Another early start today, off to Agra on a day trip to see Taj Mahal. Will be using trains to travel to and from Agra – trains take approx 2 hrs each way, whilst cars can take 4 – 5 hours each way. Hate the idea of sitting in a car for 9 hours!
Were all out for breakfast @ 7am. 8am Hotel cab was to drop us off at Nizamuddin train station, for our express train to Agra @ 9.25. (Left some time up our sleeve incase of morning traffic).
Arrived at Nizamuddin station by 8:45 am. This is not as big as the Old Delhi station we had arrived on from Amritsar, and as such had less crowds – suited me just fine. Found our platform with ease – I was now getting the hang of the train systems (I think). It was very cold waiting on the platform and this was just the start of winter! Strange temperatures here, Nights/Mornings are cold, days are perfect for a t-shirt!
Our train (Mangla express) did arrive on time, got in our coach, we had two sleeper seats together, the other 2 way at different places – no problems, kids loved playing on the upper berth, we were on the lower.
(kids had the own playarea on upper berths, Nita and I were on the lower berths)
We had a window sit, giving us a very good view of the outside. Few minutes out of the station, we passed a BASTI (shanti town), what was fascinating was how each home had a Paytv satellite dish on their roofs
(“Basti” on left, most homes have a satellite dish on their roofs)
A few kilometres from Agra station, litter is clearly visible with lots of filth, pigs of different colours and sizes roaming around these dumps…. still the same from the time I last visited in 1998 with Nita.
Train arrived @ 12:15 pm. Getting out, we were immediately swamped by lots of Taxi-wala’s. Got a prepaid Taxi for the entire afternoon from the Government booth and were off for lunch. Asked the driver to take us to TLC Mughul (ex Sheraton), must be his commissions for he was adamant that we should be going to Hotel Clark. He must not have been happy when we did not budge, and a good move it was.
TLC Mughul does not look much from the street, however once in it is WOW!! What a place. The idea was to eat at a nice place, relax, and use their really nice, clean washrooms to change to Indian outfits (for the girls – not me).
We had lunch at one of the multi-cuisine restaurants, food was excellent, and service was tops. Pooja was not eating much, so the guy got her a Garlic bread and Tomato pasta – all on the house, pity she hardly ate any – she had not been feeling too well and had a slight temperature (she was on Panadol – however she was very brave and kept saying I am ok).
After lunch we asked the waiter if it was ok for the Girls to change in the washroom – and he did not even blink, just said of course!
It was already getting close to 3pm, we had a very long & relaxing lunch. Called our driver – we were ready to head off, he drove us to Taj Mahal however not right to the entrance, apparently cars are no longer allowed close to the entrance – they are trying to reduce the emissions around Taj! Took a rickshaw cycle from the car park to Taj (it was approx 1 km away). The guy struggled a bit with all 4 of us in carriage – however it was his doing, I had asked for 2 cycles and he had insisted on the one!!
We were dropped of at the south entrance, awaiting us was a wave of young men, wanting to be our guides and trying to sell all sorts of handicrafts. Avoiding them, made my way to the ticket office, bought two local tickets and to the entrance. Here the entrance ticket collector did query if I was a local, told him I was from Gujarat on a holiday here – that was enough and he let us through! (local ticket = 20/rs, foreigners = 750/rs)
however within a few seconds, Neha had caught a glimpse of the Taj through the gate and was excitedly pointing it out, rushing us all towards it.
Kids were super excited at their first sight of the Taj. They couldn’t contain their excitement of finally being right there!
Nita and I were taking in the views of the Taj, however kids were getting restless and wanted to get into the Taj Mahal. Off through the walkways… and taking lots of pics, lots and lots and lots!! Did not hire those crazy photographers this time, tried to copy them and made some of my own unique ones…
(Pooja a bit tired)
(this shot was taken by some Japanese ladies, I was taking pics of the girls and they asked us to pose for them!!! Apparently they found my 3 girls gorgeous in Indian outfits (and added I ALSO looked handsome!!..wow) – the same occurred in ‘98 – Nita was approached by a foreigner for a pic who liked her outfit and the same in this trip, coincidence or just shear beauty!!)
Finished off the Taj tour around 5:30 pm, it was also getting a bit chilly – walking around barefeet on the Taj Marble also did not help!
Outside we walked back to the Rickshaw who rode us back to our awaiting car. Having a car was great, as we were able to leave some of our bags behind.
Headed back to TLC Mughul for a light meal and Nita changed back to her casual attire. Were at the train station by 7:40pm for our 8:25 train back to Delhi.
Am so glad I did not stay overnight – there really isn’t much to do here – for us anyway. Train was running 30 minutes late, all along guys kept staring at Nita, very weird and uncomfortable as well. Not sure what their issue was! The same seems to have happened at other train stations in this trip – were they thinking she is a bollywood star??? To me it did not seem so from any angle!!
We were on the Shatabdi Express – a very clean and modern train, they had water, meals and ice-cream included in the fare price (I was not even aware of it). Nita and Pooja were knocked out pretty much the instant the train took off. Reached Delhi around 10:45pm.
Back at the hotel, we were having mixed emotions about Delhi – this was our last night here!