Visiting India 3
February 23, 2009 01:34 PM Filed in: Travel
On Saturday we made a day trip from Delhi to Agra. There were five of us in a van leaving the hotel at the crack of dawn around 5:30AM and we met up with our guide for the day in Agra. The hotel provided us with breakfast to go and we stopped for coffee on the way. The weather was perfect for the trip—a bit chilly when we left the hotel but picking up to the high 70's Fahrenheit during the day with blue skies and a very slight breeze. We spent the day at the magnificent Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort which was the original seat of the Mogul Empire before they moved to Delhi, and Emperor Akbar's tomb. After seeing the Taj Mahal we had lunch at the Amar Villas—an Oberoy Hotel—which had a gorgeous view of the Taj from the cocktail lounge. After a very relaxing lunch we moved on to the Agra Fort. We were also able to fit in a few minutes of shopping in the afternoon. The drive back was about 4 hours long and got us back at the hotel around 9PM.
Having a good guide was key—the history, context and stories provided by the guide makes the visit much, much richer and makes the trip that much more enjoyable. Our guide was very knowledgeable (and expensive) and he also helped bust a lot of historical myths and rumors that many of us had taken for facts. For example, after building the Taj Mahal, the emperor Shajahan did not kill the craftsmen or cut their hands off—he provided them with a lavish retirement plan for life that kept them from building another Taj Mahal. It took twenty thousand workers and craftsmen twenty two years to build the Taj Mahal and it cost about 25 billion rupees (in 17th century rupees) which was only 1% of the wealth of Emperor Shah Jahan. Fascinating stuff. You can view the photos from the trip here.