Friday, May 29, 2009

Amazing Journey to Incredible India - DELHI

I think of so many places that I dreamed of going to and finally decided that I will explore India this time. Why? That’s the question we always heard of whenever we mention the trip. They say it’s not good there and we receive many more negative words. In spite of these we still go for it since India has a very diverse culture, with centuries old monuments and fortresses that is a must see before disappear on earth.
Indian women after a prayer at a popular mosque "Jama Masjid", New Delhi India.
Who would not want to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal for example? And for a photojournalist like me, exploring the streets of India is exposing you to a wide range of subjects and opportunities. Inspired also by the movie Slumdog Millionaire and Darjeeling Limited is the reason why we chose this place. I will be travelling with a companion, an engineer from GMA network, Mr. Randy Rondriguez.
This trip was not made overnight. We had a lot of preparation and brainstorming before we made the final booking of the plane tickets. We left Manila on a rainy Friday afternoon. Our plane is scheduled to fly at 2:30 PM but there are some delays so we have to wait. It was raining so hard that you might think it’s impossible for the plane to take off but Thai Airways proved that theirs is always smooth as silk. The Boeing 777 aircraft just flew like a bird in the sky. Just like a scene from the Amazing Race we have to rush through the boarding gate in Suvarnabhumi International Airport in BangkokThailand for us to get to our plane. A quick but strict inspection by the airport police and customs personnel and we are now heading to India. We arrived at Indira Ghandi International Airport in New Delhi after another four and a half hours of flying.
Even Local tourists visit the famous India Gate at Rajpath, New Delhi India.
Paddling through the waters of the holy Ganges River, rolling over the sand dunes of the Great Thar Desert in Rajasthan and climbing the snow capped mountains of the Himalayan mountain ranges, our adventure is simply quite amazing. We met strangers along the way and became friends with them.
Negotiating with india's railway station is one of the best experience in India. There are more than 7 million trains travelling the country everyday and the railway system is the third largest in world.
The capital of India, Delhi, has a history that spans over several millennia. Site of no fewer than eight successive cities, it is the hub of the country, a buzzing international metropolis which draws people from across India and the globe. Situated at the nerve of the ancient Asian trade route, Delhi has accumulated extraordinary wealth, but repeatedly lost it to successive foreign invaders who have come knocking at the door. Tucked away inside Delhi’s modern suburbs and developments are tombs, temples and ruins that date back centuries ago.
Passengers cling to the door of a sleeper train at the Railway Station Connaught Place, New Delhi India.
Delhi has a wide range of transportation so going to other places is not that hard. You just have to be creative and not choosy. You can move around the city by auto-rickshaw, taxi or city buses. For short journeys a rented cycle rickshaw is enough. Traveling by train is one of India’s classic experiences. The national rail network covers almost the entire country; only few are inaccessible especially the mountainous areas. Although the railway system might look like chaos, it does work, and generally better than you might expect.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Amazing Journey to Incredible India - VANARASI

After a long and arduous sixteen hours overnight train journey we reached the great Hindu city of Varanasi. Also known as Baranas or Benares, it stretches along the crescent of the River Ganges, its waterfront dominated by long flights of stone ghats where thousand of pilgrims and residents come for their daily rituals.
Washermen are seen washing clothes on the banks of river Ganges in the northern Indian city of Varanasi.
One of the highlights of the trip in Varanasi is the early morning boat ride along the River Ganges. From here you can see people bathing in the riverbanks. Century old pavilions and palaces, temples and terraces lined up with stone steps – the ghats – stretched along the whole waterfront, changing dramatically in appearance with the seasonal fluctuations of the river level.
Hindus regard the Ganges as amrita, the elixir of life, which brings purity to the living and salvation to the dead, but in reality the river is so polluted and full of effluent. Factory wastes increases the level of heavy metals to unacceptable proportion not to mention the floating human body parts.
A man fishes at the banks of river Ganges in the northern Indian city of Varanasi.
Known to the devout as Kashi, the Luminous – the City of Light, founded by Shiva – Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities in the world. It has maintained its religious life since the sixth century BC in one continuous tradition, in part by remaining outside the mainstream of political activity and historical development of the subcontinent.
Assorted collection of beads, imitation jewelries are for sale along the gath.
Varanasi is among the holiest of all tirthas that allow the devotee access to the divine and enable gods and goddesses to come down to earth. 
Anyone who dies in Varanasi attains instant moksha or enlightenment. Widows and the elderly come here to seek refuge or to live out their final days, finding shelter in the temples and assisted by alms given by the faithful.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Amazing Journey to Incredible India - AGRA

