Came down to breakfast to see playing an Indian version of MTV, I guess, with gyrating guys and girls. It was switched off in favor of other channels, with news, and mostly sports, prevailing. I had Jeera Aloo and corn/mushroom something, which were both good, and hash browns, were predictable (no hidden chili peppers).
Then, after repacking into smaller bundles, I met Praveen at 8 am for the drive to Agra. Traffic was busy in spots, and Praveen commented about the commuting workers, particularly those packed 10 deep in auto-rickshaws.
The distance to Agra is something like 250 km (check), and while we were to be on a national highway (number 2) the amount and variety of traffic was unlike an interstate in the US. I am not sure the pictures along the way can describe the access and egress patterns, the range of vehicular motivation, and the sounds of drivers alerting or informing their fellow travelers.
After having a touch of sore throat Sunday, Monday I felt like sniffling and sneezing and coughing was taking over. Despite the weaving traffic, I fell asleep a couple times along the way.
We stopped for an early lunch (10:30 - check name), which seemed to be a resort in name, but a diner in form. I arrived ahead of a couple tourist bus crowds and had the place to myself. Tailored for the tourist trade, the menu included multinational fare, but not exclusively, so I ordered a vegetable samosa and a mango drink, shying away from fresh squeezed juice with. Bit of regret.
For me, it was nice to be stopped near a major rail line, as I spotted both freight trains (goods wagons) and passenger lines going by, in both directions. Praveen said he had tea and snacks in the back. I guess the caste system prevails in a way. I should get him to have a meal with me, or I should follow him to the "guest house" where drivers and "servants" are served.
South of Delhi is an industrial area, Faribad, which seemed to include not just chemical and manufacturing, but technical schools, street markets, villages, and the usual repair stops.
We stopped at a wayside border crossing so Praveen could pay taxes to the government, whereby hawkers and beggars approached the car, pleading and tapping on the window. The offerings were strings of beads, carvings, trained monkey shows, and who knows what else, as Praveen told me to roll up my window and ignore them.
I missed photos of the Moghul "watchtowers" or milestones, by the side of the road. These seemed to be under 10 feet high, grey stone or stucco, with a few slits I the side. Praveen said that messages would be passed by drum from tower to tower.
The plan was for a short stop at the hotel, then a drive to the Taj Mahal, where it would be close to sunset. We picked up another tour guide, Rasi, who explained the history and significance of the monument. In some ways, I was unprepared to visit the site, not having read much ahead of time, but it is such a famous site that not much else can be done beforehand. Rais patiently walked me though the route to the monument, including a battery powered jitney ride (I opted out of the horse cart), then walking the remainder of the way to the entrance. With security tight for the Dewali festival season, there were 4 lines for scanning - one each for Indian "ladies and gents" and one each for guests.
Rais kept preparing me for each successive phase of approaching the Taj.
Photos of Taj are below, and in Panoramio.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at pharmacist to get medicine for a stuffy nose, which was only 27 rupees, and at a money exchange store, where DVDs, textiles, and more was on sale.
Dinner at the hotel started at 7:30, and at 6pm, when I was hungry , only snacks were available. I did not want to go to the bar for an hour and a half, so I went with the simple "vegetable cutlet." it reminded me of the chicken or beef cutlets one might get in the US, but thicker and less dry.
I decided to skip the hotel wireless charges pf 150 rupi per hour, or 500 per 24 hours
Today (25-Oct) I'm trying to post 2 blogs, within 2 hours, including photos. I'm on deadline, so excuse lack of edits.