Delhi. Agra. Jaipur, Rajastan
12.07.2007 - 12.14.2007 59 °F
Welp, we made it to India. Fortunately, we were greeted by a college friend of mine, Sachin, and after we were dropped off at our really really ghetto hotel (seriously, this is probably the worst one yet. We are in the TOTAL slums of Delhi) we were whisked to the Royal Taj Palace, a 7-star hotel. Niiiice. We quickly forgot about our scummy accodations and got comfortable eating bon bons (seriously, they had some) and getting dressed in Sachin's mom's sari's (to kinda fit in?). We were told that the wedding was going to take place in a farm. What the? A farm? I almost died. Here we go again freezing our butts off! I was seriously expecting to be around cows and a farmhouse with hay, but I guess in India a farm really means a nice, open backyard. It was actually really beautiful with torches, nice seating, and a grand buffet table. The food was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo delicious and we totally pigged out.
It was Sachin's dad's best friends son that was getting married and they were all super nice and welcoming (even though Char and I invited ourselves there. But I guess in India most weddings have 500+ people and its really open, so a few extra faces doesn't matter). Nonetheless, it was all really really beautiful.
The next day Sachin, Char and I had a late start but did some sightseeing. We saw Humayun's tomb, which was built in the mid-16th century and is a great example of the famous Mughal architecture with high arches, beautiful gardens, and of course, the tomb of the wife of the emperor is red and white sandstone and black and yellow marble.
The cool thing about India, which I'm figuring out, is that although it can be dirty, polluted and crap everywhere, the sites are grandiose and pretty well-maintained (thanks to the expensive "foreign prices"). Most of the sites we've seen are pretty quiet and beautiful. Then you step outside and are greeted by cows and goats, horns honking and almost getting run over by a cycle rickshaw. Thats the way it is here!
The next day, lets here the music, ahhhhh, we hired a personal driver (they do that a lot here although I know it sounds super snotty) to take us to Agra where the Taj Mahal is, and Jaipur, in the Rajastan region. After 4 hours in the car, we arrived at the Taj, and ..... there it was! One of the most amazing and extravagant monuments in the world. What I think makes it more amazing then the aesthetic appeal is the story behind it.... Emperor Shah Jahan built it for his 2nd wife, Mumtaz Majal, who died giving birth to their 14th child (daaaaaaamn!) in 1631. He was sooo heartbroken then their is rumor that his hair turned gray overnight and that he sought to built this magnificant memorial for her. 50 years later and 20,000 workers this great monument was done. It was all HAND BUILT, they didn't even have wheelbarrels! People had to carry all this heavy marbel and handcraft the intricate detailed designs with semiprecious stones from all over Asia. Its really amazing and once again, I got goose bumps when I first saw it... and then again when last saw it...
It was soo amazing and once again, I have to think how lucky I am that in one single week I got to see the Himalayas in Nepal AND the famous Taj Mahal!!!!
Next, we saw the Agra fort, which is more like a palace:
After the fort and the Taj we slept in Fatehpur Siri where we saw the Jama Masjid, or the Dargah mosque which was built in the 15th century and is cool because it is a combination of a Hindi and PErsian design and has this 54m high Victory Gate, supposedly the tallest in Asia. Then we drove to Jaipur, what used to be the capital of Rajastan. Its also known as the pink city, not to be confused with Jodhpur, the blue city. And then there is Jaisalmer, in the desert where there are these fun camel treks that we really wanted to do, but don't have time for. Next time. BUT, close enough is that we got to see camels trek along the rodes, along with elephants and pigs and cows, stray dogs, and I don't even know what else. But camels, they are soooo cute! They always look like they are smiling
Anyway, Jaipur really is pink! They painted the city pink in 1876 to greet the Prince of Wales ... and really hasn't been touched since (so yes, a lot of things look a little rustic). Raj (means 'king') and Stan (means 'palace') sooo.... guess what? We see a lot of palaces, and forts here. We started with Amber Fort, which is of Rajput design,
moved on to the City Palace, a beautiful maze of buildings where one can see how the maharjas lived,
then hit the Jantar Mantar, this outsized, crazy looking astronomical instrument place, and finally finished at Hawa Mahal, this beautiful Palace of the Winds, that is pink (go figure) and built for women of the court.
Best of all though... we saw a Bollywood movie! It was soooooooooooooooooooo funny!!! Its called Aaja Nachle. I can't believe how cheesy and dramatic it is, BUT it is kinda cute at the same time. VERY energetic and fun and entertaining. And of course seeing a movie in India is a little different than at home. There is assigned seating, and since the Bollywood movies are so long, there is a 15 minute intermission. Ha! It was really fun and this theatre in Jaipur that we went, the Raj Mandir Cinema, is supposed to be famous because it really looks something like a temple, a meringue and a nightclub, all in one.
Thats Rajastan for ya!! Its a short, but sweet trip!!
We are back in Delhi andid a pow-wow sightseeing of the Red Fort, which was built by the same emperor Shah Jahan that had the Taj built. Its huge and pretty, but honestly, I think I'm a little forted out! We quickly made it to India's biggest mosque, the Jama Masjid which took 14 years to build and is definitely impressive. Its said to be Shah Jahan's final architectural extravaganza. Here is a pict of the madness at the entrance and of the mosque itself:
BUT, what I am most impressed about is the CLEAN (there are a few things I can say that about India) subway system!!! Its super efficient, easy to get around, and an easy ride! We took it and thought that it definitely topped Chicago's "L". Seriously, if India can do it, anyone can. Once again, I just have to mention that although India has amazing sites, it is soooooooooooooooooooooo dirty, soooo polluted, and sooo much poverty. Its really sad, but its really everywhere. EVERYWHERE! Public urinals, cow and goat crap everywhere, and garbage! garbage! garbage! I actually was feeling bad about dissing China so much about these things, when China looks like New Zealand compared to India. But as people saw, its all about the experience of India. Even the Bollywood movie we saw poked fun at us Americans being grossed out about the cows and the dirt. ha ha!
Now watch out! A cycle rickshaw is coming!