India Day 2
The wake-up call blends into my dream as I pick up the phone sleepily. Getting up at 5:15 was not easy, but when you have India to explore it certainly helps. We gather our belongings and head downstairs for a boxed breakfast on the bus. It drives us to the train station where we are to get on a 7 am departure to Agra. Once more the true poverty of India engulfs us as more hawkers and children run up to us for money. As I look around at the families huddled together on blankets on the platform I remark at just how lucky I am for my charmed life. The vendors are also ever present, I have never seen so many different kinds of fruit being sold in my life, the colors are truly a spectrum. We board our first class seats, which, like most of India (which is truly unfortunate since the culture is so vibrant), are dirty, my mind wanders to think of what the other cabins must look like. As the train begins its slow trek, I marvel to Brittany at the sites out the window. It seems that the train tracks act as a bathroom for many locals and I see quite a few tushies and well, other sites out my window. Lets just say India was a total culture shock.
Eventually the water I drank with breakfast catches up to me and I head to the restroom, which consists of literally a hole in the ground. The adventure never seems to end . The three hours whiz by as I fall asleep on my Freakenomics book.
We arrive in Agra around 10. Agra has a reputation as not that nice of a town, get in, see the taj and go. This was inherently obvious as our Hotel, Yamuna View, was a step down (although still very nice!) but considered a five star joint. We drop off our belongings and head back to the bus, which drives us to Cottage Industries. CI makes carpets and gives us a brief demonstration of the detail which goes into them. They provide our group with tea, beer and water and while some (including Brittany) haggle over the handmade carpets. I head to the other parts of the upscale shop and settle on a silk painting for about 10$, which depicts a herd of elephants! From there we head back to the hotel for lunch.
After some more nan and masala chicken, Brittany and I inquire about the possibility of some local shopping since SAS usually (as evidenced by CI) takes us to very upscale (and sometimes jacked up price wise) places. The woman, in her gorgeous purple sari, gives us directions and says we will be able to walk there. We venture out and after a couple of blocks I get nervous that we are lost. The honking autos, looking for our fare do not help the situation and we decide to turn back. After only a couple of paces we see two guys from SAS that are also looking for the shopping street. Confident in the larger group, we set out once more walking on a dirt laden piece of grass next to the road. After a little more walking, we find the right street! With only about twenty minutes to look we find some small Shiva statues and pendants for gifts. A quick brisk stride finds us safely (it was a little sketch crossing the road) on the bus on our way to Fatehpur Sikri.
Fatehpur Sikri is a deserted city, 25 miles out of Agra which was built by Emperor Akbar as their capital. It was meant to honor the Muslim saint who told him that he would have an heir. It was absolutely humongous. Interestingly, we had to switch from our bus to a smaller natural gas one in an effort to protect the old city. We were all pretty confounded by this, since the omnipresent smog seemed to outweigh any damage done by our bus.
The heat blazed down on our shoulders as we merrily explored the sandstone palaces. The Emperor had built different buildings in honor of his wives, each an ode to her religion. It was abandoned in 1585 due to a lack of water. It is currently a World Heritage Site. The architecture blends Hindu, Jain and Islamic forms. We explore the nooks and crannies of the buildings; taking pictures as we jump off various platforms (love my camera mom and dad (sports mode, quick shutter, continuous shooting)!!!). I marvel at the awesome architecture, from the thick pillars to the grand beams and wonder about how life would have been back in the 1500s before colonization by the British.
Before I know it, it is time to head back and we get on the bus once more. In India, I learned the true definition of window shopping as at every major monument or tourist attraction, hawkers run up to the windows of the bus touting their wares. It is always fun bargaining with the hawkers from our seats and every member of our group participates, passing around the goods and then strategizing about prices as the vendor waves his hands and items into the bus.
We arrive back at the hotel, ready for dinner and bedtime. Another hotel buffet comes and goes (due to the omnipresent threat of Travelers Diarrhea and the like, we basically only ate at hotels). Brittany and I head back to the room in eager anticipation of the Taj in the morning! While she stays awake, the sounds of honking auto drivers somehow soothes me to sleep as our first floor room remains alive with noise.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
India Day 2
India Day 2