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Taj Mahal and New Delhi sights: Red Fort, Raj Ghat, India Gate & Rashtrapati Bhavan

Date: 3rd March 2005

The next day, after Vivek’s wedding, we left Jaipur in the after noon by bus and headed for Agra. We took the state bus which was quite cheap (and very basic in every shape and form).

We reached Agra by 5pm and took an auto straight to the Taj Mahal. It was already sunset, so we really didn’t have much time.

We bought our tickets, paid for our camera fee and got in.

Taj Mahal entranceTaj Mahal entrance touristsI was budding with excitement as I was finally going to see India’s most famous monument.

Taj Mahal Agra eveningAnd though my photos may not paint a rosy picture, trust me, it really was beautiful!

Taj Mahal Agra eveningI had no choice but to use the camera flash once inside.

Taj Mahal Agra inside ceilingTaj Mahal Agra Shah JahaanTaj Mahal Agra Shah Jahaan wall islamic

There really wasn’t much else I could take as the flash would have made the photos appear as though it was already night fall (which it wasn’t yet). Plus it was closing time, so we had to make our way out.

Taj Mahal tombAs cliched as it may sound, the Taj Mahal really is one sight everyone (especially if you are Indian) must see before they die. It’s a hideously romantic structure to profess one’s love for someone and will probably never be attempted again.

My only regret is that I wish I had gotten there a few hours earlier.

After making our way out and surviving the hordes of vendors pushing replicas of the Taj in your face, we sat down for a coffee break. We pondered about whether we should stay in Agra that night or head straight for New Delhi which was the next stop on our ‘tour’.

But Delhi it was.  So we took an auto to the Agra bus stand and boarded the bus. It was around 8pm by the time we left and we would arrive at New Delhi around 3am the next day.

New Delhi

Date: 4th March 2005

We were staying at a (crappy) 3-star hotel in the heart of the city, pretty close to all the major sights we planned on seeing. So in the morning, we headed first for Red Fort (or Lal Qila).

Red fort New Delhi Mithun
Yeah that's me. Laugh all you want.

Red Fort Delhi Indian army stone

Red fort Lahore gateRed fort New Delhi entranceRed Fort Khas MahalRed fort Khas Mahal descriptionRed fort Khas Mahal monumentRed fort Khas Mahal structureRed fort Khas Mahal marbleRed fort Khas Mahal Delhi

Red fort panorama New Delhi
(Panorama comprised of 3 shots)

Red fort Diwan-i-am Delhi

Red fort Indian war museum building
Indian war museum at Red Fort

Red fort Indian war museum New Delhi

Here’s a brief video I took:

We had a relaxing meal at a coffee shop/restaurant at the Lal Qila itself, which was nice. After that, we moved to our next stop (across from the Red Fort) — Raj Ghat.

Raj Ghat park New Delhi public parkRaj Ghat park New Delhi public park school kidsThe massive public park houses several memorials in honour of some of the greatest Indians that helped shape our nation. First up, the greatest of them all — the  Mahatma Gandhi memorial.

Raj Ghat Mahatma Gandhi memorialRaj Ghat Mahatma Gandhi memorial from above

We then walked down the bricked path to check out the rest of the place.

Raj Ghat park New DelhiRaj Ghat park lake squirrelThere’s a fairly large pond in the middle of the park which makes this place all the more serene.

Raj Ghat park lake ducks stoneRaj Ghat park pond stone pigeonsRaj Ghat park pond ducksRaj Ghat park geese DelhiIf you like geese, here’s a video:

The day wasn’t the brightest Delhi offered, and we even got a brief moment of drizzle — but the somber skies suited the next few sights.

Raj Ghat park New Delhi brick pathMore memorials, these mostly honouring the Nehru clan.

Raj Ghat Nehru memorial New Delhi
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru memorial
Raj Ghat Indira Gandhi memorial
Indira Gandhi memorial
Raj Ghat Rajiv Gandhi memorial
Rajiv Gandhi memorial
Vijay Ghat Lal Bahadur Shastri memorial
Lal Bahadur Shastri memorial

Raj Ghat Rajiv Gandhi memorial plaqueRaj Ghat park stonesRaj Ghat bricked pathVijay Ghat New Delhi

After walking around for nearly an hour, we took an auto and headed for India Gate.

