Continued from Agra Part 1.
I was so happy to be here that I was just laughing and smiling as I strolled in by myself. I just couldn’t keep the excitement and happiness inside. I took this self photo right then because this is another way for me to remember how happy I was. The smile didn’t have to be faked for the photo.
Sigh. No words can describe the feeling of seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time. It’s just so amazing that it doesn’t even look real. It looks like it came out of a dream somewhere. I don’t believe I’ve ever been so excited to see a monument, ever. It’s been on my bucket list for such a long time and I’ve always known it was not going to be a cake walk for me to see it. By what has happened so far this morning, it hasn’t been a cake walk.
I forgot to line up straight for the reflection pool. Oh well. Not the end of the world. The reason why I forgot to line up straight was because I ran into the four other guests from my hotel here. They too had made it to the Taj Mahal at around the same time as me. They were with a tour guide and had rented a car. They asked me I wanted to join them in their day with their car and guide. Awesome! I agreed, but said that I would need to compensate my rickshaw driver, who was waiting for me, for his lost time. They agreed and would go to the South Gate first with me. This day started out terrible, but since then, it has just been getting better and better.
Can’t stop me from smiling. The sun was shining in the wrong direction and I had to use a flash for this photo. It looks like I was superimposed into this dreamy sepia photo of the Taj Mahal. But, I think this captures the essence of the moment. The Taj Mahal was so out of this world and out of reach that I may just as well be superimposed in the photo.
It is really dark inside and it’s crowded. There are security guards everywhere. But the first thing that I, or anyone else, noticed was the constant whistle blowing by the security guards to move the crowd along. It was shrill and nonstop. Such a tranquil building on the outside, but inside, it’s still India.
These guys asked to take a photo with me. Another Being Human shirt! I need to buy one for myself now. Our tour guide admonished me afterwards for taking photos with them because apparently they use this as a distraction to pickpocket you sometimes. This time around, I didn’t feel like that was the case because it was clear that I was there with my friends and they were looking over me. Plus I just didn’t get that vibe from these guys. Anyhow, the tour guide said that if I had gotten pick pocketed under his watch, and I went to report at the police station, the police would blame the tour guide for not keeping a careful eye on me.
The building to the left of the Taj Mahal is a mosque. This mosque looks to me to be about the same size of Jama Masjid in Delhi. The Taj Mahal completely dwarfs this building. I am glad that I saw the Jama Masjid first before the Taj Mahal for I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the Jama Masjid as much otherwise.
This is the West Gate where the great majority of the tourists enter. PN had a deck of cards held at security. Apparently, playing cards can be used as a deadly weapon and be made into explosives in the Taj Mahal.
We all eventually left from the South Gate. I found my rickshaw guy, told him that I found my friends from the hotel, and I will be going with them instead. I gave him 50INR for the hour that he waited, but he said that he would like 100INR. I didn’t fight him on it as I was the guy who changed the plans on him. Just glad that I found him and took care of that as that would have ate away at my conscience ever so slightly if I never went to settle with him.
It was time for lunch, and our guide took us here. I am not sure we had a choice. I am sure our guide and driver got some sort of commission for taking us here. Oh well, I am not going to fight them on this because I wouldn’t know where else to eat anyway.
My new friends passed around this pocket bottle of Jager and we all took a swig from it. They said that someone else told them this would prepare our stomachs for the potentially poisonous food that we’ll be eating. Sounds good to me.
After lunch, we had a lot of free time, and our guide suggested that we can look at some shops. Obviously, he would get some sort of commission for us looking at these shops. We were tired and had no other plans so we went along with it.
It was actually really cool to watch this guy make a rug. He would tie a knot very quickly and cut the strand of carpet fiber just as quickly. He knew exactly which string needed which color at which interval by heart. It was pretty amazing.
Then carpet upon carpet were laid out in front of us to try to entice us to shop. None of us did. I think they were going for like $350 shipped to our door. That’s actually really not that bad of a price, and I bet you could haggle that price down as well. They claimed these were all handmade, but who knows. But even if not hand made, there are plenty of machine made carpets that go for more than that price for this size.
To be continued at Agra Part 3.