Thursday, November 11, 2010

Golden Triangle Tour

We were up at 6am to be picked up at 7am and we were excited. Our driver arrived on time but immediately told us that he had a puncture in the tire so we would have to stop to have that fixed which would take about 20 minutes. Luke and I were fine with that, of course, so he drove for a bit and pulled up to the side of the road to have it fixed (across the street from a garage!). He told us not to get out of the car, so we didn't, but we did feel badly that the mechanic (?) would have to jack up the car by hand with the extra 300 lbs.... Once this was completed we were on the road to Agra.

Our driver was chatty and pointed out anything of importance or of interest along the way, which was great. His English was quite good so we were able to converse with him. After about an hour and a half we got to the first border crossing. Again, our driver instructed us not to get out of the car, and even went as far as to tell us not to roll the windows down. This made us a little nervous, as you can imagine, but after a minute or two we realized that it wasn't for our safety, it was to keep the touts from bothering us. (There were what seemed like a gazillion people on the side of the road). If the door is closed and the window is up they give up pretty quickly when you tell them you don't want to buy the necklace/cigarettes/bananas, or go anywhere near their cobras. Once the fee was paid, we were on our way again. During the drive there were tons of little 'villages' along the sides of the highways where people would be sitting in on the ground, in a pile of waste while talking on mobile phones. It's like nothing we've ever seen before.

On arrival to Agra, we had the driver drop us off at our hotel so that we could freshen up and then he came back to take us to Agra Fort, which was amazing, and had a spectacular view of the Taj Mahal, which was a few miles away. Unfortunately due to the fog, none of our photos really turned out. After the fort our driver brought us to another part of town where we found a place listed in Lonely Planet and we had a nice meal and a beer on the rooftop. This place was great because it was family run and the 'waiters/waitresses' were children. We ate our food and drank our beer and conversed with the kids and I noticed that two of them had henna on their hands and arms. I asked them where they got it and they explained that they did it themselves. I had been looking to get henna done but wasn't thrilled about going to an expensive 'professional' place or paying some man on the street so I told the girls I would pay them to do it for me. Neither of them had done it on anyone else before but I figured that worst case scenario it would only last for 6 weeks, so what the hell!

They took me to their bedroom where I sat down on the bed with them and gave them each an arm. I told them to just go for it and do whatever they pleased. Of course, Luke was not allowed in the room with us, so he waited outside. I ended up speaking to the girls and found out that they were Muslim and living in this small town of Agra. Both girls were lovely - one 7 and the other 17. I found it very hard when the 17 year old told me that she was finished high school and not allowed to continue with school. After she told me this she asked about my boyfriend. I told her that Luke and I were married and she asked me if it was a marriage of love or arranged. I told her that it was of love and she was so pleased for me. She told me that she wished she could do the same but that in 3 years she would be married to a man of her mother's choice. We continued to converse and then the lights went out..... in this part of Agra the power goes out from 6-8pm everyday. Because they were not finished doing the henna their mother came in with a candle. It was a lovely experience for me, to hear what these young Muslim girls thought.

After that we went back to the hotel to get up early to see Taj Mahal!

Next day was amazing, as you can imagine. Taj Mahal lived up to everything I'd hoped and more. The only unfortunate thing is that the smog is so bad, it looks like the Taj Mahal is blurry. And this is since they stopped vehicles from coming within a few km of the place! A few years ago they banned traffic from getting too close because the monument turned BLACK.

After Taj Mahal we drove to Jaipur where we saw City Palace, Amber Fort, etc, and two days later it was back to Delhi.

Last night in Jaipur we ran into Martyn, whom we had met when we were booking our Golden Triangle tour. As he booked his for one day after ours we ran into him on our second night in Jaipur (which was his first). He and I recoginized eachother from the travel agency so of course we invited him to join us and we had great craic (he's from England) over a few beers and agreed to meet 2 days later in Delhi when he was finished his tour (we were leaving the next morning).

We had most of a day before Martyn was arriving so we made plans to meet with Sid, a guy that Luke met online. I'll finish the rest of Delhi, but Luke has written about the food tour which you will read after this post.

Last full day in Delhi Luke and I hung out, catching up after the long car rides, etc, and Martyn met us in the late afternoon. We took him to have some Indian food (he hadn't eaten any in 1.5 weeks because he had been out of commission for a few days before that and couldn't bring himself to do it but we promised him that he would be fine because we'd eaten at this place numerous times over our stay in Delhi). After eating we went to get beers and the 3 of us went back to our room to drink them, finish off the balance of our bottle of whiskey and listen to music. It was great to have a friend and someone to get our frustrations out with. We've kept in touch with him since and will (hopefully) meet up with him in central Vietnam.

Next day it was off to Saigon!


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