Saturday, April 25, 2009

Not the Casino

Day 410
5:30 am comes very no matter what continent or sub continent you are on. My guide had recommended a breakfast place that opened early and I headed there will all the other LP early risers. After some confusion I found the correct gate. The entrance fee was really expensive and then they wouldn't let me in with my i pod. They said that I could keep it in their special holding area but I declined. I walked back to my hotel to lock it up there. When I returned to the entrance they gave me some problems about getting in as my ticket was already stamped. The guards were just really rude. They put me in a bad mood.

The Taj Mahal is perhaps the most extravagant monument built for love. The Taj was built as a memorial to Emperor Sha Jahan's second wife. She died in 1631 while giving bithto their 14th child, not in a traffic collision as suggested in Slumdog Millionaire. It took over 20 you to be completed. Shortly afterwards Sha Jahan was overthrown by his son and imprisoned in Agra Fort. Sha John died in 1666, the same year as the great fire in London.

When I finally got to go in I was stunned to the point of stopping. It was magnificent and magical like nothing I had ever seen before. It was definitely not like the casino in Atlantic City. As it was early there weren't too many tourists around and I was able to get some pretty good shots. It was just a pity that the fountains were empty for repair. A tout tried to help me get good pictures, it was the way I was headed anyway and then asked me for 200 rupees! I refused and he backed off.

When I got to the platform of the marble structure I put on shoe covers and climbed up. Pictures of the tombs themselves were forbidden, but they were really the least impressive bit of the whole place anyway. It was the carvings and inlaid marbles that were the most interesting.

When I was done at the Taj I walked two kms to the Agra Fort. This was also rather expensive to get in and perhaps not worth the cost. It is, however, considered to be one of the best Mugal forts in India and I wanted to check it out. The fort was built in 1565 and was originally intended for military use. Shah Jahan transformed it into a palace. Asformeionted, this also became his prison.

There were a lot of nice carvings and the place is really very large, it just wasn't as well kept up as I would have liked. Much of the art work was faded or chipped. I spent a while just sitting in the shade enjoying the solitude. Not as many people visit here.

After the fort I took a very long walk. I don't think that many people walk this way but hire tuk tuks. I just wanted to try and save some cash after the expensice of the morning. When I finally got to the Itmad-ud-Daulah, or the baby Taj, I was exhusted.

The tomb of Mizra Ghiyas Beg was stunnign and empty of tourists. I was able to take pictures of the graves themselves. They sort of reminded me of some that I had seen quite some time ago in Marrakech. The marble was hot so the shoe wallah gave me very dirty shoe covers and then wanted money. Inside there were a lot of paintings of plants and flowers. I had a great time taking pictures.

When I finished I was exhusted and it wasn't even lunch time. I was also very fort sore. I tried to get a tuk tuk back but no one would take me for the price I was willing to pay, so I walked. A little girl followed me. She didn't ask for any money she just starred. Eventually one of the guys who had refused what I was willing to pay caught up with me and took what I was offering. When I got back to the area of my hotel I stopped for lunch. The place seemed to be run by adolecent boys. They took my order and I think they even cooked my food, and then brought it to me. It was one of the best meals I have had in India. I did feel bad for supporting child labor though.

After lunch I headed back to my hotel for a shower and for a nap. Siteseeing can be exhusting! I ended up not waking up until it was dinner time again.

For dinner I went to a different place with a good view of the Taj to say my goodbyes as the sun set. I retied early, still tired and wanting a good nights sleep.

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