Thursday, April 14, 2011


Alison: Hello! Yes, we are still fine. You may now sigh with relief, and you might even smile a little.

AGRA!! TAJ MAHAL! Yes, it is as good as the hype.

** before I begin, I believe a giant shout-out is due to one Caryn George, who is the only one who can upload and post pictures to this blog. I also have it on good authority that it can be mighty frustrating at times, and, in fact, my future bloggers, some people do not use blogger or whatever this website is because of their picture troubles. Without further ado, a post, including Caryn's pics and captions.

We arrived in Agra, and, with our new Dutch friends Annette and Roel, we headed off to our hotel. Do keep in mind that every time in the blog we say "and then we went to such and such a place" you must imagine a heated negotiation with a rickshaw man/many rickshaw men about the price. We are getting pretty good at it now because it's easy enough to say "ok, we'll just ask someone else" a voila the price is lowered!)

Breakfasted and then we spent time in the room feeling sick. Gastro-grossness started the day before in Varanasi (you noticed all we did that day was yoga, didn't you?). We are unhappy to be a part of the long and proud tradition of "Delhi Belly."

I showered. There I met more characters from A Fine Balance, the India novel. Little red worms crawling from the drain, just like in the book! "Wow, so accurate," I thought.

Caryn: Alison hesitantly told me about the worms after referring to her shower as "the worst she had had yet." Freaked out, we asked the hotel guy what to do about them and he just gave us a new room.

Alison: We motivated ourselves eventually for some sight-seeing. We took an auto rickshaw to the Agra Fort. Pardon me, we took a bike rickshaw down the block while he walked his bike and tried to get us to come to a few shops first. We got so frustrated with him that we got off and got in an auto.

Although we thought we were masters at transportation bartering from our Varanasi practise, things are different in Agra. The culture along the river seemed to be that once you decided on the price together, the discussion ended and the price was set. Here, you organize price before getting in the vehicle still, but then we often get a lot of come-to-a-shop, I'll-wait-for-you-outside, and even price re-hashing. A bit exhausting, but reverting to "no talking, no problems" has helped a bit.

Agra Fort was beautiful, red red sandstone and some whole white marble buildings. Squirrels, monkeys, tourists, Taj views, flowers, grassy lawns, nice old buildings. The poor man that had the Taj Mahal built for his wife was imprisoned in this lovely fort, with only a view of the Taj.

Caryn in front of building.

This is somebody's tomb. Not sure whose.

Alison with cool arches.

The detail is remarkable!!! This overlooked a garden.

The Taj Mahal in the background, as viewed from the Red Fort.

Caryn with Taj in the background.

Again: Detail!
This computer won't let me turn this picture, so you will have to turn your head!!! This squirrel kept laying down.....he looked SO funny!!! I have never seen a squirrel lay down before!!

Baby monkey. So cute!!!

The weirdest thing at the Red Fort was a run in with the kit-kat police. We were just finishing off our chocolate bar when a security man said, in very unclear english, that we couldn't eat in here. Fair enough, makes sense, we were done eating anyway! But then he oddly... lingered around, shifty eyed. And, we think, he was mumbling in a lower voice about a "fine" or perhaps he said "fee." (Very bad bribing skills!). We also heard "police. Indian jail." Yeah. So that's freaky.

And so, our love/hate with India continue! Beautiful stop at the "Baby Taj," a detailed marble building in beautiful grounds.
View of the baby Taj. It has a lot of marble detailing, which is more detailed than the Taj. It was beautiful!!!

Alison in front of awesome wall.

Caryn in front of wall. They sure do not make buildings like this anymore!!!

The Taj Mahal is splendid. Find the most beautiful picture of it that you can. Photo editing, you assume, good lighting that day. No! It is that perfect. Then, a closer look reveils fine detail in the marble, inlaid other colours of stones forming flowers, patterns, lettering. Inside, this inlay is even more fine. It's just all stunning. We went in the morning and again at night.

We took about a million pictures of the Taj. Actually probably around 150. Here are just a few! Ali at the Taj just after sunrise.
Our shoe covers. You are not allowed on the marble with your shoes on- so you have to put on these covers or leave your shoes.

Close up of some of the marble work. This is part of a inscription that is all around the entrance to the tomb.

More detailed marble work.

Alison near cool carved wall at sunset.

Behind Alison is the line to get into the Taj Mahal when we returned at night!! It went around 2 sides of it! We were very glad that we had gotten up so early to see it as there was no line when we were there in the morning!

Sunset at the Taj.

Here i am, practicing my kayak roll at the Taj.

All the Indians who were touring the Taj were getting this picture, so Alison figured "why not!" It turned out pretty cute.

Actually, what a great day! In between Taj trips we went swimming!
There are many Indias. There's slum-and-begging India which literally jerks at your heart, there's telemarketing I.T. India who calls you in Canada, there's tourist India that we see (rickshaw-m'am?my-shop-m'am?), there's guest-is-a-God homelife India that we wish to experience... there's as many Indias as there are people.

Tangent? No. We experienced upper class hotel tourist India at that swimming pool. And it was nice, yeah. Some hotels, you see, let you swim in their pool even if you aren't a guest. And boy we weren't guests. But we paid the cost (as much as a night in our guest house, but per person!) and loved the pool.

Another nice thing, and I'll guiltily admit it, was we ate at Pizza Hut. I know, I know. This is way cleaner and classier than PA's gross Pizza Hut. Don't think Pizza Hut, really, think... a break for western food. Our Delhi Belly's were happy.

We have really been enjoying India food of course. We kept running into our Dutchmen at a little place near the guest house, both breakfasts actually, and a dinner. We would catch up on our days and laugh about our transport troubles. Great vege and rice dishes were enjoyed at a little upstairs place where a boy waited for us outside. He maybe was a bit young in his business - ready to sell us, for a mere 100R($2.50), seven Taj Mahal snowglobes.

Speaking of bargins, another amazing bit of the day: backgammon buy!!!


  1. Really really amazing!! I hadn't realized you were going to the old Taj. My only experience with it is giving up on an IMPOSSIBLE puzzle. You see, there's the blue sky surrounding it, it's reflection in the pool, and its SYMMETRY that make for an impossible puzzle.

    I laughed that you went to pizza hut. Nice you got to go for a swim.

    Great pics as always.

    Miss you, xoxoxo,


  2. Also, yes, blogger will not be my blog site of choice. I base this solely on the commenting system - super annoying! The photo difficulties is good data!


  3. Two more things:

    1. How did you get from city to city? Train, I assume. What was it like?!
    2. WHAT are the red worms about??? Big? Small? Ew.

  4. Oh! What a wonderful travelogue! I gotta tell you, guys. Seems to me that you're rather in the swim of things in India. You seem very cool, very relaxed. Love your outfits! Even they look cool. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Newspaper today said, don't visit Agra exactly because of the aggressive marketing of which you speak. But seems to me from your info. and photos that it's well worth it. Sorry about the tummies! Lot of animals in your lives! And backgammon! Love, Pat

  5. I am soo jealous that you guys got to see the beautiful Taj Mahal!!! I can't wait to see more pictures when you get back. Also, I am super proud of you guys for being brave and assertive with those richshaw guys. You guys are right, the kit kat police did sound freaky. Probably some weird dude trying to get a rise out of a couple of tourists. Keep having fun, don't worry about the bumps in the road, and know that you both are in my thoughts!
    Love Patrycja