Category Archives: Travel/Tourism

Airport to close for expansion near China’s Dunhuang caves

Source: Xinhua | February 20, 2017, Monday | ONLINE EDITION

THE Dunhuang airport, located near the Mogao Caves, which contain some of China’s finest ancient Buddhist art, will be closed between March 15 and May 25 for an expansion project aimed at coping with a growing tourist influx.

The 976-million-yuan (US$142 million) expansion project, which began in 2016, will enable the airport to handle an annual capacity of 960,000 passengers and 1,700 tons of cargo.

The airport will close to allow for revamping of the runway and enlarging airport aprons, said the airport on Monday.

The 1,600-year-old Mogao Caves are home to more than 2,000 colored sculptures and 45,000 square meters of frescoes. They are located in a series of 735 caves carved along a cliff in northwest China’s Gansu Province along the ancient Silk Road route. In 1987, the site became China’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In recent years, tourist numbers to the caves have soared thanks to their growing fame both at home and abroad.

The Buddhist site received more than 8 million domestic and foreign visitors in 2016, up 21.37 percent year on year.

Since 2014, the Mogao Caves have set a daily limit of 6,000 reserved tickets plus an extra 12,000 emergency tickets to cater to the growing number of tourists during the peak travel season.

Transportation infrastructure has been built to cope with the large passenger flow. In addition to the airport expansion, easier transport links to Dunhuang were launched last year, including new trains from Beijing, and Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

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Buddhist Civilization remains in Pakistan of great value for Japanese Pilgrims: MD PTDC

By DND – December 19, 2016
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Managing Director Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) Abdul Ghafoor Khan has said that Pakistan is the custodian of Gandhara Buddhist Civilizations and there are numerous holy places in Pakistan of great value for Japanese Buddhist people.

During a meeting with Second Secretary of Japanese Embassy Daijo TSUCHIKAWA in Islamabad, he said that due to the restoration of peace and betterment of law and order situation in the country, the Japanese tourist flow is once again showing a remarkable increase over the previous two years.

The MD PTDC said that the significance of Buddhist civilization remains in Pakistan for Japanese people can boost up tourist flow to Pakistan as a result of proper publicity.

Abdul Ghafoor said that it will be 65th Anniversary of Pakistan and Japan’s diplomatic relations next year and we have planned a number of activities in order to celebrate this long-lasting relationship.

“I am surprised to realize that above 20 million tourists visit Japan every year and we are ready to learn from their experience by adopting the strategies of Japan’s tourism industry,” he said.

The PTDC managing director said that the Hasegawa Memorial Public School in Hunza is an initiative of Japan Government for enhancement of skills of local people in fruit cultivation as well as education in the area.

The Japanese government also supported in restoration of Ata Abad Lake.

He told that PTDC’s has already published a few brochures in Japanese language, soft copy of which is also available with PTDC’s website on homepage.

“We will also provide links to Japanese Embassy in Pakistan and Embassy of Pakistan in Japan on our website,” he said.

Abdul Ghafoor further added that we are ready to host visit of Japanese travel writers to write a guide book on Pakistan in their language on the pattern of “Siarnwe Book”, which means a way to walk on earth, which we can see on lonely planet as well.

“We are also planning to prepare a fresh documentary film, which will also be translated in Japanese language for display on travel channels of Japan,” the MD PTDC said. Continue reading

BUDUGALA: TRANQUIL MONASTERY AT THE HEART OF WALAWE VALLEY

z_p36-budugala1Sunday Observer

6 November, 2016
Story and pictures by Mahil Wijesinghe

The meandering Walawe River begins as a spring in the Horton Plains and flows down across several provinces until it meets the sea at Godawaya in the Southern city of Ambalantota. An extensive land area in Sabaragamuwa is known as the valley of Walawe and hidden in this heartland are some very impressive prehistoric ancient stone beauties from the classical Anuradhapura period. In 2002, the Department of Archaeology carried out an extensive exploration at the archaeological site, Budugala at Kaltota in close proximity to the Walawe River where a complex of ancient Buddhist monasteries have been found and restored.

