Thursday, 10 January 2013

Less Agra-vation

It's was time to say farewell to Delhi, pack our bags and head off via train to the next leg of our India tour, Agra. Valuables? check, luggage? check, trains out of New Delhi Station running? NO!!!! A check on the Internet showed all trains out of New Delhi cancelled due to fog! Not good news. It was vital we left on time to enable us to see Agra properly before our next leg to Jaipur (also on a pre-booked train). A nervy breakfast saw Sonja struggling to eat her porridge, an astonishing sight taking into account it was the best porridge ever.

Concerning window damage!
We apprehensively arrived at the station and were surprised when security confirmed our tickets and directed us to platform 3. "Don't celebrate too soon Rob, we've not left yet!!". We found our long, long train and walked alongside it looking for AC2, our carriage class. Not only did we find it, we saw our names on the list by the door. We found our seats, off-loaded our luggage and sat back with books in hand. I didn't even let the bullet hole in my window bother me. Amazingly the train pulled away on time, result!!!!

The journey was reasonably pleasant, despite the surround sound snoring from our our fellow passengers. Although our journey was 3 hours, some would be on it for 3 days ending in Kerala, South India. Watching the countryside change from shanty town, to lush green fields and back again was fascinating. We arrived in Agra bang on queue and without tempting fate, our train experience was excellent. 1 down 2 to go!

View from our train window

We arrived at our hotel, Taj Resorts and what a find. An excellent standard, all the mod-cons and even central heating!!!! It also boasts a view of the Taj Mahal from the roof terrace. Finding these hotels is not luck. Sonja has spent months researching this trip and it is paying off. I can't thank her enough, it is making this trip very smooth indeed. After checking in, we headed off to explore the area and catch a glimpse of the Taj Mahal as the sun set from the edge of the river Yamuna.

Rear of Taj at sunset
Looking across river Yamuna
Most tourists do Agra in a day trip. Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and off. We were in no rush so took 2 days. We rose early on day 2 (6am) to get to the Taj Mahal for sunrise. We've seen the photos and heard other traveller's tales of the Taj, so were keen to see it for ourselves. I have to say it is magnificent. It caters for all. Whether it be the romantic story behind it's birth, the perfect architectural symmetry from all 4 sides, the way it changes shades as the sun rises and sets or maybe a bit of all the above.
HoldenFells do the Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal

Sunrise behind the Taj
Delhi was busy, oppressive at times. In contrast, Agra is surprisingly quiet and manageable. It maybe because we are not in high season yet or perhaps we just expected more people, but either way it is light relief after a chaotic start to our holiday. Even the local cows feel relaxed enough to do a spot of souvenir shopping after a visit to the Taj!

After a siesta to recover form the early start, we headed across town to visit Agra Fort. More accurately, a small city behind a huge red sandstone wall about 96 acres in siz built in 1568.

It has housed much Royalty over the years and most famously the man who built the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan. He was arrested was deposed by his son, Aurangzeb, in the fort. It is rumored that Shah Jahan died in Muasamman Burj, a tower with a marble balcony with a view of the Taj Mahal. A surprisingly good tour aided by our much able guide, who's name escapes me.

Our guide (left) and Sonja
Kings garden where grapes used to be harvested

Taj in background
Our Agra visit now complete, we headed to bed for an early night. Tomorrow another train journey awaited us. We'd be catching the 6.30am train to Jaipur, our home for the next 3 days.
Taj in background

1 comment:

  1. Quite a different experience from Delhi. The Taj Mahal looked great and I am glad we didn't see a lonely photo of Sonja sitting in front of it a la Diana. Only Rob could think of doing the Leaning Tower of Pisa trick with his finger on the top of the dome!!! Glad to know the bullet hole appeared before you got on the train. We are loving sharing your experiences via the blog - keep it up. Marlene