In Bodhgaya, at first you think there are quite a number of temples and monasteries, but as you begin to walk the town, you find there are an awful lot of them. They’re everywhere. I’m not sure that I needed to see every one, or report on them all to you, either. But they were pretty interesting. On the other hand, as I saw how people lived on my street and contrasted that with the resources that go into these temples, it becomes a conundrum.
It seems that each country that has a substantial number of Buddhists sponsors a monastery/temple here. On my first sojourn I saw the Holyland Temple, the Indosan Nipponji Japanese temple, the Bhutan Temple, the Thai Temple and some others.
And yes, I guess it does provide jobs for the residents of this town, but what kind of jobs? If I owned the world, I wouldn’t know what to do about this! Clearly a lot of people get aide and comfort from all these temples. Well, luckily, I don’t own the world!
Moving on, I went to visit the 80-foot-high Great Buddha Statue that was unveiled by the Dalai Lama in 1989. It was impressive and set in a nice park.
A bit later the workday was finished and the men began playing a game while the women finished their chores, looked for nits (lice eggs) and then began rolling Q-tips. Some children were making ‘mud toys.’
That afternoon I became acquainted with Matthew from France and Quinn from Illinois. They were both teaching English in China and were here on vacation, staying at Mohammad’s Guest House. Later they invited me to go to Mohammad’s Restaurant for dinner, which I did although I only had mint lemonade. And I finally had a chance to meet Mohammad, at the restaurant. Mohammad has been in the restaurant business since he was nine years old. It’s clear that he really understands pleasing the customer. He has learned to make dishes, like banana pancakes, that the backpackers like to eat. And he pointed out that Prem, who manages the guest house, has been with him for 20 years. He said there is no ‘boss’ here, and that the staff and he are like family. The staff at the restaurant and the guest house really go the extra mile to please the customer.
The next day I walked a long ways to see two more temples. On the way I noticed that they were building another new one—guess they don’t have enough. Anyway, I looked at Tergar Monastery of the ‘Black Hat’ sect. This is a newly built, large enterprise with lots of prayer wheels. The temple was extravagant and interesting. The interior was very colorful. There are a million individual things to look at and yet the total scene presents a harmonious whole.
From there I walked to a Vietnamese monastery. The guard had just turned away two men who had come to look—it was closed. As I took a photo through the gate, the guard said something about Viet Nam. I said that I had been there. I’m not sure if that was the magic word, but he decided to let me in. So I had a few minutes to walk about and take some photos.
Then a long walk back to my hotel. As I got to my street, a woman was making cow patties—cow dung, some grasses, and water, all mixed by hand and then portions slapped onto a wall or surface to dry. When it is dry, it is burned for fuel.
Monday it rained cats and dogs, most of the day. I have only had rain twice on this trip and both times were at night. The next morning one couldn’t even tell that it had rained. Not so this rain—it turned the little byways into muddy rivulets. Speaking of cats, where are they? I can’t recall seeing a single cat on this trip.
My linner at Mohammad’s Restaurant was a roti, dal, spring roll, and a Tibetan noodle dish. On the way back to the Guest House, it finally stopped raining and a man was working on their new building construction. The other men were taking a break with a card game.
I bought some tangerines. Unfortunately when I got them back to the hotel, three of the four were spoiled! So after linner, I bought some more, this time examining each one.
Either somebody has a sense of humor or it is their way of identifying their chickens. Maybe it’s part of Holi, the festival that is taking place all week, and the reason I had such trouble getting a train ticket from Gaya to Patna. I gave up and hired a taxi. I did see the preparation of ‘color’ displayed in the market, though. They make water solutions of this and throw it on each other, leaving a wildly colorful bunch!
My last day in Bodhgaya (whether I had reached enlightenment or not) I had my morning chai, as usual in Mohammed’s Restaurant, and then prepared to check out and be driven to Patna. (I had managed to hire a driver instead of going on the train at 4:00 AM!) While I didn’t have to be in Patna until my 6:00 PM train, the driver didn’t want to go in the afternoon as then he would be returning after dark, and said that in Bihar (this state) they celebrate Holi with a vengence and he didn’t want his car to be damaged. So we left at 9:00 AM on the 5th. This area is big in grain farming and there were many bucolic scenes of farmsteads along the way. Going through small villages, one could see that everybody had been celebrating Holi. We finally reached the Patna train station. I had linner at an upscale restaurant near the train station—unfortunately the only thing ‘up’ about it was the price, not the quality. From there I asked the bicycle rickshaw driver to take me to the nearby highly recommended Patna Museum, but it was closed because of Holi. So back to the train station, boarding at 6:00 PM and learning the ropes of a triple-tier sleeper car. We would sit on the seats until bedtime when we would lower tiers two and three and each would have sleeping space. In the meantime,
I had such a nice conversation with a young woman who teaches Russian at a very good Indian University, and her two younger brothers. Another man was 60ish and so pleasant. At bedtime we each got a pillow, two sheets, a small towel and a blanket—all the comforts of home. It really worked out quite well and I did sleep on and off.
The train arrived Delhi four hours late at noon on the 6th—18 1/2 hours instead of 14 1/2. From my new best friends I learned that one could now take the metro from the train station directly to the international airport. Terrific! However they told me because of Holi, it would close down service at 2:30 PM. No problem, we were in plenty of time. However, as I was asking for more directions to the metro, a young man told me that it would START service at 2:30 PM and that it was closed down NOW. OK, so I’ll take a taxi. I had been carefully managing my cash (the upscale restaurant took Visa) so I would come out about even. But I had enough for a taxi and proceeded to the airport. I was very excited because a year ago when I opened a new visa card with Chase-United Airlines, I had gotten two free passes to their lounge, anyplace in the world. Of course when I got to the airport, there were umpteen problems with using this (which I will spare you) so I couldn’t. It seems to me quite some years ago I made a rule NEVER to try to use travel coupons as they never work out! Clearly I had forgotten that rule and after carrying around these two free passes, of course there were reasons why I couldn’t use them!
So I sat in the airport for six hours until I could check in four hours before flight time. I used my last 400 rupees on a wretched sandwich and bad coffee. I finally got away at 1:20 AM on the 7th and landed in Paris, from whence I will proceed to MSP, getting in at 2:00 PM Saturday, the 7th (today, I think!)
This was a great trip! I really enjoyed all of it. I hope you did too, via these reports!
Roger and out!