We woke up at 5:00 so we could be down in the lobby by 5:45. Not sure if I mentioned that Randy and I were sharing a room to lower costs. We have to pay for these last few days where we are extending.
Anyway, the guide took took us to the east gate of the Taj Mahal and we bought our tickets to go in. The $15 tickets included a bottle of water and little booties to put over our shoes so we wouldn't have to take our shoes off. We waiting in line for security, the men and women in separate lines. The security people confiscated Randy's granola bars and Gail had to put her ipod in a locker, but eventually we all made it inside the gate.
Inside there is a large outer courtyard where you can see the three external gates and the main gate here:
The main gate has 22 domes on top of it, one for every year it took to build it. You can only see 11 of them from this angle. The Taj took 22 years to build, and there were 20,000 workers working day and night that whole time. That's a lot of work.
The guide took us to various spots to get some good photographs of the Taj. Here is one of all 4 of us that the guide took.
And of course, the obligatory trick shot:
We put our booties on and of course right when I sat down an old guy came over and helped himself to helping me on with my booties. So I had to tip him 10 rupees. I hate that.
We got up close to the Taj and I took some shots of the detail work. All the colors are made with inlaid stones (coral, lapis lazuli, mother of pearl, etc.) and there is no painting anywhere on it. The carvings are amazing too.
The inside was very cool, with marble lattice work and lots more inlaid stones. However it was dark and you couldn't take pictures in there. I took a lot more pictures outside, but I'm not going to bore everyone with them. I will, however, post this picture of cute chipmunks for the kids:
After we had our fill of the Taj, we went back to the car. We had to take a small auto (natural gas) to and from the parking lot because they don't allow any gas vehicles withing 2 km of the Taj. Here is a shot of everyone trying to sell stuff to Randy. They follow you and are pretty relentless in trying to get you to buy.
After we got back from the Taj, we gave tips to the guide and went to eat breakfast. While we were eating breakfast, our "other" guide showed up and we gave him a few tips. After that we went to hang out in our rooms, call home, and blog.
Around 11:00 we left for another 5 hours of driving back to Delhi. I mostly read to keep my eyes off the death-defying action going on outside. We made one pit stop where the driver disappeared for 15 minutes and we were forced to wander around looking at overpriced goods and listen to pushy salespeople. Randy noticed that the guys sitting by the door wrote a '4' down in his notebook and we figure that is the kickback credit that the driver gets for delivering 4 tourist to the trap. Eventually he returned and we got back on the road and finally made it to Delhi.
We checked in to our hotel there, a pretty nice one. I'm staying with Randy again. After getting settled, we went to the hotel restaurant to get something to eat But we didn't really like anything on the menu so we all left. We had seen a McDonalds on the way in, so we thought we would go there. But when we go there, they didn't have anything except Chicken and Fish sandwiches, and lots of strange Indian sandwiches. We then walked around until we found a Pizza Hut and ate there. It was good to have mostly familiar food, and the meal only cost $5 for a personal pizza, garlic bread, bottle of soda, and ice cream.
After dinner we wandered around the local neighborhood and looked at all the shops. Lots of interesting odors. I bought some batteries, since my camera is chewing through them like crazy.
After that we went back to the hotel, and I paid $18 for a day of internet access and did some actual work for 2-3 hours and also some skype and blogging. It was the first day we had had time to relax in a long time.