Through My Lens

Exploring the World Through Photography

Hiking to Sarangkot in Pokhara, Nepal

If you want to experience a hike in Nepal but do not have time to trek like me, then I recommend making the trek to Sarangkot from Pokhara itself. This grueling…

If you want to experience a hike in Nepal but do not have time to trek like me, then I recommend making the trek to Sarangkot from Pokhara itself. This grueling hike will give you a taste of what trekking is like while rewarding you with an amazing vista when it is all complete.

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There are many ways to reach Sarangkot but the most popular is the South Trail, which starts at the lake and heads up 2000 feet in about 2.5 miles.

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The trail is beautiful, pretty much the entire way, but it is not easy-going up or coming down. It is also a little difficult to find, but if you try to follow the well-worn trail you should be ok.

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I mean, we got lost a few times on the way and ended up walking through a couple of corn fields before the farmer very graciously helped us back onto our path. There are many ways up the mountain, but this path is almost always stone stairs, so if you do not see those then you are probably not on the right path.

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The path starts in a dry creekbed and makes its way up the hillside through increasingly stunning forest and rice fields.

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When the trees give way to a clearing make sure to look behind you as you will see amazing vistas of the city and the Peace Pagoda below.

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Along the way we also met a dog that ran up and barked at us, but then proceeded to be our travel partner for most of the way. We affectionate called him “curry ” and he did help us find a path a few times.

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Here are few pictures from the hike and even though it is hard I cannot recommend it more as it gives you a picture of the countryside of Nepal.

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Here is a picture from the view at the top as well which lets you see where you started below.

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From the other side you can see the Annapurna Range. It is stunning, especially for sunrise or sunset and there is a little cafe there where you can get a much deserved water or tea if you feel so inclined.

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As my only trekking in Nepal I was thankful to be able to have this experience and it make me realize that I have to come back again sometime to do some actual hiking in this beautiful country.

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Palace of the Winds: Hawa Mahal in Jaipur

One of the most famous places in the city of Jaipur is the Wind Palace that is part of the old wall in what is known as the pink city. You can…

One of the most famous places in the city of Jaipur is the Wind Palace that is part of the old wall in what is known as the pink city. You can see why when you first visit this beautiful place and notice the red sandstone that was used to build this palace.

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History

It was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh  in the form of the crown of Krishna, the Hindu god. Its unique five story exterior is also likened to the honeycomb of the beehive with its 953 small windows called jharokhas that are decorated with intricate latticework. The original intention of the lattice was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen, since they had to observe strict covering of their face.

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Besides this, the lattice also provides cool air caused by the Venturi effect through the intricate pattern and thereby air conditioning the whole area during the high temperatures in summers.

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This place is usually crawling with people as it is one of the most popular in the whole city. This was one of the only places that we saw foreigners at while in Jaipur. The hustle and bustle of the road in front make its even more interesting as you have to be careful when crossing the street to take in the views.

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You can also pay to go inside the palace as well. We were in a rush for time when here though so we were not able to go in. I have been told that it is best from the outside anyway.

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This is also a great place for cheap souvenirs since it is such a tourist area as I bought an entire box of plastic elephants (12 in all) for 100 rupees, $1.75 USA. No trip to Jaipur would be complete without making a stop here, at least to see the outside. It is a well maintained and beautiful example of the history in this area, you can see it from all over the city as well, even at places like the Jantar Mantar.

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Jantar Mantar: Jaipur’s Famous Observatory

Up until last year the Observatory in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar, was the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the city (Amber Palace is now one as well). Just this…

Up until last year the Observatory in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar, was the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the city (Amber Palace is now one as well). Just this alone makes it worth a visit, even if you are not super scientific. I was amazed by how much smarter the people who built these instruments, hundreds of years ago are then I am today, in terms of understanding the world outside our own.

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The observatory is a collection of instruments, designed by the king in the 1700’s that all tell different pieces of the time and space equation. There are multiple sun dials, mapping systems for the planetary movements, and instruments designed to tell what time in the horoscope you are in. All of these pieces are very important to the Hindu religion ( people only get married on certain days that work with their signs), so it was important for them to understand it all.

