We are rob & lauren: two professional photographers who love weddings and travel. This is where all of those things come
together for us. Within these pages we hope you discover and sense our deep love for the cultures that we encounter and
experience. Our biggest hope is that you come away from this site with a great understanding, respect and love for them and
their ways. Enjoy!
Random Photo Sampler Platter
Edmonton, AB, Canada
June 28, 2008
I was looking through the archives for some shots for our new blog (coming soon!) and saw some photos I wanted to post here. I was thinking of going back through the whole trip and posting shots from each place. Who would be interested in that? Leave a comment if you want that!
For now here are those awesome photos:
A traveler on the streets of Jaisalmer.
And another local from the streets.
From the Qutab Minar in Delhi.
The Lotus Temple in Delhi.
Hanging jootis in Calcutta
Buddha sculpture from the temple at Krabhi, Thailand.
An awesome rhino from Kaziranga.
Our boatman from Varanasi.
Hope you enjoyed that little hodge-podge, but I'll keep things a bit more organized as I keep posting!
Also, I have gotten a couple emails regarding the Hindu Wedding article, and how it's not finished. Oops! I'll definitely try to get that finished up soon for you all!
We got this email a little while ago, and I really wanted to share it here. Since returning home we've gotten wrapped up in our wedding business, and haven't been able to work on the Wedding Travelers very much. But Tara sent us this email that really reminded us of the power and importance of what we're doing. Since we're still so new to photography we often don't realise how much of an impact our work can have on people, and it was really wonderful of Tara to write and tell us how she felt about our photos.
Anyway, thank you so much to Tara for her email. We will be working a lot more on this website to try and share all that we have learned.
Here's the email (posted with Tara's permission, of course :)
"Hi Lauren and Rob,
OK, I had a fellow photographer tell me about your site yesterday. I am of Indian origin though have grown up in the US. I'm just getting started in the wedding photography world and was telling this photographer that I want a logo that kind of shows my background with a little Indian twist, but something less cliche. Anyway she mentioned you guys and your cute little elephant logo, so I just looked up your site.
Breathtaking. Inspiring. Amazing. I find that a lot of photogs that shoot Indian/Hindu/South Asian weddings in general, are good at capturing color, but sometimes not so great at capturing the little nuances of the ceremony and the traditions. I understand this because its hard to understand the significance of every little moment if you don't know the culture well and have seen the many traditions a few times. I am floored by your ability to capture this moments and the way you have absorbed yourself into especially Indian culture.
I would be honored to meet you at some point in life and I am just _SO_ inspired by your work because I would love to do the same kind of thing but probably am too scared! If you ever had a photog workshop or tips or anything or even needed someone to carry your bags, I would be there in a second, because I would be so so so so so happy to just chat with you about your experiences, I'm so curious as to what you have learned simply by traveling (not even getting to the photography!).
Anyway, Seriously I have so much respect for you, and thank you. Thank you for describing and detailing my culture's traditions so well and capturing the heart of it. I'm sitting here so welled up with emotion from looking at your pictures and so happy to see photography that has so well illustrated so many traditions beloved to me. Someday when I get married, you have shot right to the top of my list of possible photographers.
And I wanted to share a few photos that show some more of the beauty of India.
Three beautiful children that loved to smile at our camera from the seat behind us on a bus ride to Jaisalmer.
Details from a Jain temple just outside of Jaisalmer.
A incredible alleyway in Jodhpur.
And an early evening shot of the main clocktower in Jodhpur.
That's all for now. Picking out and editing those photos has made me deeply, deeply miss India right now.
Are some of you out there dying to see more from the weddings and portrait sessions we did while in India and Vietnam? Well, we finally managed to get through all the photos and put some up on our website. So if you head on over to www.robandlauren.ca, click on "weddings" and then go into the "photos" gallery you will see a ton of listing in our "international flavour" section! Lots of previously unseen photos in there, so go and check it out!
To whet your appetite, here are some previously unseen photos from India.
So we just finished our very first wedding of the year back home in Edmonton. It was a South Indian wedding, and I think we'll certainly have to post up some shots of that soon, because there were some really new traditions! But we ended up shooting for 18 hours yesterday, so we're obviously still a bit worn out! So that will come soon! For now I'll post up a couple new photos from the Taj Mahal shoot with Megha and Chakshu to tide you over!
Hope you enjoyed those! And check back soon for those new wedding pics!
So we woke up this morning to a really fantastic surprise! Our little video of Jodhpur, India (which incidentally was our favorite place we visited on our whole trip!) is featured on the front page of Viddler! Viddler is the really fantastic website we use for all our videos, so to be put on their front page is extremely exciting!
Make sure you visit the site today to see us on the front page! Just hit up www.viddler.com for a little extra dose of The Wedding Travelers!
Wow, it was really strange just now to write our location as Edmonton, rather than exotic places like Singapore, Vietnam or India! But even though Edmonton is a little more tame than some of the places we saw in the last three months, I can't even begin to tell you how glad we are to be home. Our 40 hour journey home was long, arduous, and not totally problem free, but we made it here with all our bags intact, and our sanity more or less in place. We got a great sleep last night, and our bed felt like a huge fluffy cloud compared to the beds we've slept in for the past 3 months. And believe it or not we're feeling good this morning, not really jet-lagged, and have already gotten back to work! You might think we'd give ourselves time off to recoup, but it feels like we've been waiting to get home and get back into the swing of things, and we just couldn't spend a day sitting around doing nothing!
We're going to hook you up with a few videos we took over the past few days. Our cameras didn't really see the light of day after the wedding, so there aren't any photos. But a few neat little videos will be good for you!
First, from the Singapore Changi Airport. After 2 months in India, we felt like we were in some spotlessly clean futuristic utopia when we got to the airport in Singapore. Seriously, we just kept smiling the whole time we were there!
And then a little video from our landing in Los Angeles. It was in the evening, so we were treated to some beautiful sunset colours.
And finally a video in two parts, since we ran out of memory card space, and I don't know how to splice them together. Here is Rob giving you a little tour of all the goodies we brought back!
There you go! We've got a bunch of shopping to do here, for some food and some business stuff. But we'll be getting back to this blog soon to add a ton more photos from our trip, and an unbelievable amount of info still needs to go up! So thanks for all the well wishes for a safe trip, and we'll talk to you all soon!
P.S. In the video Rob mentioned my Shootsac, and I figured some people might be wondering what that is! Well, it's an absolutely fantastic little camera bag, perfect for people who, like me, change their lenses a lot when they are shooting. I really really really wished I had brought it along on our trip! I know I'll never be leaving it at home again, no matter where we are going! Anyway, if you're interested you need to check out the website, www.shootsac.com. We love it!
Finally the time had come, and it was the day of the marriage ceremony. With Sikh weddings, the ceremony is supposed to be finished by noon, which always means an extremely early morning. We were up and ready and at Kimmi’s house by 6:00AM….We barely were even functioning! But we were able to get a really cute shot of this. It is tradition that the bride is lifted from the washroom by her uncle and brothers (and when I say brothers, I mean brothers in the Indian sense, which is really just any male cousins around her age).
Then as she ran off to the salon to get ready all the boys had their turbans tied. It’s really a funny process and I enjoyed getting to see it done! (I'm usually with the girls side, and have never seen it before!)
A quick cat nap for us as everyone finished getting ready, and then off to the location! It was just flat out incredible, an enormous colourful tent full of majestic benches and fans taller than a person!
The ladies were all waiting anxiously for the groom to arrive.
And when he arrived he arrived in style! There was a marching band that brought him in, complete with bagpipes, which were a bit strange to see in India, but neat nonetheless.
When the groom arrives his face is covered by the Sehra, which are garlands made of tinsel, beads, or sometimes even fresh flowers. He also carries a long sword, and I think he looks absolutely downright impressive!
Then the band threw up some ribbons and petals and marched around Harsimran and his mother as they greeted Kimmi’s family.
A nice shot of that sword.
Then the Milni took place. It involves the corresponding male members from each family (ie. Kimmi’s maternal uncle and Harsimran’s maternal uncle) greeting each other, putting flower garlands over each others neck…
And sometimes they take turns to lift each other way up in the air!
A close up of those garlands
Harsimran’s brother looks so happy in this shot, I love it.
And as this all went on Harsimran looked on.
Then, after the Milni was finished, it was time for the gals to have their fun. All the sisters and female cousins strung a long ribbon across the entrance to the tent to keep Harsimran from getting in.
He then had to bargain with them to get in. I’m not sure how much he had to pay, but in the end the girls all cheered loudly so I’m sure they were well compensated ;)
After everyone had some great breakfast the close family and the army of photographers and videographers headed off to the gurdwara for the actual marriage ceremony.
A few details from the ceremony. This is a chaur sahib, which they use to fan the book.
And the book itself: the Guru Granth Sahib. The text is treated as the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. It is not an object that is worshipped, but rather it guides Sikhs in prayer and worship. The text contains over 5000 shabhads, or hymns, that are set to classic music, which is why there is always music during Sikh ceremonies.
Here are the musicians playing.
One of the important parts of the ceremony is when the bride and groom walk around the book. This is similar to when they walk around the sacred fire in the Hindu ceremony, but here the bride is lead and helped along by her brothers as she makes her way around.
A neat shot of them walking.
Kimmi looked so happy and peaceful.
And the setting was so lovely.
One great thing was that all of the women were wearing different shades of pink. It looks so beautiful.
As I've just learned, there is no such thing as a priest in the Sikh religion. Rather, there is what is known as a granthi, who is someone who reads from the Guru Granth Sahib and takes care of it. Anyone can be a granth, as well as either gender. This is the granthi from Kimmi and Harsimran's ceremony. You can see that the Guru Granth Sahib is always covered overhead, and is on a raised platform. Everyone sits on the ground, at a lower level than the book, to show their respect.
Two of Kimmi’s fathers friends, who are holy men, attended the ceremony and blessed the new couple.
A neat shot of the whole setting.
Then after the ceremony was finished, the couple returned to the tent to see all of their guests. This time when they entered Kimmi was alongside Harsimran and his family.
It was a spectacular entrance. Kimmi told me she had wanted a ton of flower petals thrown on her, and she certainly got that.
And, of course, there was a bit of dancing.
But even though so much of the wedding is full of happiness, these weddings also have a ceremony marked by strong emotions. It is called the Doli, and it signifies the bride leaving her parents house to join her husband. We have, on many occasions, had a Doli that wasn’t too sad, but in many cases, as in this one, the couple plans to move very far away from home (these two are moving to California in a month) and so you can imagine how intense the feelings were. Kimmi was definitely overtaken by the emotion.
She and Harsimran sat together as they were fed sweets. But now that they were married they were finally able to hold hands.
And then they walked outside. Kimmi threw puffed rice behind her to signify prosperity, and the returning of what her parents have given her over all the years.
Then she got into the doli, which was carried by her male cousins. Her brother stood at the front to carry his sister away.
It was certainly very emotional, walking down the street as she was followed by her whole family.
Harsimran walked along beside her.
Kimmi and her father hugged goodbye.
And her brother led her to the car.
But not without a last hug from her mother.
Everyone was caught up in the emotion.
And then as the car drove off all her brothers and cousins pushed it away.
And one last one of the grandmas just hugging each other, a sweet way to end such a wonderful wedding.
At the end here I'd like to say an enormous thank you from Rob and myself to Kimmi, Harsimran, and their families for allowing us to be a part of this, and to Kimmi's family for taking such good care of us throughout the whole week. We were once again treated just like family, and always well looked after, and we couldn't have asked for more caring hosts. To our friends, the Mahajans, who let us stay in their palacial home, and were so kind and giving, an enormous thank you. And to everyone we met there, thank you for your friendship. I'm positive we'll all meet again some day!
And that’s a Sikh wedding. I’ll probably be adding to this once I get home, since there are many more photos to add, but I hope you all learned something and enjoyed this! And as always, if you see anything that I got wrong, or anything I should add, please feel free to let me know! We’re all learning here ☺
Anyway, Rob and I are probably on a plane right now on our way home back to Canada. We really can’t believe it’s over already, and at the same time we can’t believe how long we’ve been gone from home. Things won’t end here, as we have much more to add to this website. We have reviews from our travels, of our gear, and where we stayed. We have hundreds more photos to share with you, and more descriptions of different weddings to fill you in on. So please stay tuned, and give us a shout if you have any suggestions. We can’t believe all the support we got throughout this whole trip, and want to extend a very heart-felt thank you to all of you who read along, even if you never commented! We weren’t doing this blog for ourselves, but rather to maybe spread the word about how cool Indian weddings can be, and how gorgeous this whole world is. I hope we succeeded!
Huge hugs and kisses from us, and when you hear from us next we’ll be back home! Yay!
The next day was one of the most fun parts of an Indian wedding: the mendhi! Mendhi, more commonly known as henna, is a form of body beautification. A paste is made up of dried leaves of the henna flower, and then it is applied to the hands. When the paste first goes on and is wet it appears dark green.
As the paste dries, it turns black, and gets hard.
In order to let the colour get darker, you need to leave the paste on as long as you can. You can put on a mixture of lemon juice and sugar to keep the paste moist and sticking on the skin.
The designs are always different, and each hand is different. It’s really good fun to see all the ladies going around and comparing their patterns.
Here’s a shot of me that Rob really likes and wanted me to put up! You can see that I got my hands all covered in mendhi too, my favorite part of Indian weddings :)
The house was looking fab.
Then the girls started getting ready for the Maya. They made up a decorative design out of coloured powder to place in front of Kimmi’s feet.
It started off with Kimmi’s mom putting some oil in Kimmi’s hair with a small bunch of grass.
Then everyone took turns applying a paste made up of turmeric powder (which is called haldi in Hindi. If you’ve read my article on Hindu weddings you’ll realize that this Maya ceremony is essentially the same as the Haldi ceremony, just a different name for Punjabis!) and water.
Even covered with yellow goo, Kimmi still looked gorgeous and oh-so-happy.
Her mom tied a special bracelet around her wrist.
All the female sisters and cousins helped out.
Then it was time for the Chura ceremony. The chura are the special red and beige bracelets that a bride wears. Generally they are worn for as along as possible after the wedding. For some brides it is for a few days, for others it is a few months. Here the male uncles all touch the chura as they sit in a bowl of milk.
Then the brides maternal uncle puts the chura on.
And by now you should know what comes next. Party! Kimmi and her dad had a great time dancing together, with her mom looking on between them.
Even the grandmas get into the action.
Wedding houses are always lit up with gorgeous lights. Check out how spectacular the house looked.
And finally the kalirehs were tied on by the female cousins and sisters.
Kimmi hits her kalirehs above the heads of her un-married cousins for good luck, in hopes that they will get married soon.
According to a Indian bridal magazing we picked up here in Delhi, the shape of the kalirehs has a symbolic meaning. The top is shaped like a coconut, to show that the bride will always have food in her new home. There are metal pieces hanging from it, to show that she will always have wealth.
And a final shot of her gorgeous chura against her beautiful mendhi.
