Day 30, 31, 32, and 33 Side trip to the Taj Mahl

Trip Start Mar 12, 2013
Trip End Jun 02, 2013

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Where I stayed
The Oberoi, Delhi

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Day 30, 31, 32, and 33   Side trip to the Taj Mahl, Agra, India

I am going to attempt to put this side trip all on one segment of the blog.

We began our journey with a wake-up call at 4a and we were soon on the coach by 4:45a to the airport in Cochin.  There were 19 of us taking this side trip to Agra.  Our tour guide, Raj, was with us right from the moment we stepped off the ship until we boarded the ship four days later.

The bus ride to the airport was like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  The bus was zig zagging its way on the nearly empty streets speeding along.  It is a wonder no one was hurt as he had the pedal to the metal.  Good thing it was still dark.  People and dogs were waking up and starting their day.  It seems like the dogs like to bark in the early morning for some reason.  We heard a lot of barking.

The check in process was a snap at this small airport, although it was quite modern.  We had to walk out to the tarmac to board our plane, an airbus, Indigo Airlines.  We were all mostly situated in the front rows, all coach class.  The seating space was designed for children, not adults.  Our knees touched the seat in front of us, so we knew we were in for an interesting three hour flight.

Snacks were served and they were okay.  The flight was fine and we were soon in Delhi, India.

Our coach met us at the airport and we were soon on our way to visit a mausoleum..  First impressions of  Delhi was very modern, lots of greenery, flowers, but still the trash issue.  They do not have bins where trash can be thrown, so people just toss their empty bottles any where.  It is too bad as this is a common problem.

Getting back to Delhi.  It is a very cosmo city, with skyscrapers, but then there would be bungalows with thatched or metal type roofs.  We saw BMW's and then we saw the cycle rick-shaws or tuk-tuks.  There are so many comparisons, everything you can imagine is there.  We drove down Embassy Row where many of the Embassies are located.  We saw the US Embassy. 

One could be looking at a very modern building, but the next instant you would be looking at very poor bungalows, it is so intermixed here.

Our first stop was at Humayun's mausoleum which was the first mausoleum before the Taj.  The gardens were in full bloom.

Our next stop was at the Oberoi Hotel.  We had a fantastic lunch, buffet
style, both Indian and Chinese.  The food was excellent and plentiful
as well as the wine and beer.

After lunch we were on the way at the Qutb Minar which is a prestigious landmark of Delhi.  We took many pictures of this place.  The tower is just intricate in design.  It is made of red sandstone with geometric designs and koranic verses.

We spent the afternoon sightseeing around Delhi and just taking in the sites and sounds.  The vehicles on the narrow roadways are constantly tooting their horns.  It is hearing overload at times.  The streets are so crowded between vehicles, animals and people.  The Indians do not kill any animal.  The cow is sacred to them and they call the cow, Holy Cow.  The cow is used to produce milk for their children, their dung is used to heat the stove for cooking.  When the cow dies, the hides are used along with the bones.  The bones are used for medicinal purposes.

We were exhausted from the early morning start.  After dinner, which was a set dinner including Indian food, we all settled down in our rooms to prepare for the long day that we would have next.

We departed the next morning to Agra.  The drive down was on an excellent, cemented three lane highway.  We saw fields of wheat which was being harvested by hand in the hot sun.  The endurance these people have is incredible.  They would tie up large bundles of wheat and place them on their heads and carry them into a large pile.

We also saw brick making with these little huts with huge chimney stacks drying the bricks.  It was so interesting to see as we drove along.  The roads along the edge of the highway seemed to be all dirt.  There is very little humidity which makes it cooler, or does not seem as hot.

We decided to see the Agra Fort before we would check in at the hotel.  Our ride down from Delhi was about three hours and it was too early to check in.  The area of the fort was quite large and we managed to do the entire walk.  The embellishments on the Red Fort was silver and gold.  It was very impressive.  There were many talks given by our guide, but we were on information over-load and there is little we can remember.  However, we did purchase a book that we will be able to reference.

Onto the ITC Mughal Hotel.  The hotels keep getting better and better.  Our room was again outstanding.  We had a three room suite that included a butler button!  There were flowers everywhere.

