Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Taj Mahal



I stepped out onto the balcony off of our hotel room.  It was early in the morning in January 4th.  About 5:30 am.  Fog shrouded the narrow street in front of the Taj Mahal’s southern entrance.  We just had to hope that it would burn off as the sun rose…

 …it didn’t.

As disappointing as the fog was, we still had a lovely time at the Taj Mahal.  The beauty of the craftsmanship and materials used was stunning.  We paid a few dollars for the audio tour, which was very good.  

Brief history of the Taj.
The main entrance gate, which faces south.  Our hotel was only a two minute walk from here.
The Taj is there...through the thick blanket of fog.
What should have been our first glimpse of the Taj.
Gorgeous marble detail.
Karl touching the inlaid stone.
Close up of the inlaid stone-called 'pietra dura.'
Passages of the Qur'an decorate every door way of the Taj.   So beautiful.  It is all inlaid stone.

Southern facing gate, though all four are identical.  The Taj is 100% symmetrical except for the two graves inside. (photos are not allowed inside.)

After spending four or five hours waiting for the fog to lift, we gave up and went back to the hotel for a late breakfast.  Our check out time had been at ten am, but we had ignored that on the pretense that we would never be back to see the Taj. 

Frustratingly, the fog lifted only about thirty minutes after leaving.  Sigh… 

View from the top of our hotel.
I was so disappointed. 

We checked out of our hotel and met again with our driver and guide.  The hotel owner had been asking us to go to “his brother’s” shop of marble souvenirs.  As we left, he ran after us imploring us to go shop.  We tried to say no as politely as possible.

We still had an couple hours before our train left for New Delhi.  Our guide took us to another tourist trap expensive shop.  This time, it was jewelry.  I was so disappointed about the fog lifting too late for us that the salesman had an extremely difficult time keeping my attention. 

Eventually Karl did insist on buying me some beautiful blue topaz earrings to match the ring he got me a few years ago.  We even were able to talk the price down, even though they were fixed.  (yay!)

When we returned to New Delhi, we had to deal with chaos before getting to our hotel. 

We left the train station, closely followed by a gaggle of noisy taxi drivers.  Karl kept the luggage close as I looked around for pre-paid taxis.  There weren’t any.  I turned around and steeled myself for the hoard of anxious taxi drivers.  I gave the address of our hotel to the drivers and asked how much they each would charge-intending that they attempt to under-bid each other. 

The drivers quickly realized that I knew what I was doing and it came down to me and one driver:

“1200 rupees. Plus tip.”
I laughed.  “No.  I paid 300 rupees from the airport to here. 300 rupees.”

The driver scoffed. “800 rupees.”

“300.”

“600.”

“450.” I gave him a smile and held out my hand.

“Ok…450 rupees. This way.”

So I discovered that I can barter.  But just because I can, doesn’t mean I like it.  Haggling prices constantly is exhausting. 

Finally, we made it to our final hotel.  I had had the foresight to book the nicest hotel of the trip on our last night.  It was totally worth it.  We had hot water, clean sheets, a clean room, and a big flat screen TV.  It was heaven.  We were actually able to relax.  

Our last hotel-door to our room.  Nice.

Fortunately, there was a very nice roof-top restaurant right in our hotel.  We wouldn’t have to face the chaos of the city streets for dinner-Thank God.  

This sly little kitty was just hanging around waiting for our food to come. 


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