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The Taj Mahal and other fun around Agra!

On my second day in India, I hired a driver through my hotel to take me to Agra and then to Delhi.

A word of warning to anyone traveling to India: The cab drivers here love to pull sneaky tricks, even the "pre-paid" government-approved ones. Just on this trip, I've heard of people whose drivers pulled over on the side of a dark road and only moved after being "tipped". Others will lie to you about your hotel being fully booked, only to bring you to some crappy hotel they have a deal with.

So first, you'll definitely want your hotel to send a driver to pick you up from the airport. Also, for my trips, I hired a driver through my hotel itself. If you stay at a high-end hotel (still reasonably priced by American standards), you can be confident that their drivers will be trustworthy. It'll be a bit more expensive upfront, but the peace of mind is so worth it.

Okay, onward...

Cows just do what they want here

Cows can do what they want here, and cars pretty much just have to drive around them. I've seen cows just chewing on grass and trash in medians of highways. Often the cows actually belong to local residents, but they just let their cows roam during the day, and they somehow find their way back in the evening, or so I'm told.

Here's a kid actually herding some cattle:

Cowherd

I felt a little sorry for this donkey: :\

Little donkey

And then...

First glimpse of the Taj Mahal

Bam! My first glimpse of the Taj Mahal! One interesting thing about the Taj Mahal is that they don't allow you to bring in any electronics other than your mobile, your camera, and your digital watch. They don't allow any food, and they don't even allow books, for some reason! (Can anyone explain the book prohibition to me?) This is another time when having a hired driver is handy, because you can leave your stuff in the car, which feels safer than the ubiquitous coat check lockers at tourist attractions here.

Everyone is supposed to get this photo some time in their life right?

Okay, everyone's supposed to have one of these photos taken in their life, right? :P

If you turn around from that very spot, you can see the main Gateway, which is very nice on its own:

The Gateway at the Taj Mahal

Here it is from another angle:

The Gateway at the Taj Mahal

Here's the Taj Mahal from behind, viewed from the northwest corner:

Back of the Taj Mahal

The tomb is flanked by two buildings. There is a mosque to the west, and an identical but mostly functionless "Jawab" to the east:

The Jawab at the Taj Mahal

And finally, here is the Taj Mahal viewed from the the Agra Fort, quite some distance away:

The Taj Mahal as viewed from the Agra Fort

You can see the mosque at the front right.

I find that I rather like battlements, and I particularly liked how the inner courtyard area of the Agra Fort was overgrown with foliage:

Battlements at Red Fort, and the overgrown courtyard

On my way up to Delhi, there were a ton of trucks with more or less identical writing on the back:

Horn Please; Use Dipper at Night; Wait for Side

I had to look up that "dipper" probably means low beams, so the sign is asking you not to use high beams at night. The horn part is because, in India, honking doesn't necessarily imply anger or even impatience (though it often does). Rather, the primary purpose of honking is as a safety mechanism. Cars are constantly passing each other with minimal clearance, so they honk to let other cars know they're there. :\

For instance, we'd always honk when passing these giant tractors (which appear to be threshers maybe?):

Giant tractor or thresher

Finally, I arrived in Delhi in the evening, and this sign caught my eye:

Redundant sign

It makes a bit more sense when you consider that the signs were standardized so that all of them had explanatory text at the bottom. But still. :P

Next up: Sights around Delhi

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LEAVE THIS FIELD BLANK. IT IS HERE TO TRAP ROBOTS.

LEAVE THIS FIELD BLANK. IT IS HERE TO TRAP ROBOTS.

LEAVE THIS FIELD BLANK. IT IS HERE TO TRAP ROBOTS.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 19, 2011.

The previous post in this blog was SO MANY MONKEYS.

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