Near the iconic Hawa Mahal and City Palace, the brothers Tikam Chand and Surendar have been using their antique box camera to take instant photographs for anyone who is willing to wait several minutes and pay a price for an one-of-a-kind vintage experience. Known as Pahari Master, the grandfather of the brothers was the former maharaja’s photographer. Given as a gift from the maharaja, the 1860 German made Carl Zeiss Jena camera was Pahari Master’s apparatus to make a living. Gone were the days when Jaipur was ruled under the maharaja. The 1860 Carl Zeiss camera had since then become a family heirloom from Pahari Master to his son, and then to the brothers Tikam Chand and Surendar. In the last three decades, the brothers had been taking instant photographs for people in the historical heart of Jaipur. Bloggers and media outlets such as CNN and LA Times have written about the brothers and their grandfather’s antique camera. In recent years, their photo stall has become a small tourist attraction in its own right. For us, checking out the 150-year camera and having a photo of ourselves taken by the vintage machine was a top priority in Jaipur. Fortunately we made it just on time to be Tikam Chand’s last customer of the day, before it get too dim for photography.
At 5pm, we left the City Palace and began our quest of the 1860 vintage Carl Zeiss camera. We found our way through the Jaleb Chowk Square and Naqqar Khana ka Darwaza (Drum Gate). In the old days, court musicians would station at the upper level of the gate to announce the arrival and departure of the maharaja.
Then through Naqqar Darwaza Gate we finally stepped out of the former royal compound and arrived at the market streets of old Jaipur.
Known as the pink city, many buildings in old Jaipur have been painted in the iconic pink colour.
The market streets of old Jaipur are full of merchandises of all sorts. As the capital of Rajasthan, many people in the desert state come to Jaipur for shopping.
Before sunset, we finally found Tikam Chand and his 150-year Carl Zeiss camera.
While chatting with Tikam Chand, we sat down on a bench and get ourselves ready for the one-of-a-kind vintage photo shoot.
Many think a vintage 1860 Carl Zeiss Jena would be locked up in a glass display box in a museum. It was hard to believe that this valuable artefact could actually work properly after 150 years.
Looking into the back viewfinder we could see an upside down image.
Tikam Chand first took a negative portrait of us, and developed the photo in a small box at the back of the camera. Then he took another shot of the negative to get a positive image as the final product.
Newspaper cutouts and vintage photographs served as the best advertisement for the brothers.
By the time we bid farewell with Tikam Chand and the 1860 Carl Zeiss camera, darkness had already fallen upon. Just a stone throw away, we stumbled upon the magnificent Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Wind.
The picture perfect Hawa Mahal is perhaps the most published image of Jaipur.
At Hawa Mahal, we flagged down an auto-rickshaw for Peacock rooftop restaurant, a popular dining venue that we discovered from online research.
The Peacock rooftop restaurant was neatly decorated based on the peacock theme.
The food was decent and the cozy atmosphere was enhanced by the lovely live music.
Established in a former mansion, Arya Niwas was the mid range hotel where we stayed for the night.
The old wing of Arya Niwas had its old school charm.
We returned to Pushkar Lake just before sunset, hoping to witness any form of religious ceremonies that might be performed. If we arrived two weeks earlier during the Pushkar Camel Fair, we would probably see large scale aarti and deepdan ceremonies by the ghats. At the ghats, the air was peaceful and a little cooler than earlier. We sat down on the steps to enjoy the sunset over the sacred lake.
Sunset was a great time to absorb the peaceful atmosphere of the ghats in Pushkar.
Maybe the presence of fish signify the improvement of water quality?
Deity worshiping might happen anywhere around the lake shore.
Buildings were covered in an orange glow as the sun set.
Nag Pahar (Snake Mountain) and Ratnagiri Hill were highly visible from Pushkar Lake.
Watching the sunset over Pushkar Lake was one of the loveliest moment in our journey.
Given the beauty of the sunset, the number of tourists lingering at the ghats were surprisingly few.
In just a blink of eye the sun sank beyond the buildings on the horizon.
Even the cow enjoyed the beauty of the sunset.
A small group of pilgrims and temple staff performed evening prayers at Varaha Ghat.
Candles were lit and flower petals were scattered into the water during the ceremony.
Although short, the prayer ceremony generated a spiritual ambience no words could fully describe.
The last pilgrim prayed to the twilight as all other worshipers returned into the temple.
Pilgrims and temple priests finishing their last bit of prayers at the ghat.
As light faded, we decided to call it a day.