India Gate road New DelhiIndia Gate road New Delhi monumentIndia Gate road New Delhi monument close upIndia Gate New Delhi monumentIndia Gate Amar JawanIndia Gate New Delhi fountainIndia Gate New Delhi parkWe followed down the straight road from India Gate which took us to the Rashtrapathi Bhavan.

Rashtrapathi Bhavan India Gate

Road to Rashtrapathi BhavanRashtrapathi Bhavan New Delhi

To our right was the parliament house…

Indian Parliament house New Delhi… but we weren’t allowed near the building nor were we permitted to take photographs from up close. Oh well.

Back to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Rashtrapathi Bhavan New Delhi buildingsRashtrapathi Bhavan New Delhi lamp post

Rashtrapathi Bhavan New Delhi buildingRashtrapathi Bhavan New Delhi buildingRashtrapathi Bhavan New Delhi offices

Rashtrapathi Bhavan presidents palace Mithun New Delhi
Me in front of the President's palace building. Not sure why I wasn't smiling.

Rashtrapathi Bhavan India Gate distanceAs an Indian, you can’t help but feel patriotic when you are in this part of Delhi.

Of course, there is much more to the capital city. It is after all famed for its shopping and street food — but we had to catch a flight back to Bangalore the next day and we were a bit knackered with all the walking we did. So we went back to the hotel and rested.

The next day, it was checking out of the crappy hotel, hopping into a taxi and heading off to the airport.

Taken from inside the car:

Teen Murthi New Delhi
Theen Murthi
Barah Murti Mahatma Gandhi statue New Delhi
Barah Murthi

Barah Murti Mahatma Gandhi statue New Delhi

Camera used: Canon Powershot A95; post processing done in Photoshop CS3

P.S: Here’s a video I took while at Rashtrapathi Bhavan and India Gate:

First trip to Rajasthan: Amer Fort, Jantar Mantar and other sights in Jaipur city

Date: 2nd March 2005

These photos are from my first visit to Jaipur, which also happened to be my first big trip within India. The journey was actually for the marriage of one of our favourite office colleagues at the time. A bunch of us made it for the wedding, most of them by train — but I chose to fly.

This was 2005, Air Deccan (India’s first budget carrier) was still in operation. I got a return ticket from Bangalore to New Delhi for around Rs. 5,000. From New Delhi, we (I was joined by another colleague and his wife) boarded a state bus from Rajasthan House and headed for Jaipur. The journey took us around 3 hours and we were in Jaipur city by evening.

Our friend had put us up at the Best Western in Jaipur and since there was a ‘sangeet‘ that evening, all our sightseeing was kept for the next day.

The next morning, 3 of us set out to see the sights Jaipur city had to offer. The wedding was that evening so we had time until late afternoon. The hotel suggested we hire a taxi and for Rs. 500, the driver offered to take us around to all the popular sights.

First up, a quick stop at the Hawa Mahal or “Hall of the Winds”.

Hawa Mahal Jaipur Rajasthan

Hawa Mahal Jaipur Rajasthan streetThe Hawa Mahal was en route to our main destination, Amer Fort — or Amber Fort as it’s popularly known.

Amber Amer Fort Jaipur Rajasthan IndiaAmber Amer Fort Jaipur Rajasthan IndiaAmber Amer Fort Jaipur Rajasthan India wallsThere was an entrance fee… but I don’t remember how much it was. (Sorry, five years ago.)

Amber Amer fort Jaipur Rajasthan elephant ride
Elephant rides were popular with the white folks. Not me.

Amber Amer fort Jaipur Rajasthan courtyard

Amber Amer fort Jaipur Rajasthan Mithun
5 years ago, that was me. (Not much has changed since then really)

I don’t exactly remember if we hired a guide or not, but we still just followed the path all the guided tours were taking and listened in whenever we heard English explanations.

