Oh God, its back into the car. The Taj Mahal takes just a couple of hours to peruse, and there is not too much to view in Agra itself other than the Red Fort. With much trepidation we prepare for the 7-hour ride to Jaipur. Its only 232 km (144 miles), but our guide states it will take us the better part of the day. Our salvation is that there is a deserted city about an hour out of Agra to serve as the day’s sight seeing. Built by Emperor Akbar as the capital of his empire, the city had to be abandoned due to lack of potable water.
This place is truly surreal. George Lucas certainly pilfered this as the set to his Star Wars. You can imagine all the strange and twisted characters moving through the passages and congregating on the promenades. Today, however, the hawkers replace them. I’ve got to mention these folks, as they are ubiquitous. They come in all shapes and sizes. The little ones seem to be everywhere. They are too cute to ignore, and feisty, man, with those adorable faces, these kids know their mark. And today their mark is me. Mum, please, mum, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeas. My husband ever the cool traveler, quickly discounted the lot by answering in German. Lo and behold, the entire crew switched to German. Bitte Fraulein, biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiite. These guys are good. The whole trip to the entrance is like being a mother hen with your gaggle of chicks in tow. Thankfully we pass through the entrance. Inside peace, solitude, outlandish architecture, and wait, the next hierarchy of hawker – mum, please, mum, a carving? a statue? a wrap? Please mum, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeas. Anyway, it’s kind of annoying but you get used to it. Our guide always carried a large package of candies, which he passed out to the dutiful waiting hands dispersing the congregation with sweets and a smile. The whole process is more of gamesmanship, never threatening, never too much. After awhile, you become used to the onslaught, move on, and enjoy the sights.
There are many roadside stops. Most are indescribably horrible, some are quite good. I remember stopping at one in particular. I could barely make out my husband’s face through the swarm of flies. As I perused the tattered menu, he proceeded to the bathroom. I always make him go first. If he returns “relieved” then I would go. Bathrooms in India are a difficulty for most Westerners. Since there is a lack of plumbing throughout most of the urban centers, you can image the rural world is not much better. He returned from the bathroom pale, diaphoretic, with a look of horror stating, “don’t ask”. After purchasing a bag of chips and a coke we hopped back into the car. We did, however, stop at the Laxmi Vilas Palace. This one was probably the best we encountered on our journey. An old rest stop for the Maharajas and their guests during hunting season, this place is full of old photos and memorabilia of the great tiger hunts. We tried to barter for some of the good stuff, but nothing was to be sold. At least not at the prices we were offerering. After a great meal of various foods we didn’t at all recognize yet tasted great, we continued our journey to Jaipur.
at 12:36 PM