The Return of the Photo Walks

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.

sunda kelapa-2

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:

sunda kelapa-12

The water may be murky, but the boats look grand.

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Colours of Barranco

The bike tour from the day before opened my eyes to the Bohemian district of Barranco. While most parts of Lima look dull and grey, and Miraflores and San Isidro are well-manicured and modern, it’s Barranco that carries the labels of Bohemian, artsy and old-worldly.

The district has been preserved, mostly by the artistic community, not to the glossy levels of its upmarket neighbours, but in the most charming manner in its riot of colours. I had pre-conceived notions of what South America should look like, and Barranco satisfied some of them. I’ve also noticed that there is a concerted effort to make some of the districts safer, especially for tourists – there are information kiosks in a number of street corners, and quite a few tourism police keeping an eye on everyone. The results have been great for me – I’ve been able to walk on streets, camera in hand, without facing any trouble so far.

Enjoy!

I lunched at La Bodega Verde, close to the Puenta de Los Suspiros – a happy meal of quinoa burger with hummus. Seriously, I am now in love with quinoa.

I was lured into the MATE museum, that houses the photographs of Mario Testino. He is a world renowned Peruvian photographer, and I was fascinated by his work. I had bought a combination ticket to 3 museums, but the other 2 (Pedro de Osma & MAC) did not hold the same attraction for me, as one has a collection of religious art, and the other is contemporary, but I could understand neither. Still, the walk was fun. Gotta go back into Barranco in the evening to get a glimpse of all the colours of the night.

The Other Side of Town

This week in Lima, I had my photo walk on Monday rather than the usual Friday. Found Haku Tours to take me on a walk through one of the more humble settlements in the city.

It is always nice to see local markets in different cities, but the one we stopped at before the walk left me agape at the size of vegetables. Cauliflower and broccoli larger than my head, pumpkins the size of toddlers, different colours of corn, and potatoes in numerous shapes, sizes and colour. Plus some exotic fruits to sample. My guide, Edwin, taught me some phrases in Quechua, the local language – Adiyanchu (good morning) and Yus para sunki (thank you) to confuse me from the practised Spanish phrases. To add to that, every time I said Adiyanchu to a local person, I would get a blank stare in return because not everybody spoke the language! My timing was completely off; ultimately I let Edwin take the lead in greeting people.

I had a good introduction on the politics of Peru from my guides, as well as a good insight into the culture of the shanty town residents. And some photos of the people, with the people too. Predictably, the kids were super friendly, and fascinated by the camera and their pictures.

Not typical touristy destination, but quite remarkable landscapes! Here are many shades of brown:

Photo Walks in Kemang

The upmarket neighbourhood of Kemang is great for walking, not just for photography, but to explore shops, cafes and restaurants. And to think there’s not a single functional sidewalk anywhere in the neighbourhood! Still, armed with cameras, the scenery changes drastically.

Half a dozen photo walks later, I found that the heart of Kemang also lies, just like elsewhere in Jakarta, in its kampungs, with energetic kids, loads of colour and plenty of quirky sights.

On the Streets of Kolkata – #2 (A Tale of 2 Bridges)

I had a great day, photo-walking in Kolkata on the last day of my trip. On the advice of some local photographers, I set off at sunrise to the Flower Market just below the Howrah Bridge.

While flowers never fail to excite me, the Howrah Bridge (officially “Rabindra Setu”) is actually the iconic structure in the city, and a pretty impressive one at that. I walked the span of the bridge and back – there’s a comfortable pedestrian walk way on both sides, and offers interesting sights of the river Hoogly. I imagine it gets busy and crowded later in the day, but an early morning walk is a pleasure.

Sightseeing in Kolkata

At one end of the bridge is Howrah railway station, and at the other, the flower market. Kii Sundor!

Sightseeing in Kolkata

Marigold season – all those unbelievable snake-like garlands of orange & yellow, dahlias so large that I thought they were fake, roses, chrysanthemums, and the people! I wasn’t the only person doing a photo walk here, I met at least 3-4 other people with the same idea. Some folks friendlier than others, some curiosity about why were they the subjects, some fairly mucky sections to walk through – oh! I was in travel-heaven!

Having had plenty of glimpses of Kolkata street life, I was not entirely satisfied by the flower market alone, and set off walking towards the other iconic bridge down the river – Vidyasagar Setu. On the walk I was treated to the sights of the city stirring to life, and some views of the river.

There’s a section of the path that has been beautified for walking, just before the Princep Ghat. It’s a great spot for photos of the suspension bridge.

Sightseeing in Kolkata

Sightseeing in Kolkata

By the time I got to the Princep Ghat Gardens, the day had truly well begun, and the city was up and about.

And I was hungry. Which meant the end of walking. So into a cab I hopped, straight off to Park Street. Bought a book and found a table at Flury’s, being in the mood to tick off all the checkboxes.

Sightseeing in Kolkata

Beware lest the swan’s trumpet doth betray its tranquil plume*

The people from Stratford Walks inspired us to go to the top of the tower at the RSC, mainly because there was a great discount, and a lift to the top. The views from the top were predictably breathtaking.

The sun was determined to peek out, and when it did, it was the perfect time for a walk along the river Avon, admiring the landscape and the greedy swans.

A swan thought it would be cool to check out the Mop nearby, and had to be put back in its place.

Walking around Stratford

By which time I was chilled cold, and our only hope was to dart indoors at Dirty Duck for a pint and some food, a beef and ale pie for Souvik, a bean chili and jacket potato for me. We needed to walk off the food again, took the long way back home, via the Mop.

The Mop is an annual fair whose reputation is as old as Shakespeare’s in this region. It used to be a job fair in the old days where prospective job seekers offered their services and employers did the buying. Job hopefuls stood around with a display of their skills (maids with mops), hence the name. After the deals were done, the rest of the day was free for merriment. 2 weeks later, there’d be a smaller fair called the Runaway Mop where people who were dissatisfied with their jobs ran away for better opportunities. The hiring activities no longer exist, but the fair stuck around, and became more popular with the railroad services where more people from other villages could visit. We were amused to see how busy the fair was, with shooting targets, hooking ducks, candy floss, fortune telling, and the like. Crowds in a small town like we’ve never seen before. Poeple of all ages enjoying the rides and the music. The tantalising smell of fried onions.

Walking around Stratford Walking around Stratford Walking around Stratford Walking around Stratford

And the best attraction of them all? This old-world carousel that still looked like the prettiest ride for all ages.

Walking around Stratford

*Title credit: Souvik again. He’s been let loose.

Friday Photo walk: Ramadan prayers

All of Indonesia has been observing Ramadan – the holy month of fasting, so what better place to photograph than the masjid and Friday prayers?

I’ve blogged about Masjid Istiqlal before, but this was totally worth it. It is the largest mosque in South-East Asia; with a total capacity of 200,000 people. While we didn’t see it packed to capacity, the grand hall was full and a sight to behold.

Waiting for the prayers to start

Praying while they wait

Looking over

The official Friday prayer

Tip: Always dress conservatively when visiting a place of worship – knees and shoulders and sometimes the head must be covered. A scarf is handy.