hourly, minute by minute and as part of that kaleidoscope, watch the shows. To a Western ear the sounds are often discordant, loud, and too highly pitched.  Each evening I wander the streets of Georgetown, watch the opera and gradually my ears become accustomed to the tone.

Men, often dressed as women, are in colourful clothes and the story usually seems to be about long-lost loves or love betrayed;  well that’s how I, with no knowledge of any Chinese language, interpret them.

Four or five men, sitting behind screens, make up the orchestra, and during long speeches or songs from the stage, I could hear their conversations and watch as huge plumes of cigarette smoke drift from around the screens and out to the audience.

The audience emerges from the shadows of alleyways, shops and homes as the band tune their instruments. I am given a sheet of newspaper to sit on, others sat on their rickshaw, bike, or chair carried from home, while yet others sat on newspaper too. Most smoke. Adding to the pall of smoke is the token money burnt in temple grounds as people make offerings to their ancestors.


If you can, spend  some time on the road early in the western-calendar year. Leave New Zealand  ( or whatever country you live in) after your New Years eve party and picnic the next day, then start counting. Counting the celebrations you can indulge in. Chinese New Year is usually first, both it and Islam’s end of Ramadan, the next new year, aren’t fixed dates but are lunar events so check for the dates. Then finally, in mid April – the Buddhist New Year.


Four fabulous New Years in a short space of time, all celebrated in very different ways and all wonderful times to be travelling and learning more about how other cultures enjoy the change of year.

To the Chinese community – Have a happy New Year!

NOTE: See photos of the Chinese New Zealand in Christchurch elsewhere on this site