Friday, 19 October 2012

Arga - India - May 2012

We arrived at Agra Fort Station after the worst and possibly one of the best train rides we had in India. We didn't get confirmed seats from the website so had to buy tickets at the station in Gaya. We managed to stay in sleeper class and then tried to upgrade to get a bed in any other class with no luck for about 6 hours out of 13 hour journey.

My new friends...the first of many, at Agra Fort

We had lots of people on the train telling us that we could sit on their bunk and many of them were very very friendly and by the time we got into Agra Fort Station we had a crowd of people who came off the train and wished us a lovely trip around India. It was quite moving that people who we met on a train would give us a send off at the station like this.
The next problem was getting to the place where the hotels were, we were picked up by some guy and his mate in a tuk tuk who said he would take us to where we wanted to go. Instead he took us to a place where he wanted to take us to, where the hotels look amazing but totally out of our price range. We argued with the driver and went off on foot to find the area we wanted. After a while say 20 minutes we arrived where we wanted to be and checked a few hotels and settled on one called Kamal Hotel as the guy on reception was really funny and most of all the air cooler actually worked well. We then settled in for the night and got some much needed rest.
We decided we wanted to wait another day to see the Taj Mahal, as we couldn't cope with the early start. So we went to explore Agra's other attractions including the Fort.

View from Agra Fort

Agra Fort mix of old and new

Health and safety at Agra Fort

In the morning we headed out to check out the area and the prices for the tickets to the Taj Mahal and the price was 750 INR not too bad really. We then went on foot (to the complete amazement of many of the locals and drivers) to the Agra Fort, it was a very hot day but we were on a tight budget and we like to see places and enjoyed the exercise.

The fort was pretty large and the price wasn't too bad (much higher than Indians of course) but we went inside and enjoyed all the fort had to offer while getting a sneaky peak at the Taj Mahal. One thing that is very apparent in Asia in general, not just India is that health and safety is never the primary concern, as you can see in the picture below a pretty deep hole in the ground with no fences around it to prevent accidents.

After a while of hanging at the fort we decided to leave and walked back to our hotel to get a little rest and got lost walking back but it wasn’t too bad and we were soon back on track. We went to a veggie restaurant for some food later that day, just up the road from our hotel and the food there was pretty good. We decided to go and buy our tickets for the Taj Mahal for the next day.

Teddy bear shoes on Army man

We woke up early the following day to get into the Taj Mahal for 5:30am, when the sun is at its sweetest and when not many people would be around.
We jumped in the queue and Sarah had to join the ladies line and me the men’s line. We got told our banana was not allowed in, so Sarah and I scoffed it down pretty quickly and proceeded to the main gate. At this point the inside of the complex was really really clean in contrast to the outside of the complex that is messy and smelly.As you walk through the amazing main gate, the Taj Mahal can clearly be seen through the arch way and it really is mesmerising, one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

The Beautiful Taj Mahal
After getting through the main gate people are queuing for a photo with the Taj in the background and we waited a little while for our chance and it was totally worth it.

Teapot Taj with well timed bird

Opposite the Taj

We carried on and looked around the Taj, inside and out and found that you could not take shoes inside, even around the temple. Baring in mind that the Taj is made of marble and the floor was very very hot. Most people had special slippers given to them but not us. Luckily I had thick socks on and Sarah was left running around and staying in the shadows to avoid burnt feet.

Sunrise at the Taj Mahal

After looking around and getting some pretty amazing photos we left the complex and headed back to our hotel for a sleep, and sleep we had. We went to the same veggie restaurant for some breakfast then went for a well deserved sleep. We spent the rest of the day walking around the local area and bought some nice postcards from a small shop keeper. We enjoyed our cool room and got an ealry night and packed our bags ready for the train in the morning to Delhi!

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