My final stop in India, and I knew I had to see her most iconic monument, the Taj Mahal. Thanks to the Shiva festival going on in the whole country, it wasn’t easy. The bus I took to get there stopped 10 km outside the city and would go no further. The traffic ahead was too thick. The whole busload of people got off and started walking in the intense humid heat. I decided it wasn’t worth it and went to a restaurant across street to bide my time and weigh my options. I ended up finding the only vacant rickshaw that was willing to take me through the craziness to the city.
I found a hotel on a quiet street just 1 km from the Taj Mahal. An older rickshaw driver offered to take me around the city to see sites for a price that “I could decide later.” I knew this was a trap, but I had an amount in mind that I’d offer at the end and that I would not budge from. The plans got derailed when he stopped to pick up two Italian guys and a Japanese girl. We hit it off right away and had lunch together. They were going to the Taj at sunset and we made plans to rest at our hotels for a few hours and go together in the evening.
They were a lot of fun. The boisterous Italian guys had me and the Japanese girl laughing the entire time. They joked with everyone. We hired a guide to take us around the Taj Mahal. He told us that the sacred number of the Taj is 22. There are 22 fountains in front of and on the sides of the Taj. There are 22 spires on the walls surrounding the grounds. Also, each minaret is leaning away from the main building at 5.5 degrees, all four adding up to the magic number… 22. The minarets were built leaning away because if one ever fell, it would fall away from the main structure leaving it untouched.
The Taj Mahal was a truly gorgeous site. We went at sunset which was perfect because the crowd was thinning out and the orange and pink light gave the Taj Mahal an even more ethereal energy. The white marble makes the Taj look divine. I walked around the building barefoot, feeling the cool marble on my feet as I gazed up studying the geometry and unique architecture. As it was getting late the guards told us we couldn’t walk around to the other side. When they weren’t looking Alessandro and I ran away to the other side and lingered there taking photos and taking in the structure with our eyes until the guards came around and made us leave.
After our Taj visit, we had dinner as a group. We were all craving Chicken Tikka Masala (my favorite dish) and we all got our wishes. We then made our way to a cinema to catch a Bollywood movie starring ….Kahn. Unfortunately, there were no subtitles for the 3-hour spectacle, but I was surprised by how much I understood based on visual cues and context alone. We got out at midnight, said our goodbyes and went to our respective hotels. My last day in India was an unforgettable one. Good company and an amazing visit to the Taj Mahal. I won’t soon forget it.
The next morning I caught a bus to Delhi, from where I got a flight to Mumbai, a flight to Abu Dhabi, and a flight to Sao Paolo, Brazil, where I spent the night. Then, the next morning I took another flight to Vitoria, where I was picked up by a special lady and driven to Vila Velha, where I currently find myself.