Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Travelogue Part One

After 17 hours of flying, it was a treat to have a wonderful driver waiting for us at the airport.  Lefty opened the door on what to us, should have been the passenger door, only to be reminded that it was where the driver seat was.  We had a good laugh over that. The traffic at 11:00 at night was not bad, and we arrived at the lovely Hyatt.  The service at hotels and restaurants throughout the entire trip was OVER THE TOP!
It is hard to describe the amount of attention we received.  A tip is always appreciated, but at a much lesser amount than what we are used to tipping here in the states.

Louise was on hand to greet us when we arrived, and she came bearing lots of fun gifts!

The next morning we were to meet our driver at 6 a.m, so we grabbed some breakfast and some delicious coffee and we were off.

Satish drove us with great skill through some of the craziest traffic we had ever seen.  Crazier than Rome, crazier than anywhere we have been in Romania, and the funny part of honking horns in India is that it is more of a "Hey !  I am coming through" indicator. There certainly are no rules for driving here.

The drive through Delhi was only a snapshot of what we were about to see once we were out of the city.
You see slums and poverty everywhere, but nothing could have prepared us for what we saw that day on the roads between Delhi and Agra. (Taj Mahal)  In addition to the poverty and unbelievable living conditions and filth, there are more cows, pigs, dogs, goats, horse, water buffalo, chickens along the way than one can imagine.  Also, major traffic jams where you just stop and wait.  Beggars knock on your windows asking for money and persist until their feet are in jeopardy of being run over. Little children holding naked babies are the hardest thing to see outside the car windows.  People, mostly men, as I recall, "relieve themselves"  right by the side of the road.

We stopped one time on our way to Agra at a tourist area where there were decent bathrooms and of course some items to buy.  Satish arranged for a man with his monkey to pose for some pictures as well as a little boy with his two cobras.  I think the lack of sleep had lulled us into a "go with the flow" attitude because after the fact, we were all thinking..."What were we thinking letting that monkey climb all over us?"

Somehow I managed to change a setting on my camera, so all my pictures here look like a mix of color and black and white.

Once we got to Agra, we met our guide KK, who took us to see the sights.  After all the sights we had seen along the way, all of a sudden we pull into a 5 star hotel that was palatial to say the least.  From here we went to the Taj Mahal and were immediately taken with the beauty and cleanliness of the place.  But, oh my, was it HOT and humid.  We about melted as we made our way through the grounds.

Christine had reset my camera settings by this time.  Thanks Tine!

We stopped to eat at an authentic Indian restaurant that KK took us to.  I think we were all still worried about the safety of eating outside hotels, so we picked at the food, trying to get accustomed to new flavors.We shared a couple of Indian beers (Kingfishers) and Cokes.  No ice please!

From lunch we went to a marble factory to see how inlays are done some of the most beautiful marble table tops and art pieces.  We had a small piece shipped back to the U.S.

After the marble factory tour, we went to the Red Fort where we were immediately bombarded by people trying to get us to buy their wares.  Lefty called it "running the gauntlet".  The Red Fort was amazing as well. 

The drive back to Delhi took 5 and 1/2 hours.  After quick showers, we grabbed some dinner and hit the sack!

The next morning we found out about the huge power outages.  Thankfully the hotels we stayed at throughout the trip had generators and the outages never really affected us.  It was however, strange to look outside the hotel windows into the cities and see almost complete darkness around us.

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