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!
Hey Everyone, Thanks for dropping by! We returned home from our travels on the afternoon of April 5th, 2008. A common question asked of travelers is “What was it like?”. I smile at this question and think about how much things have changed for us and how different we have become simply by traveling from one place to another. I can really only suggest that they start this blog from the beginning to answer that question (a special thank-you to those of you who followed us all the way, shared in our laughter and provided encouragement when we were left without words or photos). I feel that our time spent in India has certainly provided great insight into a very beautiful culture, and that we will most certainly be drawing inspiration from this trip for many years to come—probably our lifetimes!
Anyways after traveling for so long we have a ton of great photos that would look great hanging on your wall! Man, that sounds cheesy! The truth is that right now our new house is pretty empty and we plan on filling a lot of the walls with beautiful prints and canvases of this trip. We figured a few of you out there might enjoy a little Wedding Travelers souvenir yourself so we’ve put together a gallery of some of our favorite photos available for purchase. Photos will be printed on either professional Kodak Endura Lustre paper or super awesome canvas and shipped to whatever cool place you call home. As mentioned before we will be donating 20% of the profits from these travel print sales to the Multiple Sclerosis society of Canada. Just click on the following link “I want a print!” , pick a few cool photos and then go find some warm cozy wall space for your new prints. If there is a photo found somewhere on this blog that you would like to purchase that’s not listed in this gallery then drop us a line and well make sure to add it. Also if you’re a graphic designer or would like to use our photos for any sort of commercial purpose than a hi-resolution file can be licensed and made available for download!
I know they've been posted already, but I just couldn't help posting a few of my favorites below that I think would look awesome as prints
With our wedding season about to take off we’ll be shifting our focus back to our regular photography blog. Please direct your attention there for a continuation of the mind blowing Rob & Lauren photography experience (I can’t say that with a straight face, who could?). All of that said, the Wedding Travelers will still receive regular blog updates (albeit less frequently). We would like to start featuring other cultural weddings. If you’ve shot a cultural wedding and would like to provide an article and a few snazzy snaps then we would love to post it on here! Please e-mail us to let us know what type of wedding you've shot and the details that make it so beautiful. We will also be posting little travel tips, maybe some short travel photography tutorials, as well as reviews from the places we’ve traveled. I think next winter we might try for either WT: South America or spend a couple months in Bombay (again!) so if you’re in either of those areas and interested in wedding photography be sure to get in touch with us.
I thought today I would share a bit of a review of some of the gear we traveled with. The following video is pretty long, so unless you're a photographer or someone seriously interested in how we traveled with our equipment then I might suggest passing over this one!
A couple extras:
- One thing we took with us that was essential was a rocket blower and a great microfiber towel. Using your gear on a daily basis means it gets dirty fast (especially in India) and you need the tools to make sure everything stays clean.
- Those WD pocket drives are from Western Digital. The apple sticker on it was just something I threw on so that I could distinguish between all the drives.
- We did take a remote release cord which is pretty much essential when working with the tripod or gorillapod-- nobody likes waiting for the 2-10 second timer!
If you have traveled with your gear, I would love to know what you felt was the most important piece of gear you brought with you. Also if you haven't traveled with your gear, what do you think would be the best thing to take? When we left on this trip I thought I had everything perfectly figured out, but after being gone for so long I realize that there must be a ton of great ways to travel with your gear. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail!
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!
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.
For the past week we have been completely wrapped up with the wedding celebrations of Kimmi and Harsimran. Like all Indian weddings, this one was a complete whirlwind and before you know it, you’ve spent 6 days straight with all these people, and suddenly it all just ends! Right now we’re sitting in the house, waiting to leave on our train back to Delhi. It’s a strange feeling, for the whole place is very silent, when just yesterday and the days before it was packed to the rafters with all the wedding-goers. But like all things it comes to an end, and we can just be happy that we were able to enjoy it, and have some pictures to remember it by!
I’ll be using this wedding as the main one to explain the Sikh ceremony. Once I get home I’ll probably supplement the photos with some more we have from other Sikh ceremonies we’ve shot. This post will eventually end up in the Weddings section, so you can always revisit it, and learn about the different events!
