Out in the woods in the outskirt of the bleak settlement of Ämari stands a strange leftover from when Ämari was home to a Soviet air base, a small graveyard for fallen Soviet pilots. Their graves are marked with a tip of a flight wing and decorated with stars and pictures. It's a wonder why these leftovers from the Soviet occupation haven't been kicked over, but that just adds to the bizarreness of this unusual cemetery.
In Ghana they have this wicked tradition that you can get buried in a custom made coffin looking like anything: Cola bottle, airplane, camera (Canon is preferred), cinema projector, lobster, shoes - only the imagination is the limit. Some are made by the coffin maker just to have on stock, while others are ordered to size and style. People choose either something related to their profession in this life or something they want bring into the afterlife. A colourful full size coffin (or casket as they are called) cost from USD 500, and then comes the shipping - unless you plan to use it right away.
The Toraja people have several ways to get buried. Babies can get buried inside a trunk of a particularly chosen tree. Grown ups can get a house grave in a more normal looking mausoleum made of concrete and tiles. A more fascinating burial tradition are the cave graves, where a small cave is hollowed out of a boulder and mounted with small door and maybe guarded by tau-tau statues who looks like the deceased. This kind of graves are still in use today. Previously they also hang the coffins inside natural caves. There a family could have a hanging coffin and restuff it every time a family member passed away. Though this tradition has more or less eased out, there are still a lot of hanging coffins left in the Tana Toraja region, some not dating more than 20 years back.
A Toraja funeral is a full on event that can last for days, sometimes even weeks, all depending on the family wealth. As funerals are expensive the deceased has often been dead for a long time, up to several years, before the funeral is held. During that time the body is injected with formalin and kept in the house, where the deceased will be considered "sick" and offered to join meals. During the funeral ceremonial slaughtering will take place. Pigs are tied up and killed with a deep stab to the lungs, while buffaloes have their throat sliced. Sometimes, a buffalo get loose during the killing and run with spraying blood into the screaming funeral crowd – hopefully not resulting in another funeral. When the coffin finally has to be taken to the final resting place, let it be a cave or mausoleum, it will get push around, as the carriers on each side of the coffin are "battling" each other. Expect a lot of waiting at a Toraja funeral, but when the action starts, it will be one of the most mind blowing thing you have ever attended.
Petra will no doubt be one of the highlights of any trip to Jordan, maybe even the reason to come here in the first place. Spectacular imposing tombs carved right out the rock face dating back to the civilisation of the Nabataeans about 2000 years ago. Winding narrow canyons leads into the area, and magnificent views over the desert and the tombs will reward you from the top of the surrounding mountains. Petra is taken right out of Indiana Jones, literately. But all this "amazingness" attracts a fair share of, let's face it, annoying fellow visitors. By arriving early, leaving late and general doing the sights in a non-obvious direction not only will you catch the best light, but you will also pretty much get the place to yourself. Off-the-beaten-track places not to be missed are the monastery Al-Deir with its many viewpoints, the viewpoint above the Treasury and the winding canyon trek through Wadi Muthlim (see photo gallery).
The population of Mauritius is a mix of mostly Indian, Creole and Chinese descendants and there is a surprisingly large religious tolerance. Churches, mosques and Hindu temples can usually all be found in every large settlement. The graveyard at Pointe Lascars is a fine example of Mauritius' religious melting pot. Christians, Muslims and Hindus have their own lots under the shady branches. At the far end of the graveyard on the shore stands a huge tree with air roots from where religious banners hang. Next to it is a small shrine of some sort. If you find these kind of sights interesting, you won't be disappointed with this graveyard.
Just outside of Kathmandu city centre is Pashupatinath, where Hindu cremations take place along the river. Pashupatinath is composed of a large area with a lot of temples and so-called holy men in orange robes who sit and meditate. You can take pictures of the latter - but only against payment. As a tourist, it is more appropriate to be on the opposite side of the river and observe the cremation from a distance. For Westerners, it may be an overwhelming experience to see the locals burn their fellow man in public, but even stranger is to see people swim in the same river the ashes and the body remains are dumped in.
Not too far from the Nasca lines, also in the Nazca desert, is the Chauchilla cemetery. The Nascas had the habit of mummifying their deceased before burying them in the desert. Due to the dry desert climate and the mummification of the bodies they are well preserved.
Unfortunately for centuries most of the graves have been opened and robbed off their valuables but there is still plenty to see. It is quite fascinating though slightly morbid so see these mummies of which many of them still are fully clothed and with hair.
A short taxi ride from Puno brings you to Sillustani. This is a pre-Inca burial ground on the shores of Lake Umayo. The Aymara people built towers called Chulpas, where they buried mummified corpses. The inside of the towers represent the womb and the mummies were buried in the fetal position representing rebirth. Probably only the vip’s of their time were buried in these Chulpas.
Many of the towers are in good condition and the setting is absolutely stunning with clear blue skies and clear blue water as a background!
On the way between Sillustani and Puno are several typical Aymara houses where you’ll be welcome to stop for a visit.
Up in the mountains in northern Luzon lies the village of Sagada, surrounded by pristine hills and pine forests. It's a refreshingly cool little place famous for its caves and hanging coffins. The deceased were put in a hollowed trunk and then placed high on a projection of the cliff or piled on top of other coffins. This ancient funeral custom is no longer practised, but it's still possible to visit the burial site where coffins of all ages and states of decay hang. You can even peek at the bones through the cracks, but no touching (some people do).