Friday, November 9, 2018

Hogenakkal waterfalls - Thrilling natural beauty

It so happened that the visit to the Hogenakkal waterfalls came as a pleasant surprise on the way to our native place thanks to my husband. We enjoyed the moments thoroughly to our heart's full.

Just on our entry to Hogenakkal , soon after parking our car,  a person approached  us enquiring , if we would be interested in the one hour long  coracle boat ride around the waterfalls. My husband gave an immediate nod and in no time we took the ticket and soon we were given the life jackets to put on.  And the same person guided us , walking in front,  carrying a coracle boat weighing about 50kgs . At one angle, the coracle looked like a huge pan , inside of which is made up of thick tarpaulins .Later did he reveal, this boat can carry 1 tonne weight and would last for about an year with regular maintenance for any minor leaks. .



The starting journey point looked just like a small stream of water,  where we boarded the coracle. It was a bit sunny , the time being mid day,  the sun was beaming in full intensity.
As we progressed in the stream towards the waterfalls,  it slowly did spread out and the trees on either side were seen unusually dead with torn clothes hanging all around them. The boatman said, the culprit behind the dead trees is the recent Kerala  floods because of which the water level had raised to more than 25 feet tall and all the trees got immersed in water for about a week or so and had got damaged . And the floods had also brought in large amounts sand and had formed a sand mountain in the middle of the river stream dividing the river into two on either side of it. It was a sight looking at the sand mountain which appeared clean white and huge.
We saw a couple of coracle boats, hovering around,  which  actually are mobile snack shops in the middle of the river. The fish loving birds like storks,  cranes,  big black crow like birds were seen here and there, who were fully focussed on catching the fish in the river.
The journey went on for nearly about 20 minutes till we came to a point where few ladies were selling the freshly fried fish on the shore.  People kept buying and relishing the fresh fish while riding  and the coracle moved to shady places so that people could enjoy the taste leisurely.  Rowing further,  the coracle boatman has had to make tough rows, as we were moving against the fast moving  water current .
The mind whistled on spotting 2 tiny waterfalls iflowing in between the rocks. The coracle boatmen were taking the coracles near them and making the riders feel the  lovely drizzles individually by circling the coracles , causing great  excitement and thrill.
On further proceeding inside,  another wow factor creeped in on the glance of 2 big waterfalls,  short and sturdy ones flowing with full vigour. The coracle could not go in close proximity to them, but only till a distance. He also rotated the coracla to give us a whirlpool effect. Some might feel dizzy by that.  We were taken in full wonderment,  being in the moment totally encaptured in the scenic natural beauty. 
Just a few mins away  , we came across an elevated landcape with a view point construction  ,for which we have to climb some stone steps . The boatman took the coracle outside the water and even carried the coracle on his back and head  and climbed the narrow steps quicker than us. 
Then,  we reached a point, where,  we could see around 7 to 8 waterfalls in series next to each other,  a picturesque view,  the rainbow being spotted near the fall where the sunlight met the water. And many youths were seen busy taking selfies and photos , not minding even the edges of the rocks,  even a single step behind  would be a disastrous fall. Involuntarily and irresistibly the caution  passed on from our side to them.
The beautiful scene was so enthralling and breathtaking. easily ond could make out that it's the shooting spot of the famous AR Rahman's "Chinna Chinna asai"  song of Roja movie .
We left that spot,  without the mind to leave and crossed over a small bridge to the other side and again boarded the coracle , to reach to a waterfall , which the boatman referred as Cinefall and said we could get ourselves drenched in the waterfall.
So,  with the life jacket removed,  we climbed down a few steps and reached the  cinefall. The water force was enormous , fell on our head and shoulders like heavy thunder shots , made us to get lost in the vigorously flowing fall. There were tingling sensations in feet and legs, the work of the tiny fish , biting us. So. we had a natural foot spa. Bathing experience was ultimate in the water falls.  Didn't want to leave that place. Forcibly we had to release ourselves from that attractive white beauty.
Wearing the life jacket back, we were again carried in the coracle to the drop point,  which is different from the pick up point. Soon after alighting the coracle, handed over a generous tip to the coracle man due to our heightened joy and his well mannered behaviour,  we were approached by the people who would do the oil massage.
We didn't leave that experience too. Ladies have seperate places for oil massage and a seperate general bathing area,  once again waterfalls, but a constructed one. It was a different and new experience personally .
While coming out,  picked up some boiled tapiocas and gulped,  as we were feeling hungry .
We could see people selling raw fish,  fried fish,  sweet Polis etc. Also,  people were seen cooking themselves for their food in the places provided for cooking using their own ingredients.
Once out from that  place,  we entered a restaurant, but left that place immediately,  as we didn't have the mind to eat there on looking at the buffet items placed there.
The journey enroute to Erode from Hogenakkal via Mechari,  Mettur was equally picturesque and ecstatic with lush green vegetations,  mountainous terrains and village environ.  Captured some pictures of the natural beauties . And the local FM radio station was relaying situation songs along with puzzles and riddles which augmented the pleasant car journey down the hill and the plains.
On the whole,  the Hogenakkal trip happened to us just like that without any pre plan  , much as a  pleasant surprise , could  very well attribute to the divine grace category for it gave an opportunity for us to visit  the right location at the right season and right environment and the suitable mindset also to enjoy the same.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Buddhist Po Lin Monastery, Hong Kong - A Visual treat !!

