The Taj Mahal

Good morning New Delhi! We began today with a fantastic "complimentary" breakfast: I ate mostly hardboiled eggs and dried fruit. I’m usually more of a scrambled eggs or omelet kind of girl, but for some reason the hardboiled eggs and fruit sounded better. We then hurried outside to meet our favorite Surrender to begin adventuring around New Delhi!  Please appreciate Bryan's sweat band:

First, we drove down Embassy Lane—
there were embassies from so many countries that I must confess I didn’t even know some of those countries existed.

Then we drove by this amazing gate:

Oh yes, and please appreciate Indian traffic:
TERRIBLE!

And finally we arrived at the biggest mosque in India:
It was beautiful!

They made us wear some robes to cover ourselves
(to be honest I think we were ripped off a bit, but I suppose paying a little extra can only help the Indian economy).



We also had a little boy give us a tour…which made no sense. But it was fun! He was a sweetheart.  From the mosque we took a rickshaw to Gandhi’s tomb. There are rickshaws EVERYWHERE in India.


Our driver was hysterical—he kept turning and telling us how strong he is! Everyone who passed in cars also thought it was quite delightful to see to Americans on a rickshaw—little kids shouted “Hello my friend!” and adults waved too!

Gandhi’s tomb was beautiful:


It was also unbelievably hot and humid too! We were dying! As we walked in we removed our shoes again. I love that. In India you take your shoes off to show respect all the time! It reminds me of when Moses neared the burning bush and had to remove his shoes. When on holy ground it is proper and respectful to walk shoeless.

It was most comical at the tomb, however. Apparently in the caste system, those with lighter skin are at the very top. We soon learned, therefore, that meant that everyone wanted to have our picture! Men, women, children, families. We even were asked to be in countless family pictures. It took sweet Bryan a little bit to get used to allowing me to be in pictures with the native men; he is most protective. It’s sweet. With time he came to understand why and was a little more lenient. I still appreciated his concern.

As we returned to the vehicle Surrender informed us we were now driving to Agra in order to go to the Taj Mahal before close. (Somehow our tour guide got confused and had originally scheduled us to see the Taj Mahal on Friday; only it’s closed on Friday. Luckily he discovered his mistake early enough that we were able to make it in time. As sad as we were to not see as much as New Delhi as we would have like to, we were more grateful to make it to the Taj.)

The drive was just over four hours. Four terrifying hours. I thought the driving was bad in New Delhi; I was wrong. Out on the open roads cars pass where there isn’t room to pass. They drive where there isn’t any road. They swerve around cars, cows, people…I think my life flashed before my eyes a minimum of a thousand times a minute! I finally had to divert my eyes from the road it was that terrifying. Ha.

I distracted myself with the beautiful countryside: rice fields, water buffalo, cows, goats, monkeys, trees, the most beautiful people. It was phenomenal. I loved every second of it.

Surrender also made the experience more eventful and Indian-esque by sharing some fabulous Indian music with us during the drive. Loved it! I think I’m Indian at heart!

It was late afternoon when we arrived in the lovely city of Agra. As we drove through the city, Surrender even pulled over to allow us our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal.  I literally had tears in my eyes as I gazed out at it; it was exquisite.

 

It is on my life goals to see the seven modern wonders of the world.  I'm going to do it! 
Taj Mahal: check! 

Before actually going to the Taj we dropped ourself off at our hotel and also met our fantastic guide, Nitin!  He was wonderful!  Then... off to the Taj Mahal! Upon entering the grounds of the Taj we had to get in two separate lines—males and females. India is very respectful of sexes: males search males and females search females.  I hardly noticed the heat as we entered the courtyard.  Nitin gave us a brief explanation prior to entering the well known grounds; I could hardly focus.  Then, following our guide, we walked through the gate...


In a nutshell: PHENOMENAL! There is a reason it is one of the seven wonders of the world!


It is so well crafted and perfectly symmetrical. The Taj was built to show love for a woman. Cute right?! And it’s huge! It's more than just the building we all see in the pictures; there is also an entire accompanying courtyard with a mosque and an identical building mirroring it! It took approximately 23 or so years to construct; it was even so well thought out that the four pillars surrounding the center building are angled out so in the case of an earthquake they would fall away from the structure! It's gorgeous!  The entire building is made of the most beautiful marble; much of it is inlayed with precious stones too. It is breathtaking and exquisite.









Again, many people wanted pictures with us…others simply snapped pictures of us as we walked by. It reminded me a lot of Egypt and Jordan to be honest. Not going to lie…it was SUPER hot! We were sweating up a storm! The inside of the Taj Mahal was even hotter though! So hot, in fact, that when we exited it felt cool!

Another funny thing we realized was that many people there claimed to be the Taj Mahal gardener; we believe they were trying to make money by suggesting great places for pictures. As kind as they were, our guide warned us about the culture so we could avoid having to get into situations where we had to pay unnecessary fees.

Our tour guide was a gem too, and quite comical. Right before leaving the Taj Mahal he informed us that it’s cultural for everyone to ask him to ask us if we want to buy anything. He instructed us to tell him no, and that if we wanted something to tell him and he’d find it for a true Indian price (as opposed to the tourist prices common around popular sites). After the Taj Mahal we then went to dinner at the Taj Mahal Restaurant where we ate some marvelous Indian cuisine.

In summary: Today was AMAZING!  I LOVE India!

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