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 INDIA'S

GOLDEN TRIANGLE

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So you always wanted to go somewhere different? Try India's golden triangle; Agra, Jaipur and Delhi. The street scenes, the countryside, the people, nothing will ever be what you imagined; the reality will surpass your fondest expectations.
In crowded, noisy, exuberant Old Delhi, there are bicycles, rickshaws, auto rickshaws, motorcycles and cows sharing the streets. Pedestrians dart to and fro between it all. Wide eyed, you gingerly and carefully join the throng, happily immersing yourself in the madness. This is what you came for.
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Explore the bazaars, narrow streets lined with shops, goods of all kinds spilling onto the pavements. Saris, jewelry, enamels, spices, carpets, it will take days to see it all. A visit to the government tourist agency in New Delhi will guide you to the surrounding sights.
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A sight seeing buss takes you past the famous India gate and on to the Red Fort, the seat of Mughal power until 1857. Steps lead up to the imposing main entrance called the Lahore Gate. Inside are pavilions, audience halls, gilded chambers and royal apartments. The Diwani-khas, built completely of white marble once held the legendary Peacock Throne, embedded with its priceless jewels. You could spend the day enjoying this beautiful place.
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Lodi gardens is one of Delhia's most picturesque parks. Landscaped with tree-lined pathways that lead around well kept lawns and flowerbeds. Unusual birds attracted to the flowers catch the eye as you wander around the imposing 15th century tombs of the sayyid and Lodi dynasties, Delhia's last sultans. The largest is the Bara Gumbad mosque built in 1494, a favorite place for family picnics and lovers trysts.
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Humayuna's Tomb, with its imposing white marble dome and decorated red sandstone arches, is the first great example of a Mughal garden tomb. It was the inspiration for several later monuments, such as the incomparable Taj Mahal. Here is the final resting place of Humayun, his wives and other family members.
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Jami Majid, India's largest mosque, with its soaring minarets and vast marble domes and the somber black granite platform marking Mahatma Gandhia's cremation site should certainly be on your list.
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These and more you see before moving on to the rest of the golden triangle. There are many ways to do this. An easy way for a first time visit to India is to rent a car and driver. Cozy Travel, a travel agency in Old Delhi is very reliable and hassle free. The driver knows where to find all the sights and all the restaurants and hotels in your price range.
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Leaving Delhi behind, you settle into the car, happy to have someone do the driving. As you get closer to Jaipur, you begin to see more and more camels pulling carts. The walls surrounding the Pink city of Jaipur comes into sight. At the bottom of a steep hill there is a wide cobbled avenue that leads up to the Amber Fort built at the top. You have the option of walking or riding, as the Maharajas once did, on the backs of waiting elephants. Trunks swinging, the great lumbering beasts ponderously take you up the hill.
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The Fort Palace of Amber was the Kachhawaha citadel until 1727. Little corridors and stairways penetrate the large complex. It would be very easy to lose yourself for a few uncomfortable moments. A beautiful three storied gateway leads to the screened uppermost level, meant for the ladies in purdah. The view is fantastic, the fort is well worth a visit, especially the hall of mirrors, where a lit match reflected in the thousands of tiny mirrors embedded in the walls and ceilings have the effect of thousands of stars. 105.jpg (50632 bytes)

The Hawa Mahal is the focal point of the city. The fanciful Palace of Winds with its tiered lace work of balconies and windows is five stories high and just one room deep. Designed to enable the veiled ladies of the harem to observe unnoticed the lively street scene below. If you want a picture, you have to go across the street and talk to the friendly shopkeepers about letting you take one from their window.
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The largest of five observatories built by Sawai Jai Singh II. Jai Singh believed that the larger the instruments, the more accurate the results. The gigantic observatory, built to measure everything related to the heavens, resembles a playground for the children of giants.

