Today can be summed up in one sentence: Taj Mahal.
We left this morning, bound for Agra – they have build this super 6-lane expressway between Delhi and Agra and absolutely nobody uses it. Our Agra guide Daneesh says it’s because the toll is bloody expensive for indian standards at around INR400 each way.
Anyway the biggest problem with this expressway is getting to it: it took over an hour from Safdarjang (where we are); I guess we keep forgetting this city has half of the population of Italy!
The Taj Mahal is everything you ever heard about, plus some. Like many monuments we have seen here, the exterior is perhaps the most impressive part: designed by Lahauri, the same turkish architect who also designed the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, this place is all about symmetry, from the minutest details to the grand design of the gardens surrounding. It must have costed a fortune to build to the point that the son of the Shah Jahan, upon hearing he intended to build a black Taj Mahal for himself on the other side of the Yamuna river, dethroned and threw him in jail until he died. The body was then buried next to the sepulchre of his mom, thereby ruining the perfect symmetry.
Our guide Daneesh spoke pretty good english and not only explained everything in great detail, but also guided us to the best picture spots and himself took a number of these; he also then fed us to a couple of shops that likely paid him a commission, and we ended up buying earrings with the Star of India stone typical of Agra, but while they obviously make a living milking the tourists, I must say, the selling and price haggling was all done in good spirit.
On the way back, at around 5:30PM finally the SIM card bought two days ago went live, but for reasons unknown does not connect to any data network: I suspect 3G coverage is spotty at best; upon returning to Delhi, more south east asian food (no guilty feelings, we skipped lunch) and a few more presents.
Tomorrow we have a long list of things we would like to see, but I suspect we may have to ditch a few…