Taj Mahal and more

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Asia » India
October 26th 2008
Published: November 21st 2008
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After surviving an attempt to get a bribe from the security-types at the airport in Kathmandu, I arrived back in India and drove to Agra. Well, I sat in the car and someone else drove. Which is just as well since I would either go mad or kill someone if I drove in the madness that transpires on Indian roads.
I stayed at a hotel in Agra that boasted a view of the Taj Mahal from many of its rooms or a special balcony on the roof. Alas, it was not to be seen. The smog and haze made the monument invisible. I would have to wait until actually being at the site to take in its legendary beauty.

The next day I did visit the Taj Mahal. It is beautiful but is showing the effects of pollution. Traffic is not permitted within a couple kilometres of the site but that doesn't prevent the wind from blowing dust and fumes around the area. It was very crowded, as one would expect of such an attraction. I think that very early in the morning or late in the evening is probably a more enjoyable experience at the Taj Mahal.

I also visited Agra Fort which dates from the Mughal period. Parts of the fort are closed and there are barriers preventing people from entering certain areas and getting too close to the walls. I was told by my guide that this is due to the fact that visitors were taking some of the stones that were used to decorate the walls of the fort.
There were all the usual features; sleeping-chambers, throne-rooms, court-yards, etc.

After the fort I was taken to one of the many carpet and gem stores. I protested in vain.

"Just take a look. You don't have to buy."

I didn't even want to look. It was a colossal waste of time. As usual the salesman had a cousin living in my home country, Canada. What a surprise! And his store sold their carpets in over 25 countries around the world, including Canada. Imagine that! And if they told me the price I would not believe how low it is. Actually, I would. It is low. But not as low as other places. I have heard this same routine over and over. It's a colossal waste of time. This is possibly my least favourite aspect of travel.


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