Through My Lens

Exploring the World Through Photography

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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Devi’s Falls In Pokhara, Nepal

I have a hard time figuring what to write about Devi Falls as it is a pretty strange way to experience a waterfall. Pretty much it goes like this, you are…

I have a hard time figuring what to write about Devi Falls as it is a pretty strange way to experience a waterfall. Pretty much it goes like this, you are driving down a busy street and you stop by a massive amount of shops, in the middle of all of them is a small sign for Devi Falls. After walking through the shops you will be at the ticket counter and entering into the falls area, then boom, a waterfall.

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I love waterfalls and I go out of my way to see them, but it is not as enjoyable to have a relaxing waterfall experience in the hustle and bustle of shops and city. That being said I am still glad I went as the falls themselves were amazing and unique since the water runs through a tunnel from the lake before it enters the falls.

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Devi’s Falls were discovered in 1961 when a man named Daniel, who’s had a wife named Devi, were swimming in the lake and she got sucked into the tunnel. Her body was never found but the falls were discovered. After that the falls became a popular attraction for the many people in the area to come and see.

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Currently the small park offers a few nice views of the waterfall which descends through arches and tunnels as it makes its way to Gupteshwor Mahadevcave, the cave you can also visit across the street. Here are a few photos.

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The front view of the falls is the best as you can see most of it from here, I was a little confused about the layout of the other platforms as you walk to them and cannot see anything at all, so it seems like the layout could have been better.

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Here is a picture with me in it so you can get a sense of scale.

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There is also a wishing well that is very popular and you can get coins from the ticket counter to toss in.

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Lastly, there is a very random area with 3D clay people with no faces that you can pose behind if you want to have a quick laugh and a funny photo.

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All in all this is a nice waterfall, but you could see Pokhara without seeing it if you are rushed for time.

Pro tip – the shops outside the falls are pretty cheap. I bought a medium-sized sounding bowl for only 500 rupees here (after bartering).

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Sunrise at Sarangkot: Annapurna Range in Pokhara, Nepal

Pokhara is known as the gateway to the Annapurna Range and you can see it with all of the knock off Northface shops they have in the area. However, no…

Pokhara is known as the gateway to the Annapurna Range and you can see it with all of the knock off Northface shops they have in the area. However, no trip to this city would be complete without marveling at the sheer size of these mountains from the cities best viewpoint, Sarangkot.

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This area is accessed by either taxi or hiking and having done both I would say taxi is a must for sunrise as the trail is very hard to navigate in the dark, but hiking is a good option for sunset if you are into a grueling walk up the mountain.

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After leaving the hotel at 4 in the morning I arrived at the top of the mountain around 4:30. After walking the last 20 meters to the top of the mountain and I was able to secure a great spot for the sunrise. Within ten minutes over 150 people came to the spot I was at, so I highly recommend getting there early if you want to get a good view.  You can also pay 100 ruppees to access the roof of a nearby coffee shop and enjoy a seat and a tea for the sunrise if that is more your thing.

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What followed was one of the best sunrises of my life. The massive above 20,000 foot peaks sparkled in the sun with their snow-capped peaks, and the sun itself split the mountains with rays you wouldn’t believe. I sat there for 45 minutes just taking it all in and taking photos. Here are some of my favorites.

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This was the first time I had seen these mountains on my stay as the fog had kept them pretty covered the rest of the time I was there, so I was blessed to see them as well as I did. The funny thing was when the sun was fully up, the mountains started to disappear into the clouds again and it was back to reality.

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I couldn’t believe how amazing this was and I highly recommend it as a must see in Pokhara. You may never see a better sunrise then this. The location itself is easy to get to and very popular, any taxi should be able to take you up the winding road to the top.

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