Day 4: Jaipur to Agra #OneYearLater

Editor’s Note: #OneYearLater continues! This was originally written during my layover at Atlanta, when I was heading to New York from Ecuador. Enjoy!

Ajay picks me up from Radoli House and we head out early to travel to the next point to India’s Golden Triangle: Agra.


The night before the trip, I decided to read up a bit more on what else was worth seeing. There was one place in particular that piqued my interest: The Abhaneri Step Wells. I asked Ajay if it was possible to pass by for it.

“Sure, no problem”.

He wasn’t that familiar with the route but since I decided to get a data plan that day (Globe Telecoms has an unlidata plan in India), using Google Maps we were able to find it easily. Turns out it’s a short ten minute detour from our main route.

The Abhaneri made many step wells, the Chand Baori Step Well being the most famous of them all. Believe it or not, the main purpose of this step well is to collect rain water! For some reason this location conjured images of the prison in The Dark Knight Rises.

Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1444 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3095 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3040 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3086

You don’t need to stay long at Abhaneri. It’s not a big place. Just stay a bit, take a few photos and you’re good to go.

I did however, made an interesting meet up at the Step Wells. I noticed an American group come in and saw one of them looking deep into the walls and took a few shots of him. I offered to take his photo and requested if he could take my photo if he didn’t mind.


He took my picture first. The moment I got back the camera he gave me a somber look and asked “So how’s everything back home?”. He immediately knew that I was from the Philippines, and we talked about Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan a bit .


It turns out he was Karl Grobl, famous for his photographic world tours. He’s visited the Philippines many times to run tours (just as he was there in India, with a group) and he’ll be back to Pampanga for Holy Week next year. I told him we should do something together when he drops by Manila, and he agrees. We took a few more photos and we parted ways.

Right next door to the Chand Bouri was the Harshat Mata Temple, the goddess of joy and happiness. This seemed different from the other architecture I’ve seen. Instead of grand and soaring, this was humble and quiet, yet still imposing.

Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1473Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_2991 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3116

After a loooong drive from Abhaneri we eventually got to the outskirts of Agra, where we met my second guide, Navid.

Navid brought me to the incredible Fatehpur Sikri. This was THE crown achievement of Emperor Akbar, the greatest of the many Mughal (Mongol) emperor who ruled much of India, and this was once the capital. My gosh, what they can do with red sandstone! The place was definitely an architectural wonder.

Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1504 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1489  Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1483


Next door was a major mosque called Jama Masjid. Unlike the “museum like’ feel of the Fatehpur SIkri, this was a living place. This was an active mosque after all, and many were here to pray, or to enjoy the scenery, as if they were inside a park.

Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1579 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1627 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3212 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3177 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3190 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3215Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1638

Inside the Jama Masqid was the Tomb of Salim Chishti. Salim Chishti, a saint in the Mughal tradition foretold that Emperor Akbar would have a son, after many years of not bearing children, and thus Akbar built a memorial . There was a ceremony there that I was able to bear witness to.

Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1587 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1585

Afterwards we went to the Red Fort. The Red Fort was a major stronghold in Agra province. Strong enough that when the British came to India, they used it as a base of operations. It really felt like a fortress, and it’s actually still being used as such until this day, by the Indian Armed Forces. Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal) was also incarcerated here for a time, when his son took over.

Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1644 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3319 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3330Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1654 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1693  Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3338 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3362 Day03-JaipurToAgra-20131116-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3392

And so the day was done and we headed to my hotel. Another great day in India.

Tomorrow: I’m in Agra, and although there’s a lot to see here, there is one sight here that eclipses everything else…

The biggest must see in whole of India, the Taj Mahal.

Let’s see if it lives to the hype.


Day 3: The Sights of Jaipur #OneYearLater

Editor’s Note: #OneYearLater continues! This article is pretty much perfect, so it stays the way it is. I wrote this in Panama on my 4 hour layover to Ecuador. Come and enjoy it again!

It’s Day 3 and we’re off to explore Jaipur. My guide Mr Singh and driver Ajay picks me up from Radoli House.


The Hawa Mahal. That’s all there is to see.

