India, Singapore · 6 Days · 14 Moments · December 2017

Agra, Jaipur, Delhi in India

8 December 2017

I'm so glad I'm leaving India, I have enough of the traffic, crowds, pollution. Had to be on my guard all the time esp when shopping but of course still go scammed😫. Though I was reluctant at first, I'm so glad to have come and got to see the Taj Mahal, the Baha'i Temple and have other experiences. And I meet some really nice Indian folks, like Lovekesh our driver, who dispelled my stereotyping of Indians.

7 December 2017

Delhi The traffic going into Delhi is insane! So glad I was watching Spotlight and tuned out. If you are able to drive in India, you can drive anywhere in the world! Baha'i Temple Set amid well maintained gardens, often compared visually to the Sydney Opera House. Spectacular giant white petals of marble in the shape of an unfolding lotus spring from 9 pools, to symbolise the 9 unifying spiritual paths of the Baha'i faith; each petal alcove contains an extract from the Baha'i holy scriptures. A green building; solar panels provide some of the energy needs and recycled water used to water the gardens. Photos 1-6 Baha'i Temple 7 Lawyers election 8 Lovekesh, our lovely driver.

6 December 2017

Had the most deliciously creamy lassi ever lassi ever, at a famous lassi walla who was featured on the newspaper. See the look of glee on my face, YUMMY 😋 And instead of washing the clay mugs, they are thrown away! Jaipur's version of kacang puteh. The beautiful patterns are painstakingly created by the sellers.
Jantar Mantar, one of 5 identical observatories created by Jal Singh across Northern India. 18 huge astronomical measuring devices, many his own invention. To this day, the instruments are still accurate! Photos 1-5 photos of observatory. The giant sundial, the largest in the world. 6/7 Water Palace The 5 storey building was built with the intention of flooding the first 4 storeys in a man made lake. The 5th floor was to be the living and entertainment area for the Royal family during summer time.
Amber Fort Photos 3 : Vegetable dyes on the exterior 4 : interior, colour bits came from dust of various gems
Jaipur is named after its founder, the great warrior astronomer, Jal Singh II (1688-1744). Came to power at the age of 11, after the death of his father, Bishan Singh. Because he was schooled in the arts, sciences, philosophy and military affairs, he fostered their development and the Royal court became a booming centre for arts and knowledge. Our guide, Vinod, first brought us to see the Hawa Mahal, Palace of the Wind. Distinctive with its pink sandstone exterior and 593 windows, the most photographed site in Jaipur. Next stop, Amber Fort. Dramatically perched on the hills surrounding Jaipur, the stunning sandstone building, has some beautiful wall murals painted with vegetable dyes, which amazingly has withstand the onslaught of time and pollution.

5 December 2017

Travel to Jaipur, capital of Rajesthan today. Pink City, heart of the original capital is so called because of the uniform pink colour, reminiscent of the great marble monuments of the Mughals; but really to camouflage the poor quality building materials. Lalitha and Recca shopped for quite awhile at the various bazaars and I got quite annoyed as I had to wait about 1 hour for them to finish😣 Our hotel, Suryaa Village is a nice heritage hotel, with a huge gooseberry tree at the front. Photos 1 : this type of squirrel with 3 stripes at the back is commonly seen in these parts of India. 2 : common architecture in Jaipur. 3/4 : performance at the restaurant where we had lunch 5 : ladies sewing at the shop 6/7 : Hotel 8 : Gooseberry tree infront of Hotel

