Last Saturday was a big day. Not only was it the 23rd anniversary of my escape from that wretched ovarian Bastille, it was the time I managed to visit four major Indian cities in a single day. This story could have a number of beginnings. It could be back in Sydney when we, as a group, collectively decided we had to visit the Taj Mahal while we were in India. It could start two weeks earlier when I bought my plane ticket to Agra. It could begin at 11pm Friday night, when we frantically gathered together to book everyone else's flights, find a hotel and arrange a driver for the next morning. I choose to start the adventure at 5am Saturday morning, climbing into the backseat of a Mumbai taxi and heading off to the airport.
I mention its a Mumbai cab because there are 5 people in the backseat
The flight to New Dehli was reasonably uneventful. Unsurprisingly for anyone who's (a) flown with me before and/or (b) seen me at 5am, I slept the entire way. In Dehli airport, we hired two drivers and two cars to drive the 12 of us the 3 hours south to Agra (where the Taj Mahal is located) then the 6 hours west to Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan.
View from the backseat of the car or possibly a boat on a Dehli highway
Aside from numerous games of i-spy, some questionable roadside samosas and Dehli highways that could have passed as canals in the monsoon rains, we made the advertised 3 hour trip from Dehli to Agra in around 5 hours, which our driver assured us was a good time. So far, my birthday had been primarily early starts, queasy stomachs and cabin fever but it was easy to forget all that when we made it to the Taj Mahal.
It might come as no surprise, but the Taj Mahal came pretty highly recommended. I tried to approach it with an open mind but placing something on the 'Seven Wonders of the Modern World' list does tend to heighten expectations. That's why it was such a surprise to walk through the dark archway that separates the outside world from the grounds of the Taj Mahal complex and feel my jaw completely drop away. It's a bloody impressive building, is what I'm saying.
The Taj Mahal was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shan Jahan in 1632 as a mausoleum for his third and favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It was finished in 1653 with a modern day cost of an estimated $1billion dollars. 20,000 workers were employed to create the white marble masterpiece. With those details out of the way, here are some photos. Oh, we all also decided to don Indian garb because, hey, why not?
Oh yeah, it rained at one point too.
I guess the Taj isn't everybody's cup of tea
After it began to get dark at the Taj, we piled back into the cars for the long trip to Jaipur. Again, I'd like to say it was an eventful trip but... I can't think of a way to finish this sentence. The standout point of the trip was at about midnight, when we crossed into the state of Rajasthan, when our driver was pulled over by the police. It would be very rude of me to speak disparagingly of the integrity of Indian police. Indeed, they were quite thorough in informing our driver that his drivers license was expired. Fortunately, after a donation of a few hundred Rupees, he was fine to drive on. The strangest thing was that our driver showed me his license afterwards, which clearly says that it expires in 2018. Oh India, you so crazy!
Anyways, we arrived in Jaipur about 1am. Not too much personal reflection of philosophical insight this time, basically just a recount. I'm going to break up the story here, so tune in at the same time next week for the continuing adventures of yours truly in India.
"Damn white people and their selfies"
Ps. I'm just saving all the little Mumbai stuff up for one long post. It's easier and saves me thinking of increasingly obscure Mumbai-themed blog post puns.