This is my favourite activity to meet/make friends, get some exercise, and feed the travel monster inside me. Photo walking. Regardless of how many years I’ve spent in a city, it all looks different through the lens. Mumbai offered up the perfect opportunity to do just that. And my friends just happened to know some of the most interesting places to walk about.
The Gateway of India at dawn:
The interiors of the fanciest hotel in Mumbai with the largest heart – The Taj Mahal:
A whiff of nostalgia, watching the sandwich guy set up his stall, and other activities:
A walk through Darukhana, one of the old-time ship breaking yards with a bit of history:
And the part that makes it all worthwhile – a breakfast place that’s both picturesque and satisfying:
Here’s Kailash staking his claim on a new business:
When at Kala Ghoda, must pose with the kala ghoda (black horse):
And at nightfall, after all is said and done, the terrace offers a glorious view of Mumbai city at night, sparkling all the way from Antop Hill as far as the eye can see.
For the first few weeks upon moving to India, I simply vegetated on the couch. There was good reason to: relocating Mia, our cat has been more of a challenge than packing and moving the rest of my life in Indonesia. Once we came through Bangalore customs, cat and all, life at Reva’s got relaxed, with me having no responsibilities except playing badminton with Ira at all hours of the day, while Sara took on Mia’s welfare.
Through my vegetative weeks we waited for the rain clouds to gather and shower, admiring the beautiful sunsets from the balcony, made even more serene with a glass of wine and a light blanket.
My visits to Bangalore have a few must-do’s. Topping that list is a visit to the Canon service centre in Ulsoor, to undo all the damage I’ve inflicted on my camera up to that time. Followed by a coffee stop at the neighbouring cafe, Marzipan. This time, we ended up servicing 2 cameras and multiple lenses, causing us to make this journey at least 3 times, with an added shopping stop at 1 MG Mall.
The whole point to this description is that through my days in Bangalore this time, I had no camera until the last weekend, but once I did, it was near impossible to drag me in from the balcony.
I’m happy to be home.
An opportunity to get on a rooftop for photography is impossible to resist. Rajbir arranged with the good people of Grand Hyatt Jakarta to allow us on top of their building, to admire Bunderan HI in all is sparkling glory.
More than any other, this is the defining spot of Jakarta for me. The roundabout (bunderan) is the centre of the action for numerous events in the city, and many that we’ve enjoyed ourselves. New Year’s Eve celebrations, Car-free Sundays, protests for causes, all take place under the Selamat Datang Monument – the sculpture of the man and women welcoming everyone to Indonesia in the centre of the circle.
We got to the terrace well before sunset, to set up our gear for the best angle or the safest position, whichever was possible. Then waited for the blue hour.
The black night was even better.
We found a new toy:
But one is never enough:
Too soon, it was time to say Sampai Jumpa (until we meet again).
A few months back, Rajbir connected us with a talented Indonesian photographer, Ranar. He took us to this offbeat spot in West Java, called Argapura Majalenka to photograph hills full of harvest-ready bawang merah (spring onions). Quite a difference from the popular paddy fields found all over Indonesia, these hillside plantations have their own charm. Standing in ankle-deep soil, we did our best not to trample any, but it wasn’t easy.
Ranar is a specialist in making excellent photos in-camera without the use of editing software, and taught us some of his techniques of using our cameras to their maximum potential. The best time to have these views is towards the end of the rainy season, March-April. How to get there? I have no idea! This area doesn’t attract tourists, only photo hunters like us. The village is pretty; we were in a simple and comfortable homestay, the owners of which insisted in bringing us homemade food for every meal.
We rounded up our trip with a bit of waterfall photography, before plunging into the never-ceasing traffic headed into Jakarta.
The good part about hanging out with Rajbir is that she is so organised about photo trips that I don’t have to do much except copy-paste the packing/booking lists and soon the program is under way. I do miss Sara, and not just for her delicious chocolate mint cupcakes that were a photo hunting staple.
So, this year, thanks to Rajbir, we made it to Borobudur on the holy day of Waisak, or Buddha Purnima. No less than pilgrims, with a load on our backs, tracking the monks with our cameras, giving up some of our worldly necessities of food and shelter.
The walk from Candi Mendut to Candi Borobudur in the heat of the afternoon morphed into a moonlit, chaotic evening following the path of lanterns as they took our prayers and wishes into the heavens above. Something like nirvana was achieved at daybreak after a night spent in the company of sermons and chants, with the final pradakshina (circumambulation) of the monks around Borobudur.
Pradakshina at Candi Mendut
Prayers at Candi Mendut
Pradakshina at Candi Mendut
Ready for the procession
Security personnel keeping the peace
The monks’ march
Aglow at sunset
Borobudur by night
Pradakshina at Candi Borobudur
Pradakshina at Candi Borobudur
I found the whole ‘light-and-sound’ show a little too much for my nirvana-seeking sensibilities. A giant golden Buddha statue seems wrong to me somehow, as do the floodlights and loudspeakers. The glow of simple fire lanterns was far more benign, the chants of Buddham Sharanam Gachchami in unison by the people minus the electronics, making goosebumps.
We did earn our reward that morning of a foot soak and massage at the airport, which is my definition of pure bliss.
After a long hiatus, I’m back at photo hunting with my good friend, Rajbir. She is determined to let me have my Indonesia farewell through as many photo opportunities as possible in these last few weeks. I am ever so grateful!
Sunda Kelapa, where I first started exploring in Jakarta. The ancient port that is still functional, with the traditional phinisi boats, transporting cargo between the islands of Indonesia. The boats at the dock weren’t our target this time. We were looking for a strip of solidity on the water, to plant our tripods and make some pictures.
The boatman who brought us here was only too happy to extend our ride further out on the water, to spot some boats, old and new.
The sun has been playing spoilsport on some of the photo days, but on this occasion, I was literally ‘saved’ from disappointment when it stayed hidden at sunrise. See, I was meant to wake up at an absurdly early hour and get a taxi to pick Rajbir and head to the pelabuhan. Only, the phone accidentally was set on silent, and I slept through the alarms and the cabdriver’s calls! We got there well after all the exciting light, but thankfully no sun, and no guilt.
And for old times’ sake, a clichéd photo of the harbour:
The water may be murky, but the boats look grand.