Category Archives: Culture

Bye Bye Lisbon!

Well, this is the end of our one month long dream stay in Portugal.

A big thank you to all our friends who have been offering us shelter, food and a lot of joy during those weeks that were a great way to land softly from our journey around the World!

We were lucky to be able to visit some of the most beautiful places in and around Lisbon, including amazing Sintra, one of the most mystical places on earth.

I was also lucky to get wind and decent waves almost everyday, allowing me to complete this trip with my favorite sport in one of my favorite spots: windsurfing in Guincho!

So here are a few pictures of beautiful Lisbon, a European capital that is proposing one of the best Lifestyle / Cultural / Natural combo!

I wish we could live here one day…

And here is the complete Portugal Photo Album as usual;-)

Now off to our last destination: home!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Portugal & Friends

What a wonderful time!

It has been almost 3 weeks since we landed in Portugal. We stayed at 2 great friends houses in the area of Cascais & Sintra, one of the most beautiful parts of Portugal, with breathtaking sceneries, vibrant culture, and unique micro-climate. It was great to see our many friends there and get back to normal life with shopping, dining and partying;-)

Kids enjoyed a lot playing again with kids their age, as they did not meet that many kids during the trip!

We did a few hikes in the region and were struck with the beauty of this piece of land at the western tip of Europe. You will see in the below photo gallery some views of Sintra forest and La Serra mountains, as well as some of the mythical beaches, like Praia da Guincho the extreme water sports arena (with wind and waves every day), and Praia da Ursa that is known for being one of the most beautiful beach in the world, and it’s probably true!

We are now a few days from getting back to France, and honestly, we are all soooo excited to find our sweet home, and end our one year nomad life… That’s the great thing with such a World Tour I guess: you are happy when it starts, and happy when it ends!

Landing back home in Carry-le-Rouet expected on the 15th of August!

Soon back….

 

North India Roadtrip – The Video!

Here is the full feature movie of our 3 weeks in North India. A roadtrip across the states of New-Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Himachala at the northernmost point of the country !

Such a great trip in many beautiful cities like Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Dharamsala, and many more. Amazing sceneries, great people, dirty roads, sacred animals everywhere, and sometimes bad weather, but always a real adventure like nowhere else!

Here is the last movie of our Beautiful World Tour before we returning to Europe where other adventures are awaiting for us.

Enjoy !

giphy teaser

North India road-trip – The Photo Album

This is it. Our time in India is almost over, and we are leaving the Himalayas today.

After the retreat, we could enjoy the Dharamsala countryside, visiting waterfall, temples including beautiful Norbulingka, craftsmanship centers and a beautiful Tibetan school, all under the lovely monsoon weather (I think we didn’t see the sun even once;-)

 

10-IMG_9879
Norbulingka gardens and temple near Dharamsala

This area of India was definitely the most peaceful once, and it was great again to see all those communities living together in peace. It was also quite moving to see this Tibetan community thriving here, perpetuating the Tibetan culture and arts, with the desire to be able to go back one day in Tibet, be it a free country, or an autonomous province within China, the “middle-way” proposed by the Dalai-Lama. With their many monks & nuns and living compassion culture across all ages, the Tibetan people are a living exemple of what world peace & love should be.

11-IMG_9917
Norbulingka Buddhist temple

We will be back here one day!

Please find the complete North India road-trip photo album here, with the best pictures of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himichala states we visited.

And below a quick snapshot of the last days in Mc Leod Ganj. Now heading back to New-Dehli before taking-off for Europe!

May Tibetans we able to return their home country any time soon!

 

Tushita meditation retreat – The inner journey

What an experience ! I was expecting something strong, and I haven’t been disappointed…

This Meditation retreat took place in Tushita (literally “land of joy”), a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation center founded in 1972 by two Tibetan Lamas (spiritual guides or teachers), Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche (who is still alive) on the top of a hill in Mc Leod Ganj, a small village near Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama resides in exile since 1959.

105 students gathered from 30 different countries to attend the “Introduction to Buddhism” course, and surprisingly enough (for me), 60% were below 30 years old, which gives me hope for the future!
This 10 days course is very well designed, with a good mix of lectures, Q&As, discussion groups, and my favorite part, guided meditations.
All students committed to remain silent during the whole stay, but there where enough discussions during specific moments to engage in great debate about the meaning of the teachings.