This Sikh wedding was in Punjab, which is a predominantly Sikh state. As such, I think you can expect most Sikh weddings to be similar (whereas Hindu weddings can be Punjabi, Bengali, Keralan, etc. and all are so very different!). But as always, we give the caveat that every Indian wedding will be different in some way, and you can only prepare youself so much, and then just expect anything ☺
We’ll start you off with the first ceremony we attended. It is called the Shagan, and is when the girls family take gifts to the house of the boys family. So the procession started early in the morning at the home of Kimmi’s parents, and the table full of gifts (including an iPhone!) was loaded up into the cars, and all the men (and me, the only girl!) set off.
When we arrived, the gifts were set on the table, everyone mingled a bit, the men sat in a room and chatted for a while, then we made our way into a beautiful tent to hold a small ceremony. With the Sikh religion, you must always cover your head when in the presence of the holy book, so you can see all the men and women here have their head covered.
As I mentioned previously, music is very important to the Sikh faith, and so there were these men playing absolutely beautiful songs.
Here you can see the priest sitting in front of the book, and if you look closely, you can see Harsimran in the back, in the yellow turban!
The women praying. With Sikhs the men and women sit on separate sides of the room.
In Indian culture the feeding of food is very important, in all religions we’ve encountered. Here you can see Kimmi’s dad feeding Harsimran. By the end of a wedding the bride and groom will have eaten more sweets than you can even imagine! Think of a Western wedding, just after the bride and groom have cut the cake. They then feed each other a piece. In Indian weddings, if they have a cake, generally they will feed each other, and then her mom with feed them both, then his mom, then her dad, then his dad, then all the guests…you get the idea! Basically they get incredibly full of sweets ☺
It was such a peaceful and emotional gathering, it was really great to have been a part of it.
And that was the shagan. We all ate lunch afterwards (of course! You can expect to never ever go hungry or thirsty at an Indian wedding. We probably gained 10 pounds while here!). And then we drove back to Kimmi’s parents house, and took the afternoon to rest. Next up was the Chuni and Ring Ceremony in the evening, which will be our next post! We will try to spread this wedding out over a few days, since we don’t have time to get the whole thing ready just now, lol! Plus this way you get more constant attention from us.
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!
After seeing the fort for so long from our hotel, we were more than ready to get out there and see it up close. A quick tuk tuk ride and there we were, standing at the foot of the massive structure. First we were met by this wonderful camel! We named him Cameron.
Then we walked into the fort. Along the way we came across a sign pointing out some holes in the walls that were created by canon balls. I thought it was so great that this pigeon was just hanging out in one of the canon ball holes. I’m dedicating this picture to my sister and her boyfriend, both of whom work as “pigeon whisperers” back home in Edmonton.
I love this shot of a woman walking along, with her sari blowing in the wind.
And Rob, doing what he does
These guys took their gates seriously
This was probably the first time we saw such beautiful flowers in India
And some really fantastic trees
The architecture in and around the fort was unbelievable. You remember that I said Jodhpur was one of the most visually interesting places we have ever been? This is definitely one of the main reasons!
We found a pretty sweet spot to get some shots of the Old City
And this is what I was doing up there! I absolutely love the blue houses.
Here’s a quick video to give you a sense of where we were standing
And us with the blue houses in the background!
Inside of the fort were some jaw dropping rooms. Those maharajas really had a sense of style! Although I believe this room was decorated using golf leaf, glue and cow urine….
This fort was built around 1800, I believe, and is just a photographer’s playground
And here’s the photographer!
This was an old palanquin. We think that some of our brides should get ones like this for their doli ceremonies! This thing was easily much taller than both Rob and myself.
One of the guards having a cup of chai
Two guys showing off a length of fabric that is used to tie a turban. Can you believe the length of that?
And one final shot of Cameron. As we left the fort he was having a little snack, and was so cute to watch as he just munched away.
And that’s Jodhpur. Highly, highly recommended. Approved by The Wedding Travelers. Whatever you want to say, it’s cool. Next we're off to Jaisalmer, which we hope will be just as visually stunning.
