An exciting breakfast of dry toast and plain omelette prepared us for our train to Agra. Again the train was great, I did have to kick an old man off my bunk (apparently day time trains the bottom bunk is used as seats for all in the carriage but Jess and I needed our space! Plus his wife was hogging the other bottom bunk where, if the rule is true, Jess was supposed to sit).
Agra is of course famous for the Taj Mahal. Whilst researching we found out that there is nothing else to do there and the town itself is looked upon negatively by a lot of travellers. It seems every place we go to has a reputation of being ‘dirty’, ‘busy’, ‘noisy’ and people seem to think each place is worse than the last, which usually fills us with dread. But so far, every town we’ve been to has been no worse than the last, yes they have all been dirty, busy and noisy but no more than the rest of the country!
We jumped into a Tuk Tuk to take us to our hostel, ‘Joeys Hostel’. We’d splashed out for a nice room with ‘Taj views’ and were pleasantly surprised to find our room was as advertised! The view was slightly obstructed by metal poles on the windows and a metal cage outside the door (the reasons for which we found out in the morning!) but you could definitely see the Taj in all its glory. Once out of the cage and onto the roof terrace the view was stunning.
We decided it was time to see the wonder for real. Our hostel was so close to the east gate that we were there before we realised it, literally a 3 minute walk. We paid our entrance fee, got our free water and shoe protectors and refused all the merchandise sellers. I have to say, I was awestruck with the size and beauty of it. My opinions of Indian temples and monuments so far hasn’t been very high (except for the Golden temple in Amritsar). Most are unkept, dirty, collapsing, etc but the Taj was stunning and shining. One of the pillars did have scaffolding on it but it looked liked some classic Indian cleaning was taking place on that scaffolding (whipping surfaces with a cloth - just to clarify, yes WHIPPING, not wiping!).
We wandered around the grounds, in which the fountains were turned on with lots of birds bathing in them and chipmunks running around. Then we went into the Mausoleum, the first thing that struck me was how big it was! The whole thing is massive and made out of beautiful, detailed, ornate marble slabs. There was a very strict no photography rule for inside but of course no one took any notice, most of the people there were Indian and they do love to not follow rules. However, we showed some respect to the rules and to the two people buried there.
After the Taj we headed back to our hostel for some food, we hadn’t eaten much over the last couple days and were being cautious of Indian food so some soup and pasta sufficed. Then to bed!
Jess got up super early to watch the sunrise over the Taj from the hotel roof terrace, and dragged me along too - we both agreed it was fairly underwhelming as the cloud coverage meant the sky slowly turned from darker grey to light grey, with no actual sun to speak of. However, there was a very exciting half hour when a massive troupe of monkeys tore through the neighbourhood and ransacked the roof terrace, eating leftover curry and knocking over beer bottles to drink the beer - they were like us on a night out!
Today was a Friday. The Taj Mahal is closed on a Friday and we had a night train at 8pm. This meant we had a whole day in Agra (the place where the only thing to do is the Taj) but we can’t go back to the Taj.
Sooooo… we chilled out, blogged, bought more medicine and finally went for a walk. The walk was nice, there were no tourists, shops were closed, no hustle and bustle. We saw some kids playing crickets in the street, we walked past some small towns / slums with views of the Taj and saw some birds.
The train station was full of monkeys, lots sitting on a statue of a train, which was fun! We found the right platform and waited. A lady approached us to confirm she was on the right platform, she was taking the same train so we confirmed. She then proceeded to tell us her story of travelling alone in India and it didn’t sound much fun! So much of a hassle that she bought a fake wedding ring to show men she was married. She got fleeced at a travel agency, like us, but for $2000 and she couldn’t wait to go home! It sounded awful so we told her to keep in touch in Varanasi and we’ll do some stuff together!
The train arrived, we both had opposing top bunks, we promptly passed out and awoke just before our stop! One of the best night's sleep we’ve had in India!