Showing posts from May, 2015

Jaipur, India: Part 2

  Amber Fort We drove out of the city to Amer. Within minutes, we found ourselves in an utterly different world, an imposing fortress above a lake. Our guide gave us a little bit of history of the Fort: It was built in the 16th century by Raja Shri Man Singh I, one of the first war chief and trusted general of the Emperor Akbar. We stopped at a lakeside so we could take photos of the whole fortress. The view was incredible. It felt as if we were on the page of a Kublai Khan book from the thirteenth century, except that when we reached the foot of the hill where we were to set off for an elephant ride to the fortress, it became very touristy with vendors selling mahout hats and souvenirs. I must admit that I'm very sensitive to the treatment of elephants and made it a rule to only ride the elephant bareback, but our guide reassured us that there are strict rules about the elephants – they can only take two passengers and make three round trips per day and must be done by noon

Jaipur, India: Part 1

  The Pink City   I thought we already said goodbye to the shantytown in New Delhi - the last scenery I saw leading up to the highway to Jaipur. But the same scenery, if not worse, greeted us when we arrived in Jaipur. I saw street-dwellers in run-down tents, cooking food while sitting on blankets, the closest thing they have to a house, I guessed. Dirty and naked children played on the roadsides while roaming pigs and cows scoured for food from the scattered garbage. I wished it was a bad dream, but it was too real. We arrived in Jaipur late in the afternoon. After checking into our hotel, there was an option for a quick introduction to the city; our tour bus drove through the main street lined with salmon and pink colored buildings, and dropped those who wanted to shop at the bazaar. Tired from the long ride from New Delhi, I decided to stay on the bus. While the rest of the group went to the bazaar, I watched the magical sunset and saw how it added pink hues to the

India, Part 2: New Delhi

A City of Contrast Our attempt to venture out on our own the first couple of days had proved fruitless. The following day, my sister and I joined our organized tour group. We had a full day visiting the tourist sites. Our first stop was the Raj Ghat, Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation site, marked by a black marble memorial platform with an eternal flame. Green and expansive gardens surrounded the memorial area. It felt as if we were so far away from the normal hustle and bustle of the city. Besides, we were the first group of tourists there. There were few local visitors: schoolchildren, women covered in black from head to toe, and men in white garb paying respect to the “Father of the Nation". Next, we visited the Old Delhi, the walled city of Delhi. It was a total contrast to the peace and quiet of the expansive Raj Ghat. The streets were overcrowded and teeming with commerce where you’d find vendors selling wares of all kinds - from metals, fruits and vegetables to

India, Part 1: Introduction

  Introduction While having breakfast in the hotel restaurant in New Delhi, I noticed two women shooting glances at my plate and started to smile. I realized they were looking at the stack of fruits on my plate and fascinated by how much I could eat of the round brown fruit. We invited them to join us at our table. One of the women said, “Chico”. I knew what that fruit was called because I had it before in the Philippines and Thailand. The women introduced themselves as doctors from Goa and were staying at the hotel while attending a medical conference in New Delhi. I told them that I was a bit familiar with ‘Indian sweets’ because I worked with software engineers and managed a group of programmers from India. When I mentioned that it was our second day at the hotel and that we wasted our first day waiting for the maintenance people or “engineers” (as called by the hotel manager) to fix the water and air-conditioning issue, the topic of conversation changed from de

NEPAL: Durbar Square Before the Earthquake

I was writing my blog about Nepal’s UNESCO World Heritage and historic sites very late last night (05-12-15 in Nepal) when I happened to check my Instagram and saw a posting about Kathmandu after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal yet again. I get emotional just by looking at the photos and videos I took from my recent trip to Nepal let alone a video of a chaotic Kathmandu. I must confess to telling a co-traveler on our way to Patan's Durbar Square that I was ‘templed out’ (the term I used to describe how I felt after visiting so many temples).  Who would have thought that the visit to that last Durbar Square and seeing all the temples that day was a great blessing.  I have said many prayers of gratitude for the opportunity to see and capture in films and photos Nepal’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and the irreplaceable temples and statues before the April 25, 2015 earthquake. The Kathmandu Valley is comprised of three cities: Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan. Each city features