First, before we get to the magic of Jodhpur, let’s take a look at a couple of the photos from Bombay, as we drove towards the train station. It was simply unbelievable how many people were living like this along side the road. The rows and rows of these shelters never seemed to end.
And yet life seemed to go on as usual
It was certainly a very humbling taxi ride.
Now we’ll take a big leap into Rajasthan, to the city of Jodhpur, called the Sun City. I can honestly say that this is one of the most visually interesting places we’ve ever visited! We’ve certainly had a wonderful time taking photos here, and could stay for much longer, but alas, we’re about to move on. Such is our whirlwind journey around this huge country!
So the other day we armed up with our cameras and endeavored to simply wander and shoot. Sure, we usually end up getting lost, and having to catch an auto-rickshaw back to our hotel, but it’s always fantastic. We end up wandering far away from the normal tourist route, to places where people seem more interested in the fact that we’re carrying huge cameras than the fact that we are tourists who can be sold things. We end up getting lots of great shots of people as we do that, so today we’ll primarily be showing you some of the neat portraits we took.
First off we came across a woman painting pottery. She would put the red designs on using her fingers, dipped in thick red paint. It looked wonderful.
Then it was a puppy attack!! An attack of kisses, that is. These two puppies came running out at us and just showered us with kisses. Wonderful Indian hospitality : )
Ok, this picture is likely to make us laugh for years and years to come. Just after we were attacked by the puppies, we heard this very strange sound coming from down the street. We looked up to see a donkey barreling down the road, all alone, basically screaming and just running like nobodies business. To this day I still have no idea why a lone donkey was just running down the road, but I can’t help but giggle when I think of the sight.
Now to those portraits. Kids love to come up to us and ask for their photo to be taken. This dapper young guy even gave Rob a big “Thank you”. We love good manners : )
And how could you not be stopped in your tracks by this absolutely gorgeous little girl??
These schoolchildren literally mobbed us. Seriously. A couple came up to ask for their photos to be taken, and then all of a sudden we were surrounded by dozens of them all screaming at us for a photo! It was nuts! We had to run away eventually, but it was pretty darn funny
I love the smile on this little girl
And this dapper guy is our “internet man”. Just across the street from our hotel is an internet point, and this is the owner. He chatted with us for a while, and then Rob took his photo. The guy liked it so much that we burned him a CD right there with the shots! He was so pleased that he announced that he would pray to the gods that we would have a son before the next time we come back to India....Lol!!
Then as the sun was setting I walked up to the roof of our hotel and took a couple shots of the surroundings. The landscapes here are absolutely breathtaking.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Jodhpur is that many of the buildings are painted blue. Add to that the huge figure of Meherangarh Fort, and you have a pretty impressive sight.
And, as is becoming the norm here in India, we hear some loud noises, and rush outside our hotel room to see a huge parade going by. This one was actually a barat, the procession of the groom to the wedding. If you look up in the right corner of the photo, at the end of the line of people, you can just make out the groom sitting on his big white horse.
And what is another common sight here, geckos!
So thus ended our first day here. And the next day we were off to the fort, so that is what you get to see next! Stay tuned : )
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.
So it has been pretty near forever since we took these photos, and we hinted at them, but we managed to get ourselves really busy, and Rob has been steadily working on the hundreds of photos we took of these guys, but we never put anything up. Well the time has come that we’ve thrown together some of the photos we took of Kevin and Cherie while we were in Ho Chi Minh City. Yeah, I can hardly remember that either! But let’s take a trip down memory lane shall we.
We met Kevin and Cherie in Edmonton as we were talking about their wedding photography. While chatting we found out that they were going to be in Vietnam at the same time as us. We all figured it would pretty much be the coolest thing in the world to do a portrait session of them while in Vietnam, and so that’s exactly what we did. Just to be fancy we actually did two, so let’s start off with the “normal” one.