4 December 2017

Fatehpur Sikri Emperor Akbar was very enlightened, he accorded equal respect to all religions. As Hindus and Muslims didn't get along, he created a new religion, which stated all religions were equal. He also married 3 women, Hindu, Muslim and Christian. It was a political move as well so as to unite the people. However his son, Jahaghir who succeeded him was a very staunch Muslim. He did not share the views of his father, so belief in the new religion faded away. We had a good guide, Mohammed Ali, extremely good looking, like a Bollywood actor. Unfortunately he also scammed us. We were told about famous people who came here to offer gifts of cloth to the Saint, with rose petals and a string which is use to tie 3 knots for 3 wishes. It was done very subtly and because it was kind of spiritual, when we were told the price, though I thought it was high, didn't raise my usual ruckus. Oh well, now I can sort of understand why people fall for proselytising, charismatic pastors.
Fatehpur Sikri(City of Victory), former imperial capital of Emperor Akbar. Even though he had 300 wives and concubines, he couldn't get a son. So when he heard about the saint, Sheikh Salim Christi, who might be able to help him, he went to consult him. And he finally got a son, so he 'rewarded' the Saint by building a city for him. The 16th generation of the Saint is still living there and are custodians of the place. Photos 3/4 are tombs of the family, men buried outside and women buried inside. There is also a Mosque there, photos 6/7/8. In fact, there is quite a big population of Muslims in Agra, guess legacy of the Mughals. Photo 5 is the door to an underground tunnel that leads to Agra; it was built as an escape route in case of attack. Constructed mainly of red sandstone and also white marble where the Saint mausoleum is. Photo 9 : the ceiling is the dome, the dark part on the left is a honey bee hive. The discolouration is due to chemicals used to get rid of the hives.

3 December 2017

In the afternoon, went to majestic Agra Fort; built by 3rd Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1565. Originally a Fort, was transformed into a palace by Shah Jahan which unfortunately became his glided cage. The last 3 photos; - room where SJ was housed - the window where he looked out to the Taj. - the view of plain where the Taj is but is not visible because of the fog. The roads expectedly were bad, both the conditions and the jams. If you can drive here, you can drive anywhere in the world. Also lots of goats, cows and buffaloes wandering around. Our driver, Lovekesh told us that mainly buffalo milk are used to use for curds cause they give alot more than cows. Donkeys are used as beast of burden.
Afterwards, we went to a marble factory where the Iranian gentleman and his family showed us how the precious stones are inlaid into marble, just like how it was done at the Taj. It was painstaking work and so exquisite. We also went to the a place where a expert craftsman was doing some exquisite embroidery. For lunch, we went Sheroes Hangout, a vegetarian cafe run by women who have survived acid attacks. Opened in 2014, it now has branches on another 5 Indian cities. The food is really good.
Sadly, SJ was put under house arrest by his own son and was housed in the Agra Fort, where he was able to see the Taj Mahal from his window. Apparently, SJ had used up about 1/3 of the treasury to build the monument. We entered by the West Gate, also known as the King's Gate because SJ used it. East Gate, VIP; South Gate, Labour. North Gate, Royal. Breathtakingly beautiful, though it must have be much better before pollution set in. Tagore described it as 'a tear on the face of eternity'. The whole complex is symmetrical based on Mughal architecture. The Mosque on the left and a guesthouse on the right, are identical in design. The main building material is a white translucent marble from the Makrana region in Rajasthan. The gorgeous inlay, Pietra Dura, on the inside walls are made of different gems whilst the outside are semi precious stones; 36 types Gold and silver were gifts from various kings. The brass pinnacle on top of the dome was originally gold but the British looted!
Taj Mahal! Finally! Our guide, Farhan and us went at 6 am hoping to catch the sunrise; unfortunately had to queue for so long, security plus quite chaotic entry. Taj Mahal, was built by Shah Jahan, 5th King of the Mughals, for his 3rd wife. Her actual name was Arjumand Banu, but her palace title was Mumtaz Mahal which means 'Chosen One of the Palace', Taj Mahal is the shortened, informal version of her palace title. She was his favourite wife and gave birth to 14 children; unfortunately she died shortly at the age of 39, 8 of the their children also died young. Mumtaz asked Shah Jahan to build a masoleum for her, that was how the Taj came to be. The court's chief architect, Persian Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, designed the building in a combination of Persian, Islamic, and Mughal architecture. 20000 men from all over Asia commenced in 1632 and completed the main building in 17 years with the 4 minarets in another 5. 22 domes high up at the entrance symbolise the number of years it took.

2 December 2017

Arrived Delhi, already can see the smog from the aircraft😣 Though must say the airport is quite nice. Our driver, Lovekesh drove us to Agra. As expected, lots of traffic jams and honking. Along the expressway, lots of greenery, mustard plantations. We had yummy Chicken Briyani, Dahl and Chicken Tikka Masala for lunch.