Published: August 1st 2012July 30th 2012
I arrived in Delhi on Sunday in the early afternoon. Since I needed to catch an early train on Monday morning, I decided to try and dash over for a quick visit to the main monument in Delhi, the Red Fort, since I would only have time to do one visit. Outside the railway station there is a tourist office hotel booking agency so I went there first. It was useful that I did because when I mentioned that I wanted to stay near the station because I had to catch a train the next morning, the guy asked to look at my train ticket. He noticed, which I had missed, that my train was actually leaving from Hazmat Nizzamudin, a station in the suburbs of Delhi rather then the central New Delhi station that I had arrived at. Anyway, he sorted out a hotel and a cycle rickshaw to take me there. I had a ride in one of those last year in Phnom Penh but this was my first one India. The guy was really old and seemed to be struggling and it was then I noticed that the bike had no gears which I thought rather unhelpful in
that kind of job.
After checking in at the hotel I just dumped my stuff and went straight back out and found a tuk tuk to take me to the Red Fort. It was just as well that I went at once as it closed at 6:30pm that day. I had chance to walk round the whole thing rather quickly and took a few photos but didn't really get chance to take it in properly. It is a very large site with a number of key buildings quite some distance from each other. This makes it difficult to take one photo that really does it justice. Although it is a pretty important monument, I did think that it looked quite shabby in places but the architecture and the carvings were impressive.
Back to my hotel then for a much needed shower, then spent an hour in an internet cafe before going to eat - had an excellent chicken curry in a really small local food shop (I couldn't really call it a restaurant!). I went to bed early because I thought I needed an early start as this other station was quite a way off. I was up
at 7am on the Monday, packed and set off to find a tuk tuk to take me to the suburban station. The train was due to leave at 9:20am but I got there at about 7:45 - a bit over cautious in retrospect. The train was also almost an hour late in leaving so I had a long wait on the platform where I had some breakfast (vegetable samosas!) and got chatting to some Indian guys, one of whom turned out to be an IT teacher.
The train duly arrived in Agra one hour late but this time I still had the whole afternoon so there was no rush. Before leaving the station I decided to reserve a seat on the last remaining train that I planned to get which wasn't yet booked. Agra train reservations office was much more civilised than the one I had to use in Amritsar. This time there was no pushing and shoving, and there was a separate queue for foreigh tourists, disabled people, the elderly and freedom fighters! It only took about 15 minutes to get to my turn at the counter. With that sorted, I went outside and got a tuk tuk to one of the hotels recommended in the Lonely Planet India guide - The Shanti Lodge. This hotel has a rooftop restaurant with a superb view of the Taj Mahal. I went up there first to take a couple of photos but it then started raining and poured down heavily for the next hour or so, so I went and had a shower till it abated.
I decided to do the proper tours inside the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort tomorrow, so this afternoon I just walked around all 3 sides of the Taj Mahal (it backs on to the river but you aren't allowed to walk along that side), down to the river Yamuna, and took quite a few photos of the outside and the 3 entrances.
On Tuesday morning I had breakfast on the roof garden of the hotel with the Taj Mahal in the background. It was fortunate that I had taken a photo of this view yesterday as this morning it was very hazy and the Taj was almost lost in the mist. There are 3 entrances - West, South and East, and then the north side backs onto the river. the cost of entry is 750 rupees, just under 10 pounds sterling, but it was worth every panny. The Taj Mahal is considered to be the most beautiful building in the world and I for one could not disagree. The main mausoleum is completely constructed from white marble inlaid with various other colours of marble and semi-precious stones to make some wonderful designs. In frot of the actual mausoleum there is a large park and this park is surrounded by a high red sandstone wall and with some pretty impressive gateways at the three entrances.
After about 3 hours wondering this site, I then walked the short distance to Agra Fort, another red sandstone building with very high walls. The guy who had the Taj Mahal built, Shah Jahan, was overthrown by his son a few years later and imprisoned in this fort in a white marble octagonal tower where he could gaze on his construction.