First off is a quick photo pop at the Hawa Mahal, also known as “Palace of the Winds”. Royal Ladies during the olden times were not allowed to meet the commoners, and can only peer from the windows, thus the unique honeycomb look of the wall.

To be honest, there’s nothing much to see here. It’s really just a big facade, sort of like Macau’s Ruin of St Paul. You see it, you admire the architecture a bit, you take some photos and you’re done. It’s cool, but that’s about it, there’s really not much to see. When I was writing this article, I actually almost forgot we went here, until I looked at the photos again. We moved on quickly.

We headed for the Amber Fort. Now this place was WAY more impressive! 


The Amber Fort (or sometimes called as Amer Fort) was the home of the Rajput Maharajahs, rulers of Rajasthan (one of the states that eventually formed India). It was built and continuously renovated by the royals for 700 years.

We had amazing light that day. From outside the Amber Fort looks fantastic.  It looked like we’ll have a lot of photo opportunities that day, and it was a good sign for the rest of the world tour.

I was very prepared for this shoot. In case you were wondering, here was the gear I was carrying:

  • a Nikon D610 (made it just in time! Thank you Rica Tiglao)
  • a Nikon D3200
  • a 70-200/2.8 lens
  • a 12-24/4 lens  (thank you Ian Paredes!)
  • a 50/1.4 lens
  • about 256GB worth of SD cards (8 x 32GB)
  • a Black Rapid DR-1 Double Harness (thank you Beyond the Box!) to carry both DSLRs.

Let me pause a bit and talk about the Black Rapid. If you’ve ever carried a DSLR, you know it’s heavy, and takes a toll on your neck and shoulders. What more two DSLRs?


Inside the Amber Fort. First of many selfies.

That’s where the Black Rapid DR-1 comes in. You won’t believe how “lightweight” 2 DSLRs feel, as the harness distributes the weight on your shoulders..  I discovered the joy of using two DSLRs back when I was in Jakarta but it was a pain carrying both. With an ultra wide angle on my side and a telephoto on my other side, the Black Rapid really made me I forget they’re even there. I could have both DSLRs on me practically the whole day no problem, you’ll notice I’m wearing them in practically every shot. Can’t recommend them highly enough.


Don’t worry, the snakes don’t bite. They’re real though.

Anyway, We stopped off to take some pictures from afar, and we bumped into a few snake charmers (obviously out there there catch the tourists), but it was too rich a photo op not to take!


The best way to enter the Amber Fort is via an elephant ride. The line was long and it looked like an hours wait. We were considering going straight up to the fort, until my tour guide was able to do some magic to, shall we say, make the line shorter. :-)


Jaipur-New-20131115-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_2691 Jaipur-New-20131115-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_2689

Wow…. so glad my guide made it happen! Going up via elephant is really the right way to do it, to give you the full experience. I have a few photos of myself on the elephant but they were in prints taken by another photographer. I’ll have it scanned and posted when I get back to Manila. 

So what’s inside the Amber Fort? It’s quite a regal place. In many ways it reminds me of a bigger grander Versailles. Most people don’t know this but there was a time when India was the richest country in the world! Viewing the grandeur of the Amber Fort really helped it sink in.


That ceiling is actually made of mirrors and gems!


One of the many beautiful plazas.


Balconies. Now imagine this with grand indian rugs.


Actually one of the cleaning ladies. Funky broom.


Just amazing stuff.

After about an hour or two at the Amber Fort, we went to see something that I found truly different and unique…. the Jantar Mantar.

In my more than 30 years of traveling the world (I started young) I have never seen anything like it. The Jantar Mantar is an actual time and space observatory, not using what know as “technological instruments” like telescopes or spectrometers, but with huge stone, wood, and metal structures with unusual shapes, angles, and curves that are actually designed to measure the heavens.


Jaipur-New-20131115-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_2809 Jaipur-New-20131115-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_2792 Jaipur-New-20131115-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_2785

Each structure was an astronomical instrument with different functions, to measure time, track stars, even predict eclipses. This also is the basis for most of astrology today, as they find out where the sun is in relation to the stars.


