India: The Taj Mahal & Other Highlights

Last, but certainly not least, in my recap of my recent trip to India are some of the major sights I saw in my travels.

But first, here’s one last item that I accidentally left out of my food recaps: Masala Lemonade!  I had Indian Lemonade once years ago at an old manager’s house and have never forgotten it.  It’s fizzy, it’s sweet, it’s sour, and it’s… salty?  Yep.  And I never would have guessed that salty lemonade could be so amazing, but it IS.  In fact, the salt makes it even more refreshing on a hot summer day.  It must be the electrolytes.

I had several glasses of lemonade while in India and was especially excited when I learned of yet another variation on Indian Lemonade – the Masala version has the addition of  Chaat Masala seasoning, which makes it a little bit spicy and even more flavorful with this blend of Dried Mango, Black Salt, and even Cumin.  It’s surprisingly addictive.

When I travel, even more so than my food, I love to take pictures of the animals.  I love animals, and capturing pictures of them in their habitats really makes a place solidify in my memories.  Sadly, all too many of my photos are of strays.

Clockwise from Top: Cooling off in a gutter in Agra, waiting by the airport’s flower stall, and across the street from India Gate

My coworkers thought it was funny that I took so many pictures of animals.  They even joked that I seemed to be more interested in the Squirrel (below) than interested in Qutb Minar, this impressive monument built in the 13th century.  Of course, that wasn’t true.  Though I may have been equally interested.

I mean, these Indian Palm Squirrels have the body of a Chipmunk and the tail of an American Squirrel.  I was fascinated.  I was also worried since this little guy was laying so flat and still on the ground that I thought he might be dead.  Turned out, he was fine.  I think he was just trying to conserve his energy and press up against the cool-ish concrete on this extremely hot day.

After my Indian ‘Street Food’-style Lunch,  my coworkers took me to see a few more important landmarks.  Since New Delhi is the Capital of India, I saw the Parliament Buildings as well as the President’s House (from a distance), in addition to driving past countless Embassies.

After being in the hustle and bustle of Delhi and Gurgaon, it was such a contrast to walk past these immaculate buildings in such quiet and calm surroundings, thanks to the abundance of security in the area.

We also saw India Gate, a beautiful monument directly across the boulevard from the President’s House that I hear is also the city’s most popular picnic spot.

Top: India Gate
Bottom: Houses of Parliament

 

Speaking of security, check out this tough little Guard Dog (not really), right outside the barricades in front of the President’s Home.

We squeezed in the above sight-seeing before heading into the office for our regular night-shift.  After working a full week, we had one free day on Saturday before flying back to the states Sunday morning.

My colleagues were kind enough to travel with us to the Taj Mahal – a 4+ hour drive each way so that I could see this iconic place.

After being in such large cities for all of my stay, I was so excited to drive through the city of Agra to get to the Taj.  Agra was more along the lines of what I was expecting to see in India, based on stories I’d heard, complete with the questionable electrical wiring and quintessential cows in the street.

And in the midst of all the dust and chaos of the busy city of Agra was one of the most peaceful and beautiful places I’ve ever been.

I really enjoyed walking around the perfectly manicured grounds, but it got even better when we were able to go inside the Taj Mahal itself, wearing these nifty shoe-covers over our feet. 

Built between 1631 and 1648, this 100% Marble structure required the work of ~20,000 stone carvers, masons, and artists.

What surprised me most of all was that up close, this all-white structure was actually covered with pain-staking detail.  Even more so, I was stunned by the method of decoration.  Every line, curve, or flower petal is a semi-precious gemstone, inlaid into the marble with the utmost precision.

 I had such a memorable first trip to India, and I hope there will be many more!

I’d love to hear from you!

What iconic sites have you seen? 

Or most want to see? (Bucket List?)