12/30/10 - Agra: The Taj Mahal

Drive from Delhi to Agra

We left Delhi at about 9 a.m. and arrived at our hotel in Agra at about 12:30.  The drive offered the excitement of dodging cows, trucks, and so forth outside of the city, where traffic moved a lot quicker.  It was misty and sometimes we had rain; we were anxious about whether it would rain when we visited the Taj Mahal.

Here are typical pictures of what we saw on arriving in Agra and driving through town.

Taj Mahal

The Taj is so famous that I expected to be disappointed – surely it could not live up to the hype. Imagine my delight when it exceeded my expectations!  It was truly ethereal and magical looking, especially in the mist that followed a short rain shower as we arrived.  Tricia was deeply moved and took a million pictures.

The Taj is hidden from outside view.  Visitors are routed through the structure that you can see in the picture on the left.  On the right is our first view of the Taj, from inside the entry area.

Then we came out on the other side, and got our first unobstructed views of the Taj.  It was so beautiful!

As we got close to the structure, we could see the lovely patterns of inlaid stones that decorated the walls.

There was a long line to go inside the Taj.  Tricia took great pictures of the people in line.       

Bargaining for Plates

My mother had requested that I buy two plates from a store near the Taj Mahal – one for her and one for me.  She wanted plates in the local style, with designs of semiprecious stones inlaid in marble.  So we went into a store and looked at the many gorgeous plates on display.  However, when we started asking prices, I was shocked!  The salesman demanded $1200 per plate.  I had expected to negotiate, but I wasn’t planning to spend more than about $100 per plate, and I did not think we could possibly reach common ground – the discrepancy was just too great.  Then Tricia, who had spent a lot of time bargaining in Mexico, went into action.  Assisted by my evident inflexibility – I actually walked out at one point, not as a bargaining technique but because I was giving up – Tricia managed to get the salesman down to $150.  At that point I started considering the purchase more seriously.  Based on my mother’s wishes, I had been prepared to buy plates that were not really marble but rather soapstone, a cheaper substitute.  So although the plates were still a bit more expensive than I had wanted, they were also much better quality.  I negotiated the salesman down to $140 per plate and then accepted the deal. 

I am still amazed that the salesman started out with an almost tenfold markup!  I was prepared for prices to be doubled, but not multiplied by ten.  In any case, huge kudos to Tricia for doing such a great bargaining job.  We saw similar plates later in the government emporium in Delhi, where they sold for $300 and were not as nice.  Here is a picture of the plates I bought:


We saw quite a few monkeys in India.  In the north, these were rhesus macaques.  They liked our hotel in Agra.  When I drew back the curtain of our bedroom window in the morning, I found myself staring a monkey in the face.  It was sitting on our window sill – but scampered off before I could snap its picture.  Tricia had almost opened the window during the night to get some air – thank goodness she didn’t!  Who knows what objects the monkeys might have carried off, in addition to giving us the fright of our lives.