India - Day 9
Agra seems to be constantly shrouded in mist or haze. It was for this reason that Vishal, our tour guide, had talked us out of getting up before the birds to watch the sun rise over the Taj Mahal. We enjoyed the luxury of leaving late and to mark this special occasion everyone spruced up in their best outfits. Leanne made sure that those who wanted it had sparkles in their hair. Karen looked great in a snazzy new top she had bought. After another beautiful breakfast, we packed up the bus and headed off to see one of the seven wonders of the world.It wasn't a long drive to the car park dedicated for those wishing to make the pilgrimage to the iconic structure. A variety of transport choices to the main entrance awaited. You could choose a horse or camel drawn carriage, or an electric enclosed or open air mini bus. Vishal had informed us of all the items we were not allowed to take in with us including food, flags, video cameras, and books to name a few. He handed us our tickets and then we went through the gates and a huge security process, much to the amusement of a large family of monkeys watching from above.
Before being free to wander the complex, we were greeted by a professional photographer who took group photos and individual shots. This was a well practiced procedure by this man and he was great at making sure extraneous photo bombers were not in his shots.
The entrance to the Taj Mahal is through a red sandstone hallway made with complicated patterns in the brickwork. Every aspect of the Taj Mahal experience is meticulous, delicate, and intricate. It truly is poetry in marble. An act of love so lovingly created by over 20,000 workers who toiled incessantly for almost 22 years. We were in awe of the beauty, and saw for ourselves the flawless gem, timeless wonder and source of inspiration for people of all walks of life.
Believing this event of the day could not be topped, we were then taken to a restaurant for another spectacular lunch followed by shopping in a bazaar which demonstrated the art techniques used to create the inlaid designs on the walls of the Taj.
With final souvenirs in hand, we piled back onto the bus and headed back towards Delhi, a 200 kilometre drive along the Yamuna Expressway. Passing fields of yellow mustard flowers grown for mustard oil, green rice paddis containing little mud houses with thatched roofs, packs of animals and the Delhi Formula One and Cricket stadiums, we finished our Indian Impact Trip at Delhi Airport by saying "safe travels" to Nelia who was heading to Bangalore to see her old friends. The rest of us were heading to Singapore, and then for most of the team, continuing home.
How is such an amazing experience simply summed up? One billboard we saw puts it succinctly: "a notch above perfection". Meena did a magnificent job of making sure we were flawlessly organised and Karen's experience in India over many years helped us to process and absorb everything we saw. We are forever changed by this time together.