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Entries about impressions

Trio at the Taj!

Ok so Ging was pumped about elephants in Orchha. B and I are little kids going to Disneyland this morning. Today, we knock off another Wonder of the World- the Taj Mahal.

We have been rotating who stays with Poutine. The system appears to be working- but when we arrive at the hotel in Agra, we are pleasantly greeted with our rooms- the bed(s) are actually two doubles pushed together, which are clearly marketed as two singles or one double depending who is looking (Hotel Amaryatriniwas, 5 minutes from the Taj). You know what that means?? Slumber party!! We took the chance to stay together for the night, all three of us curled up together to cram in a little sleep between midnight and 6am.

Agra is the most Westernized city we have been to so far, there is a Costa Coffee shop above our hotel, there are more cars on the streets and even (wait for it...) traffic lights! Ok well they weren't on, but they were there.

The system for the Taj seemed to be slightly complicated- but as per usual, Chewy had our back. The ticket counter is 1km from the east gate of the Taj. You buy your tickets (INR750 for the Taj and Agra Fort) and then you can walk, or take small bus to the queue to get in. There are many items not allowed inside, so we elected to leave everything at the hotel. There are free lockers if needed (bring your own lock), but to save the hassle- just come with your camera and some change for a chai if you want one (or you can just have Skinny loan you some money for a much needed coffee, right Ging?!)

Back to the Taj- we had a guide to take us around the grounds of the palace. I believe you could rent audio guides as well, which would likely be a good investment. As we're standing listening to the intro about the Taj, B was doing a little urban spotting. Parading through the courtyard is a Caucasian girl with bottle blonde hair and a bad spray tan, in a denim mini skirt and heels. Really? Who let you do this to yourself this morning, and where are they so I can shake my head at them? Ladies- fashion don't. The Taj is the World Wonder, not your little-too-short-leaves-little-to-the-imagination skirt. Sheesh.

When we finally got through the gates- it was spectacular. It is majestic and awe inspiring. The grandeur of this giant structure, built of marble and precious stone from around the World, sitting pristine in the well manicured gardens of the palace. Protected by the Indian Government in the 1950's (compare to the Orchha Palaces, only protected in the 1970's), the Taj is an important icon for the country. Once up close to the palace you realize the detail in the structure and the decor- which explains why it took over 19 years to build. The Sanskrit around the main entrance is crafted from single pieces of black onyx, two inches thick. The panels with intricate florals leading into the palace have been made from single slabs of white marble and carved by hand. It is splendor and luxury melted together.

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Taj at first sight

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Details in design: marble carvings

This afternoon we went to the Agra Fort, about 2.5km from the Taj. The Fort is more or less a mass walled city, which has been around since the 1600's. It was an impressive structure, and with a view of the Taj to boot.

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The group enjoyed a wicked meal at Maya Restaurant, on the rooftop patio in the March sunlight. I would recommend visiting this place just to sit on their patio- it really feels as though you have been picked right up out of the busyness of the streets and are in a pocket of the city that is hidden away (Thali is great too!).

And here we are again- on another train, sipping chai (INR5) and writing about another day which we will never forget. The days have been going faster in India- maybe because of the number of things we are seeing and learning every day. Our understanding of the people and culture is growing and expanding by the minute- one of the largest benefits of spending time in a culture you have little intimate exposure to in your home country. We are beginning to understand what life is like here, Chewy has been more than happy to answer any question we toss his way. Another little life lesson- everyone has a story.

Til next time
The Taj Trio

photo (from email)

photo (from email)

Sent from my iPad

Posted by ellie nicole 02:06 Archived in India Tagged hotel fort mahal taj tickets agra entry impressions Comments (0)

First thoughts of Incredible India

27 °C

How do you put into words an experience that cannot be compared to anything else you have ever encountered in your life? Emotions, smells, sights- all of these things which are used to convey a message- when everything is so raw it is impossible to lead a person to vicariously experience something through your words. That is India. Unless you have been here, you won't understand. And if you have- remember that feeling of awe and bewilderment you experienced the first time you encountered this shear mass of culture. How would you explain it?

Varanasi is dry and dusty, the buildings are all mostly a shade of brown or grey. Whether built that color or faded by the sunlight over time, the city is monochromatic. Cows are in every ditch, corner, sidewalk and street- completely unaware of the swarm of activity going on around them. The roads are lined with moto-rickshaws, pedal rickshaws, pedal bikes, motorcycles, scooters and people. People are everywhere, some in traditional Hindu or Muslim dress, others in Western wears, and they are mostly men. They are sitting in small open store fronts or crouching in the street having their hair cut and a blade shave. They are carrying crates of chickens or pushing carts full of fresh vegetables. Those not doing anything are watching. Patiently observing everything that is going on as they appear to be somehow isolated from the intensity buzzing around in front of them. The streets are dirty, paper and plastic garbage mainly, fresh and dried cow dung scattered through the street. In the base of the 5 to 10 story buildings are store fronts which seem barely large enough to fit whatever goods may be for sell or trade. Every third or fourth shop is selling cooked food from large metal pots over propane stoves- bright yellow curries, fried goods drenched in honey syrups or pots full of lentils and thick vegetable gravies. The air is filled with the sound of the traffic- horns from cars, rickshaws and bikes, the shouting of neighbors passing across busy streets, the crackle of food frying and the rampant clatter of feet in every direction.

We are being watched by every person in the street. Some curious, others friendly and a few judgmental passers by. We are a strange sight in a sea of Pan-Asian faces. Our light skin, different colored hair, our clothing, our laughter and chatter all attracting the attention of those who had not noticed us passing through their World. And we are passing through their World- we are staring as much as them- but less at their physical appearance and more about the way of life in a country of 1.25 billion people.

Side streets are narrow and dark, even in the day light. Monkeys scurry along the balconies unphased by anyone else. The city is one of the oldest living cities, streets are not built in uniform fashion; they wind left and right at a whim. Parts are muddy and wet from water being thrown from a nearby food stall, the signs for local business appearing possibly to have been completed 10-15 years prior- and neglected ever since. The alleys are as wide as your arms splayed open, and barefoot laborers are pushing carts full of bricks, and the smell of musk hangs in the dusty air.

And so this is India. I can't believe we took so long to get here.

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Speechless and excited,
L

Sent from my iPad

Posted by ellie nicole 22:06 Archived in India Tagged india varanasi impressions Comments (0)

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