Exploring Thailand’s most beautiful temples

Being a predominant Buddhist country, Thailand is temple heaven. I largely borrow from some of the philosophies of Buddhism; insistence on the power of the mind: how we are shaped by our thoughts, letting go of fear, what happiness should be : not linking it to material possessions, self love, spirituality and health. A summary of my 2017 personal goals guys! You can then imagine how this was a great opportunity for me to immerse and learn!

  1. White temple (Wat Rong Khun) in Chiang Rai (A town in Northern Thailand)
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The Avant garde temple. It was built by one of Thailand’s greatest artists as a tribute to Buddha
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The temple’s entrance has several arms reaching out from the ground: symbolizing a purgatory of suffering, greed and worldliness where one is expected to detach themselves from all that to gain happiness
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After purgatory is heaven, with two very able guards at its gates
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White symbolizes purity
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Walking through the temple grounds should mimic / symbolize traversing life’s endless circle of life, death and rebirth
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As it is with all temples, one is expected to dress decently . Unfortunately taking photos inside the temple is not allowed
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Constructed with asbestos for the white effect. (Please carry some sun glasses otherwise you will be squinting all through). The mirrors used in the temple’s construction symbolize self reflection
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The beautiful pond right behind me has some fish and you are allowed to feed them. Also, don’t I look like a queen 🙂
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Beautiful hanging prayer plates can be found in the temple’s grounds. 
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Looks like a King’s house right? Nope!  Just some standard rest rooms. (I think the world’s most beautiful)

2. The Black temple (Baan Dam), a few minutes from the White temple

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If the White temple is a glimpse of heaven, then the Black temple aims to represent a glimpse of hell and darkness
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The temple is filled with skins, bones and teeth of different animals. All these animals are said to have died from natural causes, creating a less sadistic but spiritual feel
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The interior has a tribal and mysterious vibe to it with metal and honey combed beams
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It started raining when we were walking in the temple grounds so we took refuge at one of the chill spots. Was lucky to run into these novice monks. I even added my new friend on Facebook, he sits next to me in the picture. Sadly there was a language barrier so most of the talking was done with an english-thai translator book. I will be honest though, we look badass! 

 

3. The temple of the Reclining Buddha (What Po), Bangkok

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This is by far the largest statue I have set my eyes on. 
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Inside the temple, visitors can drop coins into these bronze bowls for good luck
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It is Thailand’s oldest temples and home to Thai Massage and Medicine schools

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Walking in the temple’s grounds is very relaxing. For a minute, you forget about the notorious Bangkok hustle and bustle that is right outside
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The temples pagodas stand tall and majestic 

4. The Blue temple (Wat Rong Suea) Ten, Near the black and white temples

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Temples in Thailand will often be guarded by the fierce dragons planted at the entrance
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This was definitely one of the less tourist-thronged temples we visited as it was recently completed and people haven’t gotten wind of it.
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It is known as the temple of the dancing tigers since many years back, tigers used to jump over a famous river in this town
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The galaxy blue interior is simply breath-taking. 

5. Doi Suthep (Wat Phra That Doi Suthep) ,Chiang Mai

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The temple was built on top of Chiang Mai’s famous Doi Suthep hill and visitors will climb about 300 stairs to reach the temple
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Legend has it that the King built the temple after being instructed by Buddha when a white elephant had made rounds in the hills and finally died here
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As it is on a hill, this temple can be seen from most places in Chiang Mai and is filled with gold plated symbols everywhere. Many of the Thai people who visit the temple come to pray

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This is the list of jaw-dropping beautiful temples I came across while in Thailand. In my opinion, visiting these places is a must for someone who wishes to have a deeper understanding of Thai culture as explained in one of my other posts.

Remember when visiting, most temples will not have an admission fee but will demand that you dress decently (ie. no shoulders and knees/thighs showing). Ladies, you can wear an off shoulder dress but have a scarf in your bag which you will wear as soon as you get there.

Hope you enjoyed the post!

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Summer in London

Nothing is sure in London than expense, rainy and gloomy summer days, fish and chips, red telephone booths, the tube, double decker buses and eccentrics. The couples scene is also as diverse and as PDA plastered as it gets! London was a great place to disappear – for me. I got to people-watch a lot. The city has a coldness to it that is very hard to explain. It’s seemed everyone was busy rushing somewhere; ‘pretentiously’ busy’. Most people seem reserved enough not to be rude but you can still see it on their faces, as though genuine social interaction is a form of neediness – but maybe its just me used to too much warmth and friendliness back home. All in all, it was an interesting culture to be immersed in. Has any one experienced something similar while in London?

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Trafalgar square and National Gallery

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River Thames and the London eye
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People watching at the London bridge
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Not sure why the cute guy in the army green jacket was staring at me but oh well 🙂
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China town. Aunty was trying to figure out the formula.
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China town
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Double decker buses and London cabbies
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Jazz night at Ronny Scott’s was memorable. Seemed like time travel circa 1950

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Lovers enjoying an evening stroll.

