Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Agra: Taj Mahal!

This basically sums it all - how can one NOT take a photo of this building?
The one building that determined the travel from Mumbai to up north. One of the world's most famous buildings - the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal commemorates both the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, and Mumtaz Mahal, his favourite queen. This garden-tomb cost nearly 41 million rupees and 500 kilos of gold, took around 20,000 workers laboured for almost 22 years to complete it in 1653.


As a foreign tourist, we paid for the highest entry fee at 750 Rs, so the shuttle fee to the entrance is included. We still had the soft spoken guide with us for this building. Not only he didn't help us to send the peddlers away like the one in Fatehpur Sikri did, he even conveyed messages from the peddlers to us. = ="

After entering the compound, we lingered a little in front of the Royal Gate to wait for our guide to get his pass.

Royal Gate

Once we met up with our guide again, we passed through the main gate and the majestic building was right in front of our eyes. That was when the first picture was taken.

The pool inside is named The Lotus Pool
The four minarets stood at each corner, at 40 metres high and crowned by a chhatri, framing the tomb. Did you realise that this building at perfect symmetry? In fact, this is a symmetry complex. Speaking of symmetry, it reminded me of the first Detective Conan movie - The Time Bombed Skyscraper where the architect character in the movie wanted to bomb all the non perfect symmetry buildings that he had designed. Anyway, I digressed.

Our jacked-up price ticket also included a pair of plastic bag to cover our shoes. Without the shoe covers, we are to remove our shoes before entering the tomb.

If this fully covered our shoes, I could wear it when I ride my motorbike on rainy days eh?
Entering Taj Mahal
Photography is prohibited inside of the tomb. So out of respect, I have not taken any. In the middle of the tomb building, Mumtaz Mahal's cenotaph, raised on a platform, is placed next to Shah Jahan's. The actual graves, are closed to the public, lies in a dark crypt below. The interior of the building is dim, assuming to protect the interior decorations. There were decorative flowers, embedded with precious and semi-precious stones. Our guide requested one of the guards to shine his torchlight (with a fee) on one of the decorative flowers. The precious stones on the flowers lit up beautifully.



Taj Mahal mausoleum is flanked by two buildings, a mosque and a guesthouse (Mehmankhana).




We sat down and took time to enjoy the building during the sunset.

Then those photo taking started again. A little girl wanted to have her photo taken with me, according to her father. I hope it was really the girl wanting to have a photo with me instead of her father.. that would be scary. Anyway I obliged. Then a couple of Indian men wanted to have photo with us, I can just imagined our faces plastered over Facebook. = ="

After a few (or many more) photos, we finally left this absolutely stunning building. This mausoleum, is definitely worth the travel!



Side note: Addicted to chilli oil! Specifically dumplings in chilli oil.. yumm

Monday, October 20, 2014

Agra: Agra Fort

The southern gateway ~ Amar Singh Gate
Agra Fort is located on the right bank of the river Yamuna in Agra. The first Sultan of Delhi who shifted his capital from Delhi to Agra was Sikandar Lodi, his son Ibrahim Lodi who succeeded him held the fort for for years and during the Lodi period, several palaces, wells and a mosque were built.

After a few more changing of hands, it was renovated with red sandstone by Akbar in 1558. In a way, Agra Fort was built by Akbar, between 1565 and 1573. One can see some buildings in white marble, these were built during Shah Jahan's period. It was also at this site that Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son, Aurangzeb for 8 years.

We had another guide for Agra, he introduced his name as Shah Rukh Khan. I have no idea if he was just making things up or his name really is Shah Rukh Khan. This guide is so soft spoken that we had to walk really near him to hear his commentary.

One of the first building we saw after getting through the Amar Singh Gate, was this Jehangir Palace.

Jehangir Palace
Jehangir Mahal (Palace) is the first notable building that visitors see after entering through the Amar Singh Gate. This palace was built by Akbar as women's quarters. In front of it, there is a bath bowl (Hauzi-Jahangiri) carvied out of a single block of granite. Apparently it could be transported and used in the camp as well as in the harem for bathing.


