Sunday, 2 November 2014

India: Agra

We finally arrived into Delhi, with nowhere to stay except the airport floor once again! Missing our flight meant that we missed our only planned day in Delhi and with our itinerary already jam packed there was no room for changes. We had a few hours sleep before jumping into a taxi in the early hours of the morning. We arranged to meet the Spicy Mermaids at the train station to begin our 2 week journey - first stop, Agra for the Taj Mahal!

After 48 hours of being homeless all we wanted was to meet with the rest of the group, check into our hotel and have a well deserved meal and catch up. We already boarded the train and were eagerly waiting to catch a first glimpse of our friends. Spotting them we were banging the glass and shouting so they would notice us. Luckily enough they were seated only a few cabins down and it wasn't long before they'd heard all about our first 5 weeks of travelling. Jack was kind enough to offer us the most revolting prawn flavoured crisp snack - thaaaaaanks!

We had booked AC 3 Tier tickets, which are middle ground prices. These are set up as separate air conditioned cabins housing eight beds, six of which are like 2 sets of triple bunk beds and the remaining two just a standard bunk bed. However, looking back now there was no need to book sleeper beds as the journey took little over 3 hours, a standard chair seat would have done just fine (and saved us a few pennies). 

First thing we did on arrival into Agra... eat! Our hotel had a decent roof top restaurant with views of the Taj Mahal. In about 10 minutes we'd sent plenty of 'Taj Selfies' to family and friends haha! All fed and rested it was time to do some exploring and experience our first Rickshaw ride - what an experience it was! The streets of Agra are sooo narrow and our driver wasn't shy about squeezing into any gap, inches away from people, cows, cars and trucks - our hearts really were in our mouth. He must have noticed we were getting nervous, telling us "don't worry, chicken curry", hahahaha! 

We survived the ride to Agra Fort and enjoyed wandering around the site for a couple of hours. We paid 300 rupees (£3) for entry which we felt was worth it as it helped us get more of a feel for the history of Agra. The fort can be better described as a walled city, the centre of Mughal Empire, containing many palaces. Rumour has it that Shah Jahan (the emperor who built the Taj Mahal) was placed here under house arrest by his son after he become ill. He is said to have died in one of the palace towers which overlooks the Taj Mahal. 

A very early 5.30am start for the sunrise at the Taj Mahal (750 rupees, £7.50) was next on the agenda. We arrived even before the ticket counter had opened, there was no way we were missing this! After waiting eagerly for the doors to open and walking what felt like an eternity through the security checks and pretty gardens, we were finally met with this epic wonder of the world! It felt kind of surreal being there as it is such a sceptical. We had to pause for a few minutes just to pinch ourselves. It wasn't long before the site was filling up so we hurried along to take photographs before it got too crowded. 

The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum built in 1632- 1654 by Shah Jahan as a resting place for his late wife. We were asked to remove our shoes before walking on the marble, which we enjoyed as it felt more sacred. Inside the mausoleum itself there is a replica of the tomb (the actual one is underground and is closed to the public) and the walls are covered in Islamic calligraphy messages. Shah Jahan himself was later buried here next to his wife after his death. We were lucky enough to step right inside the mausoleum as we got there very early, however we heard you can expect to queue for up to 2 hours just to enter the building at around midday. After wandering around the site for around 3 hours we decided to just sit and watch as the sun rose and reflected off the white marble, changing its colour from pink to orange. It wasn't long before our tummies started rumbling, so we headed back to our hotel for some yummy breakfast. 

Here are our favourite pictures from our time in Agra:

Travelling like locals in the deadly rickshaws.. *Note Jack in the mirror*
Agra Fort

The rumoured place of Shah Jahans' death
Cute paraquet
The Taj Mahal
Heeeey Spicy Mermaids!

Our honorary Happy Wanderers :)
Sarah modelling Jack's 'man bag' (which was pink..)

Mermaid Temple!
Within 24 hours of being in India..
.. we all had henna!

Happy Wanderers 

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