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Published: November 1st 2012
The TajWe’ve enjoyed our short stay in India.
Bench where Lady Diana sat for photo op some years back.
One of the advantages of traveling for an extended period of time is that you may find yourself wanting to change some of the plans you have made for one reason for another and discover that this is something you can do without remorse. You’ve got the time and the initiative, so you just make it happen.
Case in point; we arrived in Kathmandu over a month ago and spent four nights there before departing for other parts of Nepal and then returned for a few nights at the end. Truth is, we didn’t care for Kathmandu and were rather blunt about it in an earlier blog.
So, after we finished the incredible country of Bhutan, we were supposed to return to Kathmandu for another four nights. Neither one of us could imagine going back to Kathmandu because frankly we had seen enough.
After our Kathmandu experience, we were scheduled to fly to Delhi, India so we decided to bail early on Kathmandu and spend all the extra days in India. So we’ve had a whirlwind five nights zipping around a small
part of India called the Golden Triangle, which includes Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
In general, Asia is dirtier than the rest of the world, which is a kind description. It is a third world country and there are different expectations. There is a travel blog forum question about which country most people think is the dirtiest and India usually ends up first or second from most people’s point of view. We won’t argue, but coming here shortly after being in Nepal we will tell you we have personally encountered less dust and we are pleased that the roads are well paved and do not have large potholes. In a manner of speaking, the dirt and garbage are better contained to a small degree from the small sampling we’ve viewed.
We will not pretend to have any substantial knowledge about India. This has been a whirlwind 5-day trip, so we have a few impressions but few facts to share.
We flew into Delhi and spent the night in a wonderful B&B in New Delhi. We were only overnighting, so we arrived after dark and left in the morning. If you get to
Delhi, India please check it out. It was extremely comfortable and the owners gracious. You can private message us for more information. From there we headed to Agra to see the world famous Taj Mahal. Agra
The voyage to Agra was a most pleasant one. This is largely due to the fact that we got to ride on the new expressway that has only been open for a few months. It’s about 220 KM to Agra from Delhi and we found ourselves riding on a road three-lanes wide with almost no traffic. This is because this highway is a toll road and a twice as costly as the old road. Good for us—we were able to make it to Agra in less than 3 hours. The gentleman navigating the road for us remarked that the road was “an Indian driver’s dream.” It is interesting to note that we asked how many people lived in Agra, and were told that it is not a very big city as it only has about a million and a half people. Being from the U.S., this qualifies as a large city. In India….no.
We’ve always wanted to see the Taj Mahal as it is an architectural marvel, an iconic photo and one of those places you’d just like to see for yourself. But, you’ve got to ask yourself, how good can this be? It is just a building.
Here’s where the “Grand Canyon” theory kicks in. You can tell people just how great and beautiful a place is and even show them pictures, but the only way to truly appreciate it is to be there, because once you take in the view, it sinks in……
It is stunning. Standing looking at this you are breathless. It is mesmerizing, surreal, ethereal…..pick your adjective. It is magnificent. It was built for love and it shows.
We were so enamored with it the first day that we went back the next morning for sunrise. And then we were even more impressed. As the story goes, an Indian mogul king in the mid 17th
century built this place in memory of his wife. It’s exterior is built completely of white marble, which had to be brought from about 300 km away and was completed in about
20 years. It has withstood the test of time and it’s relief carvings in its marble are simply amazing, given the time period it was constructed.
The white marble used in creating this magnificent structure came from several hundred kilometers away. The etchings carved into the marble and the inlay of other exotic stones makes one stare in awe. It is in contrast to the red sandstone used for the entrance gates on the 42- acre compound.
Agra is also home to an impressive fort that has sixteen palaces and has been the home to six Moghul Emperors. A short distance outside of Agra we visited the UNESCO World Heritage site of Fatehpur Sikri. Both these sites deserve a look. Jaipur
When we decided to spend a few days in India, we allowed a travel agency to arrange the trip as we were in Bhutan and had spotty internet. We didn’t have enough time to mess with this ourselves. They had us also visiting the city of Jaipur. Our initial reaction was, why? We had never heard of this city and frankly were not sure what
to expect. We usually do some research about where we are about to visit, but in this case seeing as how it was arranged and kind of a last moment thing, we went in without any knowledge. Once again we asked how many people lived in lived in this city we were about to visit and were told over three million. Amazing, seeing as how there are not that many cities in the U.S. that have this many people. But then again, this is India.