History

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The Jantar Mantar is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Sawai Jai Singh who was a Rajput king. It is modeled after the one that he had built at the Mughal capital of Delhi. He had constructed a total of five such facilities at different locations, including the ones at Delhi and Jaipur. The Jaipur observatory is the largest and best preserved of these.

Here are some of my favorite things to see here:

The Sundials

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In the Jantar Mantar, there are many different sundials to tell the time by sun position but a couple main ones stood out as my favorites.

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The first is the main dial, right when you walk into the area, which has a large half circle to note the sun’s position and a stairway (no you can’t walk up any of them). This dial is accurate to about 20 minutes.

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The other main sundial is the largest in the entire world and is an amazing thing to see. You notice how overpowering it is as you walk around the park.

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 It is around 88 feet tall and is able to tell the time within 2 seconds of error. One of the crowning achievements of the park and my personal highlight in the park to see.

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You can also see the wind palace peaking up from behind the walls from here as well in the above picture.

The Celestial Trackers

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In the center of the park is two big half circles that can track the movements of the planets with Jaipur in the center. Each piece if stacked on each other would show the enter solar system, as they saw it. We got a lengthy explanation of it but I am not sure I fully understand how it works.

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The other tracker was a large stone circle that had Jaipur and the planets on it and could be moved to where the suns current location was as it tracked the movement of the planets.

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Here are some of the other spots I saw there, all with their own purposes for understanding more about time and space.

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Be sure to visit this UNESCO site when you are in Jaipur, it is worth it.

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Baby Taj Mahal: Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah in Agra, India

Located in the same city as the Taj Mahal itself, the Baby Taj is a beautiful example of both the history and the architecture of the country. On the off time…

Located in the same city as the Taj Mahal itself, the Baby Taj is a beautiful example of both the history and the architecture of the country. On the off time (for tourists) when I was in India, this was an amazing time to visit some of the smaller attractions in Agra like the Baby Taj. There is always people at the Taj itself but when I visited the Baby Taj it was almost completely empty and it was an overwhelming and beautiful experience.

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History

The tomb, built between 1622 and 1628 represents a transition between the first phase of monumental Mughal architecture – primarily built from red sandstone with marble decorations, as in Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, to its second phase, based on white marble which is what was used for the Tāj Mahal. The mausoleum was commissioned by Nūr Jahān who built it to honor her father.

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As I walked through the entrance in the late afternoon I was greeted by about 30 monkeys running through the grass on both sides, there were babies, mothers and everything in between. It was so fun to see these animals up close and a great way to be welcomed into the monument (they were not there when I left though so I am not sure when they come).

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As I walked through the archway I was greeted by the Baby Taj itself, the monument to the mother of one of the famous rulers and it took my breath away. It was stunning display of craftsmanship and marble work, all within a relatively small frame.

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As you approach you must remove your shoes and there is a man who watches over them while you are in the monument, he will expect a tip.

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The monument itself is symmetrical just like the Taj Mahal is. All sides are exactly the same and the gardens and smaller buildings are the same as well.

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As I entered the interior of the monument I actually let out a verbal “wow.” It was so much more than I expected, with extensive and beautiful ceiling work that you have to see to believe.

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I was also treated to the sun showing off as it entered into the sacred room. I couldn’t take a bad picture. The top of the area was even more crazy. The guide who was with it said it was the most amazing time he had ever seen the inside.

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After that I continued to walk around the small monument as I took photos from all angles. When I left I was so excited to have experienced what I did, from the monkeys to the temple itself, it was amazing. Obviously, the Taj Mahal itself is more majestic but if you are in Agra you must see the Baby Taj as well.

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As I exited I even got an ice cream bar for 15 rupees from a local seller. Adding the exclamation point to an epic trip.

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Jeep Safari in Chitwan National Park

As one of Nepal’s biggest National Parks, Chitwan National Park is a true must visit in a country filled with “must visits.” It started as a hunting area for the…

As one of Nepal’s biggest National Parks, Chitwan National Park is a true must visit in a country filled with “must visits.” It started as a hunting area for the royalty of Nepal but was converted to a National Park to preserve the animals in 1971. The 360 square miles house everything from rhinos and tigers to elephants and crocodiles and the best way to get deep into the park is by hiring a jeep safari. There are over 43 species of mammals in the park and the best time to visit is anytime other then the monsoon months of June – September, when the park is overflowing with water.

