Day 6 by Danny Adamson
Today is Monday, November 16th and the plan is to leave the hotel by 6:30am, drive 3 to 4 hours to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, then same day drive 4 to 5 hours to Jaipur, where we will stay for a couple of nights. We rented a small bus that had a toilet on it to avoid stopping in the middle of nowhere when one of our kids might have to pee.
The first leg of the drive, from Delhi to Agra, blew our minds. There was so much to take in-the traffic, the countryside, the small villages we would pass through and the poverty in Agra was overwhelming. Trash and slums everywhere. Prior to leaving Delhi, we arranged for a guide to meet us, and when we pulled up in Agra, the doors opened and he jumped in the bus. His name was Mayunk. In an attempt to keep pollution away from the Taj Mahal, we get off the bus and take a 5 minute ride on electric shuttles to the gate.
Once there, our guide takes our money and buys our tickets. It costs 750 Rupees (Indian form of currency) for us each to enter, which is a little over $10, and the kids are free. We pay the tourist price which is literally about 30 times more than the local admission, but that also gets us in the shorter lines. The Taj Mahal was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Jaw dropping. Made of Makrana marble, or what our guide told us was a crystal marble, the most solid in the world and not porous like other forms of marble. This explains why it has remained so beautiful and the pollution has not stained it over the years. It began construction in 1632 and took 20,000 workers 22 years to complete.
We spent about 90 minutes there-long enough to bore the kids to death, but our guide was such a wealth of knowledge it was hard to cut anything short. Kids would have preferred about 30 minutes. Forgot to mention the local peddlers who try to push their wares on you when you get off the bus. They hit us hard when we got off the bus and again when we got back. Our guide told us not to look at them or engage with them at all, or they wouldn’t leave us alone. We did a good job with that and it wasn’t too bad, but they are pretty relentless.
Because the kids (and some of the adults) were starting to lose it, we decided to go to a hotel restaurant for lunch. There are pretty much two options, you either go local/street style food, which we were told to avoid because you can get sick, or you play it safe and expensive, and do the rich tourist style and eat in a fancy place. Much of this trip was done the latter method, taking the privileged way, which in hindsight I will say I’m glad we did. I was skeptical at first, as everybody wants to be cool and do it the “real way,” but you get enough of the real India just being here and keeping the family safe is well worth it. Hotels, cars, drivers & guides don’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Next was The Shakedown! The Shakedown happened this day and the next, so I’ll explain it in tomorrow’s post since today’s is getting long. You’ll just have to tune in then!
After The Shakedown, we went to the Agra Fort, which was also pretty damn beautiful. This is the place where the king who built the Taj Mahal was held prisoner by his own son. Apparently this son was super evil. He was third in line for the throne, so he killed his two older brothers, then threw dad in prison at the Agra Fort. Crazy!
At this point we were running behind, so we bid farewell to our guide and hit the road for Jaipur. They recommend not driving in the dark as the roads are pretty rough at night. Lots of semi trucks, cows, cars without headlights, you name it! About half of this drive was in remaining daylight, the rest in the dark. We were all tired so some of us managed to sleep a bit during the sketchiness. We arrived at our hotel in Jaipur around 9pm and hit the sack right away to rest up for more sightseeing the next day.