The magic of a saree


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Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Agra
October 3rd 2007
Published: October 28th 2007
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Taj MahalTaj MahalTaj Mahal

... we are speachless ...
Agra - surely one of the most visited places in India, and so as soon as we got off the bus we had about 10 people around us trying to sell us a rickshaw ride. I guess at some point you will get used to it and just get into one, obviously AFTER you determined the price. We had a reservation at the Hotel Sheela Inn which is quit nicely located next to the east gate to the Taj Mahal. You can't actually get by rickshaw all the way down to the hotel, but it is just few minutes walk from where the rickshaw drivers can drop you off. As it was late and we were tired we decided to have a bite at the hotel - though food was not overly expensive it was NOT worth a single rupee. We had not much choice that evening, but for sure it would not happen again. It was extremely salty and very bland indeed, and to top it off, a small portion (but due to the taste, that was no bad thing). Next day we decided to catch a rickshaw to Dasaprakash for some fine Dosas, but to be fair, though good, it was not living up to the *god of the dosa* image. We decided to go and see the Taj in the afternoon and therefore also during sunset. Of course about 500 other tourists decided to do the same thing and queues started to form in front of the so far empty gates. As it was a very special occasion, our last thing on the "to do" in India, Josie decided to wear her Saree. So off we went. 1500!!! Rupees later (entry per person in 750 rupees!) and after a security check, we were in. Now, this was going to be a mass experience, we thought. Hundreds of photographers were ready to take a picture of you and the Taj and if you wanted to take the typical postcard picture of the Taj and the water canals leading to it, you will have to fight with them. There was always a person posing for the photographers and trying to get other people out of "their" picture "Excuse me! Just one minute! Just one minute!" After 10 minutes Josie had enough and just went for it. Well, that was not quite the experience we were hoping for, so how to make it a bit more our own? Once the obligatory shots with the Taj were in the box we moved on and strolled towards the Taj. Relaxing the nerves, Josie finally noticed the looks from everyone. Of course people do look at you because you are white and ask to hold their babies and to take a picture with you. But this felt kind of different. Actually the looks were more like approving nods. Women were pointing at Josie, smiling, and you could hear the word "Saree" being whispered. Once we got closer to the Taj, a second photo opportunity spot, a young photographer offered to take some pictures of us with our camera and for free. Why not - the good guy was actually quite determined to get a great picture and after quite a time we had some cool shots. Andy tried to tip him as he could have earned quite a bit of money during all that time he was shooting us - there is no such a thing like a free lunch at the Taj Mahal 😉 - but to our surprise the guy said - "No, no! You are my guest in my county!" Now that hasn't happened before. Don't get us wrong. The Indian hospitality is unbeatable, but that is between you and people you meet in not touristy places. This was the Taj Mahal, where millions were to be made out of all those gringos. We marched on, the sunset coming closer. Up the stairs onto the white marble - you need to take your shoes off or you put on those weird shoe covers that you get "for free" with your 750 rupees ticket. How generous! The first time the beauty of the Taj hits you is at it's very first sight. However, when you get close you will have to admit that this building is absolutely breathtaking. We saw and advert for India in the airport once and it had a big picture of the Taj Mahal saying "It is quite unbelievable that these days men get away with chocolates and flowers". How true!!! The Taj certainly was the most extravagant monument ever build for love. Just walking around it made us feel very special. The Saree continued to do it's magic - many women stopped giving Josie approving looks. "You look so cute in the Saree" - "How do you know how to wear a Saree?" - "How do you like India?" - "What do you like best in India?" The Saree invited questions and gave everyone a reason to come and ask them. A group of older ladies even came close and blessed Josie, one after one. It was not annoying at all as you could see the genuine interest in the peoples eyes. Anyway, the most feminine way of wearing a piece of floating fabric felt great while walking around this breathtaking monument - and oh yes, this was now our own special experience. Even though Andy preferred to hide behind the camera and step back from the attention, the visit was certainly different and unforgettable. Finally, while the sun set, the orange rays were hugging the white building before the golden glow disappeared and the night started to settle. The Taj beautiful as ever, even then it had not lost it's magic. Happy and content we made our way back. Our missions were now accomplished - everything from now on was a bonus 😊

