Jesse’s Blog

Monday, June 30, 2008

Man vs. Taj

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On Saturday I took on the Taj Mahal once again (2006 trip, 2007 trip). This brute refuses to go down! It never fails that someone pays a visit to India in the dead of summer heat and needs to see the damn thing before they leave. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a beautiful monument; after 3 times I’d just rather see other monuments. If that makes me a player than so be it. I’m not a one-monument type of guy!

Taj_III-36 Our trip went horribly. Getting to Agra was easy enough, but due to the abysmal state of that city’s infrastructure combined with recent heavy rains, the exact streets we needed were flooded and traffic was diverted. It started to rain again, and we were backed up for hours. The bright side, besides the sun coming out right at the end of our 7 hour journey, was that we got some great photos!

Taj_III-76 Way too late in the afternoon we finally entered the parking lot for the Taj. If you have never been, the next few hours are the same for everyone who goes:

  1. You are yanked from your vehicle by a mob of “tour guides” and souvenir peddlers.
  2. You politely-at-first-but-ultimately-violently turn them away and make your way to the small electric buses that you assume will take you to the Taj.
  3. You invariably take this bus because a) you have no idea where you are going and b) you are practically running to escape the aforementioned pursuing mob (which appears to be spontaneously multiplying at an accelerating rate).
  4. Approximately 2 minutes later you exit the bus surrendering your 10 rupees, feeling stupid for not having walked.
  5. Somehow the mob from #1 has shown up again, and they have the exact same crap. Maybe your 10 rupees was actually worth it.
  6. At the gate you feel cheated that Indian tourists only have to pay $0.50 and Foreign Nationals have to pay $17.50! Optionally, if you live/work in India and pay Indian taxes, you may engage in a shouting match with the cashier that will get you exactly nowhere. You’re still charged the “white tax”.
  7. You wait in line to get frisked. Security at the Taj appears to rival security at Indian airports, until you realize they barely look sideways at you while waving their magic wand and don’t bother to check your bags. Nevermind, this is exactly what happens at the airport. Did you bring your bomb?
  8. Taj_III-51 Immediately after entering you go through the big gate leading to the Taj Mahal gardens and you take a picture exactly like this one to the right. More photographers than you can count offer to take the same exact picture for you – for a price. Depending on your photography skills and equipment, your photo may already be sufficient/better. The best option is to just steal their camera. That’s right. Just take it. This is India – what are they going to do?
  9. Taj_III-53 You can’t wait to get a closer look, so you move down the path on the right, unless you are left handed (and we all know what happens then). Once you get to the platform in the middle of the gardens where all the water meets you take another closer picture.
  10. Next, you make your way to the Taj itself and put on the weird outer sock things they gave you “complimentary” with your atrocious entry fee. You feel silly, and you look silly. Your friends laugh and take a picture of you looking silly and feeling silly.
  11. Taj_III-60 You go up and walk around the outside of the Taj, or maybe you go inside first. Doesn’t really matter. Inside you respect the “No Photography” signs even though all the Indian tourists completely ignore it and flash pictures like they are at a rock concert.
  12. Finally, you have “free” time. Hang out in the Gardens, go to the Museum, or strike weird poses and take silly pictures! Optionally, get the heck out of there ASAP because it’s way too hot and there are other cooler things to see like Agra Red Fort. Everything is on Wikipedia these days, anyway. Elapsed time: 2 hours.

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posted by Jesse at 2:26 pm  

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