Upon returning to our hotel after visiting with Drs. Malhotra we put on some warm clothes and went out side to find Agiet –our driver. Immediately upon exiting the hotel doors he quickly spied us and pulled up the car. We were off on our first tourist adventure in Agra. Our trip is so packed with gathering information on low cost Indian surrogacy and egg donation that this will be one of our few opportunities to see an Indian site. And what a sight it is going to be…a moonlight viewing of the Taj Mahal.
We left the hotel grounds and headed off for what was a quick ride – 10 minutes. To be honest, nothing in India is ever just 10 minutes away. The traffic is usually mind-boggling and what in any other city would be just minutes away can take a half hour. There really are cows (and goats and pigs and dogs) roaming freely, plus rickshaws, busses, motorbikes and people walking amongst the cars – all without any seeming order.
But there we were waiting to go to the Taj Mahal at 8:30PM on the night of the full moon. There were armed guards everywhere – looking angry and threatening. I can understand and expect some security but amount of military power far outweighed the small group of tourists (we heard they issue under 100 tickets for the moonlight viewings). First we were herded into what looked like a Cold War interrogation room. Bags through a scanner (did I mention we have to do this at our hotel too?) and then a body search. No phones were allowed in, and unfortunately for both of us, our only camera was on our iPhones. So no pictures to show for our evening.
Next we loaded onto the 5 waiting electric busses and drove through the empty, desolate road leading to the Taj. I was sure that during the day it’s jam-packed with tourists and touts hawking their wares, but tonight it eerily echoed. We stopped about 1 kilometer later and yet another scan and body check. Finally, we were allowed in. Marching through the entry complex we were stopped every 20 or so feet by the soldiers. I don’t know why but I was feeling a bit like a prisoner of war. At last – we were led through an archway to see the Taj! There on the viewing deck, were bright lights, which bounced off the fog that was surrounding the Taj at what must have been 100 meters away. It was a fuzzy dark form in the distance. Then, the lights suddenly shut off and my heart leaped in hopes of seeing this wondrous sight. But to our disappointment the moon was full, but the Taj Mahal was still a dark, blurry shape in the distance. Now we came halfway around the world to explore inexpensive Egg donor and surrogacy costs in India – but gosh darn it, I was hoping to see the Taj lit up by the moonlight.
After 30 cold minutes, the lights went back on and we returned to our car and hotel – feeling overwhelmingly underwhelmed.