Safe to say New Delhi and I hate each other.
Arrived in Agra and the world immediately changed. Cab driver was honest, helpful and genuinely pleasant, our accommodation is 100 meters from the east gate of the Taj Mahal and a close walk to a bunch of good eateries. The Taj Mahal is the most expensive attraction at 750 rupees per person to get in. We were thinking that this was overly expensive until we did the conversion and discovered that it was $13.25 each. The ticket office opens at 6am and the gates at 6:30 so we headed off to watch the sunrise at the Taj Mahal.
I know many people who have been here to visit the Taj Mahal and every one of them has told me that I must go…the place is amazing…and the photos you have seen don’t do it justice…they were all right…and if you are making a bucket list…what they said. We rocked in at dawn with the early morning mist and hung around watching the building change as the sun rose and the mist burned off. They claim that the best times to see the Taj Mahal is sunrise and sunset…300 meters from our hotel is a rooftop restaurant where you can watch the sun set over the thing and get a great feed.
After the Taj Mahal we headed off to Agra Fort. Now everyone heads to Agra for the taj but the Agra fort loses nothing in comparison. Between the two, we both went snap happy and may have actually taken more photos of these two than we did of the lumps (which is no mean feat). The fort is an incredible sight and is worthy of a trip to Agra just to see it, let alone that pesky taj thing.
An interesting element to this was as we walked into the Agra Fort. Through the gates I saw a bird of prey (not sure if eagle or hawk) with a creature in its talons (not sure if squirrel, pigeon or monkey) flying off. for the ensuing 2-3 hours we watched these birds circling and swooping…a fascinating watch.
We followed this up with a trip to the “baby taj” (Itimad-ud-Daulah the tomb of Mizra Ghiyas Beg, whoever he was), an afternoon of blogging and the evening on aforementioned rooftop watching the sun set over the Taj Mahal.
Met 2 Aussie girls and the 4 of us sat on the roof drinking “big juice” and eating curries. For those who did not pick up on it there are many unlicensed restaurants where alcohol can not be served. So we drank “big juice” that happened to be manufactured by kingfisher a company with the same name, as it happens, of a well known local beer company.
All things considered a fantastic day…and what I had hoped India would be like before we arrived.
The next day we slept in and headed over to the Kanir Bazaar. This place is everything that you ever imagined an Indian marketplace would be and more. Block after block of alleys with a shop every 2 meters and the constant buzz of hawkers, horns, horses, dogs, cows etc.
One aspect that we have not chatted about is the local wildlife. Coming here I had an expectation of random cow sightings on the streets (which happen every few minutes) but I did not expect the other wildlife that abounds here. Coming from a country without squirrels I was overjoyed to see my first squirrel on arrival. The monkeys are everywhere and the range of beasts of burden covers the gambit.