Women wearing colorful saris outside the main entrance of Taj Majal, Agra India.
Agra is the capital of India under the Mughals, the splendor of which remains undiminished, from the massive fort to the magnificent Taj Mahal. It is the third apex of the “Golden Triangle”, India’s most popular tourist itinerary, along with Delhi and Jaipur in Rajasthan. Agra’s greatest days arrived during the reign of Akbar the Great, with the construction of Agra Fort. It is majestically built along the bend of the Yamuna River and is made of red-sandstone. His grandson, Shah Jahan, on the other hand built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal (“Chosen One of the Palace”) who died shortly after giving birth to her fourteenth child.
Kids swimming at Yamuna river, Agra India.
Agra is the capital of India under the Mughals, the splendor of which remains undiminished, from the massive fort to the magnificent Taj Mahal. It is the third apex of the “Golden Triangle”, India’s most popular tourist itinerary, along with Delhi and Jaipur in Rajasthan. Agra’s greatest days arrived during the reign of Akbar the Great, with the construction of Agra Fort. It is majestically built along the bend of the Yamuna River and is made of red-sandstone. His grandson, Shah Jahan, on the other hand built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal (“Chosen One of the Palace”) who died shortly after giving birth to her fourteenth child.
The purest white marble, inlaid with mosaics of precious stones of the walls of Taj Majal, Agra India.
The magic of the monument is strangely undiminished by the crowds of tourists who visit, as small and insignificant as ants in the face of the immense mausoleum. That said, the Taj is as it’s most alluring in the relative quiet of early morning, shrouded in mist and bathed with a soft red glow. As its vast marble surfaces fall into shadow or reflect the sun, its color changes, from soft grey and yellow to pearly cream and dazzling white. This play of light is an important decorative device, symbolically implying the presence of Allah, who is never represented in physical form.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Amazing Journey to Incredible India - JAIPUR

Our next trip brings us to the state of Rajasthan. The extravagant palaces, forts and finely carved temples comprise one of the country’s richest crops of architectural monuments. Rajasthan’s strong adherence to the traditions of the past is precisely what makes it a compelling place to travel. Swaggering moustaches, heavy silver anklets, colored turbans, pleated veils and mirror-inlaid saris may be part of the complex language of caste, but to most outsiders they epitomize India at its most exotic.
Indian women carrying heavy loads at a busy market in Jaipur, Rajasthan India.
At the heart of Jaipur lies the Pink City, the old walled quarter, whose bazaars rank among the most vibrant in Asia, renowned above all for hand-dyed and embroidered textiles and jewelry. Enclosed by walls and imposing gateways which were designed to offer it some measure of protection against hostile forces, and which still serve to physically demarcate it from the modern suburbs around.
We explored it on foot and bought some souvenirs for love ones at home.Rising from the center of the Pink City is the slender Iswari Minar Swarg Suli, whose summit offers the definitive view of old Jaipur, with fascinating glimpses down into the tangled labyrinth of alleyways and courtyards. The minaret was built by Jai Singh II’s son and successor Iswari Singh, who erected this excessively grandiose monument to celebrate his army’s minor victory over a combined Maratha-Rajput force in 1747.
A view from Nahagarh Fort on the edge of the Aravalli Hills, overlooking the Pink City of Jaipur, Rajasthan.
Teetering on the edge of the hills north of Jaipur is Nahargarh, or “Tiger Fort”. An eye catching structure, the main reason for visiting is to sample the superb views of Jaipur, best enjoyed towards dusk. The imposing walls of the fort sprawl for the best part of a kilometer along the ridgetop, although the significant surviving structures within are the palace apartments. Vehicles of any kind can only get to the fort along a road that branch off Amber Road, a fifteen kilometer journey from the city proper. It is simpler to walk to the fort along the steep path that climbs up from the north side of the city centre, a stiff fifteen-twenty minute walk, although the path is a bit tricky to find.
A drunk man seen sleeping in front of Nawa Majal “Palace of Winds” Palace in Jaipur India.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Amazing Journey to Incredible India - JAISALMER



Magical Sunset at the golden sand of Jaisalmer, India.
In the remote westernmost corner of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer is the quintessential desert town, its sand-yellow ramparts rising out of the arid Thar like a scene from the Arabian Nights. It is popularly known as India’s “Golden City” because of its yellow sandstone architectures. The streets of Jaisalmer are flanked with numerous pale honey-colored facades, covered with lattice work and floral designs, but the city’s real showpieces are its havelis, or elaborately decorated mansion.
A boy walks through the sand dunes of Badabagh, Jaisalmer India.
Jaisalmer provides an irresistibly romantic chance to cross the barren sands and sleep under one of the starriest skies in the world. As arranged we just left some of our things in the hotel and after lunch we prepared on our trip to the great Thar Desert. We departed at 3PM and planned to return the next day at noon. We are heading to Sam, about 40 kilometers west of the town. A jeep ride will brought us inner into the desert before riding the camels.
On our way we were caught in the middle of a sandstorm for 15 minutes that seemed like an eternity. That was the first time we all experienced something like that. It was cold and scary but thrilling also. It was followed by a rain which according to our guide was the first time in three years.
Rajasthani women fetching water from a well in Jaisalmer , India.
The barren desert terrain around Jaisalmer harbors some unexpected monuments, dating back from the Rajput era when the area lay on busy caravan routes. Six kilometers north of Jaisalmer, in the fertile area of Bada Bagh, a cluster of cenotaphs built in memory of Jaisalmer’s rulers stands mighty on a hill amidst a cluster of modern wind turbines. The green oasis below is where most of the area’s fruit and vegetables used to be grown.