Amber Amer fort Jaipur Rajasthan corridor
The Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace)

Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace)Amber Amer fort Jaipur Rajasthan mirror palace ceilingAmber Amer fort Jaipur Rajasthan gardenAmber Amer fort Jaipur RajasthanAmber Amer fort Jaipur Rajasthan IslamAmber Amer fort Jaipur Rajasthan Islam ceilingAmber Amer fort Jaipur Rajasthan outiside

Amber Amer fort Jaipur Rajasthan parrotAmber Amer fort Jaipur Rajasthan templeWe spent nearly an hour at Amer Fort before heading out.

Amber Amer fort Jaipur Rajasthan elephants
Elephants cooling off at Maotha lake in front of Amer Fort

Our next stop was the Jantar Mantar, a collection of astronomical instruments, built by Maharaja Jai Singh II a very long time ago.

Jantar Mantar Jaipur Rajasthan dialsJantar Mantar Jaipur Rajasthan dial stepsJantar Mantar Jaipur Rajasthan weird

Jantar Mantar Jaipur Rajasthan samrat yantra
A lot of these massive structures were used to tell time and predict the weather believe it or not

Jantar Mantar Jaipur Rajasthan sun dial

City Palace Jaipur Rajasthan
The City Palace with Amer Fort in the background

After half-an-hour spent at the Jantar Mantar, we had our lunch.

The restaurant was on the road facing the Jal Mahal.

Jal Mahal Jaipur Rajasthan
Jal Mahal (Water Palace)

After that, we were back in the city.

Albert hall Jaipur Rajasthan
Albert Hall Museum

Final stop on our taxi tour was the Birla Mandir in Jaipur.

Birla Mandir Jaipur RajasthanBirla Mandir Jaipur Rajasthan templeBirla Mandir Jaipur Rajasthan templePalace behind Birla Mandir Jaipur RajasthanAnd with that, we were done. By 5pm we were back at the hotel, freshened up, and then made our way to the wedding venue — which was a palace-turned-5-star hotel.

Jaipur Rajasthan wedding Vandhana
'Indian wedding' not guaranteed in the hotel package. But these tourists got lucky.

Jaipur Rajasthan wedding VivekJaipur Rajasthan wedding venueJaipur Rajasthan wedding danceJaipur Rajasthan hotel large marble chessJaipur Rajasthan wedding nightThe wedding venue was impressive to say the least. It’s fairly obvious why Rajasthan plays host to a lot of extravagant North Indian weddings. The whole state offers palatial grandeur with many such palaces been taken over, and turned into luxury hotels. Of course, none of this comes cheap.

Jaipur Vivek wedding group
The entire group from office who made it to Vivek's wedding

Anyway, after the wedding, it was back to the hotel for the entire group. Some of us were heading back to Bangalore via Mumbai the next day, while I (& two others) decided to go to Agra instead (& then to New Delhi).

Sorry for not going into too much detail about all the places I went to but I’ve linked out to sources where you can find out more information and read up on their history.

Agra and New Delhi will be another post.

Camera used: Canon Powershot A95; post processing done in Photoshop CS3

P.S: Here’s a small video I took while at Amer Fort

Weekend at Wayanad, Kerala

Two weekends ago, I went to the district of Wayanad in the state of Kerala. It was with mostly friends from work who are part of AOL India’s photography club Shutterbugs.

We left one Friday night from work and was joined by a colleague Yazid who would come with us until Wayanad and who would then, from there leave for Calicut, his home. I’ve always wanted to go on a photo expedition with Yazid since he’s one guy who was always open to teaching me more on photography.

Since he wasn’t going be with us for long, I used any opportunity to take advantage of his time. And we got some when we stopped for some time near the Karnataka-Kerala border.

Karnataka starry night
Starry night

Yazid taught me and another friend, Ramesh, how to use the Bulb mode in a camera. I had it as a mode in my Canon 7D but didn’t know exactly what it was for. Essentially, the Bulb mode was for giving the photographer full manual control over timed exposure. As in, you can hold the shutter open for as long as you can hold the button down.