At this point all the events leading up to the big day had been completed. You could just sense the anticipation, as people tried to head to bed early for the wedding ahead. That means that dinner was held at 9:00 PM, instead of 11:00 PM! Lol. Indian people definitely tend to stay up late! We ducked out early, since we knew that we’d be getting up around 5:00 AM, and needed a ton of sleep. And it was well worth it, because the next day was just spectacular. Stay tuned for that!
The next day we got to rest during the day, which was much needed after the very long first day. And then it was time for the ladies’ Sangeet. Here everyone was really dressed in his or her finest and ready for a fun evening. Originally the Sangeet was only for the ladies, but these days both men and women attend, although the groom generally doesn’t come.
They started off the evening with a great round of dandia, a dance where they hit sticks together. I know that sounds strange, but it really looks like great fun.
This time the colour scheme was bright pink.
Kimmi’s younger brother was a fantastic dancer.
And everyone enjoyed bopping to some bhangra
Then they enjoyed the Jaggo dance. Here the ladies take turns holding a pot with lit candles on top of it, as they dance and twirl.
There is always great music and rhythm for these events. On the right side of this shot you can see a guy playing a dhol, and on the left side of the shot you can see a woman who is banging a stick against a big wooden tray. Tons of noise and fun.
Rob loves this shot. These guys asked for a posed shot, but we got this instead and find it so much more energetic. It’s like they are bursting out of the photo.
And to end off the night Kimmi’s brother (the one in the red) hopped up on stage and treated us all to a song.
And that’s the Sangeet! A time for everyone to have fun together, eat some great food, and dance and laugh before the wedding starts and everyone is stressed about getting things done on time.
In the evening following the Shagan everyone got dressed up and gathered at a hall for some more fun and frolicking. Oh, and also some ceremonies!
One big difference that we’ve noticed at the wedding’s we’ve attended here in India versus the Indian weddings we’ve attended in Canada is that here things are decorated much more elaborately. Manpower is an inexpensive cost here, so there are always armies of decorators putting together amazing themed rooms. For this ceremony the whole room was in tones of blue and silver, even with dolphins made of wire and cloth.
When Kimmi and Harsimran first entered they were offered these fantastic looking drinks. But they were both pretty nervous and not feeling like a bevy, so the waiters gave them to us! Score! They were very very tasty.
Kimmi looked flat-out, insanely, and mind-blowingly amazing. In this shot you can see Harsimran’s mother putting a necklace around Kimmi’s neck. She was given a full set of gorgeous jewelry, which was put on by Harsimran’s family.
Harsimran was looking great too. Nearly unrecognizable without the turban from the morning.
One of the important parts of this evening was the placing of the chuni (an elaborate shawl) on the bride by the groom’s mother. That is what is going on in this shot.
Then Harsimran placed sindoor (the bright red powder that married Indian women wear in their hair part) on Kimmi’s forehead.
And then they exchanged rings, just as we do in the West.
Kimmi and Harsimran’s mother.
Then, as with any Punjabi event, there is crazy dancing! Harsimran was picked up and paraded around.
And we even got into the spirit. This pose here is what the photographers at this wedding (there were about 6 besides us, plus 3 videographers, and 20 assistants…it was crazy busy) would always make people do. But they would actually stop them in the middle of dancing to make them pose like this for a shot! We’ve had people in Edmonton do the same pose as well…I think it’s supposed to make it look like your dancing. I find it pretty funny!
And thus ended that event. The next segment: the Sangeet (the ladies’ dance party!)
Right now we're in Jalandhar, smack dab in the middle of our Indian wedding. It's been crazy so far, and we're enjoying every minute of it. There will be some photos coming up really soon, we just need to find free time, which is ever so scarce during a wedding :)
For now we'll show you some random photos and videos from the past few days!
Here are a couple videos from Amritsar that we didn't get to post, due to incredibly slow internet connections.
First, a little video from the Golden Temple. We’ve shot a couple of Sikh weddings in Edmonton, and I’ve always deeply enjoyed the ceremonies because of the use of fantastic music. At the temple it was no different, as 4 men sing and chant continuously, reading from the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. Here’s a video to give you a sense of the music and the setting.
Amazing isn't it?
And then for something that can only really be described via video: the border closing. We showed you photos, but honestly it's not enough. It was the most hilarious sight, really. The guards would stamp their feet, kick their legs insanely high, and then speed walk like-you-wouldn’t-believe towards the border. I’m so glad Rob got a great video of it going on, because it’s something that photos alone just can’t properly describe.
Now for the photos let's start off with Holi. Holi is a huge festival in India. It is known as the Festival of Colours, and basically consists of people running around, throwing paint and coloured powder on each other. It is celebrating to signify the coming of spring. Generally people can get pretty wild, so we kept a low profile, but did manage to get a few shots of the crazy young men covered in colour.
Then we made the drive from Amritsar to Jalandhar. Here are a few neat photos from the drive.
I find this absolutely hilarious, and I think many of my friends will as well. But if you don't get it, don't worry. :)
It's crazy how the men will ride on top of buses speeding down the highways.
And they share the roads with cows, bicycles, motorbikes, and even huge tractors!
Then we made it to Jalandhar, and met up with the family hosting the wedding. We've met them before in Canada, so it was absolutely fantastic to see so many familiar faces! And one of the funniest things is that they have a copy of the very first album we ever made (which is still the album we show to all our clients, believe it or not!). It was a pretty weird situation to see all these people here in India looking through the album that we have looked through hundreds of time back home.
Then while we were waiting we were taken for a tour of the nearby Kidney Hospital, where the father of the bride works as a kidney specialist. It was kind of weird, to be taken to all the Restricted Access areas of a hospital (including the ICU, NICU, Blood Storage Room, and the Kidney Stone Crushing Machine Room....no, that's not the technical term). But it was very interesting to see what an Indian hospital is like (albeit a private Indian hospital). We just took a couple of quick snaps but here ya go anyway.
Then while we were waiting to head off to a function, I took a quick shot of Rob wearing some snazzy new clothes he got for the wedding. Doesn't he look great? And for only $31 Canadian for the shirt, pants, belt and shoes. Rock on.
And finally we hopped in a car, and were driven to a wedding, hosted by friends of the family we are staying with. Honestly, I can barely even describe it, it was mind-blowing. More than we had ever seen or expected. First off we saw what we had dreamed of seeing - an elephant at a wedding!
Then we walked inside and just couldn't believe it. It was enormous, with probably around 1000 people there.
The groom is the one with the tall feather on his turban.
So there's a few photos to tide you over until we get some up from this wedding. Hope you are all doing well. We'll be back home in less than two weeks now, and honestly can't wait. We really miss our cat, Scooter!!! Isn't he the cutest thing you've ever seen??
Who wouldn't miss that cutie?? (Photo credit to Steph, my sister, who sent us this while we were traveling. It's currently our desktop background, and we say hello and give him pets all the time.....yeah we really miss him!)
After all our time in Delhi doing major photo shoots we were pretty photo’ed out. It’s been nearly 3 months of traveling and shooting, and we’re definitely starting to get pretty tired. So when we got to Amritsar I don’t think we took out our cameras for a couple days! It was nice to spend some time just wandering and shopping (we bought some pretty cool stuff, but we’re going to keep it a surprise until we get home and show our family! They aren’t going to believe how crazy we are, lol!)
Anyway, it’s definitely not like there isn’t anything to shoot in Amritsar, and once we mustered up the energy to do some shooting, we saw a pretty amazing thing. But let’s look at the photos, shall we?
First, since we keep talking about train travel but haven’t shown you anything, I’ll show you a quick snap from our train trip between Delhi and Amritsar. It was the first time we were able to book a 1AC seat. The classes on trains start with 1AC being the most luxurious, then 2AC, 3AC, and then 2nd class, which is completely unreserved, free-for-all seating. We’ve traveled in 3AC (not so fun, and pretty cramped), 2AC (better, with more space) and 1AC (totally awesome!). We never got up the courage to do the whole 2nd Class business, especially with all our expensive gear. Maybe one day, but not on this trip! Anyway, this is 1AC, and a 9 hour ride in one of these cars cost around $60 Canadian for both of us. Not too shabby at all!
In the midst of our shopping we took time to go to the “classiest restaurant in Amritsar”, as dubbed by The Lonely Planet. It was definitely a really nice place, with great food. Since we’re talking money in this post so far I’ll give you an idea of what a fancy meal out costs here. We ordered two mocktails, a large bottle of mineral water, two appetizers, two main courses, a pot of amazing Darjeeling tea, and a sizzling brownie (shown in the picture below, a brownie on a really hot plate with sauce drizzled over it so that it bubbled and steamed, yum!). The total cost was around 800 Rupees, which is $20 Canadian. Still can’t get over the conversions for things here!
And then we packed up the cameras and it was time to see the main sight of Amritsar: the famous Golden Temple.
This is the most holy gurdwara (Sikh temple) in the world, and attracts pilgrims from all over. Our hotel is very very close to the temple, and so we always see constant streams of people walking down the street towards it. Upon entering the complex, you take off your shoes, cover your head, and wash your feet. Then you step inside to see the amazing golden structure in the middle of a huge pond of water.
The water even has a bunch of huge fish in it!
It’s really an amazing sight, and I thought it was one of the most incredible things I’ve seen this trip.
We went around sunset and were rewarded with some really cool sights.
One of the really great things about Sikhism is that it is welcoming of people of all classes. They have a huge free kitchen that cooks dhal (lentils), rice and chapattis (bread) for about 40,000 people each day.
The dome of the temple is made up of around 750Kg of pure gold.
It was a very serene and peaceful setting.
It was really a must-see stop in India.
The temple is connected to the outer building by a huge walkway that is continuously packed with people waiting to go inside the temple to pray and offer prasad (a sweet food that is blessed in the temple). No photos were allowed once we got on to the walkway, but here’s a shot showing you the front of the temple.
And then for something with a completely different feel to it: the closing ceremony of the India-Pakistan border. We took a taxi out to the border at Attari/Wagah, which is about an hour from Amritsar. It’s really a huge deal out there! The guards were all elaborately dressed, and extremely tall (some were probably close to 7 ft tall!) and towered over Rob who stands in at 6 ft.
It has become something of a competition between the Indians and the Pakistanis to celebrate the most for their country at the closing. On the Indian side there was dancing breaking out (you know you’re in Punjab when….)
A neat shot of one of the guards
The huge crowd was waiting with much anticipation for the ceremony to start
And then it was time! It was the most hilarious sight, really. The guards would stamp their feet, kick their legs insanely high, and then speed walk like-you-wouldn’t-believe towards the border.
They performed with such severity, and yet looked pretty funny at the same time, it was great.
The crowd was totally into it. The announcer would yell “HINDUSTAN!” (which means India) and everyone would respond with “ZINDABAN!” and throw their fists up in the air. It means "Long Live India!" or "India Rules!", and they were certainly having fun saying it! (love vibes to both Geeta and Manju for helping me out with the translation!)
I couldn’t believe how high they could kick. It was tough to get a good shot, since they did it so fast, but here’s a snap.
And then they lowered the flags.
All good fun! We drove back to Amritsar, and then grabbed our mini-tripod and headed back to the Golden Temple for a couple of night shots. I finish up the post with those.
And that’s Amritsar! Tomorrow we leave for Jalandher, to attend a weeklong Punjabi Sikh wedding. It’s going to be great fun, and we’re really excited. Hopefully we’ll be able to find both an internet connection and some free time while we’re there to keep you posted. If not, you’ll hear from us next when we return to Delhi on the 28th for a few last days in India before we fly to Singapore, and then home at last. I can’t believe I’m already starting to detail the end of this trip, especially when we just got so many new followers thanks to the Taj session, but don’t cry everyone. We’re hoping to keep posting a new shot every week, from our thousands and thousands of photos that we took and never blogged, so the fun will continue, even when we return home. And I have a few articles to write, so much more to come. Until then, we still have two weeks left in traveling, and thousands more photos to take, so it’s not over until it’s over!
Yes, there is more of these two gorgeous kids! I can just sense you all hopping up and down with excitement!
So for our famous Taj session Megha and Chakshu wore their outfits from their reception. And for an Indian wedding there are two very important sets of clothing. It was only fair that we do a session with both outfits! So Megha and Chakshu went through another grueling round of beautifying themselves and we all hopping into the car and drove into New Delhi. We went to the gorgeous Lodi Gardensto take some shots in their amazing clothes. Here’s what we got.
Megha is super easy to make laugh, which bodes well for us since we can easily get great fun shots like this.
Throwing in a little mystery ☺
The setting was just amazing, although we still weren’t without big hordes of on-lookers. In India it is not considered rude, as it is in Canada, to simply stand and stare. So it was tough to handle, but once again these two did a flat out fantastic job.
I seriously think Chakshu could have a future as a model. He just poses and smiles so easily.
And Megha does a bang-up job as well. One day we’ll have to take modeling lesssons from them!
And together they are just fab.
It was like our dream photo location. Great light, and great architecture, we could have spent all day there!
Now here is a neat one. Rob was trying out a technique he liked, and I think the result is just awesome!
Megha’s chura looked great against her bright pink lengha (a lengha is a ornate skirt, that is worn with a top, and a very elaborate scarf. The whole outfit is unbelievably heavy. Honestly you would not believe it. Serious.
And then we got a little dramatic.
A great close-up of Chakshu holding on to his stole.
So there you have it, the second portrait session, and one that we enjoyed just as much as the Taj session! As fun as Taj was, it was really fast paced and stressful, so it was nice to take it a bit easier with these two, and find some relatively secluded places. And Megha and Chakshu haven’t even seen these photos yet, so we really hope they enjoyed them!
So, here we go. I hope you are all excited for this. Because you aren’t going to believe it.
To put it very simply, we just did a portrait session at the Taj Mahal.
Wow, hey? I still can’t even believe it, and the whole entire thing is just a blur. I think half of it is because it’s just such a huge deal, that we can’t believe we did it. And the other half is because we were under a lot of stress and pressure right from the get-go. It wasn’t easy to do at all, and I’m so happy that we managed to get some great shots even under some tough conditions.
You see, we had this little plan in mind for a while. We all packed our bags, and left Delhi early in the morning for a road trip to Agra, the city that is home to the Taj Mahal. We arrived around 1PM, I believe. We checked into our hotel, took a quick trip to see the magnificent structure, grabbed a quick bite, and then it was time to get ready. Megha and Chakshu changed into their gorgeous reception outfits from their wedding. (They got married here in Delhi in December, and we were unfortunately a month too late with our trip to attend). We made our way to the Taj around 5:00PM, hoping to get some great sunset light to work with.
First off, there was no sunset. Well, not one we could see. Agra was covered in a hazy foggy sky, so there was no real colour coming through. Oh well, we had nice light anyway, but it was darker than we would have liked.
So we all walk down an alley to actually get into the Taj. Megha and Chakshu dressed to the nines, walking down a smelly, busy alley. Funny stuff!
Then we get to the gate. 20 Rupees entry for Indians, 750 for foreigners ($0.50 and just about $20 Canadian). Hilarious hey? But that wasn’t the tough part. Apparently they now have rules that forbid you to bring in any bags.
Think about that for a moment. We’re there to do a photo session, and we can’t bring in our camera bags. Major stress out time!
