Saturday, January 14, 2012


I’d been to Agra before, on my first visit to India I stopped off on an afternoon visit to the Taj Mahal and on my way from Varanasi to Delhi.  I wasn’t too impressed with it and thought it was overrated.   Before our visit I let Nev how I thought about the Taj, when we were in Sydney I told him I thought the Opera House was a better building.  Well I was wrong, and I had to take my words back.

I picked a budget guesthouse called Shanti Lodge out of the lonely planet which was meant to have commanding views of the Taj Mahal from its restaurant and from the deluxe rooms.  It turned out to be a great choice, and made our visit to the Taj that it more special.

Nev and Danielle opted for the deluxe room while I went for the budget option.  The view from their room was outstanding, as was the view from the restaurant.  I started to feel like a bit of an idiot for underrating the Taj, it looked absolutely magnificent.  Even from my first sighting, I knew that it was by far the best thing we’d seen.  I was cursing it for being so beautiful, I couldn’t believe it failed to impress me on my first visit.  There were contributing factors why the Taj Mahal didn’t making an impression first time round.  It was monsoon, it was overcast and the skies were grey.  I’d fallen ill in Varanasi and still wasn’t 100%, I was on my own, and the hassle from touts and the hordes of visitors had pissed me off.

As I’d visited the Taj before I wasn’t keen on the obligatory double visit that Nev insists upon with most of his wonders.  I let Nev and Danielle enjoy the spectacles of the Taj and the Red
Fort on their own.  While they were out sightseeing, I spent the late afternoon in the rooftop restaurant taking in the Taj, and I started to fall head over heels in love with it.  I had a beer during sunset and watched the building change from white to dark shades of brown, until just a black silhouette of the famous building was left.  

I visited the Taj on our second day.  The only downside to the Taj Mahal was Agra, a city rammed to the rafters with touts, and tat sellers.  You never get a moments peace, until you’re actually through the gates of the Taj, where the touts aren’t allowed.  The visit installed my feelings that the Taj Mahal was indeed a magnificent world wonder, and probably very hard to beat.  I’m not going to bother going into detail about what it looks like, it’s so iconic no explanation is needed and words couldn’t do it justice anyway.  All I’ll say is if you’re ever in India, you HAVE to check it out.

We visited the Red Fort in the late afternoon.  Our careful planning for our visit coinciding with the evening sound and light show back fired on us.  Nev and Danielle had taken note of the time for the English version, but when we arrived they’d swapped the timings around so the Hindi version was first on.  This meant that we couldn’t watch the sound and light show in English as we had a train to catch.

We collected the audio tour guides and started our visit.  We only had a chance to get half way through as the Red Fort shuts at 5:30pm, much to our dismay.  I visited the Red Fort during my first time in Agra, and I didn’t think it was a wonder candidate.  I didn’t change my mind on my second visit, it’s got a great history, but it’s not much to look at.  Also, Scotland has loads of castles and forts, so it’s not exactly an original looking building for me. 

We watched the sound and light show for about 20 minutes.  It appeared as if the legend and stories of the Red Fort were being told while coloured lights were directed at different parts of the building, but we didn’t have a clue because it was all in Hindi.  It was a pretty pointless experience when we didn’t understand a word of what was going on.

After the Red Fort we went to the train station to catch our train to Delhi.  We had two nights in Delhi before our flight to Goa.  Our day in Delhi was a Monday, and all the Museums and tourist attractions were closed.  Danielle and Nev went shopping while I didn’t do much at all.  We had one night out in a local, cheap cocktail bar.  The cocktails were hit and miss, with Danielle’s cosmopolitan being undrinkable, and rimmed with a line of salt instead of sugar.  The pina coladas were great though, and myself and Nev stuck to them.  The bar played DVDs of popular MTV videos with the volume at a ridiculously loud setting.  It didn’t seem to matter as much the drunker we got, but after we’d seen the same songs three times we decided it was time to leave.

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