At the Taj Mahal

Trip Start Sep 03, 2006
Trip End Jul 21, 2007

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Saturday, November 4, 2006

Another entry in French written by Vero, Patrick's sister who joined us for almost 1 month in India...There's a bit of English at the bottom if you scroll down.

By Veronique

A part le Taj, le Fort et les traces de l'empire Mogolhs, Agra n'a pas d'intérêt en soi. La ville est sale et sans aucun charme. Heureusement nous avons fait notre dernier jour avec Saleem, guide et conducteur de rickshaw du jour. Les conducteurs de rickshaw assaillent les touristes dès leur arrivée et il faut être patient et persévérant pour les écarter. Nous avons tenu 2 jours et abdiqué le troisième. Mais sans regret. Cela a rendu Agra plus vivant, non pas d'un point de vue historique, bien au contraire, mais pour le contact avec Saleem, habitant d'Agra. A savoir sa conduite de taré, sa passion pour le cricket, les coins touristiques que nous n'avons pas eu à chercher (mausolée d'Akbar le Baby Taj...) et les coins moins touristiques comme la vue du Taj au clair de lune sur la terrasse de son cousin. Les inconvénients étaient de ne jamais être tranquille, même pas pour le repas de midi et de devoir déjouer les magasins où il voulait nous emmener pour se faire sa commission. Sacré Saleem, sacré phénomène. Sympa, mais on continuera sans guide!

Agra, the town you so want to leave...
By Saoyuth and Patrick

The southern part of our trip is finished, it's time to see the Taj Mahal and Vanarasi, in the north of the country. 45 hours. That's what it takes the Kerala Express to get to Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal. Veronique could not have travelled that far not to see it! The train trip passes by pretty quickly, as it's comfortable (AC-3tiers class), our neighbours are nice, and there is always food and drinks, "chai chai chaiiii, coffee coffee coffeeeeeee" (call of the tea and coffee sellers), or something happening to keep you busy.

Agra is not a very pleasant city... actually, it's even pretty bad! But, there is indeed something worth going there: The Mughals monuments, and of course the most famous one, the Taj Mahal, symbol of love as they say here in India. It's actually a mosoleum dedicated to the first wife of the emperor Shah Jahan who died in birthchild. Both husband and wife are now buried inside.

It's not the best time of year to see the Taj as there is a lot of mist preventing the sun light to hit the monument at sunrise and sunset, when it's supposed to be at its best, but it was beautiful anyway. A lot of tourists, many of them Indians, and everybody willing to take the same picture: from the central basin with the Taj in the background! Who can blame them, it's a wonderful sight! Indians pay 20 rupies to get in and foreigners, 700 rupies! Ouch!!!

Agra's red fort is worth visiting as well. It's an impressive building made of red sandstone and the palace inside is really nice.We also visited Akbar mausoleum,  and that was quite an adventure as we got stuck in the worst traffic jam we have seen. Apparently an accident took place 30 km ahead, so all the trucks were stopped, their drivers sleeping underneath them, all other vehicles trying to scoot thru them... our auto-rickshaw among them. Thanks god our driver was very talented in the art of finding a way where there is none and we managed to see the mausoleum and its park full of monkeys and deers.

If Agra didn't have the Taj, no doubt that no one would want to set foot here as the pollution, the noise, traffic jams and touts make it a miserable place to visit. A few days later we are happy to leave the mess and traffic jams for Varanasi, the holly city by the Ganges where all Indians wish to die. Another polluted and noisy place, but a surprising one.
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