Chakshu managed to convince a guy to let us bring in his tiny backpack, so Rob and I, in a wild flurry, start to decide what we want to bring in. We had brought everything, since this was going to be a portrait session to remember, and now we had to cut out most of what we brought. We stuffed in a few lenses, and some flash cards, and had to leave everything else behind. And this whole process took up a ton of our precious time where we still had some light to work with! Eek!
Then we all finally get through the gates, and walk in to see the Taj. It’s honestly breathtaking, and we started to get to work.
Chakshu is a photo buff himself, and he couldn’t resist whipping out his own camera to take some shots! He looks so incredibly cool in this shot, doesn’t he??
Megha’s incredible chura. She will be wearing these from the time she got married (December, 2007) until she has her reception back in Edmonton in June, 2008! Dedication!
Just putting on some of her jewelry
Love, love, love, love, love the feeling of this one.
We stepped off to the side to this great red colonnade to take some more secluded shots.
These two really know how to laugh with each other and are always having fun together. We absolutely loved it.
Plus they know how to work the camera like pros. I’m finding it hard to believe they AREN’T models. Seriously, this had nothing to do with us, and everything to do with them.
This shot feels like there was no one else around for miles. I love it.
How about we take a stroll towards the Taj? Ok!
A reflection in one of the pools.
I can’t get enough of this one.
Like a movie.
We took very very few shots of the Taj itself, lol! But here’s one we liked.
I still can’t believe this whole thing really happened.
And in the middle of all those romantic, intense and serious shots it was always goofing around and having fun. Our favorite type of couple.
Self portrait! We look absolutely grungy beside them, it’s ridiculous!
And can you believe this? At this point we pretty much were the very last people in the place, and it was pitch black. Rob had to set the camera on top of Chakshu’s backpack, since we weren’t allowed our tripods. But all the difficulty was worth it. This is Rob’s favorite shot of the day.
And then a few detail shots when we got back to the hotel.
Megha’s mangalsutra, the necklace she gets when she is married. It is one of the five things that signify a woman's married status, so it's very important!
And her fantastic shoes.
And that’s all we have done up so far. There are so many to go through that we just can’t do them justice on this laptop, and we’re itching to get home and work on them on our real computers. But now I’m going to get sort of sappy, so hold on to your seats.
Now, just imagine how many people are visiting the Taj each day. And then place a couple who look like models in the middle of it all, dressed up like they are at their wedding while everyone else is wearing t-shirts and shorts, and then have two people with huge cameras taking shots. Trust me, we attracted a LOT of attention. And even more than that, they attracted a sort of paparazzi, as tourists and locals alike were trying to snap a picture of them or just standing there staring. Some people were even jumping down from these huge platforms to sneak up behind Rob to get a shot. I think many of the tourists must have thought they were famous or something. But it was certainly really, extremely tough conditions for anyone to stay relaxed and happy, with all those people staring at you. Megha and Chakshu did a flat out amazing job, and it’s the honest truth that they completely share the credit for this shoot. The amount of work, preparation, dedication and commitment they put into this is astounding, and we honestly can never thank them enough for doing this with us.
I don’t know how we manage to meet such amazing people, who give so much to us (we’ve actually been staying with them in Chakshu’s house for the past 6 days, and they have been the most hospitable hosts imaginable). And then to put so much effort into doing the Taj shoot with us, it’s not just anyone who would do that, and we consider ourselves so very very lucky. So an enormous thank you to both Megha, Chakshu, and Chakshu’s family who have been so kind to us over this past week. And to Megha and Chakshu, without whom these photos would not exist. As far as we all could tell, this is possibly the first time this has been done on this scale. Photo sessions like this don’t really happen for couples in India, and with the amount of work it took to get to the Taj, it certainly wasn’t just a walk in the park. So we’re very glad to have been a part of this. Now we can’t wait to get home and get some of these printed for our house!
Ok, enough sappiness. We’re off to do another shoot with them in Delhi! Wish us luck!
Holy smokes guys, we're so sorry about this huge delay! When we headed off to Delhi we thought that we would have no problem finding internet, but as it turns out nothing in India turns out as expected :) We were staying in Gurgaon, which is a suburb, and thus not at all geared towards travelers with laptops. So we went for a loooooong time without any connection to the outside world. i guess people started to even get worried about us! So once again, huge apologies for the wait. But once you see what we've been up to, I think you're all going to forgive us right away!!!! Anyway, we're going to start off here with a few pictures left over from Jaisalmer, and from a day around Delhi. Then on Monday, March 17th tune in for some INSANE photos that you aren't even going to believe. Trust me, we're so excited to share these with you guys!!!
Let's get to the photos now!
Camo-puppies from Jaisalmer! These little guys were just totally zonked out, snoozing in the middle of the hot day. They didn’t even budge when I took their photo, they were too busy sleeping!
Our friend Philippe found a fantastic spot to watch the sunset at the train station in Jaisalmer. You can see a couple of trains there, and on the horizon is the fort!
And a close up of the silhouette of the fort.
We took a nighttime stroll up into the fort to take some shots. This is a really neat one Rob took, complete with a couple of ghosts!
And one of some textiles still hanging out for sale
It was so crazy, there were tons of these little piglets running around our hotel
A neat scene near our hotel
And a shot of the fort. They call Jaisalmer the Golden City because everything is made out of this fantastic gold sandstone. The fort itself is as well, and was built way back in 1156. Unfortunately, because of tourism and increased population there are actually huge problems with the water destroying the fort. It's very sad, because I don't think this place is going to last too much longer. I'm really glad we got to see it at least once.
A very strange sign…..
And a neat old door, complete with a Ganesh above it.
“What’s that you’re using there? Is that a 50mm?”
As we were leaving Jaisalmer we stumbled across the famous Palace on Wheels! It was stopped at the station for a while, and it looked amazing! Too bad it’s incredibly expensive, otherwise I’m sure we would have hopped on right away
And then we got to Delhi! Yay! We checked out Qutb Minar, a huge tower built back in 1193.
Some of the incredible carvings on the tower.
Who are these attractive people? Not just some randoms we saw, no no. These are our flients (friends/clients), Megha and Chakshu! And you’re going to be seeing much much more of them very soon…..
Wild parrots! Amazing! I can’t get over the wildlife here in India. You see monkeys all the time, and now some incredible parrots.
Some great columns
Then we went to see the Lotus Temple. It is a Bahai temple, and is open to people of all faiths. The design is very similar to the Opera House in Sydney, except this is a closed lotus, and that one is open!
It is such a beautiful structure
This day was really a tour of some of the great sights of Delhi! This is the India Gate, which is different from the Gateway of India in Bombay…
Some jewelry on sale around the Gate
And then it was lunchtime. One fantastic thing about hanging out with locals in India is that they know the great places to eat, and what to order. We made our way to a South Indian restaurant, and Chakshu and Megha took care of ordering. There was this crazy pizza type thing.
And a dosa! Dosa, dosa, dosa, dosa! I love that word! And I love the dish. I think I polished off half of one all by myself. It was so fantastic. It was like a huge crispy pancake with curry potatoes and onions inside. Then you would dip it in this sambar sauce and yum. I hope I can find some in Edmonton…
And these are idlis. They were like rice patties that you would let soak in the sauce. Fantastic.
So there’s a bit of Delhi. Now I’ll let you all wonder what we have up our sleeves and then check back in on Monday to see it! I know you’re going to love it ☺
I've Been Through The Desert On A Camel With No Na
March 4, 2008
Well, that’s half true. The camel had a name. It was Tooty. And Rob’s was Honky. They were our faithful steed as we tramped across the desert yesterday.
People come here to Jaisalmer primarily for the camel safaris. Out in the desert of Rajasthan, it’s a small town, overlooked by a fort, and crafted almost entirely out of golden sandstone. And while the town itself is very fascinating, the camels are what get the attention.
And rightfully so.
Our trip was definitely an experience of a lifetime, and something we certainly won’t forget for a long time. We’re even vividly re-experiencing right now, as we sit on some very very very sore bottoms.
But let’s get to the pictures right away. We opted, thanks to some very wise advice from a fellow traveler, to keep our camel trip short. We started off at 8AM in a jeep, and drove out into the desert. The scenery here looks a little something like this.
We stopped by a small village that was strangely enough set in front of a background of huge wind power generators.
At a very old temple we found a troupe of some incredibly cute puppies
And saw a great scene of two young boys carrying water down the road
But we were just waiting for the camels. We mounted up (a rather scary experience, since these camels are absolutely enormous, and then aren’t exactly graceful, so you just lunge up into the air), and set out across the desert. At first it was mainly scrub land, lots of sand and small shrubs. Here’s Rob, sporting his bright orange turban (which I tied myself, thank you very much) and mounted up on Honky.
The first leg of the journey was fairly straightforward. We marched along, single file, steering our camels along narrow paths in between the shrubs. It was still before noon, so the sun wasn’t at full strength yet. But the going wasn’t comfortable and after about a couple of hours we were more than ready to stop for a rest. We found a big tree with shade, and let the camels rest while we lounged on blankets, and our guides made us chai and some lunch (hey, I never said we were roughing it). The camels enjoyed their break, getting to have some food and get their big packs off.
We took the time to get some camel portraits
Rob was trying to act the camel whisperer, but Honky moved quickly and he got a little jumpy, haha!
And during the second leg of the trip things got interesting. We had made our way to the Royal Sand Dunes, in the Thar Desert. Now, generally the camel tours take people to the Sam Sand Dunes, which are starting to get over crowded. We opted to pay more, and take the jeep way out to start, so that we could get some relatively empty dunes. And it was really worth it. The whole trip we only saw a few other groups, and only in passing. We were able to stop, get some shorts, and see the landscape with literally no one else around for miles. It was amazing.
Here’s me, looking all dramatic.
A really awesome shadow shot that Rob got.
Self portrait while on camels!
Just relaxing after we made our final stop at the dunes.
Our guides brewing us some chai.
Now, as fate would have it, the one other person on our tour with us was a young photographer from Paris named Philippe. How amazing is that? You have to spend all day with someone, with nothing to do but ride camels and talk, and they just happen to be in the exact same boat as us: young, traveling photographer, trying to make a living and enjoying seeing the world. It was fantastic to just spend all day chatting. Honestly, put two photographers in a room together and they could talk for the rest of days. What was also really great about having Philippe along with us is that finally we would be able to get a shot of us that wasn’t taken by holding a wide angle lens up in front of ourselves! And honestly there is no better place for a portrait of us than here.
One big surprise in the desert, that I guess I should have expected but didn’t, were these enormous beetles. Ugh. At first I thought maybe we would be missing out, not spending the night out there, but I don’t think either Rob or I would have gotten a moment of sleep knowing there were tons of these things crawling around!
So, as the sun started to set I wanted to fulfill a dream of mine. I wanted to get the quintessential shot of camels on the dunes silhouetted against the sunset. Our guides were generous enough to let us borrow their camels, so I grabbed us a couple of models and off we set up the dunes to find the right spot.
And find it we did.
We were all just going crazy, sprinting along the dunes, knowing that we had only a few minutes before the sun would be completely gone. Again, we were so happy to be sharing that time with another photographer, rather than a regular Joe who would have thought us completely bonkers for posing camels up on the dunes for a half an hour.
But whether or not we’re bonkers, we’re very very happy with our shots, and can’t wait to get some printed to put in our house.
And one last group portrait: Me, Rob, Philippe (yes, his shirt says iPood, why? Who knows ☺ ), and our lovely models.
Afterwards we had a nice little dinner, and some blessedly cold drinks, and we were picked up by a jeep to take us home. Philippe braved it out and spent the night in the desert. He is traveling all across Asia for a project of his, to document how different cultures wake up and spend their first moments in the morning. And so a sunset wasn’t good enough for him, as he needed to see the sunrise as well. But he said the experience wasn’t too bad, he wasn’t completely eaten by bugs, and he showed us the shots he took this morning, and they are great. But I can’t say I’m jealous: we were very happy to get back to our room and sleep in a soft bed last night!
So I hope you enjoyed those shots! And I’m sure Philippe will be posting some of his, so make sure to check out his site as well, at www.regardasie.com. It’s in French, but pictures are pictures, and I’m sure you’ll find some great ones to peek at!
Following our surreal first night in Bombay we were excited to get out the next day to take some “snaps” as all the cool kids we met at Arjun and Runa’s wedding say!
We started off heading back to Victoria Terminus, the main train station in Bombay. And it’s absolutely astounding! Can you believe this is a train station?
We actually did try to book a train ticket while we were there, and some guy tried to charge us double what the price should have been. But this was not our first day in India, and we told him “No way” and walked off, and booked it much much cheaper elsewhere. Plus one for Rob and Lauren!
Now when we travel we don’t head out the door at 8AM and take photos until the sun goes down. We would be absolutely exhausted. We try to take things easy, and just go out with the purpose of taking photos for a few hours each day. So when I was planning where to go in Bombay, I thought that heading to the Oval Maidan would be a perfect, and relaxing, spot! And as I’m sure you’re wondering what on earth the Oval Maidan is, this sign might give you a clue.
It’s a huge field that’s simply for cricket! Since we’ve arrived in India it seems like all the kids play is cricket, and all that’s on the sports channels is, yep you guessed it, cricket. Being from Canada we have absolutely no clue at all how cricket is played. We’ve watched enough here to sort of get the idea, and drew on junior high school gym classes to fill in the blanks, but we’re hopeless when it comes to the scoring. Nevertheless, it was really amazing to go and watch some people actually playing, rather than just watching on TV. And I’ll tell you we both found it more exciting!
There were hundreds of people there, and dozens of games going on, but certainly not enough space for all of that! So all the games bled into each other, and outfielders from one game would be standing right in the middle of another game. It was hilarious, and we were both stumped as to how they kept it all straight! It was such a neat setting as well, with the gorgeous buildings of the university and law courts peeking over the trees.
Then we took a walk to the famous India gate, where there were TONS of people just hanging out. Unfortunately we missed sunset by like half an hour, so the light was fading fast!
One of the neat attractions around the gate are these huge carriages pulled by horses. You can see one in the left side of this shot. Crazy.
Next we hopped into a cab and made our way to Chowpatty Beach. We thought we’d find a popular little beach, with some families hanging out, and not much else. Boy, we were wrong. It was practically a full moon party (a crazy crazy all night rave that’s held one a month on Ko Phan Ngan, Thailand) but with families instead of travelers. There were rides, tons of food, vendors selling little toys, and hundreds and hundreds of families. Here’s a shot of some balloons swinging in the breeze (remember, it’s completely dark out at this point)
We were both shocked at how incredibly large Bombay is. We thought we were in the downtown area, surrounded by huge buildings, but once we got onto the beach we could see a completely separate skyline of even more sky rises.
And we couldn’t get over these rides they had there. Remember that we’re in India, and things are done quite differently…
Rob decided to get creative and do some abstract work using the lights…
There were tons of vendors selling these neat little toys that consisted of a little blue LED light on a helicopter type thing that you launched into the air, and watched float down. As Rob was taking a shot one of the toys landed right in front of the camera, and the little boy came to pick it up. You can see the blue line going through the middle of the shot. Cool!
