Sunday, February 05, 2006
We have finished our last travel expedition in India…so sad!! Anyway, we did the classic “golden triangle” route that is much talked about and traveled by tourists. We figured since we spent 6 months in India, we should at least check out the Taj Mahal before heading out. Anyway, we flew into the capital (first point of the triangle) and visited the amazing Swaminarayan temple, known as Akshardham, in Delhi. It was just inaugurated in Nov. 2005, and it is beautifully hand crafted with intricate designs in marble. (picture above from outside-we couldn’t take a camera inside)
Anyway, after catching a few of the highlights in Delhi- Bahai Lotus Temple, Purana Qila (old fort) and of course, the eatery, we headed out the next day for the famous city of Agra (2nd point of the triangle). On the way, we checked out the city of Mathura, which is the birthplace of the Lord Krishna, during the period where his parents were held captive in a prison, and later (very similar to the story of Moses) was rescued and transported safely in a basket down the river. Afterwards, we finally hit the Taj!! As awesome as Tarak takes picture, there was no way to capture the perfect beauty of the Taj. For those of you who don’t know the story, (although most people I’m sure are aware), but it was built in 1631 by the emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his 2nd wife after giving birth to their 14th child (I think I would have been dead by child #5). Anyway, it is said, that he was so heartbroken by the death of his wife that the construction began immediately, and 20,000 people from India and Central Asia worked on it for 2 years before it was completed. According to estimates it is believed to have cost $3 million rupees at that time…today equivalent to 70 million dollars!!
Next, we went 40km west of Agra, to visit the ghost fort city of Fatehpur Sikri, which was the short-lived capital of the Mughal Empire between 1571 and 1585, during the reign of Emperor Akbar. Next to complete the triangle; we (re) visited one of our favorite cities in India..Jaipur. Although we had been there earlier for a friends wedding in Dec., the trip was pretty hectic and we wanted to come back and chill out. It is such a cool city..although it’s a capital and a pretty large city..the ambience and the old traditional architecture is definitely worth spending some time. We were lucky enough to be with our friends Rishi and Sonia, who were our Golden Triangle buddies, and whose families hospitality was extremely generous. Man, we ate some damn good food…authentic Punjabi dhabas, onion kachoris, (pyaaz ka kachori), ghajak and our personal favorite, hands down, was Lassiwala’s lassi. (I swear, I wish I could buy stock in that stuff). Besides eating, we visited Nahagarh (a beautiful fort built in 1734 which has an amazing view of the city), Jaigarh, Rambagh Palace, Rani ka Baag, and Jantar Mantar (an observatory begun by Jai Singh in 1728 which has a multitude of huge instruments including a sundial, zodiac constellation tracker and so forth). After packing as much as we could in 4 days, we headed back with our friends to Delhi, amazed at the ease and hassle-free our trip was…as soon as we reflected upon that..there was a massive employee strike in the Delhi airport (they were protesting the privatization of the airports),so we walked to the airports with our bags from some distance away. I swear, this is yet another thing, that as Tarak and I like to say “only happens in India”.