Po Lin Monastery, Hong Kong

The Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery

On a fresh lovely morning , on the fourth day of our tour, after having our complimentary breakfast in the hotel, we , our group kick started our journey to visit the Buddhist monastery in Hong kong ,as per our tour itinerary. At that time , little  did we know that a great surprise of a thrilling and amazing journey was in fact awaiting us . The van arranged by the local travel agency dropped us at the Tung Chung station from where we picked up a cable car to the Ngong Ping station . Ngong Ping is a plateau in the Lantau island .

Ngong Ping  360 Cable car ride

Ngong Ping  360 Cable car ride crossing over sea

Ngong Ping  360 Cable car ride-A Floating in air  experience

We enjoyed the cable car ride thoroughly . It is called as Sky-Land-Sea Lantau adventure by the company named  Ngong Ping 360, which owns cable car and manages it too. Since the cable car gives a 360 degree panoramic view of the scenic beauty surrounding the Hong Kong , the company has named itself so,it claims. It was a sort of adventurous and spectacular 5.7km and 25 mins journey  . As the name Sky -Land-Sea adventure implies,  the cable car started on the land  traversed  through the sky ,crossed the sea in the mid way and then over the mountainous terrain on the way to the Lantau island.The cable car also changes its direction by 60 degrees at two intermediate angle stations. 

Ngong Ping 360 is also the longest bi-cable rope-way in Asia, The view , while sitting inside the cable car and watching the scenery outside on all sides was unbelievably breath taking . There is also an option to select the fully transparent  cable car called as the crystal cabin , where even the bottom floor is transparent , which adopts a full-width single piece of glass for the cabin bottom . Travelling in this type of cable car is little bit scary because it looks as though we are hanging around in the open space. However we missed that experience for we came to know about it later only.

The cable car just hangs and swiftly passes over the seas.We had a feeling of actually floating in air. 

Passing over the seas -Floating experience.

Flights taking off seen at Honk Kong Airport (inset )

The Cable car  journey also gives a spectacular panoramic view of the Hong Kong airport region. Being one of the busiest and best airport in the world and having a very high air traffic of about one thousand airplanes moving in and out per day , the airplanes landing and taking off , one behind the other at multiple terminals in the airport could be captured from a short distance. The landing and taking off of the planes looked so much similar to the high flying birds like vultures landing on a prey and flying away grabbing its preys in a matter of no time.. 

Also we could spot the recently opened Macau bridge connecting Hong Kong and Macau ,which was in the constructing stage  and the sea traffic in the surrounding area at a little far off  distance . The cable car then took a downward journey and gradually climbed up on a mountainous terrain of the beautiful Lantau island , which  looked as though it was wearing a thick dark green colored carpet of trees and plants. From the top view , the thick clusters of trees looked like giant sized fresh broccoli bloomed together , so fresh to be cut and consumed. We have to accept the fact that nature never fails to amaze us with her stunning beauty in whichever part of the world , we travel . 
Walking track seen on Lantau forest below the cable car track

We could also spot  hiking tracks or  footpaths made of stones or concrete on the mountain terrain below the cable car route, which leads to the monastery .Though intended to provide access for maintenance and emergency rescue operations of the cable car , it's also open to public to do hiking. Just a little distance parallel to the walking track in the valley was flowing , a stream of water in between the two mountain ranges and in its due course had turned into a waterfall. Looked like the waterfall would proceed and join the ocean down the lane , as the sea was just right at the foot of the mountain. This brought to my mind , how a seeker in the path of spiritual journey , proceeds , undergoes various ups and down and ultimately reaches the divine destination down the lane at one point of time and merges with Him.

