How to visit a mosque: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

I am rolling the sleeves of my shirt down to my wrists. In my bag, I grab a pareo that I carefully wrap up around my head in order to hide my hair. I motion with confidence towards the women’s entrance of the mosque, when I am called back: my pants show my bottom and that is not acceptable here at Sheikh Zayed Al Kabeer Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Also known as Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, this half-a-billion euro place of worship is the largest of the UAE, and can host more than 40,000 worshipers. I am Keep travelling!

Decrypting the temple of light, La Sagrada Familia

Standing on the bunker del Carmen overlooking the city of Barcelona bathed by the sunset light, La Sagrada Familia boldly rises above the buildings. I have always had mixed feelings passing by the grey façades of the most visited landmark of the capital of Catalonia invaded by hordes of tourists. It is only by entering this basilica that I went from a dubious passer-by to being an admirer of Gaudí’s technical genius and refined symbolism.

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Photo gallery: Notre Dame de Paris

I may have passed by it thousands of times in Paris, my home town. Still: every time I walk by, I have to stop to admire its stunning architecture, detailed sculptures, scary gargoyles, and beautiful glow in the evening sun. In more than 850 years, it has seen Keep reading

Angkor off the beaten path & on the single track!

The majestic temples of Angkor are victim of their own success: with 4 million visitors a year mostly during the dry season focusing mainly on three temples, the atmosphere can be lost. Still, it is possible to experience the Angkor temple complex off the beaten path for a fantastic and authentic discovery, unravelling the splendour of the great Khmer civilisation.

I skilfully steer my mountain bike along a few pointy rocks on a narrow single track through the jungle of Cambodia. In front of me appears a desolated ruin, half swallowed by tree roots of strangler fig trees. Birds sing, butterflies flutter around reflecting the strong sun rays peeping through the dense vegetation on their brightly-coloured wings, and a cat yawns while stretching its front paws on the step of the almost-millennium old Khmer temple of Preah Khan in the temple complex of Angkor.

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The most atmospheric wat of Chiang Mai, Thailand

The chanting of the few dozen of monks, dressed in their traditional orange robes, continues. The monks pray, their voices low in the large and dark atmospheric prayer hall made of teak that is decorated with flapping orange flags. Keep travelling

Controversial morning alms ritual in Luang Prabang

It is 4:30 am in the dark streets of Luang Prabang, and I feel the chill air on my cheeks. I am still wondering if all this was a good idea, as we are walking the empty alleys of the former capital of Laos before sunrise. Somehow, I still want to form my own opinion about the morning alms ritual that is so famous in Luang Prabang and try to answer the question that has been bugging me for a while: how can an ancient religious tradition of meditative nature become a controversial tourist attraction? Keep reading

Wat Pho’s majestic reclining Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand

I am contemplating the serene smile on the 2.5-metre-wide delicate face of the golden reclining Buddha. I try to step back in the finely decorated chapel to take it all in. The whole figure is 46 metres in length and 15 metres in height. It is one of the largest Buddhas of Thailand, here in Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, in the heart of Bangkok and it is truly majestic. Keep reading

Crossing the bay of the Mont Saint Michel

It has been a long trip, walking for hundreds of kilometres. Setting off about a month ago, we have just arrived at the foot of the last obstacle. It is so close and yet, it seems impossible to reach. The high tide covers up the whole shore and I fear greatly for this life-threatening crossing on foot to the sacred island Keep reading

Photo of the day: Cathedral of Leon, Nicaragua

A UNESCO world heritage site, the cathedral of the Assumption in Leon is an impressive building and remains the largest cathedral in Central America. Center of life of the city, it is located on a lively square, while food stalls are aligned along its back wall. Keep traveling!

Photo of the day: Leon, Nicaragua

Second largest city of Nicaragua, Leon features many colonial buildings and churches, like San Juan Bautista that is featured on this picture of the day. Beyond the history, Leon is a  Keep traveling!

The stunning Sainte Chapelle, Paris

Notre Dame de Paris is the most famous church building of the capital. And it is stunning, indeed!

La Sainte Chapelle, or the Holy Chapel, is only a few hundred meters away and is a gothic jewel not to be missed. Keep reading

Temple hopping in Kyoto: top 10 & travel tips

I am biking like a mad woman on the sidewalks, with my knees almost hitting my chin at every turn of the pedals on my ridiculously small bicycle, ringing the bell to warn pedestrians in the busy streets, who weirdly enough do not seem surprised by that tall Dutch woman showing off her bicycle skills on that tiny Japanese bike. Overtaking herds of tourists, I am temple hopping in Kyoto! Keep reading

Japanese religions: Temple or Shrine?

Even if you have read our shrine for dummies article which give a basic understanding of these places of worship with their do’s and dont’s, you can still be a bit puzzled Keep reading

The Buddhist sacred flower: lotus

Lotuses literally rise from the filthy mud to become beautiful flowers. For Buddhists, this is a sacred symbol reminding them to reach for the highest Keep traveling!

Shrines: a brief manual for dummies

Visiting a shrine for the first time, one can feel a bit lost, sometimes even confusing a shrine for a temple. Respecting these places of worship and their believers means understanding a few of the following basics. In this post, the focus is on shrines. Keep reading

The magic of Kokedera, the temple of moss

The monk is wearing a dark kimono and tabi, the split toe socks. He opens his arms to invite us on a small path surrounded by more than fifty shades of green. Keep traveling

The Usuki Stone Buddhas, Kyushu, Japan

The smell of scent sticks burnt by believers, mixed with flowers being offered. The soft drizzle around us. The sound of Keep traveling!