Day 3 – Taj Mahal and a dream come true

Today at the age of 52 and 9 months, Sally-Anne Laing stood in front of the Taj Mahal !!! Yes me !

Woke at 5.15 am to be collected by Sukhvinder and Raj at 6 am for the short drive to the Taj Mahal. Long queues to pay for tickets and shoe covers and then taken by a tuk tuk type taxi to the entrance. Like most places in India there are two queues; one for the men and one for the women. Managing to avoid the rather vicious looking monkeys who were keen to steal anything on sight we made the short walk to the Taj Mahal passing through the Palace entry gate first.

Our first sight of the Taj literally stopped us in our tracks – it honestly took my breath away and even now, describing to you my wonderful friends and family, I have tears in my eyes! It is quite simply stunning, beautiful and peaceful and something I will carry with me for ever. Raj our guide was very good and gave us some incredible facts and to know this building was made out of pure love by Shah Jahan for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Raj gave us some facts Hannah and I found really incredulous and slightly amusing; the Shah we are told had 8,000 (you had better belief anything Raj has to say ) concubines! How he managed the energy neither of us feared to ask Raj so we just shook our heads in awe!

Now for some 15 years I have been asking my gorgeous husband, John, if he would build me a pergola at the bottom of our garden where I can read whilst enjoying the odd (!) glass of wine – 15 years!!! When I return I shall offer him as many concubines as it takes to build me my long awaited pergola ! Time for action methinks – what is good enough for Mumtaz is good enough for Sal.

The mausoleum was interesting and the architecture inspiring (slight hint again for my pergola). Sad to see someone had attempted to remove the jewels from one the marbles. A peaceful walk around followed by the inevitable photo on the seat of Princess Di and we made for the exit – one final glimpse of a sight I won’t see again but will treasure forever.

Sukhvinder was waiting for us at the exit (all very slick) and we said our thanks and goodbyes to Raj and headed to the hotel for breakfast and our bags before the start of the journey to Ranthambore. Quite relieved to be leaving Agra.

We completed the most fantastic journey to Ranthambore after 5 hours. We drove though small towns dodging camels (!!), wild boar, cows, dogs and monkeys. I think Sukhvinder is amused by me but seems to be enjoying being with us !! We share our M&S mint assortment and he shares stories of his life being brought up in the Sikh tradition.

Passing through the towns is like passing through several film sets. Buildings made of corrugated iron with only space for a barber chair and client to sit as a cow walks past whilst the monkeys jump from one building to another. So so many motorbikes. So so much dirt and poverty but, again, only happiness on the faces of the people we pass. They have nothing but smiles, happiness and friendships to keep them going. To be honest what more do any of us need?

We arrived at the Vatika resort on the edge of the Ranthambore National Park and Sukhvinder left us and will collect us in two days time. We sat on our small balcony drinking masala and ginger tea and watched monkeys play in the trees! At one point we thought they were eyeing us up for an attack and ran into our room only to return to the balcony hearing giggles of laughter from the people below !! The fire pits were lit and we sat around talking to an elderly Indian couple before being called in for a lovely supper!

I have to pinch myself – cannot still believe we are here!

Early night and being collected in the morning at 6.40 for the morning safari to try and see the Bengal tigers. There is another safari booked in the afternoon.

My struggle today – no hairdryer !! Disaster – what am I to do! May have a word with one of the monkeys and get them to climb into one of the rooms at the nearby Oberoi hotel and pinch one for me.

Today’s fear? Apart from what on earth I am going to do with my hair tomorrow – I may be savaged by a Bengal tiger.

Love and dreams coming true

SA

Xxxx

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