Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra

I don’t have a travel bucket list of UNESCO heritage sites to visit. But I realise that 2014 is certainly my year of travelling to these sites! If you have followed my narratives on Sri Lanka a few months ago, there were many UNESCO heritage sites in that island and we covered a number of them during our 1-week stay there. And then when I mapped out my plans for Maharastra visits, once again, UNESCO heritage sites were featured in my itinerary :-)

The state of Maharashtra is indeed very proud of their rich heritage in the form of cave temples – Ajanta and Ellora. Ellora Caves are known for their sculptures of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism whereas the Ajanta Caves are noted for their Buddhist-influenced fresco paintings.

The Ajanta Caves were excavated from 200 BC to 650 AD. When Buddhism went into decline, Ajanta Caves were abandoned until it was sighted and discovered by a British hunting party in 1819. From then on, this hidden wealth of fine arts was made known to the world.

These caves are cut out into the steep face of a deep rock gorge. Steps seen in the pictures below were built by the Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI), and some of the columns are actually built by ASI to further support the caves which are already precarious due to water erosion and earth movements over the centuries.

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Flash photography are not allowed in some of the caves especially the ones closer to the entrance of the site – Caves No. 1 and 2. This is to prevent the fresco paintings from destroyed by camera flashes Photos below were taken with my Samsung Note 3 phone with no flash. Hope you are able to see the paintings.

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There are altogether 27 caves in Ajanta site and they are labelled as Number 1, 2, 3, and so on. But visitors would not enter all of them because some are unfinished (and ASI is still researching them) or as the guide would say “Cave number blah, blah, is not important” :-) I took a number photos of these ancient caves but if you ask me which photo is from which cave number – I wouldn’t be able to tell you, sorry! :-)

Nevertheless, here are some the images I took..

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Can you see a little bit of blue on the carvings?

 

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Useful Information:

How do I get to Ajanta Caves
Ajanta Caves are located about 100 kilometres from Aurangabad city. Estimated time from Aurangabad to the caves is about 2 hours’ drive.

I hired a private car and driver through my budget hotel in Aurangabad and the cost was INR2,500 for a day. This is inclusive of the return-trip transportation and fuel. The driver would also wait for you while you explore the caves. Toll charges, however, is borne by the customer. If I recall correctly, the toll charge was INR20.

The other thing to watch out for is that the driver should not ask you to pay for the carpark fee of INR40. When we arrived at the visitor’s carpark area, the parking attendant requested for the fee and my driver requested me to pay. I disagreed and reminded him that it should be his cost.

Opening hours of Ajanta Caves heritage site
It’s open daily (9.00am-5.00pm) except MONDAY.

If you like archaelogical sites or ancient ruins, then give yourself 3 hours or so to explore the Caves. It’s really worth the visit!

Upon arrival at the Caves
Once you arrive at the visitor’s carpark area, you will be met by many touts. These touts are either the shopkeepers or guides. The shopkeepers remind you of their shop numbers so that you will stop on your return back to the carpark after the tour. And the guides are there to offer their services to help you explore the heritage site.

From the carpark, you will walk through an arcade of shops, and then to the shuttle buses waiting to transport you closer to the caves site. There are 2 types of shuttle buses: AC or non-AC. To me, it doesn’t make any difference because it’s only a short ride but you have to pay a small fare. I can’t remember how much it was but my guide paid for me first (and I included it later when I paid him for his tour services plus tip).

Once you alight from the shuttle bus, you will buy the entrance ticket of INR 250 (for foreigners) from the ticket booth, and then proceed with your exploration.

A gentle reminder…
The weather is hot at the site, so it’s a good idea to bring water with you. Lots of water. Or you can buy a bottle of water from the cafetaria next to the ticket booth.

No toilet facilities are available at the site, so it’s best to visit the toilet first before heading out to explore. Toilets are located near the ticket booth area too.

When exploring the caves, you may have to remove your shoes. So please wear comfortable footwear, easy to remove and slip in as you walk from one cave to another.

Word of Advice
There are many touts out there asking if you would like to hire a guide. Initially I didn’t want to hire a guide but I was lucky to come across one who wasn’t pushy, spoke good English, and quite knowledgeable to give me facts and insights about the Caves. He has had been working with a Japanese professor in researching these caves for several years…or so he claimed.

I reckon it’s OK to hire a guide so that you will have a better appreciation of the caves. But size up the individual first, negotiate the price, listen to your instincts (I have never relied so much on my instincts until I started solo travelling!) and be street-smart. And if all seem fairly reasonable, then proceed and enjoy the tour!

