Four Countries in 2 Weeks: Turkey, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and India
India Day 5 – Visiting the iconic Taj Mahal, Red Fort, and Fatehpur Sikri before a long drive to Jaipur. Having dinner at Chokhi Dhani then resting at the Trident Jaipur.
Today my friends and I were going to see one of the New7Wonders of the World as well as other sights around Agra. With so much to see, we had to have an early start.
Unfortunately I woke up with a bit of a sore throat, but Avdesh who had been waiting outside my door quickly came to the rescue with a cup of hot ginger tea.
We decided to tour the Taj before breakfast and met in the lobby at 7 a.m. Downstairs our guides were waiting for us with highly decorated horse carts provided by our hotel, the Trident Agra.
The overly ornate horse carriages were decorated with flowers and bright colors. Was someone getting married?
We rode to the Taj as our guides briefed us on the history and background. We found out that our guide actually acted in the movie Slumdog Millionaire playing the part of a guide for the Taj! How fitting!
As we neared the entrance, we had to walk and exited our carriages. Monkeys played on the roofs of the shops and peddlers approached us to sell their wares.
Besides the world wonder status, the Taj is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in 1632–1653 as a mausoleum for the third wife of the emperor Shah Jahan.
Our guides gave us great insights on the construction and architectural design of the Taj buildings. We saw the visual effects of how the size of the arabic writing looks the same from different perspectives and how walking backwards under the gate’s archway makes the whole Taj Mahal seem like it’s moving towards you. Incredible.
The inside of the Taj was also impressive with all the inlaid jewels and imported marble. Different gems glowed when a light was shone upon them.
Leaving the grounds, we turned around and took one last look at the iconic building to remember the day.
We had breakfast back at the hotel and the sous chef came out kindly suggested a they prepare some lunch for us on the road. What considerate service!
Before we checked out, we took a tour of the hotel grounds. Avdesh took us to see the gardens and the vegetable farm that provides all the vegetables for the hotel restaurant in order to insure the quality. We also met some feisty geese honking us out of their territory.
Our next stop was for a drink at the nearby The Oberoi Amarvilas, a sister hotel of Trident Agra. From the cafe balcony, there was a stunning view of the Taj Mahal and manicured gardens.
We went by another of Agra’s World Heritage sites, the Agra Fort. This walled city built in the 11th century was the site of many battles for territorial control. The Koh-i-Noor diamond, now set in the Crown of Queen Elizabeth, was once held here.
Then we drove to a nearby city, which is another World Heritage site. Started in 1569, Fatehpur Sikri was once the capital of the Mughal Empire.
On our arrival, we parked then walked through the typical shop area before boarding a van to take us up the hill.
The grounds we quite empty, which was a welcome change from the other sites of the day. We leisurely walked through exploring the royal palaces, a harem where the Akbar picked his courtiers, a mosque, and other buildings.
The architecture was especially interesting as we toured the buildings. There was an abundance of styles and designs mostly made for different religions of the inhabitants.
In the Jama Masjid mosque area, we were ravaged by the aggressive peddlers who were everywhere. They sought out and hung onto tourists until their pockets filled with rupees.
We left our guide and continued with our driver straight to Jaipur.
For dinner we stopped at the popular themed chain restaurant and amusement park.
On our entrance a young girl girl pasted a red dot on our forehead and blessed us. After paying and going through security, we were in the Rajasthani village.
There were different stations with either food, games, dancing, or some other activity. Kids rode camel in front of a small ferris-wheel. Traditional live music played in the background as we wandered through the surreal atmosphere looking for the dining area.
Costumed servers came around with different dishes and served us on our leaf plates. The food was quite good but it was a bit difficult to eat as we didn’t have cutlery.
After dinner we passed by the many weddings ceremonies taking up full lanes on the main streets. We saw horse and even elephants in the festive parades lit by a mobile generator. Apparently today was a very auspicious date to be married on, thus the many weddings.
We arrived at our hotel and checked in, well exhausted from the day. There was also a wedding taking place in the garden.
In our room we found a welcoming bottle of red, but we were too tired to partake in drinking it.
Udaipur was next on the menu.