And now for the really exciting stuff (not that that wasn’t exciting, but this is even more so!). Kevin and Cherie were in Vietnam to get their clothes made for their wedding in Canada. And they had just finished getting everything together before we got there, so these outfits were ready to be photographed! And traditional Vietnamese wedding outfits are beyond cool! Here is Kevin getting ready with the help of his mom
And Cherie doing the same, with Kevin's mom playing make-up artist (check out that amazing hat!)
Some detail of Kevin’s outfit
And detail from Cherie’s (the outfits are made out of Vietnamese silk, and have the long coloured tunic over white pants, along with the really cool hats)
Nice and easy to get it started
And then we started to really use the location. We were at some big theme park thing just outside of HCMC and it was really a photographer’s playground! Enormous credit to Kevin and Cherie, who stood on this bridge for who knows how long, incredibly still, as Rob and I took a million photos. They really were champs. And the photos really were worth it I think!
Kevin has the best smile, his eyes really get into it!
And Cherie looked so classic, like she was meant to wear a Vietnamese wedding gown
And together, it was magic ;)
There’s no better way to finish up a relaxing and romantic photo session than by seeing vicious crocodiles! Right?? We wandered into this little pond area, thinking it’d be a nice background for some shots, and found ourselves right in the middle of thousands of crocodiles. Seriously. I think we may have put pictures up of these crocs before, but here’s another one just to drive the point home.
Scary. Like, I was honestly really scared. But we survived! And came out of there with pictures coming out of our eyeballs. There are still so many more to go through, but I hope you guys enjoyed seeing these and getting to peek at what a traditional Vietnamese wedding outfit looks like!
Alright, everyone, I think it’s about time we added a bit of “wedding” to our “travel”! While we were in Vietnam and Thailand our minds were more on traveling than weddings. But pretty much the moment we got to India things changed. We logged on to the internet to find a very exciting message from Gavin, Rob’s long time friend from all the way back to elementary school. It turned out that Gavin was in India as well for his cousin’s wedding. We had told Gavin about our travels and what we hoped to do with The Wedding Travelers, so he let us know that he had a wedding for us to go to. The stars aligned, the timing was perfect, and we managed to book a flight out to Assam.
To tell you the honest truth, we knew nothing of Assam, beyond me recognizing the name from a type of tea I’ve had back home. A quick check in the Lonely Planet Guidebook told us that Assam is in the North East of India, and is a world renowned tea producing region.
It’s certainly not a region that many backpackers make it out to, and it’s even a bit sketchy, in that there are separatist groups in the area, but we knew that this was the purpose of our trip, to seek out new types of weddings, and so we didn’t even hesitate to make the journey.
A quick flight into Jorhat, landing in an airport that is honestly the smallest I’ve ever seen, and then the incredible hospitality began. At home in Canada when we attend an Indian wedding we adore the fact that we are always treated like family. We weren’t sure what to expect, being that we are really the furthest thing from it, crashing a wedding where we have never met the bride or groom before, but we were treated incredibly well. I’d even go so far to say we were downright pampered! So I’m going to start off by saying an enormous thank you to the families of Runa and Arjun for all their amazing hospitality. We hope that one day we’ll meet up with them all again!
Now down to the wedding. Let’s first introduce you to the wonderful people who made the hook-up with this wedding possible. This is the one and only Gavin (he's half Indian, in case you were really confused about his relation to the groom)
The first time I ever met Gavin was right after he returned from a previous trip to India, and he was incredibly sick. Honestly, he looked like he might collapse at any moment. But since then I’ve had the privilege of meeting up with him many times afterwards, and he got over the sickness and turned out to be a great guy. We give him huge props for hooking us up with this wedding!
And next, Gavin’s cousin Talya. Rob has met her a couple times previous, and I had heard her name mentioned in conversation, but never had the chance to meet her. It turns out we have lived about 10 minutes away from each other our whole lives in Edmonton, and we end up meeting in Jorhat, Assam, India. Go figure. But I need to give her an enormous thank you for all her kindness in showing us around, lending me a ton of clothes and shoes so I didn’t look like a total dweeb, and just generally being incredibly entertaining. Here’s a shot of her teaching the chef how to “pound it”.
