A photographic journey through India and Bhutan
Colin MacConnachie travelled with us at the end of 2014 to India and Bhutan, where he captured the highlights of his trip with these beautiful photographs.
The Golden Temple at Amritsar, India
The gilded Golden Temple is regarded as sacred by Sikhs
In November last year my wife and I began our trip of a lifetime to India and Bhutan. On our first day in India we went straight to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, it was certainly one of the most moving experiences of my life, all the more dramatic for being at night.
We watched the famous procession, part of the daily ceremony which puts Adi Granth, the Holy Book, 'to bed' each night.
Meal preparations at the Golden Temple
Mostly vegetarian food is served to all visitors, regardless of faith and background
We returned to the temple the next day and a highlight was seeing the preparations for feeding 40,000 people. Truly an amazing site and activity that makes you question your own beliefs and attitudes. Volunteers prepared huge pots of dahl while others hand-cooked chapatis.
A young monk making reed music, Bhutan
Bhutanese monks spend their days mostly in study and meditation, but some of their praying involves singing and chanting
We then took a flight with Druk Air, flying over Everest and into Paro in Bhutan, and then took a car to Thimpu.
Among the many highlights of Thimpu was a visit to a huge Buddha, the largest in the world in fact, which was still under construction and perched high up on the hillside above the town. We also watched locals practicing archery. We were then driven from Thimpu to Punakha, via Dochu La Pass and Chimi Lhakang Temple.
At the confluence of two rivers, Punakha Dzong is an impressive temple originally built as a defensive stronghold in the 17th century, the temple now has rich wall paintings on display and friendly monks.
The quality of life in Bhutan is superb. This young monk had just cut a reed to make a simple flute and was pleased to be extracting music from such a simple instrument. He was happy to share the moment with me as I took this picture.
Masked dance festival, Jakar, Bhutan
Monks perform sacred Cham dances to the sound of horns and cymbals
To escape a grey November in Britain and then experience the masked dance festival at Jakar was fantastic. The festival was a real event for local people, many travelling for days to sit in the courtyard and take in the sites. There is a fine line when taking photographs between being intrusive and being respectful.
People flock from the surrounding villages dressed in their best clothes to receive blessings
After the excitement of the festival we drove to Phobjika via Trongsa and stopped at Yotang La pass to look at some of the local weaving and also to enjoy views of the Himalayas. We were visiting Phobjika for the black-crane festival, endangered birds who flock here from Tibet every year. Local people perform masked dances to celebrate the cranes arrival, although it's more orientated towards the younger children.
Young Bhutanese girls
Young Bhutanese girls
The Bhutanese are good looking people and the children are so photogenic. We returned to Paro and stayed at Gangtey Palace hotel, our favourite hotel of the whole trip, as it was like staying in an ancient temple. No visit to Bhutan is complete without a visit to Tiger's Nest Monastery, the final stop on our journey before returning to India.
Morning light at the Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Sunrise is a good time to visit the Taj Mahal as it is less crowded
After a visit to the Red Fort in Delhi it was then on to Agra. The Taj Mahal is always impressive but the crowds and strong light present challenges to every photographer. An early morning visit is well worth the early rise as the building glows in the first rays of the sun. The final leg of our trip was spent visiting Bharatpur to explore Keoladeo Ghana National Park and its incredible birdlife. We were lucky enough to spot chital and sambar deer, hornbills and lots of kingfishers.