Toyota Qualis taxi at night

Another cool example was shooting off the flash for a second and then holding on to the open shutter to create cool effects like this.

Experimenting with Bulb mode
Experimenting with Bulb mode; the "ghost" is my friend Ramesh

Ramesh stood in front of the jeep when the flash was shot off, then moved away while the shutter was still held and the result is what you see above.

We tried another shot using the same technique. Here’s a shot of Ramesh and Yazid with the shutter release lasting as long as the flash just goes off.

Yazid photo experiment without stars
Left: Ramesh; Right: Yazid

Now here’s the same pose but with the flash going off and then both moving away while the shutter is still held open by me for nearly 10 seconds.

Yazid photo experiment with stars
Cool huh?

The long exposure helps you get the stars as well.

We tried the same with shadows. Shot off the flash which obviously captures our shadows but then move away while still holding the button down so the open shutters captures as much of the background as possible.

Yazid photo experiment with shadows at night
Experimenting with shadows in the dark

We tried some more shots…

Yazid photo experiment truckYazid photo experiment truck

… before Ramesh and I felt we had learned enough.

We set off from there and by the time we reached Bandipur, the sun had slowly started to show up.

Bandipur forest resort
Dawn breaking on Bandipur

By 7am, we had reached Wayanad. The taxi had to stop at the check post for the standard paper work which gave us the opportunity to start our photography.

Wayanad checkpost
Nidhin setting up his tripod

I didn’t take many photos as I was feeling sleepy given I was up the whole night making sure our driver didn’t doze off like the passengers did. Breakfast was just hot tea.

Wayanad paddy field Kerala
The one photo I did take

It took our driver nearly an hour to get back from the customs police. And when he did, we realized we had a puncture too! More time was wasted as the driver slowly replaced it. Annoying as it were, we finally moved past the check post and stopped again soon after. Nidhin (the guy who organized this whole trip) told us the first thing on our itinerary was a safari ride through Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary. We paid up for five, our guide and got into our jeep.

Now, the thing with any safari is that, the chances of one actually ever seeing anything exciting are rare. Plus timing is important too. Early mornings are often said to be best as a lot of animals prefer to stay in the shade once the sun is out in full force. Plus, it helps if the vehicle you are in wouldn’t make such a racket giving a loud heads-up to every creature signaling tourists are on the way!

Muthanga forest safari jeep
From inside our noisy safari jeep

I was only carrying my wide-angle and 50mm lens, so there was little I could capture as far as exotic animals and birds are concerned. Nidhin had a 300mm lens so he managed to get some rather good close-ups of the creatures we came across.

So bear with me… here are some trees!

Muthanga forest tree

Muthanga forest tree

Muthanga forest safari trailMuthanga forest safari trail two-way

Muthanga forest safari trail
Nidhin in the distance; Mohan on the right

After driving through the forest, we hit the tarred road and the driver took us to a nearby “waterfall”.

Turned out to be nothing more than a river stream with a lot of sand dumped on its banks — which looked suspicious as it surely didn’t look like it belong there.

Wayanad forest streamMuthanga forest, Wayanad

Wayanad to Calicut

After nearly nearly 2 hours, we were back to where we started. Our safari ride was over. Was it worth it? I guess it varies. If we had spotted tigers, then I would have said ‘yes’. Otherwise, if deers and small wild animals aren’t your thing, it’s a waste of money.

It was nearing noon so we decided to head for our resort which was still a bit away. But once we hit Sultan Batheri (the big town in Wayanad) our taxi suffered another puncture! Since the spare tyre was also bust, we had no choice but to wait for it to get fixed.

So I decided to take in the local sights.

2022 movie poster Wayanad Kerala
So the world gets rebuilt after 2012 to be destroyed again?
Out of Range mobile store Wayanad Kerala
One, I didn't know lottery tickets could be sold wholesale. Two, 'Out of Range' for a mobile store won't help you dude.

