Agra and the Taj Mahal

In Agra there’s not just the Taj Mahal but also the Red Fort, featured on the back of some of the bank notes. If there’s one thing I’ve not been able to do recently, it’s been getting out of bed before 11am but getting up at 5 wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

After a two hour train ride we arrived in Agra and straight away went to the Red Fort, with our private guide who told us about the history behind it and how it functioned mainly with the Indian royalty, but also with British soldiers.

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After the Red Fort we went to a carpet making center. The tour company put it in the itinerary as handmade carpets don’t get made too much. They want to be able to support these businesses to help prevent it from dying out, so fair enough. It’s interesting to watch people make them and to hear the amount of time it takes to make them, but it is awkward when you are technically homeless like myself, have nowhere to put a au$1000+ rug and having people just present a lot of rugs at you.

After lunch at the hotel and chilling for a couple of hours we went to the Taj Mahal. The last few years I’ve seen some of the most famous places in the world – the Sydney Opera House, Sangrada Familia, the Colosseum, Eiffel Tower, etc., so it doesn’t really hit me to see things in the flesh anymore. With that said, it is very impressive and well worth the visit.

During the evening I went out for dinner with one of the guys on the tour as well as the tour guide. The place we went to is well known for BBQ food, and I am trying to stay off meat whilst I’m here. I had Paneer Tikka, which is spiced BBQ’d cheese with naan which was great.

Delhi

From Malaysia to Delhi was a five and a half hour flight – a lot longer than I’d expected. I didn’t get up to much in KL, though I’ll post some pictures within the next couple of weeks. I got to the hotel around half 8, but went to bed when I arrived.

Yesterday was the day prior to the tour group meeting. I was pretty hesitant about going out alone as India does not have the best reputation for safety for a foreign woman alone so I booked a tour. The choices were food, New Delhi or Gandhi’s Delhi – I’d definitely be eating local food on this trip with the help from a guide, and I’m going to be visiting places similar to what is included in the Delhi tour, so I opted for Gandhi’s Delhi as it’d be the most unique one.

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It was just the guide and I so our first stop was the place where Gandhi was cremated, and Sammy, my guide, took me over the early stages of his life and how he died. I had planned to read his autobiography on the flight over here but I got distracted by the Lord of the Rings movies on the entertainment system. Nowadays it’s a historical monument so is protected by fencing but it’s interesting that the flowers decorating the slab where he was cremated are changed every day.

Next we moved onto a stepwell, which is unrelated but served the purpose during monsoons to contain clean water for households. It’s no longer used for those purposes but now it’s a hangout place, there’s been movies filmed there and it’s a popular spot for people bunking classes as it’s fenced off. Whilst we were being driven to places Sammy told me a lot of information about the area and about Gandhi’s non-violent philosophies, and some of the major events in his life.

We’d stopped off to get some food – starting off with a samosa and some chai, which honestly is one of the best things I’ve ever drank. This was followed by a dessert called gulab jamun; it’s a semolina ball with nuts, spices including cardamom, deep fried in butter and served in a sugar syrup. I knew if the food was like this all along I’d be in for a treat.

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After the samosa pit stop we went to the museum of Gandhi, where he spent his last 144 days before being assassinated. They’ve left his few possessions there including his bedroom, glasses, flip flops and walking stick. There’s too much information there for me to take in, especially on a hot day and Sammy highlighted the major bits.

In the garden there, his final footsteps have been marked along with an alter right where he lost his life. It’s a very well maintained area and very quiet in comparison to the rest of Delhi that I’ve seen.

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Today, the group went on a tour of Old Delhi, starting at the Hama Masjid Mosque, and then a Sikh temple, both of which were pretty standard in terms of places of worship – I may still be templed out from Cambodia. We then had a stop at the spice market, then back to the hotel to chill for a few hours. We signed up for a street food tour with the company for tonight which I’ve recently arrived back from, and I feel as though I would still need an uber to walk a couple of blocks. In addition to the food in the pictures below we also ate Samosas, Kulfi (saffron ice cream with nuts) and Momos (Nepalese Dumplings).

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Chapati making in the Sikh temple

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Paneer Shawarma
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Golgappa
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Pao Bhaji
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Gulab Jamun

Tomorrow we’re off to Agra where the Taj Mahal is located for a one night stay.