Haze

And an eventful Friday photo walk at Jama Masjid, Delhi. So nice to be reunited with my photopals, Sara and Arun, on this one.

Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, Winter, Haze. All the ingredients for an engrossing morning.

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Mughal Architecture

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One of the big entrances

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Why use a tap when you can wash at the tank?

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Like this?

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It takes a lot of focus

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The devout

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Jama Masjid, the Friday mosque

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One of the popular selfie guys

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Prayer hall

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No birds were harmed during our shoot, but we did our bit, shooing them around

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Take a picture, make a friend

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This shot has been 3 years in the making for me

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Waiting..

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Waiting.. and posing ..

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For a small additional fee, you can climb up a minaret, and pause at the terrace

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Did I say, “Haze” already?

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On a clear day, you might see the Red Fort in the distance, but this was not one of those days

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This man claimed his photo was in every country in the world, and I believe him

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Friday Prayers

We rewarded our industriousness with a paratha feast in the famous Paranthewali gali. We may have ordered everything on the menu there!

Of Butterflies, Dragonflies, Flies, and How Time Flies

It’s been FOREVER since I logged in and blogged, mostly thanks to a slight change of pace in my real life. Photography had taken a backseat, until this morning, when I joined a bunch of friends for a macro photography shoot.

I am a macro novice, and never been tempted to buy the expensive lens. We’ve found a great guy to rent camera equipment from in Jakarta – these people are priced reasonably and they give great advice too. I shan’t share the name, coz then my secret will be out! Hahaha, just kidding, good service deserves good publicity, and I shall do my bit for www.sewakamera.com.

We went to the butterfly park? museum? thingy at Taman Mini – the Indonesian showpiece ‘amusement’ park – which had to be the saddest butterfly display ever. Pity to see the live ones in captivity (Yes!). Singapore has a better park at the airport! In any case, I was there to learn macro photography, with all its technicalities, and was pretty determined to look beyond the obvious.

And then my eyes opened. WIDE. Who knew that these creepy crawlies were so cute! I’ve seen other people’s macro pictures, of course, but looking through your own (or rented) lens is a completely different feeling.

I have a long way to go, and a lens of my own to buy some day, this is just the beginning. Click on a pic and see the enlarged view, I absolutely insist. That humble little fly, I just want to enlarge and give a great big hug!

I’m not winning awards any time soon, but thanks are due to my friends who taught and inspired me today. The knees hurt from all the crouching, but who cares.

It may be the Chinese New Year of the Monkey, but it’s gonna be a weekend full of the lil bugs for me!

Walking in Cusco..or..the day I lost my iPhone

I’ve spent a lot of time planning this mini-travel within Peru, to Cusco and Machu Picchu. Initially, Souvik was only supposed to join me for Machu Picchu, but when he decided to make it a work trip, I added Puno to the list. After tons of research on http://www.tripadvisor.com, and some panic buttons pressed, in the nick of time I managed to book Pension Alemana in Cusco, a darling little B&B in a nice part of town. One of my reasons for picking this place? The gorgeous views from the hotel:

Rooftop view of Cusco

Rooftop view of Cusco

After an invigorating cup of mate de coca (my latest morning ritual – coca tea) to help acclimatise to the high altitude, I was ready for Cusco.

Walking down to the Plaza de Armas, I had my first sight of the iconic Andean ladies with their llamas – they are ever willing to pose for photos for a little money.

Sights in Cusco

Sights in Cusco

Sights in Cusco

The walking lanes are no less picturesque. And steep.

When I spotted these ladies, lined up, selling stuff along the steps, I HAD to buy something, just to have a picture. Goodness knows what I ended up drinking! Probably chicha.

Sights in CuscoSights in Cusco

A few steps on, Plaza de Armas was a sight to behold. My photos do no justice to the scale and the magnificence of the site. This is the centre of the historic town of Cusco or Cuzco, which was the capital of the Inca empire.

You may enter any of the cathedrals, for a fee, but I’d rather enjoy the feel of the sun on my face, after a week in grey-skies Lima. The local souvenir sellers didn’t bother me much because, apparently, I look quite Peruvian, until the camera came out. Then there was an endless stream of llama keyrings, and Inca pendants, and whatnot.

Looking up my Lonely Planet, I thought of doing their walking tour, which was meant to take me back to the area of my hotel at the end. Starting from the Plaza, I walked to the Mercado de San Pedro, but not before a quick stop at the Choco Museum for a quick snack of …ahem… chocolate.

Plaza de Armas

The Inca flag has all the colours of the rainbow. Those are to be found in most of the local garments and handicrafts.

The market of San Pedro was as fun as a market ought to be! Some of the ladies offered their bread to taste, and I was a willing sampler.

Getting out of the market, loaded with a snack pack of dried fruits and nuts, I went about my merry way on that walking tour towards the Palace of Justice, stopping, as usual for photographs.

Sights in Cusco Sights in Cusco

The sights were so interesting that I kept putting my phone (with the directions) away, to bring out the camera, and also munch on those nuts. That’s it. In the space of 2 minutes (the interval between peeking at the phone), my iPhone was gone. I have a strong feeling somebody may have followed me and stolen it, or just observed my inattention and taken the opportunity. Whatever it was, the phone was gone. Thankfully I had a 2nd phone with the local number, and called Souvik who was about 10 minutes away. We couldn’t call the iPhone because of some international dialling issues, so I rushed back to the hotel to access the iPad and lock down the phone remotely. In the grief of losing the phone (it’s like losing an arm, the amount of dependence I had on that), I was probably not thinking clearly. I should have changed all my apple and gmail passwords, which I didn’t. Within a couple of hours, the thieves had disabled the Find My iPhone feature, and all hope was lost. I simply couldn’t focus on anything after that, and hung about the hotel room, moping, cursing my own stupidity.

Souvik did his best to drag me out after that, but my heart simply wasn’t in it. We sat in the plaza for a while, watching the kids play and dance, and after a comforting meal at Inkazuela, called it a day.

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.

A hidden city tour in Jakarta

This year, I went on a second Hidden City tour with Ronny, having done the first one a couple of years ago in East Jakarta. This time we went to the more familiar and ‘touristy’ area of Kota Tua in North Jakarta, to meet some of the people that were impacted by the recent floods in the city.

Ronny and his team do a fantastic job taking you to places you might never venture on your own. No wonder that their tour is rated amongst the best in Jakarta.

Photo walk North Jakarta

Not the typical sights you would expect on a ‘tour’, but these are eye-opening. People live under bridges along the river, and everything they possess gets washed away every time there’s a downpour. They save their meagre possessions in surprising nooks and crannies, and what might look like a pile of trash to some might be another person’s treasure.

It gets reinforced time and again that the less ‘stuff’ you have, the less you have to lose. And it doesn’t cost a penny to smile, or to pose with attitude!

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