Monday, 16 April 2012

Agra and the Taj Mahal

By Sanne

It took us a few days to get from Varanasi to Agra where the Taj Mahal is. During this we stayed in dusty, nondescript towns in run-down, mostly dirty rooms paying more than what the rooms seemed to be worth. We have been very surprised of the price of rooms here as we always expected India to be dead cheap. That is not the case and there is not much value for money. At least the food is cheap though.
In one of the towns we stayed, Kanpur, a man invited us into his little food stand/cafe, sat us down and proceeded to give us chai tea, cold water and homemade samosas. When we offered to pay for it he refused to take our money! Such kindness from a complete stranger really warmed our hearts. The night prior in Allahabad a young guy walked around with us for half an hour just to find a shop that sold toilet paper, after which he offered to pay for it! He then walked us back to our hotel and then said: "Can I go now, mam?" So you really meet some wonderful people in this country; you do also encounter some that will try to rip you off blindly and scam you so you have to keep your wits about you, but generally we get a good feeling from people. You just have to get used to being stared at. And have crowds form around you the second you stop. The Indians are very curious people and we usually have a crowd of about 20-30 people around us. Sometimes one person will know some English and will have a conversation with us but that means that you still have 30 sets of eyes just staring at you, usually really close too. It's not uncommon for traffic to come to a complete halt because of us! People will drive past and see a crowd forming and then stop in the middle of the road and just stay there staring at us, ignoring the beeping horns behind them! In Agra we inadvertently caused a traffic accident as an auto-rickshaw rear-ended a motorbike as they were both focusing on us instead of the road! Yep, India is one hell of a crazy place.
Taj Mahal was picture pretty, although they charge you a small fortune to see it. Indians pay 30 Rupees, foreigners pay 750 Rupees. Just a slight difference in price. We got up at 5am to be there for the sunrise and then they didn't even open the gates until after sunrise! It is a beautiful structure built of white marble by emperor Shah Jahan as a love testament to his wife who died during the birth of their 14th(!) child. Construction started in 1632 and was completed 16 years later. It is a UNESCO world heritage site.

In India there's always a crowd!

As grumpy as they may look, these guys were really friendly!

The famous Taj Mahal

And then there's the other side of India

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