Port 8 – Dehli to Agra to Jaipur

Apparently India is the country we have very early mornings in. This morning we woke up at 4 o’clock in order to pack up, get ready, and be in the lobby by 5 o’clock. We had to be in the lobby so early in order to meet our tour guide and head to the train station so we could catch our 6 o’clock train to Agra. The tour guide in New Delhi dropped us off at the train station and sent us on our way and two hours later we met our tour guide in Agra. Our tour guide today was nothing less than amazing! He spoke amazing English and knew so much about every sight we went to. The driver and our tour guide picked us up from the train station and then we headed straight to the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is a place I do not have the words to describe. I was super excited to see the Taj Mahal and had super high expectations for it; I am pleasantly surprised to say those expectations were not disappointed. When we were on the train this morning Reb and I were talking about India and visiting the Taj Mahal and I began to worry that it wouldn’t be all that I was expecting it to be, but those worries went straight out the window the moment I saw it. The Taj Mahal went above and beyond my expectations. It is truly the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Our tour guide seemed to know everything about every square inch of Agra, including the Taj Mahal. Through him we were able to learn every single detail about the building itself as well as the property. It is truly the coolest place I have ever been. It seemed like every step I walked there was something new to take in and something I should take a picture of. I took so many pictures today, but also decided that I was going to spend the day taking everything in as opposed to looking at everything through a camera lens. I’m super happy with that decision because I feel like I saw the coolest thing in the world today and I’m not sure if I would have appreciated everything it had to offer had I been so focused on taking pictures. The Taj Mahal is about 800 meters from the road where cars are allowed so to get up and down to the road you have to either walk, take a battery operated TukTuk or take a Camel Cart. On the way up to the Taj Mahal, but on the way down we took a Camel Cart and I absolutely loved it. It was something so different than anything I have ever done and so fun. All around the Taj Mahal there are people who will try and sell you anything and everything. These people are not only around the Taj Mahal, but basically everywhere in India. We learned that you just have to pretend like you don’t see them. If you say anything to them, including “No Thank You” they will follow you for as long as it takes. We managed to make it to the car without buying anything and were back on our way. After visiting our second of the Seven Wonders of the World we headed to a local market. Our tour guide had a family member who owned one of the businesses in the market so we were able to get quite a few souvenirs. Today we realized that we have purchased absolutely nothing as far as gifts go. It seems that in every country we have done things that you can’t really get someone a souvenir in. We are trying to stay away from getting people junk they’ll never use and focus more on meaningful gifts to bring back, but we haven’t exactly gotten much of anything for anyone. Today we tried to get a few gifts for people, but we didn’t even get that much. Hopefully our last day in India can be spent shopping for other people. After our time in the market we headed to Agra Fort. I wasn’t really sure what it was or why we were going, but I am so happy we went. Agra Fort was another monument that was just absolutely beautiful. Our tour guide was able to tell us all about every nook and cranny of Agra Fort so we were really able to get a great understanding of where we were. I won’t bore you with the facts because you can look those up on Google, but I will say that Agra Fort itself was absolutely beautiful. We are traveling India independently, but ended up seeing the Semester At Sea field programs at both the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. It was nice to catch up with and see some of them, but it made me super happy we did independent travel as opposed to a field program. After Agra Fort we headed to a later lunch. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then were back on our way. We only spent one day in Agra so we had to jam in as much sightseeing and experiencing as we could. After lunch we went to what the locals call “Baby Taj” and explored around there. We ran into another group of people who are on Semester At Sea that are also traveling independently. After talking to them I cannot say enough great things about Erica’s planning of this trip. The other independent travelers are having fun, of course, but they just said they didn’t love their tour guide or the itinerary. Erica has done an amazing job of making all of these countries an amazing time for Rebecca, our friends, and I, and deserves more props than I could ever give. We stayed at “Baby Taj” for a while just talking to our guide and asking him about life in India. We were able to learn so much about India as a country as well as the people of India. He told us all about arranged marriages, joint houses, and the culture of everyday life in India. I always thought these ideas were just stereotypes, but they are how 90% of the people in India live and that is just crazy to me. After our little enlightenment on Indian Culture we headed to a jewelry gallery and museum. At the museum we were able to see carpets and decorations with precious stones and then had the opportunity to buy some afterwards. The store at the end consisted mostly of just jewelry. Everything they were selling was absolutely gorgeous, but also pretty much out of our college kid budget. The one ring that both Rebecca and I wanted so badly was $400 so we decided against getting it. There were cheaper options, but nothing I liked. The man kept saying: “You have good eye, expensive taste”.  We kept laughing about that, but what can I say? A few of our friends bought some jewelry that was super cute, but nothing really caught my eye besides the $400 ring. After our museum adventure it was time to head to the train station in order to catch our train to Jaipur. It was another long train; it lasted about 3.5 hours. The train consisted of the same activities as usual: minimal sleeping and a lot of watching “Friends”. Watching “Friends” passes the time rather quickly so the long train ride just went right by for us. Another tour guide picked us up at the train station in Japuir and took us to our hotel. We have had another long day of traveling and are very ready for bed, again. Tomorrow we will spend the morning and early afternoon exploring Jaipur, and then we will head back to Delhi in the evening. I cannot believe we say another Wonder of the World today and are moving right along. We are really trying to take everything from every country in, but can’t believe we are already half way done with this adventure.

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