After visiting Agra Fort, we returned to our hotel and waited for the tour guide from Agra Walks. Recommended by guidebooks, the Heritage Tour of Agra Walks gave us a good opportunity to visit one of Agra’s local market. For about two and a half hours, we followed our guide Gautam Pratap by car, cycle rickshaw, and on foot into the bustling Rawatpara Spice Market. Labelled as the “unseen” part of Agra for foreign tourists, the vibrant market scenes left a distinctive impression for us compared to the historical sites, one that was full of colours, fragrant, noises, and life.
On our way to Rawatpara Market, our rickshaw passed by the red sandstone walls of Agra Fort once again.
Near Agra Fort Train Station, our rickshaw entered into the lively streets of Rawatpara.
We found our way towards Jama Masjid, a famous mosque built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s daughter in 1648.
Jama Masjid took 6 years and 5000 workers to finish.
Betel leaves are sold in the Rawatpara Market.
The 185 year old Chimman Lal Puri Wale was one of the highlights of our market walk. We actually sat down with the guide and sampled some of the tasty puri snacks with three different dipping.
After visiting the local eatery, we continued our walk into the market.
We passed different areas of the market beginning from the textile area. Many of these busy textile shops store their stocks in the attic above the main area.
As expected, there are many shops selling all kinds of personal adornments.
Local craftsmen could be seen everywhere in the market.
From jewellery making to embroidery, handicraft is still popular in India.
Next we came to a shop selling different ritual items, including garlands made with real money bills for wedding ceremonies. Despite being a popular local tradition, the Reserve Bank of India actually urged people to stop the custom.
Colourful shops in the market.
Everything were either vivid or golden in colour.
Decoration is such a huge part of the Indian culture.
We stopped by the historic Hindu temple Shri Mankameshwar Mandir. Unfortunately the temple was closed when we were there.
Then we moved on to the spice section of the market. Anyone who has experience with Indian cuisine would acknowledge the importance of spices in their culinary traditions. We did pick up some saffron from one of the shops.
Sweet is, of course, hugely popular for the Indians as well.
After a fruitful walk it was about time for sunset watching.
We followed our guide back to the entrance of the market where a 4×4 was waiting to take us to our next stop.
With an area about twice the size of France and including some of the most remote mountainous landscapes in the world, traveling in the Autonomous Region of Tibet takes time and patience, and requires a reliable SUV and an experienced driver. We didn’t have sufficient time to venture out to the furthest areas of Tibet, such as the sacred Mount Kailash in Ngari Prefecture. We did, however, managed to include a 6-day excursion out of Lhasa as the second part of our Tibetan journey with a classic tourist route taking in Shannan (山南), Gyantse (江孜), Shigatse (日喀則), Mount Everest Base Camp (珠穆朗瑪峰大本營) and Lake Namtso (納木錯). We hired the SUV and driver through Pazu, the owner of Spinn Cafe. As our agent, Pazu took care of our border travel permit (for visiting the Mount Everest area) in Lhasa. He also told us a little about the habits of Tibetan drivers, meals and accommodation options before departure.
Many Chinese travelers who come to Tibet would arrange a shared SUV through online tourist forum or notice boards in hostels and local travel agents. In a small group of three, we decided to hire a 4-seat SUV on our own. Writing to Pazu prior the trip, we requested for an experienced and safe Tibetan driver who would not smoke in the car, and a decent 4×4 SUV vehicle with a proper AL or BL license plate (official license plate of local tourist vehicle). It turned out that Sangzhu (桑珠), our Tibetan driver for the journey, was a highly experienced driver. Despite his sometimes unpredictable attitude and services, his driving was safe and efficient. The intercity roads in Tibet were better than we expected. The roads to and from Everest Base Camp were dusty and occasionally treacherous. Everyday we spent hours on the road between towns or destinations. Scenery along the way was often spectacular with golden barley fields, sleepy pastures, picturesque villages, rugged plateaus, and distant snow-capped mountains.
The white Toyota SUV offered us a comfortable means of travel and a movable resting place between different sights.
Our driver Sangzhu (桑珠) with Mount Everest in the background.
