Finding My Pulse
The Taj Mahal, dusty paths and tuk tuks...lots of tuk tuks. These were the images I had when I thought of India. Although my thoughts weren't too far off, they also were shallow and didn't began to touch the heart of India.
My final destination was South Goa but I had to make a detour to witness the Taj Mahal. We arrived in New Delhi and I arranged for a driver to take us to Agra (a three hour drive) where we would spend the night and experience the sunrise at the Taj Mahal the next morning. Jessica made the hotel arrangements at ITC Mughal Agra. This was a little piece of heaven after our long travels from Nepal. We spent the rest of the evening indulging in spa treatments at Kaya Kalp - The Royal Spa, the largest spa in India. The scent of freshly picked rose petals wafted throughout the spa while the soothing sounds of water fountains calmed the day away.
The next morning, we left early for the Taj Mahal. Our adventure started at the entrance gate where you can take a tuk tuk or walk along the path to get to the Taj Mahal ticket window. We opted to walk (along with the monkeys) as our guide gave us tidbit information about the Taj Mahal and India. We were very fortunate to have a local guide with us, as we didn't have to wonder what window to go to, which ticket to purchase or stand in the wrong line (men and women stand in different lines and are searched before entering the grounds). The sun was rising as we walked through the archway as if it had practiced to be on cue for our arrival. My mind was blown! Not only was the building sparkling from the sunlight, it was a lot bigger than I imagined. During our visit, the structure was being cleaned, hence the scaffolding in the images but that didn't take away from its beauty nor the beauty of the love story as to why it was built in the first place (here).
While viewing the Taj Mahal and Red Fort, I continued to make friends and capture stares (it was definitely the hair). We took pictures with a group of older Indian ladies who were memorized by our Western aesthetic and I was requested (very politely) by a teen on a field trip to take a selfie. Every person we encountered was so welcoming. We were made to feel as if we were returning home from a long journey.
After our inspiring morning, we had a mission to accomplish. Upon arriving to India, we discovered the government had changed the currency and all of our rupees (that we exchanged in the US) were no longer acceptable. Our guide was very resourceful and was able to get some of our money exchanged for the "new" money as we drove through Agra searching for banks, getting our passports photocopied and maneuvering our way through crowds of people trying to do the same thing. Upon arrival back to New Delhi, most of the banks had run out of new money and the lines were twice as long. So, I decided to be resourceful and figured out a way to get the rest of our money exchanged. Let's just say we ended up with large amounts of rupees (in small bills) being counted, scattered and exchanged in our hotel room. What happens in New Delhi stays in New Delhi.
For the last leg of the trip, we flew to Goa for five days of relaxation and to escape our short- lived gangsta life in New Delhi. South Goa was quiet, inviting and filled with amazing people. We lounged and devoured fresh seafood on the beach, made an attempt to go to the night market (India is very unpredictable - when we arrived the night market was suddenly closed due to a religious event), shopped the narrow aisle of Goa's street markets and received daily spa treatments. Traveling to India via Nepal, has been my best travel experience to date. I can't wait to explore more of India and dive deeper into the culture.