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Reblogged: The Taj Mahal – Finally!

Reblogged is a series of blog posts on my life in India coming from the weblogs I set-up. It’s an attempt to put the stories all in one place! The post The Taj Mahal – Finally! was originally posted on October 15, 2012, a month after I’ve taken the trip on September 9. Another post is connected to this one, which will be posted as a Viahera Vlog. The visit to Agra was a side trip before attending the official meetings of the Volunteer Committee (which I was a part of) at the VSO India office (read: no extra cost charged to VSO) to discuss policies for volunteers and put forth comments, opinions and suggestions from volunteers in India for improvement in programme support and effectiveness of volunteer placement and organisational partnerships.

Before coming to India, I only know a few things about this sub-continent and what stands out among these is the Taj Mahal. I barely know the story about Taj Mahal before I came here, only that it is a must-see monument, one of the seven wonders of the world.

The Taj Mahal
Oh hello there!

That said, I know it will be a disservice, a betrayal to India, and a look of disappointment from people back home if I did not see the Taj Mahal. So, when after six months of being in India I finally had the opportunity, I went!

Must-see while in India: Taj Mahal, check!

I believe that going to the Taj Mahal will be the peak of my traveling days here in India, at least to the eyes of many back home whose knowledge of India and it’s culture will mainly be of the Taj Mahal too. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that India is not popular or that the people I know have limited knowledge of the world. It’s just that, when you say India, the first thing that comes to mind is not castes, not discrimination, not poverty, not 1.2 billion people, and not BRICS. It is Taj Mahal.

In fairness, it really is a sight to behold

Anyway, before we stray away from the Taj Mahal and do further disservice to this edifice of love (which claimed the arms, if not lives, of the thousands of workers who laboured for its completion–just saying!), here are some snaps! The video playlist will be in the next post for a closer and more, uhm, “I can almost feel that I am there too” kind of experience. Enjoy!

View from the Agra Fort
View from the Agra Fort
Before queuing to get inside
Before queuing to get inside
Lighthouse effect!
Lighthouse effect!
Yamuna River
Yamuna River
The queue
Such a long queue for low-value ticket (Rs 20) holders…like me! I managed to get in at Rs 20 instead of Rs 750 as my half-decent Hindi passed with the tour guide. In fairness to me, I have the right for the ticket as I am officially a resident, with proof!
I'm soooo small (resting while the boys from the bus are in line)
I’m soooo small (resting while the boys from the bus are in line)
elaborately designed paintings and carvings
elaborately designed paintings and carvings (close-up of above photo)
Inside the Taj Mahal: The Tombs of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his third wife Mumtaz Mahal
Inside the Taj Mahal: The Tombs of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his third wife Mumtaz Mahal (this is actually what the queue was for)

#100Days Photo 29: The Small Pond and the Batu Caves, Selangor, Malaysia

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During the first time I set foot in Malaysia back in 2010, we only had one day and between Melaka, Genting Highlands and the Batu Caves, we decided to play with the clouds. It was only during the month-long Southeast Asia backpacking trip that I made it to Melaka and to the Batu Caves, both thanks to my fried Rajie who took time off her busy schedule to tour me, Lalai and Tetet! :) Anyway, Batu Caves, as the name suggests (in Tagalog, batu, well bato, means stone), is a series of caves and cave temples inside a limestone hill. Batu Caves is a popular tourist spot and Hindu temple site around 13kms north of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. The area is surrounded by birds feeding on corn kernels the visitors throw around and by a small pond of ducks and koi fish. You’d need to climb up about 8-10 floors worth of stairs, alongside monkeys that can be pretty violent when they see food, to get inside the caves and the temples. Rajie, at the time at least, was not a devout Hindu so we were not sure whether the stories of Kartikeya (the massive golden statue at the foot of the caves to which the cave temples are dedicated to), and his family (daddy = Shiva, mommy = Parvati, brother = Ganapathi) and the peacock he’s riding, were as accurate as the scripts or just made up bedtime stories! It was quite entertaining though. :) After visiting the caves, you might want to relax your legs and knees a bit and stay a while by the small pond, watching the ducks and koi fish glide and swim. Or, you can also pay a visit to Lord Hanuman, the monkey god, farther on the left.

#100Days Photo 28: Chao Phraya River and the Bhumibol Bridge, Bangkok, Thailand

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The Me Nam Chao Phraya is a major river in Thailand, even referred to as the River of Kings. On my second day in Bangkok, during my Rattanakosin Island walkabout, I ended up in a plaza across Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) where the Chao Phraya river has overflowed, swallowing most of the benches by the riverbanks. If you remember the flooding in Bangkok and Thailand in October 2011, you wouldn’t think that the overflow from the calm Chao Phraya River can be the cause for severe flooding in many of the provinces and its capital city. This photo, taken the next day when I explored Bangkok outside of Rattanakosin, was when I took the Chao Phraya Express Boat so I can have a closer look at some of the sights I have missed! Also coz I’m so cheap to buy the dinner river cruise ticket. Hehe :) We passed under the towering Industrial Ring Road Bridge or officially, the Bhumibol Bridge, named after King Bhumibol Adulyadej (apparently, naming bridges after Kings is customary). By the time I left Bangkok the day after, the city was already frantic trying to prepare for the floods — communities passing and arranging sandbags, construction of 2-feet cemented walls by their homes’ doors, diversion of traffic in some areas. Although the Chao Phraya River caused misery to many Thai people, the River of Kings remain to be an important part of their daily lives — either for agriculture, trade or transport. I hope measures, by government and the communities, are being taken so that the October flooding won’t happen to Bangkok or to Thailand again.

#100Days Photo 27: Bomod-ok Falls aka The Big Falls of Sagada

Bomod-ok

A few nights ago, some friends and I were talking about Sagada since some of them are planning to go. Of course, one of the top recommendations I can give them is to pay a visit to the Bomod-ok Falls, also known as the Big Falls. How big? Well, it stands 200ft high and at the time of our visit (March), water was really, errr, falling! Bomod-ok Falls, located about 30-minutes on a jeepney or van, is nestled at North Sagada, deep into the rice paddy terraces. How deep? Say an hour’s trek going down from the road to the falls, walking along the rice paddies, passing by villages and stream, and another hour going back up on the other way. Was it worth all the calories burnt? Definitely! If I am to visit Sagada again, I would still pay the Big Falls a visit, observe the villages and rice terraces we will pass by, chill at the secret pool on the left side of the falls (you’d have to do a duck walk or crawl through the gap to get there), brave the almost-90-degrees-buwis-buhay-rocks to go “cliff-diving” on the right side, swim till I can’t feel my toes, and just we awed by Bomod-ok Falls and its majesty.

Tower of Victory and the Sun shining through the fog

Viahera Vlogs: Qutb Minar – revisiting the remnants of a new era

Qutb Minar and Alai Darwaza, entrance gate to the Quwwatu'l-Islam Mosque
Qutb Minar and Alai Darwaza, entrance gate to the Quwwatu’l-Islam Mosque

It was a pretty cold winter afternoon in New Delhi, January 2 if I’m not mistaken, when I met with Julie and her holidaying parents to visit the Qutb Minar and it monuments. It was my 5th attempt to visit Qutb Minar as I have been trying to do it every time I set foot in Delhi! Continue reading

Life is short so take a leap of faith. Let’s wander, explore and discover. Come and journey with me.

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