The Steel Disk represents the Sun. Where the shadow falls actually indicates in what constellation the sun is in. This month it was in Scorpio.

Hindus don’t get as much credit on their contribution to science as they should.  I would imagine that when people think of India, they think of Bollywood, Sultans, and Call Center Agents, not scientists and innovators like Da Vinci or Galileo. As an example, people forget that the numbers we use today (one, two, three, etc) actually comes from India.


Probably the biggest sundial in the world. This is about 6 stories high!

Jaipur-New-20131115-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1334 Jaipur-New-20131115-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1386


This structure actually measures the azimuth of the stars in the sky.



This “bowl” actually calculates the seasons.


A smaller version of one of the world’s largest sundial.

Eventually we go to another popular sight, the City Palace. There’s a courtyard here which has four famous gates, representing the four season (spring, summer, autumn, and winter). Yet more intriguing architecture.


Entrance to the City Palace


Detail on the most popular of the season entrances: The Summer Gate, with India’s national bird, the peacock. Hard to get a clean full shot of this gate since everyone wanted their photo here!


A full shot of the Spring Gate.

For me however, the most interesting part part of the City Palace is the armoury, which shows various weapons used in India from the different empires, all the way to the British. You’ll see some exotic things like swords that can fire bullets (!). Unfortunately no photography was allowed inside the armoury. 

Finally, we got the chance to look at how Indian Rugs are made. It’s actually quite a a lot of skill and craft required to make one. They use only the best wool and silk and all of it is woven by hand… it takes weeks to make one, months for a gigantic one. No wonder a large silk rug would cost close to 8,000 dollars! Of course they tried to convince me to buy one but it’s way beyond my budget.


They show that it’s a real rug by burning it. A synthetic rug will melt. A real rug will turn black for a moment but when you wipe the ash away, the real colours will reappear.


Here’s where they try to sell me a rug. Beautiful presentation. Still too rich for my blood though.

And so, Day 3 was done! My first real exploration of Jaipur was a success.

Tomorrow we leave Jaipur and head to the next point of India’s Golden Triangle: AGRA! Can’t wait to see what’s next.


Day 2: Exploring Jaipur on Foot #OneYearLater

Editor’s Note: #OneYearLater continues! This is a new version of a post that was originally posted about Day 2. 

It’s Day 2 in Jaipur. Woke up late due to the loooong almost 24 hour trip, with nothing officially scheduled in my itinerary. I decided to take a walk… and a fascinating one it turned out to be!

Things that surprised me:

India is COLD. Like Baguio cold. I don’t know why I had the image of India in the sweltering heat. But then again, it’s cold this time of year.


Camels, not carabaos are Jaipur’s beasts of burden.

There are ANIMALS everywhere! They literally own the roads. It’s strange seeing cows walk around without a leash or someone watching them, even at night. I also saw a gang of pigs cross the street in the middle of traffic. And camels are Jaipur’s beast of burden of choice. Amazing!


Pigs crossing the street. Only in India. I’m surprised they know how to weave thru traffic on a major road!

Food is CHEAP. Like surprisingly cheap. I ordered a Masala Dosa and a Punjabi Thali at a nearby store (Kanha) and was surprised on the size of the portions. A similar order would cost about P1000 at New Bombay Restaurant in Manila (about USD 20) only to be amazed to find out this whole thing cost like P250 (about USD 5). I was thinking it was a small order so I was shocked to see how sizeable it was. This is the biggest Masala Dosa I’ve ever had. And yes, it’s really good.


Look at that huge Masala Dosa on the left! The one on the right is the Punjabi Thali. I didn’t know how to order so I got 2 lassis by mistake. Total bill is about P250 only!

There are NO fast food places, at least where I am in Jaipur. I’ve walked about 5km going around today, and have not seen a McDonald’s or a KFC… heck, even a 7-11. Not even a Shell! It seems I’m in an area where multinationals have not descended.


The women’s clothes are so COLORFUL and yet the man’s clothes are so drab. Men go around in greys, browns, blues. Women go around in bright yellows, purples, reds, greens. Its as if the women and men made a bet and only one gender can wear bright colourful clothing, and the women won.


