Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wah Taj - Our Trip To Agra

Like I said, last weekend was heritage weekend. My last post was on our Friday night visit to Red Fort. The next morning we got up ambitiously at 6.00 am thinking we will leave by 7.00 am but alas we could leave only by 8.00 am. Now everyone will tell you that Agra is about 200 kms away (true) and the drive takes four hours (false). This seems possible only if you leave the city (probably) before 7.00 or maybe on a Sunday. Since it was a Saturday, we caught the morning work traffic as well as the jams at Badarpur and Ballabgadh and hence took 5 hours. The route we took was Ring Road towards Ashram, right under the Nafed House flyover and then straight down the NH2.

The roads were pretty good once we cleared Faridabad. The drive, while peaceful, is not very scenic. It reminded me of the Bangalore - Chennai route via Hosur Road. The traffic was fairly disciplined and we didn't have any close calls. We were carrying enough snacks / juice / sandwiches so we didn't make any stops save one at the McDonald's before Agra. My suggestion would be to stop here and finish lunch as once you enter Agra city, it becomes quite congested and difficult to spot a hotel. We just had a coffee here which was a mistake as it was very sweet. Since we reached Agra by around 1.00 pm, we decided to have lunch first. We spotted signboards of ITC, Trident and Oberoi which seemed to be in the same direction as the Taj Mahal so we stopped at the first one we came across - ITC The Mughal. The buffet was priced at Rs 850 a head and was quite good with Chinese and Indian Cuisine.

After lunch, we took directions from the hotel staff and were on our way. As you reach the Taj, you will be forced to park your car and take a battery operated 10 seater buggy/ auto / horse carriage. The buggy is the cheapest option at Rs 10 and is very convenient. Dont forget to buy the entry tickets next to the parking lot at Rs 100 a pop. Well, we entered through the West Gate and took a few pics of the main gateway - Darwaza-i-Rauza and then entered through to see the Taj Mahal. Man, was I blown away!!! I didn't go with great expectations as I was like - Yeah ok, how great can it be? This was amazing though. From far it looks very pretty and as you come closer, it becomes exquisite. From every angle, it looks great and I kept stopping every few minutes and admiring it. Once we took a circuit of the Taj, we entered in to see the tombs. The inside was extremely crowded and noisy. Also it is very gloomy inside so we didn't spend too much time but quickly exited. There are two buildings flanking the Taj which are also quite nice.

By the time we were done seeing the Taj Mahal, it was around 3.30 pm so we decided to chuck going to Fatehpur Sikri as it is around 40 kms and proceeded to Agra Fort. At the Taj, I did not feel the need for a guide but here I certainly felt that a guide would have helped. Though there were plenty touting themselves, we did not take one and did the tour ourselves. Luckily, there were notices at the important spots. Lot of interesting spots here so we had a good time. We finished in an hour or so and headed back to Delhi after a cup of chai outside the Fort. The return journey took us about four hours so it was not too bad. The few key things I would change on my next trip would be that I would definitely do an overnighter. Probably leave in the afternoon and check in to a resort for the night. Start with Taj Mahal, then Agra Fort, lunch and on to Fatehpur Sikri. Then head back home. Also, I'd do some research on a guide for Agra Fort and maybe Fatehpur Sikri. The other thought that kept playing in my mind was the legend that Shah Jahan was to have built a black marble Taj Mahal on the opposite banks of the Yamuna. That would have been truly awesome!!!

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