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My Incredible India by Andreea. Part 2

We continue Andreea’s trip through India, now outside Delhi… marveling to Taj Mahal, throught the forgotten city of Fatehpur Sikri, finally, ending in the pink city of Jaipur. Enjoy !

Taj moment

Early morning we take an american breakfast (still no courage to indulge fully in traditional stuff) and pack for Agra …we will make this 200km journey by car (7 seat Mahindra by Tata motors .. a luxury white car by Indian standards with a big “tourist” sign written on it, to better allure the souvenir sellers).

Now, before you comment about the suicidal mission … please note that we were not driving the car :), we had a nice & quiet (no English) driver with Schumacher reflexes and zen driving style. Still, we did get into a minor car accident in Agra… a bit inevitable if you have ever seen an Indian intersection, … the driver got out of the car, looked at the front scratch, looked at the (I presume ….former) bicycle user, said like 10 words and that was it :)…20 second dispute, no disruption of Karma … priceless.

Since I am sure you will ask …. Let me tell you that traffic in India is guided by some very particular natural laws which have been explained to me as soon as I arrived in India: First: anything that walks or rolls can and should be used as a means of transportation, thus on the streets you will be greeted by camels, cars, rickshaws, bikes, and even by the undefined home/made gizmos with engines exposed and wood cardboard instead of a seat. Second: There is no such thing as overload in India, as long as you can insert one foot somehow in/on the vehicle …. We have seen motorcycles with 5 people or motorickshaws with something that looked like 15 inhabitants.  The government makes efforts to reduce this overload by placing outdoor banners with cute safety requests … still people really cannot afford better transportation so I am pretty sure it’s not working. Third:  traffic lights or signs don’t really mean anything and side mirrors (if they exist) are useless. Forth: If you need to cross an intersection, you will make it as long as you enter boldly while blowing your horn constantly, and no matter what happens, you keep your direction & speed…. I have no idea how this happens… but IT WORKS!!!

So … after 4 hours we get to Agra and crash at the Clarks Shiraz hotel. We have just enough time to eat and then off we go to see Taj Mahal during the sunset…It’s weird …but the rollercoaster ride to Agra has drained our energy, and none of us is really excited about the fact that we will see TAJ … one of the wonders of the world. Your hear and read so much about this 400 year old masterpiece, you always tend to question it’s true value, since marketing is the soul of everything nowadays. Could it really be what it’s said to be?

 

The entrance to the complex is extremely crowded… you can sense the agitation of local “entrepreneurs” when seeing fresh tourists…and you get harassed by 10-12 year old boys that start to negotiate by themselves for whatever they want to sell and you really don’t want to buy. The most extraordinary price evolution was for a small Taj key holder. In spite of our very visible lack of interest and communication, the boy kept spelling price points from a jaw braking 1000 rupees/ peace to an incredible 100 rupees for 12 pieces (app 15 cents)…

The queue is huge, but we pass through effortlessly as we are foreigners (before you say anything about discrimination, note we pay an entrance fee that is 30 times more expensive vs. Indian tourist price, but we get a bottle of water and some disposable plastic socks :) – really helpful if you have my barefoot squeamishness … see part one of the India story).

So here we are, we have our socks, we have our water, and our guide starts to tell us the basics… This mogul loved his wife, she died giving birth to her 14th child (!!!), he decided to build something great as a mausoleum and a true testimony of his love and created this complex …with the 35m tall white marble dome as a central peace…… The entire mausoleum is made with white marble and adorned with semi-precious stones that are intricately merged as a unique masterpiece.  It turns out he had other wives buried in the same complex, just in very small and uninteresting mausoleums that no one visits… I guess we know which of the wives made the best soup back then hah…:). The guide tells us some other more or less interesting stuff while we admire the main entrance (also a beautiful building with a castle like entrance to the Taj Gardens) but we are losing our patience. Can we just see IT already?

As we walk beneath the main gate, we get the first glimpse on the strikingly white sparkle of the Taj Mahal. As it shines all white on the clear blue sky background and in contrast with the vivid green of the gardens, it simply takes your breath away….I will call a feeling like this from now on “a Taj moment” … as a recognition for the most beautiful man-made thing EVER.  Taj is everything said to be, and so much more …. It looks stunning from the entrance, and precious from close proximity….

It’s incredible how beautiful and perfectly crafted and preserved it is … seems as new and as everlasting as you want it to be, as simplistic or as ornamented as you can perceive it.  The guide told us the mogul wanted to do another Black Taj for himself right close to the white one, but never got the chance … If only …

 

Fatehpur Sikri and Jaipur

 

In the evening of the “Taj moment” we all indulge on 100% Indian food therapy. We experiment with mixed plates of veg and non-veg specialties and enjoy every peace. Now …Indian food is very true to the overall India experience… it’s a mix of flavors and colors that shocks, intrigues and delights …most of the time :).

