Up at the crack of dawn ready for our early departure to Agra. What Indian breakfast dish was waiting for us this morning... Pakora or what I would like to call it ' deep fried, battered vegetable sandwich' Tasty!! With bags packed and the hotel room paid for we drove out into the Monday morning rush hour. All was going smoothly until an emergency pit stop was needed... When you gotta go, you gotta go! We managed to cause a mini traffic jam since obviously it's not everyday you see one white girl running into the bushes, with two others following behind with baby wipes and sarongs. With spontaneous toilet stops out of the way we headed onward.
The remainder of the 4 hour journey was quite uneventful, apart from spotting a mother breastfeeding her baby on a moped and when our driver nearly ran over a family of 3.
Once we arrived in Agra, we just thought we were in another small village, but low and behold a seventh wonder of the world was somewhere within walking range. There were certainly no signs... Hmmm this could be a problem once we are driving our rickshaw.
There are two tourist attractions in Agra and as we set off to see the first one - the fort of Agra, we picked up our local tour guide. The surrounding walls of the fort are an intense reddy, orange colour, but once you walk into the heart of the fort the living quarters are made of smooth, white marble. Within the fort there is a mixture of architecture due to the emperor being Muslim and his favourite wife was Hindu. The emperor did not try to force his beliefs on his favourite wife, hence the combination of religions is evident in the fort with temples and mosques sharing the same grounds. Although I'm sure the 300 mistresses helped alleviate any martial tension. One of the emperors favourite games was Indian chess. To play, the mistresses would find their places on the human sized board game and were used as the playing pieces. Good play, Mr Hugh Hefner of the 1600's.
In anticipation we made our way to one of the seven wonders of the world - the Taj Mahal. In the heat of the afternoon we made our way to the old VIP entrance, which wasn't nearly as full as we expected. Within a couple of minutes we had made it through the metal detectors and had our bags checked. The view from the main gateway was impressive and as we gradually walked through the entrance, more and more of the Taj was revealed until the temple and its 4 pillars could be seen. As the sun set and the light rays peeked through the cloud covered sky, the marble of the dome twinkled at us. One thing that surprised me was the marble wasn't as white as I expected, but more creamy. However, in reality how could I fault a seventh wonder of the world which had been built so intricately and with such precision over 400 years ago.
Our guide was not only informative but very skilled at taking the typical photo of tourists holding the Taj. This did lead into a mini photo shoot at multiple locations around the grounds. As we made our way into and around the Taj Mahal, from the other side of the river you could see the foundations of the black Taj Mahal the emperor intended to build opposite, for himself. However this never eventuated due to the price and limited availability of black marble many centuries ago.
It was at this point out guide gave us time to take pictures and enjoy the view of such a grand and majestically built architecture. However, this was the perfect time for the locals to approach us for photos... How could we resist a group of 5 little Indian ladies old enough to be our nannas, which then lead into uncles and aunties and finally the young boys bold and brave enough to join in. Next time we are charging rupees!! ;)
As the sun began to set on the horizon we made our way back to the entrance, where we turned back to give the Taj Mahal a final farewell. Now... Time to fill our bellies with more delicious Indian food. At our request the driver found us a restaurant the locals would eat in. When he drove us down a dark alley and parked the car in a badly lit construction site, we were a tad wary of where he was taking us, but within 30 paces we laid our eyes upon the greenest patch of grass and a cute little table and four chairs planted in the middle. Immediately a gorgeous little girl with a beaming smile came out of the restaurant asking how she could help us. Before we knew it we had reserved the only outdoor table and ordered an array of new Indian dishes to try. The overall review at the end of the meal was 2 thumbs up from all of us!! 👍👍