Our drive from Agra to Jaipur was uneventful. Perhaps we are getting used to the way the people in this country navigate the roadways. We were on a “toll road” and literally saw vehicles traveling the wrong way on a mostly divided highway. We enjoyed watching the goats, sheep, cows, water buffalo and dromedaries wandering along the roadside and occasionally walking across the highway. In India, one simply navigates around the animals as if they don’t notice. Women even herd goats across the road while vehicles whiz by at 80 kph. We chuckle as we ride along, as this would never happen in the U.S. The thing that puzzles us the most
is pedestrians who walk down the middle of one lane of the highway rather casually ….or walk across. It is a puzzle to us. Here it is simply the norm.
Jaipur was a most amazing city, not only in size, but also for the amount of things to take in and see. We literally only had one day here, but tried to make the most of it. The Amber Fort and Palace were unique, in that they had some really nice views from atop the local hills. The Jaigarh Fort contained the world’s largest cannon on wheels and also was designed so that arrows could be fired through strategically placed holes in the fort’s walls, not to mention that it also has the capability to dump hot oil on would-be attackers.
In the city itself, the Jantar Mantar Observatory was pretty cool as it contained instruments designed and built in the 18th
century to determine the local time (a sun dial) and other designs allowed the telling of the sign of the zodiac (quite important in the Hindu religion) and the position of the North Star. Not impressed yet? Well consider this……all these instruments
were made on a grand scale and placed together in the middle of the city for all to see. Turns out the king at the time was quite the astronomy/astrology kind of guy. Imagine a sun dial that is at minimum about thirty meters across and keeps the local time to the second….not bad.
No trip to Jaipur is apparently complete unless you take some time to visit the spice market. So of course…..we did. There we found the local merchants hawking all the traditional spices like turmeric, coriander and the like, along with others who sold bangles and tobacco and tea. The squalor was a bit much, but it made for interesting photos. Delhi
We got up on our fifth day and basically headed for the airport; next stop, Delhi. A city of over 14 million or so, depending on who you ask. Nonetheless, a large place indeed. One of the first things you discover is that there is “Old Delhi” and “New Delhi.” New Delhi was built by the British, which essentially means that it came into existence sometime before 1940 or so, seeing as how India gained their
independence in the late 1940’s.
At any rate, arriving at the Delhi airport in the early afternoon with only that one day to look around doesn’t leave much time, but we still got out and took a quick look. We drove around a little down embassy row and also saw the presidential palace, which is quite the structure.
Next we went to see Old Delhi and the market, which was definitely pressing our luck considering that just the day before we had seen our fair share of the dirty unkempt marketplace in Jaipur. Well, Old Delhi pretty much did the trick. The sights, sounds and smells were a bit much and we didn’t really enjoy much of it. It was like going to the corner of Squalor and Garbage Streets, then turning right and stepping right into it. This country simply has too many people hanging out in too small a place. Crowded shops selling everything imaginable and garbage everywhere. We wish that they had a better way of taking care of this issue, but without garbage cans and a way to move it away, the task is just too grand.
Fleeing Old Delhi, we went to the largest Sikh temple in India and were mesmerized by the sight. It was grand. The music, the prayer and the reverence that was paid to this place was amazing. The temple also feeds anyone who shows up and has plenty of volunteers to make this happen. We toured the kitchen and you’re not likely to see pots full of tea and bread making operation this size very often. We were told that they feed people each and every day for about 15 hours a day. The pool on the site was considered holy and could cure diseases of the skin as well. All in all one of the better temples we’ve seen on this voyage.
India is a great place to people watch. We hope you enjoy the photos. Places we stayed:
Soi Bed & Breakfast- New Delhi
SMS Hotel- Jaipur
Uppal- Delhi- very close to the airport, perfect for an early flight
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