So after traveling physically for 11 months around the world, this is the (rather long) story of a 10 days intense inner journey just out of the retreat.

Geshe La, our spiritual teacher

The “Dharma” (Sanskrit word describing the spiritual Buddhist teachings, particularly those of the Buddha, literally “which holds one back from sufferings”) lectures were given by Lobsang Tengyur, called by all “Geshe La”, a title given to monks who have successfully completed 20 years of study of the Holy Scriptures from the Buddha, kind of a Buddhist PhD.
Geshe La is a Tibetan monk who was born in Nepal near Copan monastry, and lived from the age of 8 in Sera Jey monastry south of India.

The Dharma teaching

As Geshe La was speaking in Tibetan, a Russian interpreter called Anna was doing the fantastic job of translating both the meaning of words and the philosophic meaning of content, which is a tough job, translating rich spiritual believes from a metaphorical language into the descriptive english language… So the lectures were well structured, and despite the language gap, the group could quickly discover or learn about Buddhism culture and Religion.

I personally believed I knew already a bit, but considering the depth of this culture, I discovered that in fact I knew very little. At the end of the course, I was really impressed that such a rich culture and philosophy of Happiness could emerge in North Asia, with concrete solutions for all beings, more that in any other culture.

During those ten days, we went through key concepts of the Buddhist philosophy & Religion, studying the law of Karma (the natural law of cause and effect), the Samsara of cyclic existence and related infinite rebirths in human condition or another (like animals), and for Four Noble Truths of the Buddha that included the causes of suffering and the path to be freed from sufferings, with the ultimate goal to reach Nirvana or Enlightenment, that is the cessation of sufferings and the end of the endless cyclic existences.

If you embrace this path of the Dharma with the superior intension of “Bodhicitta” (the wish to liberate yourself and ALL sentient beings from sufferings), you will become a Buddha, following this path shown by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni 2600 years ago (known to be the 4th Buddha), with many more to come.

This is possible because all sentient beings share the same “Buddha Nature”, the potential to reach Enlightenment, even if it might take just one life or thousands, depending on your karmic accumulation (Buddhists have a much broader perception of time, counting in “eons”, some kind of beginning-less eternity measure).

This theoretical knowledge is completed by very pragmatic practices, from the practice of the Six Perfections (virtues leading to Enlightenment), and of course Meditation, with different practices aiming at progressively approaching the realization of the “Emptiness of inherent existence” of all phenomena we perceive, a notion that helps to understand our distorted or exaggerated view of reality (called Ignorance or Delusions) as the main cause of our sufferings together with Karma.
Once this false view is reduced, it unleashes the human mind with its natural abilities for Loving Kindness and Compassion.

The “Emptiness of inherent existence”, wait – what?

15-IMG_9615
The Emptiness of my room;-)

This is a very confusing notion for most people, that is presented as the key to eliminating Ignorance. It is pretty obscure to most of western minds, because told in hundreds of different ways in the Buddhist tradition, but also because this realization transcends our cognitive abilities.

With several other Tushita friends, we got really passionate about the understanding of this concept that is taking a huge part of the past and current Buddhist literature, with experts such as Jeffrey Hopkins and His Holiness who have written dozens of thick books on the topic.
My personal obsession was mostly that the notion was so confusing that it might turn people away from practicing Meditation, so I tried my best to give it a concrete meaning with actionable insights.

As this is a complex topic, you can find my humble executive summary of what I understood at the bottom of this post (probably too boring for most people;-)

Universal Secular Ethics

14-IMG_9593
Buddhist Stuppa at Tushita: a symbol for Peace & Compassion

The great value of all those teachings was the non-dogmatic and non-proselyte approach, Geshe La always insisting of the universal nature of some wisdom (what the Dalai-Lama is calling “Secular Ethics”) beyond any religion, and what was a matter of personal believe (Religions):
“Never take what I’m telling you for granted: you always need to check by yourself, from you own experience!”
“Only take was is meaningful for you and leave the rest!”
“You have the right not to believe, but you have the responsibility to respect others beliefs.”

