Getting a full night’s sleep seems to be eluding both of us. It seems that no matter what time we turn in, we’re awake anytime from 2:00 or 3:00 AM. This morning was no exception, so when the alarm went off at 6:30 or so, we had both been awake for a few hours. We were showered, packed and ready for breakfast at 7:00, which gave us lots of time before our driver arrived at 8:00 to take us to the airport.
I went up to the restaurant at 7:00 only to find out that breakfast didn’t start until 7:30. We went back up at 7:30, but they were just starting to set the buffet up. We ordered tea and coffee, which hadn’t arrived when we finally gave up on breakfast at 7:50. The driver was waiting for us in the lobby, so we piled our luggage into the car and headed for the airport. Since it was Sunday morning, the traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as it was when we arrived in Varanasi. We saw lots of signs of Diwali celebrations, but the most evident was the huge amount of orange flower wreaths, or leis, for sale. They were loaded on trucks, carts, scooters and motorcycles, in shops and on the side of the road. Piles of them!! The loose ones that were laying on the street from the previous day became food for the cows, goats and pigs.
This time I didn’t worry about having 2 carry-on bags or the weight of them, which turned out to be OK, since they never mentioned the 1 carry-on bag limit and didn’t check the weight. Apparently they also have a strange rule about not being able to take DSLR cameras on board, but that wasn’t an issue either. My checked bag was under 15kg, so no problem there either. Dass was 4kg over, but rather than the Rs 300 per kg charge, they charged him only Rs 400, which is about $8. We’re thinking it was a special Diwali deal.
Our flight was at 10:50, so we had time to go into a restaurant for a quick snack: pizza and a vegetable puff. Not good!
The flight arrived in Delhi a few minutes early, but Kamal was there waiting for us. The direction we drove from the airport was different than we’d seen before: not too much traffic, wide boulevards, manicured trees, etc. – very nice. It was obviously in a more affluent part of Delhi, with government offices and signs of western influence. Kamal took us to a restaurant for lunch and, for once, us whities were not the minority! A good lunch – I seriously considered having a cold beer but stuck with a peach ice tea. Kinda girlie but, hey, I’m very comfortable with my feminine side!
Away we went to Agra. Once out of the city, we were on a very modern 8-lane toll highway – 4 lanes in each direction with very little traffic. We arrived in Agra about 2 hours later.
Agra is a small city of about 1.2 million people. I’ve come to the conclusion that regardless of the size of the city, there are sill just so many square feet per person, so every city or town seems equally congested and busy. The drive through Agra was, again, gob-f’ing-smackingly unbelievable! Does OMG to the 12th power help to explain it?
By the time we got to the parking lot for the Taj Mahal it was about 5:00, so the sun would soon be setting. The sunset wasn’t up to much, but Dass and I followed the paths to the river where we could see the Taj. It was quite misty, so the photography conditions were far from ideal; however, we got our first sighting of the Taj and we managed to get some shotsj. At least it was my first time seeing it; Dass had been here in 1978, but could remember little about it.
We met Kamal back in the parking area and continued on to the hotel. It was quite nice and the room was the largest we had been in so far. The only problem was that there was no internet in the room, only in the lobby. Unfortunately, that wasn’t working. When Bonnie and I were teaching in China in 2011, one of the young teachers, Jake, would just say “China!” whenever we encountered something strange or when something didn’t work quite right or at all. So, to follow Jake’s lead: India!! You may see that again throughout the blog and it’s all in good fun.
Going back to the internet, it’s hard to believe that, with India being one of the main communications countries in the world, that you would have a problem with the internet anywhere. But then, when you see some of their electrical wiring (see previous photo), it’s a bit easier to understand. When I think about it, though, I’ve had the most problems with the internet in my home!
India is a country steeped in ancient traditions. They’re working hard to clean up and modernize, so it’s a very hopeful country; however, with 1.3 billion people, it’s a slow process so change will take time. In the meantime, there are beautiful things to see everywhere, especially the people. They’re so friendly and willing to help and vacationing here is simply amazing. One travels to places like this to see what the rest of the world is like and you have to accept it as it is. Beijing, China is a very modern city, but China is a lot of facade; in comparison, India is “what you see is what you get”. It’s perpetual motion and a brain full of sights, sounds, colours and smells. Unfortunately, you can’t take in everything that’s happening around you. Fortunately, for me, this blog and the photographs guarantee that I won’t forget the things I did see!
After several attempts to try to get on the internet, I finally gave up. I think Diwali broke it! We skipped dinner and stayed in. There was a party going on outside with somebody playing bongo drums, lots of loud music and very loud firecrackers. It’s Diwali!!!
Dass was asleep around 8:00; I made it until 10:00and was able to have a phone conversation with Bonnie.
Another early morning coming up with sunrise at the Taj Mahal.