Incredible India!

Trip Start Aug 24, 2010
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Trip End Sep 01, 2011


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Where I stayed
Hotel Pacific Heights

Flag of India  , Uttar Pradesh,
Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Incredible India! You need three things to drive in India...1) Good brakes, 2) Good horn, 3) Good LUCK! That's the "joke" our driver tells us on our three hour road trip to the Taj Mahal...as we are weaving in and out of camels, bulls, donkeys, horses, people, Ox carts, and monkeys....not including the thousands of cars and rickshaws on the roads! haha.

We were picked up at 6:00am, in our luxury air conditioned car (thank goodness), for our journey to Agra...to see the famous Taj Mahal! The drive was incredible, passing temples and mosques along the way. We saw the markets being set up, the locals crammed into rickshaws...they should try to beat the Guinness World Record of how many people you can cram into a mini!!...they have the skill!! There must be close to 15 people crammed into a rickshaw, with some hanging off the sides and the backs. It's insane...and by no means comfortable looking!

The farmers grow wheat during the drier seasons and rice in the monsoon season. They just finished harvesting the wheat and were packing it into rice sacks...which were stacked for miles along the roads. They also have these HUGE rice sack type bags, about twice the size of a tractor that they fill. They sit on a trailer...the sacks are so full that they hang over the sides and the backs of the trailer, like an overstuffed pillow! Some farmers use camels and bulls to pull the trailers and some are lucky enough to have tractors...if the tractors don't break down, which many do. As you cross into the state of Utter Pradesh, you need to stop to pay the state taxes. The driver warns us, as we are pulling up....Don't open the windows, don't unlock the car, don't take any photos, and ignore anyone that you see. Umm...okay. We pull up and park, he gets out to go pay the fees, and about 2 seconds later we have people banging on the windows on both sides of the cars....one selling necklaces, the other with pet monkeys (charging money to take a photo). The poor monkeys are on short leashes and forced to do dances and tricks. We were trying to ignore them like the driver said....but as a Canadian...it's not in our blood to ignore people! It's force of habit to acknowledge and say No Thank you. We resisted our Canadian urges...but they wouldn't go away. They kept banging on the windows and trying the door handles. As soon as they would carry on, more would come. There was a van in front of us, with Indian tourists. They took a photo of the monkey through the window...but didn't open the window to give the guy money. The monkey guy was banging on the window with his fist, yelling at them through the glass, and trying to pull the door open!! It was scary. Finally their driver came back and quickly drove away. We were very happy to see our driver too! haha.

The whole way to the Taj Mahal, he was giving us warnings...do this, don't do that....etc. He warned us of some common scams and told us exactly where to go and what to do so that we didn't get ourselves into trouble. He said to be sure to ignore the people offering to be guides or who try to sell you stuff. He said, " If you say No, or look at them, they will just walk with you and won't leave. But if you ignore them....they will eventually leave." UGH...it's hard to "ignore" people. He was right though...we were swarmed with people, a little overwhelming since we're always so concerned about losing the camera or our money. We managed to make it inside. Unbelievable! The Taj Mahal is phenomenal. It's all white marble, so the government has moved all the industrial factories, etc out of town to help preserve the color of the marble. They also have the Taj Mahal blocked off for 500 meters all around it, and only use electric shuttle buses within the 500 meter radius. We spent the day, in plus 45 weather, trying not to pass out while taking some marvelous pictures of the beautiful structures. We also had some more photo shoots with the locals, watched a lady fall off the step into the water that is in front of the Taj Mahal, and met some other Canadian tourists...all of which ended up having guides follow them in...haha.

After having no shade for a couple hours, we cranked up the air conditioning in the car and cooled down while we drove ten minutes to the Red Fort. If it wasn't so hot, we probably would have spent more time at the fort....but Jay was having dizzy spells (since he hadn't been feeling well for the last couple days!) so we went through pretty quickly. It is also amazing! The structures are wonderful and you can get a great view of the Taj Mahal in the distance. At the fort, we met an Indian man and his son, from Southern India, who were on a pilgrimage. They were very interesting and curious about Canada. We enjoyed talking to them for awhile before heading back to the comforts of our air conditioned car! I hate air conditioning...but not when in India! lol.

The drive back was even crazier than the drive there! We left Agra at 2:30, after having a quick lunch. It took us about 3 hours to get to Agra in the morning, and 5 hours to get back! Our driver was tired and cranky, probably from the heat, so he became more aggressive with his driving....road rage, yelling at other drivers, giving them inappropriate hand signals...Jay and I were worried that one of these other drivers might get a little payback somehow, but everything turned out fine. We were caught in Delhi rush hour....14 lanes, one way of stand still traffic! It was really neat to be in it, for us, not for our driver...haha...but after about an hour and a half, it got a little annoying and tiring. We finally arrived back to the sanctuary of our hotel, ate a delicious dinner, and went to bed!!
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