This really is the gift of Buddhism to the world: values that can be shared across Humanity and across all Religions. This is the current message of the Dalai Lama who is bridging over other spiritual leaders to make such “Secular Ethics” emerge for the good of Mankind.

Two small frustrations

In these lectures, I have been a bit frustrated by two points:

1) It got a bit too far (for me) in the pure religious practice dimension of Buddhism. Many consider original Buddhism scriptures, the historical Buddha Shakyamuni own words from 2600 years ago, are a philosophy or psychology of happiness, with many concrete advices and results you can experience and verify by yourself to achieve peace of mind and happiness.

Of course, through time and contact with other Religions of the East, different religious forms have emerged (Mahayana, the actual form of Tibetan Buddhism, Theravada in Sri Lanka and South-East Asia, etc…), with many codified rituals and believes that I call “Myths & Legends” (like any Religion has), with all due respect. Some of us got a bit overwhelmed by some Mahayana complex world descriptions (like the 6 Realms), and it’s of course at that moment that some Orthodox Buddhists (if such thing exists!) got nervous about protecting the original Holy Buddha’s scriptures, which is what leads to integrism in any other Religion. How wrong.

Because Meditation was presented as included in the “Religious Practice” part of Buddhism, I was afraid that non-religious people would turn away from it, even if Geshe La was quite specific about the universal dimensions of the Buddhist philosophy and practices that should speak to all, and of the ability to pick and choose any of the practices that make sense for one.

Buddhism doesn’t do any proselytism: the believers do not try to convert anyone, they just give the Dharma to those who seek happiness.

2) The lack of reference to Science, which is probably a miss as Buddhism is the only Religion than openly engages with Science to seek for commonalities and mutual enrichment in theory and/or experience. Those efforts have gathered many believers and scientists for a decade, with very interesting research conducted in Neuro-science, Affective Psychology, and even Quantum-Physics. Some Buddhists monks did even specialize in making this bridge with science happen, like the french monk Matthieu Ricard who has been working a lot on the Neuro-science dimension.

Even if many scientists are careful about definitive conclusions on similarities and on the nature of the reality described in Buddhism, I believe it is worth mentioning those research with science, especially about the efficiency of Meditation and its multiple benefits on stress management (called “MBSR: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction”), cognitive enhancement… and of course happiness! In the latest experiments of neurologic signals of happiness as measured on non-meditators / beginners / and advanced meditators, the Buddhist monks (including Matthieu Ricard) were completely “off-chart”: their measures were in multiples of others!

Those were my two small frustrations, but they didn’t prevent at all to enjoy the rest!

The Lama (Guru) inestimable gift

In fact, my true personal realization was the importance to receive such spiritual teachings from a “master” (Lama or Guru in Sanskrit) who is speaking from his heart and leading by example. This might be even more important than the content itself…

tushita gompa classroom
Receiving precious Dharma from Gueshe La in the Gompa

Geshe La was teaching for his very first time, and I have been moved by his incredible sincerity, humbleness, and very warm heart that did show great compassion to us students without any possible doubt. This is the kind of experience and knowledge you can not get from books, but only through this very warm and connected human experience. That’s why the Buddhists insist so much on the importance of having a master and keeping a “lineage” of teaching across time.

Geshe La, being very modest, was insisting that he was not knowledgeable enough yet (to his point of view) to be a teacher, and that he was just a “postman” of the Buddha’s words, and a friend. For a first teaching to such a challenging audience, I believe he did very well, and I truly hope he will continue giving this precious gift to people seeking to become better and more happy persons.

Q&As: the cultural & language “canyon”

The Q&As were the only real frustration of the retreat, as the gap mentioned above become a “canyon” during the interactive Q&A between the teacher and the western students.
Clearly, it’s a tough job for a monk who has very little experience of our world to engage in challenging questions from the (sometimes) tortured mind of westerners😉

So we often got “lost in translation”, not really going into the depth of the thinking, but again, it was striking to see Geshe La doing his best, always staying very humble and providing very concrete and simple answers when he could. He was otherwise honestly sharing his own limits with laughter:
“How would I know, I’m just a monk!”, or “I don’t know well enough yet to speak”, or “Check if my answer makes sense to you, and verify by yourself!”.