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This is the stage where that Friday feeling kicks in.
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The Tube at Piccadilly Circus
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The Valerian and the city of a thousand  planets premiered at the Leicester square on this same night. Rihanna was here! Missed her entrance though 😦

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Best fish and chips near the London eye

I missed out on vintage shopping, brunching and afternoon tea, a stroll around Canary Wharf, Buckingham palace, Kensington gardens, the Little Venice and a day trip to Stonehenge but well, there is always a next time right? 🙂

Few tips if you have never been but plan to:

  • Even in summer, carry an umbrella.
  • Don’t under-estimate the transport system! Install the “City mapper” app to help you easily plan your trips otherwise you will get yourself on the wrong train
  • Don’t under-estimate the hard water! Carry some coconut oil for your skin. The hard water can damage your skin and leave it too dry
  • Don’t under-estimate how expensive it can get!

Safari in Rwanda

For most people, Rwanda is best known for Gorilla trekking, but after the government recently raised park entry fees to $1500 for non-residents, what is left to do? Safari. Rwanda is one of the 10 countries in Africa where you can go for Safari – with the Akagera park boosting 100 acres of untapped land reserve for the animals.

Akagera National park, in the eastern part of Rwanda – a 2 hour drive from Kigali. This was a thrilling adventure because the weather was so favorable and most of the animals were out to play. Also, you have never seen a terrain as beautiful as Rwanda’s – the hills, the plains and the lakes make a perfect blend. Here we go :-).

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That one day in Abu Dhabi

Looking for a chance to learn about the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Islam and Emirati culture? Then a visit to Abu Dhabi will help. I had the pleasure of visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque on a day trip to Abu Dhabi. It is the 8th largest mosque in the world and arguably one of the most beautiful structures in the world.

We arrived at night and were crossing fingers to find it open after taking the 2 and a half hour drive from Dubai. Lucky for us, the mosque usually closes at 10 pm. Even at night, the mosque looked stunning; though I have to admit that I would love to see the mosque again, in the sun, with its white marble, domes and minarets reflecting on the blue waters surrounding it.

Here are some shots and of course, I have highlighted some of the striking things I learnt/noticed during the visit.

To all my muslim friends, Ramadan Kareem!

The grounds:

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The grounds use a special kind of lighting that follows the moon’s phases and they become lighter as the moon becomes full
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There is no entry fee to visit the mosque. It is open from 9 am – 10 pm daily except for Friday mornings!
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Opening of the mosque took place in the holy month of Ramadan in 2007.
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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was initiated by the late President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and his final resting place is located on the grounds.

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The pools along the arcades reflect the Mosque’s spectacular columns, which become even more glorious at night.

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There is a library at the mosque stocked with classic books and publications (dating back more than 200 years!) addressing a range of Islamic subjects: calligraphy, the arts, coins.

Inside the Mosque:

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There are 96 columns in the main prayer hall, inlaid with mother of pearl and marble.
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Materials used in its design and construction include marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. 

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Intricate work on the ceiling

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The huge crystal chandelier in the main prayer hall, one of seven German-made chandeliers that costs more than eight million dollars.

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Swarovski crystals on one of the world’s largest chandeliers
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The largest hand-knotted carpet in the world knitted for 2 years by about 1200 carpet- knotters! Also, you must leave your shoes at the Mosque’s entrance
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The mosque is a symbol of unity, a place of worship and a haven of tranquility. Must visit if you are ever in Abu Dhabi

 

Island life – Uganda

I would go ahead to call these islands a ‘well kept secret’ but my Ugandan friends from Kabale would beg to differ. Lake Bunyonyi is in the South western part of Uganda and is one of Africa’s deepest lakes. It is closest to Kabale town, which is an hour’s drive from the Rwanda/Uganda border. It has 29 concentrated islands therefore visitors are spoilt for choice on where to go.

We happened to visit Habuharo Island and it was spectacular. Each of the cottages face the lake so you are assured of a beautiful view whichever cottage you decide to sleep in.

I was sure to capture some beautiful views and sunsets on this beautiful gem. Definitely should be on your ‘Places to travel’ list.

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A view of the islands on Lake Bunyonyi from Arcadia Hotel

Going to Habuharo island: 

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The boat ride takes about 25 minutes from the boat station. You should make reservations prior so that the hotel makes arrangements to get supplies from the main land and so that they can pick you up, of course.
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The lake’s calming effect, hope it can be felt from the picture 😉

Arrival at the island: 

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The island’s little harbour.
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From the harbour to the hotel
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A warm welcome (literally) with a nice hot cup of tea is served upon arrival.
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Mukyala!

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The cottages: 

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No wifi here. You can choose to connect with anything else
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View from the cottage.

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If waking up to such views is something that excites you, please visit. Being a Sunday, it was so quiet in the morning. Known as the bird island, all you could hear was their chirping from about 4 am!
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The islands are off-grid therefore all the power is harnessed from the sun. Working in the Solar sector, this made me happy.

