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Published: January 27th 2006
I said what about breakfast at Tenzin's, which George agreed to. It was another tent restaurant along the same strip as Mohamed's, and seemed to have an almost identical menu. I suspect that most of these places are offering the same food, but if they're not in the guidebooks then no-one goes to them.
A summary of our round of temple spotting would say that the Tibetan and Thai temples were the most ornate, the Chinese one a little less so, and the Japanese one fairly austere. The Tibetan and Thai were amazingly colourful and vibrant, and your spirits couldn't help being lifted just by seeing the exteriors, never mind the detail of the interiors.
Near the south of the town, there was a giant (hollow) stone Buddha that was also very impressive in its scale.
George's willingness to engage in conversation with many of the beggars and street kids, plus not worrying about dipping into his pockets occasionally, shamed me. I think I've become so hardened by hassle over the last 2 months that I've lost a chunk of my own humanity - it's been a lot easier to just assume everyone is on the make, rather
than taking each case on its own merits. Incidentally, today marks the halfway point of my trip here, so perhaps I can use the second half to show a little more compassion. There's a fine line between being a pushover and being cold-hearted.
With afternoon siestas out of the way, we went to the Mahabodhi Temple, the main one in Bodhgaya. Unfortunately the temple itself is surrounded by scaffolding at the moment, but there are plenty of smaller shrines in the grounds, not to mention flowers, tended lawns, and a manmade lake sporting a statue of Vishnu standing on a cobra and bestrewn with flags. Some of the railings around the temple date from before Christ. We did a couple of circumambulations, accompanied by a cross-section of the world's Buddhist population, as well as many Hindus, and also listened in on some of the afternoon prayers. There was not quite the same peaceful atmosphere as at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, but it was in the same ball-park as far as sensations go.
There seem to be 3 bodhi trees in the complex, and even the one at the site where Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment
is not the original - however a scion of the original was taken to Sri Lanka centuries ago, regrown, and a scion of the Sri Lankan tree was planted back in Bodhgaya, which is the tree you see now.
Afterwards, we both felt a little lacking in energy, so we headed for the upmarket Lotus Nikko Hotel, which we had been told (incorrectly) was the only place in town to sit and have a beer. The beer certainly was expensive, and was some random brand called Royal Challenger, but we sat and chatted in the vast empty dining room, watching a mouse do a circuit of its territory, and wondering why we were paying a tenth of the Lotus room rates at our hotel but without vermin being included in the package.
At this point, we'd both developed an appetite so we returned to Mohamed's and had some very filling Tibetan noodle soup. Back at the hotel, we were issued with some mosquito repellent tablets to burn, which were definitely necessary as this place is the most mosquito-ridden that I've been to. No nibble marks just yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.
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