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Here, there, everywhere... A modest attempt at chronicling my around the world adventure over the next year (or so).

big Taj and baby Taj

INDIA | Wednesday, 15 July 2009 | Views [1195]

another overnight train from Varanasi and we stepped out into the hot sunshine at Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. We were supposed to be picked up by our hotel but they were late so we called and waited for 30 minutes. After arriving we waited again for our room to be cleaned so we had breakfast and fended off a ricky driver who wanted to drive us around for the next two days to 'see' the sights. After getting our room we took care of some internet business then made our way to a park on the other side of the river where you can get a sunset view from the back of the Taj Mahal (Taj) from across the river at a park. After being dropped off by a ricky we walked to the river and as we approached it was our first view of the Taj and it is impressive and immense. We took our spot along the riverbank with the other 15 or so whiteys who were also there for sunset. After getting some late-day lite pictures we set off for the hotel as we had an early day ahead of us because we were rising at 5:00am so we could be at the Taj by 6::00am for the sunrise opening. Our ricky driver had other plans and 'convinced' us to go to a cheap locals restaurant for dinner. It was cheap and not too bad but not necessary for us but for him it was his way of starting the 'dance'. The dance is when a ricky or taxi driver takes to a sight and then begins to talk about the other things to see and how he can give the best chance at seeing the sights all for a cheaper price then the next ricky/taxi driver. In the end, once you agree to the tour at the end they take you various shops selling every thing you don't want so he can make a comission. He did his first foray into this shop journey after dinner and instead of agreeing we settled for him taking us to the Taj in the morning and the baby Taj and Fort after with perhaps a visit to a shop or two. It was the best defense we could mount as we were tired and just wanted to get back to the hotel.

The next morning we rose early we went outside to meet our ricky driver from the evening before. He was there, of course and ready to go so after a quick breakfast close to the Taj he dropped us off at the ticket area. We were not the only ones with the idea to see the Taj as sunrise so by the time we arrived there were at least 30 or so people all ready inside and walking through the first courtyard area. After checking our bag and going through security we followed suite and then walked through the first gate into the long fountain area that leads to the Taj. Again, this is a spectacular building that just seems to dwarf anything around it. For those who don't know the background here is a smidge. Built by a Mughal prince in the 17th century as a monument to his beloved wife who died during child birth with their 14th or so child! The man was smitten! It took 17 years to finally build from marble and stone.

The Taj is flanked on the east and west sides with a mosque on one and a traveller's building on the other. It also has minarets on each corner with provide symmetry when looking at it from the front and back. We spent our time making it to the Taj including Jessica taking many, many pictures. The light on the east side was great for about 20 minutes as the sun rose including some glittering gold inlaid through the marble. We split up as I am a faster visitor of sights then she is mostly because she takes many more pictures. I finally went inside the Taj which is a mausoleum with tombs of the prince, his wife and some family members all interned in the basement closed to visitors. I was not as impressed with the inside as the outside, Jessica disagreed and pointed out the inlaid work around the walls. By the time we finished seeing and taking pictures it has been two hours and it was time to head back to our waiting ricky driver. After visiting the bathroom and grabbing some chips we headed across the river again to the baby Taj. This is actually called Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb and is another Mughal mausoleum that was built 20 years before the Taj Mahal. It is reportedly used as the model for the Taj Mahal when it was built. You can see from th pictures it is not on the same grand scale as the Taj but does look similar including the grounds surrounding it. It did not take long to visit baby Taj so after a quick decision by us to skip going into the Agra Fort which was our next stop we were off. We have seen the fort in Delhi and our ricky driver said it was similar so he just parked across the street and we took pictures of the Taj in the distance. THe fort actually housed the Mughal prince who built the Taj after his son took over and imprisoned him in a tower to gaze from afar. The story goes the prince's son got upset when his dad wanted to build a mirror image Taj across the river fearing it would bankrupt the kindgom.

After the fort our ricky driver finally started to put the squeeze on us to visit some of the shops. We relented for a fabric shop so Jessica could look for a batik. Not being impressed with the tour addition I sat in the shop and made myself as disinterested as I could be while drinking the 'complimentary' chai. Jessica finally settled on a batik and a book for her brother/sister-in-law and we were off. She got upset when the ricky driver wanted to take us to another shop and I think he actually felt bad so he took us back to the hotel. We bid him farewell with an imaginary kick-in-the-ass and went to get some lunch and find the internet. We finished our day at a nice local restaurant and with ice cream from one of the many street stands lining the sides. We turned in early as we had an early morning train to catch for our next destintation-Sawai Madhoupor in the state of Rajisthan.

sidenote-there will be no story about Sawai Madhoupor because the main reason we went there was to see tigers in the national park. What we found out after we arrived is that they close the park July-September for the monsoon so were were shit out o' luck with tiger viewings, damn! So we left a day earlier then planned from there for Bundi, our next destination.

Tags: agra, taj mahal

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