Scenes at a Jaipur Bazaar

The driving is BAD. Terrible, even according to Philippine Standards. I don’t think I’ve seen vehicles in multiple lanes try to “beat each other out” at toll gates in Manila, as if they were in EDSA. It seems that in Manila people learn to line up at toll booths. Vehicles dart in and out from nowhere, with horns honking almost non-stop, as if they were all bus drivers on EDSA. And I thought drivers in Italy were bad!

Interestingly, Jaipur reminds me of the outskirts of Batangas or Laguna. Still very much the countryside, still developing, but getting there.

UPDATE (11/17/2014): Something I forgot to mention in my original post. HOW MUCH WAS MY INDIA TRIP Worth?

My India tour was organized by Travelite India. My tour package took me through the highlights of the Golden Triangle (Jaipur, Agra, Delhi), inclusive of hotel accommodations, inclusive of breakfast, inclusive of my own personal driver, inclusive of my own personal tour guide per location, inclusive of airport pickup and sendoff.… and all of that for the amazing price of USD 550. That’s only about P20,000 pesos!!!

India was the best deal across my whole tour. Can’t believe what I got for that price. In case you’re curious, here’s how the place I stayed looked like.

The Radoli House in Jaipur

The Radoli House in Jaipur

That's a big Queen Size bed!!! And my room is nice and big and octagonal. ;-)

That’s a big Queen Size bed!!! And my room is nice and big and octagonal.


The included simple breakfast. Omelet, bread, butter, jam, coffee.

Tomorrow I set for the sights. Let’s see what happens.


Day 1: The Journey Begins #OneYearLater

So today was the day. After months of planning, booking, researching, the trip of a lifetime was about to begin.

The day starts with my bed empty; my wife had to leave early for work, so we said our goodbyes the night before.

I take a look at my luggage: My bag is full and I worry I may have overpacked. Inside were about 6 shirts, 2 pants, 5 pieces of underwear, an extra pair of shoes, a Macbook Air, an iPad mini, 2 DSLRs, 3 lenses which include a giant 70-200 lens, an extra waterproof camera, a battery pack, my TMA-1 Headphones, plus other accessories.

Yes I had more gadgets than clothes in my bag!  Even though it weighed about 30 pounds, it looked quite compact. I wonder how I’ll be lugging this around all over the world.

I pick up my bag, all set and ready to go,  but not before leaving with one more picture with our son Diego. 

I head out and it was slightly drizzling. I hail a taxi, and as usual the taxi driver tries to milk me for more cash. We settled for an additional P50. I knew I shoulda did GrabTaxi instead. I expect to be at the airport around 9:45AM, enough time before my flight leaves at a little past noon.

I arrive at NAIA1, and a LOOOOOONG line was waiting for me. NAIA was old, antiquated, due for an overhaul, but hey, it’s still my home airport. I just realized this is one of many airports I’ll be visiting on this trip. 

Being a Citibank miles cardmember, I was able to hang out at the MIASCOR lounge for a bit. If you’ve never been there, it’s a nice quiet nook in the middle of one of the world’s most crowded airport. You can get unlimited snacks and drinks, plus free wifi. It’s not much, but it’s a nice oasis in the middle of the hulaballoo.

I eventually take my first flight for this journey: Cathay Pacific for a layover at Hong Kong, then fly to India via Jet Airways. 

As most Pinoys now, HK isn’t very far. Davao is actually even farther from Manila. The trip was an uneventful 2 hours… or so I thought.

In just the very first leg of my trip, I already lost something! After going past the gate, through security, and the arrival lobby, I realize I left my travel pillow in the plane! 

I searched for the CX desk, and they said the plane already left. Uh oh. They said I can try calling Cathay Pacific when I get back to Manila. Realizing that I won’t be back for a month, I figure my neck pillow was gone. Knowing myself, I was pretty sure this was not the last thing I’ll lose in this trip. 

This leg was also the LONGEST layover in my whole trip. I had a 5 hour gap before my next flight. Good thing HKIA has a lot to offer, with free wifi to boot, and plenty of places to charge my devices. 