Engaging Discussion Groups

17-IMG_9534
Vincent, Inbal and Sanjay from Group

One hour a day, we could discuss with each other in small groups of 8 to 10 people like during an MBA class (“Master of Buddhism Administration”;-). I was so lucky to get in a group with a lot of diversity: 3 Israeli, 1 Indian, 1 Danish, 1 South African, 1 American, and 1 french (me). The very diverse backgrounds allowed to share many different point of views, and I believe this was the very best way to debate an integrate the meaningful teachings for each of us.

Through the discussions, and sometimes just presence and empathic listening, I made strong contact with several great persons, like the wonderful Inbal from Jerusalem. Those are contacts made for life!

Amazing Guided Meditations

As explained, the number one Buddhist practice is Meditation, and the group Meditations at Tushita were particularly well made. Better than what I ever accounted before.

11-IMG_9531
One of the meditation halls

They were conducted by a young Irish guy called Tommy, and he found a very efficient way to guide this large group of people with very different experiences, from beginners to more advanced practitioners having done Vipassana Meditation before and having several years of practice.

The efficiency came from the unique blending of classic advices for a good posture, a good flow, some opened suggestions to trigger motivation or visualizations, some personal experiences, and always a great sense of humor (with funny anecdotes like when you queue for a long time to access the only joy of the day, peanut butter, and the guy before you finishes the jar;-).

Everybody could relate to him, and I believe this kept everybody really engaged with the practice even in the toughest moments (like when your knees start really hurting after sitting still for an hour…).
Moreover, he was very generous with his time, always answering all questions after session with the sincere motivation to help us all.
I will miss Tommy’s voice!

For me, having a (little) bit of experience, the true discovery was the Buddhist Meditation mix, a mix of “Stabilization or Focus Meditation” (pure focus on the breath to stop all unwanted thoughts), “Analytical Meditation” (after the mind is calmed, razor-sharp analytical thinking on a problem to reach a conclusion or insight helpful to progress) or “Generative Meditation” (training of the mind to generate positive emotions through visualizations for example).
This made the meditations all different and productive, so such a sequencing will definitely be part of my routine!

Thank You Tushita!

16-IMG_9619
Mystic forest around Tushita

Having done a fantastic Vipassana Meditation retreat long time ago, I wanted to do such a retreat again, and the end of the Beautiful World Tour was really to best moment to do it!

The place is wonderful, peaceful and quiet, and the staff and volunteers were all great people, fully dedicated to making our experience truly transformative.

13-monkey attack
Fighting for food with a cousin

We all had many memorable moments. Rapid eye contacts while keeping silence with wonderful beings. Endless debates on profound teachings. Sometimes pain during the (not so) long Meditation sessions. Hours watching the monkeys and understanding why we (I) feel so close to them, and where some our angry and caring behaviors come from. Eating the delicious food every day. Sometimes fighting for survival when a monkey male was stealing your food (see picture)… I think I truly enjoyed every single moment of those 10 days! 

I left with a lot of learnings, some moving experiences (than are too personal to be shared), new friends for life, and hopefully a bit more wisdom.

“Happiness is as simple as a little bit of Loving Kindness and Compassion to your family, friends, and other sentient beings if you can.”

A big thank you to the Tushita institution for allowing already 10000 people to experience Dharma teachings made accessible to all, including western minds like mine.

For all those interested in Meditation and Buddhism, Tushita or any of the 160 FPMT centers in the 38 countries around the world are a must!

The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT.org) is an international, non-profit organization founded in 1975 by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, aiming at teaching how to develop compassion step-by-step to make a positive contribution to world peace every day.

 


BONUS: The “Emptiness of inherent existence” – my humble executive summary (for those interested)

IMG_9612Here is my humble understanding of this complex topic after reading quite a bit (especially HH the Dalai Lama who had the clearest words on the topic):

Things (phenomena) are “empty of inherent existence” because:

1) At physical and philosophical level:
One can demonstrate (mentally) that things only exist relative to causes and conditions, to dependence on parts, and are constantly changing at any moment in time. They are therefore Interdependent and Impermanent, thus NOT existing in absolute terms (“in and out of themselves”, Absolutism), NOR non-existing at all (Nihilism).

Concretely: it means you need to look at things, events, people from a broader perspective to understand the Interdependence and Impermanence of what we perceive.

