The Great Indian Icon

Trip Start Sep 19, 2012
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Flag of India  , Uttar Pradesh,
Friday, November 16, 2012

Another early start as my train leaves at 6 am. When I got to the station was told that I was on a waiting list and the ticket was not confirmed. Spent 20 minutes in a mad panic trying to find the right office and eventually got on the train with seconds to spare. Unfortunately things went from bad to worse as I dozed off and missed my stop at Agra. I had to get off at the next station which was about 80 km away. It then took me 6 hours to get back to Agra so another frustrating day. 

I think I need to take some time out as the last few weeks have been exhausting. My head is swimming with all the forts and palaces that I have visited and I need somewhere just to relax for a while. Goa might be the answer. Met some really great people tonight and had a few beers. It's amazing just chatting and sharing stories and experiences. In the group was  Will from Brighton in the UK, Rebecca from Kuwait, Sarah from Germany and Effron from Spain. This is why I love traveling.

The Taj Mahal, India's great iconic image and a apparently a must see for every tourist. This must be true as in 2010 they recorded 52 million visitors!! A brief history: Shah Jahan must surely have loved this wife to build such a beautiful tomb for her. He did have many others. His wife died in 1631 while giving birth to their 14th child. They begin construction of the mausoleum shortly after wards and it was completed in 1653. Over 20000 people including labourers and craftsman were used and the detail is exquisite. apparently the hands and thumbs of some of the craftsman were removed so that they could not repeat the work they had carried out elsewhere. 5 years after it was completed, Shah Jahan son took over power from his father and had him imprisoned in Agra Fort and and he spent the next 12 years gazing at his masterpiece in the distance until his death in 1666. At least his son had the decency to then bury him next to his wife.

As a building it is a perfect picture of symmetry. Everything is in balance and the proportions were carefully calculated. The 4 minuets were built leaning slightly outwards so that from a perspective/distance they appear vertical. The inlay work and marble is incredible and everything has a mirror image. all the entrances are identical and even the the two Mosques are the same. The only difference is one cant be used as it faces west. Today it is estimated that it would cost about 70 million US dollars to build. It is kept spotlessly clean but unfortunately pollution, like acid rain, is causing huge damage. They are trying to ban cars from the immediate area and have come up with an ancient beauty treatment to clean the marble. They take a mixture of Fuller's earth, Cereal, milk, and lime and rub this on the building and after 24  hours wash it off. It is removing a lot of the impurities and the success is so positive other countries are now using this method.
 
 While  on the subject of pollution I have not shown any photos of the filth in India. It is a major problem where ever you go. Most cities have open drains along the streets, domestic rubbish is just thrown into the street and swept in to piles. These are infested with rats. Excrement from humans, cows pigs etc is everywhere. Most places have a cloud of fog hanging over them until mid morning. My hotel was maybe 500 meters as the crow flies from the Taj but when I woke up at 8 am I couldn't see it due to pollution. i read an article about Varanasi which claimed that 60 000 people bath everyday along its 7 km stretch of ghats. Thirty sewers flow into the Ganges along this same stretch and there are about 400 million people living along the banks of this Holy river. A recent water sample showed that there was 1.5 million faecal coliform bacteria per 100ml of water. International safe levels should be less than 500. Nobody seems to care about the litter and  filth and in general Indians just throw everything into the street.

20/11/2012
I have now been in India for 2 months and am catching the lunch time train to Goa. This is over 2000 km away and will take about 34 hours. I hope to find a little beach shack and spend some time doing nothing. By nothing I mean lying on the beach, swimming, fishing and eating seafood. So don't worry too much if you don't hear from for a while
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