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"Cows have owners and go home when they're hungry"

The Indian Experience - Agra

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One of my main inspirations to go to India altogether was to visit the Taj Mahal. And having been my dream for a whole seven months, today was the day I would finally make it to one of the world's most famous sights.

Although arranging the trip myself or booking a tour when I had arrived in India would probably have been much cheaper, with everything else going on I felt much more at ease to spend a bit of extra money booking an all inclusive excursion in advance, meaning there was no extra stress for the trip. Every little helps!

Although I was picked up at my hotel quite early, I jumped straight into the car for the three hour drive from Delhi down to Agra allowing me to still rest in the morning, which after yesterday's long walk made it quite relaxing.

Getting to Agra, I was met by my tour guide Hilal - a very funny and knowledgeable man who also had a passion for amateur photography - a perfect opportunity for me travelling alone to still end up with some great photos!

Great Gate

Great Gate

After arriving at the entrance to the Taj complex we took a cycle-rickshaw down to the ticket office and after going through security we entered by the Great Gate before entering to witness the world famous view of the Taj itself.

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

From previous experience, I have quite often found that famous attractions like the Taj Mahal end up being slightly underwhelming because expectations are usually very high. And as I had expected a lot I would probably leave feeling somewhat disappointed. However this was not the case at all. The whole complex was stunningly beautiful! So well kept, and amazingly accurate symmetry throughout. A breathtaking experience.

The view you never normally see

The view you never normally see

Luckily the fog that had swept over the whole region was not too dense, and so the Taj was visible in all its glory. Having taken various viewpoints from afar, and using the water to reflect the building for some lovely photos, we eventually made our way into the mausoleum itself, again with fascinatingly accurate symmetry, and highly creative artwork. Although having been distracted by monkeys we initially forgot to put our shoe covers on and had begun walking around like true rebels dirtying the plinth!

On the plinth

On the plinth


"Like A Model"

"Like A Model"

After spending lots of time at the Taj, including being asked by locals to have photos with them; and taking plenty of photos for myself around the complex (at one stage being so photogenic Hilal commented that I could be a model! - hmmm...not sure on that one!) we made our way to the other attraction in Agra - the Red Fort. The fort was huge, and was the home to the local kings being lavishly decorated in traditional Mughal style of northern India.

Agra Fort

Agra Fort

After a busy morning of sites, I was then taken to a local restaurant for some lunch, which although tasty, was a little bit spicy for my British tongue, and may have contributed towards some later problems. After paying for the rest of the tour, and stopping at a local shop to see how the stones were carved at the Taj, I was driven through Agra on my way back to Delhi, when Hilal told me that in India, as cows are so sacred, they are loved and thus all have owners. In the day they wander the streets, but when they get hungry they go back home to be fed. I guess this is the Indian version of the western domestic cat....

Just a cow strolling across the road...

Just a cow strolling across the road...

Arriving back in Delhi by 6pm, I then had a nice relaxing evening to look back over the day, and get my bits together for tomorrow's early train to Amritsar, and my final city on the trip.

The Taj Mahal is an absolutely stunning attraction that makes the whole trip worth it. It's just a shame that in order to see it, you have to go through the rest of India to get there....

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in India Tagged temple fort shrine indianexperience Comments (0)

A casual 15 mile walk...

The Indian Experience - Delhi

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In the run up to my Indian holiday I had discovered that contrary to my knowledge, Beijing was not the most polluted city in the world - it was in fact Delhi. Great! However, after two freezing cold nights I was still looking forward to getting out of Nepal and in to Delhi where at least there would be power!

Waking up in Kathmandu and making it to the airport, unfortunately the smog in both capitals meant that my plane was delayed by several hours, and after security checks at every stage, I eventually made it on to the plane headed for India. Avoiding the under-cooked meat on the plane, I soon arrived in Delhi and was picked up to take me to the hotel.

A western toilet!

A western toilet!

When travelling I usually don't go for a particularly luxurious hotel, however as Indian prices were not the most expensive, as well as preparing myself for a bad case of diarrhoea, and thus wanting a western styled toilet, as well as a safe refuge from the dirty outside world I chose a rather nice hotel a few minutes walk from the central station, where I would need to leave early from on Friday. What I found quite early on is that nice hotels have their own door staff sitting there all day in the winter cold (again, India much like Nepal never got very warm the entire time I was there) just opening the doors for guests!

