Sunday, September 28, 2014

It IS Actually Like The Movies

Today started Early.  We had to be in the Lobby by 7 am to meet Joyel (not "Mr. Joy" as we thought yesterday) and our driver for the day.  I was glad that we sprung for the "large" car.  It was about the size of a Ford Focus - the Focus may be bigger.

The Taj Mahal is in Agra, which is about 200 kilometers or about 2 1/2 hours away by car thanks to the newly constructed Yamuna Expressway.  It is a toll road, which may limit traffic, so the drive there was pretty nice.  Once you are outside of Delhi, the area becomes rural.  It is filled with brick furnaces, farms and lots of cows.  Actually we were told that the black ones are buffalos and the white and brown ones are cows.

Agra is a pretty traditional village and things are still done the "old way" there.  There are cows, buffalos, goats and dogs EVERYWHERE.  And Donkeys, and even Camels!

Cars are only allowed so close to the Taj Mahal, so we park in Agra and look for a tuk-tuk to take us the rest of the journey.  At this point I was glad to be out of the car as I think we had at least a dozen near collisions once we got into the village due to the narrow and full streets.  Little did I know that the journey was just going to get more hairy from there.  The tuk-tuk went as far as the gates to the "park" in which the Taj Mahal is located.  From there we made the journey by camel cart.  The driver offers to let Mark climb on the back of the camel for a picture but he declined.

The journey was worth it.  The Taj Mahal is breathtaking.  The pictures that you see in the magazines show you the beautiful white marble mausoleum and the reflection pools.  What you may not have seen is the detailed work that is the Taj Mahal.  The entire building is ornately carved and inlaid with malachite, lapis lazuli, vermillion, and onyx.  No, the artwork is not painted - that is ALL inlaid stone.  It is incredibly beautiful.  I am amazed that it only took 22 years to complete.  All of this for a deeply beloved third wife.

While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal, it is actually an integrated complex of structures.  The Taj Mahal complex has red sandstone walls on three sides with the side facing the river left open.  Inside the complex are two red sandstone mosques on either side of the mausoleum and a great gate.  Outside the walls are several additional mausoleums, including those of the other wives.  The grounds are also full of trees and flowering bushes.  It is easy to see why this is considered a wonder of the modern world.

We leave the beauty of the Taj Mahal grounds for what can only be described as chaos.  People, animals, trucks and tuk-tuks everywhere.  We are nearly ran into no less than a dozen times again on our way to find a restaurant for lunch.  Before the Taj Mahal we thought that we were going to see the Red Fort in Agra and maybe a couple of other things.  After walking around in 95 degree heat we decided that we were good with just seeing the Taj Mahal.  At lunch we were also reminded that while it is good to have some fun and see some things, we are not tourists.  We are there on a medical visa and we are here to undergo a procedure.  Point Taken.

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