And now the stars of the post, the bride and groom. This is Arjun, Gavin and Talya’s cousin. Doesn’t he look like a Bollywood star?
And the gorgeous bride, Runa. I adore this shot of her, so serene and peaceful. And at her own wedding too! Would you believe it?
So it wouldn’t be a wedding if there wasn’t some form of rushing around. Rob and I arrived in Jorhat in the afternoon after flying from Calcutta. We had been up since very early in the morning, we tired and worn out. And the moment we arrived and said hi to Gavin and Talya, I was whisked away to change into some Indian clothes and head over to the mendhi. It was a very low key and calm event, which I was very glad for. And the mendhi artists here do some amazing work (P.S. If you are reading all this and haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, check out the Hindu article under the Wedding menu at the top of the site. It’s still a work in progess, but it explains a lot of this stuff!)
After all the girls had their mendhi finished, it was back to the house so that they could change. That’s one thing about an Indian wedding. If you’re properly prepared, you never wear the same thing to more than one event, which means some days you might change 3 times. I, of course, was not that well prepared, so I just chilled with Rob and Gavin, who had a strenuous afternoon of walking down the road to buy some beers.
Back to the wedding location for the Sangeet. At home this had usually been just a dinner and dance party, where everyone just has a ton of crazy wild fun. Many of the weddings we have been to have been Punjabi weddings, and they are notorious for being partiers. The Assamese are much more reserved, I’ll have you know. And the evening was a quiet one, just a relaxed cocktail party. Some music did break out at one point, though it didn’t last very long, thanks to some terrible DJ-ing. But one moment that was quite memorable was when a traditional Assamese dance broke out. It was unlike any Indian dancing I’ve ever seen, and the movements were very bird-like, in a sense. It was really wonderful to see!
And then the next day was the ceremony day. Here in India the ceremony takes place in the evening. That’s very nice, in terms of keeping things cool, but makes our job 100 times more difficult! Nevertheless we managed to get our flashes out and do our best to capture some of the crazy events that were going on. The night started out with the arrival of the groom’s family to the bride’s family’s house (where all the wedding ceremonies took place). They were greeting with the largest display of firecrackers I’ve ever seen. And fire safety regulations are pretty lax here in India, so they were setting these huge fireworks off just meters away from us. Kind of scary, but it sure got the adrenaline going!
Then what happened next is something I’ve never heard of before, so I’m going to attribute it to the Assamese for the time being. If anyone knows of anyone else who does this let me know!
When the groom’s family got out of their cars to walk up the path to the house they were absolutely bombarded with rice thrown by the bride’s family. Naturally I had to be right in the thick of it to get some good shots, and was hit by the stuff, and boy, does it hurt! But it was hilarious to watch.
The groom is accompanied by his best man, who carries an umbrella to protect him. Arjun is the one on the right of the two young guys in white suits.
The groom’s family had come prepared with their own rice to counter-attack, but they weren’t expecting to be showered with soap foam! Arjun’s mom got it pretty bad!
Then things settled down and the bride’s family performed an aarti with Arjun to welcome him into the home.
And here’s something that we will never seen in Edmonton. The ceremony took place in this absolutely enormous structure that was built on the property for this purpose. It was entirely made of bamboo poles that were covered in fabric. I would say it was about 40 ft high and 150 long….rough guess. Huge, is all I can tell you. And it looks absolutely spectacular. The ceremony was performed under the mandap, which is the little tent-type-thing, and it was gorgeously decorated with tons of fresh flowers.
At Hindu weddings there are always many offerings to the gods. Here they are set out, and those little dishes that they are on are actually made out of banana trees, which we thought was really fantastic.
One important part of the Hindu ceremony is when the couple exchanges garlands. If you look closely at what Arjun is wearing you’ll see that he has a wreath around his head. I believe this is an Assamese tradition, and the wreath is made out of Indian basil.
Another new tradition that we haven’t seen before is that the couple’s hands are literally bound together with string. I absolutely love this shot, and the way Rob processed it. It’s so simple, but I really feel like you can sense the emotion and meaning.
