Friday, January 20, 2012

Arriving into Agra was perhaps one of the most jaw dropping experiences yet! There were people squatting everywhere going to toilet. Because there was so much of it, the journey into the station smelt for a good 5 minutes. What a welcome!!

We thought, they have to go somewhere, fine, but why doesn't the local community have an area that everyone knows is the toilet area, or create a long drop somewhere. We were then wondering has India ever had the plague! 

The train was freezing again, and as we have bad colds which made us feel worse. We got a taxi from the 'pre-paid' booth which was a lot easier than negotiating. You pay before you get in the taxi, depending how far your journey is.

The hotel is fine, cold again and it takes 15 minutes of running water, before it gets warm. We're not sure why but its what they told us.

We went and bought our tickets for the next morning, so we could get up and be at the Taj Mahal for sunrise. The ticket price was £9.50 each so easily the most expensive attraction for here, but really a bargain for us Britts.

We wondered around the streets of Agra as we tend to, but eventually found the centre. We decided to have a drink from a rooftop cafe to catch our first glimpse of the Taj. The fog had lifted a lot, even from when we arrived, so we decided to go and buy another ticket and go in, as we would kick ourselves if the weather got worse.

The approach to the Taj Mahal was very grand, large archways and courtyards.

When we went through the arch, we saw The Taj Mahal in all its glory. Seeing it for the first time you can't help but be amazed as it is truly magnificent. Its so symetrical that it didn't look real. It's larger that you can imagine too. 

Its the main reason we came to India and it didn't dissapoint. Fantastic.

Here's a few facts about the Taj Mahal for your history lesson today. It was finished in 1653 and took 22 years to complete the whole complex. It was built by Shah Jahan following the death of his 3rd wife whilst she was giving birth to their 14th child (pre-contraception times one must assume!). It is built with red sandstone with marble covering. His son later imprisoned him in nearby Agra Fort which overlooks the Taj Mahal. He died there after 8 years. What an ungrateful kid!!!!

We got chatting to a British couple, I think it was the first conversation we've had with British people since we've been here! They said they went to the Taj for sunrise and it wasn't good because it was too misty and they couldn't see a thing! We felt happy that we went earlier that day!

So it was another evening of curry followed by a film in the bedroom. We watched Stepbrothers and it was surprisingly funny!

We set the alarm for 6, but when we got up and looked out the window we decided not to go as it was so foggy again that we couldn't even see the other side of the road. And after what the couple told us about the fog we thought there was no point. We also both felt really ill with colds and headaches!

We instead went back to the Taj Mahal at about midday. We did the audio tour which talked about the construction, size, weight and also came up with facinating 'facts' like, 'it is believed that the creator of the Taj almost lost his vision due to crying for 2 straight years following his wifes death!'. 

As soon as a sentance in India begins with, 'it is said to', or 'facts point to', 'sources from the time say' etc, we know that things may not be completely accurate!

We then went inside the Taj (we didn't the day before) and our first impressions were that it smelt of smelly feet! The Indians have to take there shoes off while the westerners get given shoe covers. It also was a lot smaller on the inside than it looked on the outside.

We got some more great pictures and queued as we did the day before, to sit on the famous Princess Diana bench.

During the 2 days Emma was just as big an attraction as the Taj with the locals.

We then walked the 2km to Agra Fort. It was pretty nice, a lot of it was under reconstruction though. It was £3 entry (which is fairly common amount in India for their attractions) and worth the hour long wander. There was a bit of an optical illusion too with the Taj appearing to be larger, despite being further away! It was pretty strange. Emma noticed it first and then read what she just said from the LP!

We got a cycle Rickshaw back and had to get out and walk as the old Baba couldn't push us up the hill! We should've asked for a discount, but you can't really discount 50pence for 10 minutes cycling!

A bit later we were heading to a popular fast food restaurant, that shall remain nameless, when a police car pulled over...and offered us a lift! It was a tourist police car so we got in. I got flashbacks to the film Superbad where McLovin gets in the car but it was a simple pick up and drop off drive. 

We checked out, did some internet stuff and then got the train.

On another note this was the worst place so far for unplanned power cuts. It was on and off a lot. Now I'm not being synical but I expect someone was leaning on the 'master switch'!

The Taj Mahal is the most popular tourist attraction in India and you can see why its magnificent. Its not on the same par as the ancient wonders like the pyramids or Ankor (350 years old is pretty new compared to them!) but well worth popping in if you're in the area.



Great photos love the one where Emma jumping up. xx
Great pics - but you glad to be on your way ?! xxx

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