We left Pushkar Lake from the entrance of mVaraha Ghat.
The market streets behind the ghats were much more lively than the waterfront.
On our way back to Inn Seventh Heaven, we passed by the old Rangji Temple.
At the hotel, we once again headed up to Sixth Sense, the hotel’s rooftop restaurant for a vegetarian meal.
To finish the night, we ordered a Rajasthan vegetarian thali.
DAY 4 (4/5): DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.27
From our guidebook we picked Saffron Restaurant for lunch. Situated on the leafy rooftop of Nachna Haveli Hotel, Saffron Restaurant offers an atmospheric venue away from the busy lanes of Jaisalmer. The building complex is owned by the Nachna family. They are direct descendants of Maharawal Jaisal, the founder of Jaisalmer. The Nachna Haveli was partially converted into a heritage hotel in 1996.
We entered the Nachna Haveli Hotel through a elegant gateway.
Beyond the gate, we arrived at a sleepy and lush green courtyard.
Comfortable seating adjacent to the courtyard offers visitors and guests a great place to escape from the afternoon heat.
We were told to go upstairs to the roof for the Saffron Restaurant.
Compared to the dusty and often busy street outside, the leafy and tranquil rooftop of Saffron Restaurant felt like a paradise to us.
At Saffron, it was a big surprise to find that film shooting was going on at part of the rooftop. It was a scene of causal talk between a mother and daughter while hanging the laundry.
After lunch, we went to check out the guidebook recommended handicraft shop Desert Handicrafts Emporium.
Desert Handicrafts Emporium is owned by LN Khatri, a knowledgeable historian and folklorist of the Thar region.
After purchasing two embroidered pieces, Mr. Khatri led us to his Thar Heritage Museum. With a decent collection of artefacts and antiques from various desert villages.
One of the most interesting display was a Gyan Chaupar (meaning ‘Game of Knowledge) game, which sometimes can be referred as the Snake and Ladder game. The game has been around in India since the 2nd century. It is a game that involves educating people about religious vice and virtue.
Displays at the Thar Heritage Museum are grouped in such a way that visitors can easily learn about the specific life and work of various kinds of people in the Thar Desert.
Opium was popular in Rajasthan in the old days. Khatri’s museum designates a corner to display the artefacts used for opium smoking.
Mr. Khatri’s father was actually a ghee collector in the Thar Desert. A number of old ghee containers are on display.
The displayed items in the museum reflect a bygone era of the Thar Desert.
Embroideries with gold and silver threads are popular in villages of the Thar Desert.
Vintage black and white photographs in the museum convey a romantic sense of the bygone Rajasthan.
Mr. Khatri was kind to show us around and talked about the highlights of his collection. The visit offered us a thorough glimpse of what life was like back in old Rajasthan.
Standing on the Trikuta Hill, the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer has withstood the sandstorms and wind of the Thar Desert for 800 years. Bathed in a honey glow under the setting desert sun, visitors often describe the Golden City of Jaisalmer as the picture-perfect castle of A Thousand and One Night. The spectacular Jaisalmer was once a significant trading city frequented by camel caravans on the ancient Silk Road. Today it is an UNESCO World Heritage site and the westernmost destination for visitors coming to Rajasthan. Beyond the desert to the west is the Indian border with Pakistan. Many come to Jaisalmer by the 18-hour train service from Delhi to cover the 780km distance. We chose to take a flight from Delhi to Jodhpur, and then a hired car from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. After a brief stop at Osian, by the time we reached our hotel at Jaisalmer it was already after dark.
We checked in at First Gate Home-Fusion, a historical haveli converted hotel, at around 19:30.
Our pleasant room was on the upper floor with a pleasant balcony.
After checking in, we went up to the rooftop restaurant at our hotel.
Situated near the first gate of the fort, the rooftop restaurant of our hotel offers gorgeous views of the iconic fort.
Specialized in Indian and Italian cuisine, we ordered a combination of both for our first dinner at Jaisalmer.
From the balcony of our hotel room, we patiently waited for the sunrise at the east horizon.
Below our balcony was a quiet side street of small guest houses.
On the street, dogs, cows and local residents passed by our balcony every so often.
From the balcony we enjoyed the spectacular sunrise for two days in a row.
For two days in a row we witnessed the same little girl fed the street dogs while on her way to school.
Soon after sunrise, locals in colourful dresses came out to clean the street.
At the other side of the balcony, we also enjoyed a splendid view of the fort.
