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Off to India - Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur

In September and October 2014, we flew 19 hours to India to tour the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur.  We also went to Ranthambore to take some game drives at a national preserve.  We experienced the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of India.  We saw the Taj Mahal and it was so beautiful.  We took an elephant ride, saw the sacred cows in the street, and watched 6 people (dad, mom, and 4 kids) ride on a motorcycle at 50 mph.  

We started out tour in Old Delhi at the Red Fort, which was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal dynasty for nearly 200 years, until 1856.  We then traded our modern transport for bicycle rickshaws, weaving through the warren of crooked, congested alleys off Chandni Chowk, one of India’s oldest and busiest bazaars.  We saw the traditional workmanship for which India is well known and still thrives.  We then visited Raj Ghat, Mahatma Gandhi’s serene and evocative cremation site.  We then toured Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. Lastly we saw the the Qutab Minar, a stunning 240-foot minaret – the tallest in the world – surrounded by an elaborate complex built in the Indo-Islamic architectural tradition.

On to Agra where we did a short visit to the “Mother Teresa Home Missionaries of Charity” to meet the nuns at the orphanage who devote their lives to the homeless children of India.  Most of the orphans are girls who are more frequently abandoned at birth. The dire poverty of these unwanted children is heartbreaking.  But Shelly put a smile on many of the girl's and women's faces.

Then we got to see the Taj Mahal.  It is considered the pinnacle of Mughal art in India, the Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. When declaring it a world heritage site, UNESCO described it as “the jewel of Muslim art in India”.  There are few words that can describe the magnificence of this monument.  We marveled as the light and colors transformed the monument in the beautiful rising suns rays.  We then set out to explore Agra Fort, built and added to between the 16th and 17th centuries by successive rulers of the Mughal Dynasty.  The fort was built primarily as a military structure, but Shah Jahan upgraded it to a palace and later it became his gilded prison for 8 years after his son Aurangzeb seized power.

We left Agra and arrived at Ranthambore National Park.  At 150 square miles, it is one of India’s smallest tiger reserves, but it boasts one of the country’s largest tiger populations and an impressive array of other animal and bird life.  We went on two game drives, and were hoping to see Bengal Tigers.  Alas, we did not see any, but we had a wonderful time seeing other wildlife.  

Our last stop was at the “Pink City” of Jaipur - Rajasthan’s capital.  Jaipur’s nickname became immediately apparent as we entered the old city walls and were greeted with pink-colored buildings that rose at every turn.   The "Pink Palace" was particularly beautiful and filled with monkeys.  Jaipur is a shopping mecca as well, and we browsed dozens of shops for great deals.  

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