Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ending Our Day With a Magnificent View.

Saeed was hustling us to leave Fatehpur Sikri and it wasn't until I arrived our destination, Mehtab Bagh that I understood why. Mehtab Bagh are the Mughal era gardens that are situated right across the river from the Taj Mahal. People come here for the view of the magnificent landmark.

As much as Saeed wanted us to move quickly, we still took two roadside stops.  Dinesh spotted some peacocks so of course, we had to take a few photos.  They were feeding quite some distance away from the road so I had to zoom in all the way to 300mm to get these shots! 

Next stop was a people stop.  Chantale spotted the young boys and wanted to have a photo of them.

They were a rambunctious bunch and I'm sure if we had stayed behind longer, they would have gladly spent more time with us.  No doubt, they were curious about us!  Look at the big smile the one kid was flashing.  How sweet!

Dinesh dropped us off at the entrance to the Mehtab and Saeed was continuing to hustle us along.  With my limited mobility, I scooted along as best I could. There was literally no time to even stop and take a photo of the gardens.  It wasn't until a few minutes ago that I realized while we had to hustle - the gardens close at 7p and it was around 6:45p when we arrived.

If both my legs had been in full working order, I would have run to the water's edge but sadly, I could only do a fast hobble.

There's a point, on the path where you round a corner and the moment you do, you see the Taj in the distance.  It's an incredible view!  Only from the viewpoint at Mehtab Bagh can you see the entire complex - the Taj standing in the middle with the guesthouse on the left and the mosque on the right.  Perfect architectural symmetry.   I got goosebumps the first time I saw the Taj and I got them again today.  I have seen countless landmarks in my travels.  This is my favorite.  Not just for its sheer beauty but for the amazing engineering that underpins it and above all, the incredible love story behind it.  All this, built by a man for the love of one woman!

This was the first view of the Taj for both Chantale and Ayşe.  Chantale dashed off on her in another direction, to take photos.   There were barely a handful of people around and once they left, Ayşe and I stood for the full frontal view of the Taj complex.  It was a few seconds of silence between the two of us as we just took in the sight before us.  Wow!

Since this was her first time seeing this most magnificent structure, I tried to point out a few things to her like the perfect symmetry of the building, the fact that it has four minarets whereas typically there would only be two.

Through my zoom lens, I gave her a closer view at the dome so she could see that the building is inlaid from bottom to top.  I also explained to her that each of the marble "bricks" on the dome were hand carved to form the shape of the dome.  The precision to do that is just mindboggling!

I also pointed out the inscriptions from the Koran - how all that calligraphy is also inlaid stone - it's not painted on the surface of the marble.

I also pointed out the beauty of the guesthouse and the mosque - that both buildings are constructed of red sandstone inlaid with the same Makrana marble that the Taj is constructed of.

As we stood before the Taj,  I explained as much as I could to Ayşe.  I hoped that by understanding a few facts, even as trivial as the ones I passed along to her, that it would deepen her appreciation for this most awe inspiring of landmarks.

We still had some time left to pose for photos.  I already have a photo of me taken sitting on the bench made famous by Princess Diana.   Today, I decided to have one taken from this angle.

Then it was my turn to take photos of Ayşe including the typical one of her looking straight at me.  I tried having her position her face at various angles and ended up taking quite a few photos but in the end, we both decided this was our favorite one so it's the one I'm posting up.  She's looking toward the setting sun which added a bit of a warm glow to her fave.

Just as we were wrapping up our photo op, a guard came by to tell us it was time to leave.  Saeed soon followed and told us the same thing.   We pointed to him where Chantale was standing.  To no surprise, she was chatting with a group of people.  Admittedly, Ayşe and I procrastinated with leaving until it was absolutely necessary for us to turn our backs to the Taj.  Luckily, we will still get to see it when we return in two days.

This time, we had to hustle out of Mehtab Bagh.  I hobbled quickly as I could but sadly, again, no time for a photo of the gardens.  So....if I am lucky, maybe I will get to come back here one day and linger longer.  It was around 7:15p when we got back to the car so we did stretch our time at Mehtab Bagh for as long as we could.

Our next stop was the hotel - Aman Homestay which is owned and run by a local family.  It had very good reviews on both TripAdvisor and the fact that is located very near to the Taj were two reasons for picking it.  The very friendly owner greeted us and then turned us over to her son to check us in.  Since there were no objections from the gals, I booked us into at triple room.   I have to admit though that when we entered the gate to the property, my heart sank a bit because the place looked so disheveled.  It looked like the exterior was under some sort of construction and there was a bit of that taking place inside as well.  As I was checking in, the son told us that since this is low season for tourists, they are taking the opportunity to do some expansion and renovation work.   He assured me that the workers are only there during the day and would likely not start the heavy construction work until we've already left for sightseeing the next day.   Okay, I had his word.

At 8p, we met back up with Dinesh.  It was time for dinner.  He took us to a very nice restaurant where the menu offered up Chinese food.  Okay, I'm up for trying Chinese food Indian style.  Of course, to the two Chinese ladies aka Chantale and I, the Chinese food tasted more like Indian food but it was a welcomed taste change from what we've been eating so far.  We ordered a few dishes to share.  The portions were so generous, we didn't finish everything.  I hate wasting food but there's no point over eating. 

By the time we got back to Aman Homestay, it was past 10p.  We had just enough time to shower and get our stuff ready for tomorrow.  Saeed and Dinesh will be picking us up bright and early at 7a so I have to quickly sign off on this post so I can hit the shower and then get a good night's sleep.  We have a really big day ahead of us and I can't wait! 

Goodnight from Agra!