Taj Mahal

February 12, 2008 - Agra, India

Dave:
Our first real day of the tour started with a 4:45am wake up call. We were on a 6:15 train from Delhi to Agra, home of a Wonder of the World, the Taj Mahal. Watching the sunrise from the train, with the fog hovering over the fields was quite nice. The train is a great way to see the countryside. Although, at times I saw more than I wanted to. The tracks went through some very impoverished areas and it seems that it is normal for men to be squating, doing their morning 'business' near the tracks in plain few of everyone.

After dropping our bags at the hotel, the group split into threes and jumped in a rickshaws. Similar to Delhi, the driving behaviour in Agra is slightly more tame than Mumbai but some of the group thought it was quite exciting. Our first stop was Taj Mahal. Before getting a full view of the Taj you have to enter an outer gate and then a second internal gate. Looking at the structure was quite surreal. I'm not sure why. I really don't think it was just because of how famous it is, although I'm sure that added to the mystique of it. As I approached the structure it kind of looked one dimensional against the pale blue sky. The mausoleum was built by an emperor in memory of his second wife. It took 20,000 men with the help of 1000 elephants, 22 years to build. The Taj Mahal was completed in 1653 (the year recognized by  8 + 8 gardens and 53 fountains. It cost $4 million to construct. I imagine that was a lot of money back in the 1600's. The symetry was amazing, everything well thought out and planned. With coverings over our shoes we entered the building. Replica tombs of the Emperor and Emperor's wife are out for people to see but the real tombs are underneath the Taj.

Our next stop was Baby Taj. Not as impressive as the big one. The tour probably should of had us go to this one first.

After lunch we headed to the Agra Fort (sometimes known as Red Fort as it is made out of red sandstone). Three of us hired a guide (Michael, Joanne and I) to tour us through the many palaces and to explain what we were looking at. The fort is huge - 2.5km in circumference. Only 25% of the fort - the palaces and residential side - is open to the public while the remainder is still occupied by the army. It was an interesting tour. The Emperor had three wives, each of a different religion - Muslim, Hindu and Christian. There were permanent symbols of these religions throughout the palace. The Emperor also had 300 concubines - that's more than the male Impala in the Serengeti! Before leaving we had heard that the rickshaw drivers are 'encouraged' to take us to shops to look around. We told our driver up front that we didn't wanted to go straight to the hotel. He explained that every shop he took us to, they paid him 100 Rupees ($2.50) regardless of whether we bought anything. We agreed to go to one. Then he convinced us to go to one more (marble shop) but we made him promise that that would be the final one. He was a very nice man so we tipped him well.

That night our guide took us to another touristy restaurant for dinner. The food was good but it was rather expensive for India. He said that in a few days our stomachs would be able to handle more of a local type of restaurant. There could be some truth to that but for the past two nights he ate and drank well for free at these restaurants.


Pictures

Marble Worker
Palace in Agra Fort
Joanne, Mike and I on Emperor's Chair
View of Taj from Agra Fort
 
 

1 Comment

Terry:
March 13, 2008
Taj Mahal is very impressive! All for his second wife...nothing for his other wives? I guess we know which one was his favorite:)
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