November 3, 2008 – We came. We went. We marveled.  One simply can’t come to India without experiencing the Taj Mahal.  About 200 km outside of Delhi, Agra is a little lacking for a city that hosts one of the 7 wonders of the world (according to UNISEF) but we managed to entertain ourselves. First, we didn’t book ahead so we wound up in a budget alternative for about US$10 where I could hear our neighbors singing in the shower.  (for those in Bhutan, it wasn’t as bad as the Norrling)

 

The Taj was well worth it. We headed out about 6:30 a.m. as the morning light is supposed to be the best. Well actually we were supposed to leave at 6 a.m. but our driver was a no show. After entering the lobby with three people sleeping on the floor, we were met with blank stares as we searched for the taxi we ordered the day before – twice.  For anyone who has been to India, you can appreciate the “just five more minutes sir” we kept hearing from the staff…but we made it.

 

It’s a spectacular structure that is a true testament to love and admiration as the Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his second wife Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to their fourteenth child in 1631- yes 14th. I might have died too! Construction began the same year and wasn’t completed until 1653…over 20k workers and cost roughly US$70 million. Today, both the emperor and his wife are entombed in the central dome of the Taj.  It’s entirely made of marble and the detail/craftsmanship is unbelievable.

 

Here are some of the photos.  As you can see, the Taj has some resident monkeys, which Brad detests…and is a little bit afraid of…but I protected him.  We even got a little view of true monkey love, but refrained from uploading the photo due to its x-rated nature.

 

If you make it to India…be sure to make the trip…but no need to stay in Agra long. One night max – book ahead if you want the better accommodations and remember the Taj is closed on Fridays.  We double checked before making our trip as my friend Paul discovered several years ago is helpful.   The Fort is also worth a trip and enjoyable – boasting great views of the Taj – depending on the smog levels – some days are better than others. 

 

Be advised the restaurants in Agra are lacking. We decided to drink our dinner (I’m about Indian food-ed out and well on my way to a carb overload since even if you can find fish you cant trust it and eggs aren’t available everywhere).  We wandered into a tourist eatery where we were entertained by three brothers who play, sing, dance.  We even entertained ourselves more by joining in the dancing…and we taught the brothers to thumb wrestle. One of the most hysterical exchanges was when the waiter asked Brad – who was on his second beer — if he wanted some food…and he said, “Sure.  I’d like “seared ahi with wasabi mashed potatoes and bok choy.”  The waiter looked at him perplexed, said something we couldn’t understand then brought out some fried bread.  It was good ole comic relief when I would have given my right arm for that ahi!!

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