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April 2011 Archives

Mirror Maze!

So at the very end of my visit to the Visvesvaraya Industrial & Technical Museum in Bangalore (photos here), I explored a mirror maze! It was just like those halls of mirrors you so frequently saw villains force heroes through in old adventure movies. You'd think you could turn a corner, but then you'd just run into another mirror. :) I loved how you could hear nothing but laughter while walking through. Here's some video:

On my way home from India

Eyes of the Driver

My driver's eyes

Begrudging sunrise as we fly west

Begrudging sunrise as we fly west

Lights through the clouds

Lights through the clouds

I saw these somewhere in Eastern Europe. I don't know what they. I'm thinking maybe ships? Or buoys?

Next up: Not sure yet. Some videos or panos probably.

The Streets of Bengaluru, Part II

One of my favorite posts this trip has been when I finally managed to do some street photography, so I set out to take some more in Bangalore on my last day in India.

First, it being Easter Sunday, we decided to drop by St. Mary's Basilica.

St. Mary's Basilica in Bangalore on Easter

The garlands on the Madonna and Child are an Indian tradition, so this is an interesting localized version of Easter celebration, I think. I think it's also worthy of noting that Christian women still wear saris.

The Basilica was around the corner from Russell Market:

Russell Market in Bangalore

Then I attempted to go to the museums I missed on Good Friday. Unfortunately, one was closed on Sundays, and the other was closed due to power outage. Power demand severely out-strips supply in India, to the point where there are daily brownouts except in the biggest cities. Even when I was in Hyderabad, there were daily brownouts, and all the big companies have diesel backup generators.

So I decided to take a stroll in the neighboring Cubbon Park instead. Here is a strolling couple:

Couple strolling in Cubbon Park in Bangalore

And here is a woman in a sari playing cricket:

Woman playing cricket in Cubbon Park in Bangalore

(Sorry about the baby stroller on the right; I took some unobstructed pictures, but they were a bit blurry, and she didn't have as intense a stance.)

A family:

Family on a bench in Cubbon Park in Bangalore

This boy has spotted me:

The boy has spotted me

A couple on a bench:

Couple on a bench in Cubbon Park in Bangalore

(Note how some women do wear Western clothes.)

And then a few from my ride home:

Scooter riders in Bangalore

Truck riders in Bangalore

Up next: My trip home!

Fun with paintings at Bangalore Palace

I met up with a friend on my last day in Bangalore, and we visited the Bangalore Palace. It actually had a surprising amount of interesting art. It also had a 500 rupee camera fee on top of the 350 rupee foreigner admission, so I decided to break my usual rule of not taking pictures of paintings so I could get my money's worth. :P

As my friend said, one of these paintings is not like the others:

One of these paintings is not like the others


This one I just really liked because I felt like you could see a lot about her life through her eyes:

Golden painting of woman with pot

(Sorry, I didn't bother with the audio tour, there were no plaques, and I can't understand the signature, so I have no idea who painted this, or what it's called.)

My made up title for this one is: Draupadi and the Infinite Sari:

Draupadi and the Infinite Sari

So the short version I was told is that the guy on the bottom, Dushasana, was trying to strip Draupadi, but Krishna gave her an infinite sari, providing her with ever more fabric that could never be fully unraveled.

And then I suddenly came upon this!

Portrait of Srikantadatta Narsimharaja Wodeyar, Maharaja of Mysore

Is that Dom DeLuise? No, I think it's more likely to be Srikantadatta Narsimharaja Wodeyar, the current Maharaja of Mysore. And here's his memento from a trip to the Great Wall:

China trip memento of Srikantadatta Narsimharaja Wodeyar, Maharaja of Mysore

Update: I just found his official website!

Finally, as Lonely Planet puts it, "Alongside many family photos, the sometimes lavish interiors are hung with a collection of nude portraits, adding a saucy note to the tour." But I didn't take any pictures of those.

Next up: More from the streets of Bangalore!

The Streets of Bengaluru

I took a trip around town in Bangalore1 on Good Friday2. On my way out, I spotted this scooter rider and passenger:

Scooter rider and passenger in Bangalore

You see male riders with male passengers much more often than you do in the US, but a male passenger with a female rider is still not too common a sight.

