A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Taj Mahal

We finally left Jaipur after 8 nights on another early morning train bound for Agra, the city of the magnificent Taj Mahal. And was it magnificent! The first night we opted to see it at sunset from across the Yamuna River. Instead of paying to view it from the park at Mehtab Bagh, we followed a dirt path down by the riverbed to take in the view. Because of the far distance from the Taj Mahal, the actual sunset stole the show.

The river was quite a bit lower than expected, but we saw some religious ceremonies taking place but weren’t allowed to get very close to the action. It did involve more fireworks and a mélange of colorful dresses reflecting off the river.

The rickshaw ride back to our hotel in the dusk and traffic was nail biting, as usual. Check out this cool guy we almost sideswiped.

We stayed at Maya Hotel, which wins our unofficial travel award for best room upkeep, best value and best food in India. With a friendly owner to boot! For 900 rupees ($19) a night, it may have tottered past the shoestring budget category but it was so clean and well cared for. Ron was in heaven with the nice lacquered paint jobs and finish details. I loved the big marble bed and overall room design felt so peacefully calm. I wished we stay longer.

The next morning we rose early again. See, this travel business is not all sleeping, lounging around, and goofing off. We are on a mission to see the world, so we must get up early, with the cackling birds and the mooing cows (and don't forget, the scampering cockroaches when you flick on the light). You must be up well before the crowds and the tour buses arrive. Of course, then we can run back to the hotel and take long naps and sip spiced chai tea for the rest of the afternoon. Mmmmm, that sounds good right now! Be back in a minute.... Okay. We got to the Taj (we are on a first name basis now) by 6am but the line was already a football field in length. So much for being early birds!

There were separate entrance lines for men and women. For once, this segregation gave me a good deal, I got a much shorter line. But then I saw a sign telling us we had to put our electronics in a locker and ended up rushing off to lock up our illegal items - ipods, camera chargers, and even my solar calculator. God forbid, I calculate the square root of 43 in the shadow of the Taj - an unholy, forbidden act.

To get in the festive spirit, I wore the salwar kameez again from Diwali. It was so comfy, like wearing pajamas, I really could wear it everyday but it is a little tight and bursting at the seams in places. With some quick stitching, I may get two more wearings out of it.

The Taj Mahal was started in 1631 and took 2000 craftsmen 22 years to complete. It was built as the tomb for Mumtaj Mahal, the wife of Emperor Shahjahan, who died during the birth of their 14th child. They were very busy. The emperor was so heartbroken by her death, he built her the most beautiful resting place in the world (and arguably still is) as a tribute to his great love. How's that for romantic?! Ron may think Valentine's day is a pressure cooker now, but my standards have just tripled.

There are a number of fascinating architectural features - it is identical in every detail from each of the four sides. And optical illusions - the quaranic inscriptions on the façade of the entrances increase ever so slightly in height, so to the viewer at ground level it appears totally uniform.

It really is a dazzling vision in gleaming white marble, and one of the few wonders that isn’t the slightest disappointing once you finally see it. We gladly parted with the 750 rupee ($16) entrance fee. One thing though, I was surprised at how much smaller the inside feels in comparison to the grand visage of the exterior. Perhaps another crafty illusion from the architects. As is this picture (flipped upside down) off one of the reflection pools, that Ron is quite pleased with, and tells me so over and over convincing me of its “blog worthiness”. I have to admit it is a pretty darn visually interesting shot, but these are the little things we debate excitedly about over our nightly curry....


amit November 26, 2009 at 9:25 AM  

alison u r looking very beautiful in indian dress,,,,,,,enjoy ur holiday,,,,

Rocky November 26, 2009 at 8:19 PM  

I agree with Amit, I love the picture of you in front of the Taj Mahal. it's my new screen saver now!

joe_seif November 27, 2009 at 3:18 AM  

Wow, that's beautiful guys...Happy Thanksgiving, miss you both! Safe travels!


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