Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
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The seaside town of Hua Hin, Thailand, has been a sanctuary for almost as long as it has existed. The village was founded in 1834 when farmers from the drought-stricken north moved south in search of a better life. When the railroad reached Hua Hin in 1911, Bangkok’s elite began to build bungalows. Among those who were enchanted with Hua Hin were members of the Royal Family, and before long the King Rama V had also built a summer palace on the beach. Down through the decades, Hua Hin has continued to be a weekend escape for Thais, and more recently, for tourists from all over the world. While it has a reputation as a “beach town,” during my recent month-long stay I discovered that it offers much more than sea, sand, and sun. If you’re considering a visit, check out the following review of what to do in Hua Hin:

Beaches:

Hua Hin beaches are generally very shallow with mild currents, thus they are especially good for families with young children. Jellyfish can be encountered during certain times of the year, but warning signs are posted during these times.

Hua Hin Beach: Located in the center of town, in front of the Hilton Hotel and Resort. Wranglers offer pony rides on this beach, and a variety of cafes and restaurants run the length of this beach.

Hua Hin Beach, in the center of town at the Hilton Hotel

Hua Hin Beach, in the center of town at the Hilton Hotel

Khao Takieb Beach: Located at the southern end of Nongkae-Takieb Road, this beach offers affordable day rentals of chaise lounges and chairs. The seafood restaurants of Khao Takieb Hill are just steps away. Read More

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Giant standing Buddha on Khao Takiab hill in Hua Hin, Thailand

Click on title to view photo in large format: Giant standing Buddha on Khao Takiab hill in the far southern reaches of Hua Hin, Thailand. The hillside is also famous for its bands of roving wild monkeys, which have perfected the art of snatching bags from anyone carrying food. Hua Hin is located on the Gulf of Thailand, less than three hours south of Bangkok. It is also the location Read More

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Sacrificing a chicken at the Pachali Bhairab Temple on the Bagmati River in Kathmandu, Nepal

Click on title to view photo in large format: Hindu worshiper sacrifices a chicken at the Pachali Bhairab Temple on the Bagmati River in Kathmandu. Nepal is one of the few parts of the world where animal sacrifice is still practiced. Though in its purest form it is intended to relieve Hindus from the cycle of death and rebirth, animal sacrifice is more often used to Read More

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Movings goods through the Kalimati Fruit and Vegetable Market in Kathmandu, Nepal

Click on title to view photo in large format: Trash blows around the lanes as vendors pack up and head home in late afternoon at the Kalimati Fruit and Vegetable Market in Kathmandu. Empty plastic milk crates are stacked high, awaiting incoming goods that arrive during the night. The following morning, the process will begin anew, with wholesalers arriving before dawn in order to Read More

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Five years ago my Yoga guru invited me to celebrate the Brother-Sister Tika Ceremony with his family during the Hindu holiday of Tihar in Nepal. Though I didn’t know it until the end of that day, accepting his invitation meant that I was officially “adopted” by the family. In many ways, this cemented my relationship with Nepal; I loved it before, and after the Tika Ceremony I loved it even more. Since that day, I have visited many times, but my schedule had never put me there during Tihar, so it was with great excitement that I arrived in Pokhara this past November to celebrate the full five-day holiday with my family.

Stories differ about the origin of Tihar, which is also known as the Festival of Lights. One of the best known is an ancient Hindu legend about a king whose astrologer told him a serpent would take his life. When the king asked if there was any way to escape death, the astrologer advised him to sleep with oil lamps lit around his bed and to decorate the palace with oil lamps on the day when the goddess Lakshmi was to be worshiped. In return for being so honored, Lakshmi persuaded the serpent to spare the king’s life but Yama Raj, the god of the underworld, still had to be convinced that it was not yet the king’s time to die. Yama opened his ledger to where the king’s remaining age was written as zero but the serpent cleverly put a seven before the zero and the king lived for seventy more years.

Offering of food to crows on the first day of the Hindu celebration of Tihar

Offering of food to crows on the first day of the Hindu celebration of Tihar

Day one of Tihar in Nepal is dedicated to the crow, which is the messenger of Yama Raj. Bhai (older brother) set out a plate of food to honor the crow early in the morning on this first day and we all sat on the porch, delightedly watching as crows flew down from the power lines to peck at the food. Dogs, which are believed to guard the gates to the underworld, Read More

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Shop owner strings a custom necklace in the Pote Bazaar (bead market) area of Indra Chowk in Kathmandu, Nepal

Click on title to view photo in large format: Shop owner strings a custom necklace in the Pote Bazaar (bead market) area of Indra Chowk in Kathmandu, Nepal. Hindu women, especially those of the Brahmin and Chhetri caste, receive a string of these beads at their wedding, which they wear for the rest of their lives as a symbol of their marriage. Though the shop owners at Pote Bazaar are now facing competition from newer shops in malls, the tiny stalls at Indra Chowk are still considered the traditional place to purchase items made from the glass beads. Read More