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Taj Mahal: Indeed a World Wonder – India message #4 – Agra/Gwalior/Udaipor

on March 21, 2013

Hello all…

Internet access is harder to come by when you leave India’s capital…well the Internet is available but often the connection is down.

Juli and I left Delhi on Friday late afternoon to head to Agra and Gwalior. We arranged a tour through the travel agency used by the Canadian High Commission and got an excellent package for a weekend in Agra/Gwalior. As most of you know, Agra is home of the Taj Mahal, the
memorial built by India’s fifth Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan for his second wife, Mumtaz. There’s an Indian saying: “As long as the world exists, so too will the Taj Mahal”. From what our Taj guide shared with us about the crazy weather in Agra, the natural disasters in
India, etc etc I think the saying is probably true. The Taj is 350 years old and is as beautiful now as it probably was when it was first built. According to current mathematical and architectural knowledge and experts, the Taj is a model of perfection – not a single flaw has been found with its design or structural integrity. Juli and I probably took about 150 pictures of the Taj between the two of us and we’ll be uploading all of our photos once we return to Canada. So, stay tuned to witness the astonishing beauty of this famous building.

The drive to Agra from Delhi took much longer than we had expected. I thought rush hour traffic was bad in Canada (Toronto, Vancouver; Edmonton when I want to leave the city for the weekend) but I will probably think twice before complaining about traffic “at home” in the future. It must’ve taken us two hours just to leave Delhi. But we got
some terrific pictures of cows, bulls and traffic en route. I also got to finally experience a portion of the monsoon season…it was absolutely pouring for at least one hour on the way out of Delhi…of course I tried to capture the event but despite some good shots of
bicycles and people in at least 12 inches of water, I think the monsoon is something you have to see to believe. Since Friday, the rain has followed me pretty much everywhere with at least one major storm most evenings. Thankfully the skies haven’t opened up until the end of my sightseeing each day.

Agra is full of cows, camels, donkeys and other animals. It is also full of people who will try to sell just about anything. Juli and I had been warned to not buy anything from anyone in Agra but we broke the cardinal rule and bought some postcards and souvenirs from some kids. This resulted in us being followed around as we went about our sightseeing. Which, in the end, made Agra a lot more fun for me – I loved seeing the look of shock on kids faces as I turned to them and started addressing them in Hindi. Of course, my Hindi is full of errors so every so often some of the older kids and I would have a good laugh over our error-riddled attempts to speak one another’s languages. I think the kids have a fairly good command of English in most cases. I also brought tons of Canada flag pins with me (big
surprise) and they were a huge hit with the kids. One teenage boy (likely not more than 16) cited love and romance as the reason for offering his assistance in distributing the pins for me. Wahoo, I come to India and get hit on by a 16-year-old. I’m glad I had a chance to
interact with all these kids (and turning down the teen) because by this point we had been approached by so many young kids, many who weren’t well dressed but had the sweetest smiles and such hope in their eyes as they approached us to sell us local crafts and toys. And I had been feeling pretty bad for the kids and guilty about the
poverty in India (yes, Janet, I had a “Cuba” experience in India, too!) and the positive interaction (and finally buying some stuff from the kids) was just what I needed to get over the guilt I was feeling.

I ended up getting too much sun while in Agra and was in bed pretty much right after we returned to the hotel post-sightseeing. I even wore my hat and drank tons of water all day but I seem to get heat stroke every time I’m in a hot climate; heck it even happened in Drumheller last summer. Juli ended up going to dinner on her own and by the time she came back to the hotel, I’d only just ordered dinner and gotten out of bed. Yay me!

Next day we took a train to Gwalior, a town of 900,000 that Juli read about in a travel magazine. I am so glad she came across this gem of a place. The sightseeing was fine, although I think I’ve seen enough forts now. However, a bonus was that we were able to see some of the Jain carvings, which are simply magnificent – lots of pictures to
share when I return. Also, we visited the grave of Tansen, the founder of Indian classical music. But the highlight of this trip was the kids playing in the park area around the monument. We met tons of little kids, gave out some more Canada pins and then ventured around the markets and side streets of Gwalior. This is where Juli (and I by association) literally stopped traffic as many of the locals had never seen a “non-brown” person before. We also walked alongside many cows and donkeys (and I detoured around what I believe to be rabid dogs) and Juli got some awesome pictures. My lovely, expensive digital camera is only good for about 100 pictures a day before the battery needs to be recharged (note to self to buy extra battery for future trips; however, thankfully my charger/adapter has worked everywhere thus far…knock on wood).

So, for those of you planning to come to India make sure to put Gwalior on your list…it is not be missed – simply for the up close interaction with the locals and the fact that it is not yet a well known tourist location.

After saying good bye to the locals, we were on our way to the train station to head back to Delhi. Got in at midnight and then I was up at 3:45 a.m. to head to airport for an early flight to Udaipor which is where I am right now…sitting in an Internet cafe two blocks from my
hotel. My hotel is right next door to a cinema (movie theatre) but the only evening show is at 9:00 and I’ve been told that it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for me to be at the cinema at that time…so I will postpone my opportunity to watch Bollywood in Bollywood.

Udaipor is a beautiful town of only 500,000 people. The town is surrounded by mountains and has two large lakes that have a couple of small islands – two of which have hotels built on them. (Kirstie – this town reminds me a bit of New Zealand! Even has tons of migratory birds, including flamingos and pelicans and tons of flowers and trees that aren’t found elsewhere in India.) So far, Udaipor is my favourite
city – for its size and scenic beauty. It is also much cooler here than the other places I’ve visited so far (temperature). The locals are very nice but quite shy around tourists, which is a bit strange
considering tourism is one of the main industries. But my tour guide told me that the people here are naturally shy and also that people tend to make Udaipor their home for generations and generations so it is a pretty close-knit community. That was pretty obvious as I watched people greet each other warmly and affectionately throughout the day.

Udaipor wasn’t originally on my visit list but the Embassy travel agent suggested it and I’m certainly glad he did.

Tomorrow, I head to Jodphur by car via the scenic route with stops at Jain temples along the way. So far what I have scene of Jain architecture has impressed me so I am looking forward to the temples. I also hope this cooler weather follows me! I am literally melting here. I am told that Jodphur has many camels so I am also planning to
take a camel ride tomorrow…wahoo! That and I hope to finally watch a
Bollywood flick.

Will try and write again soon.

Narmin

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One response to “Taj Mahal: Indeed a World Wonder – India message #4 – Agra/Gwalior/Udaipor

  1. […] Hello all… Internet access is harder to come by when you leave India’s capital…welsource […]

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