I am jumping ahead, but want to mention the butler.  After coming in from a long tour, the bell rang and it was the butler.  I was taking off my shoes, and he quickly ran and got their bedroom slippers and proceeded to put them on me.  Rich decided to do likewise, and again the butler took his shoes and socks off and replaced them with the slippers.  Rich and I just looked at each other.  He was always there to assist.

We had another buffet lunch and it was superior, with Indian, Chinese foods.  There was an incredible amount of food from fresh fruit, salads, cheese, naan, desserts, rice, etc.

We had a little bit of down time before we would see the Taj.  Our room was magnificent.  It was so spacious.  There was a small plate of apples and bottled water.  It was rather a large suite for just one night.

We were soon off to see the Wonder of the World, the Taj Mahl.  This Emperor had three wives, but one wife he had 14 children with.  She died in childbirth with the 14th child.  Because of her death, he built the Taj and she was buried there in a tomb in the center of the Taj Mahl.  One of the Emperor’s sons had him imprisoned as he wanted to gain power.  The son imprisoned him where the Emperor could watch his Taj Mahl being built for his dead wife.

We took our coach as far as we could go, then we all jumped onto electric buses that would take us to the gate of the Taj.  We had to go through security and a pat-down.  Now we were on our way to see the Taj.

As you enter, you go through a huge set of archway doors, then another set is where you see the Taj in all her glory.  There are two pools of water that reflect the image of the Taj.  We walked all around to see the Taj in the different rays of light before sunset.  It was amazing the colors of the marble of the Taj that could be seen.  It sparkled from the jewels that are inset in the Taj. The Taj is huge, one cannot describe how enormous it is.  Hopefully, we have captured this in the pictures.

After we had viewed the Taj, both from the outside and inside, where the Emperor and his wife are buried, we headed back to the hotel for dinner.  It was a very long day.

The next morning we got up before 5a to view the Taj at sunrise which in our opinion is a much better viewing as it is much cooler and less people.  We happened to walk along the reflecting pool when we were approached by a photographer.  He took Rich and I all around getting some beautiful photos of the Taj.  He had us take pictures with branches of the trees for a framing effect.

We then went back for breakfast and some down time, but not long, as we all wanted to go see a special embroidery shop.  As we were leaving breakfast, a waitress came over to ask Rich and I if we would like to take along a muffin and a cup of coffee to-go.  I cannot express the service that we were shown.  Nothing like we have experienced before.  When we had ordered coffee, they would grind the beans for each cup, no carafes here.  Each cup was specially made to order.

The guide asked if we wanted to go and visit Kohinoor Jewelers.  This is a museum of sorts where there are exquisite three dimensional handcrafted embroidery.  You have to see this to appreciate it.  We were allowed to take pictures.  The man who stitched these pieces of art was named Padmashri Shams.  He died in 1999.  It would take him years to finish one project, although he worked on several simultaneously.  This was all in a private room and all the pieces were protected by glass.  We all oohed and aahed over each piece.

Upstairs was the jewelry section where exquisite pieces were made by the owner's family.  Many made purchases of jewelry, but we did not.

The next day we were on our way back to New Delhi and we would stay at the same hotel, the Oberoi Hotel.  We could not believe it, but as we walked out of the restaurant, one of the staff addressed Rich by his name.  We have no idea on how he knew us as we do not sign for anything.

We did visit a local marble factory store where marble had inlaid semi precious stones.  People were buying tables, etc, but again we passed on this.  They also had some beautiful silk saris, but we passed again.

This was a three night overland excursion to see the Taj Mahl and was so worth it.  We flew from Delhi to Mumbai where our ship awaited us.  It was a sad good-bye to our faithful and wonderful tour guide.  Our last night at dinner he brought his wife who is from Germany and their little boy who is 2 years 3 months for dinner.  It was great to meet part of his family.

After arriving back on the ship we headed up to the Observation Lounge and found Karen and Tom.  We all got caught up with life from the last few days.  Karen and Tom would disembark the next day and head over to the Taj Mahl.

Dinner was in Compass Rose and we both had steak!

Until next time...

Pictures will be posted for each day separately. It will take a while as we took about 800 pictutres which we have to sort through and upload.

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