Thurs, Feb 26

We got up this morning and packed up all of our junk…I have now expanded into my duffle bag that I brought along, which definitely makes my backpack more manageable – even though I am now not able to really walk anywhere without help because of my extra stuff everywhere! Uggg…
I was slightly annoyed with our host at checkout because the water was not included in the price of the room, so we ended up paying 500 Rs extra to cover all of that…not a huge expense, but I was hoping that at least one bottle of water a day was covered because we can’t drink the water out of the tap…in any case, as I said, not a big deal.
The drive from Delhi to Agra was very interesting. It wasn’t nearly as painful as anticipated, but I am definitely restricting my amount of liquid consumption so that I don’t have to go to the bathroom en route – they aren’t exactly plentiful!! We saw many different towns along the way and the road conditions and sites varied accordingly. Mom was absolutely nutty with the pictures, which is legit – but it is tricky to do from the moving bus!
We saw many goats and cows and water buffalo. Many women in colourful saris with metal bowls of dung or bundles of sticks on their heads were spotted – and never quite caught on camera! The sites are really quite indescribable. The colours and contrasts are fantastic. The poverty is widespread and it is hard to not let it become overwhelming at times. I just try to think about the fact that the population is huge – and change takes just that much longer to happen. And according to dad, a lot has improved in the last 15 years.
We got to Sikandra around 1:30 and it was an excellent temperature. It was a beautiful tomb surrounded by over 100 acres! Inside there were gazelles (I think…I forget what they are…they are the ones with the two long horns – that we used to call unicorns, ‘cause when you look at them from the side you can only see one horn!), and monkeys, and eagles. It was very peaceful. There were hardly any people there either, which was a nice break from the perpetual crowds! Inside the tomb there was an amazing echo that a man did for us…and whom dad tipped. I am sure that the Indian people are always happy to see dad come! He is generous, and it is hard to not be, but it also creates problems because it supports the begging. I get it, though.
We drove from Sikandra to our hotel. It is a very beautiful place, where they are a little too helpful with all of the bags, and opening up the doors, and cleaning the toilet seat of the bathroom in the lobby, etc! But, it was quite nice to end up there! I was too stressed about getting to the Taj Mahal on time that I didn’t want to eat, but the other three really wanted to. They ended up going down to one of the restaurants in the hotel while I ate a can of tuna in the room. I really do like bringing my own food when I travel – just for times like that, when there is no time!
We finished that and headed back on the bus with our guide over to the Taj Mahal. I had to bring in this pink owl that one of my sparks gave me and it definitely caused huge issues! We weren’t allowed to bring in anything like water or sweaters or books…there was no list of anything saying that I couldn’t bring in a stuffed animal. Soooo….when the security laughed at me and said that I definitely couldn’t bring in this pink owl, I was in trouble! I tried giving it to the guide, but he couldn’t bring it in either, so the owl made it only to security outside of the Taj Mahal!
In any case, we eventually made it through security and into the gated area around the Taj. The main gate has 22 small domes on the top, which represent the 22 years it took to build the entire structure! It took 17 years to build the Taj Mahal and 5 years to build the gates and walls surrounding the tomb of the wife of Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan is the man who built the Taj Mahal!
The Taj Mahal was absolutely spectacular. It was more awe-inspiring than anticipated, actually. It is a completely symmetrical structure with the two pillars on either side. Also, on either side is a mosque – kind of. Mosques have to be facing West to face Mecca, so on the East there is a random building that looks like the actual mosque on the West side, but isn’t actually a mosque.
Looking at the Taj from the entrance gate, it was immense, white marble. The dome on the top is a double dome, so it sits higher on the top of the building and can remain seen no matter how close or far you are standing. There is a channel of water leading up to the Tomb, where a perfect reflection of the building can be seen. Half way between the gate and the Taj is a platform with a large fountain and bench where Lady Diana had her picture taken when she was there.
Because the main building of the Taj Mahal is sitting on a platform of white marble, it looks as if it is floating in the air. There are no buildings behind it at all, only blue sky, and the contrast of the white marble against the sky was quite stunning. Up close, it was just as splendid. There were semi-precious stones inlayed in the white marble in various flowered designs. Inside, at the actual tombs, there was originally a screen surrounding the public tombs (the actual bodies are underneath in the crypt and were only allowed to be viewed by family) that was made from silver and real stones. It was later replaced by a marble screen inlayed with semi-precious stones. Now, there is actually an extra barrier around even that so that people don’t steal those stones.
Other than that, there isn`t really too much to say – a picture says a thousand words…because it was really indescribable.
He he he…I took one of those fun pictures of me pinching the tip of the Taj Mahal! I think I took at least one hundred pictures, but I may only ever be here once! It was definitely awesome.
Afterwards, we headed out a different gate and that darn pink owl caused issues! Because the guide had to leave it at another gate, he had to go back to the first gate and then meet us at the gate where we exited from. Then, there was huge miscommunication between the six of us, and we didn’t wait where he wanted us to wait. By the time the guide caught up with us, I think he was pretty frustrated – I know I would have been!! It didn’t stop him from taking us to another emporium, however! This one was kind of different, which was nice. It was based on the marble that was everywhere in this area and they actually showed a movie demonstrating how the marble was obtained and polished and how the inlay work was completed. It was rather interesting, actually. The marble was really pricy, and the concept of getting it home was also a challenge, so none of us bought anything.
By this point, we were all pretty tired, in any case, so we headed back to the hotel. I actually forget what we did for dinner…so I guess it wasn’t all that exiting!!



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