One more view which was spectacular was the sequential alignment of the elegantly designed cable cars which move swiftly in their designated cable or rope-way  both in front and behind our car in perfect sync . This reminded  the action of a saint, who keeps scrolling the bead of the japa-mala one by one in synchronous with the chants he utters in his mind or lips , so meticulously. 

Cable cars like scrolling beads

In fact , there are two cable lines or rope-ways , each carrying the cable cars in two different directions. Watching the cable cars moving to and fro in both the rope-ways at a momentary glance appeared exactly like the multi-colored beads in the strings of a necklace . Also it reminded me of the movable color beads in the olden days slate , which enabled the kids to make the counting of numerals easily.

Inside view of the moving cable car -standard cabin type

Each cable car could accomodate  6 people .With seats on either side , there is a a rod in the middle so that we can catch hold of it ,stand up and have a much better view of the scenery around , enhancing our astonishment. On standing inside the cable car  and watching the cable car moving down the mountain swiftly , the experience was similar to the thrilling  roller coaster rides we had  experienced  in Ocean park  and Disney land theme park , wearing a 3D glass to view the simulated scenery .

We also had the birds eye view of the harbour and could take a glance of the ships, boats, cargo boats  and also the vehicular traffic on the nearby roads . Literally we were flying at a lower height,just above the land .

The cable car after crossing the mountains and seas , reached the Ngong Pong village after a breathtaking  journey for about 25 minutes.

Alighting the slowed down cable car at Ngong Ping
Cable car station at Ngong Ping village
 Some peculiar structures similar to big drums with the assigned names  as Health, wealth, Success, Prosperity gave us a warm welcome and was very new and different. We took a group photo over there and also individual family photos. The climate was little cloudy ,without any bright sun , hazy look and was not hot . But the location was appearing very colourful  with a cluster  of  decorated stalls for gift items, jewelleries , restaurants etc.

We proceeded further after refreshing ourselves in the extremely well maintained rest rooms .

The sign board showing the layout 

 A Huge tree like our banyan tree of Hindu temples was present there with many hangings believed to have been tied by the people to fulfill their wish, much similar  to our south Indian style of tying yellow threads,cradles ,wish chits on the trees in temples.  On either side  of the tree , drum like structures reading Health and Bliss was  placed.

Bodhi wishing shrine

Within a few steps , we could spot a big statute of Budhdha from a far off distance in that hazy surrounding . 

Entrance to monastery

We entered through a huge gateway structure and soon reached the place where the Big Buddha statue was consecrated on a small hillock . It was so huge , referred popularly as Giant Buddha or Tian Tan Buddha statue .It was erected in 1993. The statue is made of bronze and 34 meters high  , Buddha is seen in sitting position , with the right hand in blessing posture and head inclined downward towards the people .It has taken 12 years to complete it seems. 

The first sight of the massive Budhdha seated in the hillock was resembling that of  our very own Lord Murugan /Subramanya or Lord Hanuman of Hindu temples which normally would be seen in the hillocks or small mountain tops. Here we had to climb about 268 steps to take a closer look at the astonishingly big statue.The steps land straight right in front of the statue and Buddhas vision seem to fall directly on the people climbing the steps. Any Hindu climbing the steps would have the feeling of entering a Hindu temple, just like as I had strongly felt . To be more specific , I felt as though , I was approaching a Master or Guru or and was chanting my Guru Puja chants on the whole way up the stairs till I reached Buddha .Buddha   being an enlightened  Master ,  caused a unique vibration to be felt in the near vicinity of Him.