Most of the intercity highways were decently paved.
Along the way, we saw various new infrastructure under construction, including highways and railways linking Tibet to other parts of China.
For most of the time, we passed by a number of arid landscape such as the huge sanddunes in Shannan.
Fields of Tibetan Highland Barley, a local cereal for Tibetan milk tea, alcohol and tsampa, were common sights along the roads.
Our SUV was occasionally blocked by flocks of sheep and cattle in the rural areas.
On the road, we encountered quite a number of motorcyclists and cyclists who were willing to brave the chilly winds of the high altitude.
As one of the high profile tourist attraction in Tibet, our SUV drove along the Yamdrok Lake (羊卓雍錯) after our brief stop for photos.
The scenery on the road to and from the Everest Base Camp was breathtaking.
Most parts of the Friendship Highway between Tibet and Nepal was decently paved.
Due to point-to-point speed and driving time limit, our SUV occasionally would take breaks on the road. Our driver made use of the last break on the journey to wash the SUV.
On a few occasions, we stopped by a roadside Sichuan eatery for a quick lunch.
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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet
The sun was low when we get off at Kinkakuji-mae bus stop, giving everything a bit of a yellow tone. The path leading into the ground of Kinkakuji (金閣寺) was crowded with visitors from local and abroad. After a few hectic minutes queuing in front of the ticket office, we finally got our admission tickets. It wouldn’t be long before Kinkakuji closing its doors at sunset (around 4:30pm). We wasted no time and walked into the temple ground, which was a large Zen Buddhist garden around a large reflective pool known as the Kyōko-chi (鏡湖池), or Mirror Pond. All visitors entering the garden immediately gathered by the pond to take photos of the fascinating Kinkakuji building. Covered with gold-leaf coating, the 3-storey Kinkakuji, which literally means the Golden Pavilion, stood proudly by the opposite shore and glittered under the western sun. Since late 14th century the building was considered as an icon of architectural beauty in Japan. Its beauty was so overwhelmingly powerful, prompting a mentally disordered novice monk to burn down the building in an early summer morning of 1950. Built in 1955, the present Golden Pavilion building is a reconstruction of the 14th century original. Author Yukio Mishima’s (三島 由紀夫) masterpiece “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺)” was loosely based on this tragic incident. I first learnt about Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion from his famous novel.
After a few minutes taking photos by the pond, we followed the designated path to walk towards the Golden Pavilion. The building was not open for the public and we could only admire the architecture from outside. Behind the pavilion, the garden path continued up a hill over to another tranquil water pond, the Anmintaku Pond, where a mini stone pagoda was erected on a small island. After another short walk we were almost at the garden exit. Before reaching the souvenir shops, we passed by the Fudo Hall where visitors paid their respect to Fudo Myoo (不動明王), also known as Acala Dharmapala, one of the five wisdom kings and protectors of Buddhism. Because of the crowds, touring Kinkakuji wasn’t the most pleasant experience we had in Kyoto, but the visual beauty of the Golden Pavilion was still overwhelming. Unlike Ninnaji Temple where we spent a considerable amount of time delightfully exploring the verandas, courtyards and gardens, we didn’t stay long at Kinkakuji. In fact, the biggest surprise of the visit was our first glance of the Golden Pavilion and its perfect reflection in the Mirror Pond near the garden entrance. Nonetheless, the iconic beauty of Kinkakuji under the golden afternoon sun is an irresistible sight for any first time visitor to Kyoto, including us.
From Ninnaji Temple, we decided to take the bus to Kinkakuji Temple in order to save time. If we chose to walk it would probably take us about half an hour.
Tourists gathered in front of Mirror Pond to take pictures of the Golden Pavilion.
Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, shimmered under the late afternoon sun.
The reflection of the Golden Pavilion in peaceful Mirror Pond was near perfect.
Close up of the reflection of the Golden Pavilion.
Approaching the Golden Pavilion from the waterfront path.
The Golden Pavilion is topped with a bronze phoenix.
The small stone pavilion at Anmintaku Pond.
Even the Fudo Hall near the exit was packed with visitors.
