The number one tourist attraction in India is unfortunately situated in a town which gets few recommendations. “Get in and out as quickly as possible” is the common reaction to Agra and I guess we kind of achieved that. After the bus ticket organising fiasco skillfully organised by Fred we discovered that on our sleeper bus, we had seats. Boshing half a stomach pill which has similar effect to a sleeping pill I pretty much dropped straight off and as a result caught maybe five hours of half decent sleep. When we arrived our rickshaw driver turned out to be some sort of comedian/sex pest with a comment about the one girl in our four having enough “stamina for fucking.” Anyway, he dropped us off at the West Gate at 5.30 where we discovered the gates opened at sunrise, 6.45, and not before. Hoping to see the sunrise we initially didn’t know what to do but soon decided upon breakfast. The hotel Host had a rooftop restaurant where through the gloom we could just about make out the edge of the Taj. It was a miserable morning and the sun never really showed up. The breakfast served by two sweet kids was unfortunately also made by them and was an even worse translation of butter toast and porridge than normal. After pissing about with lockers when we couldn’t bring certain items through security (like a torch.)
We finally entered and found ourselves a guide who promised to make our tour “unforgettable.” Well, he was totally forgettable but the Taj itself is pretty well as you would expect, although no less awe inspiring for that. If you don”t know the back story it was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a monument for his third wife which was designed to be the most beautiful monument in the world. Made of marble and with decoration not painted but inlaid, the Muslim script in black Belgian onyx and the other work precious and semi´precious stones which glow when they catch the light, at a full moon for example (or when our guide pulled out a contraband torch and demonstrated for us. The gardens could have been better maintained, and at 700 rupees to enter the price was pretty extortionate compared to most other attractions or the price of living generally over here, but then it is only a tenner.
From the Taj we had the afternoon in order to fit in the Red Fort and to get to the train station for our train back to Jaipur. We were all deliriously tired and hungry by this stage though, so after a rather good lunch of Puris (the pictures suggest the delirium I feel) we went searching for the cheapest room we could get for a couple of hours lie down. We got some funny looks as we were asking for somewhere for the four of us for such a short time but eventually we found a place and all crashed.
I didn’t really feel any less spaced out looking around the Red Fort as a result to be honest – it’s all a bit of a blur but I’m sure the pictures will do it some justice.
I think being totally on another planet for most of the day actually helped us not get too frustrated by touts – because they were pretty persistent throughout, I remember Thomas buying a travel chess set but other than that we avoided the interest.