Sunday, August 5, 2012

Taj Mahal

Day 21 – 02Aug2012

I slept like a little baby at the five-star hotel, even with the knowledge of lice.  And my roommates were kind enough not to kick me out. ;)  Unfortunately, six other girls (eight total including myself) discovered they had lice in Agra (none of them were my roommates though).  As soon as my head hit the pillow…wow!  And I woke up feeling refreshed!  I hadn’t felt like that in a long time.  By the second week at Rising Star, my back was killing me from the stiff, five-inch mattresses.  The five-star hotel was a welcome change.  When we woke up, we had a great breakfast.  The hotel had all the fixings: omelets, sausage, pancakes, cereal, pastries, and a variety of Indian dishes.  I’m a lot more open to trying new food these days and actually kind of maybe liked a few of them…kind of. ;)

We met in the lobby to head out for a day of adventure.  I liked seeing Agra and Delhi via tour guide.  It was stress free vacationing.  Our first stop was the Taj Mahal.  I discovered that the reason we could not just fly into Agra because it is a no-fly zone due to the Taj Mahal.  And likewise, we had to leave our bus two miles away from it and be driven by an electric vehicle the rest of the way.  They want to keep the pollution around the Taj Mahal to a minimal so the features of it can be seen more clearly.  When we arrived, we were first met by the archway…and through the archway, was the Taj Mahal…

I cannot accurately describe the view or the feeling I had when I first laid eyes on it.  It simply does not look real.  It is as if someone has a giant green-screen and is digitally adding the perfectly edited image.  It I hadn’t physically touched it, I wouldn’t believe it was real.  Its beauty far surpasses any structure I have ever seen.  The Taj Mahal is made 100% out of Indian white marble.  The inlay flowers and writing on the Taj Mahal are from semi-precious stones that have been hand carved into the marble.  The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum dedicated to an emperor’s wife.  We were able to take all of the famous pictures there.  Our tour guide knew all the right places to take pictures; in fact, there is a contest for our group going on about who took the best picture (if you’re following this, please go “like” it on facebook – thanks!).  You are not allowed to take pictures once inside.  The wife’s replica tomb is directly in the middle of the under the large circle pillar that you can see from the outside.  The real tomb is underground and the public is not permitted to see it.  The emperor’s replica tomb is next to his wife’s and is the only part of the structure that is not perfectly symmetrically placed.  The inside of the large circular pillar is actually an octagon.  The flower inlay is intricate and delicate. It took 22 years to build the Taj Mahal.  Unbelievable…really.

Other tourists taking pictures of us...
Once we were outside again, we took a lot more pictures, but as usual, we had a serious following of locals.  It was funny to have them take pictures of us when they were there to see one of the wonders of the world.  Didn’t quite make sense to me.  It actually got quite annoying after awhile.  Our tour guide told us it wasn’t “safe” to take pictures with them (which they requested often).  I only allowed one picture of me…although many more were taken of me against my will.  I felt…violated…violated by they eyes of Indian men. 

We toured the other structures around the Taj Mahal, but none came close to its beauty.  Our tour guide told us about all of the illusions the Taj Mahal has to offer, like the coloring.  Depending on the colors in the sky (either by sun or moon), the marble will take on different colors.  It was overcast (but unbelievable hot!  Probably the hottest day I experienced my entire time in India) the day I saw it, so it was very purely white.  The four pillars at the four corners are also an illusion.  They seem straight up and down, when in fact; they are tilting towards the outside.  This ensures that all four can be seen at all times.  Unreal…so beautiful and so majestic.  I have seen one of the modern wonders of the world.  Pretty spectacular.

Knowing that I would probably never get back to see it again, I didn’t really want to leave the Taj Mahal, but I had to.  Our tour guide, Ramesh, took us to a marble factory after that, but not just any marble factory; a marble factory owned and operated by the descendents of the real marble workers that built the Taj Mahal.  We were able to watch them as they constructed marble pieces with the same flower inlay that the Taj Mahal has.  I bought an awesome elephant piece, my own little piece of the Taj Mahal.  I did get in a little fight with one of the salesman though…luckily Ramesh had my back and everything got sorted out. 

The group was then taken to Agra Fort.  I kind of wish they had taken us there first because nothing can compare to the Taj Mahal, but the fort was still awesome.  And the coolest part about could see the Taj Mahal from its windows!  The fort held the emperor after his son imprisoned him for spending too much money on the Taj Mahal.  Luckily, the emperor could see the Taj Mahal from his prison.  India has such interesting history.

We were then taken to a store that made and sold real Persian rugs.  We were able to see how they were made.  It can take two men up to six months to complete a rug.  They were pretty expensive so I bought the smallest one I could as a souvenir.  We did some more shopping and reputable places the tour guide knew about.  I finally gave in and bought a sari.  It WAS almost my last day in India, you know.  And I probably wouldn’t get another chance to shop…

We had a nice dinner feast at another really nice hotel.  They had the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever tasted.  Geez…I realize now how much I really enjoyed the food…the Indian food was interesting, but good…and if it was any type or sort of American food, it was delectable.  After dinner he headed back to the hotel.  Again, I slept like a baby.  I was sad to check out of that hotel
Day 21 – Complete

Firsts/Realizations/Things to Remember:  It was Amy’s birthday today!  She turned 26 at the Taj Mahal…it doesn’t really get any better than that. 

I don’t feel very exotic looking in the states, but I’m exotic here.  And that makes me feel pretty special.  

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