Location, Location, Location
Agra Travel Blog› entry 11 of 13 › view all entries
I seem to have been on the menu of every mosquito, fly, flea, and bedbug in India. The bedbugs are particularly insidious; you can’t see them or feel them as they feast on you while you sleep. I’ve got at least 30 dime-sized, bright pink bites on each calf as well as several dozen others around my body. My right elbow alone seems to have been a really tasty meal with 12 bites. I look like I was attacked by a mob of girl scouts shooting pink paint balls. And itch? oh my god do these things itch. There’s no choice but to furiously scratch them like a dog with a tick. If nothing else though they've been a good conversation starter. It usually begins something like, Um....do you have leprosy? I’m pretty sure I got them from the blanket at the guest house in Varanasi.
One thing I must say though about staying in low priced--like $5 to $10 per night--places like this is the camaraderie amongst the guests. Every night people gather on the rooftop area and drink beer while discussing their day, travels, books, life back home, differences between cultures, or wherever may come up. On the other side of the spectrum Christine and I spent the last afternoon in Agra at a local 4 star hotel pool. It cost us 200 rupees ($4) each but it was well worth it since it was in the 90’s that day.
We suffered through a long, cramped, mosquito-filled, 8 hour train ride from Varanasi up to Agra, which stopped just outside the town for 2 hours for some unknown reason, then crawled up to the train station. Agra is definitely a one trick pony kind of place. By the same token, after the Taj Mahal, where else do you go but down? And there’s no doubt that it clearly lives up to the hype. This is the most amazingly beautiful structure I’ve ever seen.
Arguably the world's most famous building, the Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631. (I can only imagine how jealous the other wives were). This garden tomb, an image of the Islamic 'garden of paradise' cost almost 41 million rupees, or roughly $5,000,000, if my conversion math is correct. About 20,000 workers labored for 12 years to complete it in 1643. There are dozens of rumors and stories of what happened to the workers on the Taj Mahal, for example, that all of them had their thumbs and fiingers cut off so that they could never work on another structure like it again. It's my understanding though that most of the rumors are false. The same stories seem to have been told about the Great Wall of China and the Terracota Army.
Despite the long train ride up to Agra from Varanasi, for basically one reason: the Taj Mahal, with another long train ride back down to Allahabad the next day, it was without a doubt worth every minute. The Taj Mahal is a breathtakingly beautiful tribute to one person's love for another and I'm grateful to have experienced it. There's a rumor going around that it will soon be closed to the public because of wear and tear from tourists and pollution. I hope this too is only a rumor.