Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sheer Beauty

The Taj Mahal.
I could have stayed here for days just staring at this masterpiece.
When I first arrived here, there was a line just to buy tickets of over an hour. I stood and line and waited patiently just like everyone else. Then a man approached me and offered a proposition. The tickets to get in were around 500 rupees ($10). He offered to sell me a ticket for an additional 500 rupees and I wouldn't have to wait in line. I told him no, I didn't mind waiting. He kept pushing, and slowing lowering his price. "OK, only 400, fine, only 300, but thats the last I can do." I didn't want to pay anymore than the original price. Finaly he confesses. He says, "OK, OK, there is a line for non-Indians, come with me." I was a bit doubtful, but I gave in and followed him. Sure enough there was a line for non-Indians, which I was the second in line, for the same price as everyone else. I don't blame the guy for trying to make some extra cash. I wonder if any tourists have fallen for this scam - I'm sure of it. I'd been here for long enough to know when to call peoples bluffs. Of course I ususally get ripped off whenever I purchase anything, but again, Im used to it at this point.
There are times when I become more amazed at the natural environment and animals that live nearby than the main attraction itself. I find a tree and see a parrot popping in and out of a hole in the tree just next to the Taj. I take many photos and these take the cake.

There are over 20 or so eagles flying in and around the Taj as well. While I wait over 2 hours just to enter the Taj, I take many photos of the eagles just going about their day at the Taj, what a life!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hey, Hey we're the Monkey's

Monkeys are everywhere in India, especially strolling up a 700 year old fortress once home to past conquerors, such as Akbar in 1596. My first experience with fewer than 20 people was rather enjoyable. The only ones reaching their hands out weren't the people, but the monkeys, and this time they weren't asking for money. They were just hangin' around. The locals must think I am nuts because I am thrilled every time I come close to any monkeys, especially ones right at my feet. After walking up to the fortress, I find and nice place that looks over the entire jungle and meditate on the sheer beauty that still remains.

Ranthambore, a slight detour in the golden triangle, is actually host to an expansive tiger reserve, where tourist flock to witness the few remaining tigers not only in India but also in the world. I arrive just too late to take part on the safari in the evening, so the only plan of action I am able to take if I want to go on the safari is wake up at 330am for a morning trip that leaves at 700am. I arrive at the gate to the place where I need to purchase the tickets at 400am only to find a line already formed, and I thought I was early. I stand in line for over an hour just for them to open the gates to the ticket window. Once they open the gate, I realize it was pointless to have wait in that line as all the people push and shove their way towards the ticket window. Now I am even further past in line because I was unaware of the race to the front. If you are not near the front, the wait just to purchase the tickets was at least another hour. Luckily there is a mens and a womens line, and I see these three Swedish women, whom I met the day before randomly at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, standing in the womens line. There is always way more men than women at these type of things I have noticed. I approach them with excitement, and they generously offer to purchase my ticket for me. Now I don't have to wait in line, and I have friends on my excursion! These few hours between 4 and 700am have almost been more thrilling than the actual safari itself, well, not really, but again, this adventure before the adventure is becoming a common theme in my travels. During the safari, we see many beautiful wonders, such as deer, antelope, monkeys, peacocks and other colorful birds, and the landscape truly is breathtaking, but the purpose of the trip, to see tigers, remains a mystery as we were unable to lure them for sightseeing. By the look on the others sightseers faces, I could tell they were let down, but after speaking to the manager of my hotel, my mindset was not to expect to see anything, just to enjoy the jungle for its natural beauty, and I wouldn't be let down, especially on a sunrise safari.