I went to Lal Bagh Botanical Garden. It seemed like a popular spot for local residents. I saw a lot of couples sitting on park benches. I stalked this couple, looking for just the right picture, probably far longer than was appropriate. :)

Resting Couple in Lal Bagh Botanical Garden

Here are some scenes of people playing in the park, even though there were signs that literally read, "NO PLAYING". :\

Women and children in Lal Bagh Botanical Garden

Young people playing in Lal Bagh Botanical Garden

Young people playing in Lal Bagh Botanical Garden

I had trouble figuring out weather these women were just playing badminton with a round ball (instead of a shuttlecock), or if this is a different game?

Badminton with a round ball? in Lal Bagh Botanical Garden

In Lal Bagh Botanical Garden

I also found it interesting that she was wearing a colorful outfit underneath her chador.

Next, I went to the Visvesvaraya Industrial & Technical Museum, which was basically a science museum. While the Birla Science Museum in Hyderabad was really sad, this one was quite nice! The ground floor had a room of engines, displaying various engines and demonstrating the principles behind them. Here's a stationary bike that lets you push a ball up the tube:

Using pedal power to push a ball up

I just liked this sign because it sounds like it could be the title of a Kraftwerk or Daft Punk album:


The Exploratorium in San Francisco has this neat exhibit where an air cannon blowing up holds a ball in place because the air flows around all sides of the ball. The version here was even cooler, because the cannon was at an angle, but it could still hold the ball in place! And then they even let you rotate the cannon slowly to try to put the ball through a hoop!

Air cannon with ball trick Air cannon with ball trick

(The boy on the right has failed. The ball bounced off of the hoop and is on its way to the floor. :P)

Prepare yourself for the next one...



Monkey Me


Or perhaps: BandarKen!

I think it's neat how I was wearing just the right colors so that, even though I did a terrible job of hiding myself, and you can totally see my shirt and pants, I kind of blend right in, and the effect still works. :)

I wanted to visit some other museums, but they were closed due to the government holiday. I'll see if they're open tomorrow. I next attempted to go to Iskcon Temple. What a fiasco! (On my part! I'm sure the temple is perfectly nice.)

They didn't allow bags or cameras inside, but I hopped out of the car with my bag, hoping to get a picture from the outside. Unfortunately, it turned out you can't really see the temple easily from the street. So I tried to find my driver again, but for some reason I got a "not in service" message when I tried to call him!

And then it suddenly started raining! POURING!

An autorickshaw driver motioned me into his vehicle. I was skeptical, but he swore "no charge". I really had few options, since I had no umbrella, so I got in. We tried looking for my car, and I told him the license number. He said they usually park half a block up ahead, so I let him drive me there. He actually spotted the car for me. I asked how much, and he said 20 rupees, which was very reasonable. So I tipped him, too. Hurray for a driver who was actually nice! :)

I had originally intended to drop off my bag and check out the inside of the temple, but at this point all I wanted to do was go home. :P Here's a photo I shot on the way back:

Sudden torrential downpour in Bangalore

I also saw a stairwell where water was just cascading down the steps. Crazy. Early monsoon season? :\

Next up: I don't know! I'm actually all caught up with posting pictures! But I'm going out in Bangalore again tomorrow, so you might see some of those? And then when I'm back in the US, I'll process the few videos and panoramas that I took. Oh, and wedding photos eventually, too, of course!

1 Chennai (Madras), Kolkata (Calcutta), Mumbai (Bombay), and many other Indian cities successfully shed their colonial names, but "Bengaluru" hasn't quite caught on here in Bangalore. The official rename has been stalled by the central government, and most people here still call it Bangalore. That said, "Bengaluru" has the same number of syllables as "San Francisco", so I used it in the title of this post. :P ^

2 Unbeknownst to me when I booked the trip, Good Friday is public holiday here in Bangalore! It's not in the US, even though we have 10 times as many Christians. :P But of course, the political situations are very different. The US has that whole Separation of Church and State thing, so Christmas is the only one that snuck in. India takes the opposite approach: Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Parsis, and Sikhs all get official public holidays! (It varies from state to state, though.) ^

Hyderabad, Golconda Fort and Other Places I Didn't Take Pictures of

Salar Jung Museum

So I did two days of touristing in Hyderabad. The first day, I went to the Salar Jung Museum, which I mostly found somewhat disappointing. Some of the collections were interesting, but much of it felt like the kind of kitschy stuff you'd find at a rich person's house. Well, a really rich person's house, but still. :P My favorite piece there was Veiled Rebecca by Giovanni Maria Benzoni, sculpted in the late 19th Century. (Cameras were not allowed.)

