Portraits from Chor Bazaar

Chor Bazaar is an old market in Mumbai where you can go to buy any form of recycled item, from refurbished electric motors to antique furniture.

These two men were repairing and reselling clothing. I was intrigued by the process for bleaching or dying a pair of pants. The water was brought to a boil, some powder added that turned the liquid a bright turquoise, and then the pants swirled around until they arrived at a light tan colour. I couldn’t figure out if the plan was to dye them a new colour.

Given that there are a billion mobile phones in India, the communal phone is a rare sight in Mumbai.

The Tough Guy

I was hugging a traffic pole in the middle of an intersection trying not to get run over while taking photos of the passing motorcycles when this guy came up and asked me to take his photo. He smiled, then put up his fists. His job is to carry things, sometimes helping another man who owns a cart, sometimes just hauling goods in and out of Chor Bazaar.

The world’s best almond croissant and other forms of Japanese pefection

The best almond croissant I’ve ever tasted is from a bakery called Rituel in Tokyo. Perfection.

I love that construction sites have a decibel meter outside. To put it in perspective, the noise inside our apartment in Mumbai has reached over 100 dB.

I just liked this shot. I’m sure the food is delicious.

ANA has by far the best food I’ve ever encountered on any form of transportation. The economy class meal from Tokyo to Mumbai included crab, scallops, and tuna that was absolutely delicious!

Best of the absurd Japanese electronics, 2017 edition

I love electronics stores and markets, especially those in Asia. Bic Photo and Yodobashi Camera are awesome for the incredible selection of everything. It’s always worth perusing to see what awesomeness Japanese manufacturers have released that isn’t available elsewhere.

As usual, the most absurd music player award goes to Sony for the “Life Space UX” lamp speaker. The speaker sounded like any other small bluetooth speaker, except with a giant LED lightbulb attached. From the photos on the Sony website, it looks like you’re supposed to carry it around on pilgrimages like a sacred flame.

The Best Approximation of a Borg award goes to Panasonic for this 45 grams of camera weirdness. I’m pretty sure I’d be compelled to add a red laser pointer. Appropriate coordinated clothing options are either black and white camouflage jacket and mohawk, or black leather, green phaser blocking shields, and a bald head.

Resistance is futile when it comes to making purchases in these consumer wonderlands. I added the Nikkor 35mm f/2 lens to my kit. I’m really loving it for street photography, and for lightening my load.

As an aside, if you were interested in knowing what Tommy Lee Jones is up to, he’s looking like a Premium Boss for Suntory.

National Foundation Day at Meiji Jingu

We thought we were on our way to wander around beautiful Yoyogi park. We were surprised when we could hear intense drumming echoing through the halls of the subway station.

It was hard not to follow the crowd toward to the festivities which we learned later were for “Kigen-sai,” the National Foundation Festival.

A very informative sign informed us that:

February 11 is a day of special significance namely, it is the date that Emperor Jinmu, the legendary first emperor of Japan, acceded to the throne at Kashihara’no’miya in Yamato (the current Nara Prefecture). Before World War II, this day was named National Foundation Day, and was considered one of the four major celebrative days in Japan, along with New Year’s Day, the birthday of the reigning Emperor, and Emperor Meiji’s birthday. Today, it is called the Day Commemorating the National Foundation. A Shinto ritual ceremony is held at shrines all over Japan in reverence of the commencement of the imperial reign by Emperor Jinmu. On this 2,677th year of the imperial reign, let us proceed with courage to create a better society and nation, while appreciating the effort of our forefathers who have established prosperity in Japan.

Neighbourhoods gathered together to carry and dance shrines to the temple in a long joyous procession.

There was a solemn moment as the shrines passed through the giant wooden torii that marks the entry into the shrine area.

Below the noise of the crowd, the singing, and the drumming, you could feel a deep thundering bass through the entire area. The source was a giant drum. The video below captures the ceremony as men took turns striking it, but doesn’t capture the thundering that you could feel in your chest.

