Saturday, November 3, 2007

By Gary Duncan, Assistant Director of Marketing

Great Saturday morning in Bangalore, India... one of the most unique cities in all of India. Before I tell you a little about our visit to Bangalore, let me catch you up on our travels during the last week. This study tour is becoming one of the most educational and challenging tours we have ever implemented for sponsors.

Leaving Delhi almost a week ago, we slowly-- I stress slowly, made our way to Agra-- site of the Taj Mahal. As you inch your way through the traffic in Delhi, you realize that traffic in Los Angeles or Washington, DC, is really not that bad! At every traffic light, our bus is approached by what the locals call 'hawkers' with their variety of wares including colorful purses, snakes, peacock fans, food items, and other things you can not do without in your daily life. Of course, our sponsors are fascinated by this eager display of street entreprenurial activity and buy everything that is thrust toward them... while snapping photos as if this will be the only place we encounter these spirited sales people.

Normally, it should be easy to drive to Agra in less than two hours, but this is India were few things are easy. There is constant honking of horns, trucks using all lanes and even sidewalks to manuever their rigs, hundreds of people in the streets, enormous potholes everywhere, and a weird zoo-like assortment of camels, dogs, cattle, monkeys and even a few elephants in the road, make travel a magical and maddening adventure in India.

Of course, we must make the customary rest stop half-way to Agra where clean bathrooms for the foreigners and a host of every gaudy souvenir items are displayed before you actually can reach the snack counter to order a cool drink with biscuits (cookies). Remarkably, all of this chaos and confusion becomes normal, the longer you travel in India the longer all your senses become attuned to expect the unexpected and enjoy it!

Finally, we arrive in Agra, a city that must have been designed by a city planner having a bad day. There are winding streets that go in circles, intersections that are constantly grid-locked, and in the midst of hundreds of cars and trucks, you find a lonely, but sharply-dressed uniformed traffic officer trying to do his best in the worst of situations. Again, when all hope is dimmed, traffic begins to move and the impossible becomes the possible in India!

India is full of forts and palaces, and Agra is home to one of the most beautiful monuments in the world-- the stunning and peaceful Taj Mahal! More about our sunset and sunrise (ugh!) visit to the Taj in my next dispatch.

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