Friday, June 11, 2010

Agra, India

The difficult part of travel photography is that you are always on the move and sometimes don't have time to wait about for better weather conditions. You have to do your best with the sky you are given. I was disappointed with the gray sky the first day we were in Agra, but you can't always have beautiful days, but I must tell the story even yet.

Agra Fort itself was just as grand as the fort that we had seen in New Delhi, but the interior was far superior. It was built by the same emperor, Shah Jahan, as the Taj and the fort from the previous post.

One of the things that I noticed was the patterns and details that were incorporated in to the architecture. Below was the walking path.

A portion of one of hundreds of ornately carved red sandstone walls. Architects, craftsman, and especially stone masons from all over the world were hired to assist in the building of the Taj Mahal and the emperors palace within the fort.

Incredible considering it was all done by hammer and chisel.

Perfect geometric designs carved from solid stone.

Beyond the red sandstone there was incredible amounts of white marble that had also been fashioned to create the palace.

As we wandered about it seemed like a magical place where Aladdin could have sailed up to on a magic carpet and met Jasmine.

There were always many native Indians who wanted their picture with mostly Chelsie. For the most part they were very considerate and asked first, but at times they were very pushy or even secretly took pictures. Sometimes when we felt as if we were the tourist attraction.

The story goes, that when emperor Shah Jahan promised his wife that when she would die, he would build the most beautiful mausoleum in the world for her. That is just what he did. It is the Taj Mahal. Shortly after her death, the emperor's son abducted the throne and placed Shah Jahan in "prison". From his prison, the beautiful section of the palace in the photo below, he could gaze out of the window and see the beautiful Taj. He was kept there until his death.

The beautiful Taj Mahal surrounded by grime and poverty.

People live by the river in grass huts. They raise sheep and crops.

The interior of the palace did not come up short on amenities in the least.

A courtyard within the palace.

Chelsie, as usual, makes friends with small furry creatures.

One evening we followed the guide book to a rooftop restaurant. We had fresh lemon sodas along with our tasty entrees and a beautiful view. We look so happy in the picture, but what we didn't know is that this was a meal that would make us pretty sick. Yep, it is almost a guarantee that when you travel in India you will get sick at some point during the adventure.

Fantastic sunset. It is pretty hard to see, but there were boys on the rooftops flying kites in the gentle breeze that evening. Look closely in the video below.

In India we always looked for really nice and sanitary places to eat. It is the easiest way to keep from getting sick. We did strike a really nice dinner at an expensive hotel one afternoon. A very traditional mix of curry and fried breads, along with a sweet rice ball, fried cheese, and chunks of meat.

The following day we made the trip to the Taj itself. The que line was about 20 minutes long, with the men in one line and the women in the other. We were security checked, just like we were going into the airport. Patted down, metal detected, and bags searched and x-rayed. We planned on making this visit in the early morning when there were less people, but because we had gotten sick, we had to wait until the afternoon.

It was one of the those things that we were really amazed by. We were not let down. It was gigantic and majestic.

Looking the opposite way the entrance gate.

It was packed. There were thousands of people, but mostly Indians.

One of the most interesting observations that we made in this visit was the price of the tickets for foreigners. The admission price for each of us was the equivalent of three days at the hotel that we were staying at. ( 1 Ticket $15 = 3 nights stay) There are about 3 million tourists that visit the Taj annually and about 250,000 of them are from overseas. Although the Indians payed considerably less, we did some math and realized that it brought in millions each year. It may take a lot of maintenance to keep this thing looking good, but we wondered where the rest of the money went. The community and the roads leading up to the Taj were in shambles. The money wasn't making it into the community. There are cities that are completely fueled off of one tourist attraction. We wondered why the city of Agra wasn't a bit nicer.

There are two buildings like this on each side of the Taj. One is a mosque, the other was built for symmetry.

Sights like these became very common as we traveled. We soon became more callused to them. We saw many sick, homeless, and dying laying in the streets at times as well.

The man below is looking in the ashes for copper wire.

The grass may very well be greener on the other side of the fence for these cows. I asked a tuk tuk driver one day if there were owners for the cows. He responded, "De cows go out in de streets in de day and find dings to eat, and den at night, dey come home to get milked."

Bicycle rickshaw drivers taking an afternoon nap.

Chels and I went to another guidebook restaurant. It was a bit sketchy, but we had fun finding that Korean travelers had been there before us.

One of the sites that falls among the shadows of the Taj is the "Baby" Taj. Another mausoleum

Delicate and detailed inlay.

We always make friends along the way.

The Yamuna river.

Cows cooling in the river. The numerous cow paddies in the foreground are methodically dried and stacked to to used as a fuel for cooking fires.

There was so much trash in the river and more sewage that you cannot probably see.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful days that we had on our whole trip was the evening that we went to the backside of the Taj Mahal. We arrived early in the afternoon so we could relax and enjoy the view.

The weather was perfect and we escaped the crowds for just as nice a view.

Looking across the Yamuna River is the Taj. The real mosque on the right and the false mosque on the left. Built for symmetry. If you look closely in the trees you can see the smoke from cremations going on nearby.

Another picture from earlier that evening when they first lit the fires.

Our next and last posting of India will be from Varanasi. The city of life and death. There we saw many more creations first hand.

From there off to Nepal


Jeff said...

Psst. Jesse. Chelsie has a pair of twos.

Keep it coming. I'm back from a retreat in the New Mexico mountains. It was nice to find these new posts.

Jeff said...

Oh, wait. What card game are you playing?

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