It was quite an adventure getting to Agra, but seeing the Taj Mahal in person was worth it.
Ville and I took a local bus down to Agra (oh just about 8 hours and one pee break what would take an hour and a half by car). The roads are atrocious. Completely packed full of everything from people, motorbikes, cars, semis, tractors, and everything you can possibly imagine packed into and onto those. It's wild. Detours everywhere and construction crews, looking in no hurry to finish a road project that could take years if they ever do get around to finishing it. Our bus was packed, and our bags on our laps, but only a $2 ride, what a deal. By the time we arrived in Agra, we were dropped at a very crowded spot a ways from where we were staying. The auto rickshaw driver drove us all over town lost and eventually dropped us somewhere to grab another one and try again. We finally arrived at our homestay late in the evening and were thrilled to drop bags and get food at a local restaurant (hadn't eaten since breakfast).
The homestay was decent, but sadly, as everything that gets a write up in Lonely Planet, now is overpriced for what you get and is also out to just make money off you. Even the friendly auto rickshaw driver we hired from there just to take us around to see the sights, made multiple stops at crappy marble and textile shops trying to sell us countertops to stuff in our backpacks. Unfortunately, the best part of Agra is the Taj Mahal and everything else could be missed. It is a city catered to tourists and draws lots of poor Indians trying to eek out a living and get by. You can't blame them.
We arrived at the Taj Mahal at sunrise and it was magical! It's just so massive and the surrounding gardens were beautiful. Monkeys and bright green parrots were everywhere and being there so early we dodged most of the crowds. Ville and I agreed that part of the pure beauty of the Taj Mahal is being in India and the challenges of getting to it. It's quite different than getting off a train in Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. But such intricate detail in all the carving of the marble inlaid with jewels. After the Taj Mahal we went to see the Red Fort which was also a massive fort built in 1565 and about a mile and a half circumference. Also impressive with views in the distance of the Taj Mahal. After we were drug to many crappy shops, followed by Baby Taj (built before the Taj Mahal and much smaller) before being taken to a park to watch the sun set across the river from the Taj Mahal. It was an eventful day.
Today we caught a train, that was actually only 20 min. late (a miracle for trains in India) and only 4 hours instead of the 8 by bus. The cabin on the train was Ville and I on top bunks with snoring and farting Indian men beneath. There also were only windows for the bottom bunks so it takes quite a lot of focus to not let my claustrophobia get the best of me. And now we are back at the best place to stay ever when in Delhi, the Moustache Hostel! Excellent staff, great computers, breakfast included, chai, and full of great travelers to meet. Tomorrow we will see Gauri, a girl we met on the flight to India, and go do some yoga and exploring.
Until next time...
K.G. & Ville
On a cruise ship, heading north up the west coast to Los Angeles.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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