Back Up North (part one)
Chapter three: Back Up North We had one week left in India together. We flew from Chennai to New Delhi. There, we met Tasha and we became three. Vidya had found a travel agent, Sunil who took care of certain details for us to make the most of the "Golden Triangle: from New Delhi to Agra then Jaipur. Our driver was arranged and Manoj (whom we affectionately called Manu) picked us up at airport and the last leg began...with traffic and more traffic. Manu was not patient with this part of his job and Tasha was tired and a bit jet lagged; me and Vidya had sort of already figured out that time was warped and functioned in a different way in India.
We stopped at a truck stop for chai (all stops being throw backs for Sunil or Manu) and we obliged...the chai was divine. We arrived late in the evening, maybe 8pm at the fancy ITC Agra hotel. It was faaannnncccyyy. Huge chandeliers and fresh flowers everywhere. We checked in and ate a delicious meal. Time for bed. Why I didn't sleep? I don't know. Maybe the excitement of seeing the Taj Mahal the next day or my correspondence with an inspiring poet in New York.
We had been talked out of the sunrise hour for our Taj Mahal arrival because it would be foggy and when we woke up to a clear sky, Vidya and I grumbled. It was beautiful. Impressive. Not over crowded. Our hired guide was great. Just enough information and personality to keep us interested but not overwhelming or pretentious. He kept taking pictures of us in the perfect place, with the perfect frame or detail. And then there were the other tourists who wanted pictures with us because we wearing traditional Indian clothes. We walked around the grounds. I was super impressed with the mosque. Oh and of course the story of why Emperor Shah Jahan (Mughal) built the Taj in the first place: love (in memory of his third wife who also had 14 children before she passed at 34...wow) Wikipedia says: The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage".
Before our next stop, (like all the guide books tells us) the guide took us to a venue to see how the marble is carved and crafted, ie a big sales pitch. We bought it. Well... We each bought a marble table, that is. Mine was $560 including shipping and I shook my head in amazement how they had gotten us all to purchase these beautiful, yet expensive side tables. None of us regret this purchase.
Then we had to check out and make our way to The Red Fort in Agra. Another huge, stunning fort, offering great pictures, fascinating history and more tourists clicking our pictures. We were all photoed out. It was time to hit the road again. It would be another 5+ hours drive to Jaipur, including a roadside a throw back, lunch break. All the sunsets made us wake up, grab our cameras and oooh and ahhh at the big red orbit setting in the sky, creating a horizon of mystical light. Next stop: Jaipur.