As we walked along, we soon reached our first white marble building.


A white marble construction of Diwan-i-Am or Hall of Public Audience, showed Shah Jahan's love for marble. It is an excellent contrast between the red sandstone. This was the place where the emperor addressed the general public as well as the nobility.


This site was barred from entrance. The beautiful white marble hall was actually a 'prison'. It was said that was where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by Aurangzeb.



It was said to be a cruel prison for Shah Jahan because it has a view of this...



Side note: What's the best fruit to curb hunger?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

ACMI DreamWorks Animation - the exterior exhibition

Melman sticking his butt out at Flinders Street
This exhibition has been going on for a long time, since 10th of April. It is coming to the last weeks of the exhibition now, finishing up on the 26th Oct. I bring my camera in to work one of the Fridays and had plans with friend to catch the exhibitions but lunch time was too short, and by the time we finished eating, the hour long lunch break had passed.

So we only walkabout on the outside and after taking a couple of photos, I went back to work (yes, I did ok) :P

Penguins next to giraffe's butt :P
Entering ACMI, you will see Toothless greeting you.



And last but not least, the giraffe's face ;)
If you are interested, there's another weekend to check it out before it is closed!


Side note: I hope the sore throat will resolve itself soon...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Agra: Fatehpur Sikri


Our driver initially told us that we might need to forgo Fatehpur Sikri to make good time for Agra Fort and Taj Mahal. We nodded our head and said ok but must've looked so disappointed that he didn't have the heart not to make a stop. It was not a long stop but we had enough time to look around. He rang up the office and made arrangement for a guide for us. We had to take a shuttle bus from the parking lot to get to the actual Fatehpur Sikri site itself.

Fatehpur Sikri was built by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1571 in honour of the famous Sufi saint, Salim Chishti. It was said that at that time, Akbar the Great has not have a heir at the age 26 years. After visiting Shaikh Salim Chishti who lived in a city called Sikri, he was blessed with 3 sons. As a good gesture, Akbar built this new city in Sikri and this became the Mughal capital for 14 years. The city was abandoned thereafter, some say due to lack of water.

Buland Darwaza - entrance to Fatehpur Sikri complex
This royal complex contains the private and public spaces of Akbar's court, including harem and treasury. Adjacent to it, there is a sacred complex containing the Jami Masjid, Salim Chishti's tomb and Buland Darwaza. An exclusive royal gateway, name Badshahi Darwaza separates the two spaces.

Diwan-i-Khas


Diwan-i-Khas or translated as Hall of Private Audience is a standalone square building with four dome on the roof. It is famous for its central pillar inside the hall. The pillar has a square base and octagonal shaft, decorated with carvings. Akbar receives representatives of different religions to discuss their faiths and gave private audience in this hall.

Panch Mahal



This is a five-storeyed open sandstone pavillion was meant to be the shelter for the royal ladies and mistresses.

After spending some time at the Akbar's court area, we crossed over to the sacred complex side.

Badshahi Darwaza
Badshahi Barwaza is a royal gateway, used by Akbar to enter the complex. Directly across this gateway, is the view of the sacred mosque.

This would be what Akbar see when he enter the complex...
Anyway, this was when the guide starting talking about "donation" when entering the Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti. It was all about "donation" though there was a set price for what you want to bring in to the tomb. Say if you pick a piece of cloth, despite being donation, it had a price range of what you need to "donate".


Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti is the one in white marble. I remembered covering my head with my scarf prior to entering. As mentioned earlier in this post, Akbar's childlessness was ended after visiting Salim Chishti, the saint's tomb has become the haunt of those in search of a miracle. This tomb was flocked with tourist/locals who wished to make a wish. To do so, just need to tie a small cotton thread on the screen around the tomb. :)

Here's a panorama photo courtesy of Little P on how this Sacred Complex looks like.

L-R: Buland Darwaza, Jami Masjid, Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti


Side note: Counting down for next hols!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Best dinner in Jaipur

Most of the time the tour guide we engaged will tell the driver where to bring us. Despite we told our guide we are happy to eat the usual food they have, and that we don't want to go to the places they bring tourist, they never really listen to us.

