Sunday, September 16, 2012

India. . . Day 4

Today we traveled 8 hours to the south-east of Delhi to the ancient city of Agra.  Agra was once the capital city of the Mughal kingdom .  Within Agra lies the Taj-Mahal, the Agra fort, and the “baby Taj”.  When we got to the city (which is not much of a city but rather a road with small shops on both sides) we checked into the hotel and then Clayton and I ventured out into the city on foot.  An Indian man with his own bicycle rick-shaw decided that we absolutely needed to ride his rick-shaw although we had told him no numerous times.  He followed us for quite a while until Clayton had to yell at him.  The streets here are crazy.  It is not uncommon to see cows in the middle of the roads, people jay walking across 6 lane highways and lanes in which the population pay absolutely no attention to.  We also witnessed a young man riding his elephant down the highway on the way to Agra.  There is abundant amounts of trash and rubble lining the streets (was the same in Delhi) as if the construction took place an there was no afterthought to clean up the rubble left behind.  We didn’t spend much time in the city, as we were melting in the humidity and were starting to feel a little unsafe.  We rented a tripod vehicle to drive us back to the hotel.

When we met back up with our group we were taken to Agra fort, a massive sandstone structure which was built and inhabited by six generations of Mughal emperors (of which one of them was responsible for the building of the Taj Mahal and was later imprisoned in the fort by his own son and successor).   Inside the fort were palaces made of marble and an impressive view of the Taj Mahal.  It was truly amazing!  I cannot tell you how many times I randomly broke out into song, mostly consisting of “Prince Ali” from Aladdin.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

India. . . Day 3

Started with us being wide awake at 5 a.m.  We had a gourmet breakfast at the hotel consisting of items that we had no idea what we were eating to pancakes and hash browns.  Today we explored the city of Delhi, both old and new Dehli.  Our first stop was the Laxmi Narayan Temple, a Hindu temple built in the honor of Lord Vishnu (the preserver of the Hindu Trinity) and his wife Laxmi (the Hindu goddess of wealth).  At this temple we were not allowed to bring our cameras in to the actual temple thus the pictures are only from the outside.  We were made to remove our shoes before entering (glad I brought my socks!) and were amazed at the worship of idols. . . Clayton made the statement “the power of human belief is amazing. . . a porcelain figure has become a god to these people because of their belief.”  It was here at this temple that I witnessed first hand what I was warned about on my last day of work in the U.S.  I had a patient who was Indian and had been to India earlier this year. . . I was told “the facilities are not as accommodating.”  Luckily our good friend and guide, Vikas, warned us ladies to carry toilet paper with us at all times.  The “facility” consisted of stalls and a hole in the ground below. 

We also visited the site of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation which is now a memorial to Gandhi and contains an eternal flame in his honor.  Outside of the shrine sat a snake charmer with a friendly cobra in his basket.  For a mere $1 Clayton was able to hold the basket containing the sweet lil’cobra and I was able to snap some shots for his mother back at home.  :-)

Our next stop was Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque.  It was completed in 1656 after six years of work by 5,000 laborers and is made of red sandstone.  Here I was required to robe myself with a lovely dress of pink as well as remove my shoes once again.  We were also met by several youngsters who were begging for money all the way back to the bus. 
After the mosque we were immersed into Indian culture by way of bicycle rickshaw.  It was such an adventure!  Clayton and I climbed into a two person bench pulled by a bicycle and rode through the streets (more like alleys) of Old Delhi.  It was complete chaos.  There is no order with pedestrians, bicycles and motorbikes squeezing through spaces as small as 8 feet wide while these alleys are lined with merchants selling everything from local foods to rugs and garment fabrics.  The smell of incense was overwhelming.  We also noticed the terrible electrical work where wires were running in confusion with no reason or order.  Our stares at the environment around us were returned 10fold.  I felt like a celebrity.  It was also somewhat unsettling and we dared not leave the security of the rickshaw, no matter how small that security was. 
In New Delhi we witnessed the presidential palace, parliament buildings and the Indian Gate, fashioned after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  The gate is a memorial to fallen soldiers who died in World War I and the Afghan Wars.
We finished the day at Qutab Minar, the world’s tallest free standing minaret, made of sandstone and covered with carvings and verses of the Qur’an.  At this place also lies the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, the first mosque in India, erected in the 12th century from materials salvaged from 27 demolished Hindu and Jain shrines.  All of the shrines were defaced as there is no idol worship in Islam.  

India!! At Last! Days 1 and 2

After two straight red eye flights, 21 hours of flying and two days of travel we arrived at Delhi International Airport where we met our guide for the tour, Vikas!  He is a nice chap. . .  he warned us about what we eat to avoid getting what is termed the “Dehli Belly”.  Fist item of business was obtaining some Indian Rupee for which to pay for goods and services.  Clayton withdrew the max amount from the airport at the ATM machine. . . a whopping 8K rupee!  (We found out this only sounds impressive, in reality it is only about $145).  We made the hour long trip to the hotel in our tour bus and were greeted with marigold lei’s, some sort of lime drink and a red mark on our foreheads. By the end of this day I found that I no longer had ankles (they disappeared) and both eyes had busted capillaries.  We were a mess.  We ordered room service for dinner but were asleep before they could make it to our room . . . it was 7 p.m.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Goodbye USA

Today we leave on our adventure . . across seas and land. . . 22 hours of flying time . . to the seventh-largest country in the world, the second-largest population in the world and one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
I have found and interested description of India as "the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genies and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods. . ." (Mark Twain 1835-1910)
On the itinerary are the cities of Dehli, Agra and Jaipur, in which we will experience a sunrise tour of the Taj Mahal, view such wonders as the Red Fort (built in 1648), Laxmi Narayan Temple (in honor of the Hindu goddess of wealth), Jama Masjid (India's largest mosque), Qutab Minar, Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid (first mosque in India), Agra Fort, Itmad-Ud-Daula ("baby Taj") and the Amber Fort (hopefully by way of elephant).
We are thrilled beyond words as this is a completely new experience for both of us.  I will try and update this blog as much as possible with our adventures, pictures and, I am sure, a vast deal of information gleaned.
Until next time. . . ciao . . adios. . arrivederci. . Auf wiedersehen . . toodles . . . and farewell!