Last weekend we finally were in Agra. The entire time, Agra was the most important destination for me here in India. The reason is the Taj Mahal, which is located in Agra. As mentioned in the post on Jaipur ‘Mahal’ means palace. In Jaipur I saw the Hawa Mahal (Place of Winds) and Jal Mahal (Water Palace). In Agra the Taj Mahal means nothing less than ‘Crown of the Palace’. Although the name sounds big it still does not do justice to the Taj Mahal’s mind-blowing beauty.
The journey to Agra was an experience in itself. We started Friday evening 23.45 pm in Chandigarh by bus and arrived at 5.30 am in Delhi at the interstate bus terminal. There, we searched for the correct bus terminal to go to Agra. Delhi is a bit bigger and therefore has several bus terminals. The first rickshaw we took was a bad experience. These guys just wanted to drive us to some shops instead of the bus terminal. They had not even considered, that the shops they brought us to, were still closed at that time. After some heavy arguments they at least brought us to the central train station. Plus, we did not pay anything.
The long way to Agra
Next to the central train station we bought tickets with some travel agency that looked ok. They advertised they would go to Agra with luxury coaches. The coach they had indeed looked much better than the public buses. However, when we entered the coach, there was no place to sit anymore. It was heavily overbooked. Thus, we wanted our money back. Several discussions later we had it back. After this second disappointment, we decided to go back to the original plan and looked for the public transport bus terminal, where the buses to Agra leave. Finally, at around 8 am we left for Agra in a public bus. At around 1 am we arrived in Agra. As you might expect, everybody was exhausted.
The fight against Pollution
Agra itself was not as annoying as many travelers had told us before. Maybe we just got too used to it. The hotel where we stayed, was only 50 meters away from the entrance to the Taj Mahal. It was very quiet during the day, because only electric cars are allowed in a closed area around the Taj Mahal. The idea is, that the air will not get too polluted. Generally, this is a really good idea. However, I doubt, that a 50 meters corridor outside the walls of the Taj Mahal complex will make much of a difference.
Meeting the Boss of the Agra Fort
Saturday afternoon we still visited the Agra Fort. I started a long discussion with the guards about the entrance fee. They were definitely not amused, but in the end this discussion brought me the Fort boss. With him I agreed personally, that we only have to pay the Indian entrance fee. This is not even a tenth of the fee for foreigners. Actually, we ‘residents’ have a form from one of the Indian authorities, which officially allows us to get in for local fees everywhere. Nevertheless, most of the time one has to be pretty persistent. Meanwhile I am already practiced and tell them that this is Indian law and otherwise they break the law and I call the police. Is it true? I do not know, but threatening to call the police always makes an impression.
Taj Mahal at Sunrise
Unfortunately, it was not possible to get in at the Taj Mahal for Indian prices the next day. Besides, I was not in the mood to discuss a lot at 6 am in the morning either. Hence, we quickly paid 40 times the Indian price. Apart from that, the Taj Mahal was so impressive that it was definitely worth the entrance fee! I have rarely seen anything as mind-blowing as this. Since we were there before sunrise, we could observe the play of colors at the Taj Mahal very well.
Blown away by architectural Beauty
Depending on the incidence of light, the Taj Mahal appeared in different colors, which does not come across very well in the pictures. Anyway, we were there for four hours, because we were all blown away. I think all of us took hundreds of pictures. It was simply breathtakingly beautiful! However, only from the outside, from the inside it is not so special. If you ever have the possibility, do not think twice or hesitate and visit the Taj Mahal!
Visit at a Slum School
This Tuesday morning I joined Esther and visited the slum school where she works as a volunteer. I also taught the children a bit, which was not that easy, because my Hindi is rather limited. Nevertheless, it was good enough to teach two little kids why 38 + 43 is not 711. I really enjoyed the time at the slum school. It was very impressive by what means and under what conditions the very poor children are taught here. After they overcame their initial shyness, I was surrounded by a huge crowd of children all the time.