The only thing with Indian food is … no matter what’s the name, the restaurant, the food type, and no matter how much you beg differently …food will be spicy (read: hoottt). If you can make it through the mildly burning sensation, the food is generally finger licking delicious….But if you are the delicate type with allergy to a bit of pepper in mom’s soup, then I recommend sandwiches (RO made) or  chocolate cookies, cause everything else (even fast food pizza) is compromised.  We once had a visit from the chef of a restaurant in Jaipur who came to apologize for the fact that food was spicy in spite his best efforts to make it European friendly. He was telling us “cross my heart” that he really did not put anything spicy in our lamb chops… I guess even the word spicy does not mean the same in India :)…. No issues though, the lamb was best ever and the chef still brought us complimentary chocolate chip cookies :). And in case I did not mention, chocolate cookies/ candies/ ice-cream here in India are yummy yummy.

On our way to Jaipur we make a pit stop at Fatehpur Sikri and spend 2 hours walking about through the beautiful 500 year old city – first major Mughal architecture masterpiece (a mix of Indian, Persian and Islamic influences). It really is special; all crafted in red stone and beautified by green gardens, but it lacks the “human touch” … this city was abandoned some 15 years after build-up, so it seems frozen in time… even untouched. We do manage to get a bit disoriented in the maize like complex, but in the end find our way to the mosque… the only part of the city still in use. The agitation is incredible … so many people come to worship the saint that is buried here … while others seem to be there for the sole purpose of selling stuff to visitors.

The highly trained “selling force” deploys a complex divide and conquer mission that would make corporations blush. It seems there is a very strict way of doing things… each tourist is handled by 1 child with great English skills – app 10 years old, looking all innocent and smart. They start by creating a mutual benefit relationship … they offer guidance in exchange for small things … do you happen to have a coin from your country? or maybe you can give him the entry ticket as he collects that also? … Once contact is established he starts to take out of the pockets some cool bracelet or a nice marble thingy …and there you go … next thing you know you are negotiating frenetically for a souvenir since it’s so nice and you really want something handmade that reminds you of this place, and plus, you will be helping this very cute kid go to school or something… Right??? Wrong!!! You give him the money and 10 seconds later the “godfather” of the operations comes and takes it….Remember the movie Slamdog Millionaire?

So with our baggage full of souvenirs we get in Jaipur late just minutes after the first monsoon of the year. It was a massive downpour and now the streets are filled up with water …sometimes half meter deep.  Wow … if dry India looks bearable, wet India is just indescribable … Luckily … their sewage system is way better than ours …and in a few minutes all the murky water disappears.  One good thing about the rain though is that it makes the air breathable again …

We spent 2 days in Jaipur seeing the classics: the City palace, the observatory, the Wind Palace, the water Palace Jawa Mantar and the beautiful Amber Fort.  But after seeing Taj Mahal they don’t quite make me feel like they deserve a special paragraph here :). Some thing is worth mentioning though: Jaipur is the place where the wild life of India hits the streets; it’s where we see elephants on the road, cobras dancing under the flute’s song and monkeys doing their monkey business …the highlight was seeing a monkey resting peacefully by the pool side in our Golden Tulip hotel…at the 9th floor of the building (!!??)

Our plan to see this wildlife in true form in a tiger reservation does not materialize itself in the end… we are tired after this 5 day / 1000km marathon through India, and end up spending the remaining 2 days back in Delhi for some city life adventure: we visit a mid-class Indian home, we eat spicy pizza and yummy chocolate & sweets and we end up our adventure in true Balkan fashion …at the mall:).

Early next morning we say good bye to India… after a short and exhausting week feeling inspired and energized and delighted… This universe opened itself with the good, the bad, the weird, the exotic, the beautiful, the ugly-beautiful, the special, THE best. You need to be into Baudelaire and the whole “aesthetics of the ugly” to really understand how such a place can touch you indefinitely…and make you want to come back.

Incredible India!

Pictures of India:

India

Souvenirs for sale in Agra

India: Taj Mahal

First view of Taj…

India: Taj mahal

Finally, Taj!

India: photos of Taj Mahal

India

India: visiting Taj Mahal

The Great Gate of Taj.

India: wonderful cakes and sweets

Another kind of Incredible India – wonderful cakes and sweets!

India

You always feel good in a new dress!

India: Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri – the left city

India: Fatehpur Sikri

A place where you can  play hide and seek

India: Fatehpur Mosque

Fatehpur Sikri mosque

India: Jaipur

Jaipur streets after monsoon

India: Amber fort

Amber Fort

India: Amber fort

India

India: Amber fort

Unique ornaments

India: Moguai gardens

Mogul gardens

India

The palace on the water in Jaipur

India: indian cobra

Meeting with a Cobra

India: The observatory

Jaipur obervatory

India: Wind palace

Winds Palace – Jaipur

India: City Palace

City Palace workshop

India: the elefants

India

Rent-a-car India

 

 

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    My name is Cezar (where the nickname "Imperator" comes from) and I have travelled to 105 countries around the world. In this blog, I would like to share with you stories, memories, travel tips & tricks and news to help you plan your journeys !

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