And one last one of a street near our hotel. Rob really like the fact that it was called “Ganesh Lane”
Unfortunately we weren’t able to spend more time in Bombay, since it was really expensive for our room! But it was definitely an enjoyable change of pace, and we both enjoyed our time immensely. I’m sure we’ll be back one day to explore some more of the huge city.
P.S. You might remember the statistics we posted regarding poverty in Bombay. And you might be a bit confused, since all the photos we posted showed nothing of that. In truth, the area that we stayed in was remarkably free of much poverty. However, as we took a cab to the bus station, we drove past countless slums along the sides of the streets, and we were both completely surprised at how different these two parts of the same city could be.
After the intensity of Varanasi and Calcutta, I’ll tell you that both Rob and I were feeling very drained and overwhelmed by India. I’m not ashamed to admit that I allowed at least some of my expectations of this country to be shaped by the Bollywood movies that I so love to watch. And so far no one had been spontaneously breaking out into song and dance in the streets. I was worried that perhaps India wasn’t going to live up to all these expectations I had.
And then we arrived in Bombay.
(And before I go further with that, you’ll notice that sometimes we call it Bombay, and sometimes Mumbai. Sometimes Calcutta and sometimes Kolkata. And these slight name changes go even as far as Pondicherry now becoming Puducherry. Essentially the government is trying to eradicate the lingering traces of English occupation, by changing the names that the British gave these cities. But most of the locals use the old names, the train stations and airports still have the old designations, and it’s all just one big muddled-up confusing mess. So I think we’ll just refuse to take sides, and use whatever name feels right at the time. Forgive me if you get confused :)
Our first moments in the city were rather anti-climactic. We knew we would be arriving in Victoria Terminus, the busiest train station in Asia (over 2.5 million travelers pass through every day!). But when the train stopped, there were no people around, no big signs sayind “Bombay!” and just an empty train, and us completely befuddled. We were told that it was indeed Bombay, and that we needed to get off since it was the last stop. So off we get, and we wander around a seemingly deserted platform until we find the exit. And then we are quickly introduced to the impressive sights of Bombay! But I’ll save those pictures for my next post. This one will simply talk about what happened our first night in the city.
We were walking back to our hotel after picking up some water and other essential snacks when we came across a group of guys working around what looked like a giant Coke can. It was attached to a couple of ropes that led up to the roofs of the surrounding buildings. Naturally we were intrigued so we sat and watched as they hoisted the can up. But then things stopped, the can remained suspended above the street, and nothing else was going on. So we went to our room and were just working when we suddenly heard fireworks and drums and music. We have missed opportunities too frequently by wondering if we should get our cameras, so now we simply grab everything and boot it out the door. We thought it was going to be a barat, which is the procession of the groom to the wedding, and generally involves a huge crowd of dancing and drumming. But this was not a barat. We weren’t totally sure what was going on, but we followed this little parade of people and watched as they set off huge fireworks, and sang and whatnot. Things seems to be a bit of a let down, but we were having a ton of fun as the kids started to ask for us to take their photos. This one little boy would get so incredibly excited whenever we’d show him the photo of himself. Here’s a great catch Rob got of him clapping after seeing his picture.
And a neat shot of our hotel’s sign with the fireworks going on in the background.
And then the real madness began. This was a festival, and it involved the people smearing themselves in haldi (turmeric) powder, and walking down the streets as others stationed on the surrounding rooftops threw incredible amounts of flower petals down on them. It was absolutely insane.
The whole parade centered around this thing they were carrying, that they covered with an umbrella. Everything was so crazy it was hard to really see what was going on!
And there were tons of people who noticed us (the only two white people on the street, and with enormous cameras) and asked for their photos to be taken. This girl was so cute.
And here are some women showing off the plates of haldi
We took a bunch of videos, and this one I’ll share with you. It really shows how crazy all the flower petals were, I simply can’t believe how many there were! And at the end of the video you can see the big Coke can. They opened up the bottom to let a bunch of flower petals fall, but they got stuck after all that work!
So of course some intrepid guy got out a huge stick to poke the can, and success, the petals came out!!
All in all it was an Indian dream come true, and we were so glad we happened to stay just in the right hotel to see it all. We even got a bit of haldi on our foreheads as well!
Really, where else in the world could you see something like this just by stepping out your door? It was amazing, and really made up for all the difficulties we had been having up to this point! Like I said last time, India really is a rollercoaster of ups and downs, and this was a fantastic up!
P.S. I've tried to figure out what the name of this festival is, but to no avail. One young boy said something like "Aufderbhad" but I couldn't make out precisely what he said! If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them!
So first off I want to give a big thank you for all the wonderful comments on the last post. There’s always an element of uncertainty when you post some rather negative thoughts about a place like India, which is shrouded in such mystery for so many people, but I’m glad to see that while you all now understand the down sides of this country, you too are seeing all the beauty that we are. And I’ll give a quick note to let you know that the whole country is not as dirty and hectic as Calcutta and Varanasi. I’ll be posting about Mumbai soon, which we both loved, and we just got into Jodhpur today and this city is simply magical. But let’s hop all the way back to Ajanta shall we?
So after we hung out in Varanasi for a while, we caught a train to Jalgaon. It’s a little transit town that serves almost solely as a jumping off point for a trip to the Ajanta caves. Our first night there we were off to the train station (a 2 min walk from our hotel) to reserve our ticket onwards. There are many ticket booths in the station, and we found the one designated for foreigners. We were quite surprised at who we shared the booth with…and I’m not talking about the Senior Citizens…
I’m not sure if any of you have heard of the Ajanta caves, but they are kind of a big deal. After a long and jarring bus ride on a local bus we made it to the caves. We were greeted with this sign that we both found hilarious
But then it was time to get serious, because these caves are serious business. A World Heritage site, they consist of 30 Buddhist caves carved into the face of a horse-shoe shaped gorge. Here’s a shot to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.
A walk along the path will take you past each of the caves and so getting around was merely a matter of walking, stopping to take off your shoes, checking out the cave, and then moving along. And it was a blissful refuge from the very hot sun to duck into a cool and dark cave every few minutes. But these were much more than simply places for shade. Don’t get me wrong. The carvings inside were absolutely astounding, I can’t believe that this place isn’t better known! We’ve been to Greece and have seen a lot of the ancient sites there, but nothing even came close to this. So many of the caves had a incredible Buddha carving at the back.
This particular cave was really great. The giant Buddha was guarded by these other figures (his followers, I believe) and with the lighting and the atmosphere we completely felt like we were in an Indiana Jones film.
The carvings on the wall were amazing, and each cave had such different details than the others
Isn’t this incredible? The entire wall was completely filled with these carvings right out of the wall.
As we were taking a break we took a couple of “glamour shots” of each other. Rob really likes this one of me looking like a really cool photographer (you are probably wondering where I got those really cool pants! They are from Bangkok, and are really nifty)
Rob giving us his model pose
And another of me
But I bet you just want to see the caves right? Well even the ceilings were spectacularly decorated
And entrances were amazing as well
Really, how many adjectives and superlatives can I find to describe these things?
A really wonderful reclining Buddha
(insert adjective of your choice here)
We also took a little video to give you a good idea of the magnitude of these caves. I apologize once more for my tired and sweaty demeanor. Rob seems to always bring the camera out when I’m absolutely exhausted from the heat!
And what’s crazier than a troupe of monkeys who just hung out in the trees right beside the walkway?
So there you have the Ajanta caves. We bused back to Jalgaon (though in retrospect we should have continued on to Aurangabad to see the Ellora caves, allegedly just as spectacular….for all those travelers out there, there’s a tip! We already have quite the list of places to visit next time we come to India, since a short two months is really not even near long enough). Then onto another train, and the next stop was Mumbai! And that will be coming up next :)
P.S. I just updated the Maps section of the site, under the Info heading, in case you guys are curious to see what our route has been. I can't believe how much ground we've covered in two months!
So we’ve had a big store of photos all backing up waiting to be blogged. There’s so very very much to see in India and so much to shoot that we find ourselves completely overloading with photos. But we’re taking a nice and relaxing day here in Mumbai to work on getting some edited so that you guys can see some more of India. I hope you enjoy!
We’re going to go back in time here, and show you the last couple of places we’ve visited. Our time in India is rather short when you think about how much this country has to see, so our pace has been quite rapid. We’ve spent incredible numbers of hours on trains and as such haven’t had much time to work on the computer as we stop in a town for just a couple of days. Thus the backtracking!
I’m going to also preface these posts with a note. No amount of photos that we show you could really convey the intensity of India. And I’m not necessarily saying that in a good way. I think we show a very beautiful side of this country, and I’m so glad to see that so many of you are enjoying seeing that. But what we haven’t been showing are photos of urinals in the streets, garbage absolutely filling every crevice, cow droppings making every step a cautious one, and the incredible relentlessness of poverty.
I’ll give you a few statistics to try and give you some perspective on the issue of poverty in India. (These are all taken from the Lonely Planet: India, Published 2007). The last census of 2001 placed the population of India at 1.027 billion, which I believe was up 20% from the decade before. I would guess it’s over 1.1 billion now and is slated to overtake China as the most populous country by 2035 (India is much smaller in land mass than China!). The unemployment rate is 8.6%. Literacy rate is about 54% in women and 75% in men. Families living in one-room homes: 41%. India’s percentage of the world population 16.7%. The worlds highest number of HIV positive cases—greater than South Africa-- with a reported at 5.7 million cases, estimated to reach 12 million by 2010. About 30-40% of India’s population survive on less than 1 US dollar per day. In Mumbai where we are currently staying the population is 16.4 million (about half the population of Canada) and it’s estimated that up to 55% of the population live in slums and shantytowns. It is also home to the largest slum in Asia, known as Dharavi, incorporating 1.7 square kilometers with a population of more than 1 million people (the same population as our home city, Edmonton). But really none of these numbers mean anything until you actually visit this country and see things for yourself.
It’s a side of India that we did not expect. We had been told that India was “dirty, smelly and crowded”. Those words don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what we’ve seen and experienced. It’s been difficult to handle at times, and even more so when every moment outside is punctuated with touts trying to sell us something. We are both quite exhausted many days when we come back, and relish our quite evenings watching a movie on the laptop. It’s a bit of normalcy and stability in a country that seems anything but.
So if you are planning to visit India, I encourage you to do so. But with this warning that I wish we had been given. Prepare yourself for a very tough journey, that will be filled with incredible highs (you will see some in this post) and gut-wrenching lows. As I remarked one day to Rob, India tests your patience. It crosses the line of your limits, then it dances well beyond that line, then it punches you in the face, and goes even further. Harsh words I know, but I do pride myself on being a relatively patient person, and yet have on many occasions felt myself completely and utterly strained, and very ready to lash out. Of course, these are only momentary lapses, and in the very next moment something happens to make me fall in love with India all over again. It’s a rollercoaster ride every day, and I just can’t even begin to fathom what we will encounter with another full month here, but I’m sure it will be just as memorable, both in a good way and bad, as what has happened so far. This is not a holiday, but a life experience and a supreme test.
I thank you for indulging me in this little discussion. I know it’s a lot deeper than our usual style of writing. We do try our best to see some bit of beauty in many of these depressing scenes, and those photos are what we share with you. But we don’t want to paint a false picture, and hope that this little side note helps to prevent that. I promise I won’t launch into these intense essays too frequently. Emotions are much more powerful after traveling these sorts of places, and it is always good to share ☺
The first shot here is of our room in Jorhat. It was more than we ever expected, and likely more luxurious than anything else we will stay in while we’re here. Another huge thank you to Runa’s family for putting us up in such a wonderful place.
And now some shots from Varanasi. This is one of the holiest cities in India, situated on the Ganges River. It is the city of Shiva the destroyer, one of the Hindu gods. To die here is a very desirable fate, since it releases a Hindu from the cycle of birth and death. One of the gentlemen who worked at our hotel had been living in Varanasi for 25 years, as his mother had come to the city that long ago, and was still waiting to die there. It is a city that we both found to be incredibly intense and at times quite overwhelming.
On our first day in Varanasi we took a boat ride at dusk along the river. It was a very interesting experience, at once both calming and eerie.
Kite flying is a common past time here.
Our boat took us to the main ghat. A ghat is an area that slopes down to the river where people bathe, wash clothes, and pray, and there are many of them lining the banks of the river. This main ghat had a nightly aarti ceremony (prayer) to the Ganges. It was quite elaborate, and made for some great photos.
After the aarti was done everyone lit candles and put them into the river, as an offering to the Ganges.
The two candles that you can see in this picture were the ones Rob and I lit.
The next day we took a little walk around town. There are tons of movie posters around, especially for the latest blockbuster, Jodhaa Akbar. We attempted to see if anywhere in Mumbai had English subtitles but apparently not. It was quite disappointing, since this is apparently a fantastic movie! We’ll have to wait until we get home ☹
This intrepid young guy saw that we were going the wrong way to get to the Ganges, so he led us in the right direction (in exchange for a small tip, of course). But his English was excellent, so major props to him.
As I mentioned before, the Ganges is where many people bathe during the day. It’s considered a very holy river, and is capable of washing away bad karma. I love this shot of this young guy in a quiet moment looking over the river after his bath.
There are tons of what I believe to be water buffalo wandering around near the ghats. We thought they were pretty cute indeed.
Now, you recall me mentioning that we found Varanasi to be incredibly intense. This will give a glimpse into that. Two of the ghats along the river are dedicated specifically to cremation. It takes place in public, and you can stand and watch it. After we got back to our room that night I took a moment to try and describe what it felt like to see that, but honestly I could not find the right words. This photo is of some of the piles of wood nearby that are used for the cremations that take place all throughout the day. There are over 200 cremations every day, so you can imagine the amount of wood needed…
It wasn’t all just intensity like that though. It was really neat to see some goats just relaxing on the steps of a ghat.
And there were some very interesting characters along the way. This guy has dreadlocks so long you wouldn’t believe. They were all tied up in his turban, which is why it is so big. I found his face and colours to be just incredible.
Another interesting experience in Varanasi was when Rob got an authentic Indian shave. They whipped out a stool, sat him in an alley in front of a big metal door, and went to it. He said it felt really great, and was a nice close shave!
There were cows all over the streets, just watching the swarms of people go by
And one day we hired a rickshaw driver to take us around to see some of the temples in Varanasi. Many of them aren’t open to non-Hindus, so we only saw a few. This one is one of the many Shiva temples in Varanasi. It was small, but still so ornate that I found it amazing. There are so few things like this in Edmonton!
Then we stopped by the Monkey Temple. We weren’t allowed inside, but one of the guards let us walk a bit closer near a gate to see some of the monkeys eating. It looked like there were dozens of monkeys all around this temple! This little guy jumped up into a tree that jutted out over the fence, so that we were both kind of nervous because he looked ready to jump right on Rob! But he certainly was cute, nonetheless.
Here’s the view from our seat on the rickshaw. The road in this picture is so empty because we were taking a quiet ride around the local University. The rest of the time it was so incredibly busy and harrowing. It was quite interesting to see the shirt of our driver saying "Jesus, I trust in you". I'm not sure if he was actually Christian, or just liked the shirt. Neither is outside the realm of possibility in India.
