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Today was a early start to get to the Taj Mahal. It was also fairly overcast so we barely saw the blue to gold to white colour conversion. Still a cool effect to see. Photos really don’t do the place justice. I’ve seen quite a few photos over the years but the shear scale and detail just can’t be shown. There is a reason it’s one of the 7 Man Made Wonders of the World.

 

Sunrise at the Taj Mahal. Great way to start the day indeed.

A cool shot of the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 as a tomb to honor his queen and favourite wife Arjumand Bann Begum (or Mumtaz Mahal, meaning Elect of the Palace). She died giving birth to their 14th child. It took 23 years and 20 000 workers to build. There are Persian style Char Bagh gardens that lead up to the tomb. At sunrise the colours change from misty blue to pink, gold and finally bright blinding white. Sits on a marble platform with a marble minaret at each corner. They actually lean out slightly so they won’t fall on the main structure in the event of an earthquake. Each face has a giant arch and incredible decoration. Has perfect symmetry. Made out of white marble and lapis lazuli. The King intended to build its duplicate in black marble on the other side of the river for himself but was imprisoned by his 3rd son and it never happened. One interesting fact we find incredulous, on the left side as you face the river is a Mosque for the workers who built the place. But to maintain symmetry they built a second identical building on the right. I’m talking 4 stories and 20 000 square feet at least. It has no purpose and was never used! One must keep things symmetrical I suppose.

After visiting the Taj Mahal we went back to the hotel for breakfast. There aren’t many choices of decent hotels in Agra but we’re staying at the cheaper of the two. The Oberoi has views of the Taj Mahal but at $600USD per night starting rate, we elected to stay at the Wyndham. The Wyndham was orignally built as an Oriental Taj, meaning very high end. The construction is absolutely beautiful. While pretty there were a few oddities that really show that just because it’s pretty, doesn’t make it good. The shower would randomly change temperatures with no warning. The drain was very slow. I was shin deep in water by then end of my shower. The wifi registration process was extremely odd. You logged in, shared your IP. They made a call to someone, registered my MAC address (each device that uses IP networks has a unique MAC) and after re loggin in you are able to connect. Very labour intensive for a usual automated process. It eventually worked but it was extra stress we didn’t need the night before after being up early and a very long hot drive.

After breakfast we went back out to tour the Agra Fort. It is a walled city built by the Mughals (although a fort has stood here since at least the 11th century). Originally built of brick, the current fort is made of red sandstone. The Delhi Gate faces the city on the western side of the fort. The inner gateway (Hathi Pol) is guarded by two life-sized elephant statues with their riders. Tourists can’t enter by this gate, as the Indian military still uses part of the fort.

Monkeys are everywhere.

So are the Rose Ringed Parakeets.

Then it was off to Akbar’s Tomb. It’s an important Mughal architectural masterpiece, built 1605–1613, technically it is in Sikandra, just outside of Agra.

This is just the front gate!

He built an additional 9 rooms for future rulers to be buried here. His kids didn’t like that idea and they all built their own. Darn kids!

After an amazing lunch of chicken tikka (best I’ve ever had) we headed off to the “Baby Taj”. Except there was a thunder storm. Which brought rain. Monsoon rains. So after sitting at the entrance wondering if it would stop, we elected to shop for a bit and wait it out. Kris found another shirt and some more tea. Generally we were killing time. By then the rain had stopped to just occastional showers. We can handle that no problem. Back to the Baby Taj it is.

The rain.

Tomb of I’tmad-ud-daulah is the “Baby Taj” or “jewel box”. Built between 1622 – 1628 and often regarded as a draft for the Taj mahal. Mirzā Ghiyās Beg was the grandfather of Mumtāz Mahāl. He was given the title I’tmad-ud-daulah or pillar of the state. Yes it’s as hard to say as spell. I guess why “Baby Taj” has stuck so well.

The insides were very well preserved. Way better than most other things. It’s because it’s on the “wrong” side of the river. People didn’t used to like to live on the left side of the river. So no people, no damage.

This was the end of our day so it was time to say good bye to our guide Rabeen and for Bhagawat to take us to the train station. We said our good byes to Bhagawat who was simply amazing. We certainly lucked out with him.

The train station is pure India. Tons of noise, dirt and of course people. We figured out where our train car would land and we waited. And we were watched. Apparently locals aren’t used to tourists taking the train. Now we know why. There are several classes of passenger. The lowest you can buy is apparently Luggage Class. Not sure that is real class but where luggage was marked, there were people. There are signs not to ride on the roof because of low hanging bridges! Next level up is Second Class. Think an empty box car with windows. Then fill with about 400 people. There is also Sitting Class, which means you get a seat. Still 300 plus per car built for 150. We had First Class. Thank goodness we did. Our room (all to ourselves!) was about 10 deep by 5 feet wide. Had a really uncomfortable bunk/sofa thing, a nasty looking sink and not much else. This is First Class? I guess it’s all relative.

The quiet part of the station.

Our room

This car in North America would not be in service. Thank goodness for sleeping pills!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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