After an hour, we were back on our way. And then… another puncture! That too the same tyre! We got fed up at this point,  so we told our driver to get it sorted and we took an autorickshaw to our resort.

I don’t remember the name of the resort and honestly, I wouldn’t even recommend it for the price (Rs. 1750 per night). Getting there is pain by itself and the amenities or for that matter, the views, really aren’t worth the price.

After finally brushing our teeth and having something to eat, we rested for a bit. It was already past 4pm at this point and we really didn’t want to waste daylight, so we set off for our next stop — Banasura Sagar dam.

We hired a jeep as by the time our taxi driver got the tyre fixed and reached our resort, we decided its best he eat and rest. Also mostly because we were scared of the tyre going bust again.

There is an entrance fee at Banasura Sagar dam, the largest earthen dam in India and apparently the second largest in Asia. Open to visitors, the place offers a children’s park and even boat rides.

Banasura Sagar damBanasura Sagar dam stepsBanasura Sagar dam public

It was very sunny when we arrived and I regretted not carrying my sunglasses.

Banasura Sagar dam
Banasura Sagar dam

Banasura Sagar dam public parkBanasura Sagar dam boat ride

The tickets for the boat rides are separate from the entrance fees and none of us were interested in going for it either. So after spending an hour there, we headed back.

After sunset, we just enjoyed drinks and food over a campfire… ‘cos there was little else to do. There is absolutely nothing around the resort besides trees and shrubs.

Wayanad campfire resort
Ramesh took this one
Wayanad campfire
The fire didn't last very long leaving us quite cold fairly soon after. (Photo taken by me)

Most of us called it an early night (especially me) since we barely slept properly in the past 24 hours. The plan was to wake up early the next day and set off by 5:30am.

But that never happened.

I got up a 5:30am and tried calling up the others — but in vain. And since it was freezing cold and misty outside, I went back to bed. We eventually did get up but by the time we left the resort, it was past 9am.

Wayanad dry field cow
Wayanad at 10am

Wayanad banana field

We drove through Kalpetta, picked up a local friend of Nidhin’s and made our way to Kuruva island.

Kuruva is not an “island” you’d imagine. It’s just a piece of forest land surrounded by a river stream (River Kabini) thus earning the title of “island”. We weren’t planning on getting on to the actual island itself so we went with our local guide through the side and the paddy fields you have to cross to get to the banks.

Kuruva islands farm land
Walking through the dry fields to get to Kuruva
Kuruva islands river stream
Cross the stream and you get to the island

There is an entrance fee to enter Kuruva island and if you pay, this is how you actually get to the island.

But we just sat by the bank for some photography.

Shutterbugs Kuruva islands
The AOL Shutterbugs... (including me behind the camera)

Wayanad river rockKuruva islands spiderweb

Kuruva island treeBy 1pm, we were bored and decided to head back to town. Nidhin’s friend showed us one last thing before heading back to town.

An old teak bungalow used by the British during colonial times.

Wayanad teak bungalowThe bungalow was on a secluded piece of land surrounded by trees making it one heck of a vacation home.

Wayanad teak bungalow
Or at least it was

Now all that’s left are markings by vandals professing their love for someone and other messages inscribed on the wood. The house is decades old but I was surprised how good the wood still was.

Wayanad teak bungalow inside

It was very sunny so we quickly headed back to our taxi, drove to town and cooled off during lunch. After that, it was back to Bangalore.

Fortunately, we didn’t suffer any further punctures and the only time we stopped (and probably the most exciting moment of this trip) was when we saw young elephants by the road side in Bandipur.

Bandipur forest elephants

We did end up stopping at Mysore for dinner. (Actually, we stopped at Mysore because Nidhin’s friend said there was this dosa and beef curry joint in town but trying to find it was a pain and Nidhin’s state didn’t help either so we just ate at a regular vegetarian joint.)

Mysore Palace at night
Mysore Palace at night

Just as the clocked neared 12am, I was back home. The trip really wasn’t one of my best given the expenses and the resulting photography.

Either that or I have been spoilt by all the beauty I saw in the ten days I spent in Thailand.

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