The final two days in India were pretty spectacular. After departing Jaipur for Agra (tourist trap hell according to the guide book) we stopped off for a couple of hours at another of India’s previous capital cities, Fattepur Sikri. Eventually abandoned due to a scarcity of water, we weren’t overly impressed with much here.
Thankfully Agra was not too far away, and so we met our next guide, Bilal, who took us to the city fort and spent most of the time asking us trick questions. By the time we got our first glimpse of the world famous Taj Mahal (from a distance) we were far more enthusiastic than we had been looking around at the comparatively plain FS.
Despite the praises I sang of the hotel in Jaipur, Agra managed to turn it up one last notch. This old colonial building, now the Grand Imperial, was built by the ‘Britishers’ as a hotel and has since been refurbished into it’s former glory, if not a little better. Although the resteraunt service was a little slow, the expansive rooms and palatial feel made up for it – even the rooms are named after notable Mughal emperors.
The next morning was a 5am start to catch sunrise at the Taj. Unfortuantely the grounds are locked until 6am, which meant the sun was well and truly risen by the time we made our way to the top of the famous reflective pools that surround the main building.
It really is impossible to put into words how stunning this building is. There is nothing vaguely similar in either western architecture or even colours that competes with the shear planes of Indian marble and the hundreds of thousands of individual precious and semiprecious stones that make up the Taj.
Immaculate, the building shows some signs of discolouration, but this has become less of a problem since all polluting vehicles have been banned from the immediate vicinity of the garden walls in recent years.
Built as a mausoleum to his dead wife, the Mughal emperor who built this entirely symmetrical building fully intended to build a matching ‘inverted-colour’ version on the other side of the river that runs alongside. This all-black construction would have cost considerabley more (black marble not being a local rock) and probably taking another 22 years to complete. His son (killjoy) decided this was just too much, and so locked his spendaholic father up in a specially built prision until his death 8 years later.
It is quite clear how this is one of the more famous wonders of the world.
After Taj Mahal it was a case of breakfast, then a brief stop at a marble factory to watch inlay work being done before taking the long ride back to Delhi.
We spent the afternoon walking around the city-central ‘circus’ of shops and boutiques known as Connaught Place. At one point we even played host to four random Indian English students who just wanted a bit of a chat, which was nice. Unfortunately we ran short of time on trying to catch another Bollywood film though.
Having spent a week in India eating curry every mealtime, it was only appropriate that our final dining out should be at a Chinese. Oh well.
A few hours later and I was on a plane back to the UK via Milan. Sam remains in Delhi for another day until her flight to Malaysia, while I spent the majority of today arranging my transport home from London.
I’ve enjoyed the whole four week break. I’m hoping to get some photos up sooner rather than later and also get some fresh clothes on the go.
It’s going to take couple of days to work through my in-tray.