As our guide left us much earlier before dinner, we asked for a recommendation for food from our driver. Our driver was from Jaipur and he has kindly brought us to this non fuss eatery and it turned out to the the best dinner we had Jaipur, dare I said the best during our trip in India. We paid Rs 655 (approximate $12.50) for 3 dishes and a drink each.


Chicken Tikka Dry

Corn Mushroom Chilli

Egg Briyani
Cumin and sugar after meal
I am clueless on how to get to the shop but this is how the shop looked like... and with the help of google, there's always possibility ;)



Side note: By the way, daylight savings started on 5th Oct yo!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jaipur: Jal Mahal, Hawa Mahal and a bazaar

Jal Mahal


Likewise the Lake Palace in Udaipur, we only saw this from afar. How apt that this is built based on the Lake Palace by Madho Singh I where the king spent his childhood.

Jal Mahal meaning "Water Palace" is situated in the middle of Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur City. The palace appears to be "floating" in the monsoon season. It was used as a lodge for duck shooting parties.

Hawa Mahal



I was rather disappointed that we didn't visit enter the premise of Hawa Mahal. Truth to be told, I thought this building looks exceptionally majestic and when I first saw the photo of Hawa Mahal, I wanted to this this. However according to our guide, this was only a facade, there isn't anything behind this beautiful facade. After returning from India, I read that visitors are permitted to climb up the winding ramp to the top.

Hawa Mahal, translated as the "Palace of Winds" was first erected in 1799 by Sawai Pratap Singh. It's tiered baroque-like composition of projecting windows and balconies with perforated screen was so designed to enable the ladies of the harem to watch the colourful street scenes unnoticed.

It is believed that Hawa Mahal has resemblance to the crown that adorns Lord Krishna's head as Sawai Pratap Singh was a devotee.

Bapu Bazar


We had some time to spare before our dinner and told our driver to drop us at some bazaar so we could stroll about and perhaps shop. I believe the bazaar he dropped us was Bapu Bazar given the vicinity to the Albert Hall but I am not entirely sure.

Our first stop was a shop selling bangles. Little P has a Punjabi suit and was looking for some bangles to complement it. I was just fascinated with the many choices. We did leave with some purchase, and Little P has got her pink and gold bangles to go with her Punjabi suit.


In fact, I think the only purchase we made were from the bangles shop. We didn't take a lot of photos, was busy guarding our belongings and avoiding street kids....


I have been eyeing these for the longest time but my worry of food poisoning got the better of me


Side note: Unsuccessful food experiments :(

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jaipur: Albert Hall


When our driver first brought up about Albert Hall, my first thought was, "Here goes, he's going to bring us to buy pewter." Somehow Albert Hall striked me as a place which sells pewter (Read: Royal Selangor), let alone that fact that Royal Selangor is a Malaysia brand. So it was a rather pleasant surprise to see this beautiful building when we were finally there.




Albert Hall which is also known as the Government Central Museum, was a design by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob. It was commissioned by Sawai Ram Singh II to honour the visit of Albert, the Prince of Wales in 1886. This architecture, has a Indo-Saracenic style, a hybrid from that combined modern European with traditional Indian elements.

The foundation stone of Albert Hall was laid during the visit of Prince Albert Edward in 1876. At that time, it had yet to be determined what use it would be put it.

In 1880, Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II approved a suggestion by Dr Thomas Holbein Hendley to open a museum of Industrial Arts to display products of local craftsmen. Albert Hall was completed in 1887.



We were here twice actually, the first time was the day we reached Jaipur but it was already closed for the day. We took some photos from the outside and proceeded to Birla Mandir. Needless to say, we bought tickets to enter the museum the second time.

Ground floor displays decorative shields, metal ware, pottery and an Egyptian mummy.


First floor has a collection of miniature paintings, wood carvings, ivory pieces, jewelleries, textiles and pottery objects.




After looking through the exhibits, we took more photos outside while wishing no bird poops landed on us. One can't ignore that fact that there were a lot of birds...



Side note: All these posts on India makes me feel like having some masala....