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Published: September 23rd 2018
All the advice for travel in India recommends leaving plenty of time for transport issues and today we are very glad we heeded this advice. After arriving at our hostel in Agra at about 4am this morning (8hrs late) we decided that there was no way we were waking up early enough to head over to Fatehpur Sikri, a ruined Mogul city 40km outside Agra. Fortunately we have enough time in our itinerary to take it easy today and wake up early to see the Taj at sunrise tomorrow instead. Unfortunately the ruined city is now off our itinerary.
After breakfast and checking in we walked towards the Taj to get some cash and get our bearings. Having found where we need to go tomorrow morning we headed over to Agra fort (being tired we went with the tuk tuk option). Agra is busy and smelly and initially reminded us of Aurungabad. Thus far we haven’t found it as bad as we had been warned about though, and actually found wondering around fairly pleasant.
The fort was surprisingly good. Being on the ‘golden triangle’ the number of tourists (from all over the world) is much greater than other places
Heading to the river
we’ve been. Being a weekend there were a lot of Indians as well. This meant we arrived to see a sea of people waiting to get in. Fortunately the tourist queue for tickets wasn’t too long and we were quickly heading in.
You aren’t allowed backpacks, food and all sorts of other things in the fort. We didn’t know this. Fortunately they seem much stricter with the locals than foreigners and we managed to get in despite our cola and cookies in our bag.
Once inside the fort is huge, and as we’ve found elsewhere, the crowds thin quickly away from the main attractions so it wasn’t as busy as we had feared.
Building of the fort in red sandstone started in 1565, it was subsequently turned into a stunning palace with the edition of marble and significant gilding. There are pretty gardens, courtyards, audience halls and fantastic views of the Taj Mahal to look around.
Much of the fort is not open to the public as it is still used by the Indian army and there are areas closed for renovations.
Surprisingly there are no shops or cafes inside this fort so make sure you bring plenty of
water to drink and have eaten before hand.
Overall, despite the high cost and large crowds we really enjoyed it.
We went back to the Taj Ganj area for some lunch. We then got chatting to a pleasant local lad and ended up having some tea with him. He was obviously trying to sell us some marble wares but we actually had a very pleasant time, managed to miss a really heavy monsoon shower, and left without spending any money (the serving dish we liked was £1600!).
Shop escaped from we went over to the Saniya Palace Hotel to enjoy the rooftop restaurant and views of the Taj. The monkeys here are really aggressive which meant we had to sit inside where the view isn’t so good. The lassi we ordered was lovely but we were made to feel rather unwelcome. The views are great but as the sun started to set the black clouds rolled over again and spoilt the sunset view.
We decided to head over to the river to see the view there instead on the off chance the clouds cleared. Finding the west side of the Taj shut we went to the East side. By
Outer walls and now dry moat
this point it was black despite being well before sunset. We may not have got to enjoy the sunset but we did end up joining in the celebrations for Ganesh Chaturthi.
People were taking images of Ganesh down to the river in processions with singing and dancing and the throwing of coloured powders. I managed to get thoroughly covered whilst Stephen remained completely clean. At the river they are supposed to submerge to idol but it looks like they aren’t allowed to here so they were left piled on the edge of the river bank. It was a lot of fun and everybody was very friendly.
Fed, it’s time for an early night to aim for a 5am start tomorrow...
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