I grabbed a mid afternoon snack, and noted the tables were getting filled up. I wasn’t the only one who was waiting for the next flight.

A gentleman approached me and asked if he could share my table. After a while, we got to talking (part of my plan to be more social in this trip). 

His name was Michael Bromfield. I tell him my plan to circumnavigate the globe. 

Turns out… he arranges travel adventure tours! Apparently he organizes experiences similar to what i was doing, to travelers from all over the globe! What a funny coincidence. 

He showed me pics from his last trip: Antarctica! Which is again perfect, because my wife and I were planning to go there someday. We shared our stories (he was quite an interesting character) and the time flew by quickly. Eventually he had to leave for boarding; we said goodbye, exchanged cards, and said maybe I’ll talk to him about Antarctica one day. You can find out more about him at 

Not too long after that, I went to board my own plane to: Jet Airways to New Delhi. Jet Airways would be the first of many airlines I’ve never flown in, so that’s another part of this adventure. 

And wow it was different. Take a look at business class. The photos don’t do it justice, but each seat was actually angled in the plane. It’s kinda like a small pod, to give them more legroom. I was in economy though, so I didn’t get to enjoy those seats. 

Having said that, economy in Jet Airways wasn’t so bad! The food was indian of course (never had Indian on a plane, this was the first). 

I don’t know how, but somehow I found myself in a conversation with my seat mate, Raj. And wow, did I learn so much about India in that conversation. I didn’t realize that India was a collection of states, similar to the USA, and sometimes they go in conflict with one another. 

Looks like this “more social” thing is working. In just my first day, I’ve made two friends, and I haven’t even reached my first country yet!

After a few hours, I finally land at New Delhi. 

Ok now let’s talk about the Visa thing. If you remember, the countries I was going to were specifically selected because for Filipinos they had other no visa requirement or they were visa on arrival. India was one of those that were visa on arrival. So how does the process go?

Well, it’s simple. You got to the Visa on Arrival desk, you fill out a few papers, pay the $60 fee, and in a few minutes… you’re done! I was the only guy who went straight to the desk and the whole process took about 5-10 minutes. The best thing about it was that I didn’t need to go the immigration line anymore!!!

So yes I have landed. Welcome to India!!!!

This is going to be fun. 


It’s been exactly one year since my trip of a lifetime! 

It was an amazing journey full of memorable and lifechanging experienes. My original plan was to live blog the whole time, and I was enjoying my adventure too much to find the time for it. 

So now that it’s one year later, I will attempt to liveblog as it happens one year ago, added with new perspective from it afar. 

Enjoy the journey #oneyearlater!

Day 5, Part 2: Delhi

WRITER’S NOTE: Whoa!! Has it been 5 months since the last update? Haha this is what happens when you disappear for a month. Work piles up and you can’t get a break (and I did stay in Australia for a month too, but that’s another story for next time….)

So welcome back. Last time we visited the Taj Mahal in Agra, which I discovered really deserved the hype. It was a short visit, we were there from about 8:30 to 10:00 am (an hour and a half is actually enough) so I got back into the van and headed to our next step, DELHI.

We took the newly constructed Yamuna Expressway which cut our travel time to about 3 hours instead of the old route which was about 5-6 hours (i think).


Along the way, I saw a massive city being constructed along the expressways. It was a series of building, cranes, pillars, and scaffolding going on for kilometres and kilometres. I’ve never seen so much construction all my life! I wish I stopped to take a picture, we were going too fast. To give you an idea, imagine driving from Balintawak to San Fernando were you see skyscrapers rising all over you! It’s that massive!

My driver Ajay tells me this is the new district of the city of Noida, aka the New Oklha Industrial Development Authority. Here will rise new BPOs, new technology manufacturing, and new commercial and residential places to service the incoming workers. Watch out for Noida, it’s about to become the next great Indian business hub.

We finally arrive Delhi, and our guide Raj joins us. Raj tells me about New Delhi and old Delhi. New Delhi itself was just like any other city, with tall buildings and parks, similar to Fort Bonifacio or Jakarta. For today, he’ll bring me to Old Delhi, which is what people usually imagine when they think of India.

