When I was little, I remember going out of my way to walk past travel agencies. I used to love looking at the promotional travel posters plastered around their entrances. They always featured the most clichéd image of each country: The Eiffel Tower, Great Wall of China, and the Pyramids were sure bets.
I also remember the pearly white, whimsical profile of the Taj Mahal. I’d try to imagine the kind of exotic place that would build such a structure and in such a shape.
Little did I know at the time that I’d end up marrying someone from that part of the world, spending time in her home state and even revisiting some of her fondest childhood memories by participating in the local kite festival.
Well, we couldn’t bring our boys to India for the first time and not do the travel-poster tour. Between the food, the turbaned staff, and its famous monuments, the Golden Triangle most likely represents your stereotypical images of India.
Watch the video for a few highlights.
A natural starting point is in Delhi with its international airport.
While my wife and I visited about a dozen years earlier, my first impression this time around wasn’t as favorable. The air pollution was so thick I could hardly make out the airline logo imprinted on a plane’s tail a mere 3 gates away. Breathing the stale air would tickle the lungs and it constantly felt as if we were standing next to a campfire.
I’m not sure if it was because we were there in winter when it isn’t uncommon for the homeless to burn garbage at night to stay warm.
I know Delhi has risen to the top of the ‘most polluted’ cities in the world and I hope they figure out a way of addressing the problem. A few weeks after we had left, they were going to impose driving restrictions – those with license plates ending in an even number could drive certain days, odd license plates the others.
I couldn’t get out of Delhi soon enough. While certainly a far cry from pristine, Agra was a welcome sight.
Agra is absolutely loaded with sites. Many of which would be the main attraction if they resided in any other city.
My favorites included Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah. Otherwise known more adoringly as “Baby Taj”. It’s regarded as a draft of the real Taj and one of the first examples of Mughal architecture to transition away from the red sandstone to white marble.
Another fan favorite was Akbar’s Tomb. It sits on the outskirts of town and is a bit bigger than the Taj Mahal. The gardens were peaceful and had horned antelope-like creatures and peacocks strutting around. We arrived early in the morning and shared the complex with maybe 15 other people.
The queen bee, however, is obviously the Taj Mahal.
It is exquisite and an absolute must-see. Even if you’re there with thousands of others (you will be), you’ll still have quite a bit of freedom to walk around at all angles and be able to take it in. The structure is known to change colors throughout the day due to the marble’s translucence.
When looking from a birds-eye view of the entire complex (including its three entrance gates), the Taj Mahal is perfectly symmetrical along the y-axis. And would have also been symmetrical along the x-axis (the river) if its mirrored twin of entirely black marble was constructed as well. There are mixed stories whether or not the Black Taj was indeed part of the original plans.
Typically the last corner of the Golden Triangle tour is the pink city of Jaipur.
Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan whose old town was painted pink in 1876 to welcome the Prince of Wales.
It’s main attraction is also on the outskirts and sits high up in the hills. With the Red Fort in Agra, I keep wanting to say it is the Amber Fort in Jaipur due to its color. But it really is called Amer Fort.
Of course the most popular way to reach the entrance is on the back of an elephant. It’s a tough thing because as part of a tour, it is always just included and before you know it, you’re in line to ascend to the hilltop fort on the back of one of these animals.
I’m a bit torn on stuff like this. On one hand, it does provide jobs to a bunch of handlers and we did see the elephants being bathed and fed. Who knows where or what these people and animals would be doing without this task. According to this Jaipur Travel Guide, they have instituted limits as to the number of people (2) and the number of trips an elephant can make per day (5).
My main hesitation comes from wondering what kind of “training” these gentle giants need to go through to be ready to trudge tourists up and down the trail in the hot sun.
Anyway, the next time I go, I’ll probably opt to walk on my own.
The fort itself is beautiful and filled with classic Hindu style architecture. Not to mention the views that are available if you happen to go on a clear day.
Have you visited any part of the Golden Triangle in India? If not, do you have any inkling?