The Colourful Filipino Market in Kota Kinabalu

(This post is linked to Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Colourful)

Just to share the various colours seen in food produce, seafood and fruits of the Filipino Market in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Filipino Market is located by the waterfront on Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens and it’s basically an area combining the handicraft market and the wet market. As the name implies, it is run by mainly Filipino immigrants who make up a sizeable population in the city. The market is opened from 5pm till late.

Hope you’re craving for a seafood meal now :-) To read more about the Filipino Market, please click here

Weekly Photo Challenge: Angular

What does angular mean to you? 

Situated on the Chao Phraya River banks is Wat Arun, an unmistakable riverside landmark of Bangkok. Also known as the Temple of Dawn, the temple’s main features is the Khmer-style tower encrusted with colourful porcelain.

Visitors are allowed to climb up steep steps to access to the top of the tower. There are three tiers (I think) to climb all the way up to the top. I was told the view from the top is simply amazing. I tried only up to the first level, took some pictures and came down.

(I have come to realise that I’m actually afraid of heights – don’t have the fear of climbing up but the fear of falling when descending – hence, I have never been keen to go mountain-climbing ever since my fiasco descending from Mount Batur in Bali. I had to be piggybacked down the mountain!)

Anyway here are some of the photo angles I took of Wat Arun:

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Mumbai Diaries: Part 4 (Final)

It was the day to leave Mumbai for Aurangabad. I was scheduled to travel by train from Dadar Railway Station in the afternoon, and the journey would take about 6.5 hours. I had the morning to myself but didn’t make any sightseeing plans except that I wanted to make a brief visit to Kotachiwadi.

Kotachiwadi is a heritage village in Girgaon, Mumbai where the houses are built in old Portuguese-style architecture. I read about this village from a magazine article and was intrigued by the narratives on this village. I had completely forgotten about this until 2 days prior to leaving for Mumbai, I remembered about Kotachiwadi (I wrote the name down in my little notebook of travels) and made a mental note to visit this place if I had the time.

Kotachiwadi is not exactly on the must-see places in Mumbai. In fact, when I mentioned to the hotel reception and driver that I wanted to go this village, it took a while for them to figure out where was this place.

The driver knew how to get to Girgaon but once he reached there, he asked for directions. We arrived at the village but no vehicles could enter the narrow lanes of the village, and so I got down from the car and walked into Khotachiwadi.

Here are some of the photos I took while meandering around in this little hamlet.

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I was invited by this lady (pic below) to enter her house. I secretly wished I had taken photos but wasn’t sure if it was appropriate especially when she was so kind to offer Indian sweets and tea to me. The interiors of the house were very colonial style and full of antiques.

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There used to be 65 of these Portuguese-style houses in Kotachiwadi but now reduced to 28 as old buildings are being pulled down to make way for new skyscrapers. The downside of urban development :-(

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Mural painting next to a shrine

After Kotachiwadi, I moved on to the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, the world’s largest outdoor laundromat. Dhobis (washers) wash clothes in an open-air wash pens, rinsing, wringing and flogging clothes against the concrete stone. The Dhobi Ghat is located next to Mahalaxmi railway station and is juxtaposed with skyscapers, giving the city a contrasting landscape of traditional (old way of washing clothes) versus modern (skycrapers).

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Sandwiched in between the railway lines (left) and skycrapers

Just before heading to Dadar railway station, I stopped by the Basilica of our Lady of the Mount in Bandra. Bandra is a cosmopolitan suburb in West Mumbai and has a long seafront. It is also home to many churches including this Basilica which is commonly known as Mount Mary Church.

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The church is located on a hillock overlooking the Arabian Sea and attracts many devotees and pilgrims especially during the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The feast is then followed by the Bandra Fair, a week long celebration. During the Bandra Fair, the entire area is decorated with buntings and stalls selling religious articles, flowers, snacks and sweets.

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As I finally sat in the train, waiting for my journey to another city in Maharashtra state, I wistfully wished I had stayed longer in Mumbai. To explore the suburbs or at least, not to have a very rushed itinerary. I was very busy with work last couple of months though I had managed to squeeze in travels like Bangkok and Sri Lanka in between work, but I never really got to plan my Mumbai trip properly. As such, I had thought 1.5 days was good enough.