So the next day we packed our bags and hopped onto a bus to Fatepur Sikri. Even though it is just 36 km out of town, it takes over an hour for the bus to get through. We jumped off and found ourselves a room at Hotel Ajay Palace. Here the rooms were much cheaper than in Agra and the food was certainly the best we had since we left Delhi. Ajay Palace has a great rooftop terrace, unbeatable for people watching. Of course we went to see Fatehpur Sikri. On our way the kids were shouting "Sir! School pen!!!" - "Sir, a guide for Fatehpur Sikri!" - "Sir, only 20 rupees!" - "Siiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrr!!!" - We fought through that and arrived at the Mosque. The entrance was very impressive through a 54m gate. The entry to this place is free but you have to pay to see the "ghost city" and it's palaces and pavilions. This place had to be abandoned after a very short period of fame due to water shortage. We "have been convinced" to hire a guide - though apparently official - we could not say that he added to our experience. We went through the buildings - obviously too slow as the good guy was constantly checking his watch. What felt half way he said "Well, you have
Inlayed Marblework covers the TajInlayed Marblework covers the TajInlayed Marblework covers the Taj

and is sold in many a souvenir shop outside for those who want some to take-away too
now seen Fatepur Sikri" - Really? Ok, lesson learned and we went off by ourselves finding still a few places we haven't seen. We stopped in a little garden to observe the squirrels - or what looked mostly like squirrels. Many places in India seem to be full of them and they are very entertaining creatures indeed. For the rest of the day we plonked ourselves on the roof top and observed the local happenings. There were monkeys and kids throwing stones at them, comedy cars which certainly would not pass any MOT, women carrying all sorts on their heads (our favourite was a woman with a bunch of radish on her head - missed photo opportunity that one), cows which were making their rounds - apparently they come at the same time every day, walk from door to door and collect chapati donations - hilarious! - Camels and what not. There was not much more to do in Fateh so next day we packed and were dropped of at the "bus station" 2km away from our Guesthouse. Well, the way the "bus station" worked, was that you waited near the road for any bus to pass by - the guys on the bus will shout the destinations and you hop on. No problem, so in no time we were on a bus to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. Even though the bus has certainly seen better times, the journey was quite pleasant and without hassle. The good thing about those old buses is that you can have your luggage next to you - if there is space that is - and so you can keep an eye on in. Whereas in the AC buses your luggage will be stored away and you can only hope that it will be still there when you get off. As usual, on those chicken buses you seem to meet the friendly people who are happy to strike a conversation with you - and why not 😊 All in all it is not as scary as some make it up - just give it a try.


Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


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Amazing...Amazing...
Amazing...

... Josie received a blessing from all these women
Before sunsetBefore sunset
Before sunset

... you just can't get enough
It is OFFICIALIt is OFFICIAL
It is OFFICIAL

cows eat chappati. This one comes everyday at lunchtime for it's feed. It goes door to door getting it's dinner then moves on
Eating with your handsEating with your hands
Eating with your hands

Andy has certainly mastered that skill
Apparently the court musician would sit here and playApparently the court musician would sit here and play
Apparently the court musician would sit here and play

and the music would carry his tunes all over the palace grounds
The astrologers Kiosk (left) and Diwan-i-Khas (Right)The astrologers Kiosk (left) and Diwan-i-Khas (Right)
The astrologers Kiosk (left) and Diwan-i-Khas (Right)

Diwan-i-Khas -> Hall of Private Audiences


29th October 2007

Josie Mahal
Good effort Josie, I thought you look rather fetching in the Saree! Is India a 'must see' place as I've been told? Still pondering where to go...
30th October 2007

ahhhhh
What can I say... I´m speechless taking from the pictures... leave alone the day when I´ll be there myself. It´s a magical place I´m sure. Josie, you look beautiful in that saree. You´ll have to teach me how to wear mine one day! lol :))) Andy, love your hair too! :) Take care you too!
31st October 2007

Your perspective on something of which I thought had grown overly familiar with is quite something ( in a good way ! ) .
1st November 2007

Just go :)
Every place on this planet is a "must see" - just go to places that interest you and don't listen to guidebooks. Yes, India is very special in its own right but so were all the countries we have been to. It's your journey - so follow your nose :) The adventures lurk in the most unusual of places.

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