Trip Start Jun 21, 2009
Trip End Jun 25, 2009

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Flag of India  , Uttar Pradesh,
Monday, June 22, 2009

On the night of 21st, we arrived in Agra. The first part where we went through was old part of Agra. I thought it was just like an Indian city I had expected as a tourist. To tell you the truth, I would have visited Old Delhi, if I had had time, because I thought of it as the most charactaristic Indian city. In fact, we just followed our Indian guide during our stay in India except early-morning walks around the hotels. So we had no choice to travel freely as a matter of course. That is a disadvantage of joining a tour, but this time, I was with my mom, who speaks only Japanese, so I accepted the disadvantage as I had estimated. However, our guide was a good Japanese speaker and a great conversationist, and I was glad to see my mam happy in talking with him and I also learned a lot of things from him. I couldn't complain.

(This long paragraph has nothing to do with Agra travel. Skip it if you don't like.)
After I came back to Japan, one of my coworkers underestimated a guided tour. In my opinion, the guided tours have advantages and disadvantages, but she couldn't understand. Japanese tourists, especially middle-aged and old Japanese tourists, tend to take a guided tour when they travel abroad, because they don't speak English, but they do have money. They just travel from one tourist sight to another. They can't get into the crowd of natives, eat the authentic native foods, and haggle the price of street venders, because they are protected  by tourists guides during the day. At night, they stay in a luxurious hotels without any inconveniences. So they can travel without speaking even a single word to the natives of the destinations. In other words,their travels means just "sight hopping". After they come back to Japan, however, they seemed relieved and satisfied, saying "I found out again that Japan is the best country!". How stupid Japanese people! They don't even compare and understand the differences between Japan and the country they visit and how can they say "Japan is the best!".  I am tired of that kind of country fellows or amaturish tourists.  

On the night, we had Chinese dinner at the multi-cuisine restaurant Taj Mahal. The dishes were Chinese, maybe Indian-Chinese, because they were made for Indians with spices. Generally speaking, Indian restaurants don't have many guests. We saw few groups of guests in all the good restaurants we stopped by even in the time for meals. That's why they have to serve drinks for high prices. In a restaurant, I paid 130 rupees, or 3 USD, for "a can of orange juice" and another 60 rupees for a bottled water. By the way, the guide had me checked up on the unopened cap of the bottle. It should be a basic rule, when you travel in the developing countries, but I totally forgot it in the safe tour with a reliable guide.

Our hotel, which was close to the restaurant, was Mansignh Palace with 5 star rating. The hotel was good with a clean room, a swimming pool, a good restaurant, and some souvenior shops, but I don't know the rate for a room of this hotel, so I can't rate it. At least, we had almost no problem but a lack of shampoos and disposal razers.

On the next morning, I walked around the area, looking for stray bulls. I suppose they are a feature of Indian cities, because  you may see some bulls in the countryside of some countries, but not in the cities but of India. Delhi has more than 16 million population and Agra more than 2 million. It is difficult to imagine that such big cities have bulls in the middle of cities. Luckily, I encountered some bulls strolling along a street or eating breakfast in a garbage collection point. Bulls are a sacred animal and the vehicle of the Destroyer Shiva, so Hindus never eat beef. I saw a lot of bulls during our travel and took a lot of pictures of them. While I was strolling around the hotel, an auto-rickshaw driver talked me into going to a market. It was an attractive offer, but I didn't have time. Besides, I was not sure he would really take me to the market and, or rather, there was a large possibility to take me to a marble factory and to make me buy souveniors there. This is a kind of scams I often encounter when I travel alone in developing countries.

The first destination of the day was Taj Mahal. We had to change vehicles on our way to Taj Mahal because of the vehicle restriction of the area. We took a minibus, but somehow we still had to walk for a few minutes. Going through a security check at the gate, we headed for Taj Mahal, passing by some photographers selling pictures of Taj with us. As a matter of course, we had a camera and didn't have a reason to buy them, although some Japanese who were carried away might buy them, because Indian rupee is much weaker than Japanese yen. As I had expected, there were some tourists taking a picture of "pinching the top of Taj Mahal". I should have taken a picture of "the toiurists". The tomb was great, when I thought of it as a tomb, but if it was just a mosque, it would not be so impressive. To enter the marble tomb, you have to get off your shoes. When we tried to get on the platform, an Indian working there told us to come to him, and then he wore shoe covers on our shoes and asked for a tip. It was a kind of trick or scam in my words. Honestly, I hate the annoying tipping system anytime in India. After that, someone inside of the tomb tried to give us some information on Taj Mahal, but we ignored him, because I knew he would ask for money later. When I travel with a guide, we are likely to forget about scams of developing countries. So we have to be careful and the best way is to ignore the natives.

Mughal Warriors Taj Mahal Construction Specification History Video
You can learn about the construction of Taj Mahal and "Black Taj" in ten minutes. The black Taj Mahal was said to be a mausoleum of the king who built Taj Mahal. An archaeologist revealed the secret of Black Taj in this video. The latter half of the video is a must-watch.
The view of the river and Agra Fort from the back of Taj Mahal was excellent. There were a lot of bulls bathing in the river. We may have spent more time at the back than in the tomb. I believed that Taj Mahal was one of the must-see spots of Asia as well as the Great Wall of China and Angkor Wat of Cambodia. It was a little bit shame that we didn't need much time to see. 

Taj Mahal
See the details of the mausoleum in the video. 
After leaving Taj Mahal, we made a visit to Agra Fort. The fort was impressively huge, when I passed by it on the previous day. The entrance was also awesome, but the inside was similar to other palace ruins and not surprising to me anymore. Until I caught the view of Taj Mahal from the fort, I didn't realize that the fort I saw from the back of Taj Mahal was this one. According to our guide, we toured only a half of the fort, but I thought it was enough for us. There are some noisy venders surrounding us in front of the gate. They tried to sell an Indian photo book, but I took so many photos in India and they are more precious than the photo book.

Agra Fort Video
The video works like an audio-visual guide. UNESCO seems to like videos like this.
Then the guide asked us if we wanted to visit marble factory as scheduled. In fact, I knew the indication of the strange question. I had read a blog written by a Japanese tourist and it said that all the taxi drivers of Inidia took him to a marble factory, although he asked them to take him to a different destination. He got almost under house arrest in the factorys and borthered by marble gift sellers. The blog was interesting to me, so I wanted to try it, although I knew the factory was boring, because I thought we were safe with the trustworthy Indian guide. After 5 minutes introduction of the process to produce a marble gift, we were invited to the shop in the back. Behind a showcase, a clerk asked us what color I like and, interestingly, that was the exactly the same question the blog writter had. They didn't ask me which one I liked or what I was interested in. We just said we didn't buy anything and left there. By the way, they sereved us free Coke and orange juice, which quenched our thirst. I believe they were safe, because they were served in a tour, but sometimes it is difficult to believe the favors of natives especially in developing countries. 

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Chandrakant Bodke on

What ever blogger has written is unfotunatly true & it is shamfull on our people in india who do not cooperate with forign tourists.I did not understand why we people try to charge high price for forigners .In fact When I visited Paris to see Ifeltower we did not charged extra or more for ticket than france citizen. WeIn india must respect to tourists & protect them in all respect.

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