Arriving in India we expected a lot of things:
1) The airport would be an old shabby shack full of people
2) We’d get scammed by a taxi driver who would take us to his friend’s hotel instead of our own
3) There would be people everywhere on the streets
We only got the 3rd one right. The airport is actually beautiful, very modern and clean and with very few people at the time we arrived (roughly 7pm). The taxi driver took us to the right hotel not before driving through 2 hours of traffic (for only 17km), hurling abuse at other drivers and cyclists and having his hand permanently glued to the horn. Welcome to India.
The next morning began at 6.30am with our driver meeting us at the hotel. We were on our way to Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal. It was a relatively smooth 3 hour ride. The freeways are surprisingly in great condition, very comparable to Melbourne’s Western Ring Road, if anything, probably better. Our guide Faizan, a guy in his early 20’s, well-travelled and with excellent English met us at the Taj Mahal. We arrived at the gates at about 9.30am amongst a swarm of Indian tourists. Its quite interesting the pricing difference for an Indian Tourist (20RS/AUD$0.40) vs a Foreigner (750RS/AUD$15) but we didn’t really mind because after all, we were going to see the most beautiful building in the world and man, it was just that.
Prior to actually beginning our tour, we were met by one of ‘those’ resident photographers….you know, the ones that make you take awkward couple photos holding hands and kissing in front of the Taj. We had to endure this torture for about half an hour after which he asked for 3500RS (AUD$70) for the photos, and you know I had to say no to this. With the help of our guide we managed to bargain him down to 1000RS (AUD$20), which I didn’t mind too much as we now had another collection of cringe-worthy photos for the kids to view in the future!
Just to give you guys a bit of a background behind the Taj…back in the day when men were into the whole romance thing, the King’s wife died giving birth to their 14th child. Devastated as he was, he built the Taj Mahal in memory of her. The entire building is completely symmetrical, so no matter which direction you are looking at it, you won’t be able to determine which is the front. Also, the four towers surrounding it were built on a 95degree angle away from the main building so that in case there was ever an earthquake, they would collapse outwards. These are just a few examples of ingenious engineering, and going by what pristine condition the building is still in, its obvious that the engineers were way ahead of their time.Overall the Taj Mahal is jaw-droppingly beautiful and if any of you ever get a chance to see it, it is a MUST! Definitely one of our highlights so far.
Next was Agra Fort. Great place to visit, but by the time we actually went there it was peaking past 44 degrees so I can’t really remember what the guide told us about it, though I do know that it was famous as the site of the King’s prison. The story goes, after the King built the Taj, his youngest son killed his 3 older brothers, somehow overthrew the King and placed him in jail until the day of his death. No idea how this younger conniving son managed to do this, but he did. Very similar situation happened to the Nepalese Royal Family in recent years (google it).
That night we decided to roam around the streets of Delhi on an open rickshaw. We just wanted to drive around for 30minutes, but the driver seemed a bit clueless, so a passing closed rickshaw driver pulled us over and got us to hop into his. His English was much better and he decided to give us a tour of the city which is just what we wanted. He was extremely friendly, 21 years old (although looked like he was in his mid-late 20’s cause of his beard) and told Jason he looked Indian. He eventually took us to a Bazaar (which really was just a 3 level shop which he most definitely was affiliated with) and I bought a Panjabi suit (because according to him and Lonely Planet, foreign women are less likely to get harassed wearing traditional wear). Following this he then took us to a Sari store at which point we started to get suss so we strongly urged him to take us back to our hotel. He ended up just dropping us in the middle of no where, thankfully we managed to make our way back. So the moral of that story is, keep your wits about you, almost everyone has a hidden agenda so as soon as you realise this….ESCAPE!
Overall despite the heat and minor incidences, we’ve actually really liked Delhi. We came here with such low expectations and were pleasantly surprised!
Until next time
Ann & Jason xo