The entire ceremony is performed in Sanskrit, which meant that Arjun had no idea what was going on! Poor guy! But he trooped through, and Runa even translated for him once she came.
The entire ceremony under the mandap took just over 2.5 hours, and for the first hour Arjun was all by himself. You might think that is an insanely long time to be performing a marriage ceremony but this was actually a heavily shortened version, and people told us of weddings they were at recently that lasted about 6 hours. Wow. Thankfully there were guys here that were serving snacks so we didn’t get too hungry.
One ritual that we have seen many times is that of pouring ghee (clarified Indian butter) into the fire. I believe that this is a way of offering the gifts to the gods, by turning them into smoke that will go up to the sky. Don’t quote me, of course, but that’s what I’ve been told! Here’s a great shot that Rob got of Arjun pouring the ghee into the fire (which he did innumerable times throughout the night)
At home the ceremonies are generally indoors, and because of that the fires for the ceremony are generally very very small. So when we saw the size of this roaring blaze, we were quite surprised!
After all the ceremonies were over it was time to eat dinner. But not for Arjun and Runa. They went and paid their respects to their ancestors, and then to all of the elders present. It was hours before they were able to go and eat something, but they never once looked unhappy about it, so major props to them.
The next day was for the reception. We made our way to the house around 3:00PM, which was an hour later than we were told to. And we still ended up being a few hours early. Such is the nature of Indian Standard Time! But we had a fantastic afternoon. We ate some amazing food, had fresh jalebis made for us (no pictures of that, since we were too busy eating, but I’ll take a picture of jalebis soon to show you all what you’re missing out on), had some incredible chai, played with some puppies and just generally sat around enjoying the peace and quiet. We were expecting things to really pick up and get going once the reception officially started, but we were in for a surprise. Nothing really changed for us all evening! We sat by a fire, chatted, and watched the streams of people go by. This is a shot of where we sat on the left, and a good idea of how large the structure was
And the evening for Arjun and Runa was another long one. They sat inside the tent, in front of this massive and gorgeous tree, and greeted all their guests. All told apparently around 1500 people came, but not in the sense that guests come to a reception in Canada. Here people would walk into the tent, greet the couple, go and have dinner, and then leave. And they just never stopped arriving and leaving all night. So at one time you could look around and think there were only a couple hundred people present, but they were different people all night. Very strange, but also very smart! This one shot here pretty much sums up the events of the reception.
You can see that great tree, Arjun and Runa standing on their platform, and the guests streaming by.
Here’s a quiet moment near the end where they were actually able to talk to each other!
And then it was all over. It was certainly much more subdued then we are used to, and as a result all of the family members involved with the wedding seemed very relaxed and calm. The whole thing had a very peaceful air about it and compared to the chaos of Calcutta, this wedding in Jorhat may as well have been an oasis for us. We were so honored to have been a part of it all, and to have seen everything we did. We were even given these amazing gifts as we left.
They are little metal dishes that are generally used to put offerings of masala and paan and whatnot onto. Then there are packets of Assamese tea (which we can’t wait to make when we get home) and some little towels that are used when they want to be respectful (this is what I was told, and I’m clearly doing a terrible job of explaining the meaning, but I hope you get my drift). Isn’t that the most fantastic gift ever? We were so excited to get something so meaningful, and that will always remind us of our time in Assam.
Well, there’s the wedding in a very condensed form. There were, of course, many other little ceremonies, with varying meanings, but we tried to just highlight some of the differences we saw. The Assamese have some very unique traditions and we were very happy to get to see them!
And as if to reinforce the way weddings just bore down upon us as soon as we got to India, last night as we were in our room in Varanasi, we heard this incredible racket, and run out onto the balcony to see what was going on. It was a barat, which is the procession of the groom and his family to the bride, and it was incredible! Here’s a quick video to give you an idea
And while we’re just throwing up videos, here’s a neat one of the rhino in Kaziranga.
(same thing for this video too, I'll put it up as soon as I can!)
Well, I hope that keeps you all occupied! We’re staying in Varanasi a couple more days, and then will be making our way south to see the Ajanta caves. So many more neat things in store!
