Touch of the Taj

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January 2nd 2020
Published: March 18th 2020
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It's time to leave Beijing to explore Agra via New Delhi. The journey to get there was not at all smooth, from Indian visa inspection to luggage check-in to immigration.

It starts at Beijing airport. English is not only unspoken in the city, but it is also not spoken in the entire airport. Due to international flights visa inspections requirements, the airline company did not facilitate online check-in. I arrived nice and early without realising that this check-in won't end up well. The desk sent me to a shop outside the airport where I needed to print my itineraries as they don’t accept digital versions. An hour and a half later, I returned to the same desk with all documents printed out, but they claimed that I still needed to print more stuff, which I think is irrelevant. I lost 4 hours of my time in total going back and forth just printing stuff.

And when you think the drama ended with a boarding pass on your hand, another one appears. The queue to pass immigration costumes is longer than a Black Friday sale in the US.

I queued for over 3 hrs. No one including myself seemed to know how the Chinese immigration customs work, and when it was finally my turn, the man glanced at my passport then sent me off to a waiting room like I committed a crime. I asked what am I waiting for? His answer is “wait”... which is the question I have asked repeatedly. I am more than happy to cooperate if he could communicate his actions! In the end, all the queuing up and waiting around is part of their due diligence. They checked if my Visa permit was valid and that I stayed where I declared on my arrival. What's reported on arrival will be verified on departure. I couldn’t help, but wonder if they ever checked every place, restaurant, the mall I visited.

After loads of frustration and complaints about their way of working and not knowing what’s next, one of them finally let me go. I ran as fast as I could towards the gate the moment she said go and am very fortunate to get on my flights in time to Delhi via Hong Kong, which went according to schedules.

Goodbye China and hello India. I arrived at Delhi airport after midnight. I was amazed that the Indian passports & immigration controls worked much more efficiently than the Chinese. I felt so alive like never before as soon as my plane landed. I was free from surveillance cameras, freedom from internet restrictions, free from expressing my thoughts freely and not to mention English is pretty well-spoken in India.

The following day was about catching up on my sleep and getting ready for a day tour to visit Old and New Delhi on a pedicab before departing to Agra. The day tour around Delhi city was terrific. Old Delhi is the best part of Delhi that I loved so much. It was incredibly hectic and different. Delhi street foods were buzzing everywhere, but my tummy wasn't down for it. I was fortunate enough that there are so many local restaurants to try out.

PS. Avoid Delhi Haat suits and souvenirs shops. It is terrible, high costs, low quality of goods.

The second day, I embarked on an Agra road trip at 3 am to catch the sunrise. The temperature was below 2 degrees. It was dark, cold and foggy. I sat in the car and noticed the highways were free from motorised vehicles. There were no honking, no shouting, no one on the roads, which did not feel like India. Extremely quiet, yet many street food vendors continued serving delish warm foods and hot beverages.

I managed to beat the traffic and arrived at around 5 am, but not the tourists, damm tourists! They already queued up to get a little taste of Agra Fort way before me. Rahul my tour guide handed me my entrance ticket then I immediately went inside for a stroll. Gosh.. I was fixated...I can't describe how beautiful it is from the inside. It got even more interesting as Rahul explained the history behind it.

From Agra, Rahul took me to the Taj Mahal, the biggest reason for my visit. I saw the Taj from a distance, and I could already breathe the history of romance and peacefulness from the air. The Mughal architectures are exquisite. Each of the unique carvings resembled a peaceful ambience. I can stare at every masterpiece all day, and possibly a company of a bright moon if I am lucky.

After a few hours of wandering the Taj, Rahul escorted me to a local handicraft store where they sell many stones and marbles carvings just like those they used to build the Taj. After that, he took me to an authentic local restaurant before I headed back to New Delhi to embark on Kuala Lumpur the next day. India, I will come back.

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