At the local Benares Hindu University there is a large temple that is actually open to people of all faiths, so we took a look. There was a really fantastic sculpture on the outside, I believe of Shiva.
The temple itself
The next day we ventured out to Sarnath, which is 10km outside of Varanasi. It is where Buddha came to preach his message after he achieved enlightenment.
There is a small deer park in the area, and I just couldn’t believe the antlers on this deer.
There was also a small Jain temple nearby. Many people have probably never heard of the Jain religion, but a very good friend of mine is Jain, so I have a bit of familiarity with it. It started in the 6th century BC as an opposition to the Hindu caste system. Founded by Mahavira, the Jain religion teaches that through ahimsa (non-violence) and achieving complete purity of the soul one can achieve liberation. When we walked into the Jain temple and saw this small alter with a black marble statue, I can honestly tell you that I felt a tangible sense of intensity from it, more so than even the large buddhas that we’ve seen.
We walked along the road and came to another Jain site, with a much larger black marble statue. I felt such a sense of gentleness from the way the hands were carved.
And from the road we got a good glimpse of the Dhanekh Stupa, which was erected to mark the spot where Buddha gave his first sermon to his 5 followers.
It’s really funny how things that remind you of home can get you so excited when you’ve been gone for so long. Rob and I very very very rarely eat at McDonalds (maybe once a year) but when we saw one in Varanasi, we were pumped. Little did we realize that since this is India, and the 82% Hindu majority consider cows to be sacred, there would be absolutely no beef on the menu. Out the window went our dreams of a Big Mac. Instead we got a couple of Chicken Maharaja Macs….Honestly, I couldn’t make something like that up. They were good, but just not the same.
But the soft serve ice cream was just like back home, and so I was happy.
And that’s a slice of Varanasi. It was certainly a place to see, and to experience, but it was anything but relaxing. The city is notorious for touts, and even more so it can be quite scary at night time. They often turn all the power off, including the street lights, which makes carrying a flashlight at all times a necessity. And during the day time the percentage of people on the streets was about 90% male. At night time, it became about 98%, which definitely can make you a bit jumpy. Thus the lack of night time shots! But now here in Mumbai things are quite different, and we’ve had a couple great night time strolls. As usual, India is always a surprise.
First off a long overdue post about our friend Jon. We mentioned him briefly before but he really needs more attention given to him and his greatness. I intended to make this a seperate post, but since fast internet here is tough to come by, and requires us "soft hacking" our way into using the connection, we regretably don't have time to post every day and give him his due in that manner.
So we're starting this post with Jon, and then there will be lots of fun pictures.
But first: the man, the myth, the ninja master legend, Jon.
We met this guy and his amazing fiancee Sarah when they dropped by to talk to us about their upcoming wedding. We had shot a couples session with Jon's older brother Dave, and they liked our work so thought they would stop by and chat with us. In our discussion it came up that Jon was a web developer, and specifically worked with blogs. We had had the Wedding Travelers on our mind for a while at this point, and knew we needed to figure out a way to make a wicked cool blog. It was a match made in heaven.
The work started, we gave Jon a template that we wanted to use, and somehow from that simple Photoshop file he put together the complex and easy to use blog you see before you. It still is in it's beginning stages, and he has a ton more tricks up his sleeve, if you can believe it. I'm sure you all haven't even used half of the cool feautres he has created, and we'll be sure to let you know all the great ways to use the site as they are finished.
In our business we have worked with many many companies, from people who make our websites, to the people who print our business cards, to the people who ship all of our gear to us. I'll tell you right now that dealing with all those people is easily the most frustrating, time-consuming, and difficult part of our job. But this has never ever been the case with Jon, and for that we value him so very very much. Not to mention his incredible talent. I'll tell you right now that when it comes to small businesses working with small businesses, honesty, promptness, and general friendliness is the most valuable thing, and worth much more than saving a few dollars along the way.
So if you have any web related ideas, need someone to consult with, need a website or blog designed, or anything along those lines, Jon is without a doubt the guy you need to talk to. His company is called Streamline, his website is www.streamline-web.com, and he is the man. No questions about it.
If you miss this post later on as you are looking for his link, it's at the bottom of our website, and also on our Photography Resources page, for your convenience :)
But before that, let's finish up with Thailand.
Oh, and by the way, this is Rob writing. I usually prepare pictures for the blog and Lauren writes up the post, but today I bring you both! We’ll start off where we left off, in Krabi, Thailand. Here’s a little video of a temple we climbed close to Krabi:
The thing about this temple was that there were 1237 huge steps (sometimes a single step was greater than 2 feet!) to get to the top. I guess it wasn’t actually a temple on top (the temple was at the bottom) but there was a giant sitting Buddha and what looked like a giant bell and various other smaller ornaments. It was a tough climb but definitely worth it. I’ll let the pictures do the talking!
First picture is unrelated to the above, but right outside our guesthouse was a banana tree. I’ve never seen a banana tree before and it was somehow different from what I expected (it looks like some kind of carnivorous plant!)
On with the temple!
My grandma had asked to see more pictures of what people’s homes looked like (which I thought was a great suggestion!). This is one of the nicer looking places that we came across on our scooter ride to the temple. In the rural areas along the road a lot of people just live in metal corrugated shacks, as well as rickety looking wooden houses. In cities and towns most of the buildings are reinforced cement or cement layered brick.
Cool rock formations (I can’t remember if they are mountainous or karst limestone formations). Anyways they are all around Krabi.
A view from the road of the temple we climbed. You can just barely see the enormous Buddha and Bell on the top of the second peak from the left.
That’s it from Thailand, we’ve moved onto India now. Our time so far in Calcutta is actually the reason why I wanted to write today. There is so much about this place that cannot be told in pictures. One reason is that this city stimulates the senses in much more than just a visual way. Even now in the dark recesses of our windowless hotel room I can hear horns honking somewhere. On the street it is a never-ending cacophony of diesel engines, horns and sirens of every frequency, jack hammering, construction of every kind really, and people. People yelling, people laughing, people crying, people whistling, people spitting, belching, and even peeing. Maybe you can’t really hear people peeing but it sure seems like that when you pass open urinals on the side of the street, which brings us to the smells. Walking around is like this: Your baseline is diesel fumes, if you’re outside and on street level then you smell them all the time. If you pass a dark looking alley it usually smells like urine, if you pass an open urinal it definitely smells like urine. You’ll pass a chai stall and the sweet smell permeates the air and you can smell nothing else. We’ll pass sweets stands and spice vendors and their respective smells will sweep over you. You’ll pass garbage dumps and the same will happen. And when you’re not passing near by something that smells (which is rare) you will return to the baseline of diesel fumes. We actually clean our noses out at night and it blackens the Kleenex. I’m really not exaggerating. As far as tastes go we’ve been pretty cautious about what we eat (no fruit or anything unpackaged) but I can tell you right now we’ve had the best Indian food of our lives. Actually it’s pretty much all we’ve had for breakfast, lunch and dinner since we arrived here. It’s all so familiar but at the same time on a different level than the stuff we get at home. And the chai here is fantastic. A typical meal at a restaurant with chai, a couple sodas, a couple pieces of Naan and two or three small dishes usually costs around $5. It’s by far the best value we’ve seen.
Another reason this place cannot be told well in pictures is because of the poverty here. I shouldn’t say that it cannot be photographed, it’s just a really difficult thing to photograph. I’m having a difficult time right now even talking about it. I can’t speak for all of India because we’ve only been to one small part of one city, but when I think about how many people live in India (1.03 billion, 16% of the worlds population) it makes sense to me that the quality of life here can’t be the same as anywhere else. And its not the amount of beggars or homeless people that account for the poverty I’m talking about—though there are many. It’s the standard of living that is so shocking. I wish I could describe this all in more detail but I really feel at a loss for words. We’re going to try really hard to show more in our pictures. I don’t mean we’ll focus on the poverty here, but it really is an intricate part of where we are.
Anyways here are a few pictures from our little walk yesterday:
Like the title of this post suggests, we do attact considerable attention (particularly with our big cameras) and the people here certainly do not mind staring at us!
Old style Ambassador taxies
Crazy motor rickshaw
Street side barber
A cup of chai from a street vendor and the little clay pot they serve it in. We drank our chai by the vendor expecting we needed to return the cup, but it turns out they just throw them out afterwards. Weird.
Where chai comes from...
Good to the last drop
The Indian flag
A busy street scene
Power lines and birds
I’ve done some different processing here on a few photos from today’s post, and I'd really love if you guys would let me know what you think! Leave a comment!
We haven't posted for a while, and that's because we have been on the move, as usual. We left Krabi, Thailand and took another 12 hour bus ride (that was blessedly uneventful) back to Bangkok. The fates were smiling upon us, and at 5AM when we rolled into the Khao San Road, a kind taxi driver pointed us to a hotel with a room. A clean, nice, and comfortable room right on the Khao San. It was certainly a very different experience from our arrival in Thailand!
A busy day was had after we woke up. We mailed things home, which was a very simple process (it is not always that way!). Then we treated ourselves to a bit of pampering. We each had a half hour foot massage, Rob got his head shaved, I had a half hour Thai massage, got my hair shampoo'd and cut, and my eyebrows waxed. Total cost for all of that: 790 Baht. A whopping $25.50 Canadian dollars.
If I could get an hour long massage for $6 back home I would certainly have one every day....everyone sigh with me now as we imagine that.....
Ok, moving on.
We fly from Bangkok into Kolkata (Calcutta), early the next morning. A lengthy wait for our bags to come out, a harrowing 2 hour taxi ride in which we both were certain we were going to die numerous times (note: we both were hit, and hit someone else, both times not hard at all, but I guess that is quite common here!), and finally we come to the "backpacker district" of Calcutta. I use quotations around "backpacker district" because really we see hardly any other travelers at all! The hotels were still mysteriously all booked up, and we finally found a seedy place complete with a cockroach in the bathroom (as I write this I hope that it is still trapped under the water glass that we utilized this morning).
It certainly has been an incredible shock arriving in India, and even a month of traveling South East Asia couldn't prepare us for it. The poverty is all around you, and it is very hard to comprehend. Even the street we're staying on looks like a movie set, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that it is not pretend, but shockingly real.
But, the purpose of The Wedding Travelers is soon to be fulfilled, as we have already found a wedding to attend. It is in the North East, in a town called Jorhat, and we just finished booking some tickets to make our way there in a couple of days. We have no clue what to expect, but elephants are rumored, so we've excited.
And now we take our leave to go find something to eat. Although Calcutta has scared us and startled us, the food we have had is fantastic enough to make up for it all, and a good cup of chai in our bellies calms us right down.
WIFI has been non-existant, thus the lack of photos, but we're going to do our best to figure something out. Until then, just use your imaginations :)
Hoi An, Vietnam - Bangkok, Thailand - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
February 3, 2008
Well, we haven’t gotten a good blog post up in a long time, so I bet you’re craving some pictures and some videos! Especially all of our friends and family back home in Edmonton who are enduring temperatures of -50 degrees Celsuis right now. I can’t imagine you guys are going outside, so here are some photos and videos, dedicated to you! I hope they help you try and think of warmer places!
I’m going to keep the chatter to a minimum here since there are really a ton of photos and videos to get through!
We’ll start with our last day in Vietnam, which was spent in Hoi An. First we have a rooster that we came across. I absolutely love how he is the one splash of colour in this shot.
And before we left we had to go back and visit our good friend Chompsky. Here we are having a good last snuggle.
We made our way to the Central Market in Old Town, which provided some fantastic photo ops
And some nice light as we were walking home
We got up incredibly early (4AM) to go to the My Son (pronounced Mee Son) ruins just outside of Hoi An. They were built by the ancient Cham people, and were Hindu temples, which was surprising and also very cool. In the end we were very glad that we got there so early, since we didn’t have to try and work around hundreds of visitors to get some great shots.
And then we were out of Vietnam. We had originally planned to visit the North, but in the end chose to cut it out of our itinerary. We ended up spending 10 hours in the Hanoi airport, and saw that the weather looked absolutely dreadful. We actually wore a couple of the winter coats we had made for us, as well as scarves, because it was so cold! So we were happy with our choice for sure!
When we got to Bangkok we headed straight for the Khao San Road. I would say that it could be considered the center of the backpacker universe. In the morning after a good nights sleep we were up and exploring. We had some absolutely amazing Phad Thai from a street vendor
Breakfast of Champions: Street food, Red Bull, and Coke…mmmmm
There were some really cute kittens at our hotel
And here’s the Khao San Road at night. It’s really a crazy assault on the senses!
They have these things here in Thailand that they call “buckets”. It is essentially a small plastic bucket that they fill with alcohol. The “traditional” mixture is cheap Thai whiskey, Red Bull, and Coke. It’s potent, to say the least!
And while on the Khao San pretty much anything can happen. As we were sitting there this women came up and just plunked this weird hat on my head. Clearly I was a bit surprised!
And then we made our way to Ko Phi Phi, nothing less than an island paradise.
Our first night there we wandered around and came across a wicked fire dancer show
They make just amazing patterns
Here are a couple of videos that will hopefully give you a better idea of the madness of these dudes than pictures can. In this first one if you just saw the end, you would definitely think it was on fast forward. But no, he’s really just that fast.
And then the finale consisted of about 6 of these guys just going at it. It was way too cool.
Then the next morning we went snorkeling. Now in Vietnam the snorkeling we did blew our minds, and we were hoping that Thailand would measure up. I’ll tell you right now that it completely blew all of our expectations right out of the water!
This was the sight we saw when we first jumped in to the nearly bathwater warm water
The visibility was incredible, you could see way deep down beneath you!
The variety of sea life we saw this time around was mind blowing. Check our this enormous eel we came across
This is a giant clam, and you could see it opening and closing if you watched for long enough
A sea cucumber
A rather scary looking sea urchin (I think the thing in the center is it’s eye…..creepy!)
And perhaps one of the coolest things was seeing these clown fish (think of Finding Nemo!).
They were hiding in the sea anemone and if you wiggled your finger they would dart in and hide, then pop back out, ready to play some more!
Other strange creatures? No, just us! I’ll tell you, it’s rather hard to smile while wearing a snorkel!
Our snorkel tour even took us to Maya Bay, which was where the movie “The Beach” was filmed. Back when Rob was here 4 years ago he had the whole place to himself. Unfortunately we had to share with 100 other people. But we still really enjoyed the white, soft sand and the clear blue waters. Here’s a shot of one of the long boats inside of the bay.
Then on the way home we saw an incredible sunset. Here’s a shot of Ko Phi Phi Ley in the gorgeous evening light (which is the island that is home to Maya Bay, we stayed on Ko Phi Phi Don, a short boat trip away).
And one of that sunset (straight out of camera, no Photoshop to this one. The colours were really spectacular)
And to finish up our time on this island we headed off to a local bar to watch a bit of Thai Boxing. It was definitely intense!
