Disclaimer – late again, currently in Jaipur! Get ready for a quick catch up…
Things rather went quite quickly downhill after the last blog was posted.
It was written while we waited for a lift via tuk-tuk to the station at Varanasi where we had a train booked at 6.15pm to take us to Agra, which was scheduled to take us 13 hours (ish). Our hostel manager checked the train website for us and advised that in the morning, the train was expected to be delayed 4 hours, but as it had not been updated since, it was probably better to head to the station anyway and assess. So we did.
Unfortunately, not only were we an hour early (our driver was taking no prisoners), but the train was indeed delayed by 4 hours. Then 3 more. Then another. We ended up boarding the train at about 2.30am, by which time Ed had come down with a fever and my imodium had worn off. It really was a shit situation.
There were two silver linings however. Firstly, we discovered a fairly empty waiting room for ‘upper ticket’ holders, which meant that we could sit on cushioned seats for hours as oppose to the platform floor. The second, related to the first, was that due to these upper class tickets, there was an actual toilet (more or less) on the train so at least neither of us had to master the squat seeing as the journey lasted a further 17 hours…
I’m sure I’ve painted quite the picture there for you! Welcome to India.
Still – all part of the experience I suppose! And we befriended a lovely man from Amsterdam called Ronald and an Indian couple who invited us to a wedding they were going to in Jaipur…watch this space! This could be me:
We had initially planned to only stay a night in Agra, but seeing as we lost a day and two healthy stomachs we decided to extend the visit and slow down the pace – it’s not like we’re in a rush!
Our hostel in Agra is conveniently a 25 minute walk from the Taj Mahal, which ours and one of every other backpacker’s reasons for wanting to visit the area. So, despite the lack of sleep and food over the previous 48 hours, we optimistically set our alarms for 6am ready for an early morning trip to the monument in time for sunrise. We arrived at the East Gate just before 7am, where we queued for around 15 minutes and paid ₹1000 (£11.49) to get in.
The Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the world and arguably one of the most famous. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1631 in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to their 14th child. It took 22 years to build and is made entirely of marble, brought in from all over India and Asia and costing a whopping 32 million rupees to create.
Although we’ve all seen the Taj Mahal so many times in books, the internet or social media, nothing can quite prepare you for how stunning it is in real life – it made the early start entirely worthwhile when we rounded walked through the main gate and saw this…
As you can see from these photos, the haze and fog that happens every morning in India had not yet cleared, so we wandered through the gardens (taking lots of photos) and waited for the sun to burn some of it off.
We had opted for no guide following the advice of the Lonely Planet and others to avoid any unnecessary scams, in the hope that the audioguides were available. However, we guessed that we were too early as we didn’t see anyone selling or using them, so made do with the various information points dotted around.
The gardens lead you down from the main gateway and end at the mausoleum itself. While they were functional in some ways, the layouts were designed to be a paradise, made up of flowers, trees, leaves, fruit and other symbolic or abstract meanings of paradise according to islamic beliefs.
The garden is divided by two beautiful, marble water canals with fountains which used to hold lotus flowers. These canals also divide the garden into four which again, apparently evokes the image of Islamic Paradise.
Not going to lie – I did have do so some Googling following our little morning adventure and for the purposes of context, but here’s some more pictures of us posing and trying to avoid tourists photobombing us…
Later that day, we ventured out to find food that our stomachs could handle, which happened to be found directly opposite our hostel!
We treated ourselves to a delightful cheese toasty and chips at Good Vibes (highly recommended Date Night Review readers!) where we tried not to feel too guilty about having to revert to western food within our first week.
Next stop on our adventure is Jaipur at 5.05am. We have chair seats on this one but are assured that the train starts in Agra so is hardly ever delayed… fingers crossed!