There were provisions to circumambulate the Budhda idol in the top. Just beneath the Buddha statue , is a 3 storey building  , which houses a small hall ,where we can see small  pictures or paintings on the walls depicting the story of Buddha in various stages right from his birth, through his childhood and till his enlightened stage . The pictures portray the enlightned Buddha  and the numerous angels surrounding Him , seeking His blessings ,a typical scene of the devotees surrounding  an enlightement  Master . Also noticed a strange custom . People after their family member's death and cremation , write their names and inscribe on a designated place exclusively reserved  for this specific purose. They seem to have  belief that the souls would take a safe and peaceful place in Buddha after death by following this custom. 
A shop selling items like Chinse laughing Buddha  dolls , beads , bracelets , the profit of which would go towards the monastery was seen in the same place.  And couldn't resist myself buying a braclet made of pink crystal beads  . 
There were beads of different colours and a corresponding  peculiar name for each color was mentioned in the tag tied to it, one meant for health, one for wealth  , one for prosperity , one  for love etc.I opted the one for spreading love.

There is a Hundi  placed in front of the statue where we can do our offerings as part of custom. From the top of the hillock , the view was amazing .
While alighting down the stairs, had a contented feeling of  fullness , which Buddha points as  a sense of emptiness .
Then , we proceeded further inside,  the cattles were roaming in the campus, some shops inside the big campus selling  crockery items made of porcelain,   gift items, toys etc apart from the Agarbathies or incense sticks ,which people buy and light them inside the monastery in a place designated for lighting it and offer their prayers. 

The monastery is very neatly maintained . The history says it was founded in 1906 by three Chinese monks .  Though the monastery is similar to construction and appearance of any other Buddhist monasteries, it has some unique features. 

The main temple houses three bronze idols of Buddha , one representing his past lives , the second representing the present and third for the future lives and Buddhist scriptures .

Behind the main building ,is another building or temple called as the Grand hall of Ten thousand Buddhas where ten thousand miniature Buddhas are installed on the inner walls of  the temple. One more interesting feature is there are five statues of  Buddhas called as Dhyani Buddhas namely Amoghasiddhi , Amitabha , Vairocona , Ratnasambhava and Aksobhya. 

Most of the things in the middle monastery are similar to a Hindu temple like the magnificence of the architecture , the idols made of metals such as Bronze , the belief of bowing down and worshiping, the chants similar to Hindu vedic chants though different in the way being chanted ,the rosary beads,  the priests or monks wearing a saffron dress typical to Buddhist custom, the burning of incense sticks and making offerings etc.
And there are some cushion seats placed in the front of Buddhas, to kneel down on them , bow down and offer prayers to Dhyani Buddhas. One custom which is obviously missing  from Hindu temples is the Arati  for the idols have not noticed  
atleast in the time of our visit. No doubt , whatever may be the religion, the place of worship is sacred and gives a divine 
feeling and positive vibrations in the atmosphere surrounding it , no one can deny, meaning there is only one divinity all ove, no duality!! 
We can a feel a depth of calmness , the Presence in a subtle manner.


Returning back from the monastery, it had  already become lunch time. There are restaurants which also serves Indian food apart from the continental food , though  little more expensive. But we were happy that we could satiate our hunger with our native food.

Chinese kid posing for photo

It was nice to see tourists from all over the world visiting this place and many westerners were spotted. The Chinese also had come along with their families.
After that , we returned to the cable car journey ,the very same journey which excited us so much earlier  does not interest so much in the return journey comparatively . We can attribute this to the  game of our mind , perhaps. The sunlight had started dimming  with the thick clouds blanketing all over .We did say a big bye to Ngong Ping village which delighted us greatly . We also got to see some scenes which we failed to take note in the  morning on our  return journey  .

Bridge seen from Cable car

Our travel agency van was waiting for us to ride us  back to the Hotel .The day ended with some nice biryanis, Roti ,Sabjis ordered in a nearby North Indian restaurant , located near the Hotel at Kowloon walled city.

Buddham saranam Gacchami. 
Sangam saranam Gacchami. 
Dharmam saranam Gacchami. 

Hogenakkal waterfalls - Thrilling natural beauty

It so happened that the visit to the Hogenakkal waterfalls came as a pleasant surprise on the way to our native place thanks to my husband...