Monday, March 31, 2008

the TAJ!!!

After 3 months I finally saw the Taj Mahal. I know everyone has seen a million images of it, but I still couldn't resist posting some photos. I also couldn't stop staring at it. I decided to leave and then turned around, sat down and stared some more. Then I went to a rooftop restaurant in the evening to watch the evening light play upon the facade. It's truly mesmerizing.

Apparently it's not allowed to bring guide books into the Taj; who knows why. After remaining a bit speculative about this, the guard lady finally took a pen out of my bag as a bribe and let me take my book in. It was all quite amusing. Later in the day, at another sight, I got attacked by one of those vicious monkeys! Not really, but enough to scare me. I forgot that I had banana peels in my bag and he ran at me. Luckily he was easily deterred, but he saw me throw the peels away later, ran over to the trash can, knocked it over and grabbed the peels. Then he sat around performing for everyone with cameras. I had already had my fill of him by that point though.
the reflecting pool
through the arches

from the corner
some of the incredible marble inlay
a little dark, but i'm holding the taj in my hand

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pakistan-India border

I took a nice jaunt up to the Golden Temple and then a quick trip from there to the India-Pakistan border to watch this amazing border closing ceremony. I was there for a local holiday, which meant that both the temple and the ceremony were packing, hindering my view but giving me a great insight into some local customs. The temple is Sikh, which means that anyone and everyone is welcome. They offer free places to stay and free food 24-hours a day. (Of course, a donation will never be turned down.) All the work (cooking, serving, cleaning dishes) is done on a volunteer basis, so I rolled up my sleeves and jumped in the dish washing line with everyone else. All I'm saying is that if I were homeless in India, I would be making my way to a Sikh temple. No one asks questions and there is no class system within meaning you could have as much food as you want. Amazingly, the streets outside still host quite a few beggers.

Afterwards I went to the border where there was quite a celebration going on consisting of several dance troops, drummers, etc. Once the closing ceremony started, there were many cries of "Hindustan" from the Indian side, where people wear their patriotism on their sleeves on a normal basis and exaggerate it at the border. There were quite a few high kicks involved in this ceremony, but I wasn't able to see too well considering all the people.
the Golden Temple - people lined up for hours to get inside
part of the dancing before the ceremony
an impromptu dance party started before the official ceremony
carrying the flag back

one of the guards

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

little tibet

I spent about a week in Dharamsala, which is the headquarters for the Tibetan government in exile and where the Dalai Lama lives. It was an extremely interesting time to be there considering all the recent events in Tibet proper (if you don't know what I'm talking about, check out the news). Most of the Tibetan owned stores were closed for solidarity with their relatives in Tibet and there were peaceful marches and candlelight vigils every night. People are being respectful of the Dalai Lama and the Indian government, which has granted them asylum, but they are very upset about the events in their homecountry. It's heartbreaking.
prayer wheels at the temple in the center of town
monks on the march
the beginning of a candlelight march from above
a young boy wearing Tibetan flag lighting his candle (way to state the obvious, sanders)

Monday, March 17, 2008

snow-capped mountains

For those of you who know me fairly well, you'll know that my favorite landscape is snow-capped mountains. And what can beat the Himalayas for snow-capped mountains? Be prepared for lots of photos like this in the time to come, as Nepal is getting closer and closer...
a few of the lovely mountains in the distance
yaks at a ski mountain
only in India would you have this much activity going on in one place: skiing, yak and pony rides, paragliding, snow tubing, chai drinking, people wandering around in full-length fur coats, just to name a few

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

the Ganges

Since I lost a bunch of photos and about a month of catching up is no longer possible, I guess I'll just bring the blog up to speed now. I'm currently staying in a town called Rishikesh located on either side of the holy Ganges river in the foothills of the Himalayas. I've been taking it easy here, practicing yoga for about 2.5 hours everyday and enjoying it immensely. A whole troup of monkeys hangs out every day on the suspension bridge (pictured below) scaring the pants off me every time I have to cross it. Sometimes, they get into their monkey mischief and harass the passers-by, including attacking a little boy one day. No eye contact with the monkeys!
a view of the river from the bridge
cows make use of the bridge as well
the bridge from the bridge