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    • Day 99

      Delhi/Agra, India Day 3

      March 27 in India ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

      I was awake at 6 AM.

      I saw that missed a call from Petrea. I returned her call. She and my mother were questioning necessity of listing the house in Victoria Square on the probate paperwork for my step-father's estate. We had a brief discussion as they were getting ready to eat dinner.

      We left the room early for breakfast and met Dale and Jenni also going down for breakfast early.

      We had breakfast at the hotel.

      I will note that Bob feeling really good and is very mischievous. I am so thankful that he is not in pain and remains in sinus rhythm!

      After breakfast, we returned to our room to pack.

      We checked out of the hotel. I am hoping that our next hotel is mold/mildew free.

      Our guide mentioned us visiting his house since he lives in a village close to Agra. As the group met in the lobby before departing for Agra. The conversation turned to the topic of the visit to Raj's house. Several of our group thought that this is a major imposition. I mentioned that Raj saying that he needed permission from the tour operator could serve as his out if he did not really want us to visit his house.

      We boarded the van for the drive to Agra.

      The drive to Agra is 3-4 hours through countryside where we saw many small villages.

      We arrived at Agra. Raj's wife is a teacher at a public school in Agra. We were fortunate enough to be able to visit the school. The conditions of the school are rudimentary but the children seem to be very happy. After a brief tour and photos we continued to the heart of Agra.

      We stopped for lunch. This restaurant was again delicious.

      After lunch we went to a rug manufacturing shop. Here we had a demonstration of how rugs are constructed, finished and washed. We were shown to the showroom and given the opportunity to purchase a rug. Some of our group was not happy with spending time shopping and comments were said under one's breath to the effect that we are here to sightsee not shop. Group dynamics are interesting.

      Our next stop was at the Agra Fort.

      The Agra Fort is a World Heritage Site. It is where Shah Jahan was imprisoned for the last years of his life, peering dolefully out at his masterpiece - the Taj Mahal. The Agra Fort was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty until 1638 and one of the finest Mughal forts in India. The imposing red sandstone fort combines both Hindu and Central Asian architectural styles. Walking through courtyard after courtyard of this palatial red-sandstone and marble fortress, our amazement grew as the scale of what was built here begins to sink in.*

      From the Agra Fort, we were afforded our first view of the Taj Mahal.

      After a short visit of the Agra Fort, we boarded our van for a quick drive through Agra. Our destination was a parking lot on the opposite bank from the Taj Mahal. From the parking lot, we took an electric cart to the entrance of a viewing area. We then walked under a bird filled tree canopy until we were given a spectacular view of the Taj Mahal as the sun was setting. We took time for photos before returning to our van.

      Once in the van, our guide mentioned that we would be going to a textile shop. After the previous comments from one of the guests, I told Bob that we probably should not take much time browsing.

      After a short time in the textile shop which resulted in no purchases, we drove to the hotel.

      I was looking forward to a mask free night of sleep which I was blessed to experience. Unfortunately, the air conditioning did not work. We were glad that we had packed our travel fans.
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    • Day 100

      Agra, India

      March 28 in India ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

      I am happy to report that I did not have to wear a mask last night because our hotel is not moldy. Unfortunately, our air-conditioning did not work. portable fans but were both awake most of the night. We are longing for our clean, cool stateroom.

      We have a sunrise excursion at the Taj Mahal this morning so we were out of bed (you will note that I did not say awake due to HOT sleeping conditions) at 4:45 AM.

      We met our group in the lobby at 5:30 AM. I am so glad that our group is prompt.

      We took a bus to where we were supposed to catch a smaller electric cart to transport us to the Taj Mahal. Raj and our driver noted that the wait for the electric carts was too long and we would miss the sunrise. As a result, we disembarked the van nearer to the Taj Mahal but still had to make a very long walk down a very dark street/alley.