2) At physiological and psychological level:
The real world objects are perceived as phenomena from our senses that are providing only certain information to us, what they can provide (we see only a small portion of visible light, etc…).
This give a certain image of “reality” that is then interpreted by our brain, automatically projecting a concept (our cognitive processing works mostly trough conceptualization: that’s how the brain works) and attributing subjective qualities.
And this is were the biggest distortion happens to my humble point of view, but also where we have to most ability to correct.

Indeed, our “Ego” (perception of self), so crucial in our lives for survival (inherited from our animal condition), can perceive and project dramatically wrong attributes to things through anger and/or attachment.
Just think about your first love at the very beginning, how you have been emphasizing the good qualities (often the ones that flatters your ego) and discarding the bad ones, and how your perception completely flipped around at the end of the relationship when you could only see the bad qualities.

This realization leads to the understanding that :
A/ This mis-perception self-maintains in a vicious circle both Attachment and Anger as the two root causes of our Ignorance of reality: realizing this dramatically reduces our habit to rely on Attachment and Anger, freeing us from destroying afflictive emotions that are very well described in the Buddhist system.

B/ Our happiness almost solely depend on our own mind, very little on external conditions such as material comfort (if you are of course not desperately suffering from you body because of a disease in a terminal phase…)

Concretely: “Dissolve your Ego the best you can, and you will be much closer to the reality of things, and a much more happy person!”

3) At Physics science level:
This is where it gets really complex: many people in the last decades have been trying to compare the view of reality between Buddhism and Quantum Physics as both share the two key ideas above:
true interdependence of matter itself (2 particles like electrons that meet become instantly “depended” or “entangled” with faster than light information, whatever the distance)
interdependence between object and observer, with some events arising because of the observation itself!

Which made a famous scientist say: “What co-arises (inter-dependently at matter level) co-arises (from the mind)”.

Concretely: it means some highly realized meditators, those very few humans getting close to Enlightenment, are able to realize this ultimate nature of reality through direct experience in Meditation. For most people, it’s hard to believe they can achieve this in their current lifetime, so I consider this a research that should not block people in practicing meditation for the most approachable goal of dominating the Ego a bit better!

Last point, it is important to say that Buddhist scholars reject any Meta-physical interpretation based on the Emptiness understanding (like the existence of a supreme creating power for instance): it is supposed to describe the ultimate nature of reality, same as for the Quantum physicists (even if some agree that Quantum Physics is only a model of “what we can know”, thus not the ultimate description of reality).

That’s it for that topic. I’m now up for some more reading on the topic that is keeping some people busy for their lifetime. But if thinking is good, experience through “Calm Abiding” Meditations is certainly the way to go to become a Buddha!

Dharamsala, the Tibetan culture capital (in exile)

ENGLISH: Dharamsala is the north India city where His Holiness the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan monks and citizens take refuge, fleeing from the invasion of Tibet by China that started in 1949. The atmosphere of this city is quite unique, with a blend of indian and tibetan culture that make the place unusually peaceful compared to the rest of India. That’s why many indians and westerners have been coming here for decades to discover the tibetan wisdom, often through its well conserved Buddhist traditions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Traditional tibetan dances in Tsuglagkhang temple

On July 6th, Tibetans, friends and devotees of His Holiness the Dalai Lama gathered in large numbers at the Tsuglagkhang temple, the main Tibetan temple in Dharamsala, to participate in the official 81st birthday celebration of His Holiness. Traditional dances, rituals and beautiful costumes where showcased, all generations being actively involved in this celebration, from very young kids to the elderly, giving a sense of harmony in this peaceful community.

2 days later, we were fortunate to see His Holiness coming back to Tsuglagkhang after his long trip teaching around the world. Many people came there to see him just a few seconds, and we were fortunate to receive a big smile from him.

We continue our discovery of the tibetan world for a few more days, the time to meet with Vincent again after his retreat.

FRENCH: Lieu de résidence de Sa Sainteté le 14ème Dalaï Lama, Dharamsala est aussi la terre d’accueil d’une grande communauté de tibétains ayant fuit le Tibet lors de l’invasion et de la répression de la Chine en 1949. Il y règne une ambiance différente du reste de l’Inde, les tibétains sont des gens très pacifistes, généreux et d’une bonté naturelle. Beaucoup d’indiens viennent découvrir ce lieu insolite.

