India-ception – visiting Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal

Nicole and I woke up at the crack of dawn, or several hours before it, 5am to be exact and walked up the road to the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal East Gate was a few minutes walking distance from our hotel. We were two of probably the first hundred guests into the complex. It was nice to be able to wander around the Taj Mahal without several thousand people also doing the same thing. The Taj Mahal was really impressive in person. I felt like the Statue of Liberty and several other monuments just don’t hold up in person. You see them and think “it looked bigger in pictures”. The Taj Mahal was not the case. It was as impressive in pictures as it was to behold in person.

Taj Mahal

Catching up on Sleep

Nicole and I walked back to the hotel to get some rest. Unfortunately, when we returned to our room, we realized that we had locked the key in the room and we couldn’t unlock the padlock on the door. Yes, the hotel rooms were padlocked shut, that was their security procedure. Luckily, one of the hotel employees broke the lock for us and were able to get in, get our stuff, and get some rest for awhile. We had a small bite to eat at the hotel restaurant before meeting our rickshaw driver from the night before. He drove us to our next stop, Agra Fort.

Agra Fort

The fort wasn’t too far from our hotel and it was a short ride. Our rickshaw driver dropped us off and said he’d come back in about two hours. We wandered the fort grounds and got some great photos. Some form of the fort has existed in its present location since the 11th century, although its been rebuilt and added on to several times since then.

 Next Stop Park and Lunch

I said yesterday was the hottest day in India, but today takes the cake. It was sweltering. The high was 102*F and it felt like it. Nicole and I chugged water all day as much as we could and still felt hot. After the fort, we just wanted a place to get out of the heat and get a bite to eat. We stopped into a restaurant between the fort and the Taj Mahal for a bite to eat. The restaurant was on the ground floor of a hostel and it was filled with tourists like us escaping the midday heat. We enjoyed some curry and naan, although it wasn’t as good as the curry and naan from the restaurant below our AirBnB in Agra. An hour or so later, refreshed and no longer at the point of heat exhaustion, we took the rickshaw to the North bank of the Yamuna River to a garden called Mehtab Bagh.

Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah

Our last stop of the day was at Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, also known as the Baby Taj. The mausoleum is considered a draft of the Taj Mahal and represents the beginning of the second phase of Mughal architecture. It shows the transition from red sandstone in Humayun’s Tomb to white marble, best shown in the Taj Mahal.

Returning to Delhi

Nicole and I had an incredibly busy day of riding around in an autorickshaw seeing as much of Agra as one can see in a day. We woke and saw the Taj Mahal at sunrise, walked the grounds of the Agra Fort, relaxed on the North Bank of the Yamuna River with a secluded view of the Taj Mahal, and visted the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah. Now it was time to return to Delhi. We bid farewell to our autorickshaw driver and went into the train station to wait for our train. It showed up about 20 minutes late but otherwise our trip back was smooth sailing. We made it back to our apartment and got some curry and naan from the turbaned man and enjoyed a late night snack.

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