Chowmahalla Palace

Next I saw the Chowmahalla Palace. I think I even paid an extra 50 rupees to bring my camera in, but I didn't really find anything interesting enough to shoot. :P I dunno.. I just don't have that much to say about it. It was interesting how the back of the palace had an exhibition of vintage cars!

Birla Temple

And so, disappointed, I trekked out on the second day, which went much better! First, I went to the Birla Mandir. No cameras or shoes were allowed, so I basically left everything in the car. I even took my socks off for the truly authentic experience. :) The ground got hot in places, but mostly they had straw mats laid out for you to walk to. The temple was built entirely with white marble, and it has various areas for worshipping each god. I find it interesting that Birla is basically a really rich family, and their foundation financed this and many other temples, and named them after themselves. I was the only foreigner at the temple, I think, so it was interesting watching how people would pray or rest or just kind of hang out.

Birla Museums

I also dropped by the nearby Birla Science Museum and Birla Modern Art Gallery. It was the first time I went to an attraction in India that didn't have a separate 10x price for foreigners! That said... So the art gallery was interesting though small. There were three workers there, and I was the only visitor.

One of the workers followed me around, turning lights on, and explaining some of the art to me. Oddly, even though I had to check my bag and camera, she asked me if I wanted to take pictures of one of the drawings (where all the lines were actually tiny letters). Confused, I said that I had to check my bag. So she asked if I had a cell phone camera. I didn't want to break the rules even if she seemed to want me to. I walked on, and then she said, "I want tip." :\ I was low on change, and so I handed her a 10 rupee note, a 5 rupee coin, and a really wrinkled, kind of disgusting 5 rupee note. She looked at it and handed it back! :P I replaced it with a 5 rupee coin. :\

I hate the whole forced tipping thing, but I suppose that's the flipside of not having to pay more as a foreigner. For instance, I felt compelled to tip the bag check guy, too, whereas I hadn't at previous museums I went to.

Onward to the Birla Science Museum: It was also kind of sad. They had a hands-on exploratorium type area, but half the exhibits were broken or missing parts! These museums both seem rather underfunded. It made me kind of wish they did charge foreigners extra, so they could afford to patch things up a bit!

Golconda Fort

Finally, I came to my favorite site in Hyderabad, the Golconda Fort, a massive ruined city. I was stopped several times there by people who wanted to take a picture with me. The most amusing was when four guys came up to me. Three of them stood next to me, while the fourth took the picture. Then that guy wanted a picture, so he took a picture with me. But then the other guys got jealous that he got to have a picture with me by himself, so each of them then got another individual photo with me! Hilarious. :P

When I was near the top, a resting family sent their little boy to talk to me, asking me where I was from and so forth. I gave him my camera to take a picture for me:

Near the top of Golconda Fort in Hyderabad

Afterward, I asked them if I could take a picture of their family, and they said sure:

Family at Golconda Fort

Finally, here's a shot of some other tourists:

Tourists at Golconda Fort

Being from the US in today's political environment, I can't claim that this photo was just random. I wanted to show Muslims doing ordinary things, and in particular, Mr. Strongman here displaying a sense of humor. :)

(Though I have to say: Anyone who claims to be an objective photojournalist is lying anyway; someone who's truly object would mostly end up with pictures of people with blank expressions, looking mildly bored. :P)

Delhi Day Two: Humayun's Tomb, Red Fort, and More

Humayun's Tomb is another major tourist attraction in Delhi. I found it an odd mixture of styles, but it seems to be similar to the auxiliary buildings at the Taj Mahal:

Humayun's Tomb

The waterways at the site didn't seem designed for efficiency:

These waterways were not designed for efficiency

I guess in the ancient days, the rulers could afford to hire even more people to constantly change the water?

