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Published: July 10th 2008
Arrived in Agra throught the caotic market at 8pm. Hordes of rickshaws, motos, people, animals, and cars, noisy as ever with the loud, incessant blowing of horns, including the one from our driver Raju. Everytime he enters a town, he starts blowing the horn constantly.
I requested to go to a certain hotel, and Raju said "It is too far, out of town". Seconds later, Amanda points to the hotel right in front of us. Raju refused to stop, insisting that we should see "another better hotel" first. We looked at the overpriced hotel Maya Hotel but insisted we wanted to look at a couple of other places first. We get into a rickshaw, going thru dark alleys, with the hickshaw wallah insisting that we look at some other guesthouse of his choice. All run down, horrible. We gave up, since it was already obvious he wouldn't go to where we wanted, and resorted to demanding to go back to Hotel Maya. Paid the 650 rupees, which certainly included Raju's commission. The room was nice but it had the dreadfull squat toilet and mosquitos!!!
The next morning, at 5:45am we walked to see the TAJ MAHAL
at sunrise. On the way, man feeding a cow, many people on a grassy area (praying???), lots of monkeys on the road and trees. The was a group of people chantting around candles by the main gate.
Paid the $19 entrance fee for tourists, very expensive by Indian standards, got security checked as in an airport (only camera, water, books allowed in), and practically could claim the impressive Taj to ourselves, which was sure a treat. Very few people were there this early.
Everybody has heard about how beautiful the "most extravagant monument built for love" is, but the architectural masterpiece can only be truly appreciated up close. It's not just the palacial white marble mauseleum. It's the detailed carvings, the thousands of semiprecious stones turned into delicate flowers in beautiful patterns, which makes the Taj truly outstanding.
The red sandstone mosque and guesthouse on each side of the Taj are just as beautiful, contrasting with the central white marble beauty.
An informal " photo-guide", kept pointing to spots where we'd get the best pictures. Soon the pointing turned with "go", "there", here", "Go", in a military ordering manner. But, althought I knew in the end I
Love at first sight...
the structure is just as amazing as the story behind it.
would be asked for money, the spots he picked were truly special, and his "ordering" us around became even funny. So, the 100 rupees I gave him were worth.
We wandered around the grounds for a few hours, since it was truly a spectacular site to enjoy the breezy morning. We read on a shady area, and than... "Ooops!. A bus load of oriental tourists arrived, signalling it was time to leave.
I realize now that I have been to the mauseleums built for Lenin in Russia, for Mao in China, but this one built the Emperor Shah Jahan, as a memorial for his second wife who died giving birth to their 14th child, is by for the most special. No political agenda behind it, just the feelings of a man who had true love for his wife.
If you come to India, make it to the Taj. You won't be dissapointed.
Namaste (It's hi and bye)
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