The Taj Mahal. Me and my Wife.
Whoa! New Delhi and India are an experience. After some in our group chose to immunize themselves from some possible bugs, we found ourselves standing in line at Customs and Immigrations surrounded by mosquitos. I did not get immunized, I couldn't donate blood for a year after our return. We were swatting mosquitoes left and right. Once we made it through we again found ourselves in a predicament. We may have been the cause though; we went to two different taxicab desks and asked for rates to the hotel. Then we had 'runners' from our group go back and forth to make sure we were getting the best deal. Before long we had created a little micro-economic bubble of capitalism. They began yelling at each other about who would have our business and who would give the best deal.
The man that closed the lounge on the floor I was staying at.
We stayed at the [hotel] and we called it the compound. There was a clear distinction of where there was money and not. The hotel had the greenest and most perfectly groomed lawns. From the rooms on the higher floors we could see the edge of the property and where the grass ended. There were some high walls around the hotel property that led to us calling it the compound.
After checking in we had some letters in the rooms apologizing for the lack of access to the floor lounge. Apparently it had been closed and would remain closed for the visit of the former U.S. president Clinton. Yup he was there. We actually got a chance to meet with him. One of our travel buddies there was among the crowd of Indians and as he slowly made his way from one end of the crowd to the other shaking hands. Liz's hand shot out and she declared, "Voted for you in Minnesota, Sir!" He reacted quite appropriately. To have a crowd of relatively typical locals, dark skinned and shorter in stature and suddenly have a tall blonde shoot her hand out he stopped and chatted for a moment. It was very cool.
Well we had decided to take a trip into town, we had the concierge arrange for a taxi to take us into town for a little shopping. We found a nice market place and got some trinkets and what-not. The taxicab drivers were nice enough to take us around town and show us some of the major sights. We saw the municipal buildings, the city arch. It rained while we were at the arch. Eventually we realized that if they were nice enough to give us a tour we might be able to arrange for our trip to Agra. We went to their offices and asked for a single vehicle. That was a problem as everywhere we went we needed two taxis. The max they could carry was 5 and that included the driver. There were 8 of us. So in the arrangements we hashed out the plans. They did arrange for a small van that could carry us there.
The trip to Agra included a rest stop at a market that sold more of the local wares. We stretched our legs and continued. We arrived at Agra and the Taj Mahal at about noon. There was a large crowd there. We paid for our entry to the site and were surprised to find an airport metal detector at the entrance. The day that we went shopping my wife bought a nice saree-style ensemble. She wore it that day, boy did we benefit from that. At the checkpoint we, the ones that looked like tourists were checked. My wife did a better job of blending in. She was waived thru. Inside there were men taking picture of the groups, developing the pictures and later selling them to us. We bought the ones we liked and they gave us the rest. They were so nice. I would recommend if you can blend in and you get better treatment.
The Taj Mahal was wonderful, such a beautiful set of buildings. It still bothers me that it is just a huge mausoleum. If course I learned that there were more buildings, the mosque, the residence, all amazing. The reflecting pools were dry I guess they were being cleaned and maintained.
We left from the Taj and headed back to New Delhi. We stopped at McDonalds for a meal and back to the hotel to check out and go to the airport.