Under the rising sun, the yellow sandstone of the fort was illuminated in a golden glow.
Sunlight penetrated into our room through a tiny window.
Outside our room, sunlight also spilled into the hallway through high windows.
After breakfast, it was time for us to step out and explore the magnificent Jaisalmer.
It was dark by the time we left Mehrangarh Fort. We turned our gaze from the fort to the cityscape below us. We saw countless festive lights flickering in different parts of the old city, as if a citywide party awaited for our return. At the centre of Old Jodhpur, the Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower was bathed in colourful lighting like a rainbow popsicle. We followed a winding footpath going downhill, hoping to get back to the old town in time for dinner at the rooftop restaurant at Pal Haveli. Before supper, we still had one more destination to go which was the vibrant Sadar Market at the Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower.
It was getting dark when we began to walk down from Mehrangarh Fort. From afar, the clock tower in colourful lights was highly visible and served as a destination landmark to guide us for the walk.
Mehrangarh Fort looked majestic under the evening flood lights.
The path soon led us into small streets at the foothills below the fort.
It was dinner time and most shops were about to close.
We walked by many homes with their doors kept opened. From time to time, we could hear laughter of families from inside their homes.
In Jodhpur, there was a common way in which the street vendors decorate their store with bags of chips and snacks in different colourful packaging hanging vertically around the front edge of the roof. It was very eye-catching.
We kept on walking downhill and hoped that we would soon reach the Sadar Market and Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower. Behind us, the massive Mehrangarh Fort provided a mysterious background.
Soon we reached the bottom of the hill in the streets of Gulab Sagar,
It was dinner time for many families, and even bedtime for this puppy on a motorbike.
Near Sadar Market or Clock Tower Market, we passed by a small Hindu shrine along the main commercial street.
A beautiful gateway welcomed us into the vibrant Sadar Market. The market was named after Maharaja Sardar Singh, who built the market and the clock tower during his reign from 1880 to 1911.
Built by Maharaja Sardar Singh in the late 19th century, the Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower is one the most iconic monuments of old Jodhpur.
Sadar Market is one of the busiest place in Jodhpur where locals and tourists come to shop for handicrafts, souvenirs, spices, fresh produce, textiles, jewellery and clothing.
At Sadar Market, our target was to check out MV Spices Shop.
Established by Mohan Lal Verhomal years ago, MV Spices is a renowned spices shop recommended by many guidebooks and foreign media. Today, the spices shop is managed by the friendly daughters of Mohan Lal Verhomal. After a cup of chai tea and a good chat with one of the daughters, we bought a pack of Maharaja curry, and also spices to make chai tea and chicken tikka masala.
After a quick visit of Sadar Market, we returned to our hotel Pal Haveli.
We climbed up to the hotel’s rooftop restaurant Indique for dinner.
Indique is a popular rooftop restaurant in Old Jodhpur, serving decent Indian food with magnificent views of the old city.
We enjoyed the distant view of Mehrangarh Fort at one side of the rooftop. During dinner, it was a surprise to see a small firework in front of the fort. It came in a split second. We couldn’t react quick enough to capture the moment with our camera. The scene could only live in our memory.
At the other side of the rooftop restaurant, we could look down to the vibrant Sadar Market and the colourful Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower.
Haveli in India refers to a large historical mansion built by a wealthy merchant over a century ago. Designed to impress both the residents and outside spectators, these buildings usually come with ornate carvings, beautiful frescoes, intricate window screens, and an airy courtyard or lightwell. While many have been fallen into disrepair over the years, some havelis have survived into modern times and become valuable heritage buildings. Rajasthan has some of the most famous and well preserved havelis in India, and some of which have been converted into museums or hotels. Situated in the old city near the Gulab Sagar Reservoir and Clock Tower Market, the beautiful Pal Haveli was our hotel in Jodhpur. Owned by the Pal Family, the two-hundred-year-old haveli was the place where we first experienced the historical sense and beauty of the Medieval Jodhpur. Antique housewares, paintings, textiles and furniture offered a charming ambience. From the rooftop restaurant, views of the busy Clock Tower Market and the majestic Mehrangart Fort were breathtaking. Outside the hotel, the market streets and square near the Clock Tower dominated the street scenes.
