india | taj mahal

Agra, India

So this is the Taj Mahal.  The way the locals say it sounds prettier - "todge meh-hell".  According to our tour guide, Taj Mahal literally means "Crown Palace", however it's not a palace.  It's just a tomb.  I guess I wasn't listening when he explained why it's called a palace even though it's a tomb.   Anyway, like any well-known tourist attraction it was not as I expected.  For some reason I thought all the walkways would be covered in marble.  I thought everything would also be perfectly clean.  Woops. wrong again.  The Taj Mahal itself is quite a wonder.  Looking at pictures I really missed how massive the Taj Mahal was.  It's huge.  If you look at the pictures you can see how small the people are. Something I didn't ever notice when I looked at pictures.

To get to the area you see above, you walk through a gate, a courtyard then another building posted at a wall where you enter the actual courtyard where the Taj Mahal is.  It's pretty spectacular to see.  When we walked through the arch (in the picture directly below) the blonds in our group were immediately rushed by schoolgirls and locals so that they could take pictures with the blonds.  It was hilarious.  I wish I had though to take a picture of it all.  With my freedom I spent some time wandering around and taking pictures.  We arrived at the Taj Mahal just as the clouds opened up from the rain.  The Taj Mahal glistened in the sun.  It was really a sight to see.  As we walked along the pond, I realized there was a raised marble platform halfway from the entrance to the Taj Mahal.  You can barely see it in the picture above; without paying close attention, perspective almost makes it look like it's at the base of the Taj Mahal.

Inside the Taj Mahal is every claustrophobe's worse nightmare.  When we went inside all there is to see is a tomb.  From there we were herded through a maze of rooms to exit.  Little Indian women shoved me through each passageway.  I really couldn't handle it.  I couldn't wait to get out.  Outside, the Taj Mahal was a marvel to see.

The other thing I never noticed in pictures were the surrounding buildings.  In the same courtyard as the Taj Mahal were these beautiful red buildings.

I definitely enjoyed this visit to the Taj Mahal.  It's really amazing.  AMAZING!

This picture below is taken while standing at the Taj Mahal looking back at where we entered the courtyard.

india | light and darkness

Agra, India

I pretty much love this picture.

After we arrived in Agra we opted to switch up our itinerary and visit the Agra Fort first because we wanted to see the Taj Mahal at sunset.  Turns out our plan worked out perfectly.  At the beginning of our wanderings through Agra Fort it started to pour.  (By the time we reached the Taj Mahal the rain stopped.)  When I took this picture the rain came down suddenly and heavily, but I like that this did not hinder these people from looking around.  That saying "the calm before the storm" did not apply.  The rain seemed to bring a sense of quiet and calm over everything.  It was like the rain stopped everyone in their tracks and people just stared off at the landscape.  It was pretty incredible.

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My life since India has mellowed out considerably.  I'm still shooting but I've reclaimed a good number of my weekends back.  With all my traveling and the busyness of work I'm resolved to spend as much time as possible at home.  I sit here at my computer and happily edit and return emails and blog and what not.  I'm such a homebody.  I enjoy waking up without any plans besides working.  My schedule isn't the best but I've developed a nice little schedule that I enjoy.  I go to sleep at about 10am and wake up around 4pm.  I start working immediately and have some dinner around 5 or 6pm.  I stay up working until 5am when I blog then I go make myself some breakfast while I watch some shows on Hulu or Netflix.  I'll spend another hour watching tv and knitting, then I'll continue working and go to sleep at 10am.  It's definitely not an ideal schedule, but it's a rhythm.  And I like routine.  I tell people it's jet lagged, but really it

Over the next weeks life will get crazy and will probably continue to be crazy until I get home from Europe in January.

The other day I was thinking about what it takes to live life.  And that to be happy you must be willing to sacrifice.  You have to let go.  You have to be flexible.  You have to trust God.  Easier said than done, right?  I feel like it's taken me almost 29 years to figure out just those simple things, knowing there's still so much to learn and so much of me that needs to grow.  It feels so good to make any progress, though.  I feel like when you truly trust God you're want for nothing.  And that gives me the kind of peace I can only describe by sharing this photo.