      Once we got to the Taj Mahal, we had to line up in a cue to be frisked and x-rayed. Raj picked a great line for us and we were quickly through the frisking and x-raying procedure.

      We entered the outer courtyard where Raj gave us background information regarding the Taj Mahal.

      The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the right bank of the river Yamuna in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was commissioned in 1631 by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (r. 1628–1658) to house the tomb of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal; it also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan himself. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall.

      We entered through the outer gate to the inner courtyard and were given time to take pictures of the Taj Mahal.

      We moved to the right side of the courtyard where Raj explained the death of Mumtaz Mahal who died during childbirth. She was buried and exhumed twice before she was placed in her final resting place in the Taj. The shrines that visitors are able to view are replicas of the actual shrine. The actual shrines which are located directly below the replica shrine are closed to the public.

      Pictures are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal.

      The Taj Mahal is truly impressive. The decorations are made of inlayed precious and semi-precious stones. The carving of the marble and sandstone are amazing.

      After time touring the inside and outside the Taj Mahal, we exited the Taj Mahal and took an electric cart back to the van. We then were transported back to the hotel.

      We had breakfast at the hotel.

      Dale is not feeling well so we gave him some OTC and are hoping that he gets to feeling better soon.

      We had a bit of time after breakfast so I ran back to the room and a bit of time for some maintenance and packing.

      After checking out from the hotel, we went to a marble factory where descendants of the family who installed the inlays and carvings at the Taj Mahal. The demonstration of the hand carving and shaping of stones was very interesting. We were given the opportunity to purchase souvenirs. I could see some of our group grumbling once again. I would have liked to have more time to browse. This art work is amazing.

      Our next stop was Raj's house. Raj had warned us that there is a pond close to his house where the village dumps their trash. He indicate that the government is trying to educate the population about trash disposal. It is hard to comprehend the amount of trash thrown everywhere. We have had a lot of discussion regarding the environmental impact of the pollution in India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Africa.

      Raj's house was small but extremely clean. We met his wife, children, and sister-in-law. Raj brother's family lives in the same complex.

      We toured his yard and garden before walking a short distance to his parent's house. His parents live separately because of Indian cultural norms. If Raj's father lived in the same household, his wife would have to be veiled in his presence. The solution is to have his parents live a short distance away.

      Before departing the village, we met Raj's uncle who ran a small store in the village. We gave Raj some money for the children to purchase a treat from the store.

      The visit to Raj's village is one of the highlights of our trip. It is so wonderful to actually see how people live.

      Upon departing the village, we began the 4-5 hour drive to Jaipur.

      Jaipur is called the Pink City. Jaipur is Rajasthan's capital. Jaipur is a popular tourist destination in India, forming a part of the west Golden triangle tourist circuit along with Delhi and Agra. The city has two World heritage sites of Amer Fort and Jantar Mantar. On July 6, 2019, the city was named to the World Heritage Cities list.

      Before we reached Jaipur, Raj gave us the option of stopping at another temple. This temple, Galta Ji, has been overrun with monkeys. Several of us said that we wanted to stop.

      As we entered the temple complex, we saw several monkeys playing with discarded clothing. There are several pools which are thought to have healing properties. As I climbed up the stairs by several pools, I caught a glimpse of a family bathing in the water. It really made me sad because it was clear that this family was using the pools because it was their only source of water to bath. The water was less than clean.

      Raj, Carol and I continued to the top temple structure observing the monkeys playing and grooming. Carol was brave enough to fed a monkey and have it climb on her shoulders.

      When the three of us made it back to the van, we continued our journey to Jaipur.

      As we entered Jaipur, there was a sporting event happening. As a result, the traffic was horrendous causing a major delay in arriving at the hotel.

      In Jaipur, were staying at the Hilton. I am looking forward to this stay as I think the hotel will be mold free and, hopefully, have working air conditioning.

      We checked into the hotel, had a shower and went to bed.

      Photos will be uploaded as soon as I get a minute.
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