Just a stone throw away stood a simple omelette shop that has been frequented by foreign tourists ever since Lonely Planet named the local eatery as the famous “Omelette Shop” in 1999. Since then, this simple eatery has been elevated into legendary status among foreign tourists. The life of Ramkishan Gawlani the owner has been completely transformed ever since. According to an interview with Reuters, Ramkishan Gawlani was used to be poor and drank all day. For 24 years he cooked meat, rice, lentils and sometimes omelette. After Lonely Planet’s listing however, his business boomed dramatically with tourists all over the world come to him for omelettes. He gave up the other options in his menu and became an omelette specialist. Just a decade after the listing, he was cracking 1000 eggs a day and earned much respect in the city of Jodhpur. Interestingly, the famous omelette man is in fact a vegan and has not eaten an egg for years. His story reflects an interesting phenomenon about the tourist and guidebook industry. According to Reuters, Lonely Planet has sold over a million guidebooks on India from 1981 to 2007, and has inevitably bringing tourists to the same hotels and restaurants throughout the years, and has created tension and jealousy among businesses, such as the hostile feelings of the other omelette shop owners towards Ramkishan Gawlani. For us, we did visit the famous Omelette Shop for our first meal in Rajasthan because of its convenient location. While not as legendary one might imagine, Ramkishan Gawlani ‘s omelettes were indeed delightful and convenient for us.
We arrived at Pal Haveli hotel straight from the airport in early afternoon.
Through the grand entrance, we entered into the main arrival courtyard of the hotel.
On the roof, Indique Restaurant is a well known establishment with good food and great views of the old Jodhpur.
The hotel reception lobby is situated right at the courtyard.
Despite its modest size, the reception lobby of Pal Haveli is decently decorated with traditional furniture and antiques.
Even the light switches reflect the long history of the building.
Our room was located right by the courtyard.
Inside the room, walls were decorated with traditional miniature paintings.
Just a stone throw away, the legendary Omelette Shop was busy serving foreign tourists.
Stacks of eggs and signs of “Lonely Planet” and “Tripadvisor” suggested we had come to the “right” place, but not one of the imitated ones.
Ramkishan Gawlaniwas busy making omelettes at the stove.
Made with several eggs, mayo, cheese, spices and bread, we tried the tasty Alibaba Omelette.
Near the Omelette Shop was the entrance into the Sardar Market or the Clock Tower Market.
Across the street from the Omelette Shop, we could see the side facade of our hotel Pal Haveli.
Dozens of tuk tuks or auto rickshaws await for tourists at the heart of the old city across the street from the Omelette Shop.
After a few rounds of bargaining, we hired one of the passing auto rickshaw for Mehrangarh Fort, the single most iconic sight of the city of Jodhpur.
DAY 8 (6/6): AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.06.01
To end the magical night of Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi, we decided to have a bowl of local ramen. Through online research, we learnt about a popular ramen restaurant near the train station. The walk from Asano River to the station was full of surprises as we encountered groups of school children parading the streets with traditional lanterns. The entire city was turned into a festival ground.
Groups after groups of school children parading on the streets of Kanazawa during the night of Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi.
It was delightful to see traditional rituals are being passed down to the young generation.
Movable carts were also seen with young traditional drummers.
We passed by Kanazawa Train Station on our way to Menya Taiga (麺屋大河).
Some bloggers suggest Menya Taiga (麺屋大河) in Kanazawa offers the “best miso ramen in Japan.” That’s a rather bold statement given the uncounted numbers of ramen restaurant in Japan, each has its unique recipe and ingredients.
After a little over half an hour in the queue, we finally got into the restaurant just before 10pm.
The ramen restaurant was full of little decorations.
Menya Taiga (麺屋大河) offers shorter and thicker noodles, with an extra touch of ginger and citrus fruit in the soup on top of the typical pork bone soup.
The uni (sea urchin) ramen was a delicious seasonal ramen we ordered.
In the next morning, 2.5 hours before the main parade of the Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり) began, we walked along the main street leading to the train station. The street would soon become the main parade venue.
Many local residences had already marked their spot on the sidewalk.
In front of Kanazawa Train Station, the Tsuzumi-mon Gate (鼓門) would serve as the symbol city gate for the annual parade of the Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり).
Parade participants would dressed in 16th century costumes to act like the army of Lord Maeda Toshiie entering the symbolic Tsuzumi-mon Gate (鼓門).
The banner of Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり) was hung at the entrance atrium of the train station.
At the station, we bought a few onigiri or Japanese rice balls for breakfast on the train.
Moving up to the platform of shinkansen or Japanese high-speed railway, our journey of Kanazawa and Chubu Region (Central Honshu) was coming to an end. In 2.5 hours, we would arrive in Tokyo.
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CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE
Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)
Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)
Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)
Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)
Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)
Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)