So you might wonder why we only spent a couple days on such a gorgeous island? Well, I shall tell you. First off, Ko Phi Phi is actually really expensive now! We were paying roughly $100 dollars a night for our room, and it was not as nice as I was expecting! It was really quite standard. And we were lucky to even find it, everything on the island was practically fully booked! So with our traveler’s budgets there was no way we could afford to stay there very long.
Secondly, Ko Phi Phi has become something of a Cancun of South East Asia. The number of young, tanned beach beauties around was astounding and they were all there to just party and lie on the sand. As we were wading in Maya Bay, easily one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, I overhead a girl say “This is fantastic. But if only it had a bar!” Can you believe that?? The chilled out travelers vibe is totally gone, and the place is just packed. Not exactly what you want for a place to relax, since it’s tough to even walk down the street without having to push through crowds! Not exactly our scene.
That being said, we honestly thoroughly enjoyed our time on the island. We had some incredible food (easily the best sushi we’ve ever had) and indulged in a Thai massage. We don’t have any pictures of that, since we were too busy getting massaged, but it’s so very different from a typical Swedish massage! It involved a lot of pushing and pulling on your limbs, and has been described as “passive Yoga”. It sounds very strange, but I assure you it was fantastic!
So that’s the scoop with us. Right now we’re in Krabi and are very happy to have found a simple room for $10 a night. We’ll be spending a bit of time here catching up on our work, and then preparing to arrive in India. So get ready for that, and we’ll talk to you all soon!
Our apologies for not having posted sooner, and for the lack of pictures. We hope you guys haven't been orrying about us! We're currently safe and sound in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand (the place where the movie The Beach was filmed, although a different island a few kilometres away). So you can just imagine the scenery. And if you haven't seen the movie you should watch it right away and then just picture us there!
We have a ton of new stuff to post up to show you the beauty of this place, we just need some time (and some WIFI) and then you'll be able to take a peek!
Anyway, so far our time in Thailand has been rather trying. We arrived in Bangkok around 11PM after having been on the move since 5AM. All the guidebooks said that this wouldn't be a problem, to just make our way to the Khao San Road (the main backpacker district, also in the movie The Beach) and we'd find something. Well after getting a taxi ride there (which ripped us off) we began walking around looking for a place. About 45 minutes of searching turned up nothing at all, so we took our bags and started to walk to another road that was just a few minutes away. We trudged down this road for probably another 45 minutes searching, and finally found something. It was expensive (30 dollars a night) and not very nice, but it had a bed and air con so we were happy. But we weren't too happy with Thailand!
The Khao San Road is crazy and busy and just teeming with people from all walks of life. I'm pretty sure this is the best place in the world for people watching! But it's a pretty large assault on the senses, and one that we can't take for long. So we planned to make our way to the islands in the south. We found a travel agent, booked our tickets, and thought all was well.
Well we got onto a bus after waiting for about an hour and half after they told us it would leave. At least it was a nice bus! We left Bangkok at 7PM. Around 7AM (yes, it's a really long bus ride) the bus stops at this little out of the way place that consists of nothing more than a thatched roof structure selling cold drinks, and a building that seems to think it is a travel agency. All the people in the bus were told to get off, and take all of our stuff. Then we were sent into the "travel agency" one at a time. Rob and I sat there wondering what on earth was going on in there, since people would be in there for quite a while. When we finally got in there we found out, and were none too pleased with it.
They tried to tell us that we needed to buy another ticket so that we could take a mini-bus to Krabi (the place where we catch a boat to Ko Phi Phi) right then. Otherwise we would be waiting for 3 hours until the next one came, and we would miss the first ferry. One thing they should have known is that you do not mess with Rob & Lauren early in the morning. After we've had a good nights sleep and some food, we're totally chilled. But when we've only had a few hours of sleep, we're a force to be reckoned with. We really gave them hell for trying to rip us off like that, demanding that they phone the travel agent in Bangkok.
Eventually after refusing to pay for the fake tickets, and raising our voices a bit (the rest of the bus was still waiting outside, and I'm pretty sure they could hear we were upset) they put us on the mini-bus, but not without a slew of Thai that I'm pretty sure wasn't "Thank you for your business".
After all that we were hoping that we'd just get there without any more hassle. But no, not in Thailand! We had one more stop at a random travel agency, a wait there, some more Thai yelled at us, and finally we made it to the port, just in time to miss the ferry by half an hour. 4 hours of waiting, and we got onto the boat and made our way to Ko Phi Phi. Total travel time from Bangkok: 24 long, hot, hassle-laden hours.
But was it worth it? Well the scenery here is probably the most beautiful we have ever seen, the water is clear, turqouise and sparkling, and the food so far has been great. We're off to go snorkeling in a few hours, and I pretty much know that is going to be mind blowing. So even though Thailand hasn't been so kind to us so far, we're still optimistic that we'll see some beautiful scenery and have a great time.
And we don't mean to give Thailand such a negative review so far, and hopefully things will pick up. But Rob was here 4 years ago and he feels like things have really really changed here. It's easy to see that the massive increase in tourism (we see far more travelers than Thai people) has spawned a slew of unscrupulous travel vendors, and we have unfortunately have had far too much experience with them so far. It's funny because the Vietnam we saw seems a lot like Thailand was 4 years ago. Perhaps that makes it a better bet to travel to, though hopefully they cope with the increase in tourists in a more honest manner.
One thing that we have thoroughly enjoyed about Vietnam is the abundance of puppies. And no, these aren't the type that get eaten. They are the pets of the people who live here. But the great thing is that these puppies are given completely free reign to run about as they see fit. It makes for a wonderful walk down the street visiting all the familiar puppies. It's really quite funny, since these puppies don't have any fancy Purina Chow, they don't get the same nutrients as Western puppies, and are all quite short! We haven't seen a "large" dog the whole time we've been here. What we have seen are what look to be normal sized dogs, with really tiny legs. They are beyond cute. So during our photo outing the other day I took it upon myself to take pictures of all the puppies I came across, and thought I'd share a few with you!
Hope you enjoy! We're off to Bangkok, Thailand tomorrow, and are looking forward to some warmer weather!
So it’s time we gave you a little taste of Hoi An: City of Dreams….Well, City of Dreams to those who dream about fashion. This town is THE place to go if you want some clothes tailored in Vietnam. You are more than welcome to saunter into a store with a copy of Vogue in your hands, and they will do all they can to make your fabric fantasies come to life. I’ll tell you right now, it’s been incredibly hard not to pick up 15 different coats, as every day I see another one that I love. I’ll be walking away with 3, the same as Rob. Add to that a few pairs of pants each, probably 10 tops for me, 8 for Rob, a suit for him, shoes tailored to our specific size…the list goes on, as do the Visa bills. But you can see that this place is heaven if you’re coming for clothes. And that’s why we came here: just for clothes. That’s all we knew about this little town. But I’ll tell you right now that we were incredibly surprised at what a picturesque and beautiful place this is. Yesterday we had a few hours to kill between appointments at different tailors, so we packed all of our camera gear into a couple bags, and took off to “shoot the hell out of this town” as Rob put it.
And it was such a fantastic (and extremely tiring) afternoon. This is what we came up with.
A shot, not of Hoi An, but cool all the same. This was the light switch in our compartment on the train we took here from Nha Trang. To this day we aren’t entirely sure what the button on the far right is for, and I’m not really wanting to find out….Ignorance is bliss in this situation, especially since we will be taking more trains!
And now for some from Hoi An. A very typical scene here is the young kids riding down the streets on their bikes. And they usually ride two to a bike, as you’ll see here!
One of the main streets here is Tran Phu. Look at how fantastic the post is that holds the sign. I wish things back home had even half that much character.
As we made our way to the river I saw this guy rowing his little boat along. I did practically yank the camera with our big zoom lens on it from Rob’s hands to get the shot, but in the end I don’t think he minded too much ☺
One of the most enchanting parts of Hoi An is the Old Town section of the city. We’ve spent most of our time here since our hotel is right beside it. It’s an area that is now a Unesco World Heritage Site, and is regulated in order to maintain and preserve the buildings. If you can block out the other tourists with cameras in hand, and the stalls selling Coca-Cola and cigarettes, and just get lost in the buildings around you, you can almost feel like you’ve been transported back in time. This Japanese covered bridge is one of the main attractions, and is certainly a very interesting site. If you saw the picture of the lantern from the last post, that was taken inside the bridge.
A stunning view across the river
Some gongs for sale
Really, am I crazy for wishing that Edmonton looked more like this place??? I certainly don’t think so, it’s just fantastic.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but here in Vietnam they stick little bundles of incense all over the place (in pop cans on the street, in tree branches, in cracks in the pavement) and it burns frequently throughout the day. It’s such a comforting and warm smell, and I just love walking past the little bunches.
A simple stroll down the street is sure to turn up some wonderful sights, including this little lily pad
And this gorgeous flower beside it
What a quiet street looks like in Old Town
Vespas all over the place. I desperately wish it was practical to have one back home…but I don’t see it doing so well competing with the huge trucks along the freeway at 80 km/h
Some boys just out for a ride
They young guy was doing some incredibly intricate carving at a shop.
Then we walked along the river to take a peek at the fishing boats
I just love all the colours of them
And now it’s time for you to meet Chompsky! One thing that I was doing as we walked was “collecting” photos of dogs (I’ll be posting that up soon!). We were walking past a square when I saw this ridiculously cute dog just standing there, so I stopped us and went over to get a shot. Little did I know that this would turn into a 20 minute stop-over as we played with him! Here he is playing around between my feet.
And a shot of Rob as he was trying to help Chompsky catch his tail
Lowepro Camera Bags: Puppy tested, puppy approved.
Don’t you just want to snuggle him all day??
As we were watching him a group of three young girls came up and started playing with him. I took some shots of them goofing around with Chompsky, and eventually they wanted to check the photos out.
Now, why is his name Chompsky? Because he’s a very young puppy, still teething, and really likes to chew on your hands, and maybe even your feet! He loved chasing after the girls feet as they danced around keeping away from him.
Even this old man was enjoying the scene as everyone played with the puppy. Don’t you just adore his expression? So happy and peaceful.
The girls playing, and Chompsky chomping
All in all it was such a great little experience playing around with the puppy, and we even went back today and hung out with him for a bit. But, like the careful travelers we are, once we left we made sure to wash off our hands, so don’t worry that we’re going to get sick.
Then as we continued our walk we came across this lovely little scene
And then walked past the tailor where we got the majority of our clothes made. We had to take a shot and post it up here so that anyone planning on making their way here after hearing us rave about the clothes would know where to go! There are two Thuong shops, and this one (#16) was our favorite. They were super nice, and always waved to us as we walked by, which was really cute. And the clothes they made for us turned out great, so check them out for sure.
And a couple more from the rest of our walk. Here’s a fruit stand. These are all along the road and it’s so great to see them walking around pushing them down the street!
Now with all those scooters we’ve been showing you, you must wonder where they get the gas from. This here is one of the more fancy gas stations. It’s really a cylinder of gas with a plastic tube to pour it out into the scooter. We’ve even seen plastic water bottles filled with gas that they just set out close to the road in case someone needs to ride up and fill up. Yes, there are the big Shell stations, but they are few and far between, so this is a fantastically smart way of solving that problem!
So I know that was a ton of pictures, but I’ll tell you right now that we could have put up so many more. This town is just brimming with character and charm, and we couldn’t help but be swept away by it all. I hope you enjoyed it. It’s sadly the last stop in our traveling in Vietnam, but I think it was the perfect way to end it all. We will be checking out some local temple ruins tomorrow, and doing a bit of a photo excursion (hopefully the weather will cooperate with us for that!) and then we’re heading to Thailand for a week and half. Vietnam was fantastic to us, and will certainly remain in our memories for a long time. I really intend to write up some reviews of all the towns we visited here, so that those who saw what we did, and think this might be a cool place to travel to will know what the deal is!
But for now we’re heading out for dinner so I’ll leave it here.
P.S. Did anyone catch the two semi-finals of the Australian Open???? We were completely in shock! Two huge upsets back-to-back, incredible! We’re rooting for Tsonga now, and I hope he gives a similar performance in the final!
So we know we haven't posted any photos in a long time. Bad bad us! But we finally got all of our tailoring finished yesterday and we're so glad to have it all finished. It was a ton of work! But we'll let you know all about that later today and just leave you with one teaser for now (our breakfast is about to come!)
One that Rob played a bunch with last night, and looks supremely cool:
Right now we're in Hoi An, which is a small town in central Vietnam. The main reason to come here is to get clothes tailored. There are about 500 tailors in this small town, honestly you can't look around you without seeing one! This is really why we decided to come to Vietnam, to get ourselves some sweet new threads, and so we've been really busy running around and getting a ton of clothes made! So not too much in the way of pictures right now, but what I've done is put together a quick little video that shows you what kind of gear we're using, and how we lug it around with us.
I also wanted to mention that we carry around 50GB of memory cards with us, as well as a little Wacom tablet, which makes editing our photos on the laptop waaaaaaay easier.
Our travel plans have changed a bit and we're planning to head to Thailand next week. After that, in the second week of February, we finally make our way to India, the place that this whole trip was planned around. And once we get there we will change gears and start to really focus on people photography, rather than having a bit of a holiday, which is what we're doing right now. I hope you all are really excited for that, because we certainly are!
Rob (who is quickly becoming addicted to tailored clothes....they just fit so well!)
P.S. I've been toying with the idea of putting up lens and camera data (exposure, aperture, etc.) info for all the pictures we put up here, but that will take a fair bit of work. Let me know in the comments section if there are some of you out there who think this would be usefull for them and then I'll do it up. And make sure to let me know if you are curious about any of the photos here, and the processing we do to them, and we'll do our best to explain!
So we're still nursing those sunburns, which are really quite painful. We had an easy morning and watched some of the Australian Open (tennis, for those not in the know). It seems whenever we travel there's a Grand Slam tournament on. When we traveled Europe we were able to catch Wimbledon. It's such a fantastic sport to watch. But I'm way off topic here :)
Anyway, after a morning in, we made our way to the train station to pick up some train tickets to Danang tomorrow. We managed that with relatively little trouble.
Not wanting to spend too much time out in the sun today, we thought we'd check out the mineral mud baths here in Nha Trang. It was really quite enjoyable, sitting in a big tub of mud, although getting into it was extremely painful with our poor burned legs.
After 20 minutes in the mud you did some sunbathing (don't worry, we stayed entirely in the shade), rinsed off all the mud, then soaked in a mineral bath for half an hour. It was a nice and relaxing afternoon, although I'm not sure if it didn't anything for our burns. That remains to be seen!
But we were definitely pretty sore and ready to just take it easy in our hotel room, get a bit of work done, watch some tennis, you know. I guess that peace and quiet we were looking for was not meant to be....
Yes, karaoke. Very very loud, and very very terrible karaoke. It was some restaurant a little ways away, so you can just imagine how loud that speaker was. I don't know what it is about blaring volume that makes people think they are fantastic singers. Anyway, this went on for a few hours as we attempted to ignore it and work, but eventually we gave up, plugged our noise isolating ear buds in and watched a movie.
I feel sorry for those in the restaurant who didn't have that option...