And oh boy, it’s exactly what you think!

The above is a video of a street market in India. Raj tells me you can buy ANYTHING in these markets. From carpets to iPhones to extension cords to TV sets to auto parts. ANYTHING. He wouldn’t buy from them though.

We work our way deeper into the streets of old India. This is starting to remind me of Quiapo.

Finally, we make our way to our stop: the Jama Masjid, the largest and most famous mosque in all of India.



The Jama Masjid is a holy place, probably one of the holiest in all of India. Many Indians come here for pilgrimage; the perfect analogy for this would the Quiapo Church. Built in 1656, by Shah Jahan (who also built the Taj Mahal), it’s a superb blend of Mughal and Hindu architecture, using red sand stone and white marble. I heard the mosque houses a copy of the Quran which is written on deer skin.

It’s fascinating to see how people act around the Jama Masjid. There is some security coming in, but inside you feel safe and free to do as you wish.
Outside, all over the courtyard, there are people praying, but also having fun.

Day05B-Delhi-20131117-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1949 Day05B-Delhi-20131117-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_1971 Day05B-Delhi-20131117-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_2023 Day05B-Delhi-20131117-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-DSC_2002


Meanwhile, inside, everything is quiet and solemn.


We took a climb to the top of one of the minarets of the Jama Masjid, which gave a fantastic aerial view.



View of the Courtyard from the Minaret



The climb down from the Minarets

Day05B-Delhi-20131117-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3655 Day05B-Delhi-20131117-PhotographybyLeoCastillo-LEO_3680

We explored the surrounding area around the grand mosque. Furthering the Quiapo analogy, the place was surrounded by markets, street vendors, and small businesses, peppered with a lot of people!


We did the ride on pedicab since it was too cramped for a car to get through!

After the Jamal, we did a quick run to Parliament Street. Parliament Street is where you find the Sansad Bhavan, the seat of government for all of india. Here the Prime Minister and the Central Legislative Assembly presides on how to govern the country, their equivalent of the White House and Capitol. Our nearest would be Malacanang and the Batasan.

Obviously security was strict so we had to make do with taking pictures and videos from outside.

The sun was about to set and we decided to do one last stop, the Qutb Minar. We were about to go in, but was informed that it had to close for an hour to setup the lights. After waiting a while, we got the chance to see the 2nd tallest minar (tower monument) in India.


The Qutb Minar was commissioned by the Qutbuddin Aibak, the first Sultan of Delhi. The Minar was constructed and modified for 400 years. It acted like a historical marker, with various architectural modifications reflecting what changed in India across the centuries. For this reason, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.


Surrounding the Qutb Minar is the Mehrauli Archeological Park. Here you’ll see ruins of some of the famous monuments in India, spanning 1000 years. We were losing light quickly, so I had to take photos with the little luminance I had left.


The sun is now down and Raj brings me to my hotel. Mr Rao from the travel agency, who picked me up when I arrived in India joins me for some dinner. We had a pleasant conversation about India and how I enjoyed how they took care of me.

Rao brings me to the airport. Just before I was about to leave him, I just remembered this tradition I wanted to do for this trip!


My travel consultant. Thanks Mr. Rao!

The tradition was to give a new friend in a new country a gift from another country. I actually had something in mind for Rao, but I couldn’t find it, so I ended up giving him Philippine Currency instead! This worked out since he had a foreign currency collection, so it’s all good!

So that was India. I admit I enjoyed the trip more that I thought I would. India was very rich and very different from what I’ve seen in my travels all over the world. I didn’t experience the negative things some people say when they come here (I guess I was lucky that way?) and I can see the country has much more to offer.

I’d love to come back to India again someday.

For now, however, it’s time to continue circumnavigating the world. Next stop: ISRAEL!!!!

Day 5, Part 1: The Taj Mahal

Hello folks! Coming from a bit of a hiatus (it’s been hectic since I got back) so let’s start off the story of Day 5, my last day in India with a video.

