Monday, February 8, 2010
INDIA IS AN EXPERIENCE
Let's forget yesterday. I'm appalled that I said "India Sucks."
Today, though, was not much different, but my attitude has re-adjusted and returned to my normal self. To begin, can you believe there are 82 HD channels, and at the time of the Super Bowl, there were 6 soccer matches, 2 rugby, 2 badminton, 1 tennis, 1 golf, 1 auto racing, 3 cricket and, on ESPN, a SEC gymnastics competition. NO SUPER BOWL in Delhi. Anyway, I couldn't have caught all of it as at 6:15AM I was picked up for my Taj Mahal encounter, the primary reason why I'm on this trip.
There was a driver of a minivan and a navigator, joined by a tour guide for a person from Sweden, another from Turkey and myself. Remember from yesterday, all this cost me about $50, including lunch.
The drive of 4 hours to Agra was a nightmare. Early in the morning, a red light means please consider slowing down, but, if there appears to be no crossing traffic, whiz through as fast as possible. The 130 mile ride was mostly down a four lane highway, with a few complications. Ox, goat and horse driven carts; wandering cattle and water buffalo; way overloaded trucks; tuk-tuks that carry not two people, but up to 20; congested towns; people running across the street and horrendous air pollution (it was smokey the whole way). For transportation buffs, you will see every possible mode of transport since the dawn of civilization, including trains that seem to move along well and, above, airplanes, which I only imagined were there, for the haze is worse than when the volcano emission envelopes Honolulu.
We finally got to Agra and went straight to the Taj Mahal. The cost of entrance was about $20 for this and the Red Fort. Frankly, like Angkor Wat, the experience was not awesome. I'm glad I came, I enjoyed the tour, but I was sort of disappointed. These accompanying photos actually show the Taj to be whiter than actual. This is one of the 8 wonders of the world. Time and pollution, though, have stained the white marble. But, after all, this complex is more than 350 years old. I did, however, honor Pearl.
No, I'm not dropping Pearl's ashes, but below is where I selected as her site. I asked around for a possible yellow tree, but could not find one.
The location is at the base of the kind of pine tree found in Hawaii, plus, next to it, what looked like a lehua blossom found on the Big Island:
The Red Fort, almost 450 years old, is the second must see, but, again, I'm templed and forted out to enjoy any more tours. The lunch at a 5-star restaurant was Indian, and good, with Kingfisher, an Indian beer.
The most exciting part was the ride back to Delhi, all 6 hours of it. This was the equivalent of the road through hell. They say that just at the moment of a catastrophe, time slows, like, say, your car meeting another head-on at 60 miles per hour. To survive in this traffic, the driver needs to be intrepid, no, make that, reckless. He needs to fearlessly pass cars and toot his horn as much as possible. Time virtually stopped for me at least a dozen times today.
The miracle of it all is that not once did our van even scrape another vehicle. I did not see an accident all day. However, an hour into Delhi we ran into an electrical storm. If you never have been through one of these, you're in luck. In one town there was a siren blowing. Maybe tornadoes? Lightning hit a pole in front of us and sparks fell on the road. But, I landed at the Le Meridien, which, I said yesterday, is an oasis.
I was so exhausted about surviving the day that I ordered room service: a butter/pesto tossed linguine with a bolognese sauce, accompanied by an asparagus Caesar salad. I opened the bottle of bordeaux provided the Le Meridien and had one of the better meals on this trip:
See Dow Jones Industrials and price of crude oil to the right. Both the American Dow Jones Industrials and Japan Nikkei are now below $10,000.
Wow, there is an actual Tropical Cyclone PAT, now at 65 MPH, heading west in the general direction of French Polynesia. It turned away from the Cook Islands and should not affect Fiji.