No? That's not what you thought of? Oh! Well then you're in for a surprise, because on the coast of Vietnam you will find a totally amazing tropical getaway. White sandy beaches, huge waves, coconut trees. The works.
And with that comes some pretty cool scuba diving and snorkeling in the South China Sea.
Yes! It's true!
Now Rob is a certified scuba diver, but I have asthma, which is pretty much a no-go when it comes to that. So we decided we'd go snorkeling. It was my first time, and I was completely blown away. Like, my mind was blown. I couldn't believe that just swimming along the surface I was going to see tons of fish and coral. It was amazing. And we got a really awesome video of it all, so here you go!
That sound you hear while we're underwater is the sound of the fishes eating up the coral. The visibility wasn't fantastic, since we're here right at the end of the rainy season, but as you can see we still saw a lot and were really happy about it.
And our souvenir? Some really really bad sunburns :( We're definitely in a bit of pain today, and slathering on the aloe and whatnot, and hopefully we'll recover soon. But of course, we still think it was totally worth it!
So this is pretty long overdue, but we wanted to film a short little clip to introduce you guys to the site, and what we're hoping to with all of this. I'll let the video do the talking!
So there you have it! The Wedding Travelers in a nutshell. Make sure to try and leave some comments on the videos, we're always so excited when we see a new comment! And as always, if you have any questions ask away and we'll do our best to answer!
And for the record, that's the South China Sea behind us. Killer.
And the way there is fraught with many perils. And is also stinky. Very stinky. But let’s start at the beginning shall we?
As you saw in our last post we spent one of our last days in Ho Chi Minh City at the Cu Chi tunnels. Here’s a video from that experience that you might enjoy.
And finally the time had come for us to say goodbye to Ho Chi Minh City. On our last night in the city our friend Kevin and his dad drove to our hotel and picked us up on their scooters. They took us on a ride so we could get the experience of a scooter journey in HCMC. It was definitely a thrill, but strange things were going down that night. We saw a really, incredibly drunk pair of Vietnamese guys topple their scooter over, fall to the ground with no helmets on, then hop back up and drive off. And while we were enjoying some sugar cane juice with Kevin and Cherie we saw a street brawl between two other Vietnamese guys (I can only assume they were drunk, as that seems to be an important component of such an event). Weird, weird stuff. But at no point did we feel unsafe, so you don’t need to worry about this being a rough town! Here’s a little video Rob took as we were jetting along on our scooters.
And finally the event we had been waiting in Ho Chi Minh City for so long for….the arrival of our Indian visas! We made our way to the consulate early in the morning, had the customary wait that is required when you are doing anything official, and BAM! Two passports complete with visas in hand, and we were ready to hit the road.
And this is where things got interesting.
Days earlier we had found a transit company that offered buses to our next destination, Dalat. With the help of our translator, Kevin, we found out where to go and when to catch the bus. They even gave us a little pamphlet that showed us the times and location to get the bus. However, this pamphlet was entirely in Vietnamese. Not one word in English. This should have been our first clue….
But of course we went along our merry way, caught a taxi, and they dropped us off at this bus station. We were expecting to see a ton of huge tour buses, but in fact it was a small, little place, with rows of chairs, and no buses to be seen. That’s okay, thought we. We marched inside, and Rob set out to get us a couple of tickets. As I’m sitting with the bags I notice that it’s taking him an incredibly long time to just pick up a couple of tickets. I also look around and see only Vietnamese people. Not a single tourist in sight. Hmm….
Rob comes back and says that it seems like we’re on a bus at 2:00PM (it was around 12:00PM now and we were hoping to leave at 1:00PM) and it was a 16-seater bus (we were wanting a big 45-seater). But apparently the girls at the counter didn’t speak a lick of English and Rob had a tough time getting what we wanted across to them. He went back to try to figure it all out, and one of the staff members came up to me and basically made it clear that it was our turn to go. I was quite puzzled, since it was only around noon, and apparently we weren’t leaving until 2:00PM. I waved Rob back over, and we grabbed our bags and were loaded into a little van. I honestly had no clue whether this was to be our transport to Dalat. The seats were old and worn, and our driver swerved in and out of traffic like a slalom skier. Little did I know that after finding out how we were actually going to be traveling, I would have happily chosen the little van over it!
So we bump along in our transport, with no clue where we are off to. And when we finally got there, we really wish we hadn’t. There may as well have been sign that said “Welcome to the Urinal Depot”, because that’s what we’ll forever remember it as. It reeked. Badly. Like urine. Just in case you didn’t get that from the “Urinal” part.
Add to that the smell of about 100 buses coughing fumes, and you can see why we weren’t too pleased to be there. We get out of the van, grab our bags, and stand helplessly amidst the buses. Thankfully our driver sensed our confusion, and said a bunch of things in Vietnamese, then led us to the café.
In case you’ve never been to Vietnam, a café can very easily consist of some tiny plastic chairs (think of the ones designed as lawn chairs for children), tiny plastic tables, and some umbrellas. Out in the middle of the pavement.
He motions for us to sit down. I do so with little problem. Rob, who is very much not of normal Vietnamese stature, sits down in his chair, then laughs, and stands back up to demonstrate the fact that the chair sticks to his bottom, because it is so desperately small for him.
We whip out our books and begin to pass the time by reading. And also by inhaling the fumes of the running van a meter behind us. This is Ho Chi Minh City, and it is sweltering, so we weren’t too pleased to be blasted with hot, stinky air. We weren’t too pleased with anything at this point. But this is what traveling can be like, and we’ve had a very similar experience waiting for a ferry in Greece, so we just sit and read and hope that whenever we’re supposed to get on our bus someone will tell us.
Well, eventually someone finds us and motions for us to follow him. We go through the motions of putting our books away, getting our bags ready, stand up, and….Where did he go? We peer around, start to slowly walk through the vans, and generally look like some lost, baby deer. Then he suddenly appears again, and waves to us to follow him. So we start walking through the buses again, and have to take a little detour because the bag won’t fit between two of them. By the time we get out into an opening where we was standing but moments before, he has once again disappeared.
I’m starting to feel like Alice chasing the white rabbit.
We wander again, many Vietnamese men motion at varying buses and at us and seem to have very important things to tell us, but it’s all in Vietnamese, and our grasp of the language doesn’t extend beyond pho bo (beef soup) and sinh to (fruit shake). And they were using neither of those phrases, so we were out of luck.
We stand for a while, then suddenly he pops up out of nowhere and motions us towards a small little bus that here is known as a 16-seater.
Please note that this means 16 Vietnamese people, traveling in Vietnamese style (i.e. crammed in like sardines).
At least the sign on the front says Dalat. We’re getting somewhere.
We bring our bags around back to put them away. Two of them get in there alright, but our large camera bag doesn’t look like it is going to fit, and we’d rather not watch him slam the door on it, as we’re sure it would be accompanied by the crashing both of our cameras and our dreams, so Rob holds on to it. We walk around to the door, and it opens to reveal…
A damn tiny bus.
And luckily for us, our seats are in the very back, crammed with two other people in our row. Wait, make that three other people, because the woman was holding her young son on her lap. We literally barely even fit in our seats, and had three bags between the two of us to hold. The leg room was so scarce that neither of us could sit with our knees straight forward, as they would bump into the seat in front of us. And we needed to contort our limbs into pretzels in order to actually fit in some way that didn’t involve Rob’s elbow in my ribs, or my kneecap in his thigh.
I sat there and knew that this was going to be a very very long ride.
And it was. It was about seven hours to get to Dalat, including a pit stop where I had my first encounter with a squat toilet (not as fun as you’d think), and we watched kittens playing (way more fun than you’d think). We both attempted to sleep, though that definitely didn’t happen.
And we became intimately aware of the poor condition of the roads in Vietnam, as we bumped along, and upon many occasions became completely airborne, sometimes by about a foot.
We said a silent thank you to Steve Jobs, and those awesome folk at Apple for inventing the iPhone, as we spent the last two hours of the ride watching The Matrix, which helped time pass better than counting black shapes in the darkness. Did I mention that twilight here lasts about 30 seconds? One moment I’m reading my book, and by the time I’ve flipped the page it’s pitch black and I’m SOL.
As we got closer to the ETA that we calculated when we left HCMC (I’m in an acronym mood right now, it appears) the bus started pulling over, and people started getting out. At very very random places in the middle of seemingly nowhere, without saying a word to the driver. At least I don’t think they said anything…It was incredibly strange, and we were starting to wonder how we were to know that we were supposed to get off.
Well, the way to know when you’ve arrived at your final destination in Vietnam is precisely when the driver hops out and throws your stuff onto the street.
He jets off and leaves us there around 9:00PM in a bus station, which we desperately hope is in Dalat. The only other person we immediately see is a very intrepid motorcycle driver who wants to take us into town. This tiny man on his tiny bike wants to take me, Rob, and our 6 larges bags into town. We chuckle at his optimism and tell him “No, we need a taxi”. “No more taxi” he tells us. Did I mention it was raining?
So we start to walking towards a building with lights on, in hopes of figuring out what to do next when a little green van driving by stops, and some Vietnamese guys inside yell at us “Where are you going?”. “Hotel”, we reply. “Yes, get in”.
They may as well have said “Yes get in and I’ll tell you all about how you just won the lottery”, for as good as it sounded to us at the moment.
So we pile into the van, and pick a hotel from the Lonely Planet and say we want to go there. They convey this to the driver, and off we go. Before they get out they let us know that we don’t have to pay for this ride, it’s complimentary from our bus company. People here can be genuinely, incredibly nice, and we were very glad to have met some of them.
Then we met the other taxi driver.
After the local guys had piled out, and it was just the two of us foreigners left (read: easy marks) another taxi driver came up to the window and told us about a very nice hotel room for very cheap. “No thanks, we want to go here”.
”No, it’s closed”
“It’s not closed”
“Yes, it’s closed. I have a very nice room for very cheap.”
“No, we want to go here.”
“No, it’s not closed”
“You say it’s not closed. Okaaaayyyyyyyy” Like he thought we were crazy.
It wasn’t closed.
Remember that if you’re ever traveling. As I hear it, it can be pretty bad in India. Just stick to your guns, and if you get there and it really is closed, you can still find somewhere else.
So, it wasn’t closed. We were proven right. But it was, in fact, full for the night.
Did I mention it was raining?
And though that could have been a wee little disaster right there, luckily in Vietnam you can’t spit and miss a hotel (or however that saying is meant to go) so a two minute walk down the street brought us to a two star hotel (they were very proud of that fact) for $20/night that only smelled mildly of sewage, and so we took it.
And that was our journey to Dalat.
Since it was pitch black there when we arrived we had no idea what to expect. When we checked in to the hotel they asked if we wanted to partake in the breakfast buffet. “Sure!” we said. (Mistake).
The girl at the desk happily informs us that she can give us a wake-up call at 7:30AM so we can get breakfast. Our happy faces turn into sad faces. But we figured we’d wake up, sleepily walk downstairs, have breakfast and walk back upstairs back into bed.
So 7:30AM rolls around and we are woken up by knocking at the door. Apparently our line was busy so she came to the room (in all fairness, the staff there were super awesome, and totally helped us out a lot while we were there!). We trudge downstairs, expecting to see a restaurant somewhere full of people. We saw nothing of the sort. With confused looks, we go to her, and she tells us that the restaurant is actually 100m down the street. So we take off, walk quite a ways down the street, see absolutely nothing, so we walk back. One of the security guys springs to action when we say that we can’t find it, and says he’ll take us on his scooter. So he and another guy rev up their engines, and take us right back the way we just walked. Only difference, they went about 10m further around a corner, and there it was.
So we’re finally here, we figure we might as well enjoy it. We burst through the doors expecting to be welcomed with the smell of waffles and eggs. And instead the smells of noodles, fried rice, dumplings and “fish gruel” (as Rob describes it) meet our nostrils. Mmmm, breakfast of champions.
But we eat, get back to the hotel, and arrange to rent a scooter for the day. About 10 mintues later a very friendly guy who says he loves the snow but has never seen it (that’s why he loves it, he doesn’t know how freakin’ cold it is) shows up and gives us a scooter for the day.
Scooter rental: 100,000 Dong (around $6) Filling it up with gas: 50,000 Dong (around $3) Total freedom: Priceless
We found a map, brought along our handy Lonely Plant, and took off down the road. Some of our best memories of our trip to Europe involved jetting around the Greek Islands on a scooter, and we were very glad to be doing it again. And we sure got our monies worth with some breathtaking scenery. Let’s get to some visuals shall we?
Our first stop was a cable car that promised breathtaking views of the area. I think it came through.
The cable car took us to this little area with some pagodas and whatnot. We just wandered around, avoiding the legions of small schoolchildren who were visiting that day. One thing you don’t see at home, bamboo growing all over the place!
We followed a path that took us down to the water. The skies were just fantastic, sometimes a clear blue sky isn’t always the best.
The ubiquitous motorcycle, everywhere you go.
The steps leading back up
And after we made our way back across the cable car we stopped for a little snack. These have become our favorite treats, and it’s funny because we’ve actually had them back at home in Edmonton, from the local Asian grocery store. They are ice cream bars that taste just like honeydew melons. Rob bought two and had both of them finished before I had finished my one…. I have sensitive teeth….
The entrance to the cable car had some really interesting trees and Rob grabbed this awesome shot of one of them.
The view of the city from where we caught the cable car.
Then it was back on the scooter, a quick look at the map, and off we went again. This time we were heading a bit further out of town, but we were up for the adventure. The Lonely Planet had mentioned that you would be taking a dirt road. What they should have called it was “the crappiest road you’ve ever encountered”. There were two tiny paths on the very shoulders of the road where people tried to avoid all the bumps. Didn’t work that well. Every jolt sent a shockwave of pain into my brain. It definitely wasn’t too fun. But that’s the price you pay for independence ☺
And I would say the views we got were worth the pain. Here’s a little video of some of the scenery.
Finally we made our way to our destination: Tiger Falls. And because we made our own way out there, we were the only tourists in the whole place, so we were able to enjoy the scenery all alone, without any kids tearing around, or people screaming in 20 different languages, and the tour guide herding you back to the bus before you are ready. Just peace and quiet and a ton of water.
I sat and read the guidebook while Rob took some shots
He took some really really amazing shots.
Then when we were hiking back up we had the option to go left, the way we came, or right, a brand new way. Naturally, we went right. And came across the bridge that crossed over the falls. It certainly wasn’t like any bridge you’d encounter in Canada.
It was a bit scary
And we had to walk very cautiously
But it was definitely fun. Here’s a little video just to get you even more scared
And then it was back home. Here’s our trusty stallion, our scooter
And a sign that we saw as we were driving along. Apparently the Vietnamese don’t care for the sound of trumpets. Who knew?
And a final shot, as we were driving around looking for some place to eat dinner. One of the strange features of Dalat is a radio tower shaped like the Eiffel Tower. I had to get a shot of it, because who would really believe that this was here, in the middle of Vietnam? But it is, and it was really funny to drive through the streets with this huge thing looming in front of you.
