That Time I Woke Up In India: The Taj Mahal (8.12.2008)

Yes, the highlight of my journey. After this, my sanity goes downhill. But this experience was rather nice. Pictures inside.

Next, the Taj Mahal? A detour first, or course. Another Cottage Emporium. I must’ve been radiating an aura of disinterest, cause they asked me straight out if I wasn’t interested in buying anything. I feigned interest, but as soon as I said I was browsing, they showed me the door. Admirable way of treating a potential customer, isn’t it?

Now finally, the Taj Mahal. Or at least the entrance to the road to the Taj. Yup, I found that it was a long walk to the entrance. Rickshaw drivers offered to drive me there, but thankfully they weren’t that persistent. It was a peaceful path, not too crowded and rather quiet. Unlike the Taj Mahal itself.

The entrance to the Taj Mahal was crowded and confusing. I couldn’t find the ticket office until a guy led me to it. 750rps. Wow. They must earn billions this way. Even better, the ticket to the Taj Mahal gives 50rps discounts to all the sites in Agra that I just went to. Great. At least the ticket came with a free bottle of water and some shoe covers for visiting the Taj. Yay. The guy also led me to the locker room where I could put my bag. Suspicious of his excessive helpfulness, I suspected he wanted me to buy something, so I told him I wasn’t interested. Bingo. He immediately started telling me how it wasn’t much money, how he was a government guide of whatever and that I’d need a guide. Well, it’s the Taj Mahal, which is pretty self-explanatory. As soon as I shook him off, another guy showed up, took my ticket, and told me he’d show me around for free. I snatched my ticket back (worth 750 freaking rupees) and told him very politely that it wasn’t necessary, and went through the entrance, expecting to see the Taj Mahal unfold before my very eyes.

Ehh, not what I expected

Ehh, not what I expected

Nope. It was the plaza in front of the Taj. Still had one gate to go. And the guy was still following me. I turned around and told him firmly that I wasn’t interested, then walked away very quickly. I left him there in the plaza, never to see him again, I hoped. Not going to happen. But anyway, I walked through the gate and found myself looking at the Taj Mahal.

Almost there...

Almost there...

There it is!

There it is!

Now, this wasn’t the first time I visited the Taj Mahal. I was around 4 or 5 when I first went there. I lived in Boston at the time, so it was a quick drive down south to Atlantic City to the Taj. Strange, there didn’t seem to be any slot machines in the building this time around. Oh well. I’m too young to gamble anyway. Maybe next year, when I’m 21. My god, I’ll be 21 next year. Damn…

Yeah, so the Taj Mahal. Supposedly the greatest monument of love ever built. Before I saw the actual thing, I thought, “Give me enough and I’ll build something even greater! No actually, with that kind of money, I’d get myself another love.” But standing in front of the actual Taj Mahal, I realized that no one could even think of building something as ridiculously grand as the Taj. It was epic. Words can’t even do justice to its epicness. Like, it’s even better than the pictures, even on a crappy day like the day I visited. Of course, 750rps is still a tad too much. I’m cheap.

So purty

So purty

Yup. It was amazing. I thought about making a video and putting it up on Facebook, but I was really hot and couldn’t be bothered to make a fool of myself in an attempt to start videoblogging. At the far end of the Taj, I got a German couple to take my picture, just like all the other tourists. Of course, the pictures showed my shirt being soaking wet, though I don’t remember if it was because of the rain or my sweat and tears. Let’s just say it was the rain. Anyway, while I was walking in awe toward the Taj, the fountains were on so I couldn’t get the cool Taj-reflecting-on-the-pool photos. Just my luck.

I walked up to the marble platform upon which the Taj was built using my free shoe covers (convenient!), admired the Taj, admired the view of Agra Fort, and did some admiring in general. A picture says a thousand words, so I’ll let the pictures explain.

The Taj up close. Real close.

The Taj up close. Real close.

No one really talks about the side structures, do they?

No one really talks about the side structures, do they?

Yeah, it needs its minaret entourage...

Yeah, it needs its minaret entourage...

Still looks good from the side. That's what he said.

Still looks good from the side. That's what he said.

Yes, it is entirely possible to take pictures like this.

Yes, it is entirely possible to take pictures like this.

On my way back from the Taj, I saw that the fountains had turned off so I could get some sweet pics. This time I enlisted the help of two Japanese ladies for pics. Still looked awful in that wet shirt (seriously, it’s not as hot as one might imagine), but at least I had a picture of me at the Taj that looked awesome. Yay. Took more pictures, then left the area, turning back one last time to see the Taj Mahal again. I mean, it’s probably the last time I’ll see the Taj in person, since I’m never coming back to this giant tourist trap again. Unless I have an army of tourist human shields to protect me. And a guide who’s not from Agra. And the admission prices become more affordable. Ah well. At least I saw the Taj and survived to tell the tale.

Now I had seen at least two of the World Wonders, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China. Three, if the Colosseum is counted as one. I mean, I don’t really know the Seven World Wonders. These three (maybe?), Machu Picchu, the Pyramids of Giza, the Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro (I remember this one specifically because it was one of the most bizarre choices on the list), and…crap. I really have no idea. If it’s something in the States, I probably saw it. I dunno.

Still confused about the Seven World Wonders, I walked into the plaza where the guy who was offering to be my guide for free was waiting for me. He recognized me as Japanese (I mean, I guess every Asian must seem Japanese to them) and offered to take me to his shop. Oh. So that was the game he was playing. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t interested in playing games, so I ignored him and left the area. As I walked back to the car, I devised an excuse to get me out of Pappu’s clutches. But I would tell him only when I was sure that we were going to the hotel. And I would give him a hefty tip as closure on the matter. Yup. This was the last scheduled stop, so unless we visited any emporiums again, I’d be free of him soon.

As usual, several people were in the car talking with him. I was glad that I never trusted him enough to leave my stuff with him in the car. I mean, who knows what would’ve happened? And of course, I paid the parking fees. The bastard. Oh well, I was soon to be rid of him.

As soon as I could see that we were heading toward the hotel, I told Pappu that family friends from Delhi were in Jaipur right now, and that they were offering to pick me up and show me around, so I wouldn’t need his friend. In that order, so it didn’t seem too much like an excuse. A lie, of course. And then I told him that I didn’t think I was going to Fatehpur Sikri tomorrow, so I wouldn’t need him. Another lie. And to make him feel better, I told him that I’d recommend him to my friends when they came to Agra. Now, I doubt that any of my friends would ever visit Agra, but if they do, I won’t be recommending him. I was tempted to write something nasty in Korean in his guestbook, but being rather poor in critical discourse, I refrained against it and instead wrote some nice words to make him happy. I gave him a large tip, thanked him graciously, and hopped off the taxi, hoping never to see him again. Especially tomorrow at the train station, where I’d be looking for a different driver to take me to Fatehpur Sikri. That would be awkward.

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