My friends at the tomb:

Trees all around Humayun's Tomb

Leaving Humayun's Tomb

I liked all the greenery in the area. Also, I saw quite a few Muslims in traditional outfits here, but here, I'm the one who stands out! :)

Some sort of dragonfly (I think?) that I saw there:

Dragonfly (I think?)

When we arrived at the Red Fort, the first gate was closed off:

Fortifications at Red Fort

I said, "Wow, look at those baricades! They make this look like some sort of military installation! Oh wait... I guess it is. Or was." :P

I liked the big red wall of the fort:

Walking along the outer wall of the Red Fort

Look! A cyborg!


Okay, actually it's just a display of some (unlabeled) armor in a weapons museum inside the Red Fort, but come on. Just try to tell me that's not a cyborg. :P

And finally, after visiting the Red Fort, my friends and I went to a musical instrument shop near the famous Chandi Chowk street market area. They didn't have what my friends wanted in stock, so the guy asked us to follow him through these twisty alleyways, and into a nondescript building; it was a bit scary until I suddenly saw a room of more musical instruments. :) I looked out the window there and found this scene:

Streetside Shave and Guy on Blankets

Next stop: Hyderabad!

Delhi Day One: Museums and the Qutb Minar

So I went to the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, and it was pretty nice. I had to check my bag, and I wasn't allowed to take pictures, so I took a few notes. Gaganendranath Tagore was my favorite artist there, partly because he painted in such a variety of styles.

But then I went to the National Museum of India. India has a rich history with many surviving artifacts, and I assumed the government would display them proudly in a world-class museum. So I was baffled to find the museum woefully underfunded. Only about a third of the galleries were open. Of the rest, some were only half-filled (with many empty cabinets), several were lacking A/C, and half the labels were just pieces of paper printed on an inkjet. What gives? It was so sad. Anyway, on to the pictures:

I call this The Saddest Lion:

The Saddest Lion

Next up is a Robot from the 3rd Century!

3rd Century Robot!

Okay it just looks like a robot to me. :P It's officially labeled "Buddha-Pada".

Most of the tourist sites in Delhi cost 20 rupees (about 50 cents) for Indian nationals and 250 rupees (just over $6) for foreigners. The National Museum charged an additional 300 rupees for bringing in a camera! I only ended up with two pictures, so y'all had better appreciate them. They cost me $3.50 a piece! :P

Qutb Minar

That is the Qutb Minar, the world's tallest brick minaret. It was completed in the late 14th Century after nearly 200 years of construction. There were very few foreigners there. When I arrived at the ticket window, there was a huge line, but then someone at a different window waved me over to the foreigners window. I could skip the line, but I was paying 10 times as much as anyone else. :)

All around the Qutb Minar is a set of other monuments and buildings, called the Qutb Complex. People loved to climb these ruins:

Climbing at the Qutb Complex

Girl watching boys climb at the Qutb Complex

After those guys who were climbing got down off the wall, they looked at me and shyly whispered to each other, as if to say, "You go ask him. No, you go ask him." Eventually they came over and asked to take a picture with me. :) East Asians appear to be quite a novelty to many people here, and people are very excited to take pictures with me. I feel like I'm either a celebrity or a zoo animal. :D

And finally, this is the unfinished Alai Minar:

Alai Minar (Unfinished)

It was meant to be twice as tall as the Qutb Minar, but when the ruler who commissioned it died, no one cared any more. I feel like it now resembles that famous plateau at Monument Valley. :)

I went to a wedding that night, but the photos from that will come later. Next up: Delhi Day Two

The Taj Mahal and other fun around Agra!

On my second day in India, I hired a driver through my hotel to take me to Agra and then to Delhi.

A word of warning to anyone traveling to India: The cab drivers here love to pull sneaky tricks, even the "pre-paid" government-approved ones. Just on this trip, I've heard of people whose drivers pulled over on the side of a dark road and only moved after being "tipped". Others will lie to you about your hotel being fully booked, only to bring you to some crappy hotel they have a deal with.

