|Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, |
Gateway of India arch on right
(not my photo; I didn't get out to the sea)
|View from my hotel room|
The Taj was one of the targets of the massive terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008. We have our 9-11, they have their 26-11 (November 26th). Gunmen attacked hotels, schools and hospitals and open fired into the crowd at CST (CS Terminus, or Victoria Station). 167 people died in the series of twelve tragic and horrifying attacks, timed to coincide over a three-day period in different locations of the city. Islamic militant terrorists from Pakistan accepted responsibility after the one remaining gunman confessed under interrogation. It took 12 months to rebuild the damaged areas of the hotel where 31 staff and guests lost their lives.
|Corridor in the Taj Hotel|
Except the turbaned guard at the entrance with the handlebar mustache. He is stern and very focused on his job, protecting the guests with car bomb checks (every car's hood and trunk must be checked before it drops off passengers) and managing his staff of uniformed bell hops and car parkers. He is a no-nonsense guy with an important job to do. In the picture below, he is smiling for the camera. (Yes, that is him smiling.) Nevertheless, he looks pretty awesome.
|Turbaned guard at the Taj|
What I have to recognize is that this is the way I usually travel - to tourist locations, for just a short time. To get out into the world on an average budget, my family often takes cruises. It allows us to see things we might not otherwise see, and is a very relaxing way to have a vacation. However, the cruise port is the very definition of a tourist area; it has often been created just for cruise passengers. It is not real life. I feel sad about this - that so far, my children mostly only know ports, hotels and tourist areas, where people can be aggressive and shout to get your attention. No wonder my daughter says she "doesn't like Mexico." She's never been to the real Mexico.
We are lucky to spend several weeks in Puerto Rico every few years with family. My kids seem to feel fairly comfortable there, especially when they're with their aunt and cousins. We tend not to look at these visits as travel, but as family time. However, these extended trips give the girls a real view into how people live whose culture is different from their own.
I sincerely hope that I can give my kids more of these types of travel experiences - the ones that make you rich with insight and curiosity, get to know people with more than just a greeting, allow you to see things from different perspectives, and ultimately make you a better person because of it.