The Himalayas of India:  Ladakh and Srinagar, Summer 2013
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Wednesday 3 July 2013 - Delhi:
Mithu and I cruised around Delhi, visiting the Maha Bodhi Buddhist Temple near Birla Mandir, where my friend Tom's parents were married; Kali Bari Temple; the National Museum, with its seemingly infinite collection of statues, carvings, glassware, pottery, temple stones, Rajasthani paintings, and much more; Dilli Haat to look for a photographic exhibit that we were about two weeks too early for; and more.

We followed this up by another home-cooked Bengali meal beyond compare, with yummy mashed potatoes, aloo yummi delish (that's actually not the name, but that's what it was), rajma dal that was easily among the best I've ever had, and mango. Oh. Yum.

Mithu is a great guide for Delhi. Very articulate, and with outstanding English skills, she is also passionate about what New Delhi has to offer.

Back at Hotel Grand Westend in Vikas Puri, I saw this group of Domino's Pizza delivery guys.

Domino's Pizza Delivers, oh yes they do.

Through thick and thin. Through Delhi traffic.

Okay, let's get a few things straight. I do not like McDonald's food.

But I do like posing with clowns.


McDonald's clowns are popular with kids, who learn that they want to go to to the Golden Arches for a Happy Meal early on. Apparently they haven't watched "Super Size Me."

When people find out that I've been to India six times, one of the most common questions is about what kind of restaurants or stores they have. People ask about 7-11s - ("Hey, do they have Indian people working at 7-11s?" The answer is yes), Burger King (yes), Pizza Hut (yes), Domino's Pizza (look above) and others.

And they ask about McDonald's. A lot. So I've decided to take a photo of the inside of a McDonald's in India. See? Looks the same. Except that they have a McAloo Tikki Burger. American McDonald's don't have that. And that's too bad. It's probably one of the better things on the menu.

And now, let's have a look at what McDonald's serves.

Here's what you get if you eat meat at McDonald's:
Chef Jamie Oliver won a battle against one of the largest fast food chains in the world. After Oliver showed how McDonald’s hamburgers are made, the franchise announced it will change its recipe.

According to Oliver, the fatty parts of beef are “washed” in ammonium hydroxide and used in the filling of the burger. Before this process, according to the presenter, the food is deemed unfit for human consumption.

According to the chef and presenter, Jamie Oliver, who has undertaken a war against the fast food industry: “Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold in the cheapest way for dogs, and after this process, is being given to human beings.”

Besides the low quality of the meat, the ammonium hydroxide is harmful to health. Oliver calls it “the pink slime process.”

Still hungry? Read on:
After selecting the best parts of the chicken, the remains (fat, skin and internal organs) are processed for these fried foods.

The company, Arcos Dorados, the franchise manager in Latin America, said such a procedure is not practiced in the region. The same applies to the product in Ireland and the UK, where they use meat from local suppliers.

In the United States, Burger King and Taco Bell had already abandoned the use of ammonia in their products. The food industry uses ammonium hydroxide as an anti-microbial agent in meats, which has allowed McDonald’s to use otherwise “inedible meat.”

Even more disturbing is that because ammonium hydroxide is considered part of the “component in a production procedure” by the USDA, consumers may not know when the chemical is in their food.


This is a quick photo of my hotel room at Hotel Grand Westend in Vikas Puri. I was too lazy to set up the tripod after a long day in high humidity.

Not many foreign tourists stay in Vikas Puri, although there is a Ramada Inn and a Hilton there. Many of the people who come to Hotel Grand Westend are business people or people coming for weddings. And the hotel seems to be set up for large groups of people like this, with numerous large ballrooms.

But I was staying here so I wouldn't need to keep going cross-town, so that it would be quick. It was a quick cycle rickshaw ride away, not too far.

Thursday 4 July 2013 - Delhi:
I went to Chhatarpur anyway since I was there. It had already turned hot. I went inside, and I remembered some parts of it from a visit in 1988. I went across the street to check out another temple, Shree Babaji's Samadhi and Shiv Gauri Nageshwar Mandir, which also had an enormous Hanuman statue under construction or refurbishing, with scaffolding everywhere.

Inside Chhatarpur Temple in Delhi.

Inside Chhatarpur Temple in Delhi.

I will refer to it as Chhatarpur Temple because for me, Shri Adhya Katyani Shakti Peeth Mandir is a mouthful.

This is the second largest temple complex in India, and is dedicated to Goddess Katyayani. This was at one point the largest temple in India, but those guys who built Akshardham nearby beat 'em. And while that is a large, beautiful temple, darn it, no photography, so sorry, that's not as much fun if you are a photographer.

I went across the street to check out another temple, Shree Babaji's Samadhi and Shiv Gauri Nageshwar Mandir, which also had an enormous Hanuman statue under construction or refurbishing, with scaffolding everywhere. It was hot, but I was tough. And I had tons of water. I shrugged in the face of Indian plains humidity, of the intense heat, laughing in the face of it all.

Shiv Gauri Nageshwar Mandir.

I regret that I don't have photos of Mithu, Boobimashi, and Tapan to share. They are the sweetest family one could ever have, kind and humble, a beautiful family that I wish were closer to where we live. And their Bengali cooking? Deeeeelicious. I saw them every day I was in Delhi.


Friday 5 July 2013 - Delhi to Los Angeles:
Friday was a crazy day. After visiting Mithu, Boobimashi and Tapan, I took the Metro down to meet someone who was supposed to give me some special oils for Tom's mother while toting my heavy bags en route to the airport.

She wasn't at the Metro station, so I left to meet Shringi in an autorickshaw.

Between severe traffic, lack of Hindi language skills, and both Shringi and this other person constantly calling on my cellphone to try and meet, the next hour involved passing my cellphone back and forth between the autorickshaw driver and the callers probably twenty times. But finally, we all met, and all was good.

This is Shringi, on Tom's father's side of the family (Mithu, Boobimashi, and Tapan are on the mother's side of his family). I first met Shringi when he was a little boy and Tom had brought him an electric train set, but he is fully grown. He owns a couple of Subway Sandwich franchises, is an avid motorcycle rider, and can grow a nice mustache.

Sort of funny that Nirula's would be my last meal in India, but a lot of fun to hang out with Shringi, if only for a very short while.

This ended up being sort of a friend trip. At almost every location, I was hanging out with friends, people I had met before, or my Kashmiri or Indian family members. Throw in the majestic Himalayas, great food, opportunities for Milky Way and night sky photography, and I'd say that's a pretty great trip.

Thank you to the sweetest people one could ever find.

And for flashback fans, here are a few photographs to close the India trip.

Shanti Stupa beckons. I hope to return.

Thank you for getting a little dusty, staying up late, and going on this virtual trip to the Himalayas with me. -Ken

Ken's photos of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as photos of Peru, Burma, India, Morocco, China, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, and elsewhere, have appeared in many books, magazines, websites, and galleries.  Visit the Ken Lee Photography Website. Some of Ken's select photos may be purchased through his Imagekind Store.

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The Himalayas of India: Summer 2013


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