Trip Start Sep 25, 2003
Trip End Apr 23, 2005

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Flag of India  ,
Friday, December 17, 2004

Abstract: Arrived late in Agra, had fun booking the next few weeks train tickets, went to Fatephur Sikri a 16th C abandoned palace and mosque, the the next day watched the Taj Mahal appear from the mists and fog..amazing...

Nitty Gritty: Our late arrival in Agra, caused by the 'wrong kind of fog', meant we didn't have as much time to book our tickets as expected. We had finalised our itinary for the next few weeks and were keen to book a circular ticket, which promised to save us some mony. After 30 minutes of being shoved from pillar to post, we were directed to a dusty room filled with litrally thousands of papers, thats were all the forms go we thought... and a sedate gentleman took our itinary off us and studied it at length. He then started planning our journey for us. It transpires that the shortest route has to be taken and it soon became clear that it would be a nightmare, lots of changing and odd times... So plan B was put into action and we were forced to book each journey (10 in all) seperately. Moreover, since one can only present one form (two trains) at a time we had to queue up 6 times... we got the tickets, but only after it was dark, we went to the prepayed booth (these take the headache out of the auto-rickshaw experience) and found our hotel. We were off to Fatehpur Sikri the next day and after a breakfast of omlette sandwich performed by a street vendor like a work of art we got on the bus... the 'ghost city' was built by the Mughals in 1571 but soon ran out of water and was abandoned, the Palace and mosque were fantastic, very atmospheric, wandere\ing round the palace courtyards and buildings... Later that night we found a spot serving whole deep-fryed 'tandoori' chickens, since we were starved of meat and since they were fryed in front of us we had first fish then chicken...yum !

We were visiting the Taj Mahal the following day and at 6.30 expectantly entered the compound after parting with 750 rp (its 20rp for the locals...hmm...) it soon became clear (not !) that the fog was going nowhere and so after viewing the stupendous inlay work and interior we where left to hungrily wait it out untill the mist 11am we began to get a view and by midday it was mostly clear...and wow, places such as this rarely live up to the hype, but the Taj definately does... truly a wonder, the shere size is one thing the translucent marble and colourful inlay all lend an unreal aweinspiring majesty to the building...

After a thali lunch where we ordered 4ths we were soo hungry (refills are free with thalis) we went off to the Itimad-ud-daulah or 'baby taj', the forerunner of the taj it was interesting as it was obviously a testing ground for the marble work... indeed some of it would rival that at the taj, not least because it is on a more accessible size and scale.

We had decided to unencumber ourselves of some more excess gear and headed to the postoffice for a lengthy but pleasant display of beurocracy 'gone mad' three counters later we were instucted to go round the back where we found the man responsible for customs, after two forms we passed our goods over to a woman who boxed, taped, wrapped in linen, sowed and finally wax sealled our package (two water bottles, some pajamas and a picture) then it was to another desk for weighing another for writting the labels and so on, one and a half hours later we left, but only after having to go back in with the chi wallah to share a tea with the customs man... charming, but if you ever want to send a package in India..allow plenty of time !

The following morning we were on the 6am train to Delhi and it was a 'pea-souper' the rickshaw driver used the force and I wasn't sure wether to shut my eyes and pray, or open them so I could brace for impact.
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