Monday, October 18, 2004

The Taj Mahal and other prettiness

Well, I've done Agra. It was actually quite nice. We got up around 10, had some breakfast, and headed out to the Taj Mahal. It's only a block away, yet we were propositioned by 5 rickshaw drivers (manual and auto) and 25 people selling goods. We get to the gates, and purchase our 'foreigner tickets'. See, for Indian people, the Taj is Rs. 20. For foreign tourists, it is Rs. 750. How fair is that, a gaijin tax. So, we paid our gaijin tax and hopped in.

Man this place is beautiful. It's grand and huge and magnificent, and big. There's a big opening courtyard, so you can get in through three different gates (West, South, East), and then you go through this big arch into the main courtyard. There's a long pool, surrounded by trees, with fountains and grass and paths. And then there's a big pool of marble, which gives a good view of the main attraction. If you go further down the path, you come to the main area. After removing our shoes, we went onto the big marble courtyard, and then into the tomb area, where the Mogul emperor and his wife are buried. It's absolutely beautiful, with all this intricate marble carving and gems inlaid into the wall. Some guide dude shined a flashlight, and parts of the wall are translucent, with the light entering the stone and gems.

Me in front of the Taj. Pretty.

Cool looking mosque on one side of the Taj. There are two, just so the symmetry isn't broken. The two Indian women (guess which ones they are!) were just random people who wanted their picture taken with us.

Most of the time, we just sat around the outside, enjoying the shade and sitting on the cool marble. Lots of Indians wanted our picture, apparently because we're three blonde college kids. I shook a lot of people's hands, listened to people talk in many languages, and just sort of roamed around. It was quite pleasant, and I got some good pictures.

The back of the Taj, where everyone was chilling out.

So, we bailed from the Taj about 2:00 or 2:30, and headed out to get some grub. We went to 'Yash Cafe', which was actually quite good. I had some chicken curry, and ate some of Anna's pineapple and pepper pizza.

A note about Indian food: it is not homogenous. There are two big types: north and south. Because most of the immigrants to the States are from the north, northern cuisine is typically what Americans think of when they think 'Indian'. Pune and Mumbai are sorta in the middle, so they get both types of cuisine, but southern seems to be more indigenous to Pune. Curries and butter chicken and things of this nature are northern, while southern food is more like dosa (big savory crepe type things) and uttapa (potato pancake or something like that) and sambhar (like spicy tomato soup) to dip them in. Of course, in this modern age, most restaurants as a rule serve southern, northern, chinese, and pizza. Go Fig.

For dinner, we ate at this restaurant on a roof, but it was pretty crappy. My butter chicken used all the bad parts of the chicken, and the chinese food Anna and Andrea got wasn't very chinesy or good, even by Indian standards. So, after buying some last-minute souvenirs, we headed back to our hotel, and my companions got banana pancakes while I drank some chai (Rs. 4 for a small glass, this country is insanely cheap).

Our train for Jaipur leaves at half past too-friggin-early, so we called it an early night. I feel almost at home, typing on my computer and listening to music. At the same time, this country is still so foreign to me, even after living here for three weeks. I've built up some cultural unity with India, insomuch as I can read Devnagari script and I know the songs to the movie 'Dhoom'. I think as long as you enjoy Bollywood movies, you can get along in this country.

Oh, and for completeness, here's "pigging out in Agra":


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