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When I went my safari was a half day in a jeep, which took us way back into the park. In order to get to the jeep area though we had to cross the river by canoe and walk past a elephant before finding the jeeps.

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The elephant minded his own business and seemed more concerned with his food then with the humans that were walking near him.

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The jeeps themselves were pretty nice with open tops and elevated row seating and we headed out into the park.

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Right off the bat we caught a rhino bathing in the river and it didn’t even seem to care that we had snuck up on it and we were able to get great views for 5 minutes before proceeding on.

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From there though we saw a lot less animals the rest of the day but it was a beautiful area to drive around in regardless. Here is what we saw.

Rhino

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The king of Chitwan, it is so cool to see these tank like animals up close. We were lucky enough to see three on our trip. The above one was the best as he just stared at us for a while.

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I was even able to get a shot of the guide we had who got close to the rhino to take a picture. Not very safe but I am sure the shots are good.

Deer

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Deer are everywhere in the park and we saw a lot while driving around. Often times we would see them out in the open but other times you had to watch closely to see them in the bushes.

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Pumba

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Yes, we saw a warthog, it was a nice citing in the afternoon. Our guide loved calling him Pumba.

Peacock

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The national bird of India also lives in the wild here. We saw a lot in the park.

Monitor Lizard

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These deadly lizards are best to avoid but are cool to see from afar. They are much bigger then I anticipated them being.

Insects

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We stumbled upon a tree full of red bugs that was pretty neat to see as well and there are bugs everywhere.

Birds

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I don’t have to much bird knowledge myself but we did see a lot of beautiful birds in the park.

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The ride itself was very bumpy and after 4 hours you are pretty ready to be out of the jeep. The area you are driving through is beautiful though and even when you are not seeing animals it is nice just to take in the surroundings. Our guide took us by the crocodile park and I recommend that as well. It is pretty far into the park and is a fun way to see some crocodiles up close in a safe environment.

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All in all it was a good trip, but I would have to say that my safari on the elephant was much more fun then the jeep trip personally.

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World Peace Pagoda above Pokhara, Nepal

As you walk around the town of Pokhara you will notice the World Peace Pagoda from pretty much every location you are at. This massive structure sits on the mountain…

As you walk around the town of Pokhara you will notice the World Peace Pagoda from pretty much every location you are at. This massive structure sits on the mountain to the left of the city and was created in 1999 as one of the many peace pagodas around Nepal. This was the second that I saw on my trip as I saw one in Lumbini as well. This pagoda was originally built here in 1973 but was town down by the government in 1974. Since that time many people tried to bring it back before it was eventually completed in 1999.

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To access it, the simplest way is to take a taxi to the base of the 500-600 rock steps and then climb them to reach the pagoda. Be warned, this road is slow going in the taxi as it is one lane and has small sections of dirt with the concrete.

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You can also access it by taking a boat across the lake then climbing up the other side but I didn’t do that myself so I can’t really comment.

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As you walk the steps you will be greeted with many different little shops and eateries where you can take a pause for a cold drink on the way up or down, and while not too hard, it will still be a good little workout to get to the Pagoda.

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For me though, I enjoyed the stairs as it seemed like a more unique way to experience the monument then just driving somewhere and getting out.

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As you near the top there is a small restaurant with epic views and you will start to see the city below and the Annapurna range in the distance, if the weather is clear.

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The Pagoda itself is almost identical to the other one I saw, but at its perch on top of the mountain it is a very worthy experience. As you would expect in Nepal there are prayer flags all along the way as you approach and many Buddhist people were meditating and enjoying the surroundings when I was there. Here are some of he pictures.

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The first of these pagodas was built in Japan in 1954 and since then the goal has been to build 100 of them throughout the world.

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I found this area to be very peaceful and I really enjoyed just sitting up here near sunset and just relaxing as I look out over the view. I highly recommend it as no trip to Pokhara would be complete without it.

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