Trip Start May 31, 2008
Trip End Jun 01, 2009

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Flag of India  , Maharashtra,
Thursday, December 11, 2008

We arrived in Aurangabad early in the morning, and we very excited that the hotel we booked was a weary traveler's paradise.  There was an awesome garden restaurant attached which served egg, cereal, and fruit for breakfast.  A welcome change from idly, dosai, and chutney!  We had a well deserved rest day before seeing the gorgeous sites surrounding this quiet town.

Ellora caves is a World Heritage site, and was a "must-see" on my India itinerary.  It definitely did not disappoint.  To see the rock cut Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist caves and temples was awe-inspiring.  The cave temples date back to the 6th century BC.  There are 34 caves in a two km stretch!  It would take a few days minimum just to see all the caves, so our guide just took us to a few highlights.  It was neat to see the similarities between the structures and architecture of the three religions.  The acoustics in the Buddhist caves were spectacularly eerie - our guide chanted a few lines for us and we could hear the whole cave echo. 

The masterpiece at Ellora is the Kailasa Temple dedicated to Shiva.  It's the world's largest monolithic sculpture, and took 7000 laborers and 150 years to build.  We had lots of time to take in the beauty and intricate work, which was nice!  You never know what the pace of some of these day tours are going to be like.

As part of the tour, we also visited Daulatabad fort.  To keep the enemy out, the fort was built with this extensive maze network (with corridors that lead right to a huge drop! yikes!).  We had a torch, and a guy leading the way, which made the climb more fun.  The surrounding views of the country side alone were worth a visit here.

We ended the day with a trip to Bibi-Qa-Maqbara (poor man's Taj as it's affectionately known) at sunset.  We haven't been to the Taj yet, but this version definitely did impress.  We got some great pictures in the clear sky, and people watched.  A lot of young Muslim families came to spend the evening there.

The next day we took the long bus out to the Ajanta caves.  These caves are a World Heritage Site as well, and contain remarkable paintings.  These caves date back to 200 BC!  We spent a relaxing day ambling through the 27 caves and taking pictures with every camera setting.  The caves in themselves weren't as impressive as Ellora, but still gorgeous.  The paintings in the caves depicted Buddha's life, his miracles, and common scenes from the Ajanta period over 2000 years ago.  I really liked the jewelery and ornaments depicted on the women.

We then took a local bus (oh, the joys!) to Jalagon.  It is quite an experience to have everyone on the bus staring at you when you are negotiating your backpack and finding a way to balance on the bumpy ride.  Thankfully we got a seat a couple stops later.  And even better, our hotel in Jalagon was a gem.
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