Monday, August 10, 2009

June 7th- "The Real India" -Tour of Taj Mahal and Outside of the Red Fort

June 7th

We wake up early around 5:00am to beat the crowd and try to catch the sunrise at the Taj Mahal. We first bring the mattresses back down to our room, step over the pieces of glass, and get changed quickly. We are walking distance and this is what we see from where we are staying to the Taj Mahal entrance.

Below shows a picture of kids looking for trash to survive. It is extremely sad to see this especially in person.

I also meet two siblings who only have each other and their alcoholic dad. When we were talking to the Auto drivers last night they were telling us these kids story. They showed us the dad and they told us that their mom died and that any money the dad or the boy makes, the dad spends on alcohol. The little boy works with the dad looking for recyclable trash and sometimes begging while the little girl does nothing. Last night Uday and I watched the little boy carry his dad's cart up the stairs to a cement platform were they would all sleep for the night on the side of the road as they do every night.

This is the picture of the little boy and below is his sister. They're real "Slumdogs" without the millions. I give the boy some cookies as this is all I have on me and ask him to share with his sister. I wish I could adopt these kids but I know it is impossible.

With a heavy heart we move on to the short line at the Taj Mahal. There is high security there as they are being more careful of terrorist these days and made us put our camera charging wire in a locker in order to enter. We decided to pick this day to see the Taj Mahal on this trip because last night was the full moon and we wanted go on the Full Moon Tour at night of the Taj Mahal, but after rushing to find the ticket selling place on our way from Jaipur, and purchasing the tickets (that are more expensive for me than Uday as he is an Indian Citizen), we later were told that the tour was not worth it anymore and we get a refund. The reason the night tour is no longer as good is because of the recent terrorist attacks. Before the terrorist attacks they used to light up the Taj Mahal at night and allow tours up close, but now it is not lit and the tour has to stay far back from the Taj Mahal. So instead we chose to make the most of it last night from our roof top view.

It is amazing to see the Taj Mahal in person and we cannot take enough pictures. I feel satisfied that we are seeing the Taj on our trip to India. Who goes to India and does not see the Taj Mahal? We almost did! But with my persuation, Uday gave in... and here we are... yet another check off the old "bucket list"!

I get Uday to do what he said he would never do in India because of the conservative culture and that is to show public display of affection.

We hire a tour guide for cheap and he shows us some of the best places to take pictures of ourselves and the Taj Mahal.

He even tips some security people a few rupees to allow us to take pictures inside.

I never knew the story of the Taj Mahal until I went to India and it reminds me of a tragic love story like Romeo and Julliet except this is a true story. The short version of the story goes something like this. The Mughal (Muslim) King Shah Jahan, built the Taj Mahal in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal who died during childbirth. They had 9 children together and she died while giving birth to their 10th child. The King loved his wife very much and had the Taj Mahal (literally transaltes to "Crown Palace") built as a representation of his everlasting love for her. I learned that the workers hands were cut off by the King in order to be assured that they could not replicate this monument ever again. It took 20 years for the Taj to be built. While it was being built, one of the King's son's took over his throne by force and imprisoned him allowing him to watch it being built while he was in prison across the way, and when the King died he was placed to rest beside his wife... and to think, of all places Uday initially did not want to kiss here at one of the most romantic monuments in the world! It's a good thing he has me around to change his mind :)

Below is the picture of the King and Queens' tomb inside the Taj Mahal.

Here is a picture of Uday outside of the Taj Mahal looking at the detail and I like how the design compliments his shirt.

Our tour guide is an interesting fellow and here is a few seconds clip of him telling us about a movie that was filmed here. I find it really funny!

At the end our tour, our guide brings us to shops where he makes commission if we buy anything. They do sell some beautiful inlayed designs that are like the ones at the Taj Mahal itself but I resist the temptation to buy.

Now we head back to our motel to get our luggage and see a few more sites before taking the bus back to Delhi. This is just some of what we see on our way back to Saniya Palace (our motel that is not a palace).

We go back to our motel and get our luggage and when we check out the manager confronts us about the broken glass. Uday and the manager have words as he is trying to get Uday to pay for breaking the window. Uday tells him that he is not paying and I help explain what happened. The manager tells us that anywhere else would force us to pay for it but we stand our ground and quickly get out of there.

We decide to take an Auto for part of the day to see more sights in Agra and hire the Auto driver we were talking to the night before. He takes us to a sweet shop and almost talks Uday into buying something as he makes commission but I talk Uday out of it since we are trying to be thrifty and there is still a lot that I want to buy when we get to Hyderabad (where Uday is from). We move on with our tour and go to the nearest tourist attraction after the Taj Mahal and this is the Red Fort. It is getting hotter by the minute and we decide not to take the tour inside but to just take pictures of the outside.

