Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Starvation, and Lube...
I woke up in a panic as our train was pulling into the Agra train station. My alarm had failed me and I had ten minutes to load up all my crap, change clothes, and make myself somewhat presentable for the day ahead of me. I barely made it and jumped off the train as it was pulling out of the station. I breathed a sigh of relief and headed out into Agra!
We only planned for one day in Agra and we had yet another train to catch at ten that night. We hired a car for the day to show us all that Agra had to offer. I geared up for the excitement to come with a healthy breakfast of chai tea and fruit muesli. I started my muesli craze with a random pick off the menu and it has become one of my favorite breakfasts in India. A granola mixture topped with mixed fruit, milk and honey, muesli never disappoints.
After a satisfying meal it was time for the highlight of the day, and the sole purpose of our stop in Agra, the Taj Mahal!
As we walked up to the entrance gate we were greeted by curious monkeys chasing each other from branch to branch.
Camel rides were the new substitutes for rickshaw drivers and there were a line of people waiting to feast their eyes on the white gleaming glory of the Taj Mahal. We bought our tickets and entered into a long security line. I've never been searched so hardcore in my life; not at the airport, not at a rap concert, not even at the Mexican border, nowhere. After they were finished with the unnecessary groping of my lady lumps, they told me to open my bag. For the next ten minutes they pawed through the deep abyss, scouring every nook and cranny. They confiscated two of my well-hidden lighters, an individually wrapped breath mint (no food allowed) and a pack of playing cards that I had carried with me since Peru. The playing cards were hard to let go, first because I couldn't figure out why I wasn't allowed to bring them in. Did they think I was going to start an underground gambling ring in the basement of the Taj Mahal? Secondly, I had been carrying these cards with me for two months. They were my pals in times of boredom and I didn't want to let them go. It was either jettison the cards or have to go back to the beginning, buy a locker for the day, and volunteer for another round of boob grabs and purse prodding. The cards were no more.
The Taj Mahal is not visible outside of the park area and once you pass under a beautiful introductory archway, it sort of smacks you in the face.
I wasn't completely sure what to expect. As with a lot of world renowned places, I half expected it never to live up to its hype. I also expected that it would be so overrun with tourists it would be disenchanting. This was definitely not the case.
It is brilliantly breathtaking. The Taj Mahal took 20,000 laborers 22 years to build this beauty and it is a Masterpiece.
This architectural brilliance was built by Shah Jahan as an eternal symbol of love for his favorite wife. Can you believe that? He built her the Taj Mahal. I'm lucky if a boyfriend gives me a high-five and this chick got herself a palace! I must be doing something wrong.
This woman must have cooked a mean meatloaf to deserve such an exquisite jewel.
Its symmetry is perfectly proportioned, the delicate luminance glistens in the sunlight and the utter mass is jaw-dropping, however, it is the elaborate detailing adorning the white marble that is truly outstanding. The Taj features stunning carved floral bouquets inlaid with every precious stone known to man, symbolizing paradise on earth.
Graceful calligraphy inlaid with black marble carefully increases in size the higher it is, creating an optical illusion of perfectly balanced print.
Two mosques sit on each side of the Taj however only one was built for purpose, the second was built purely for symmetry.
We spent a lot of time walking all around the Taj, sporting the booties they gave us to wrap around our shoes.
Although they had a short lifespan, I will take a bootie any day over walking around barefoot.
After circumnavigating the Taj a handful of times, we strolled the surrounding gardens.
Handsome trees with plentiful shade, fresh cut grass and neatly paved walkways only added to the pleasant experience and it was a nice escape from the unforgiving sun.
We decided to wander outside the gates and we set off in search of a secluded shady spot to smoke a cig. We ventured down a small hill and found the perfect rock to sit on. It wasn't until we got comfy that we noticed the entertainment in front of us.
The monkey circus was in town and we had front row seats. They played tag through fresh puddles, pushed each other off tree branches and played Peek-a-boo through bulky bushes.
I was highly amused at their playful antics and they didn't seem to mind our close proximity.
I sat and smiled and watched them frolic around completely oblivious to our peering eyes.
We hopped back into the wonderfully air-conditioned ride and set off on our next sight-seeing exploration.
The Agra Fort was built in the mid fifteenth century.
The soaring red sandstone fort sits on the banks of the Yamuna River and has an excellent view of the Taj Mahal.
The building is an interesting mix of Islamic, Hindu, and Persian elements which gives it an distinctive style all its own.
We explored for a while until he heat became too much to bare. We found a nice shady overhang with a balcony that overlooked the river where we sat, rested, and gazed at the Taj Mahal on the horizon.
Our next stop was Itmad-ud-Daulah's Tomb also known as the mini-Taj.
