Agra – day 19

Taj Mahal… Do we need to say anything else?!?!  

Left the hotel at 5.30am to be the third people in line for tickets and were one of the first 200 people within the grounds. Nothing I could write about the Taj Mahal would do it justice… It is stunning! I know I’m very lucky that I got to see it for the second time. I think Jayne couldn’t believe she was actually there!

 

Went back to the hotel for breakfast, enjoying the view of the Taj from our rooftop terrace, still blown away by the sight of it! Decided that since it was still so early, we’d go visit another UNESCO World Heritage site. Fatehpur Sikri is a fortified ancient city about 40km from Agra. Decided to get the local bus for the hour-long journey. As we got onto the bus, I commented to Jayne how cool and breezy it was compared to others we’d been on. We then noticed that the front grill had been removed basically exposing the front part of the bus to the open road! To be on the safe side, we headed to the back of the bus and stood by the door that was closed using a piece of thin string… The lesser of two evils!!

Built by Emperor Akbar between 1571 and 1585, Fatehpur Sikri has a massive mosque and three palaces (one for each of his favourite wives). We visited the mosque first, the entrance of which is through a 54m high gate at the top of a flight of stone steps. Inside the mosque is a white-marble tomb decorated with mother-of-pearl. We then headed over to the palaces and pavilions. We wandered around the ruins, all of which are in various stages of renovation – some finished completly whilst others decidedly less so! We both like the octagonal hammam (bath) the best, mainly cause we were the only people there, it was full of bats and it made us feel like we were Indiana Jones!!

  

When we had walked around for about 3 hours and our legs felt like lead, we decided to head back to the bus station to go back to Agra. Managed to pick up the tastiest samosas en route in the bazaar.

 

Back in Agra, we laughed at a TukTuk driver who wanted to charge us 200 rupees to take us to the south gate (it’s a 70 rupees journey!). Managed to find a driver who would take us for the correct price, a quick walk to find an ATM, dinner then bed… We’re both shattered!!

Agra – day 18

An early-ish start to the day, catching the 8am train from Delhi to Agra. Met a French girl on the train so spent some of the 3-hour journey chatting away in French while Jayne read her book. Dismounting the train at Agra was significantly easier than when we had to do it at Chandigarh… No pushing, shouting or bruises!! Got in a TukTuk to the South Gate of the Taj Mahal with the intention of walking to our hotel. However, the driver, by coincidence, parked round the corner from the South Gate – right in front of our hotel! A quick check-in, dump of backpacks and we went back out to a different train station to get our tickets to Jaipur in 3 days time.  Walked from the station to visit the Agra Fort. Built in 1565 on the bank of the Yamuna River, it was primarily used as a military structure. However, Shah Jahan (the man who built the Taj) turned it into a palace, and later it became his prison when his son seized power in 1658. It is a maze of buildings which almost forms a city within a city and there were several Mosques inside the fort walls.  

 Afterwards, we decided to give the rickshaw drivers a miss and walked through the 2km park that runs along the river bank, basically connecting the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal (except for a slightly hair raising road crossing at the beginning!!). 

Went back to the hotel and headed up to the roof terrace restaurant to enjoy the view of the sun setting over the Taj. Had dinner and sat in silence watching the fading sunlight change the outside of the memorial.  

 Aiming to get there before it opens in the morning so we can be one of the first ones in and hopefully see it as the sun rises (and with less tourists!!).