Known as the beatitful Jain Temple in Mumbai. Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji is a small temple with a rather ornate gate around it. Beautiful on the inside as well, I was rather caught up in photographing a few of these decorative touches on the perimeter of the temple. After all, who doesn't like the nice touch of a robed elephant?
Jainism is not as well known outside of India, owing to its small size of only 4-5 million followers worldwide. Over a million of these reside in the state of Maharashtra, which is also home to Mumbai.
One of the many Ethiopian pilgrims I came across while exploring Lalibela. While generally wearing simple shrouds, the colorful brim on this interesting hat stood out to me. Pilgrims from all across Ethiopia make their way to the small town of Lalibela for Christmas.
I might not have been able to communicate with words due to the language gap, but even so, it was pretty easy to communicate with the pilgrims when it came to taking photos. I really enjoy these surripitous experiences while traveling. One moment, you're exploring a church that's hundreds of years old, and the next you're practically surrounded with eager subjects. As much as you might plan your day out, sometimes, you just have to go with the flow.
That flow is I think, is the highest form of travel. When you set off, with only a destination in mind, not sure how you'll make it from point a to b, but revel in the journey. There never really is a destination - it constantly shifts. Is it a scary way to travel? An exciting way to travel? That might depend on your personality, but one thing is for sure, you will discover more about yourself than you ever would sitting at home.
Walking through the Fish Market of Mogadishu should be on everyone's list of places to go when in Mogadishu. Not that I expect Mogadishu is on too many peoples' places to visit. Perhaps in a few years, a trickle of tourism will appear, but for now, I would guesstimate that there's less than 20 foreign tourists per year that visit, and for good reason. The security situation, while improving, is not at the level needed to sustain any sort of tourism industry.
The fish market has occasionally appeared in Western media. The waters off the Somali coast are known to be filled with dangerous creatures, and I'm not talking about Pirates! Rather, there are plenty of sharks. You can see sharks being cut up and coming in and out of the market.
The fish market in Mogadishu is actually pretty small. Unlike some of the open-air markets you might come across in Asia that are super crowded and take time to make your way through, this fish market fits in one semi-long room. A typical McDonald's will occupy more space than this fish market. Still, it's a sight to see.
Driving through the Congo is an experience unto itself. Even if you've been to Africa before, it can at times be a bit surprising. As with many places in Africa, you can be overwhelmed with the friendliness and interest the locals will have towards you. Of course, this is the Congo so the security situation is generally pretty fluid and you'd be wise to mind your surroundings. Not to worry though, Virunga will provide you with a ranger to accompany you throughout the park for added security.
As I went from camp to camp in Virunga, I found the drives absolutely fascinating. Plenty of people everywhere. School children going or coming back from school, and always the assortment of people seeming sitting around and relaxing. The Congo is one of the absolute poorest countries in the world despite being loaded with oil, gold and diamonds. It's economy is clearly not exactly functioning at full blast.
From a pure tourism and sightseeing perspective, Osaka is pretty limited in what it has to offer. Sure, there's a Universal Studios theme park, but that's not really an appealing draw for me. Even if there wasn't already a pair of Universal Studios in the U.S. There's also an aquarium, whose standout feature is being able to see whale sharks up close. Admittedly, as a fan of whale sharks that does sound pretty cool, but I didn't travel over 5,000 miles to see an aquarium. Would now be a good time to mention that whale sharks are neither whales nor sharks, but rather largest species of fish? Ponder that for another day, as today is about Osaka.
Theme park and aquarium out the window, what you're left with is a few temples and shrines, and all the typical big city attractions like shopping and dining. Thankfully there is also the Osaka Castle, or else there would be perhaps no real reason as a foreign visitor to spend any of your precious daytime hours in Osaka.
Osaka is largely that of a pass-through tourist town. And also Japan's third largest city, so there's that. It's a 15 minute bullet train ride away from the beauty of Kyoto, although it's far more economical to spend an extra 10mins on a 25min rapid transit train for a fraction of the cost (560 Yen vs 3,220 Yen). Sitting in between Kyoto and the Kansai International Airport (KIX), it also has generally cheaper hotels than Kyoto. With that in mind, I found myself staying at the Courtyard Marriott opposite of Shin-Osaka station taking day trips into Kyoto. As Japan can be quite expensive, any opportunity to save a bit of money without sacrificing too much is usually worth considering.
I took a Nozomi bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka in the morning leaving me with an afternoon to explore Osaka. With the short days of December in mind, and the aforementioned limited tourist destinations, I dedicated my sunset to capturing Osaka Castle. Lucky for me, it was a splendid sunset complete with crepuscular rays peaking out, which frankly, pretty much always improve a sunset.
As for the castle, you can see it in the distance when you first approach it, and it does give you that involuntary wow effect. You know, where your jaw just kind of drops a little and you blurt out "wow" even if you're all alone? The castle park grounds are spread across 60,000 square meters (15 acres), so the details reveal themselves as you get closer. You'll notice the cool moat and walls made of huge granite interlocked boulders without mortar.
Built over a period of 14 years in the late 1500s, much of the castle was burned in 1868 and eventually restored in 1928. Bombing raids during World War II largely destroyed the castle. In 1995, Osaka's government gave the go ahead for another restoration project which was completed in 1997. The castle is now a concrete reproduction of the original with a beautiful Edo-era exterior with glistening gold leaf accents housing a fully modern interior that functions as a museum.
Fearing that if I entered the castle, its beautiful exterior would seem as nothing more than an illusion, I skipped visiting the interior museum. Instead, I spent time roaming the grounds, taking in the views, and imagining what a site to behold Osaka Castle must have been when first constructed.
Walking around the Goroka Show is an experience of its own. At a certain point, after the floodgates open and lots of locals pour in, the dynamic changes dramatically. What was an overwhelming cultural experience becomes an overwhelming cultural experience with thousands of people in circles around local tribes.
As I was walking around, someone stopped me to show me this guy's ability to swallow Kanda (cane). Think of it as similar to sword swallowing that you might see at the circus or performed by a magician. The cane can be 2-3m long and bent in a U-shape. Now, the person might not swallow the whole thing, but certainly will swallow more than enough to be every bit as impressed as seeing someone swallow a sword.
From a bit of Googling, it would appear that the only tribe that comes up with regard to cane swallowing is that of the Bena Bena people in the Eastern Highlands. Only a couple days prior did I see an old black and white photo at one of the lodges I stayed in from the 1930s (or so) of a cane swallower. I never expected to meet one in real life!
The Huli are, without a doubt, one of the most impressive tribes in Papua New Guinea. They are also one of the largest. Pinning an accurate number down is quite difficult, but varying online sources say the Huli population is anywhere from 90,000 to 300,000-400,000.
The Huli take great pride in their elaborate decorations. Their colorful displays are inspired in part by the equally magnificent Birds-of-Paradise. If you're not familiar with the Birds-of-Paradise, they're well worth checking out as they are some of nature's most colorful and unique birds.
Their faces are painted with yellow and red clay. Numerous shells adorn their neck while a ceremonial wig of human hair sits atop their head. The wig is embellished with iridescent blue Superb bird of paradise breastplates and parrot feathers.
At this point, it's hard to say what the most striking feature is when considering all the effort that has gone into decorating themselves, but the finishing touch for me is the single Cassowary quill that goes through the nose. All told, it is quite a sight to behold. Oh, and it seems rather obvious, but this is just a headshot. Granted, that's where most of the effort is placed, but there's a full look.
The Huli Wigmen are fierce warriors in endemic warfare and a cultural jewel of Papua New Guinea.