Monday, August 29, 2005

Aug 28

I have arrived in Delhi. I think the last time I slept was for one hour in the Frankfort airport business class lounge. I tried to sleep when I got here, but the street noise and aroma kept waking me up. Plus I was very afraid of oversleeping. I am sure I'll sleep better tonight once I get to Agra.

So far my trip seems to be a trip of smells. The plane, the airport, passengers, cigarettes, my own mosquito repellant...I expect to grow accustomed to the scents soon, but haven't yet. My trip has been relatively uneventful, except for the ride to the hotel last night. The driver was worse than any cabbie I have ever seen. Lanes here, are a suggestion, and any sort of driving rules are definitely not enforced. There was a cow in the road and that was the only thing that made the driver hit the brakes until we arrived at my hotel. With blood pumping and adrenaline rushing, I was very glad to get to the Raddisson. My nerves are still a bit frayed, as I am quite tired and a bit nervous. I look forward to my destination at the Taj View Hotel.

I must also mention breakfast. The food was fine, but the music was...repetitive. Yes, you see there was a continuous instrumental version of "I love you more than I can say" playing. As much as my body demanded caffeine, I had to take leave of the restaurant to escape the music.

We had a five hour bus ride to Agra from Dehli. The bus was air conditioned but the roads were very bumpy indeed. In India, apparently the horn is as common as a turning signal in the US. The drivers use the horn to warn pedestrians to get out of the road. They use the horns like we use high beams to tell slower cars to get out of the way. They use horns to show impatience and generally, they use horns. The noise, of not just the bus I was riding in, but of other vehicles on the road kept me from sleeping much on the way from Dehli. Besides, there was too much to see.

The people are very friendly. They frequently wave and smile at us through the bus window. Often, I feel oppulent as I sit in the bus with air conditioning and two seats to myself, while they have 5 people crowded onto a scooter. (That is not an exaggeration!) I saw monkeys and more cows. I saw many stray dogs. The saris on the ladies were beautiful and I saw many little girls whose smiles reminded me so much of my Meghan. Oh, I do miss the kids!

We arrived at our hotel about 1pm. It is named the Taj View, but that only means that you can see the tips of the Taj from the top floor of the hotel, about 5 rooms. I had suspected as much, but had to laugh anyway.

There was a large group of Cadbury and ABN employees that arrived at the same time. We had lunch and headed out to see the Taj for real. WOW! I can really only say wow, as my descriptions would only be filled with words and the experience was amazing!. I took over forty pictures, and when I get home and Lorenzo can download them for me...I'll post them for you. We had a wonderful experience.

Did you know the four pillars outside of the Taj Mahal actually lean? They are not perpendicular to the ground, as you would expect. Why? Because the designer wanted them to protect the main building and if they should ever fall, they would fall outward, not inward towards the tomb. Did you know the Taj was designed by a 22 year old? The precous gems that inlay the marble of the Taj range from jade to onyx. Oh it's beautiful. Not only that, did you know that all four sides of the Taj are exactly the same? If it weren't for the movement of the sun, you could not tell them apart. You walk barefoot onto the actual building. You can feel the heat of the sun permeating from the marble. On the shady side, you can feel the coolness of the marble. It really was an experience for all of the senses.

After our 2.5 hours at the Taj, we headed to a shop where descendents of the artist families who inlaid the gemstones into the marble still work today. We got to see a pair as they worked. What an amazing craft. If you come here, you should be warned that many people will try to sell you things that look like the art from these families, but you can easily be fooled and swindled.

Speaking of swindled! Oh the peddlers! They literally attack you when you go out. I was amazed. Of course, I am clearly a tourist and they target me worse than some of my counterparts who blend it better with the population. It's ok, I know how to say no and move on. Besides, it's part of the charm, right? Ok, at least part of the experience.

By the way, about the weather. It's hot, but not terribly so. It is very much like Dallas, so I can't complain really. There is air conditioning in my hotel, so I have been quite comfortable so far.

It's actually Monday here now. I slept in this morning, because our project starts at 1. I'll try to write again soon!

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