A long arduous journey through the harsh terrain of the otherwise lush Sabaragamuwa Province, brought us to the Balangoda-Kaltota road. From Balangoda, the road was ever winding as we kept descending steadily from Balangoda toward Kaltota for around 30 kilometres. The scenery was refreshing with the edge of the mountain affording a distant view of the plains of the entire Southern province before melting into misty greens.

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The road then runs on flat terrain and we met a gushing canal carrying Walawe waters, running parallel with the road. The canal gives water to the paddy-fields on the opposite side of the road. We saw shallow bathing spots along the canal where locals were washing and relaxing after a bath. The huge, tall trees along the canal give ample shade to the road. The rugged steep road to Kaltota took a right turn, leading us to the Weli-Oya – Kaltota narrow carpeted road and we reached a place steeped in history.

Boundary
The scenic, rustic village of Budugala, (meaning ‘the rock of Buddha’) nestles in the boundary of the Udawalawe National Park, at the edge of the Sabaragamuwa Province, and the Walawe River flows across this village. Paddy cultivation is the main source of livelihood of the villagers of this area.

We stopped at an Archaeological Department signboard and parked on the side of the narrow road. There was hardly any traffic, and hardly any room for two vehicles to pass. We crossed the canal by a narrow bridge and reached the small watch hut built by the Department of Archaeology at the entrance to the site.

Although the site meeting our eyes seemed interesting, there was hardly any information available. Since we visited the Budugala ruins in Kaltota on a drought ridden day, the area was surrounded by clumps of yellow sunburnt grass and brownish shrub jungle. There were hardly any visitors. It was quiet, save for the sudden wind that took a fancy to howl through the huge trees. But, in a bygone era, this was a main spiritual hub and part of the ancient site in Ruhuna and may be in Anuradhapura – far enough for seclusion, and yet, near enough to maintain some kind of contact. Both were essential requirements for a forest monastery. Continue reading

A.P. develops cold feet over cultural centre near Buddhist site

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The Hindu

VISAKHAPATNAM, November 7, 2016
Updated: November 7, 2016 01:13 IST
SANTOSH PATNAIK

A huge Buddhist monastery dating back to 3rd Cenury BC is believed to have existed atop Thotlakonda and the nearby Bavikonda hillocks located between Visakhapatnam and the 17th century Dutch township of Bheemunipatnam.

After finding itself on a sticky wicket over allotment of 15 acres of prime land near the famous Thotlakonda Buddhist site for establishment of Filmnagar Cultural Centre, the government appears to have developed cold feet.

Following vociferous protests from Buddhist monks, various social action groups and BJP MLA P. Vishnu Kumar Raju, the government at the highest level had decided to go-slow on the project, highly placed sources told The Hindu.

A huge Buddhist monastery dating back to 3rd Cenury BC is believed to have existed atop Thotlakonda and the nearby Bavikonda hillocks located between Visakhapatnam and the 17th century Dutch township of Bheemunipatnam.

The sites have been declared as archaeologically sensitive areas. INTACH members and conservation activists have been pressing for protection of the heritage sites especially in the light of attempts to commercialise them to promote tourism.

“Establishment of a recreation centre in an archaeologically sensitive area has hurt our feelings. It should be dropped immediately,” said Buddhist monk Dharmananda Bhante. Continue reading

Buddha Mahotsava kicks off in Arunachal with vibrant cultural display

ANI | Bomdila (Arunachal Pradesh)
November 5, 2016 Last Updated at 08:16 IST

Buddha Mahotsava celebration in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh began with vibrant cultural display from Monpa, Sajolang(Miji) Aka, Sartang, Bugun and Sherdukpen tribes of the region here at Buddha Park, Bomdila.

The unique cultural display from each tribe mesmerized the crowd and filled the air with joy.

Organised by the District Administration of West Kameng, Buddha Mahotsava is a three-day Buddhist festival (November 4-6) held in Bomdila, West Kameng district, Arunachal Pradesh to promote tourism in the state.

The festival commemorates the life and teachings of Lord Gautama Buddha.

