17 Jul The Taj Mahal with video!
This one is a doozy, I almost don’t know where to start. I like to keep it real on my blog so if you get offended easily then you might not want to read this one. I had been to 58 countries, but nothing could prepare me for India, nothing. Between the staggering heat, fierce smells, and over-crowding, I had relentless culture shock. I was
mildly overly embarrassed when I showed up to the party of three after six months of traveling to be the one literally freaking out in India. I felt like a sham and a fraud, all at once. I always said I would never go to India. In fact, when I was in India my friend Amanda texted me in all caps asking OMG WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN INDIA? I was reminded that on our last night in Panama, we were watching this British series called Scams Abroad and the episode on India came up and I said under no circumstance will I ever go to India.…
It turns out there is one circumstance. This is when I am in Malta and my long time friend, Tamara, who is now married, with two small children, is working in Mumbai for two weeks and texts me to see if I want to come meet her that weekend to hang out. Seriously, what a conundrum, I still don’t want to go to India, but the idea of seeing her on my trip and spending time together that will probably never, ever happen again did lean on my mind. I slept on it, and the next day I said ok I’ll come meet you in India but I am not going to Mumbai – later I would end up in Mumbai – so meet me in New Delhi and lets see the Taj Mahal. Done. The next day we bought our flights, I applied for my visa exactly five days before entrance – the latest you can apply for an entry visa to India – and away I went with mostly sunny weather in our future. I left my comfy little sea view apartment in Buggiba, Malta for the filthiest place I have ever been in my life – and yes, I have been to some dirty ass places.
I arrived about five hours before Tamara and Genevieve and I was exhausted. During these few hours I reached a new personal low when I paid $20 to take a nap. I love sleeping, but $20 is just excessive. At first, I did what all of the Indians did and I took out my travel towel, laid it on the cold, hard, airport ground and tried to sleep. Ugh, an hour in and I was like, ok I am 30 now and my body hurts! I basically crawled over to the nap room where they had a photo of what looked like a 5 star suite on the outside, paid my $20 and was ushered to a large chair. I asked her where the room was and she said this is it. It was an open room full of other people and just for me was a big chair with an ottoman. I slept for a bit and waited for them to arrive. I decided this would be the preview of my whole trip, everything in India is not as it seems, it looks great outside, but is a dump on the inside.
I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw Tamara and Genevieve walking towards me in the New Delhi airport. I was getting nervous when after their plane landed I didn’t see them for a very long time, I realized there were two airports in New Delhi so I started to panic that we missed this little detail. Nope, they arrived and I was super excited! Off to our hotel we went.
During check-in, I asked them if either of had had Dehli Belly – they both said they had never been to Delhi and no they hadn’t had it. I was smug in the fact that I had had very little digestive issues on my entire trip and was sure I would be totally fine.
Genevieve and Tamara ate dinner in the hotel restaurant and Tamara brought me naan bread on my request. I ate the naan bread, felt a bit queasy and went to bed.
Trip to Agra
Shocker – 2am wake up call! To see the Taj Mahal at sunrise you have to leave New Delhi by 3am. Our driver was ready and waiting for us just before 3am so away we went in the balmy 90* weather. Queue the queasiness; once we starting swerving through the traffic, I felt ill. At one point the car pulled over so I could vomit, but I was camera-shy and couldn’t get anything out. Tamara said this is like the cherry hills of India, its a perfect place to puke.
We continued on and had to stop at a gas station. The smells alone were enough to trigger insane puking. I walked over to a trash can to puke but there were people staring at me so I went back to the car and told the girls I couldn’t puke with people watching me but I was so sick. Genevieve responded in her calm and steady voice people poop on the street here, nobody cares. So with that, I hurled my brains out in a trash can, strangers watched, and Tamara quickly jumped out of the van to take photos. This time I was not camera-shy and I felt much better afterwards.
As we approached Agra we were all in shock at the realest of the real India. Camels, cows, sheep, monkeys, dogs, and people, everywhere. At that very moment I was extremely grateful we had booked a private tour in a comfy, air-conditioned van. I could not imagine trying to navigate Agra without assistance. (See full video below for further visualization).
As we continued our drive, it started to peer out at us. From the distance at sunrise as we approached it, it was remarkable, stunning, and it stood alone in its own magnificence. This suddenly was all worth it. This is one of those moments that will stay in my head for a lifetime. Leaning on the
big window, dried trees speeding pass us, just beyond the parched river bed she sat, the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal and Mohd
Near the entrance to the Taj Mahal our van pulled over and our guide, Mohd, jumped in. Mohd was by far, the most enthusiastic guide I had on my entire trip.
He really liked his work and wanted to describe every single detail to us, which I fully appreciated. He took all of our photos and taught us how to take visually impressive photos throughout the Taj. It was an engineering marvel and symmetrically astounding. All of the thought, detail, and planning that went into it is just marvelous. Not to mention the love story around it brought me to tears. Never mind the fact that we were all about 8 minutes away from heat stroke at any moment.
During the tour, Tamara jokingly mentioned the entrance to the synagogue within the Taj Mahal. I asked our guide if we were allowed in the synagogue and he was perplexed and said that this was an Islamic site with mosques. Everyone burst out laughing; I actually thought there was a synagogue on-site.
We asked Mohd about the cherished cows, he referred to them as pets. Pets, yes. All of the other stray animals – sheep, dogs, monkeys, they were just animals, but cows were pets. Ok. They are like everyones pets. The communal pets if you will. Later after lunch, there was a snake charmer in front of our restaurant and Genevieve just sat down next to him like she was a pro and proceeded to pet the snake – pet the pet, if you will.
Back to New Delhi
On the long way home we were all talking which led me to start sobbing in the back of the car for what seemed like an eternity, I felt bad that I was such an uncontrollable mess, but I have to say our driver didn’t even wince at this ridiculous show of blubbery. He just drove on as if the blonde woman in the back of the car was not an emotional train wreck. He was the real mvp.
I had been back in the developed world just long enough to find little complaints with the hotel such as oh the water doesn’t get warm, there’s no a/c in the hallway, they didn’t recognize my status. By the end of the day though, we were calling it The Palace, it literally was the nicest place in all of India, I loved it and I never wanted to step outside of it again. I love you Hyatt Palace, Gurgaon.
After an 18 hour day we passed out, got up, and flew to Mumbai the next day.
Sometimes I need to write these things out and say holy crap I saw the Taj Mahal, it was incredible!
Below is the entire snapchat story of the full day. It was the best, and the worst, all in one.
To quote Tamara “Obligatory trip to one of the seven wonders” #Namaste.