So first, you'll definitely want your hotel to send a driver to pick you up from the airport. Also, for my trips, I hired a driver through my hotel itself. If you stay at a high-end hotel (still reasonably priced by American standards), you can be confident that their drivers will be trustworthy. It'll be a bit more expensive upfront, but the peace of mind is so worth it.

Okay, onward...

Cows just do what they want here

Cows can do what they want here, and cars pretty much just have to drive around them. I've seen cows just chewing on grass and trash in medians of highways. Often the cows actually belong to local residents, but they just let their cows roam during the day, and they somehow find their way back in the evening, or so I'm told.

Here's a kid actually herding some cattle:


I felt a little sorry for this donkey: :\

Little donkey

And then...

First glimpse of the Taj Mahal

Bam! My first glimpse of the Taj Mahal! One interesting thing about the Taj Mahal is that they don't allow you to bring in any electronics other than your mobile, your camera, and your digital watch. They don't allow any food, and they don't even allow books, for some reason! (Can anyone explain the book prohibition to me?) This is another time when having a hired driver is handy, because you can leave your stuff in the car, which feels safer than the ubiquitous coat check lockers at tourist attractions here.

Everyone is supposed to get this photo some time in their life right?

Okay, everyone's supposed to have one of these photos taken in their life, right? :P

If you turn around from that very spot, you can see the main Gateway, which is very nice on its own:

The Gateway at the Taj Mahal

Here it is from another angle:

The Gateway at the Taj Mahal

Here's the Taj Mahal from behind, viewed from the northwest corner:

Back of the Taj Mahal

The tomb is flanked by two buildings. There is a mosque to the west, and an identical but mostly functionless "Jawab" to the east:

The Jawab at the Taj Mahal

And finally, here is the Taj Mahal viewed from the the Agra Fort, quite some distance away:

The Taj Mahal as viewed from the Agra Fort

You can see the mosque at the front right.

I find that I rather like battlements, and I particularly liked how the inner courtyard area of the Agra Fort was overgrown with foliage:

Battlements at Red Fort, and the overgrown courtyard

On my way up to Delhi, there were a ton of trucks with more or less identical writing on the back:

Horn Please; Use Dipper at Night; Wait for Side

I had to look up that "dipper" probably means low beams, so the sign is asking you not to use high beams at night. The horn part is because, in India, honking doesn't necessarily imply anger or even impatience (though it often does). Rather, the primary purpose of honking is as a safety mechanism. Cars are constantly passing each other with minimal clearance, so they honk to let other cars know they're there. :\

For instance, we'd always honk when passing these giant tractors (which appear to be threshers maybe?):

Giant tractor or thresher

Finally, I arrived in Delhi in the evening, and this sign caught my eye:

Redundant sign

It makes a bit more sense when you consider that the signs were standardized so that all of them had explanatory text at the bottom. But still. :P

Next up: Sights around Delhi


This here is Jaigarh Fort, so imposing it was never attacked:

Jaigarh Fort, viewed from Amber Fort

Rather unexpectedly, the best thing about it was..

Monkey Butt! at Jaigarh Fort



Okay, well, the monkeys in general. :)

Flying Monkey!

Flying Monkey at Jaigarh Fort

Wall-Running Parkour Monkey!

Monkey Wall-jump  at Jaigarh Fort

I saw a monkey do a rather high wall-jump, too, but I didn't catch it on film. :(

Some lazy monkeys:

Lazing Monkeys at Jaigarh Fort

Sparring monkeys:

Sparring Monkeys at Jaigarh Fort

I kept thinking: How come humans stop doing this sort of thing past the age of 12? It looks like so much fun!

And finally, a monkey stares back:

Monkey Staring Back at Me at Jaigarh Fort

And this is one reason I don't like having guides. I spent a good 10 minutes squatting there, taking pictures of monkeys. :D My guide would've been confused. :P

Up next: The Taj Mahal!

Jaipur and Amber

My first stop was Jaipur, in Rajastan, and my first stop in Jaipur was the Jantar Mantar, a collection of large scale astronomical (and astrological) instruments. This here is a ginormous sundial! The sun casts a shadow on the curved portion, which is marked off to 2-second accuracy!