Dharamsala à cette époque, est plus fraîche que le reste de l’Inde, la mousson est là. Les rues se transforment alors en un torrent d’eau qui dévale les rues montagneuses de Dharamsala , drainant sur son passage tous les détritus laissés sur les routes. Personne ne semble habitué à garder et jeter les déchets dans une poubelle, les gens préfèrent jeter par la fenêtre, tout ce qu’ils consomment. Les routes sont animées et étroites alors chacun klaxonne sans cesse pour imposer son passage. Il n’y a pas de trottoir pour marcher… il faut éviter les motos, les tuk-tuks, les camions, les voitures, les vaches sacrées, les chèvres, bref c’est une aventure à chaque déplacement !!!! 

Le 6 juillet, les tibétains ont célébré le 81ème anniversaire de sa sainteté le Dalaï Lama au temple de Tsuglagkhang. Il n’y avait plus un centimètre de libre pour assister à cette fête. Les danses traditionnelles se sont succédées au rythme des musiques et des chants. Chacun a revêtu sa tenue traditionnelle, les nouvelles générations sont aussi très impliquées, les enfants vont perpétuer les traditions. 

2 jours plus tard, nous avons eu la chance d’assister au retour de Sa Sainteté à Tsuglagkhang après son long périple autour du monde à enseigner la sagesse Bouddhiste. Des milliers de gens étaient venus assister à son retour, et nous avons eu la chance de recevoir un sourire de sa part.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
May Tibet be free (or an autonomous province in China) soon again!

 Notre découverte de ce monde tibétain continu pour encore quelques jours le temps de retrouver Vincent après sa retraite.

Delphine

North-India roadtrip adventure

We have completed our road-trip in north India in Utar Pradesh and Rajasthan states, going through Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Adaipur cities… 1000 kilometers of insane driving on roads where reaching the next destination always seems a miracle, and landing in cities that all offered very different experiences.

It was just a week, but it seemed ages as it probably was the most intense part of the whole Beautiful World Tour ! We knew India would shake us, and it did, with mostly positive things, but also some bad ones.

Landing in New-Delhi

The start of the road-trip was pretty tough for us. First, coming from Cochin, we landed in New-Delhi with a lot of delay (around 2AM), then got lost on the way to the very cheap hotel we booked around the airport… too cheap to be true, as we never found the hotel after driving a long time on dirt roads in an apparently dangerous area as our driver got scared too;-(
The poor guy could not really read maps, so we had to change strategy and end-up in a « normal hotel ».

Agra and Taj Mahal

The real road-trip started by visiting Agra and the world famous Taj Mahal under very high temperatures (see previous post), and being the only western tourists there, it was quite fun to merge with the crowd and sometime be treated like rock stars with people queuing to get their picture or selfie with us. But the downside of being off-season was that we were the only « tourist target » for dozens of guides / beggars / kids who all wanted to get a little contribution to improve their life. The pressure was intense and it was of course difficult to resist giving as many seemed quite desperate. Even if a lot were probably acting, we also felt real misery of orphans kids who agglomerate around big tourists sites to make a living. I guess the only way to go through this is to follow your heart and select the sincere vs the fake.

14-IMG_7911

Fatehpur Sikri nightmare

So Agra was a tough start, and the pinacle of that pain was the next day in a holy place called Fatehpur Sikri, 100 kms after Agra. There is a pretty nice palace called Jodha Bais, and the Jama Masjid Mosque, but that later place seemed to gather all the misery of the country in one spot. Being again the only tourists, it was shocking to see such a holy place turned into a commercial souk with hundreds of poor people, kids and handicapped people trying desperately to sell or beg something. I have some experience with poverty, and I saw true desperation there.
Again, it was very difficult not to feel touched, but quickly we had to turn back and leave the place the heart broken (not mentioning the bad idea to start giving a bit of money which gave a signal to more to come and get a bit of luck).
In one hour, we got our energy completely depleted by the vision of what could have been « hell on earth ». It’s also then that one of our Visa cards got hacked with major withdrawals on our bank account : zero money left !

At that time, we where wondering how the rest of the trip would turn out….

