Luggage had to go out at 6:15 PM the previous night, so that it could be transported by bus for us while we take an early train from Ranthambhore to Bharatpur, a place near Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located. Preparing for the train trip involved unfolding our small black fold-up suitcase to keep what we need for tonight and early morning.
We arrived at the Ranthambhore train station nearby to have an Indian train experience. There are homeless people in the front, but not on the platform. The trains are electric, with overhead wires, and quite on-time. When the train arrives, you have to get on quickly, because it leaves in about three minutes. Everyone has assigned seats, and we were in an air-condioned car. Official food and drink vendors came through, but we had huge boxed breakfasts from the hotel. It was a pleasant ride through the rural countryside, and two and a half hours later, we arrived at our destination, Bharatpur, about a half-hour from Agra. Most of us had food left over, so D.P. said to give it to any begging children who depend a lot on such leftovers, so we did as soon as we got off. Tom has made a movie of this train adventure - so be sure to view it.
On the way to Agra, we first had to stop at the border of the state of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to first pay an extortion to the police in order to continue followed by an official tax a few miles down the road. We then visited another enormous palace on our way to Agra - another extravagance from a few centuries ago, with separate chambers for each wife of the emperor, Akbar. These palaces are also forts for defense. This one (named the Fetehpur Sikri) when completed was then abandoned in only 15 years due to the lack of potable water.
After arriving at our hotel (each room has a good view of the Taj Mahal) and having lunch, we set off for the Taj Mahal. It is truly gorgeous and huge. It is also a bit like Disney World - the line to get inside wrapped completely around the building. It was very dark inside - it is, after all, a tomb of the favorite wife of this emperor, Shah Jehan. She died at the age of about forty in 1631 while giving birth to her 14th child. The Taj took 20,000 workers and 22 years to build and was completed in 1653. We did not go in, but we felt the awesomeness of it from a short distance outside, while still on the grounds.
Our group farewell dinner was at the Indian restaurant in the hotel, and was a lot of fun. Anne got to wear her new dress which was stunning.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Early morning we made a sunrise visit to the Taj, this time from the back, and across the river from it - very beautiful in the glow of the rising sun.
Our bus started for Delhi at 10:30. The A.C. broke soon, and they called a replacement bus for us which arrived quickly. Nonetheless, the trip was a long, grueling and bumpy drive of six hours including a detour around Delhi to avoid the traffic congestion in the city. We arrived for a few hours stay at the Trident Hilton so we could shower, eat, and re-pack for the flight home.