And that about sums up Dalat! We left the next morning, bright and early. A mini-bus picked us up from our hotel at 7:15AM and we were just praying that we weren’t in for a repeat of our last journey. When we pulled up beside a big huge tour bus, and saw lots of white people standing around, we knew we were safe. 7 hours later, and we find ourselves in Nah Trang, a beach town. We’re in a room that costs $15/night, has WIFI, and we can see the ocean from our room.
And it smells nothing at all like sewage. We’re very happy.
Well, well, well here we are! Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Formerly known as Saigon. And honestly an insanely cool place to go. Like I mentioned before, neither of us really knew what to expect from Vietnam, but I’ve gotta say that I’m so glad we made our way here! Within moments of driving through the streets on our way to the hotel we got a sense of the charm and character of this place. The photos will really tell you more than I can with words, so lets get started!
Our airplane from Singapore to Vietnam.
A shot from the balcony in our hotel room of the typical street scene
Many of the women here actually wear the conical hats that you see in movies. It adds such a dimension of authenticity, it’s fantastic. They all ride around carrying whatever it is they sell. I believe this woman was selling strawberries.
The street that our hotel is on. Sure it looks crowded and crazy, but it’s so simple and real at the same time.
So when I ordered a coconut juice at a local café I definitely wasn’t expecting this! To be honest I wasn’t a huge fan, but it sure looked cool.
There are street side markets all over the place, and our hotel room is a short walk to Ben Thanh, one of the big ones. Here are some of the fruits they are selling. I really don’t know what they are! But they look interesting ☺
The Ben Thanh market caters not only to tourists, but also the locals to come here to buy their meat and produce. We were quite shocked to find that all of this seafood is actually still alive!
The market is crammed with hundreds of booths selling everything from shoes, to handbags, souvenirs, dried shrimp, coffee, tea…you name it! Most of the booths look like this, completely packed!
We’ve grabbed a couple meals at the market. This fried rice surely had some sort of addictive substance in it, because there was just no way to stop eating it.
And of course when in Vietnam you have to have a bowl of pho. It’s pretty much the staple here, and is eaten at any time of day. It’s a simple soup, with rice noodles, onions, and meat. But it’s just incredibly good, and we enjoy it immensely.
Here’s Rob getting right into it!
A shot from our seats where we were eating. This was all the meat for the dishes that they were preparing.
And a very typical street scene. The women carry so much on their shoulders, I can’t even believe it. And they always, always do it with a smile.
A shot from our walk home. The walls here all have the most incredible texture and character to them, Rob is loving getting shots of it all.
And this is what the roads look like. As you saw in the videos below, crossing the street is a bit of a gongshow. There are an insane number of scooters here, like they comprise 90% of the vehicles on the road. And from the outside the traffic looks like complete chaos. But somehow they manage to get by with out ever colliding. Honestly, there have been times when we were in a cab where we simply couldn’t believe that we would get through it all, but somehow the scooters magically part and you just sneak on through. It’s beyond impressive. If only Edmonton drivers were this good ;)
All the drivers on their scooters wear face masks because the pollution here is so bad. We literally have not seen the sun yet!
At all the intersections the power lines look like this. It’s beyond nuts! Our power was out yesterday, and I think they just routinely shut down different parts of the city. All the restaurants and shops had generators out on the sidewalk so that they could keep business going.
So as you can see this place is really incredible. There’s such a different feel to it than Singapore. Yes, here you are constantly berated with calls of “What you looking for, madame?” and “Let me help you, madame!”. I definitely get it worse since I’m so obviously white, and Rob’s just an enigma to everyone. I think people who have trouble with personal space might have a hard time here, as I’ve been gently grabbed on the shoulder quite a few times by over-eager shop keepers, but I’ve learned to just keep going, and stay chilled.
Same thing with the street crossing. It may have looked incredibly scary on the video, but after doing it once you really get the hang of it.
For any of you planning on visiting Ho Chi Minh City in the future, and are worried about the crossings, I’ll give you the scoop. All you need to do is understand how it works, and it’s easy as pie.
First, you check the road, and which way the traffic is flowing, and at what point it changes direction (for when you are crossing traffic going in both ways) so you know when to switch and start looking the other way. Do not step out if a bus is just about to come your way. They have the rule of the road, and don’t really stop for anyone. You stop for them.
Then you slowly step out into the road. Yes, there will be scooters careening at you from every which way. But the key to is to walk slowly. That way they know where you are going, so they can swerve around. Don’t start to run, that would pretty much be the worst thing you could do! Just walk nice and slow, small steps, and don’t be afraid to just stop and wait for cars or buses to go by.
It’s quite the experience, and I know things are similar in Dehli, so I’m glad we’ve earned our wings with street crossings!
So that’s the scoop so far. We’ll be posting again soon with something different, so stay tuned!
P.S. Just a couple of house-keeping things! We just wanted to let everyone know that they can feel free to post about us on their own blogs, and grab a few pictures (keeping the logo on of course!). We think it’s so awesome that people are spreading the word about what we’re doing! Just make sure you drop us the link so we can check it out! And HUGE thanks to all that have done so so far, we totally love you guys!
And also, sometimes when we’re working on pictures or surfing the net we’ll have our Skype open. You can feel free to add us and chat with us if you wish! Our username is “robnlauren” so say hi!
So finally the time had come and we were about to leave Singapore. We were here for only a few days, as this was really only a stop over before we made our way to Vietnam. We’re hitting Singapore up again for a few days on our way home, and at that time I’ll do up a little review of it as a travel destination. But in 100 words or less, Singapore is a great place to start your trip. It is a very gentle introduction to Asia, if you’ve never been before. In fact, let’s call it Asia 101. Safe, clean, bright, fairly modern. A good way to prepare for Vietnam and India!
On our last day we decided to head down to the waterfront area to take some shots. We found ourselves at the Fountain of Wealth, the largest fountain in the world (so they claim). But it looked pretty large to me. There are times throughout the day when they turn off the main fountain so that people can walk out to the little center fountain, wish for something, and walk around three times. I think it’s meant to bring you wealth. We didn’t go out there, as we have all the wealth we need. We are artists after all ☺
We grabbed a quick bite near the fountain. Now I’ll tell you that if you’re a food lover, you’re going to get extremely jealous throughout this trip. So far we’ve had some of the best food of our lives, and it’s only been a few days! We had some dumplings:
A crazy tasty bulgogi beef soup with ramen noodles
And here’s a shot of Rob digging in to some spicy chicken. To die for. Oh, and for anyone thinking of visiting Asia, make sure you’ve learned how to use chopsticks before you come, because many times there isn’t a fork to be seen. I absolutely love using chopsticks, and use them all the time at home, so I came prepared. But I can imagine how tough it would be for someone who never has used them!
Then we just randomly wandered around. Rob grabbed this neat shot of the staircase
This is a shot of the Esplanade (or some like to call it the “big durian”…I’ll explain what a "durian" is later in this post). It’s a performing arts center, and we were really excited to see an ad for Broken Social Scene, one of the absolute best Canadian bands at the moment!
Then of course we had to visit the famous Merlion statue, the symbol of Singapore. There was a small version that Rob named Jorooter.
And the huge one that I named Mermy
The clouds were so amazing, and added such interest to our shots! But yes, we did get rained on, again!
We’re always looking for cool patterns, light, and texture
Here’s a shot of the sign for Merlion park, just in case you thought we made that name up
Rob spotted some amazingly cool trees as we were walking around
This one will make an awesome desktop background, I’ll have to size it up for that!
What we’re going to try to do is a post about the food for every location we were in. Singapore had some of the strangest foods I’ve ever seen…..and smelled…..there were definitely times when I had to promptly do a 180 and walk right back out of a market because I really couldn’t handle the smell! Stuff like fish head soup in a clay pot….tripe and intestine soup….ugh! I definitely was not that adventurous! That’s not to say that there wasn’t good food, but our appetites definitely ran far away from us a couple times when we found one of those smells. This is a quick shot from a night market we wandered through.
And speaking of smells, Singapore is well known for the durian fruit. This is a moment when I wish someone had invented a way to transmit smells over the internet, because this is one that needs to be experienced, not described. Suffice it to say that there are signs on all of the public transport that explicitly say “NO DURIANS”. That’s how pungent they are…they are banned from confined spaces!
Now I know you are all so curious as to what they smell like! I’ve seen them before at Superstore back home in Canada, or any local Chinese market. If you see one, definitely go up and give it a good smell. You certainly won’t forget it! When Rob’s grandparents stayed with us, they would buy durian (they are from Singapore actually!) and the whole entire house would just be filled with that smell…those were good times ☺
This guy was cutting up the durians for people to eat on the street. I did not try it, since I don’t know if I could handle being around the smell for that long. Plus the insides sort of looked like little brains! Rob says the texture is like custard….Perhaps we’ll try it some time on our travels and report the experience back to you ☺
Well, that was about all from our time in Singapore. Didn’t buy much, just walked around and got used to traveling again! It’s been a very long time, and life is so much different when traveling. At home we’d go to bed around 2 AM and wake up around 10 or 11. Here we’re so tired we’re in bed by 10PM and actually woke up today at 7! We take life slow, sit down and just watch people go by and just enjoy taking it easy. I think these 3 months are going to be really fun. We’re so glad so many of you are following along! Make sure to leave a comment if you have a question you’d like us to answer!
(P.S. Sorry for the delay in posting this! We're actually in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam right now and the internet in our hotel was down yesterday. But look for a couple awesome posts about this place in the next couple of days. We also did an amazing shoot today, and can't wait to share it! Cheers!)
Right now we're at the Changi Airport in Singpore waiting to board our flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam! Honestly we have NO idea what to expect from Vietnam, but we're incredibly excited.
It will probably be a couple days until we get a post up about our first thoughts of Vietnam, and our last day in Singapore, since I'm not sure how easy it will be to find Internet in HCMC. But keep the comments coming, we really love to read them!
Hello everyone! We’re writing to you from hot hot Singapore. As you saw from the last post, we left a very cold and snowy climate. Here it’s about 30 degrees, with about 90 – 100 % humidity. It’s been a very huge change, that’s for sure! All of the locals are wearing jeans and some of them are even wearing long sleeved shirts. We’re dying of heat in our tank tops. But I think we’ll get used to it…hopefully! Luckily our hotel room has Air Con, so we’re able to adjust slowly.
Now to get to Singapore from Edmonton we did about 24 hours of flying time, between three flights. It was certainly a very long trip, but I guess one has to be grateful for that. If it was easy to get to this side of the world, everyone would be here, and it would become a tourist trap. At the moment it’s very strange to be such a hugely visible minority. White people are rare, that’s for sure! But it’s not too bad, we’re used to being some of the only white people at the weddings we shoot, so it’s not a huge shock.
I’ll share a few pictures we’ve taken so far with you. Here’s a shot of our plane that took us to Singapore…
Haha, that’d be terrifying!! No, this is the plane that took us from Edmonton to Calgary. Thankfully that was only a 50 minute flight, because this thing was loud and bumpy. The landing was definitely anything but smooth.
From Calgary we flew to LAX. Our flight was a bit late getting there, but we didn’t think it was such a big deal. As we stepped out into the airport we asked the airline representative where to go to connect to our flight to Singapore. As we were standing with her, another couple stepped up saying they were going to Singapore as well. The lady gave us the most ridiculous instructions (go straight, then go down one flight, follow the flow of traffic, and then go left). Um…..this airport is huge! Those directions certainly didn’t help us, but at the time we thought it must be pretty easy. Well, the other couple takes off at a sprint. We stood there, a bit confused. Did they think this was the amazing race? Our flight wasn’t leaving for an hour, we thought we were totally fine.
Coming from the Edmonton International Airport, where there were hardly any people at all, into LAX which was a zoo was crazy. We were walking through this huge place, and were thoroughly lost. We ended up having to ask about 3 more staff where on earth we were going. And I’ll tell you right now the directions weren’t so great from any of them. But we did finally make our way to the Singapore Airlines check-in. And there were NO other passengers there. Weird, thought us. Well the flight attendants who checked us in seemed to feel like the situation was pretty urgent, so they rushed us to the express lane for security. At this point we were certainly getting a bit worried, since this “express” lane moved about as slow as molasses on a winter day in Edmonton. We got through security, grabbed our ridiculously heavy camera bags, and checked out which gate we had to get to.
It just wouldn’t be traveling if it that gate wasn’t as far away as Siberia.
But as you may have guessed, we did make it to the gate just in time to queue for boarding and all was fine.
Take off. 4 movies, many naps, 3 crazy delicious meals, 1 refuel in Taipei, and finally we got to Singapore.
We’ve taken things pretty slow here so far, but today we’re planning on hitting up the zoo which should make for some really cool pictures! I’ll show you a few that we took so far. Nothing too intense, since we were letting ourselves slowly get into the groove, but I hope you guys enjoy them anyway!
A quick shot from the airport in Taipei, Taiwan. I loved the fact that there was a Beef Noodle stand. I love noodles...
Rob strolling through the Taipei airport. Note the casual smile? That is because we weren't sprinting to try to catch our plane! He certainly did not look this relaxed in LAX.
Don't you just love seeing how different things can be around the world? I got so excited to see this pop machine with tons of drinks I had never heard of!
A shopping tower here in Singapore, close to our hotel. We like to think it is "our" tower...Simpson Lim....Sim Lim...
Last night we made our way to Orchard Road, which is the big shopping area in Singapore. If you've ever been to Paris, this place really reminded me of the Champs Elysee, but bigger.....This is a shot of one of the big malls. I think this one had a Tiffany's, a Cartier, a Bvlgari, a Hermes...and those were just the ones we recognized!
And to round it all out here’s a nice little video to show you the crazy, opulent life of a world traveler. Try not to weep from jealousy, though I know it will be hard ;)
Well, here we are. The official launch of The Wedding Travelers. And we are really, extremely excited.
Right now I'm sitting in our office, looking out at all the snow covered buildings, and counting down until we board the plane to our warm and tropical destination. We're 47 hours from take-off. There is still much to do before we leave, but as Rob said to me today, we've reached the point where if it doesn't get done, there's not much we can do about it, which has left us both with considerably less stress, and much more excitement.
This will be the inaugural trip for The Wedding Travelers and I don't think we could have picked a more perfect place to start. South East Asia. More specifically we will be making our way to Vietnam and India.
Why are we going? To explore, learn, expand (in knowledge, hopefully not in waist size!), meet, greet, and just enjoy. But at all times our main goal will be to gather information about the cultures we are experiencing, and then pass it on to you, our readers.
We will seek out weddings, and capture them with our cameras. We will add to the articles we are writing in the "Weddings" section of this site. Hopefully you will find these interesting, and that maybe you'll even make some use out of the informtion, whether by planning your own wedding, shooting one as a photographer, or just attending the wedding of a friend.
Please feel free to contact us at any time. We will check our email regularly as we travel. We'd love to hear your thoughts on our work, what we're doing, or if you're in one of the countries we're visiting and would like to hook up to do a photo shoot! And please also leave a comment on any of our posts, we really enjoy it!
Believe me, these posts will get a lot more exciting and thrilling, and with tons more photos and videos. But for now enjoy a few shots of the climate we're very glad to be leaving behind.