24.02.2012 - 25.02.2012 28 °C
While at the Varranasi train station, we ran around to the different offices and ticket booths to figure out our options of getting to Agra when the Taj Mahal was actually open. We had originally planned on arriving in Agra early morning and leaving in the evening since we had heard there isn't a whole lot there other than the Taj. We finally decided that our best option was to stay a night in Agra and see the Taj Mahal in the morning, then head to Jaipur right after that. That meant cutting our time in Jaipur by a day. Oh well, anything to see the Taj.
Now, to describe our train ride. How do we possibly describe the crazy experience of riding an Indian overnight train. Our bunk mates were two older Indian men - one eccentric religious "saint" as he described himself adorned with beads, a bright orange turban, and a Hindu man dress. The other seemed to be a well-off man even more religious than the first who spent a good deal of time lecturing us on the importance of the supreme power and peace and love for all. We exchanged "help me" looks with other travellers as they felt sorry for us but were glad it wasn't them. The first part of the ride was spent answering an endless array of questions fired at us, most of which would never be asked back home. We've learned that Indians are extremely curious and love to pry for information about your life. Questions such as "how much money do you make?", "are you a housewife?", "how do you express your relationship with the supreme power?", "why don't you have any children?" and on and on and on. By the end, the whole train knew our entire life story.
We fell asleep quite quickly and everything was great until a couple hours in, there seemed to be a party in our bunk and we weren't invited. Men were yelling at the top of their lungs while sitting less than two feet away from each other while this social gathering went on until 2:30am. Our ride was 5:45pm-7am so this interuption took up a lot of sleeping time. Not the time for our Ipod to be out of battery.
We finally arrived in Agra and thought it was time to splurge on a nice hotel (since Agra is known for a city with much lower standards). We ended up at a beautiful hotel with a soft bed! Usually, the beds feel like you're sleeping on a wooden plank. That day we hired a driver to take us around to the different attractions - everything was open except the Taj Mahal. Our driver seemed trustworthy at first but there was something about his that was questionable. Perhaps it was his swagger and smooth talking...hmmm. He ended up trying to scam us a tad but overall was ok. We saw the Baby Taj- a smaller version that was built before the big one, Agra Fort - the emperor built the Taj just across from his fort so he could see it every day, and we saw the Taj Mahal from a lovely garden across the river. Our driver also took us to the roof top of a guest house so we could have a sunset view. It was spectacular! All in all, a great day that made our scheduling mistake a little easier to handle. We even saw an Indian wedding from our hotel that night, complete with fireworks, band (that sounded an awful lot like an Indian Biser) and extravagance.
I bet the emperor who created this didn't think it would be 'baby' anything
The next day we got up bright and early to see the sunrise at the Taj, weekends must be much busier than weekdays becuase we did not make it quite in time. It took us over an hour to get in, and we got there at 6:30am! But once we did get in, boy were we not disappointed. People, including us, wait their whole lives to see the Taj and it was surreal to be face to face with such an iconic masterpiece. It took 20,000 workers 22 years to build the Taj, all as way for the emperor to express his love and honour his third wife when she died. We're still not quite clear on why he was so fond of his third wife in particular. Regardless, it was a spectacular thing to see and we are so lucky to have experienced it. There's another thing to check off the bucket list!
Once in a lifetime
No need for a caption
After that, we headed with another driver (one that was more genteel) to Jaipur, with a stop at Fatehpur Sikri, a medieval city that was built in 1571 and lived in for only 14 years, then abandoned, some say because of lack of water supply. It was amazing to see such grand buildings that were all abandoned after such a short time. What a waste! We visited it's mosque and were more harrassed there than anywhere during our trip so far. Still, it was quite amazing. George is now considering building his own fort.
Now, we are back to our regularly scheduled program in Jaipur. We have only one day here tomorrow so we'll need to make the most of it. Hopefully that will be enough!