Last Days in the Heat

I came back to Delhi, well technically Gurgaon, a wealthy suburb of Delhi, for the last few days of this trip. I was looking forward to being in a place with things to do.

Gurgaon was interesting; an industrial type area becoming residential with the wealthy Delhilites who wanted to get away from the urban life for bigger homes. It’s also lined with 5 star hotels, one of which I had the pleasure of staying at.  The greatest attraction in Gurgaon is Kingdom of Dreams, India’s first live entertainment destination where all the different states are represented through cuisine, visually stunning art, dance performances and handmade trinkets that are for the most part, fair trade. I guess this venue can be seen as India’s Disneyland since it’s a family destination and is quite expensive, hence it’s a big treat for most people to check this place out. I found it totally worth it just because of the various types of Indian cuisine you can try in one place. Plus it’s a great way to spend time on extremely hot days where just walking down the street is unbearable.

Kingdom of Dreams 
The interesting part about Gurgaon is how along the 5 star hotel filled roads you can also find newly created slums right behind or beside these brand new buildings (from the workers who helped to build the new developments, after which they just stay where they worked until they find a new place to work and move their tarp and family to). Then again, that’s really what India is – rich and poor living side by side like its no big deal. Poverty is definitely more real here and in your face.  Even as a tourist you can feel the lack of opportunity people face due to the poor government infrastructure and these innocent people are left to accept their fate with no mercy.  The poverty is something I will never get used to in this country. 
The Lotus Temple

My favourite place in Delhi was the Lotus Temple – a beautifully designed Baha’i temple made of marble that welcomes people of all faiths and castes.  There is absolutely no talking while inside the temple and this creates an amazingly tranquil space in the heart of Delhi that otherwise would be impossible to find. Loads of temple devotees filled the temple with their shaved heads and it was refreshing change to be in a place filled with peace and equality.

My final and most important stop on this trip was to Agra, home to the infamous Taj Mahal, a man made monument in honour of true love from the Mogul era.
The list of prohibited items you can not take into the Taj Mahal

Agra is a small city with a population of 3 million and is tax free due to it being a completely tourist city, probably attracting the most amount of visitors from within India and internationally. It’s a taste of real India with horse carts, cows, chaos and dusty roads.  The drive to Agra from Delhi was long and tiring, but knowing you are going to see a wonder of the world is very intriguing and worth the ride. The Taj Mahal sees 40,000 visitors daily in the summer, and they all look like ants compared to this gigantic monument also made completely of marble.

Since I went to with my colleagues we opted for an English speaking tour guide but we regretted our decision immediately due to his ‘higher than the locals’ attitude simply because he was educated and spoke English, and felt it was his right to treat the locals like dirt. It was embarrassing and infuriating.
Once you step through the gates of the Taj Mahal it is quite overwhelming. You don’t actually realize how big it is until you see it with your own eyes.  The precious stones encased in the marble allows the entire Taj to sparkle in moonlight and it amazes me that architects at that time had such amazingly aesthetic ideas!

Due to the extremely hot weather conditions we only managed to sight see for two hours, but that was more than enough to learn about the history and see the various sections of the Taj.
Although Shajahan built the Taj to bury his wife Mumtaz, the mogul is also buried along with his true love beneath the building.

Across the Yamuna river from the Taj Mahal is the Black Taj that Shajahan had intended to build as his own burial site.  However after Shajahan had overspent on the Taj Mahal, his son imprisoned him due to overspending and he was never able to complete the Black Taj and was buried at his wife’s burial site with her.
The Taj Mahal is one of India’s popular honeymoon destinations and you can see tourist from all over India here in various native clothing and speaking numerous dialects.  Sometimes I forget about how multi-ethnic India really is but when visiting major tourist spots it’s more interesting to people watch.

Of course I also had to check out the nightlife and with some great couch surfing friends I check out Blue Frog, an upscale europop club that usually has DJ’s from Europe. Hence cover alone made my jaws drop, but once inside there were girls in mini dresses, stilettos and a few smoking.  It was like a different world when you stepped into the nightlife scene, one where the privileged enjoyed life like it was North America.  And I was under dressed.

Oh India.. magical mystical India! You never fail to amuse and teach me.  I can’t wait to go back and explore more!


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