My first adventure that did not involve Varanasi!Alice and I took an autorickshaw to the train station and stumbled our way through throngs of people, desperately trying to find our train. We ended up buying two general class tickets because all else was sold out, but then we scrambled up on to sleeper class anyway and spent the 5 hours snuggling up to other people's luggage in our super tiny loft seats. Over all, traveling to anywhere by train in the sleeper class is super fun.
People everywhere, chai vendors crying out in the halls, the flicker of the cheap overhead lights, the whirr of the electric fans, the gentle rocking of the train as you try not to fall out of the loft bed you've stolen.
Over all, huge success.
Next we had to tackle the rickshaws-to-Bodhgaya challenge. See, the train only takes you as far as Gaya, Bodhgaya is a 20 minute autorickshaw ride away. Fortunately we hitched a ride with 3 other travelers and ended up spending our 24 hours in Bodhgaya with them.
And let me just make a shout out to travelers: You rock. There are crazy travelers, student travelers, stoned travelers, old people who've retired and are seeing the world travelers, new travelers and people who have been traveling since day 1, but all of them (ALL OF THEM!) have a fantastic story to share and something wonderful and interesting to bring to the dinner table. But I digress.
We ended up staying at a Tibetan Monastery for the night.
We shared a room with our new friends and went out to dinner, afterwards we took a small stroll to the Bodhi tree and took a lot of pictures. I got some better ones the next morning, but the gist of it is this is the tree Buddah sat beneath when he attained enlightenment. Pretty nifty.
Then Alice and I walked around until we found this 80 foot tall Buddha statue! Very cool!
We unfortunately had to cut our stay a little short because our train was leaving at 3. But it was a grand few hours if I do say so myself. Then it was back on the train, same mad scramble to find the right train and make sure it was actually going back to Varanasi, then another five hours of slightly jostled fun and a mad-dash rickshaw ride to home sweet home!
I do have to say one thing about all the temples and statues and shrines in India, or the world I guess. I have been in quite a few holy places in my life, from Christian to Buddhist to Hindu. Now I'm not a religious person and I have not spent as much time as some in churches and temples, but every time I walk into a holy building I am struck with the thought, "God didn't build this, we did." Aren't we then not worshiping God but ourselves?
And then the buildings feel strangely empty and kind of lonely to me. When I feel the most divine, the most in touch with God, is when I can look out over the top of a mountain, or into the depths of the night sky, or watch the endless ocean rolling on, or feel the ever changing waters of a river brush my toes. That is divine to me, that is supernatural, that is the untouchable perfection of God, the Universe or whatever you want to call it. I just don't feel like anything humanity could build would ever be as holy or as sacred as the perfection I find in nature.
But! Theology rant aside, Bodhgaya was spectacular and beautiful, even if I don't find the temples or the statues spiritual, I look in reverence at the pure human creativity that was able to bring these stunning offerings into being. Ahhhh.