Our apologies for the delayed post here. We have been up in Assam and the internet connection at our hotel literally took 5 minutes just to open up a blank Google screen. So you can imagine that we didn’t have much patience for it. Add to that the fact that we were attending a wedding, and our free time was pretty scant!
But we arrived in Varanasi today, and already we know that this is going to be an amazing place to photograph. So get ready for some great stuff coming up soon!
I’m not posting the wedding pictures just yet, since we are taking an evening boat ride soon, and I know it’s going to take a long time to write all about this wedding. (although it turns out we were tricked, and there actually weren't any elephants at the wedding, boo!)
So for now we’ll share with you a few pictures of the safari we took near Jorhat. But even before that one last shot from Calcutta, that really demonstrates that “movie set” quality we talked about. Can you believe the lighting here?
Incredible. Now after the wedding was done we had a free day in Jorhat, so we woke up bright and early (4:30 AM) and hopped into a car that took us to Kaziranga National Park. As always in India, things didn’t go completely smoothly. The car that came to pick us up was half an hour late, and when we finally got out to Kaziranga (1.5 hour drive away) the driver didn’t know where the guest house was. After he asked a ton of people and they just pointed down the road, we got there to find out that the tour had already left. So he drives us out to where the elephants start from, and heads down this crazy dirt road. A ways down the park ranger guys stop us, and it seems as though we’ve been driving down the path that the jeep safaris take. Yikes. I guess we were in a bit of trouble. But in India things just seem to work their way out, and even though we had already missed the elephant ride, the rangers were able to get us out on another elephant, and we even got to ride all by ourselves, rather than in a group. So imagine yourself at dawn riding out on a solitary elephant into this large grass area, totally surrounded by deer and morning mist. It was completely and utterly worth waking up that early for. Let’s get into some pictures shall we?
Our elephants riding up out of the mist (we rode the one on the far left)
The rising sun was absolutely red. It was impossible to really catch with the camera though. But this shows you the landscape. You certainly couldn’t be faulted for thinking you somehow stumbled into Africa.
As we slowly marched along on our elephant the number of deer we saw was incredible. And they weren’t really scared of us either. This little guy was really quite curious.
As were these two
That setting again. Africa, right?
Check out the antlers on this one. They are new, and still covered with the fuzzy velvet
If you look closely you will see the elephants that we were supposed to be riding on.
And the big star of Kaziranga, the Indian one horned rhino.
The population of around 1800 rhinos makes up over two thirds of the worlds population, so we definitely had a good chance of spotting a bunch
And we certainly did. The guide would even make the elephant grunt so as to rouse the rhinos from their naps, to make them more photogenic for the crazy Western tourists and their cameras ☺
There were a bunch of baby rhinos as well, just starting to grow their horns
Sitting on the elephant, just seeing these massive creatures was incredible. The armour on them was beyond anything we could imagine. They certainly looked like some fearsome creatures, and yet were so calm at the same time.
The guide steered the elephant deep into the grass, and we were able to spot a few more rhinos hiding in there
A good view of that horn
And on the way back we came across a big herd of deer
The male watching over everything
And at the end of the ride we got off our elephant, and enjoyed just checking out the big animal, and taking some shots. The beautiful eye
A shot from above. The seat was actually quite comfortable, although after an hour I was pretty ready to get off
And one last shot of the big gal!
So that was our great time at Kaziranga. We went to the zoo in Singapore, and saw elephants and rhinos, but to be out there in the grass, with nothing separating you from the rhinos was certainly an incredible experience. And to add to our excitement, we hope to visit another national park to see some tigers! We can’t wait!
So stay tuned, and we’ll get those wedding pictures up soon! We can’t wait to share them with you, it was such a fascinating and enjoyable time!
And to everyone who has emailed us, we definitely apologize for the delay, since we've been away from the internet for so long (I just logged on to over 50 new emails, which means a lot of work for me tonight!) We'll be responding to them as soon as possible, now that we have an internet connection. Thanks so much for all the patience, and we'll be talking to you soon!
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!
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!
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!