Forts and the fabulous Taj Mahal

Trip Start Jan 27, 2006
1
5
26
Trip End Sep 09, 2006


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Friday, February 24, 2006

Bounced (literally) into Jodhpur and found our hot and bothered way to the Ratan Villas hotel - an oasis of quiet calm in another mad Indian city.

The owner, an aged Indian supporter of the Raj who insisted on dressing his staff in uniform, showed us around the hotel (his grandfathers' home) taking us on historical tour of his family history which included Maharanas, Minor British Royalty, champion greyhounds and polo - THE sport in the city that gave its name to those funny riding trousers.

After this, we visited the major landmark of Jodhpur, the huge fort of Meherngarh, which stands high over the city dominating the skyline from every corner of this crazy, cubist, blue city. Stunning views, magnificent history, impressive architecture. The Great Thar Desert stretching into the distance.

One night was not enough, but the schedule has quickened in Rajastan and we took an overnight sleeper to Agra. Much more jolly than our last experience, a real communal feel, lots of smiling faces, blankets, sheets, and even our own 'conductor' - all in second class ! Slept well and spent the morning being looked after by the two chief conductors who had decided sitting with the Brits was a bit of a special treat - they obviously had not smelt Phils' feet.........

As a treat, we stayed at the Taj View hotel - 5 star quality (and sniffiness) and as much hot water as we could use. Aftering showering for an hour and a half, we headed for the Taj Mahal for sunset.

It is the most magnificent man-made sight either of us have ever seen. Awestruck, dry throated and dewy eyed we sat for two hours just marvelling at the beauty of the building and the ambition of Shah Jahan, the Mughal emporer who commissioned the work as a mark of his love for his second wife Mumtaz who died in childbirth (having their fourteenth child !)

We loved it so much, we dragged ourselves out of bed at 5.30 the next morning to see the sunrise. This surpassed everything we had seen. For one of the wonders of the world, it was marvellously quiet - we counted less than 50 people when we first arrived - and 3 hours later as we left the masses were only just beginning to arrive. The gardens surrounding the mosques and building are incredible and it was easy to find a spot where you could just lose yourself and stare open mouthed at the Taj, changing from a dusky white through hazy buttermilk to dazzling yellow as the sun rose.

Sam (amongst many, many others) did the Lady Di pose - but looked a little happier with her lot !

Not to waste the chance of a quick 5 star break, we spent the rest of the day hanging around the pool, drinking kingfisher and quietly frazzling. And we have managed to eat curry 4 times without a whiff (!?) of an explosion ! Thats what you buy for 5 x the price of normal restaurants ...........

Off to Delhi, so back to the budget tomorrow .........we'll be bumping into our first globetrotting mate from home - Geoff Kershaw who is out on business and staying at an even swankier place than the Taj View. I wonder if he has an expense account ?
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