Giant Sundial at Jantar Mantar in Jaipur

Here I am in front of a slightly smaller sundial:

Sundial at Jantar Mantar in Jaipur

Then I dropped by the City Palace next door. Here's a guy who offered to pose with me, but then he asked me for a tip. :P

Guy who offered to take a picture with me and then asked for a tip

Sadly, I'm super paranoid now every time someone comes up to me. :\

Amusingly, almost every other time, it's because they want to take a picture with me using THEIR camera! Apparently, East Asian guys are a novelty around here. Also, they always ask me, "Where you from?" And I answer, "U.S." And they look very confused. :P

This is the huge silver urn that I was trying to take a self-portrait in before that guy distracted me:

Giant silver urn at City Palace in Jaipur

Next to Jaipur is Amber, home of the famed Amber Fort. On my way up the mountain, there were a lot of elephants on the road. Here's a painted one:

Painted elephant

And this next photo I call "Self-Driving Elephant":

Self-Driving Elephant!

:D Google needs to switch gears and look into uploading elephant brains into cars instead. :P

This is what the Amber Fort looks like (as I shot later from the Jaigarh Fort):

Amber Fort, viewed from Jaigarh Fort

It's a collection of inter-connecting passageways that lead to lots of empty rooms. Reminded me a lot of early first person shooters. :)

When I first go in, there was a huge line, but people just shooed me along, like "This line is not for you." Turns out they were all in line to go to the temple inside the fort. (You can kind of see the tented area in the above photo; that's where the lines were.)

Here's touristy shot of me on the Amber Fort. Note all the long walls around the area. I call it the Great Wall of India!

The Great Wall of India?

And here's another reflective self-portrait, from inside the Amber Fort. Look at all the shiny!

Shiny reflective stuff at Amber Fort

A family having fun:

Having fun at Amber Fort

The girls were waiting their turn.

And finally, I headed back to Jaipur. Here's the Lake Palace, only accessible by boat. I heard it's going to be converted to a hotel. :\

Jal Mahal, the Lake Palace

I saw the Lakshmi Narayan Temple on my way to the hotel from the airport, and I knew I wanted to see it up close, even though I knew it wasn't a huge tourist attraction (because it's relatively new):

Lakshmi Narayan Temple, the Marble Temple

This was the first of many times when I had to take my shoes off. It was spacious inside. No benches, just people sitting and praying or just hanging out.

Incidentally, you can see in this photo how a lot of women wear saris in India, though not all. Men are mostly in Western clothing, though again there are some who wear traditional clothing. I'd say it's about 90/10 in opposite directions.

On the hill next to this temple is the Moti Doongri Fort, only open one day every year!

Moti Doongri Fort

This view of it reminded me a lot of Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.

You may notice that I skipped over my trip to Jaigarh Fort. That's because I'm saving it for tomorrow. Tomorrow you will get: MONKEYS! :D

Flying to India

The flight safety card on my Air India flight:

Air India safety card

(My Indian friends talked a lot of trash about Air India, but my flight was fine. :P The plane was actually really empty, so I had a row of 3 seats all to myself. :D )

I chose to watch some cartoons on the interactive seatback screen:

Tenali Rama Cartoon

This was a series about Tenali Rama, apparently a trickster character.

I was amused by how he would trick a king out of a bag of gold, and the king would be like, "You are so clever! Here's another bag of gold!" :)

And now, glaciers! At sunset! From somewhere over Canada:

Glaciers at sunset

And ten minutes after sunset, in the direction away from the sun:

Glaciers after sunset

Mercury Ho!

Some of you may remember my college comic MIT3K. What you may not know is that Nick from the comic is actually a real person from the 31st Century, and he's started up a sequel of his own. He calls it "?3K", and, through the technological miracle of time travel blogging, you can see it over at what3k.blogspot.com. It's a mixture of a blog and a journal comic, though he's only got one comic up so far.

He's about to go on a trip to Mercury and hopes to write and draw about his adventures while he's there. Go follow him!

About April 2011

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in April 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2011 is the previous archive.

May 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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