It was almost sunset when we left Kinkakuji. Because of the fine weather, we decided to continue with our Kyoto tour with temple night visits despite we were both tired from the red-eye flight. Our next destination was Kitano Tenmangu (北野天滿宮), one of the few temples in Kyoto where the fall colour was still at its peak.
Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan
Once arrived on Taquile, we were greeted at the dock by the father of the home-stay family. We had difficulties understanding each other completely, but we could still communicate with simple facial expressions and hand gestures. Our host suggested us to take our time to walk uphill to the village centre, while he would go ahead of us to prepare our lunch at a village restaurant. Since we weren’t totally acclimatized to the 3,800m altitude, we took our time and slowly walked uphill from the dock to the village centre. The journey took less than half an hour. We walked along through terraced farmland ascending from the dock to the top of the hill. The view was gorgeous along the way, with terraced farmlands everywhere along the slope of the island.
Soon we reached the plaza at the village centre, where we found our host. He led us to a local restaurant and ordered each of us a dish of local trout. After lunch, our host guided us to his home where we would stay the night. We were introduced to the host’s family. Then we dropped off our bags and followed our host to the island’s elementary school where some sort of festival activity was going on. Standing behind rows of local spectators, we watched groups of Taquile students engaged in some kind of acting and dancing performance. Despite we couldn’t understand Quechua, we enjoyed the funny acting of the innocent Taquile children that made everyone laughed.
After the performance at Taquile’s school, our host took us to the highest spot on Taquile, where the ruins of an ancient buildings still remained. After the visit, we wandered around Taquile on our own until the sun was set. We followed the main path into the village. Along the way, we were greeted by the villagers, most of them with a smiley face. In late afternoon, we walked pass the main village square once again, where the pink Artisan Centre stood. Taquile is renowned for their textile art. In 2005, the UNESCO declared the textile art of Taquile as one of the world’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The centre was closed for the day. We would come back the next day to check out the textile art.
In the evening, we dined at our host’s place with three other fellow travelers, two from Belgium and one from France. In the candle lit dining room, we had a simple meal with soup, egg omelet and rice. After dinner, the entire host family including the kids performed their traditional music for us. Away from any electronics and digital devices, the night was simple yet surreal. Inside the dining room, it was warm and full of music and laughter. Outside the house, it was freezing cold and extremely quiet on an island in Lake Titicaca at 3,800m above sea level. Before bed, we took turns going to the toilet hut in the courtyard in front of the house. The full moon was climbing over our heads as we retired to our bedroom. Our bedroom was on the upper level accessible only via an external stair. Wrapped under three to four layers of wool blankets, the four of us had a very soundly sleep until the next morning.
It was a 20 minute walk from the pier to the main square of Taquile, passing by farming terraces and the boundless Lake Titicaca. Amantani, another island popular with tourists, stood prominently in the distant.
The slope of the hills became terraced farmland.
Taquile is living village and we love the sense of community on the island.
The host took us a small restaurant in the main square for lunch. He ordered the local trout dish for us. The fresh water fish is slightly pan fired. The meat was sweet and tender. The fish was served with fries, rice and steamed vegetable.
After lunch, the host guided us to his place where we met his family and left our luggage. He then brought us to the the local school. There was actually some festival performance there.
Children with traditional costumes were doing dance and act performances.
We followed our host up to the high part of the island.
The highest spot of the island stood a series of ruined buildings and our host had no idea when they were actually built.
School building in Taquile.
Taquile is a peaceful living village with a great sense of community. Most of the foreign visitors made one-day trip to the island. After the tourists left with the last boat, the island became peaceful again.
We love Taquile for its sense of community. Most islanders here would greet us warmly when they walked past us.
The Artisan Centre at the main square of the island.
Gateway leading to the main square of the village.
Photovoltaic panels to supply electricity was becoming more popular when we visited Taquile.
We passed by the school complex once again before we returned to our host’s place.
At our host’s place, the four of us stayed at the upper room (the one with the door open). The family prepared new woolen blankets to keep us warm for the night. Accommodation was simple but we had a good night of sleep after all the walking.
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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010
1. Peru Trip 2010
2. Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3. Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4. Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5. Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6. Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru