Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Off again- one week, five cities

So I arrived by overnight sleeper bus in New Delhi on a frigid Monday morning, and took the autorickshaw to Tinku's house. The bus was not bad- I ended up knowing quite a few folks that were also traveling to New Delhi at the same time- Pushkar was a great small town. The sleeper compartment was also not bad at all, perfect for someone my size!
Anyways, Tinku had to work on Monday, but her husband was nice enough to let me tag along on some errands he had to run, including going to the train station- a great help having someone who knew how to navigate the system. We met up for lunch though at Karim's- delicious! First time I had meat since Mumbai- Pushkar was a veg town- they don't even have eggs! (and no alcohol either... although anything can be had- at a price!) We visited Rafik, a silver jeweler in the main bazaar, had chai and talked of many things...
I booked a ticket to Agra to see the Taj Mahal-

I booked a ticket to Varanasi, where I will arrive on Christmas morning.
I leave Varanasi on the 26th and go by another overnight train to Calcutta, arriving on the 27th in the morning. Then I leave on the 29th to go to Hyderabad by plane- finally meeting up with Pri just in time for the New Year!
Quite a lot of traveling in a short time. I'd rather have more time to chill in one spot and get to know it a little better, but time is ticking! 6 weeks to see India seemed like a long time, but there's so much to see... 6 months wouldn't be enough.

So, I saw the Taj...

It was indeed as magnificent as reported. From the moment you see it at a distance, it looks unreal and perfect. It rises against a blue sky, reflected in the rectangular reflecting pool that lies in front of it. My pictures looked exactly like every picture I've seen of the Taj. Just incredibly perfect and awe-inspiring. I wish I could have stayed there all day- We were there at sunset, until the guards kicked us out. Even as the light faded, the Taj kept glowing.
I also went to Fatehpur Sikri (abandoned city built by Emperor Akbar, who built it in honor of his first born son. It was the capitol of the Mughal empire between 1571 and 1585. Unfortunately it was abandoned due to water shortages. Akbar had three wives, and promoted peace between religions.)
And I went to the Agra Fort- where Emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj during the years 1631-1653 (for a cost of millions), was imprisoned by his son soon after the Taj's completion until he died in 1666. Harsh life, no?

This morning I took the train back to Delhi, where I will hang out for a few hours until I board the train again to Varanasi. I am still a little overwhelmed by the whole train thing- got on the wrong train this morning in Agra and went through some minor confusion and running around, but ended up in the right place (back at the New Delhi train station) after all! There are just so many people in India...
Some people are really nice and helpful. Some are just not concerned with you at all. Others look mean until you smile at them and say hello. Some people pretend they didn't see you smile or hear you speak and then ignore you. And many want to involve you in their scheme- and there are so many schemes... The best technique is to approach someone for help. If someone comes up offering something, there is usually a reason, and it is most likely their reason, not yours.
Anyways, to sum it up, things are still going well, the traveling is harder than the staying put, so this week will be tough, but I predict it will be very rewarding.


Molly said...

The Taj sounds like it was breath-taking!! So cool reading what each place is like. Love your writing style too. Reading about the yogurt (curds) and chai brought back fond memories and made me miss India. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures!!

Molly said...

PS: Merry X'mas!!!!!!! xoxoxo

Lilly said...

Hey Akemi! I have just sat down and read all of your blogs. Sounds like you are having a wonderful time. I admire and am somewhat envious of your adventuresome spirit. I also appreciate your sharing about fearlessness and taking on challenges in you life. I look forward to more of your adventures. Love and miss you!!