The Jain Temple of Ranakpur

The spectacular Jain Temple of Ranakpur, India

During our 16 months in India, I dragged Thomas from one temple to another. Yes, I have a bit of an obsession, a rather insatiable appetite for architecture… temples, mosques, churches, fortresses, walled cities… I can’t get enough. (Stop laughing! If I have to spend hours watching him photograph every bug between Hong Kong and Rajasthan, he can visit a few temples.)

Well, my somewhat obsessive quest took us to one of the Grand Daddies of Indian architecture, the Jain Temple of Ranakpur, a VERY small, one-kiosk town northwest of Udaipur. Considered one of the masterpieces of Jain architecture, the huge fortified temple opens up into a surprisingly large multi-storied structure containing a series of vaulted chambers supported by 1,444 pillars. Each pillar is carved with unique designs ranging from sensuous dancers to geometric patterns to fine floral motifs. If you have never seen Jain carving, you are in for a treat.

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San Cristobal’s Indigenous Markets

Thomas exploring the Zinacantan Market

Without a doubt, the highlight of any trip to beautiful San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas is a visit to the bustling indigenous markets full of Tzotzil and Tzeltal people. We decided to plant ourselves in the idyllic, colonial-era town for a couple of weeks to explore the markets as well as those in Tenejapa, Zinacantán, and Chamula.

Each market is an extraordinary event, a feast for the senses and a quick course in the diversity of the region. Traders descend from the hills wearing beautiful traditional clothing marking them as members of different villages. Non-indigenous visitors might be surprised to see twenty women sitting together in basically the same outfit. But this clothing has meaning in Chiapas: it ties the people together and displays their heritage. It’s a modern-day sign of the tribal unity of the past and present.

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The Smart Way to Hike Emei Shan

Huazang Temple on the peak of Emei Shan

Emei Shan, one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains of China, sits in western Sichuan at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. This soaring mountain was the location of the first Buddhist temple in the country. Today beautiful Emei Shan’s Jinding, the “Golden Summit,” features the gilded Huazang Temple, a prime destination for tourists, pilgrims, and hikers alike.

To Buddhists, the long, arduous climb up the steep slopes of Emei Shan is a testament to their devotion and spiritual fortitude. We took the bus.

It may seem like a cop-out, but it had a lot to do with a Canadian we met in our hotel at the base of the mountain.

“Did you enjoy your hike up the mountain?” I asked naively.

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Berlin Wall Art

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the start of the Berlin Wall. For 28 years, the stark cement blocks of the notorious Berlin Wall reminded Germans and travelers to Germany that they were on the front lines of the Cold War. As the post-war western city rebuilt into its cement cage, the traumatized population began to express their anger and humor in paint.

What started out as graffiti on an architectural scar grew into extended visual commentaries on a divided nation caught up in the ultimate ideological battle. And then, in 1989, that battle ended. As Germans rushed to tear down their symbol of division, some realized a work of art was being destroyed as well – and that at least part of it was worth saving.

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Ten Crazy-Cool Experiences in India

Thomas at the Chariot Festival in Hampi

Having spent almost a year and a half in India, we know there is no other country on the planet more overloaded with cultural attractions, spectacular architecture, gorgeous scenery, impressive wildlife, and bustling markets. India is also full of quirky surprises. The country managed to leave us gaping in astonishment on a daily basis.

To capture just a bit of what this awe-inspiring country has to offer visitors, we decided to put together our list of ten unique experiences that make a visit so intriguing. And with Etihad booking, finding a flight into any corner of India is easier than ever.

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