Christmas at the Taj Mahal

imageDay 4 & 5:

Luna (from Brussels, Belgium), Amberee (from London, now living in Bombay) Emily (from Liverpool, London), Olivia (from Germany) ¬†and I started off at 9am from the house. We met up with our driver, Aditzal, who was taking us the five hour trip into AgrThe drive at that time of the morning was crazy. You had busses, tuk tuk’s, bicycles, motorbikes, cars and people all fighter to get through on the roads and it is a constant honking. It really is organized chaos. We finally get out of Jaipur to a more open road. The scenery and people where beautiful. Going through, what I assume are little villages and you had homes (shacks) built on the side of the roads as part of the roadside markets or you could see them tucked farther back and men, women and children walking to start their day. I am amazed at what I assume are some of the poorer areas, the women always had the most beautiful Saris on. Brightly colored, some jeweled, and simply lovely.

I saw men herding goats and sheep, children walking to school, women carrying big bushels of sticks on their heads. I also saw men peeing on the side of the road and against stone walls, peddlers at every toll booth we came across selling something, cattle and dogs roaming the streets and garbage strewn about was more the normal than not.

The beauty of a trip like this is to see real life, but with real life there are things you are going to see and can’t believe people live like that. You have to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and reserve judgment.

This is their normal, their way of life and we are the outsides.

We finally get to Agra about 2:15pm and we are starving, our driver takes us to a restaurant called Pind Balluchi and we have Amberee order for us. She is from London, but now lives in Bombay and speaks English and Hindi. Our meal was wonderful and I had my first India beer – Kingfisher. We come out from the restaurant and our driver, Aditzal, has on a santa hat. It was pretty cute.

Next stop our hotel. We checked in and freshen up a bit and then we are back in the van and we head to Agra Fort. Agra Fort is the former imperial residence of the Mughal Dynasty. It was simply beautiful. I can’t imagine what it looked like in its original day dating back to the 1500’s. The five of us walked around and took in the sites, took lots of pictures and then we went down to a market. It was not a true market but more of a mix of Indian and American Brand stores. We didn’t do any shopping. We just walked down the one side of the street and then we went back to the hotel.

We had a little downtown before our driver took us to dinner. We couldn’t decide what we wanted to eat India food, western food or others and in the end we went back to the same restaurant we ate lunch in. It was good and it was decorated for Christmas so we thought it would be nice to spend Christmas Eve her together.

After dinner, I was in a food come and exhausted. Back to the hotel and I was sleeping by 9:00pm. I am awake again now at 1:30am writing about my day. Tomorrow at 7:30 am we are all meeting in the lobby for our guide and he is taking us to the Taj Mahal. What an amazing Christmas present!!!

Day 5:

It is Christmas Day and we are on our way back to Jaipur at 10:30am from Jaipur. I think I need someone to pinch me after seeing the Taj Mahal in person! Words can’t even describe how beautiful it is.

imageWe met our guide at 7:30am at our hotel, and then we walked a few blocks to get to the Taj Mahal. It was bit foggy at first but the sun was trying to make its way out. As we walked our guide gave us the history of the Taj Mahal and pointed out the most amazing parts of it. The part that struck me, was first it took 22 years to build, second all the script work, and flower inlay are precious stones all cut by hand and laid in the marble. The marble details are another one of the beauties you discover once you get up close.

Being there in front of one of the Seven Wonders of the World was simply breathtaking. Once our guide took us around and explained the history of being built and the meaning behind some of the architecture he left us for an hour for us to go around and take pictures on our own.

We met back up with our guide and got a bus back to our hotel. We had breakfast at the hotel, and I just tried to really grasp what I just saw. We checked out at 10:30am and we were back on the road back for 5+ hours back to Jaipur.

When we got home, Puni, who lives in the house full time and is cooks all our meals, had the place beautifully decorated and we had a lovely basket of goodies (chocolate, wine, biscuits) from Amita and Pranay, who run the Sanklap Society organization. They also joined us for our Christmas feast.

Christmas is a time to be with family, but “family” can come in many shapes and sizes and for this year, I am grateful to celebrate with my new Sanklap family!

Merry Christmas to all and no matter where or who you are with, I hope you made it the best!!!