Below are workers on the lawn in front of the Red Fort. I love this picture because this is my second time seeing this in India... people actually cut the grass by hand. Now for those of you who take care of your own lawn don't you appreciate your lawn mower more... and your current job!

This lady uses something called a "sickle" which is a tool in her hand to cut grass.

The Red Fort is a pretty structure but I was too hot to get the history of it so I took a few pictures of it from the outside.

Although the Red Fort is an interesting building to look at, Uday and I are surrounded by people harassing us to buy things from them. The temperature outside is rising, the Indian food that I have been eating is finally beginning to cause me stomach problems, and these people are more aggressive than anywhere we have been so far to get us to buy something. I am feeling myself get even more hot with frustration and I finally turn the tables and start taking pictures of them and putting my camera in front of their face instead of having them constantly put their items in front of mine. Once I start taking pictures of them close up they do not like it too much and one guy even covers his face with his handkerchief and keeps turning around so it was difficult, but I still get it from a distance.

I know this might sound weird but I did talk Uday into buying this long black whip for my Mom since she likes Renaissance things and I haven't got anything for her yet. After negotiating Uday finally buys it and tells me that he still got it for more than it is worth since they saw him with me. The Auto driver agrees that he could have bought it cheaper, but in American dollars it cost only $3.00, where as it would have been at least $25.00 to $50.00 in America. As we were leaving I felt bad for this boy who was also following us around the whole time saying, "please, please" as he tried to beg us to buy something from him. This is sad too but we are running out of cash so we can't even buy something out of pity. Here is a picture of this boy who was begging us to buy.

I cannot take the heat any longer and everything else we can see is a good distance away, so we decide it was a good time to go to the bus stop so we can get to Delhi early enough to get a motel and some sleep before taking our early morning flight to Hyderabad. We take the Auto to the bus station, get our bags out, pay the driver, and walk to get the tickets. We learn that the next bus is on its way but there is no air-conditioning or air-cooler once again. After some time I realize that the whip we bought for my mom fell on the Auto floor and I forgot to get it. I run back to get it but the Auto and our driver has already left. I feel very sad that it was the only gift that I had for my Mom so far and it was gone, and also
that Uday made me feel bad that we did not get a good deal on it in the first place!!

I go back to the bus station and as soon as I get back I hear screaches of dogs in the back. I run through the bus station and see a few guys who work there and one of them with a medium length thin metal pole in his hand as two puppy dogs run out. I notice that their ribs are sticking out a lot and one has a big cut on it's ribs. I scream at these guys who work there and the whole bus station watches me as I give them the finger and say, "F**K you, you F**k'n Assholes" and tears run down my face. Then I run to the dog and try to give it my water but it is too afraid and runs away. I have all I can do to stop myself from hitting these guys as I know that being arrested here would feel like being a prisoner of War.

I have had it!! Over heated, stomach problems, filth, people ridden with poverty, innocent animals treated like sh*t, kids left to fend for themselves in the garbage... I think to myself, "Get me out of this hell hole!" I hate Agra, this place is literally a living hell!

And with that thought we are on another long hot bus ride to Delhi. This time I do not feel like taking pictures. It is more crowded and hot than any of the busses we have taken so far. Uday talks with one guy and his friends and the guy next to him recommends a nice hotel for us after listening to our experiences.

When we finally reach Delhi we see the rooms at this luxury hotel and I cannot believe how beautiful it is with it's granite countertops and upgraded shower etc. for a decent price, but not cheap. I sit in the waiting room for Uday to decide and ask if they have any cold water I can buy. After waiting about 5 minutes, and confused on why I cannot just go to the vending machine and get it myself, a waiter comes to me with a warm bottle of water on a tray and a bill for 50 rupees compared to 10 rupees. I would have paid for it although it is over priced if it was cold, but it was warm and I refuse to pay. They get mad and tell me that I have to pay because I am also paying for the service. I did not want the service and refuse and take the luggage and leave, as Uday is about to give in and pay and I do not let him. As I run down the road with the luggage I am afraid they are going to follow me, yet I have had such a bad stressful day I am ready for the fight! Yet I am just trying to get to a hotel that has cold water, that is clean with air-conditioning, and where I am treated with respect. The third hotel we look at is good. It is still inexpensive and has ice-cold bottled water, is clean, has an air-conditioned room, and they even change the sheet in front of me. Finally some peace from this stressful day. I take a shower and we have dinner in a nice restaurant and go back to the room and relax.

Click on the picture below to see all of our pictures of our day touring the Taj Mahal and Red Fort:


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