A twist of karma...

Trip Start Dec 14, 2004
Trip End May 25, 2005

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Flag of India  ,
Saturday, April 30, 2005

Our alarm woke us up at 5:45 yesterday morning. By 7:15 we were sitting on a crowded train on our way to Agra, mainly for the purpose of seeing the Taj Mahal. (This country just likes to take everything to the extreme-- an overcrowded train is an easy understatement... an example is that the seats are simple bench seats, with room for what we think would comfortably fit two, but there are really three seats. the family of 5 across from us only purchased one seat for all five of them... they overcrowded onto us, and into the aisles with the other families of 5 who appeared to have done the same thing.) No matter what, we were very tired and had no place to rest our heads, we were just hoping that our day trip to Agra would be worthwhile.

Arriving at the station in Agra around 10:30, we made our way to the prepaid autorickshaw booth to get a ride to the Taj Ganj area with no hassles. (Taj Ganj is the immediate neighborhood surrounding the Taj Mahal... we had to have some breakfast.)

"Hi, we'd like to go to Taj Ganj."

"Okay, madames, but why? The Taj Mahal is closed today. Why would you go to that area and not somewhere else, like Agra Fort?"

"Yeah yeah yeah- everything is always "closed" in India" (We've learned a few lessons from our Lonely Planet- namely that people in India will tell you anything that you want is closed so that you'll be forced to use their services instead.)

"No, really Madames. The Taj Mahal is closed"

Now we worry.

"Um, wait, what? The Taj Mahal is CLOSED? What do you mean?"

"Closed! Closed on Fridays! Used to be closed on mondays, but now it's closed on Fridays because it is a religious day. Nobody told you before you came?"

Obviously not.

Despite the fact that there were many people telling us the same thing, we have learned not to fully trust some of the people in this country... we wouldn't believe it until we saw for ourselves. We had a bit of added reassurance when we ran into a couple of other travelers whom we'd seen at the train station, buying the same tickets as us, the previous day. They were convinced the Taj was open... and we proceeded toward the monument of love.

Our rickshaw driver, KK, started talking to us in the most sincere of ways. He was telling us that he'd done some traveling himself and he completely understands that people in his country can be too pushy and automatically think that Western people who come to India have a lot of money. He said he understood that we also have to work to earn a living, and he doesn't like to hassle people, he just likes to be honest with them.

With our options severely limited (our train back to Delhi was still 8 hours away), we decided to make the most of our time in Agra, and hired KK to be our guide. He promised an informative and diverse tour of the city- some fantastic views of the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, and besides-- what else were we going to do?

The long and short of it is, we spent our day in Agra- and we saw the Taj Mahal. We saw it from a variety of angles, and now can go home saying we've 'seen' it. KK took us to a factory where they do some gorgeous work with various semi-precious stones and marble. The man who worked at the factory was showing us that the designs they were making were the same as what we had seen at the Taj Mahal. When we told him we actually hadn't seen it up close, he would show us something else and say something like, "this is also like the Taj Mahal... but you didn't see it. This is also what you can see at the Taj, but you won't see it." Geez. Just when we had accepted the fact that we weren't going to see it up close, this man had to put a bit of salt into the wound. (Seriously, it's like taking a day trip to Orlando just to get there and find out that Disney World is closed.)

Lessons learned: never assume that something will be open... always ask. We wonder why nobody at the train station mentioned anything, why nobody at our hotel mentioned anything... alas, we must move on. We saw the gorgeous marble monument that was built as a dedication to love, but the details will remain a mystery to us.

Some twist of karma, huh?

happy saturday,
rachel, jodie and allison
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