We had a train to catch early morning but we were walking distance to the station. On the way we saw wild pigs eating at a massive pile of rubbish in the street where all the locals dump their trash for pickup. How often the pickup is I am not too sure but judging by the smell not that often. Also along the way we saw a little slum situated on the outskirts of a rubbish tip. I was going to get Tim to take a photo of it but as I turned my head I realized there was a row of men lined up doing their morning poos. Quite confronting really. I must admit that although Jaipur redeemed itself in the end I was happy to leave.
We definely knew we were traveling the golden triangle as we had about 10 other westerners in our train carriage alone all going to Agra. But there is a reason it’s so popular and we were really excited to see the Taj Mahal.
We caught a rickshaw to our guesthouse which we chose as it was about 500 metres from the entrance to the Taj and had a rooftop terrace with views of the Taj. We dropped our bags in the room and headed to the terrace where we got our first glimpse of the Taj. The view was a little obstructed but it looked spectacular. Even with scaffolding covering one of the minarets.
We headed out for some lunch and the minute we set foot out on the street we were accosted by everyone. It was a step up even from Jaipur. Rickshaw drivers, restaurant owners, corner store owners and souvenir sellers were all yelling at you to come into their shops. It was really quite annoying but also laughable it was so comical. Literally they would chase you down the street.
After the midday heat subsided we wanted to go explore the other sites of Agra so we picked a rickshaw driver who was very laid back in previous attempts to get our custom and headed to the fort. The outer walls were built out of red sandstone and were over 20 metres high. The effect was pretty dramatic and walking through the gates you felt tiny. We were definitely with the masses here with throngs of people flowing in and out of the gates.
The fort was built in 1565 along the banks of the Yamuna River and once inside we wandered around the complex which was a rabbit warren of different architect styles and buildings. The original design was added to over the years by fellow Emperors and you can kind of tell as you walk from a red sandstone palace into a white marble palace and tower into a large courtyard, followed by a mosque. I must admit we got wonderfully lost following the corridors and seeing where it would take us. We also caught glimpses of the Taj on the other side of the river through windows of the fort/palace.
Suitably impressed by the fort we jumped back into our rickshaw with Fayad and headed to Itmad-ud-Daulah better known as The Baby Taj. I must admit I wasn’t that keen to see this thinking that it would be best to just wait for the main course tomorrow but was assured by Tim that although called the Baby Taj and also a tomb it was actually built before the Taj and the design different.
Built for Mumtaz Mahal’s (whose body the Taj was built for) grandfather by his daughter it is built entirely from white marble. The tomb was exquisite! Inlaid all throughout the marble were beautiful and delicate geometric patterns in different colours. Add to this amazingly carved fine marble screens and you have yourself a masterpiece. We have seen so many temples and tombs in India but they just seem to be getting better and better.
We then crossed the river to a park that views the Taj Mahal on its North side. Here we just sat back and enjoyed the view. The white marble came to life in the sun’s descending rays and although there were a hundred or so others doing the same thing, while looking at the Taj you didn’t really notice them. The creator of the Taj, Emporer Shah Jahan said that it made the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes. Although no tears were shed by us, I hope he knew his memorial to his wife would hold generations of people in awe of its beauty.
Very pleased with the day and very much looking forward to the early morning rise to see the Taj up close and personal we were happy to head home. But Fayad insisted we go check out his friend’s restaurant. Rolling our eyes, knowing all about rickshaw drivers and their commissions they get but being too nice to tell him to go shove it, we agreed to go and have a look. Fully expecting to be taken to an overpriced hell hole we were pleasantly surprised when we were lead into someone’s fairy light lit garden with tables and chairs set out. There was no one else there but we got a good vibe from the place so sat down and were cooked an unbelievable meal by a lovely family. Tim went and investigated their cooking in their outside kitchen and was soon getting all the tips and being shown how to cook in a tandoor oven made out of a 40 gallon drum. They even had cold beer.
Although the city of Agra is a tourist trap, its definitely worth the stop to see the Taj and I was pleasantly surprised by the other wonderful sites of Agra that are overshadowed by the Taj. S
The view from our guest house. Not too bad a view really.
The entrance into the fort.
The red sand stone Jehangir’s Palace inside the fort.
The intricacies of the carving were quite amazing.
Inside the Palace. The stone almost looks like wood here.
View from the balcony.
The Khas Mahal Palace. Made out of white marble, it was the prison of Shah Johan who built the Taj. He died here and his body was taken by boat to be laid to rest beside his wife in the Taj. Sadly it was his grandson who imprisoned him when he came to power.
Side view of the Khas Mahal.
The view inside the Masamman Burj which was right beside the Khas Mahal. The inlay was stunning.
The Ladies Mosque.
The Hall of Public Audiences.
The outer walls of the fort.
The Baby Taj or Itimad-ud-Daulah. Covered top to bottom in inlay. Simply amazing.
The delicate marble screens were stunning. So was everything else really.
The gate to the Baby Taj along the river. The view back from here was beautiful.
View back from the gate.
The Taj Mahal from the other side of the river. Perfection.