And so ladies and gentlemen, I find myself facing one of the most famous sights in the world, the Taj Mahal.

Is it worth it? Is it overrated? Or does it live up to the hype?


My gosh, this place really brings up a magnificent sense of awe. It’s the same feeling you get when you see the Basilica in Rome, Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night in person, or see Da Vinci’s painting at the Sistine Chapel.

Now that I’ve set foot on it, I actually can’t believe how this place can be seen by some people as overrated. The beauty, the technical expertise and the quality was really one of a kind. I dare say you can’t really say you’ve seen the world if this is not part of your must visit list.

I guess it’s been a victim of it’s own hype. It’s common for people to tear down what’s popular and say “meh”. I bet you that if you came in as an empty cup and know nothing about India, when you see the Taj Mahal it’ll be one of the highlights on your entire trip.

You enter the Taj Mahal through a red sandstone gate, known as the Darwaza-i rauza. By itself, this gate is quite impressive.

The Great Gate, entrance to the Taj Mahal

The obligatory Taj Mahal being reflected in the pool shot. Yes you’ll be taking this photo too.

The four towers surrounding the Taj are actually inclined a bit OUTWARD by 2 degrees. Can you guess why? The answer is simple: In case of disaster, the towers will fall away from the dome and not towards it.

In most photos, The Taj Mahal looks like a “rectangular box” (kinda like the White House), but it is actually shaped like a giant octagon. Inside the octagon design continues as some rooms are also based on the same octagon design.

Those words? Those flowers? They’re actually inlaid jewels.

Those designs on the Taj are actually JEWELS. Precious stones like lapis lazuli, carnelian, agate and garnet are used to depict flowers, leaves, and other details.  The words you see enscripted on the Taj isn’t ink but actually made of jasper and black marble. The jewels are inlaid into the Taj. If you had a chisel you can actually steal them (but the security guards will likely jump on you first).

Because of the pure white marble and how the light hits it, the Taj Mahal is pink in the morning, white in the daytime and gold under moonlight.

I saw it as pink gradually turning yellow but unfortunately did not have time to see the other colors since we had to leave for Delhi.

For those planning their trip, in case you’re wondering, how long does it take to visit the Taj Mahal? Half a day is actually quite enough. If you’re in a rush, 1-2 hours will do. I bet you however, that you’ll be spending some time to take a lot of photos!

Anyway, I’ll pause here now and let you enjoy more photos of the Taj Mahal. There’s really a reason why it’s one of the most photographed buildings in the world. Next stop… Delhi!

Intricate details on top of the towers surrounding the Taj Mahal.

Locals enjoying their selfies in the Taj Mahal

Just a guy posed alongside the Taj begging to get his photo taken.

Me on top of the actual Taj!

Me on top of the Taj itself!

A little known view, This is how it looks like if you're standing on the Taj and facing the other side.

A little known view, This is how it looks like if you’re standing on the Taj and facing the people taking photos of the Taj, all pointed at you!

A little known view. This

The same little known view from the Taj, zoomed out.

Some guy sees me taking the same view and takes the same photo.

Some guy sees me taking the same view and takes the same photo.

Shot from INSIDE the Taj Mahal! You’re actually not allowed to shoot inside, so not a lot of interior shots. This is through one of the hexagonal holes that become the windows of the Taj.

Sitting on one of the Taj’s four towers.

A cute couple I met who asked me to take their photo. I promised to send them the photo but i unfortunately lost their contact details. If you are this couple, I hope you find this photo and contact me, I have a few more :-)

A cute couple I met who asked me to take their photo. I promised to send them the photo but i unfortunately lost their contact details. If you are this couple, I hope you find this photo and contact me, I have a few more :-)

Just before you leave the Taj, theres a corner near the red gate where you can frame this shot. Lots of photographers camping out here too :-)

A few locals hanging out at the red gate after a trip to the Taj.

Prenup photos!

A final photo of the Great Gateate as we leave the Taj Mahal complex. It’s been a fun trip. Try to come to the Taj Mahal as early as you can; there’s a lot less people and you can do more for the rest of the day. Looking forward to see more of India in the afternoon.