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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hanoi Spring Roll and a Conversation through Google Translation


One of the many amazing things about traveling is the opportunity to meet new people on the road. During my trip to Hanoi I met Hoang, a cheerful woman who works at one of the many Sihn Tourist offices in the city. Recommended by another traveler friend Jerik, I sought her out after I arrived to avail of a Halong Bay and Sapa tours. We met and conducted business but by the end of our transaction she unexpectedly extended an invitation for me to join her and some friends for a dinner at her place. Shy and feeling a bit paranoid brought on by a number of Asian gore movies, a series of images involving hack saw, chains and giant hammers flashed before me. "Hello Mark, you want to come yes?" as Hoang tapped me on my arm with a glistening smile and I was back to real world. "Sure, what time? I would love to go" I told her.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Dharma Wheels Go Round and Round at Sarnath's Isipatana


 "... here at Sarnath he turned twelve wheels of Dharma ..."
"Keep in mind this most beautiful wood,
named by the great rishi,
where ninety-one thousand kotis of Buddhas
formerly turned the Wheel.
This place is matchless, perfectly calm,
contemplating, always frequented by deer.
In this most beautiful of parks,
whose name was given by the rishi,
I will turn the holy Wheel." 
Voice of the Buddha

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Architecture in Focus: Hawa Mahal - the Palace of the Winds


Tucked within the busy streets of Jaipur, is an architectural marvel standing pyramidal 50 feet high of red and pink sandstone adorned with 953 jharokha windows designed intricately with latticework. Built in 1799 under the orders of Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, the building was designed by the architect of Jaipur city, Lal Chand Ustad and is an example of Rajput Architecture prevalent in the state of Rajasthan. Inside was where the royal ladies practicing the purdah, peeks into the outside world observing the street happenings without getting seen. The direction to which the Hawa Mahal faces and the lattice allows a strong breeze of wind to emanate from the outside and blow through the inside cooling the interior which is only the size of a small room in width. This is why it's also called as "The Palace of the Winds".

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Farm that Gawad Kalinga Built, of Social Entrepreneurship and Leaving No Poor Man Behind


I first heard of Gawad Kalinga as a non-government organization that builds houses for the homeless all over the country. Soon, I realize that their goals are bigger than any wooden shed, canopy or pillars they have erected before. Theirs is an organization that unearths the root of poverty with the intent of severing it from the ground to let a new stem of development grow into various spurts, eventually spreading all over the country. We were seated at the souvenir shop of the GK Enchanted Farm while satisfying our thirst with their in-farm product "Bayani Brew", when an unassuming middle age man in plain blue GK polo shirt, blue pants and sandals sat in front of us. The moment he started talking we were all ears. Clementine, a French intern at the farm interrupted him briefly addressing him as "Tito Tony". It finally rang a bell, Tony Meloto - the founder of Gawad Kalinga whom I've heard and read so much before is seated in front of us.

'Uncle' Tony Meloto is considered as a 'rock star' in the world of social development