Had a great breakfast and wandered around the grounds of the hotel (Jaypee Palace Hotel) this morning before going out in the city. It’s a huge hotel complex with gardens and a convention complex.
Laksme picks us up at 9:00. We pick up Shaym, our guide, on the way. He gives us some of the basic info about the Taj Mahal. It took 22 years to build from 1631 to 1653. It was built by the 5thMughal Emperor Shahjahan in honor of his wife who died during childbirth of their 14thchild.
We’re driving thru fairly heavy traffic, and suddenly it’s time to get out. I’m really surprised because it’s seems like we’re in the middle of the city, honking horns, etc. Every picture of the Taj Mahal I’ve seen had me thinking it was sitting out away from the city in the countryside.
The walk along a peaceful paved road (no traffic) took about 10 minutes, before we arrived at the ticket area and security. The crowd was active but not overly large. The lines to get in weren’t long and moved quickly. Security is heavy with bag and body scanning. The temperature today is around 65 degrees, and comfortable. This would be a miserable place in the summer heat with large crowds, but today, it couldn’t be nicer.
Our guide has great knowledge about the design and building of the monument. It’s all marble and all the floral decoration and writing on the gates are inlaid stones. The amount of delicate work to piece it all together on such a huge building is hard to imagine in this day and age.
The advantage of having our own guide is he really knows how and where to go to get the best pictures. He had us posing all over the property. He basically took over our camera. We’ve never had so many pictures of ourselves. It’s digital overkill.
When we finish, we walk out and climb in a wooden cart to ride out to the edge of the property to our car. We get great information wherever we go, and our transportation is ready and waiting at the end to whisk us to our next destination. This is a great way to see India.
We’re delivered to a marble factory to watch some of the local craftsmen as they work to cut and shape pieces of various stones to make the inlaid designs on the building and now, some of their own designs. We’re told that some of the workers are descendants of the original stone artisans that built the Taj Mahal.
Our next stop is Agra Fort. Yeah, yeah, what’s the big deal? When you get inside it becomes apparent why it’s a big deal. This fort was built and improved by three different Mughul emperors. They ruled India during the 15thand 16thcentury. Each emperor put his own architectural signature on the building. 75% of the building is still in use by the Indian Army. Tourists are only allowed in the 25% of the fort where the families lived. It’s built on a hill above the Yumana River, looking out over the countryside, with a great view of the Taj Mahal in the distance.
After the fort, we had a chance to eat lunch. After lunch, we opt to go back to the hotel to relax and enjoy the amenities of the hotel. We’re looking forward to some rest time. We’re moving from city to city so quickly and seeing so much, I can barely keep up with the writing. The occasional slow internet makes the photo uploads drag. If I miss a day, it’s hard to catch up, we’re so totally involved in traveling and touring sites.