Our next two days in India were spent in Agra visiting the majestic Agra Fort and of course the Taj Mahal – with visits to the bazaar, street food stalls on the road, a lovely nature walk and the baby Taj in between. –
I was finally starting to get used to the constant chaos around us, an endless hum of background noise. I felt it defined the urban streets of India. Although I do remember thinking the evenings were more peaceful, our first night specifically. I remember how contrary the night was compared to what I had just been faced with. The hours of darkness were like a white noise, an almost deafening silence after experiencing so much clamour in the waking hours. – My opinion was put to bed when we were rudely awakened by road works outside at 4am. –
6th December 2013
We finally got up at 7:30am – even though we were wide awake in the early hours already by the noise of the road works outside – got ready and had breakfast: Omelette and chapati/toast. They actually had banana ketchup, BANANA KETCHUP! – I don’t know if any of you even know what that is, but growing up my mother would always have banana ketchup from the Philippines in our cupboard. – If you have never tried it and want to, because you will never have any other kind of ketchup again once you’ve tried this, really. Then check out this awesome recipe to make your own here by seriouseats.com. Or you can buy some Jufran Banana Sauce from online, but it’s imported and expensive so make your choice.
Rawat joined us for breakfast and then we made our way to our first stop of the day, Agra Fort! – If you didn’t read [Pt1] and weren’t introduced to the awesome Rajendra Rawat, check it out now. He is your man if you are looking for safe and affordable transport around Rajasthan and the Indian side of the Himalayas –Made of red-sandstone and white marble on the bank on the Yamuna River, Agra has one of the most exceptional Mughal forts in India. Also known as The Red Fort, it was built for the Emperor Akbar (1565) and modified by his grandson Shah Jahan in later years.
There are lots of Indian “Tour Guides” at places like this, some official – or actually knowledgable – and others just trying to get some easy dough. So just be careful who you decide to go with if you do end up getting one. Which if I am honest, for some places, would definitely recommend because it is nice to hear the history of places in a particular area. Especially from a clued up local. – Or at least a good story teller! –
Brad and I both decided we wanted a tour guide, being that it was our first real “tourist” experience at a pretty extravagant historical landmark. We spent most of the morning being escorted around the massive fort, stopping in peculiar places and having a brief snippet of the ancient history tied to this location.
One thing that blew me away and I really cannot stop mentioning – about all of the buildings we visited – was the intricate design and detail of the architecture. It was all extremely regal, the sophistication and majesty was evident everywhere in the fort and walking through it had my imagination running around in circles visualising it in ancient India.
There was a beautiful white pavilion located on the East side of the fort that faced the Jumna River and looked out towards the Taj Mahal. – If you stood back and looked at it from afar, the Taj would be framed by the embellished curved brackets and arches. –
Overall Agra Fort was a great source of history and insight into ancient India, I would highly recommend putting it on your hit list of places to visit when in the area.
After seeing the fort we took a trip to the local bazaar. – I was feeling a bit self-conscious walking around dressed as I was. – I wasn’t wearing anything particularly inappropriate. I wasn’t prancing around in hot pants or anything. It was pretty respectable – but I was finding it a bit difficult to get used to the incessant attention we were getting as westerners in these parts of India.
We had lunch at a food stall on the side of the road and I had my first experience of a famous street food known in North India as “Aloo Tikki”. Aloo (Potato) Tikki (Croquette) is essentially a deep fried potato patty served with yoghurt, tamarind sauce, spices, green chillies etc… – If you are a carb lover you will probably die and go to heaven! –
Here’s a video for those of you who were interested in knowing how it was made and what it looked like! (Can you hear the relentless honking? Haha I just love it.)
I can’t say I was at all used to the chilly heat yet. – I never liked any sort of spice before India – I didn’t understand why anyone would enjoy being unable to taste their next bite, have watering eyes, a runny nose and ring sting in the morning. I just didn’t get it.
In fact I have strong memories of a man sat next to us on a side street restaurant crying and sweating from the handful of chillies he gobbled up with his meal. But as the saying goes, “When in Rome…” I went in all guns blazing, ate fresh green chillies, asked for the food as it came and before I knew it I was hooked to the chilly high and could ACTUALLY taste flavour beyond the heat and spice. Not straight away of course, it took a couple of weeks of torture but my taste buds eventually reached the next level.
We had a wander around the area some more, bought myself a nice colourful scarf so I could walk around comfortably and not feel any wandering eyes on me. Brad was loving the amount of classic Vespa mopeds everywhere. Having one ourselves back in the UK it really brought a piece of home to us hearing the exhausts bumble up and down the streets.
After lunch we went for a nature walk which was extremely pleasant and to my surprise so so peaceful and romantic. In India it is not common for men and women to show public displays of affection. Kissing and hugging is seen as taboo, although same sex physical contact is allowed. Having said this though, I do feel that PDA between men and women is sort of becoming more prevalent in these modern times.
We enjoyed the view of the truly awe-inspiring Taj Mahal from many different view points. – I have to admit, I thought it was gonna be a massive waste of money on first impressions as all I saw was concrete! –
The next monument we visited was the mini Taj, which was a tomb mausoleum built by the Queen of Jahangir as a memorial for her father and was the first tomb in India to be made entirely of marble. The detailed Islamic architecture is very similar to that of the Taj Mahal itself which is what deems it “The Baby Taj”.
When we were there, a video shoot was taking place at the far end of the gardens but unfortunately we were unable to take a peek. – No chance of being an extra for a Bollywood film that time…. –
Finally, we finished off our day of sight seein and were driven by Rawat to some gardens behind the Taj Mahal known as “Sunset Point”. – We really were so lucky to have Rawat taking us to these places, or else we would have missed them completely! – The view was spectacular and the perfect way to end such a wonderfully eventful day.
Unfortunately it was a bit misty so the sky wasn’t as colourful as we anticipated but it was breath taking none the less.
And so our next stop would be the magnificent Taj Mahal.