Monday, October 02, 2006

Trip To Agra

I was looking forward to my trip to Agra on 1st October 2006, as mentioned in one of my previous posts, but it did not start off as smoothly as expected .. but All's Well That Ends Well... what do you say ?

To start off. .we had to catch a train from Hazrat Nizzamudin Station at 7:15 in the morning. We were in the station at around 6:40 AM, but to our shock and dismay the parking was full well before we reached there (and it took more than 15 mins as we were stuck in a traffic jam, outside the parking area). Somehow we managed to park the outside the dhaba requesting the dhaba owner to take care of it (not too sure whether we would be able to see the car again in the evening…;-)

The train journey was comfortable enough and probably one of the aspect of the whole trip for which I cannot complain. In my past few trips have noticed, that Indian Railways are definitely improving. Love Laalu or hate him, but I sincerely believe that he has been doing a great job.

As soon as we got down in the station I bumped into one of my good friends, who was also in town for a day tour of Agra, so now we had to take a cab which could accommodate 6 people instead of 4. Unluckily we got so phyced out by the greedy taxi drivers into believing that no cab in Agra is allowed to carry more than 4 passengers, be it an Indica or Qualis (I still can’t believe that I believed this stuff.). Anyways we had to part ways and took 2 different cabs( we took a pre paid Qualis for 950 bucks, more about that later) to start a day long journey into the histories Agra city.

Next we started off to Fatehpur Sikri to witness the two great piece of architectures of the Mughals, the Fathehpur and the Sikri. I was really awestuck by the beauty of the places. We took a guide for 100 bucks, which was really worth it. We also put a “chadar” at the “dargah” and tied threads so that for our “mannats”. The best part of this place were small kids reciting cool “shers” in exchange for 5 or 10 Rs. This thing was real cool…
(Pic 1 - Fatehpur - Palaces of one of the queens , Pic -2 -The parrots here supposedly had diamonds embedded in their heads. As per the guide Britishers took away each of these diamonds, which can be seen in the photographs.)
(Pic -1 – This is where Tansen used to sing a Raag, now I am doing the needful ;-). Pic -2 – All of us outside the dargah).
(The Buland Darwaaza)
Next, our destination was The Agra Fort. By this time the sun was as it’s maximum was we were a bit too tired, hence could not enjoy this place much. This place is gem of a beauty and the best part was the view of the ‘Great Taj Mahal” from this Agra Fort. Another important part of this fort is the underground tunnel which links this fort with the Red Fort in delhi (Unfortuenately this is blocked now, so all of you who were thinking of taking this way instead by road , rail or by air ..s orry)

(Pic-1 The view of Taj Mahal from the Agra Fort. Pic -2 The Diwan-e-aam at the Agra Fort)
(Still some gold is visible on the pillars of Diwan-e-aam. Another important point about this Diwan-e-aam is that it was constructed in such a way , that a drop of a pin could be heard several hundreds of feet away.)

Next we headed for lunch at Dasaprakash (food was awesome, but the service was pathetic. Nothing took them less than 15 mins, from bringing a glass of water to serving ice cream. The only thing which they managed to do a little faster was to get the cheque) and got the third jolt of out trip – our cab was missing and all of a sudden we were given an Indigo without any intimation. We were furious, but had to cool down as we had no other option at that time (as it was already 4 courtesy Dasaprakash , and we had to reach the station latest by 6:30 after watching Taj mahal). So we headed for the Taj now. Reached the paschimi gate and the line was at least 500 metres long. “here goes out Agra trip” I thought. But suddenly I wass surrounded by guides, who told me they could get me in from some South Gate, which was a privileged gate for guides and didn’t had a big line. They were asking for a hefty price of 200 Rs. Finally I settled for 50 Rs and entered the Taj Mahal from the south gate. (I had to deposit my mobile in the south gate cloak room, but luckily the cameras were allowed).
Honestly “Taj Mahal” is an awesome place to be. What we have seen in movies, photographs is a lot different than the feeling which we get after actually visiting Taj. We were there for around 30 mins, also getting a customary photo of being larger than Taj or pushing one of the pillars;-)

Next, we headed back to the station. Had a fight with the pre paid taxi people (who paid us back 100 Rs, which we had been overcharged). Boarded the train back to Delhi and were happy enough to find our car in one piece. Paid the dhaba guys 50 bucks and headed back home. So this is all about my Tak trip. Some word of caution for people who are planning to go to Taj in the near future

· Never plan to park your car in Hazrat Nizzamudin station. Parking situation is really tricky there. It would be better if you use the auto.
· Try Shatabdi if you need a little more time in Agra. You would get approx 11 hours in Agra if you use Shatabdi both way compared to 8 hours you get by Taj Express.
· Never get physced out by the taxi people out there. Always pay whats printed on the board. They will try to insist that its an older board, but don’t come into this trap.
· Don’t forget a hat/cap, sunglasses and sun protection lotion.
· Avoid going in the summers. It gets too hot.

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