Lohagad Fort

I don’t understand the geology, but many hills outside of Mumbai are topped by tall vertical faces. These natural barriers made them ideal locations for forts and palaces for local rulers.

Lohagad Fort dates back centuries. It’s main gates are a twisting and turning layered fortress that must have been incredibly easy to defend. Legend has it that it served as a treasury in the 1600’s.

The gates now serve as a backdrop for photos.

The use of the fort must have extended into the not so distant past based on the British cannons that have been assembled together.

Kathak Meets Tap

One of the best dance performances I’ve seen in a long time was a show called “Rhythm Rewritten – Kathak Meets Tap.” Tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith collaborated with Seema Mehta, who performs a traditional Indian form of dance called Kathak. The two improvised with three very well known Indian musicians: Sabir Khan on tabla, Debashis Sarkar on vocals, and Jayanta Banerjee on sitar.

I snuck a photo during the opening moment.

Here’s a clip. I jumped to my feet cheering at the end, joining the crowd calling for an encore.

Haji Ali Mosque, Mumbai

We ventured out on a Saturday morning for a tour of the Haji Ali Mosque which sits out in the bay just off the coast of Mumbai. It’s a popular destination for sightseeing, and seemingly more popular for selfies on the rocks behind the mosque.

The buildings are under reconstruction. The manager was proud to point out that it’s being rebuilt with second grade marble, which is much better than the Taj Mahal, which was built with third grade marble.

It was a hot, hazy day looking back toward Mumbai. The guy standing on the rocks was hand-casting a fishing line into the bay. I’m not sure what he was using for bait, but he didn’t seem to be catching anything.

Elephants and Tigers!

While the birds and crocodiles are amazing, every visitor to Nagarhole hopes to catch sight of a tiger. I was content just to watch the elephants grazing, like the two females below who playfully rubbed heads every once in a while digging up the grass.

We were on our last “safari” at sunset when up river we spotted a strange shape on the bank of the river. Our boat driver crept closer and shut off the engine. The silence on our boat was part suspense, but mostly awe of the beautiful tiger that was cooling herself in the river.

Credit for most of these photos goes to my Dad, who came with a great telephoto lens. My mom had messaged me one day saying she was considering buying him a lens for Christmas to shoot the wildlife that inhabits the pond in their backyard. I thought this was a great idea saying that if she bought the lens, I’d give him a place to put it to good use.

I did my homework, read reviews, and settled on a recommendation for the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3. I even managed to find it on sale, so I sent her the link by SMS. My Dad, hearing a phone beeping in the other room, decides to investigate. “Don’t buy me a lens. I don’t need it,” he tells her.

A week later, he went out and bought himself the same lens.

I still kept up my end of the bargain.

She sat lapping up the water, and kept a watchful eye on us.

It wasn’t until a baby on one of the boats let out a cry that she decided she’d had enough. She slowly got out of the water, meandered up the banks, and silently disappeared into the jungle. It’s amazing how effective bright orange and black stripe are as camouflage.

The biggest crocodile I’ve ever seen

The banks of the Kabini River are lined with crocodiles. This guy was huge.

Our boat pulled up pretty close, and he didn’t even flinch.

He was a monster. A very prehistoric looking monster.

Let’s throw a monkey in the mix, just for good measure.

The the birds of Nagarhole National Park

We were looking for an interesting place to go for Christmas that would be accessible from Goa. We settled on Nagarhole National Park, which is somehow also known as Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The park service offers boat and jeep “safaris” into the park just after sunrise and just before sunset each day.

The big wildlife is the selling point, but I found the birds to just as impressive. It was a couple of kilometers up the Kabini River from the Waterwoods Resort where we were staying. Along the way, the shores were packed with birds of all kinds. I wish I had taken notes as our guide was naming  them all.

Mello’s, I miss you

I miss the way the cook managed to splatter something in my direction every time I sat at the counter. I miss the unorthodox asian twist that you put on some classic diner fare. Most of all, I miss your delicious burger.

Please be reincarnated soon. I’ll return the moment your glorious sign lights up again.