a travel day and some initial observations
31.01.2016 - 16.02.2016 75 °F
As I write this I am sitting in the hotel bar, drinking a passable chenin blanc and watching a sitar player and his accompanying percussionist play for the lobby. No I am not kidding. The rest of the group is out to dinner in an upscale hotel restaurant. I chose this evening as the perfect time to escape from the herd. Sometimes I can’t do herd 24/7. Don’t get me wrong – it isn’t the group, it’s me. But I could not be luckier. . . .hardly anyone in the bar, and a couple of guys are serenading me.
Today was a travel day. We are now in Agra, having flown here from Varanasi. Yep, we flew on the Mexico bus again, but it didn’t seem so bad this time. It could easily be that after a couple of days in Varanasi, even Air India looks good. Let me tell you, as exciting as Varanasi was, it was equally as despicably impoverished. I knew that, but when you follow Varanasi with a drive through Agra and the surrounding environs, the comparison is striking. Here you see poverty by our standards but people aren’t living elbow to elbow in a shack or on the street. Plus, there is a lot less trash. The cows, goats and dogs are still roaming free, and there is still the incessant honking of motorcycles and motorized pedi-cabs. But, people are better off.
After we checked in to our hotel, we met in the lobby to be taken to a big park across a river from the Taj Mahal to view it in the sunset. It is stunning. It’s a whole lot bigger than I imagined. We lingered until the sun actually set and the park rangers started shooing us out. Tomorrow we will actually visit the Taj, today was just a photo op.
Before the driver took the group to dinner, we stopped at a really interesting museum which is also a retail establishment selling jewelry and intricate embroidery art. I enjoyed looking at the art and the jewels I would never buy. They actually had a pretty good deal on embroidered evening bags, but I couldn’t see me carrying that kind of bling to Wednesday Night Dinner at the Elks. It was fun but I left there with all my rupees intact.
Next stop, the hotel restaurant where everyone disembarked but me and the driver. He was so kind to navigate the crowded streets in that bus just to drop me off at our own hotel a few blocks away. On the way we drove by a wedding procession. It’s wedding season here because the weather is really nice, kinda like June in California. These processions are huge festivals in the street. The groom was on a white horse, I didn’t see the bride but there were about ten guys holding big, bright, electric lamps that are strung together by one electric cord. They must have a heluva battery. A small van was parked just outside of the commotion and loud music was blaring from it. People were dancing in the street. Somebody’s parents have money (or did).
Oh, I knew it was too good to last. Ravi Shankar stopped playing and now the bar’s music system is playing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”. Not exactly my idea of a stereotypical night in India! Perhaps it is time to retire to my room.