Reblogged is a series of blog posts on my life in India coming from the weblogs I set-up. It’s an attempt to put the stories all in one place! The post The Taj Mahal – Finally! was originally posted on October 15, 2012, a month after I’ve taken the trip on September 9. Another post is connected to this one, which will be posted as a Viahera Vlog. The visit to Agra was a side trip before attending the official meetings of the Volunteer Committee (which I was a part of) at the VSO India office (read: no extra cost charged to VSO) to discuss policies for volunteers and put forth comments, opinions and suggestions from volunteers in India for improvement in programme support and effectiveness of volunteer placement and organisational partnerships.
Before coming to India, I only know a few things about this sub-continent and what stands out among these is the Taj Mahal. I barely know the story about Taj Mahal before I came here, only that it is a must-see monument, one of the seven wonders of the world.
Reblogged is a series of blog posts on my life in India coming from the weblogs I set-up. It’s an attempt to put the stories all in one place! The post Holiday Vacay Round-up: New Year in New Delhi was originally posted on January 12, 2013. I spent the New Year celebrations in Delhi with VSO co-volunteers, the welcoming family of Tito Ben and Tita Agnes, and friends. This was part of my south-to-north holiday vacation from December 23, 2012 to January 7, 2013.
After spending Christmas in Goa with co-vols Sue and Rosie, and her twin Penny and Pen’s BF Tom, and my friend Leah and fellow CouchSurfer Sumin (who were both hosted by my former CS host Warren), I proceeded to New Delhi, where I’ll celebrate the coming of 2013 with fellow Filipinos and VSO volunteers! Plus the wedding of Minrose and Shishir (which provided an opportunity for us to wear sarees!) and Rajie and Pras’ housewarming party!
But before that, I had to take a 43-hour train ride first from Madgaon in south Goa to H Nizamuddin in New Delhi! It was supposedly just a 38-hour journey but due to the fog in the capital of India, we were delayed for 5 hours! This train ride with Goa Express is the longest I have taken, beating the 36-hour journey from Bhubaneswar to Mumbai last October!
The most iconic monument of Hyderabad in Andra Pradesh (south India), Charminar is said to have been built between 1589 to 1592 BC (dates are not still debatable). It was supposed to be a monument to commemorate the founding of a new capital and the end of a plague. Charminar was commissioned by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the 5th ruler of the Golconda Sultanate. Learn more about Chaminar at Wikipedia.
Exploring Hyderabad: Charminar and Mecca Masjid
Beside Charminar is the Mecca Masjid (Makkah Masjid), one of the oldest mosques in India. It is called Mecca Masjid as Qutb Shah ordered the soil from Mecca to be made into bricks that were used in building the Masjid. Learn more about Mecca Masjid at Wikipedia.
Reminder: Women going inside the Charminar are not permitted alone, for some reasons I did not understand, nor explained. My CouchSurfing host Bhavesh for my Hyderabad/Secunderabad trip also was not able to explain. However, a dark secret was shared while we were on top: it’s a suicidal area, much like the famous bridges where people jump! Scary! This is also why visitors were limited to only the “first landing” area of the Charminar, which by the way is about six-floors high! So get ready! (I wasn’t as I was still carrying my weekender pack with additional sarees I just bought!)
Charminar: View from the top
The view from the top of Charminar lets you see the other major landmarks of Hyderabad like the High Court and Patel Market (garments and pearls) on one side, Laad Bazaar (bangles market) on another, then the Makkah Masjid area, and a former palace turned into a college and hospital. Hyderabad, actually, is called the City of Palaces, among its other monikers!
As part of my South India on a Run (aka final holiday in India), I explored and basked in the history and charm of Hampi in Karnataka, South India, the former seat of the Vijayanagara Empire.
Hampi is getting more and more popular to tourists these days, especially attracting the foreign “hippie crowd” who are the mainstays of less-known and more secluded beaches of Goa and Gokarna.
So much so that the “island” across the river from the main Hampi Bazaar area is locally known as the “Hippie Island”.
Apart from the monuments and old temples, Hampi also has a lot of Lord Hanuman’s relatives—monkeys! You would see them in almost every temple, running and jumping around. And yes, they are cute and all but what would amuse you more, actually for almost all monkeys I’ve seen not just in Hampi but everywhere in India, is their ability to eat all the processed and packed foods as if they were born to have it!
Another amazing thing about Hampi is the fact that a lot of its monuments (at least the ones I saw) are still pretty much intact. Some has been reconstructed (it’s distracting when I saw the workers do this by the way) and luckily were made as if it was the real thing.
I only managed to see the temples in Hampi and not the palaces as I was really taking my time with each and I wasn’t much in the mood to overexert myself to go around. I t was hot when I went (February) and I guess I was tired from my Aurangabad trip just the previous weekend!
Also, I think, while Hampi is totally doable in a day, you would need more than that to imbibe all the history and culture it could offer. I mean, if you would like really want to see and feel Hampi, you just gotta take your time and stay longer!
All in all, Hampi is a great place to see if you want to do some Indiana Jones or Lara Croft-like activities. Trekking, stone-climbing, river crossings and maybe even treasure hunting.
Another good thing you can do is devote a little of your time (and money) to help the cause of the Hampi Children Trust. Ran by a CouchSurfer (who hosted me despite him being in Kerala), Hampi Children Trust aims to educate 40 local children in different standards (grades). You can also buy second-hand donated books for sale too! I think it’s a good way of traveling and also giving back to Hampi!
I spent the weekend on top of the world—well, on top of cliffs and mountain-plateaus to have better viewpoints of the Ajanta and Ellora caves, with the Kailash Temple as one of the highlights of my Aurangabad cave exploration!
And, according to me, the Kailash Temple is a magnificent symbol of millennium-old awesomeness of Indian architecture, religion and culture. The entire complex of Ellora Caves actually! Whenever you are in Aurangabad, a visit to the Ajanta caves (totally different area) and Ellora Caves is a must and marveling at the Kailash Temple is a delight. Now, climbing on top of the high basalt cliff from which the Kailashnath Temple is carved from? That is another experience altogether. If you can do that, you’ll see the Kailash Temple from a different angle and really, maybe you’d feel like Shiva looking over his worshippers!
Life is short so take a leap of faith. Let’s wander, explore and discover. Come and journey with me.