india | on the road again. from dehli to agra

At the start of my India trip I was surprised to discover how short our trip was.  We actually only toured India for four days; the other four days of our trip was traveling.  So the day after I arrived in Delhi, we headed in our tour bus to Agra which was about 6 hours ish away.  The ride was long but I was thoroughly entertained by the sights we drove by.  India reminds me a lot of the other countries I've visited but in many ways so vastly different.  It's fascinating. The thing I do love about traveling from one spot to another is the journey you experience over a short amount of time.  Although we had few  spots, I feel like I saw parts of India I'd never see if not for this tour bus.  In fact I'm certain of it.  That saying "It's the journey not the destination" is so true.  This long ride gave me the time to sit and think about my life and where I was heading and where I wanted it to end up.  There's a lot about me that changed over this short period of time.  Traveling always does that to me.  It changes me.  Experiencing other cultures and worlds in and of itself is life changing but I also go through a personal transformation on all these trips.  The other day I remember how all this traveling started.  I was using it as an escape from an unhealthy relationship and a way of validating myself, trying to prove to myself that I was worth something.  I used it as a crunch.  And over time somehow it's become a catalyst.  A means to thwart my life into an even better direction.  I think of it as warp speed.  :)

The amazing thing to me about India is its vehicular movement.  How pedestrians, cars, trucks, bicycles and motorcycles all share the same road without any seemingly apparent organization is incredible.  I've heard drivers in India were crazy, but I honestly felt pretty safe both in our tour bus and in the cars arranged for us.  India is pretty spectacular.  I love that in writing these blog posts I'm reliving these experiences.   I'm so glad to have a blog and always have a place to share my thoughts and experiences. I love this archive of my life that is this blog.

india | qutub minar

1089 qutub minar 01.jpg

The Qutub Minar was our last monument we visited in Dehli.  By the time we reached this monument I was pooped.  It was late in the day and very hot/humid; so needless to say I was distracted when the tour guide was talking.  He honestly seemed over it, too.  This citadel, if I remember correctly is 28 flights of stairs to climb.  I'm probably wrong, but you can see how small the people are compared to the Qutub Minar in the picture above.  What did interest me was the intricate detailing everywhere.  I think their script is beautiful.

The architecture of this monument reminded me a bit of Ankor Wat in Cambodia.  I love a good colonnade

One thing to note about this trip: I didn't use any scary toilets.  That was a relief to me as scary bathrooms give me anxiety.  That's one reason why I always talk myself out of China.  I just can't do the squatty toilets with other people's stuff in it.

Something that was also interesting to me was the amount of Indian people at all our monuments.  I suppose I was surprised there weren't more tourists.  We later found it it was because of monsoon season.  I guess when it's peak season it's super crowded and flooded with foreigners.  We also noticed that of the tourists we did encounter, we rarely saw americans or people under the age of 50.  I thought for sure I'd see more backpackers.

After visiting the Qutub Minar, our tour group separated into our subgroup.  The other group went to eat some authentic India food while my friends and I went to a market to go shopping.  The market was alright, but by then I was exhausted, I just wanted to go back to the hotel.  I went to bed that night around 9pm.  I was super pooped!

india | the little taj mahal

New Delhi, India

Humayun's Tomb was really beautiful.  I took so many pictures of the arches and the intricate detailing.  According to our tour guide it is one of the few tombs made for a woman, yet no one knows why this woman was so important that a structure this large was made for her.   (update: 10/19/12 After blogging this post a wonderful reader pointed out that I was wrong; that this was built for a man, the Mughal Emperor Humayun, by his wife.  I thought Humayun was a woman.  Shows how much I was listening to that tour guide.  woops.  I am certain, though, the tour guide was talking about some monument/tomb though, I just got it mixed up which tomb was made for a woman.)  I think our tour guide was getting tired because he didn't go in with us.  Instead he hung out with the other tour guides and drives and encouraged us to explore on our own.  My friends and I took advantage of our freedom and did indeed explore.  We took pictures of each other around the palace and ducked in and out of the rooms.

Islamic and Hindu architecture is quite appealing to me.  I love the simple floor plans and symmetry.  I also love me some arches; although, when I was an architect or even a student I don't think I designed a single arch.  I like the repetition of shapes and symbols.  Evidently the 6 pointed star is representative of the union of man and woman (each represented by an equilateral triangle.)

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On an entirely different note, the day we toured Delhi was the day my three friends and I landed in India.  I got to my hotel at 2am while my three friends arrived at 5am ish.  I took a nap while they powered through and stayed up for breakfast at 6am.  At 9am a bus came to pick us up to tour around the city.  Even though my sleeping schedule in California before I left for India was actually on India time, I felt exhausted at the end of each day.  There was always a sense of urgency and schedule and sort of herding on this tour.  I don't think I would have seen as much as I did had it not been for this tour.

Some parts of this trip really triggered my fear of crowds.  I felt very anxious to have people all up in my personal space those few times.  But all in all, I must say that almost all the people I came into contact with were rather friendly.  It reminded me a bit of the hospitality I met in Thailand.