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You will not experience a lot of mosquitoes because the rooms have mosquito nets.

A walk around the Island: 

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Views: 

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Neighbouring islands

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Heading back: 

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We stopped for lunch (and a game of football) at Overland.

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These kids were hilarious. From the boat, we could hear them shout ”Hello! Hello! Give me money!!!!”
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Leaving the island clearly made us all sad 😦

Strolling in Dubai’s Miracle Garden

“Almost any garden if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with Paradise” – Henry Mitchell

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Getting a shot with no one in it is not easy! Visiting in January must have helped.
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The entrance fee costs about 40 AED and a ticket can be bought at the gate.
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Loved this intricate pattern on the grass
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Sunscreen, a big hat and sunnies are a must-have. Its quite hot

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If you are getting to the garden via bus, note that the bus from the Emirates Mall Metro Station only works in the afternoon. If you visit the garden in the morning, you would have to take a taxi from Emirates Mall.

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A piece of corn goes for 25 AED!

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Beautiful plane covered in flowers

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This is the exit. The houses look beautiful

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I spy with my little eye…..
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Everything here is perfect. Guards are everywhere to make sure you do not litter.

An enchanting night in the desert

Simplicity is the heart of everything. If you look to the desert, apparently the desert is very simple but it’s full of life, it’s full of hidden places and the beauty is that it looks simple but it’s complex in the way that it expresses the soul of the world or God.
Paulo Coelho

Highlights:

  • Sand dunning in a 4*4 while heading out to the desert safari made me scream a little. It will make you scream a little too unless you are an adrenaline junkie, then you will think the ride was too short.
  • The desert sunset is breath-taking.
  • Intriguing middle east dance acts, Arabian tea, authentic shisha and henna tattoos.

Here are some well captured memories. Enjoy 🙂

The desert:

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The camp:

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The Dance show:

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Views of Lake Kivu from Gisenyi

 

 

Gisenyi is located in the western part of Rwanda. It’s a 3-hour drive from Kigali. Last weekend was a perfect time to unwind and practice on my new found photography skills. I hope you enjoy the photos. Shot them with a Nikon D3300 DSLR (though the last 2 were from a friend’s phone)

The Lake:

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Interesting fact about this little ‘island’ where I stand. Girls from Rwanda who got pregnant outside wedlock were abandoned here at night. The congolese men would then pick them up and marry them.
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A lot of fishing goes on at Lake Kivu throughout the day. Some people rent out the boats and go into the Lake then dive and swim in. Looked like fun!

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The lodge:

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Everything here grows ferociously

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Eco-friendly bathrooms

The food:

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And for those who have been asking, yes, Rwanda is filled with lots of prospects!

Tomb raiding in Naivasha

 

That Sunday’s agenda was to explore the panoramic cliffs and gorges in Naivasha’s famous Tomb raider spot: Hell’s Gate & after that take a dip in Olkaria’s Geothermal Spa.

Where: Hell’s Gate and Geothermal Spa, Naivasha

Photography: Fridah Mwongeli

THE VIEWS:

The weather in Limuru was horrible. But as soon as we got to Mai Mahiu, it started warming up & that allowed us to make a stop at the beautiful view points.

 

 

 

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HELL’S GATE: THE PARK

We caught the giraffe’s graceful run, a few warthogs and lots of zebras! Peaceful enough for a chilled bike ride.

 

 

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HELL’S GATE: THE GORGES

God is such a sculptor! This unusual beauty has to be seen so as to be felt. Did you know they have a devil’s bedroom in there? Guess which of these pictures it is.

Tip: There is a lot of hiking and climbing in the gorges so you better dress the part!(we had not anticipated this)

 

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HELL’S GATE: THE GEOTHERMAL SPA:

You will be awed by the winding roads and beautiful landscapes inside Hell’s Gate leading to the Spa. At the spa, the waters are just the right shade of blue and get steamier the closer you get to the inlet.

 

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That is me trying to tell you to get there already!

Watamu in pictures

After Nairobi decided to rain silly last weekend, myself and a couple of friends decided to visit the beautiful Watamu: to get that well deserved little break . Pictures are worth a thousand words right?

Where: Alhamra Villa, Watamu

Organised by: Tina Tours

Photo credits: Violet Wainaina

 

The beach:

White sands + Blue skies + Green and blue water + friendly locals + Snorkelling + Sun bathing +Shells + Crabs + Henna

God is such an artist!

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The House:

Palatial + Open plan + Poolside chilling + Scenic + Secret rooms + Outdoor pool + Best staff + Sunbeds + Plunge pool + Beachfront

Note to self when I build my house: “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance”- Coco Chanel

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The people:

Road trips and Karaoke + New and stronger friendships + Wine + Cocktails + Truth or dare + Swimming lessons + Dondas + Modelling + Selfies + Snorkelling + DJ Demakufu + Manga Chenga + Fatuma + Tibim + Henna

What an amazing bunch I got to spend the weekend with!

 

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And finally, I discovered that I can be a model :-p

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