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India - Agra (Taj Mahal), Jhansi, Khajuraho,

life on the river Ganges - Agra
Another few days passed and I have moved around a bit again. I left Pushkar towards Agra to see the great world wonder of Taj Palace. I didn't intended to go inside, as I heard the price was very high. And so it was - 750 RUP. I know, if you get it in western currency, it does not seem so high, but it is hell lots of money for India. They have strong security measures for the Taj. Looks like, they are very afraid someone would blow it up. You can't take even lighter inside and all the bags, ... has to be stored away, before you enter. I arrived early in the morning, got a motor rickshaw for a whole day to make my day here simpler (120 RUP). I did not intended to stay over the night, that is why this arrangement. I got to see Taj soon after the sunrise and one of the guides around showed me nice way around the wall towards the river. So I have explored the palace from around and it is quite interesting to see it from under the walls. I shot a few pictures of the people around the river. The life around the Taj in the morning is very interesting. There are also lots of monkeys on one side. I peeped inside through the gate inside of the bazaar, where nobody comes in. I am sure, I did not missed anything not to go inside. Than I got my rickshaw to take me over the river to see the Taj from the other side. I heard the view was spectacular. And it was. I have played freesby with the kids on the bank for a while and watched the local life, before going to see a "baby Taj" and having a tea in the bazaar. Other side of the river represents normal life and it is not mapped in my LP book. I guess they are trying to say - "Nothing interesting for the tourist". Really? I found it much nicer than the side of Taj, so commercial, so tourist hungry. From there to see the Red Fort, an enormous building situated about 2km from the Taj itself. Most of the building is used for the military purposes and only small part for a tourist. Still, good place to see. There is a promenade with park near Taj, leading towards the Red Fort. Cycling rickshaw will take you for 10 RUP, if you get lazy to walk in the heat. Well, now is more than 45 degrees of Celsius here (NOW IS MID OF MAY). For me it means real summer. You know my friends, I always say, over 40 degrees on the desert is what I imagine like a summer time.

Kids on the river bank - Agra - Taj Mahal

I spent most of the day discovering Agra and in the end I got fed up to be with rickshaw too much and listen of nice Mughal (shops and shops) city. He was honest with the commission (2% if I buy, some petrol if I don't), but I hate such a waist of the time. I did it for his fuel once and went to see a wonders of the rich tourist shopping. Huge house full of overpriced - "special art" - you can also buy on the bazaar for a ten's of the price. It was not to bad though. I had a good chat with the Indian girl there, looking on the jewelery and finding out more about the life in India. She is 26 and not married yet (quite late for a woman here). Her name was Ili, which supposed to be a more personal name of the goddess Kali. She said, not married yet, nobody wants me, I am not beautiful. Ha, ha, ha - she was quite pretty, but I guess high positioned and educated. That is always harder to find a suitable men. She also would like to marry for love if possible. That is maybe 5% of the whole India marriage and mainly in the cities. Otherwise the cast system here is very strong. I cannot really see it, but I am reminded of it by the people all the time. I find it strange, but I do understand that it is deeply written in the structure of the country, religion, education and often even in the peoples harts.

A boy fishing in the almost dried lake in Khajuraho
I left Agra on the evening train to Jhansi, something like 3.5 hours away south. I did not have a proper ticket, just unreserved basic fare. Kinda learning by experience. I was told. Reservations not possible and lots of other bulshit. I was not in mood to be finding hard about it so I thought. I will make it, no problem. If the worst come, 3 hours is nothing. I got on the train to sleeper part, second class, well where I was supposed to be, but finding about the system I found it hard to get some seat. People seemed to tray to not to accept the foreigner who was unsure of what to do. So I got to nice high class, air conditioned for a while and waited for conductor. When he come, I made my way back. He said, upgrade possible. First class 250 RUP and for the sleeper reserved 70 RUP, so I made my way. The other one did not wanted to do any upgrades just for 70 RUP, so I pressed him to find me a place. The rest of the way I spend quite comfortably chatting with two boys from Jhansi. I have arrived there quite late and tried some places from LP. Sometimes I thing, the book is written for the middle class travelers, who wants adventure, but still pay lots of money of the comfort. I know, it is just some places, but especially here in India the budged options are mostly overpriced places, who are gaining money on being in the book. Anyway, Jhansi is too expensive with only a few hotels and I had to pay lots of money for a few hours sleep. Though cutting the price almost 40%!

Well, not much interest in Jhansi, so I took early morning bus to Khajuraho. The way take something around the 5 hours, depending on the bus. Departures 5.30, 6.00, 7.00 and 11.30 from the train station. Mine took six hours in the end and broke twice on the way. Not so bad as they managed to repair it quite quickly.

Isn't she sexy? Just 3.000 years old :)

Khajuraho (chadzraho) is smallish hot town with amusing temples. Most of them dates from 950 to 1050 AD, build in Chandelas period. They are covered with many carvings and statues. There are several theories for the symbolic of the statures - most people nowadays like the idea of the "Kamasutra" teaching and preserving the knowledge of different positions. Who knows. But the true is that the statues are amusing. I have also found fascinating, how precise are all the proportions and how detailed carvings are. You can find the pointy nipples on women breasts, ... Most of the temples are dedicated to the Shiva's lingham, but there are also Jain temples with the Buddha. The most famous is the Jain temple in the East part, where in the center is Buddha siting in lotus position and a big cobra rises above his head. In the morning sun shines directly on the statue.

poisonous lizard hiding in the shop shutter
Khajuraho itself is quite small place. It is surrounded by a two lakes. In the hottest time (May, June) is very hot and dry. There are many shops lurking tourist leaving their money there. I myself found very interesting nearby villages, which virtually starts, where the main city ends. People live there in quite simple houses, huts or shelters. You can see very little money around there. It is a long way to get there. Either bus from Jhansi - around 5 hours or bus from Satna (closest train station) - around 4 hours. There is also a government run bus to Varanasi daily. It takes 14 hours and departs at 15:00 (Varanasi 4.30 a.m.). It is quite comfortable and you have even your seat reserved. This is important, so you don't have to fight about your seat and there will not be another 3 people trying to squeeze with you there. I found it a perfect way for transport to Varanasi, as you arrive for a sunrise and also you have a whole day to look around.

 famous carvings - by many taken for "Kamasutra"

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