After checking in, and having already missed four hours of my planned day of sightseeing I cracked on quickly deciding to visit Old Delhi, leaving the rest of the city for the following day. Making my way across to the metro station I was instantly hit by the full force of Indian grime. Not only did I have to avoid the tuktuk drivers' insistence that they take me wherever I needed to go, but also having to avoid the constant spitting that every Indian seems compelled to do. Mix that together with the dirt, beggars and constant smell of urine and excrement you can imagine the pleasure of a gentle stroll around the Indian capital.

Red Fort

Red Fort

Eventually finding the entrance to the metro, I made my way to Chandri Chowk, and the Red Fort. However not wanting to look even more like a tourist than I did already, I first ended up going the wrong way, and thus had to end up walking back on myself in a race against time to reach the Red Fort before nightfall.

Eventually arriving, the full scale of the smoggy haze affecting the city was soon clear, as the fort could barely be seen just 100 metres away. Deciding not to explore further, as I would visit the very similarly designed fort in Agra in just two days time, I continued down the road towards the Jama Masjid, finding that the easiest and fastest way to walk is actually on the road, behind the tuktuks.

Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid

By this stage, it had already got dark that my western face was now no longer so evident, and I found to my surprise I was no longer hassled as I looked no different to a local! I then walked back through Old Delhi towards the McDonalds just up from my hotel and after a casual 5 mile walk I was done for the day. Time to get some sleep for a long busy day exploring the rest of the city tomorrow.

Connaught Place

Connaught Place

After taking breakfast in the hotel in the following morning, I then made my way out towards Connaught Place, the heart of New Delhi. Walking past the colonial buildings and a "Burger Singh", I saw the huge Indian Flag in the middle of the square, before making my way to the first attraction, the Jantar Mantar - an eighteenth century observatory.

Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar

Like most attractions in India (and Nepal), locals are charged a pittance (₹5, £0.05) compared to foreign tourists (₹100, £1). Although as this was still cheap compared to rates in Europe it was nothing to complain about. Especially as it became a haven from the rush and hassle of the city. After taking a detour via one of the government owned fixed-price shops to buy a Ganesh souvenir, I headed down to the Safdarjung Tomb - a Mughal tomb that being much less frequently visited, was a real respite from the city and allowed me to explore the architecture thoroughly.

Safdarjung's Tomb

Safdarjung's Tomb


Gandhi Smriti

Gandhi Smriti

Heading north through the suburbs of New Delhi, I arrived at the Gandhi Smriti, where Gandhi himself spent the last few days of his life before being assassinated in the garden. The house includes many artefacts from his life, including his famous glasses, and it was a really peaceful experience.

Gandhi's Glasses

Gandhi's Glasses


High Pressure Pipeline

High Pressure Pipeline

Continuing towards Rajpath, and the governmental buildings, it struck me just how nice these parts were. Luxurious houses (with their permanent security presence), and wide, plant filled pavements. Although the constant signs of "High Pressure Gas Pipelines" next to dodgy excavations did make me a little uneasy given the nature of my job back at home! Arriving at Rajpath I took a little walk around the government buildings before attempting to view the India Gate, which with the smog meant it was completely unseen.

Smog covering Rajpath

Smog covering Rajpath

With the India Day celebrations taking place in around a week's time, setting up the seating areas was already in full swing, and thus Rajpath itself was close, so a small diversion was made to actually get to the India Gate.

India Gate

India Gate


Humayun's Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

After arriving at another closed site, I decided to take the metro a little bit of the way to the next site - the Humayun Tomb. However getting to where the Metro was supposed to be, I was unable to find it, and so instead ended up walking the whole way.

Architecture inside the tombs

Architecture inside the tombs

Getting to the tomb, I found this was much more popular than the Safdarjung one earlier in the day, although it was still a nice place to explore. I then made my way south towards the Lotus Temple. This temple is shaped like a lotus, and after removing your shoes you are allowed in to make a prayer or just sit in silent thought.

Lotus Temple

Lotus Temple


Akshardham

Akshardham

My final destination for the day was to view the Akshardham tomb, although as actually visiting involved a lot of rigmarole regarding allowed items I figured I would just view it from the nearby metro station. Again this involved a race against time to view it before sunset, which was successful, just about through the thick smog. And I then made my way back towards McDonalds for tonight's dinner - not wanting to risk getting ill on local stuff, and having my handwash in tow.

Beautiful India

Beautiful India

Knowing there was one in Connaught Place, but being unable to find it, I ended up walking back from the central square via the station, going the completely wrong way! After eating and coming back to my hotel my legs were truly aching by now. I felt as though it must have been about a 10km walk today. I later found to my horror it was nearer 24 (15 miles!)

At least tomorrow's visit to the Taj Mahal was guided and would involve a lot less walking!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in India Tagged temple fort tomb capital parliament shrine gate pollution indianexperience Comments (0)

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