Entering Rajasthan: Jaipur, the pink city

Fortunately, things got better and better.
We entered Rajasthan, the land of the kings, stopping at the capital first : Jaipur, the pink city.
We have seen many beautiful things there : the Wind palace, the Amber fort and the City palace. But more importantly, we started to have genuine human contact again. Very little unpleasant pressure, and welcoming people. That was a relief.

Jodhpur, the blue city

We then took small roads to go to Jodhpur, the blue city, where we saw the amazing Mehrangarh fort that is a beautiful fortress located at the top of a mountain like an eagle nest, with Jaswant Thada « little Taj Mahal » palace nearby, a place built for the wife of the city Maharadja.
We took the time to get lost in the Ghantaghar market, and have seen the incredible indian lifestyle that is hard to describe : you can only live the experience ! Noisy, dirty, smelly (good and bad), speedy, but incredibly intense and authentic, with great human interaction with people really welcoming and honest, not at all what we had seen in the previous « tourists traps ».

The road to Udaipur

On the way to Udaipur, we stopped in many places in the countryside, from small temples to cooperative farms, where the lifestyle probably didn’t change for thousand years, with caste systems still very vivid, unmechanized agriculture, animals living with humans, arranged marriages as the norm, peace between all religious communities, and overall, a sense of harmony with nature and gods. Despite the language barrier, we could communicate through smiles and body language with people happy to exchange with strangers interested in understanding their lives.

One place, the Chaturmukha Jain temple, was particularly moving. This temple of this « small » religion that is close to Buddhism was build in 1450 during 50 years with more than 2500 artists. It showcases religious art in its purest form, with hundreds of columns and beautiful Buddhas carved in pure white marble. This place that was created by a man who reached enlightenment under a tree (still in that temple) was filed with spirituality and definitely felt sacred.

Udaipur, the lakes city

Our last stop was the ancient city of Udaipur where we could finally find some fresh(er) air thanks to its elevation and three lakes. We had to leave our car and driver to enter the old city with a tuk-tuk (sort of a 3-wheels scooter) because of the narrow streets. Reaching our hotel was a real adventure with the pinnacle of the road mess we had so far, with vehicles, humans and animals going in all directions with different speeds, all crossing within centimeters of space without ever slowing down or touching. Our hotel was a 250 years old museum where we could stay in a suite where important men serving the Udaipur Maharaja were staying.

Here again, we could walk in the city, experience the indian lifestyle, engage with people in the street, watch the sunset over the city and the beautiful lake, with families and kids enjoying the last moments of the day. Both vibrant and peaceful at the same time. The last day, we could also visit the City palace and the Taj Lake island palace on the lake, right before heading to the airport to fly back to New-Delhi.

We love India!

In the end, this road trip in the north of India, despite the challenging beginning, was one of the most memorable experiences we had during the whole world tour.
« Incredible India » did live-up to our expectations : there is no other place on earth that is so staggering, with intense and genuine human experiences. India can not leave you with neutral sentiments, and if we do understand the many people we met who did not like it, we loved it.
Our journey across India was a way to deeply connect with human nature.

Next : Dharamsala for a peaceful Meditation retreat to conclude this Beautiful, really Beautiful World Tour !

 

 

 

Rajasthan road-trip

After a short stay in New Delhi, we have started our road-trip across Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan states, going through the cities of Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur (and many other stops on the way).

The beginning of that journey was tough for many reasons (more in the next post), but we have been delighted to start with the discovering of the Taj Mahal, one of India’s most beautiful monument, a tribute of a Mughal emperor (Shah Jahan)  to his wife in the 16th century. He was devastated by the death of his wife who died after giving birth to his 14th child, and build the white marble mausoleum to celebrate his eternal love with her. This jewel of Muslim art in India took 11 years and 20 000 artisans to build, and his today considered is one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage. The emperor finally got buried next to her. Entering that last place where the lovers lay together was especially emotional…

The second most photographed thing after this monument was… us! Being the only western tourists there at this (very hot) time of the year, we have been very successful and are now probably featured on hundreds of pictures and selfies on social networks. People were even queuing to get there picture;-)

Now heading to the next city with certitude to be impressed and shocked: incredible India is definitely incredible in many dimensions!

 

We are having a great start in North India! More from us soon!

funky giphy