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Around some of the world in 180 days


INDIA | Wednesday, 22 February 2012 | Views [1373]

For some strange reason, I felt it necessary to try arriving at New Delhi Railway Station well ahead of time, 1.5 hours to be precise. Despite the chaotics scenes around the station, the train system actually functions quite well and my train to Agra managed to depart only 30 minutes late. A short journey of 2 hours and we arrive at Agra Cantt station.

I take back what I said about the pollution in Delhi, Agra is much, much worse. The smell of human waste is everywhere even from the station, which seem to function as shelter for the home for some in Agra. Not having eaten in 4 hours, I went to get a hot milk from one of the station shops. Within moments of recieving my order, I turned to see a little girl standing next to me pointing at my cup. The look of joy as I handed it to her really warmed my heart. Unfortunately, this only encouraged more children to approach me hoping for something. At this point, I had to apply all the big city instants acquired over the years to avoid this turning into a free for all by turning my heart into stone and just walking away. Even then, it was pretty disheartening having to disappoint children so obviously in need.

I had arranged for a car for the day to drive me to the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri the next day with a 7.30am start. So I went straight to Hotel to make sure of getting enough sleep. While not expensive, at RS1800, I'd still expect clean. I arrived to find the bedsheets covered in the previous occupants hair and the management where puzzled that I was still upset when one of the staff came up to my room and simply picked the hair out.

The next day, the first stop was the Taj. Having seen plenty of pictures of the monument, I was a bit worried seeing the building would be stale. The Taj Mahal is immense in size, far bigger than I'd imagined. A beautiful building and an impressive piece of engineering too. Maybe I'm just not the romantic type, but the thought had occurred to me that it was a colossal waste of resources for something that served no practical purpose. Ladies, please form an orderly line :-). Here's an obligatory photo of me with the Taj:

The next stop was Agra Fort, the former seat of the Mughal emperor when Agra was the capital of the empire. The fort is in a pretty good state of preservation with an interesting mix of Hindu and Islamic styles.

Note the highly decorated columns:

This was apparently the emperor's bath tub. Also used by Godzilla for toilet training:

The last stop was Fatehpur Sikri, a city built by of 2 parts. One part is dedicated to an Islamic saint named Salim Chisti and the other is the old city. One of the Mughal emperor's moved the capital to the city which then had abandoned when some genius realised that the lack of a water supply made the city unsustainable. I'll finish the Agra tour with a photo story.

We started out for the one hour ride to Fatehpur Sikri. Unfortunately there was some political rally that blocked off the roads. After 20 minutes of waiting, we finally did a U-turn to take an alternative route

Hey dude, you're trying to navigate a dirt road in your crappy 1 litre Tata:

One of the villages we passed:

Past some more villages, their livelihood was crap:

Now we're stuck at a railway crossing. The wait was so long, some people simply got out of their cars:

At last:

The city :

The shrine:

Time to go:

These guys car had broken down. So we offered one of them a lift back to Agra to get help.

Some friends on the way back:

It took a long time to get past this lot:

In retrospect, staying 2 nights in Agra was a bit excessive. It would have been possible to arrive early in Agra and blitz through the main attractions and still get out by late evening. This would cover the 5 hours in total actually spent at the 3 places, plus the 4 hours of travelling. The city itself seems to epitomize the poverty that exists in the county. Everywhere, the poor are much more visible than in other places. People making their homes wherever they can on the streets, in the fields, abandoned buildings. It has nothing else to offer except for the 3 attractions and you certainly wouldn't want to go wandering at night.

Tags: agra, fatehpur sikri, fort, india, taj mahal, unesco


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