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Occupying the heart of the city is the city Palace Museum. Once the home of royalty, today part of the complex is open to the public. Its treasures provide a splendid glimpse into Jaipura's princely past. Inside, in the Diwan-I-Khas, are two giant silver urns. Listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest silver objects, they carried sacred Ganges water for Madho Singh Ila's visit to London in 1901.
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An unexpected treat could be a visit to the marble cenotaphs of the Kachhawaha kings inside a walled garden just off the Amber road. Seldom in travel books, the ornate carved pillars support the marble chhatris erected over the platforms where the maharajas were cremated. Nestled in the little valley you can look down into the garden if you climb a section of the nearby wall. Hire a guide, his stories of the Maharajas will make this a memorable part of your trip.
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There are lots of factories and markets where you can buy all kinds of goods, crafts,
shoes, jewelry and clothing. The saris are an especially good bargain, much cheaper than the fabric, since it is classed as clothing and not taxed. The beautiful advantage to having your own driver is that he can take you to places you would never find on your own. He will take you to unusual restaurants, or stop at your request, if you get a rare glimpse of a peacock, or a dancing bear.
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The traffic on the way to Agra is crazy. Camels, horses, donkeys and buffalo all drawing carts share the road with machines. You leave the driving to the driver and watch the amazing activity going on along the roadside. Brick kilns surrounded by the walls of stacked brick and factories making statues and stonework. The most interesting is the fuel drying in the sun. The round pie shaped disks made of dung are spread everywhere to dry.
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The road on the way to Agra passes a lake. Seemingly afloat on its surface is the picturesque Jal Mahal.Built in the mid18the century by Madho Singh 1 inspired by the Lake Palace at Udaipur where he spent his childhood. Later used for royal duck shooting parties, lots of water birds still abound here.
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The city of Fatehpur Sikri, was once the capital of Emperor Akbar between 1571 and 1585. Overlooking the city, sits the royal complex containing the private and public spaces of Akbara's court, which included the harem and the treasury. A five-storeyed open sandstone pavilion, Panch Mahal, overlooking the Pachist Court is where Akbara's queens and their attendants savored the cool evening breezes.
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Adjoining is the sacred complex with the grand open Mosque of Jami Masjid. The focal point is the Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti, who predicted the end of Akbara's childlessness. Exquisite marble serpentine brackets and almost transparent screens surround the inner tomb, which has a sandalwood canopy, inlaid with mother- of pearl. The beautiful white marble contrasting sharply with the red sandstone of the rest of the complex.
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Reaching Agra, the driver takes you through narrow vendor filled streets to a hotel that costs $15.00 US double. It is clean with all the basics and Internet access. A good nights sleep and you are ready for a visit to the most famous sight of all. The Taj Mahal.
Cars are not allowed inside so you are dropped off at the gate where a shuttle buss whisks you away from the hundreds of vendors who hover like flies, selling film, post cards, pictures and who knows what else.
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At the main gate, you get your first glimpse of the Taj Mahal through the high arched door way. As you walk towards the perfection in marble you find it hard to believe you are actually here. Monkeys gambol on the lawn and relax on the walkway. You take lots of pictures as you approach. The magnificent temple seems to shimmer as you approach, even more beautiful than they say. Designed to represent paradise here on earth, it is described as €œone of the most elegant and harmonious buildings in the world. Removing your shoes, you wonder around in awe, hardly noticing the cold stone under your bare feet. Precious and semi-precious stones, such as carnelian, lapis lazuli, turquoise and malachite are inlaid in the marble. It is unbelievable that this perfection was done by a human hand; the hand they say was removed so that carver could not duplicate his work for others.

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Don't be in too big a hurry to leave, wander around the back of the tomb and find a bench facing the river. To the left, in the distance, is the old city wall. Along the river banks in front of you are scenes as old as India, Kilns with rows of bricks, buffalo taking a drink and a camel caravan picking up passengers just off a boat. Tomorrow you visit Agra Fort and other sights nearby, before moving on to Varanasi or back to Delhi. You contemplate all the wonderful things you have seen and wish you could stay longer.


AND REMEMBER, WHEN IN INDIA RESERVE YOUR BEST HOTEL DEAL WITH THE WANDERING NOMAD TRAVEL CENTER

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If you have your own must see travel destination and would like to file a report to be listed here send along with photos to thestampnomad@gmail.com