So, today we drove, or more accurately were passengers, to Agra, site of the Taj Mahal. The traffic out of Delhi was simply busy for miles and miles, and miles. Traffic is not just bumper to bumper, but door handle to door handle. On the highway (two lanes, divided road) it seems as if the slower vehicles deliberately take the right hand lane. And each town which arises from nowhere is just incredibly busy, with people, with traffic, with traders.
We lost count of cows, and goats that look like Dalmatians, one more camel, the biggest statue of Lakshmi in the known universe, a very large statue of Buddha, around a dozen horse/donkey/bullock drawn drays, and auto rickshaws galore. Vehicles drive on the wrong side of the road, into oncoming traffic, but normally on the verge. We had one blue van decide that the right hand lane was the place for them, and was headed straight for us for a very long time.
Another feature of the trip was the large number of education institutions seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Mainly technology and engineering institutes. It is beyond contradiction that on the road outside these institutes, men are pulling carts.
If you are ever in Uttar Pradesh, may I recommend the Maharajah Motel/Roadhouse – you are greeted by someone suitably dressed as a Maharajah, there are dancing monkeys and men with live snakes at the entrance for a fee based photo opportunity and a meal or light snack available at any time. More importantly, they provide clean western toilets and for a couple of rupees, someone will turn on the tap for you and dispense soap and paper towel. The Tin Man roadhouse of Pt Pirie would do well to adopt some of these service options!
Some forgotten observations whilst we have a minute:
Some intersections in Delhi have traffic lights which also display the length of time in the signal sequence. A red light might be on for 99 seconds, and the display counts down, and when the light is green the countdown changes to (say) 80 seconds.
Through the course of Sunday alone we would have seen a dozen contenders for sari of the year. Simply beautiful fabrics, colors, and designs.
The flight from ADL to SIN was a precision exercise, it was friendly, it was efficient. The passengers were as well behaved as the crew. The flight from SIN to DEL could not have been more different, and we came to the conclusion that the crew here were definitely the ‘B’ team, and as poor performers had been given the Delhi run.
Restaurants and cafes provide multiple paper napkins.
Indian water bottles are filled to the brim, and one cannot open one without getting wet.
End of observations.
Dare we say that Agra traffic is worse than Delhi? It is both chaos and mayhem. To the point that even our driver took to the wrong side of the road for quite some distance to get past a traffic hold up. With a foot high median strip, once he made the decision to go, there was no getting out of it.
Tonight we attended a moonlight viewing of the Taj. These are held on five nights of the lunar month. A small number of groups of fifty visitors are allowed in, on an hourly schedule, and although you are meant to get thirty minutes you end up with something less than twenty-five. Security is both tight and ineffective, and inconsistent. Visitors arrive at a holding room of sorts, where you have a pat-down search, and they check your tickets against their records. Some people get frisked twice, for no good reason. We were told not to take bags, yet someone waltzed through with their backpack. Definitely no mobile phone was getting through, nor camera tripods. Very nearly are the visitors outnumbered by security staff, some of whom have rifles, others not. Once out of the holding room, names and ticket numbers were cross-checked again. Then we had a one kilometre bus ride to the Taj, where we were frisked a second or third time, and cameras (which I neglected to say were numbered and tagged in the holding room) were checked again.
Finally, after a short walk the Taj comes into view and it is a spectacular sight. Genuinely impressive, no matter how many times you have seen the photos. The night viewing is exactly that, you are allowed access to one viewing area for the allotted time, you cannot wander around freely. We are back tomorrow to see it in daylight, and to get up close.