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Thursday, August 16, 2012

2 Months And A Half Off! (Part 5)

This series of posts is a day by day account of my two-month-and-a-half trip that begins with a stay in Bangkok, followed by a train ride Amritsar, a bike trip from Leh to Manali and a yoga teacher training in Kullu Valley, the end of the habitable world.

Day 8: Agra
The train station was crawling with people and flies. The stench of urine mixed with the scent of incense and samosas filled the air. The non-stop droning of announcements punctuated by a comical tone filled our ears.

When the train arrived, everyone rushed to the open doors, pushing their way in. It was absolute chaos. I found it silly because an allotted seat number is given to each passenger. But, when we got to our occupied seats, I realized what the fuss is about. Seats get stolen all the time. And, claiming your seat can be quite a hassle!

We reached Agra five hours later. Outside the station, we found a booth for prepaid taxis. On it was a chart with the destinations and prices. The most expensive package in the list was an air conditioned taxi that will take you to all the tourist spots in Agra and back to the train station. Both of us were not keen on rushing from one spot to another or wasting time looking for our taxi driver, so we decided to take a non-air conditioned taxi to the west gate of the Taj Mahal for 150 rupees.

The Taj Mahal (Agra)
The Taj Mahal is a masterpiece of love. It was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died after giving birth to their FOURTEENTH child. This white marble mausoleum is admired because of its beauty and symmetry. A very popular tourist attraction, the area was filled with swarms of locals and foreigners.

The entrance rate for foreigners is much higher than the local's. It's around 750 rupees. This includes a bottle of  water, a pair of shoe covers and a VIP treatment (sort of).  Foreign tourists a separate queue and are given priority in entering the building. They are also not required to remove their shoes when the enter the mausoleum which was quite a relief since the shoe racks tend to be disorganized and we even saw some flip flops thrown into the gutter.

The way in.

My first glimpse of the Taj

The Taj Mahal and all its admirers.

Before heading to the Agra Fort, we went to the Host Hotel for a bite. Even though it was raining, we headed to their rooftop where we had a view of the Taj Mahal and monkeys moving from one rooftop to another.

Maybe we didn't really need to pay much for a view of the Taj.

A family of monkeys.

The Agra Fort
Shah Jahan was imprisoned in this walled city by his son after he was overthrown. In a marble tower facing the Taj Mahal, he spent the last of his days staring at the structure where his wife was buried. 

The details are made of semi-precious stones.

Our 5-hour train ride home was horrible. We were seated by the aisle and the passengers who sat beside us kept pushing us off our seats. In India, that is the difference between getting a train seat and a chair. 

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