Trip Start May 12, 2005
Trip End May 14, 2006

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Flag of India  ,
Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Home of the taj mahal...

"hello my want; rickshaw, smoke, cold water/coke/lime soda, film, chai, change money, indian helicopter, guide, postcard, fish, banana, whip, shine shoe, auto-rickshaw, etc, etc, etc"...we had been worded up about the hassle in Agra; wasn't as bad as we expected, but some very persistent touts and rickshaw wallahs. Our train arrived a couple of hours late from varanasi...made our way to the guesthouse, had a squizz at the taj from the rooftop.... a quick bite to eat and then a snooze... In the afternoon, got a rickshaw (tried to take us to the wrong place and rip us off) to the Agra fort...apparently the biggest in India. Took a guide, for a minute sum, and Abdullah was very professional and knowledgable. Large parts of the fort's grounds are under control of the army...but got to see plenty of interesting things anyway. Some beautiful marble and sandstone structures, great views over to the Taj and interesting little tid-bits like; in the summer palace area the walls have a cavity between them which was irrigated to keep this building cooler..... there is a great balconey overlooking an open area inside the fort's walls..big stone water tanks in this area were filled with alcohol...big elephants drank the booze, got a little bit fighty, and this was all viewed from the elephant fighting balconey...

Clare picked up a cold on the train..mark recieved the cold from clare and we both felt pretty flat for a couple of days. Decided just to rest up in Agra and get well again...but did a few more of the sights. As mentioned, our ghouse rooftop had great views over the taj and we had a beer up here on the first night (first beer in over a week, they are pricey in india) and watched the monkeys frolic along the rooftops. Had our washing hanging out and one brave monkey tried on a pair of mark's jocks as a makeshift hat...musn't have agreed with him cause he threw them onto the ground fairly promptly.

Mark walked to the train station to extend our ticket to Jaipur, headed north of the tracks to the manic Kinoli bazzar. Hindu festival was kicking off that night and lots of technicoloured floats were being loaded with the last fluro lights and gadgets, children and women lined the rooftops (an indicator of the mahem to come?), camels were dressed up and people were pretty festive. Wound back through the market, stopped to have a cup of chai and attracted quite a crowd...but thats the way it goes here.... Very interesting and old bazaar; plenty more of them to see...

The Taj is closed on Fridays, so we went an visited the ornate "baby taj"....built on the other side of the river, much smaller than the taj, this is still a very impressive building with all the trimmings (inlaid precious stones and marble) and without the tourist hoards; highly recommended. From here we went and checked out the "back-view" of the taj, which would be nice at sunset...but we were buggered, this was a nasty bug we had picked up.....

Finally we got to the Taj itself, for something, and of course it defies superlatives and descriptions...just something ya gotta see really. Another easy day, playing an Indian game with similar rules to pool, played on a piece of plywood with checker like pieces...bit of fun...

Mad dash to the train station; no auto-rickshaws around at 5:30 in the morning and its quite a hike for a cycle-rickshaw driver with too big aussies and their packs; culminated in mark jumping out and pushing the rickshaw up the final hill to make it to the station by 6:12 (the train was scheduled to leave at 6:15); of course we spent the next 5 hours mulling around on the platform, watching monkeys do what monkeys do, people gazing, drinking chai and watching trains roll by. Our train ended up arriving in Agra AFTER it was supposed to arrive in Jaipur!!!! only in india....
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