Monday, January 9, 2012

Weekend Trip: The Golden Triangle (January 6-8)

Friday morning we left Delhi to discover the two other points which complete the Golden Triangle (Delhi-Jaipur-Agra). By bus it takes about seven hours between each city. An interesting note is that between each city is less than 150 miles, but because of the road/traffic conditions and frequency of villages along the highway, driving takes up to seven hours.


January 6- The Pink City
After about six and a half hours of riding in a bus, we arrived in Jaipur, the Pink City. Everything that could be made pink was pink. As Heidi mentioned, we arrived just in time to visit the Jantar Mantar Observatory. This place is home to the world’s largest sundial. I was amazed that these are actually accurate up to seconds of actual time. Another interesting fact we learned was that if born in Jaipur, the sundial specific to the person’s zodiac sign was used to predict his/her future. After, we went to the City Palace, where we got to see the intricate architectural design of the immense structures. Another unique structure was a large glass wall with many stained-glass windows. We learned that this wall was used for the royal women to look through to see the festivities on the streets but not interact with the common people. Next to the wall of windows we got the opportunity to do a little shopping in a local market. By this time, we have become pretty accustomed to bargaining and know how to successfully get a good price. We purchased scarves for less than $3 and sandals for less than $4. Joe and Alex also got Indian outfits, complete with shoes, pants, and shirts. As Heidi said, our hotel was like a palace. We thought perhaps it could have been a palace at one point in time. The architecture was ancient and very intricate. Friday was a very eventful day and we were all ready for sleep right after dinner.
Sun Dial that is accurate within seconds
World's Largest Sun Dial
City Palace
January 7- Riding Elephants
Finally the day we were all waiting for had arrived: the day to ride ELEPHANTS! We were encouraged to be ready at 8 a.m. to head to Amber Fort so we would get in line early. The government put restrictions on the elephants and they could only be worked until noon so we wanted to get there right away. Getting to ride the elephant up the hill will be one of the most memorable moments I bring back from India. The fort was immense and seemed like a maze that went on forever. We kept wandering through doorways and finding hidden rooms and patios everywhere. After exploring all the secret pathways we took another form of transportation down to the bottom of the hill: a jeep. We had to pile into to the back of the jeep and slouch down to avoid hitting our heads. It was a lot of fun to wind down the roads in the back of the jeep. After that, we went to a fabric and rug plant. We had a tour of the rug making and then all got to try on saris. We then had to rush to get to Fatehpur Sikri before they closed at sunset. We made it just in time but spent too long in there and they actually locked us in the grounds and we had to yell and get the guard to let us out. Luckily, he did! After that we drove to Agra where we stayed in a very nice hotel with super soft beds. As Heidi said, we were a little spoiled with our accommodations of the weekend.

Ladies in Saris
Our Elephant


January 8- The Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort
Another day that we were all waiting for… touring the Taj Mahal!! Despite the relentless fog the Taj Mahal was still amazing. We utilized one of the photographers to get a group picture and have us photo shopped in front of a blue skied Taj Mahal. This was my favorite part of the weekend because we got free time to take lots of fun pictures with each other. The history behind the Taj Mahal is so fascinating and I can’t believe it was built so many years ago. After the Taj Mahal, we went to the Red Fort. It was not far from the Taj Mahal and from the fort we could actually see it in the distance. What I found the most interesting was the fact that another replica of the Red Fort was built in Delhi. Also, only half of the fort is red and the other half is white. The red half was made out of red sandstone and the white half was made out of white marble. After the tour of the Red Fort, we were definitely ready to nap on the bus ride home. The bus ride was around 6 hours, but seemed to go by super fast for me because I was able to sleep nearly the whole way. We weren’t able to return to UGH in time for dinner so we stopped at McDonalds for “take-a-way.” The McDonald’s appears very similar to one in the US; however, the menu is quite different. There is a sign posted that says, “No beef or pork is served at this facility.” The Big Mac had chicken patties instead of beef patties like the US. They also had a “Happy Price Menu” instead of the “Dollar Menu.” The tastes of the food were very similar to that of the US though. We were all relieved to get back to UGH and get a nights rest before starting another week of sessions and industry visits. 
Taj Mahal in the foggy distance
Taj Mahal

Agra Fort


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