However, during these last few weeks of writing the Mumbai Diaries posts, I reminisced my moments in that metropolitan city. I have come to realise that what I saw and experienced during that short period was good enough for now. And as my friends would say confidently to me with a wink, “Oh don’t worry Kat, we are pretty sure you will return to Mumbai again” :-)

Thanks to my readers who had Liked and shared their comments with me about Mumbai Diaries. Really appreciate it! It’s time to move on to a different theme for the next few weeks – another city in Maharashtra.

If you had missed the previous posts, please click Part 1 Walking TourPart 2 Art & More Heritage and Part 3 Marine Drive

Belonging to a Family

(This post is linked to Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Belonging)

Family provides a sense of belonging. I was lucky to be invited to a home belonging to my guide’s aunt in Alchi village of Ladakh.

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Here’s an excerpt of my post Jullay! describing that visit:

We met Stanzin’s aunt earlier just as we entered the monastery. They were both pleasantly surprised to see each other since Stanzin lived away from Alchi and he was constantly travelling as a tourist guide. He asked his aunt if she had any chang in her house so that we could have a taste. She didn’t have any however she was sure that her neighbor had some and invited us to drop by later after our tour of the temples. My friend and I happily accepted the invite to have chang, I mean, what are the chances of meeting a local and to be invited to her home for a drink? And oh yes, this chang-drinking was before lunchtime!

Stanzin’s aunt wore a Ladakhi traditional dress, a thick wraparound robe tied at the waist with a scarf and a patterned shawl over her shoulders. Her face and hands are deeply tanned from exposure to the strong rays of the sun at high elevations, hence giving her a harsh, weathered look. We entered her mud brick home and as we sat on the floor, a cute little Ladakhi boy peered curiously at us at the doorway. Stanzin’s niece served us chang and the home brew tasted surprisingly refreshing and if you are not careful, a couple of chugs could set you back with a massive hangover! Stanzin’s aunt, niece and two other toddlers joined us in the living room – it was quite an experience and fun especially when Stanzin’s aunt kept pestering him with questions like ‘why haven’t you come to visit me lately?’, ‘can you send some things to your father?’, etc. Although there was certainly a language barrier there, we understood the conversation from the intonation of her voice and the series of questions. The scenario in the living room reminded me so much of nosey old relatives we have in our families. True enough, Stanzin said that his father regarded his little sister as the annoying and noisy one!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Achievement

Petronas Towers – a major icon of Malaysia. The famous landmark of Kuala Lumpur, capital city of Malaysia – the city I have been living in and working for the past 15 years.

When I was studying in Australia for 5.5 years (I only came home twice in those years), I had heard about the construction of the Petronas Towers and that it was going to be the tallest building in the world. The construction took 7 years. I didn’t give much thought about it until I finally came back to Malaysia in 1999 for good, and landed my first job in Kuala Lumpur. Young and fresh-faced, I was blown away by the sheer height and gleaming metal of the towers.

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Petronas Towers also known as the Petronas Twin Towers was ranked the tallest building from 1998 until it was surpassed by Taipei 101 in 2004. The Petronas Towers remain the tallest twin towers in the world replacing World Trade Centre in New York. The building also has a double-decker skybridge connecting the two towers on the 41st and 42nd floors which is the highest 2-story bridge in the world.

At the ground level of the towers is the upmarket retail centre (Suria KLCC), an art gallery (Petronas Gallery), the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra theatre, an underwater aquarium (Aquaria KLCC) and KLCC Park (jogging paths, wading pools and a fountain for the night sound & light show).

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As locals, we become so used to this landmark that we don’t even look up anymore. But without fail, whenever I’m in the car at the traffic lights across the road from the towers, I often look up and admire this beautiful structure…and I always wind down the car window to take a picture :-)

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Postcard From… Mumbai

katpegimana:

Thanks to Emily for featuring Postcard from…Mumbai. Do check it out and happy travels!

Originally posted on Emily Luxton Travel Blog:

Welcome to this week’s Postcard From – the feature where I chat to some lucky explorer about their recent travels. If you would like to take part please get in touch – eluxton@hotmail.co.uk or @em_luxton – I would love to hear from you!

This week’s postcard is from Kathleen, a Malaysian, who currently lives in Kuala Lumpur. She works full-time in the financial industry but travels on a “part-time” basis as & when she is able to get time off from work. Kathleen feels that travel genes run in her blood (both parents & Postcard From Mumbai, Indiasister love to travel too) but the mad love for travel became more apparent only 5 years ago. She enjoys history, culture, architecture and photography, and with huge encouragement from friends, she started blogging about her travels since 2013. Check out Kathleen’s blog, Kat Pegi Mana, or follow her on Facebook or @katpegimana on Twitter.

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