Wednesday, August 5, 2009

June 6th "The Real India" - City of Agra and Taj Mahal

June 6th, 2009

We are leaving Jaipur and even though I wished to see more, I felt satisfied that I got to see everything I was interested in and was looking forward to our next adventure in Agra to see the Taj Mahal. We took the Auto to the bus station in Jaipur. Here is me in the Auto with the driver.

It is another hot day and I am thankful that we will be taking an air-conditioned bus to Agra. We get to the bus station and realize that there is no air-conditioned bus going to Agra today. It is hard to believe that we are in India in the summer taking a 5 hour bus ride. We get on the bus and I am thankful that it is not crowded. The bus takes a few more random stops, which one would never know was a bus stop, and before I know it we are smushed in the back of this crowded bus and we realize that our fans that blow the warm air around are not working and no windows open on this bus. I realize that this is going to be a long ride. Now I am beginning to understand why the bus we took from Delhi to Jaipur was considered a comfortable luxury bus.

It continues to be interesting looking out the window of the bus watching the cows get cooled off...

and looking at more villages and their people. I find the houses that look similar to Pueblo's very interesting, and Uday tells me that they are made of Cow Dung (poopie) and grass roofs. How different and interesting. I think about how fortunate we are to be Americans and how the average poor person in America have more luxury than any poor person in India and many middle class.

The bus feels like it is getting hotter and hotter and I am so uncomfortable I wonder if it is going to end. Uday keeps telling me to drink to stay hydrated but I am afraid to drink too much because I don't know when will be my next chance to go to the bathroom. As much as I like to travel and experience new cultures I begin to think crazy. Maybe the heat has got to me because I think to myself, "I guess going to work is not that bad after all... I live in an air-conditioned house and drive in an air-conditioned car and work in an air-conditioned building". I begin to picture the comforts of home and actually feel a little homesick.

The bus finally makes a stop without notice and we are able to get more drink and some food if we would like and go to the bathroom. Many of the bathrooms are "Indian" or Eastern style such as the picture below. I hate to sound like a princess and act like one at times, especially if I am bragging about experiencing the culture, but I refuse to go to the bathroom in this way because I am lacking skill. I am afraid that I will have to take off my pants and still hope that it does not drip down my leg and I feel dirty enough. I do not want to take that chance as much as I can help it. Luckily, I find the Westernized toilets here and there and use those. I am also fortunate enough that as much as I drink, I did not have to go to the bathroom much since I am dehydrated most of the time because of the heat. I also carry around my own toilet paper and wet wipes where ever I use the bathroom. At this bus stop I notice the ladies looking at my wet wipes and I try to tell them how great they are but they act like they don't understand me and I realize that they most probably don't speak English.

The bus drives on and the closer we get to Agra the more trash I notice. I have seen a lot of trash in India but it somehow appears worse in Agra. It looks to me (and Uday agrees) that it is "decorated with trash".

This cow on the street greets us as we enter the entrance to our motel. So many people and animals seem to be surviving rather than living. I admire their resiliency but continue to feel bad for them.

Another thing I have noticed about India is that there are hardly any mosquitoes where ever we have gone (because of the summer heat), but there are Flys, Flys, Flys and more Flys and the outside of the cheap motel Uday takes me to is no exception. The motel is beside the drainage (sewer) and smells that way. On the way in we also have to be careful not to step in cow dung or dog poopie. Below is the picture of the outside of our motel. The motel was called "Sanya Palace" but it is not even close to being a "Palace".

Below are pictures of the inside of our motel room and the manager says this is one of the better rooms.

Uday has been very thrifty this trip since he was just wanting to see his family and I was the one who wanted to also do tourism, and he is proud of getting this room since it only cost $12 American money. This motel is made for him and literally has his name on it. Check out the name below on the sink in the room!

I am not happy to say the least about this motel, but I am dripping with sweat and very ready to take a shower. It is a little cooler in the room but it is not air-conditioned, it is called an air-cooled room. I am disappointed that we are staying in such a cheap motel here since this was the only place I had told Uday that I wanted to stay in a nicer more romantic motel, but I suck it up, especially since overall I know this trip is still costly. We both take a shower and change and decide to check out the view from the rooftop since this is the only perk of this motel. The motel also had a roof-top restaurant and I think the sign is very telling of how good it might be.

It is interesting to see monkey's on people's rooftops and kids and grown-ups flying kites. Many kids even stand on the edge of the rooftops like it is no big deal.

And finally the view we have been waiting for... The one and only Taj Mahal!

We take nice pictures of each other...

and silly pictures...

and we have someone take a picture of the two of us together!

Uday tells me that it is some religious ritual to fly the kites at sunset and once a year they have a kite flying contest and let the kites go and they believe their sins go with it. It is relaxing and peaceful to watch the kites and the back drop of the Taj as the sun is setting. I also notice many family's hanging out on their rooftops and Uday says many sleep on their rooftops to stay cool especially in the summer. Uday says that is what he and his family did when he was growing up.

After watching the view I decide to call my mom to tell her we are alright and Uday wants to confirm with his family that we will see them tomorrow. I look outside the window and take pictures while he is on the phone.

Even though I do not have much of an appetite because of the heat and the atmosphere, Uday is hungry and we decide to find something to eat, but since I am afraid to eat at our motel we look for a better restaurant. After walking about one block where there seems to be some places to eat the power goes out and it is pitch black outside and slowly we see candles lit in the restaurants. Uday tells me this is common here in India during the summer and this has already hapenned a few times when we were in our motel room getting ready but just briefly. I am afraid to eat at a place with no power but it does not seem to stop these restaurants from serving.

We finally find a place to eat that is actually part of someone's home like a few other restaurants we went into and I must say that the food is excellent to my surprise. I have energy and we have time to check out the night-life, if there is any. We ask a few people and it turns out that for the most part there is only one place in Agra to go and it is quite far and there is no dancing there. Uday explained to me that it is a very conservative city and mostly poor people live there just trying to make a living. We walk back to the motel after talking to some Auto drivers and people watching, and by this time I realize that I am more tired than I thought I was and am looking forward to getting a goodnight sleep.

We get to bed and after about 20 or 30 minutes I can't take it anymore with the smell of sewer and cigarettes that is creeping into our room in addition to the warm stale air in the room. I wake Uday up and he is grouchy and he tells me he does not smell anything. He looks around the room and decides in order to solve the problem he will close the window above the door but it is stuck. He pushes a little harder and the window breaks, glass falls on him and the floor and cuts his cheek. He's yelling at me about being picky and I am yelling at him about being cheap. I leave and go up to the rooftop to get some fresh air and I decide I just won't sleep tonight. Uday comes up and we both apologize to each other and before I know it Uday is bringing the mattresses up to the rooftop and we end up sleeping on the roof under the stars overlooking the full moon and the Taj Mahal. I look around and see most of the neighbors doing the same thing.

I decide that "All's well that ends well" (William Shakespeare) and wish that we decided to sleep on the roof to begin with even though doing such a thing is unheard of at a motel in America. The weather was perfect and it made for a good sleep for the short amount of time we have left as we will be getting up early to go on the tour to the Taj Mahal tomorrow.

Click on the picture below to see all of our pictures of our first day in Agra:

No comments: