There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Banyan Trees

I have only just finished the post on Ho Chi Minh City, though we were there in April last year - writing these posts does take some time.

I decided to leave out a picture of of the banyan tree outside the Jade Emperor Pagoda because it missed the entrance to the temple, but as I made that decision I realised that I have several photographs of banyan trees taken in a number of different countries. Banyans are photogenic, exotic (at least to the European eye) and stand still, which makes them easier subjects than birds and butterflies. I am not their only admirer, the Banyan is the national tree of India and appears on the Indonesian coat of arms.

The Indonesian coat of arms with a banyan tree in the top right quarter
The banyan is a member of the fig family. It starts life as an epiphyte, its seeds germinating in the crevices of a host tree or building. What makes the Banyan remarkable is its way of sending roots down towards the ground from its branches; sometimes these roots re-engage with the original host which is why it is also known as the Strangler Fig. There are fifteen different species of Banyan, which is why they do not all look identical in these pictures.

Starting, then, where the idea for this post germinated


This is the tree outside the Jade Emperor Pagoda. It may be small, bit it is a complex little blighter.

Banyan, Jade emperor Pagoda
Ho Chi Minh City
And this one is large, possibly the largest in Vietnam.

Banyan, Lao Cai
It is in the town of Lao Cai on the Chinese border in the north of the country. The kiosk selling incense sticks for the nearby Taoist temple has taken refuge in the tree's aerial roots.

Queueing for incense sticks, Lao Cai
Hong Kong

We first visited Hong Kong in 2004. On day 1, like many new visitors, we took the tram up Victoria Peak and followed the footpath round the summit. That is where we found this banyan, it may well be the first we ever saw.

Victoria Peak, Hong Kong
Chung Chau is one of Hong Kong's outer islands.  It is small and car-free, which makes it relatively peaceful, though it can be crowded, particularly at weekends, by those (like us) attracted by the seafood restaurants near the harbour. The town centre has a venerable banyan tree...

Chung Chau village
...with a gruesome past - it was used as a gallows by the Japanese during the Second World War.


Gods can lurk under Banyan trees, like this one near Dindigul in Tamil Nadu...

Near Athoor Lake, Dindigul
...or these Naga stones at Gokarna on the coast in Karnatika

Naga Stones under a banyan, Gokarna
These splendid banyans are also in Karnatika, lining a road near the Nagarhole National Park.

The road from Kerala to the Nagarhole National Park
 But my favourite is this huge old tree...
Banyan tree, Auroville the remarkably well-heeled New Age Settlement/Hippie Commune of Auroville in the Union Territory of Pondicherry.

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