The Taj!!!

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of India  ,
Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Kristen Said:
So our trip to Agra from Jaipur was relatively uneventful, minus the rocky beginning...needless to say, when you have to get up at 5 a.m. (and anyone who knows me knows that in ITSELF is a feat) to catch a train and do so only to discover your room doesn't have water running (not just no hot cold water period even dripping out!) it can start your day off on a slightly wrong foot.  Poor Todd...he had to deal with both a cranky KT and a cranky KJ for the first part of his day!
Arriving in Agra, I must say that I was really surprised at how relatively clean and nice the city was.  From what I had heard and from what Todd had experienced, I was expecting a lot worse.  Our stay at the Sheraton (SUCH a nice little luxury!) was great - KT and I "treated" (since the total cost was under $100 for the both of us) ourselves to a couple of spa treatments that were, let's say, interesting.  We had pedicures, did hair threading for the first time and a traditional Indian Ayurvedic message...I know KT will tell a much better story about our adventures in that spa so I will leave to her to talk about.
Thinking we would avoid all the tourist groups (wrong) we headed out to the Taj around 4pm.  Even with all of the tourists roaming around and messing up what was supposed to be a clean photo shoot of just US and the TAJ, it was easy to feel just overwhelmed at the immensity and beauty of the Taj Mahal.  With all of the white marble and amazingly crafted inlaid stonework (the intricate designs on the Taj are not, in fact, painted on - it is all inlaid different colored precious stones) it was really something to marvel at.  I'm really glad that we were there at that time of day because the lighting was just perfect and Todd got some amazing photos.
Tomorrow we are off to Delhi - again, I'm a little apprehensive as I have heard that Delhi is REALLY the tough city to get through and is the real eye-opening Indian experience - we had our first taste of it when we came from the airport and got dropped off in front of the train station in the middle of a stinky, cow-crowded, merchant clambering, chaos market.  At least there will be good shopping...  
Top Ten Things I Have Experienced, Part IV:
10. The Taj Mahal...amazing
9. Todd can talk for almost 5 hours straight about travel and life experiences with perfect strangers in a confined train car
8. Room service in a nice nice!!
7. So hair threading actually really hurts and I am so never letting Katie talk me into anything ever again!
6. Who knew it could be SO incredibly hard to not burst out laughing in the middle of what was supposed to be a relaxing massage?!?!  (see KT's note for more explanation)
5. I want an entire palace-like place built for my tomb, how does one get that??
4. Clearly, blonds have more fun as evidenced by the fact that a pack of teenage Indian boys asked KT for photos with them at the Taj...Todd says it's because she's cuter (I'm going with the fact that he HAD to say that!) and KT says it's because of her "naturally" yellow hair...I'm trying not to be jealous
3. Packs of people from tour groups, who are oblivious to those around them and ignorant to anything but themselves, in ANY country, are ANNOYING people
2. Who knew a toy (i.e. Todd's Harry the Highlander - if you don't know what I mean, go to the link on under the GLHS section to find out) could even possibly be a bomb but not a camera in a big camera bag - that, by the way,  the guards didn't even check to see whether it worked or not (this is what we experienced getting onto the Taj Mahal grounds)
1. The Taj Mahal...amazing
Todd Said:
Pretty much the only reason people come to Agra is to see the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal. Anyone who has visited will tell you that for the most part the city is a tourist-trap with very little to else to offer. However we didn't have to deal with too much hassle since we were only there for one day, and we redeemed a few frequent guest points to stay at the deluxe Mugal Sheraton!
The Taj Mahal is such an amazing place. It is really difficult to describe its splendor, especially when contrasted against the trash-strewn mess of a city that surrounds its lush ground and absolutely ethereal beauty. Despite the fact that I had been here before a few years ago, it still was still spine tingling to walk through the outer gateway and see it floating in the distance. From a distance it doesn't even seem real! Nothing I have ever seen can compare...I'll leave it at that rather than going on with endless superlatives.
We are going to be coming thru Agra again in about a week to break up a long train journey and to see the Agra Fort and a few more of the sights that are a bit out of town.  
Katie Said:
Ditto all the amazing stuff said above about the Taj Mahal and the surrounding tourist-trap.  You should all add Agra to the list of top ten places to see in your won't disappoint! 
But I must say that the little piece of heaven at the Sheraton was almost as amazing.  As was the cheeseburger we ordered from room service (not a lot of red meat here in this predominately Hindu culture).  And the massage that we had was certainly unique... and a bit shocking.  Ayurvedic massage is a uniquely Indian experience... it is the ancient science of herbal medicine and holistic healing.  Although I have had many massages before, I wasn't sure what to expect.  It started with the customary disrobing, but with a strict command to remove all my clothes, including underwear. I am a bit modest, so this made me slightly uncomfortable. Then two women came in, took the towel off that I had wrapped up in and both started SIMULTANEOUSLY and VIGOROUSLY rubbing hot oil over the entire backside of my body.  At this point, I was thinking that it was no big deal, as I was lying on my stomach.  Then they told me to flip over and lay on my back, and they proceed to do the same thing to my front.  It was like getting a breast exam and massage at the same time.  The whole time, the two women were having a very animated conversation in Hindi over my head.  I kept biting the insides of my cheeks so that I wouldn't crack up or start smiling, as I was so surprised by the whole experience, and thinking of Kristen going through the same thing.... So much for modesty!  And then they made me walk naked to the shower where they rubbed a mud mask all over my body... any relaxation was completely cancelled out by the whole stress of public nakedness!  And I didn't even say anything to the masseuses about being uncomfortable... kind of like that dumb thing I do when I get a bad haircut and then go overboard telling the stylist what a great job they did with the cut!
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