Dec 2007... Day 11- Taj Mahal
Faridabad, the smaller town in the sub-urbs of Delhi was our base for this 2 weeks vacation. Agra was our day trip and here goes:
I hopped on the morning train from Delhi to Agra without reservation. Local trains run from Delhi to Agra every 30 minutes. Not sure where this train was headed but the crowd was huge enough to ensure I got no seat thought the 90 minute journey. Agra govt has fixed Rs. 50/- for an auto ride from station to Taj Mahal.
Admire Taj Mahal: Undoubtedly one of the best architectural pieces in the world. The place had loads of visitors. I don't remember if it was a public holiday but the long line at entry and swarms of humans kind of killed the charm of this place for me. I felt it was over hyped!
Now that I look back, the monument was a 25 meter high- completely symmetrical - well designed geometrical structure in marble. The inlay work on almost every inch is symmetrical too. All this designed and built in the brittle marble in medieval ages, certainly deserves the amusement of a viewer!
Pay another Rs. 50/- to get out of there. Agra is a small old town with super narrow lanes and gullies, sometimes stairs and doors connecting lanes. Phew!
By noon, we headed to Fatepur Sikri in a rented car. Stopped for lunch in a local UP restaurant on the highway and enjoyed the hot and buttery meal in scorching sun. As I entered, the waiter showed me into a double bedroom. Before my imagination went wild, he said that is to use the toilet, since most people stop at the highway restaurant only to use the toilet.
I liked interiors of Fatepur Sikri better than the interiors of Taj Mahal. The guess the Taj is a wonder mostly for the grand inlay work and the amazing symmetry it retains through the entire 3-dimensional structure.
To reach the main buildings of Fatepur Sikri, you have to take an auto. It is not even .5 km away. Though the entire stretch you are stalked by guides. The worst is the stalking by guides who initially claim they are from the Darga and then ask for money. I saw that the guide rates went from Rs.100/- to Rs.20/- as we tourists went closer to the site.
Fatepur Sikri has about 11 sites with palaces, monuments and places of interest. If you are really spending a good day here, it is worth getting guide for minimum charge to explain the history. I remember from my history chapters, this wasn't boring!
No trip is complete without souvenirs! I bought a kg of Agra Petha sweet (it is pumpkin gratings in sugar syrup), a speciality of Agra, at a local sweet store on the way back to station. This comes in different flavours. The small "angoori petha" in colours and flavors was quite a favorite among friends. And had the real local train experience while boarding the train to Delhi. Fought my way into the train amidst 100 other people trying to board into the same door which opened for 5 minutes at the Agra station. Finally barged my way into the train and threw my weight into a seat as I dozed off till my destination.