Hundreds of Buddhist monks playing cymbals and drums are present at the festival.

Dancers in traditional attire take the centre stage amidst chanting and drum beating and demonstrated various facets of Arunachal Pradesh’s dance and music.

The festival brings out the Buddhist influence on the life of the people in Arunachal Pradesh. Continue reading

Grand plans to develop tourism circuit

Restoring past glory:A team of the Archaeology and Tourism Department inspecting the Buddhist maha stupa at Nelakondapalli of Khammam district on Thursday.— PHOTO: G.N. RAO

Restoring past glory:A team of the Archaeology and Tourism Department inspecting the Buddhist maha stupa at Nelakondapalli of Khammam district on Thursday.— PHOTO: G.N. RAO

The Hindu, October 21, 2016 07:49 IST

It will encompass the Buddhist maha stupa, two ancient Siva temples of Kakatiya era, and the historic fort of Khammam

A grand plan is on the anvil to develop a tourism circuit encompassing the famous Buddhist maha stupa at Nelakondapalli, two ancient Siva temples of Kakatiya era in Kusumanchi, and the historic fort of Khammam — all located within a 30 km radius in Khammam district.

In a significant step in the direction of improving access to the ancient Buddhist site at Nelakondapalli, the Roads and Buildings Department initiated a plan to widen the existing single-lane 1.8 km-long approach road from Khammam-Kodad highway to Mujjugudem, where the Buddhist maha stupa is located.

Minister for Roads and Buildings T. Nageswara Rao laid the foundation stone for the road widening works said to cost Rs 4.49 crore, at Mujjugudem on Thursday. He also reviewed the tourism promotion plans with the officials concerned at Nelakondapalli.

The sprawling Buddhist site, which attracted monks from across South Asia during the bygone era, is set to hog the limelight if the ambitious plans mooted by the government departments to preserve and tap the tourism potential are any indication. Continue reading

Salihundam Buddhist heritage site, museum need attention

Times of India
Sulogna Mehta | Oct 17, 2016, 19:06 IST

VISAKHAPATNAM: Salihundam has all the ingredients of becoming one of the most sprawling, beautiful Buddhist heritage sites in the state with at least a dozen excavated stupas and chaitya-grihas of various geometric patterns and shape, a museum with rock-cut statues ranging from about third to seventh century AD, a lovely landscape with well-kept lawns and greenery situated on an elevation, which offers a scenic view of the serene surroundings with the Vamshadhara River flowing down by its one side and lush paddy fields on other. Yet, just like most heritage spots of our country, this Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) site too is pushed into oblivion and shabbily maintained with no funds forthcoming for its upliftment.

Situated nearly 140 kilometres from Vizag city, in Gara mandal of Srikakulam district, a mandal already known for its famous Arasavalli (Sun God) and Srikurmam (tortoise incarnation of Lord Vishnu) temples, the Buddhist heritage site of Salihundam has some unique features. It has a beautiful star atop a stupa, rock cut massive stupas inside chaitya grihas, brick stupas with wheel pattern plan, votive stupas, inscriptions on the steps leading to the stupas and a museum housing around two dozen sculpted statues and figurines of Buddha, Jain Teerthankaras and other deities, which had been excavated from Sailihundam and a few brought from nearby areas including Ramateertham and Srimukhalingam.

But sadly, apart from the fact that it is a protected ASI site, there are no information centre, signages or boards to explain visitors about the significance of the museum structures or even their names, from where and when they were excavated. Neither is there information about the variously patterned stupas and chaityas scattered at the site. Instead, flock of sheep and herds of goats and cattle are grazing on the overgrown grass on the site. The monument attendant or multi-transport service (MTS) staff say that the site was excavated in the 1950s and that Salihundam was ruled by the Chakravarthy dynasty. However, with no authentic brochure or booklets available about this site, the veracity of the claims of the ASI staff are questionable. “We are four staff members here. The site is hardly frequented by people, except some picnickers who come for a site for picnic without interest in the archaeological aspects of the place. Rarely foreigners or tourists come here in buses,” said P Mritunjaya, an ASI staff. Continue reading