This buildings translucent white marble and meticulous symmetry inspired the architecture of the Taj Mahal.
It features geometric patterns, ornamental mosaics and looks like a dazzling jewelry box.
It is surrounded by a nice garden and the lack of tourist traffic we encountered made for a enjoyable visit.
After a long day of exploring Agra, it was time to get out of the heat and onto a train for our next destination, Delhi. Luckily the train ride was only a three hour trip so we decided to bypass dinner and wait until we got settled into our hotel.
That was a bad call. The train ended up taking five hours instead of three leaving me anxious and starving. After running around Agra in the blazing heat all day without the relief of a hotel room to rest at, I was in dire need of a long shower and a good meal.
We checked into the Ivory Palace Hotel and were pleasantly surprised by the initial luxury of the lobby. We have checked into so many different hotels and hostels, it’s a gamble each time. We've made a game of it and take bets on what's to be expected. No electricity? Ants? Bloody bed sheets? What surprise do we have in store for us this time!? At first glance, this hotel looked pretty swanky. They had a spacious, modern lobby, and an attentive staff who carried our bags up to the room. The first thing I did after we checked in, was order dinner. They said that their kitchen would only be open a little while longer so I hurriedly ordered a bowl of tomato egg drop soup, veggie egg rolls and garlic naan. I enjoyed a wonderful shower and laid down on the bed, thrilled to veg out, watch some TV, and feast on the food to come. I clicked the remote control. Nothing. I pushed the power button on the TV. Static. The TV was not working and the staff said there was nothing they could do.
Finally there was a knock at the door. The food had arrived! On one platter sat the bowl of tomato soup, garlic naan wrapped in a paper bag, and the eggrolls wrapped inside of, what looked like, a microwavable bag. I started on the soup, thinking how tacky it was that they left the eggrolls wrapped up like that. Had they simply placed them on the plate, I would have never known that they had been micro waved. Then I took a closer look at the bag. What jumped out at me were the bold words "Lubricating Jelly", two words I don't like to see on anything I'm about to eat. I read on. "For lubrication before insertion of catheters, endoscopes, and surgical instruments." I choked up the tomato soup that was in my mouth as my jaw dropped to the floor.
I was dumbfounded. Was I just served food in a medical bag containing lube? I kept reading. "Directions: tear package at top and squeeze lubricating jelly out as needed." Yes, indeed I was correct. I didn't even know what to do. I was shocked, revolted, and speechless.. But not for long. My vocabulary came back to me just in time to give the manager a verbal lashing of a lifetime. I didn't think anything could have shaken me more than the lubed up food package, but the manager’s response threw me for a loop. At first I tried to be nice. Ok that's a lie. When you serve me food out of a medical bag, I don't play nice, but I tried to be civil. I explained the situation and read him what was on the package, verbatim.
"You no want food"
"No I don't want this food. I'm not paying for this food and -"
"You order food, you pay for food"
"Like hell I am! Do you even understand how disgusting and unsanitary this is?"
"Ok you don't want, you set outside your room."
"Can you please come up here so I can show you exactly what I am talking about? I need to speak with you in person please."
"You no want to pay, I no come there."
This is when Emily got a little crazy.
You serve me food out of a medical bag filled with lube for catheters and you’re talking about payment? Payment isn't the issue! This is unsanitary! Do you even know what a catheters is!?
It's a surgical instrument that is used to internally drain fluid from the human body. It is inserted inside of a man’s penis. You served me food in a lube bag used for an instrument that goes inside a man’s penis! Might as well have just stuffed the egg rolls inside a condom and served them to me with a steaming bowl of aids!
You book through Hostel World?
You see the rating?
(For those of you who have never booked a hotel or hostel online, a lot of sites allow you to rate and leave comments on the places you've stayed. This particular hotel had a rating of 66%. I'm not a princess and I was raised with the mentality that money doesn’t grow on trees, so I don't need 5 star hotels or a mint on my pillow. I've stayed in places rated far worse than 66% and made it out just fine.)
Did I see your rating?
Yes, did you see our rating?
Yes, you were rated 66%, why?
You see our rating and you book with us, what you expect?
What!? Are you trying to defend serving me medically contaminated food based on an above average rating? You are seriously justifying this service!?
You order you pay.
I hope you have more lube bags lying around because you're gonna need a big helping after I'm done shoving my foot up your ass!
Fine you no eat.
I was livid. Had it not been 11:30pm and had I not already paid for the room, I would have packed my stuff, checked out and made sure every guest in the hotel knew why. Instead I took a passive approach and sat quietly in my hotel room, stewing in my rage, trying to divert my attention from my rumbling tummy.