Pretty uneventful drive, except our CEO losing his footing on the bus (I think we swerved to avoid a cow).We got to Agra and immediately went to the Red Fort. It was something out of Indiana Jones, with stories like Game of Thrones. I would love to find some drawings or something online of what it looked like in its glory days. Some of the walls had precious and semi-precious gems inlaid in the walls. Those sections were closed off because people were picking out the stones.
We toured for close to two hours then went for lunch. Our restaurant’s lights cut out and we dined in the dark a bit. It was a great deal for lunch, but the wine for some was outrageous. One guy had a regular dish, plus rice, plus one glass of wine and it worked out to be $22. We worked out the wine was $14.50 a glass!
After lunch, we checked into our hotel, the “Taj Height’s.” We were excited to see the hotel had wifi. We went up to our room, and it was pretty nice, lots of marble. The bathroom didn’t have a shower enclosed, it was all in one room. We hardly got any toilet paper, but there was a hose next to the toilet. Carrying on, we didn’t have much time to hang about. We were off to the Taj Mahal right away.
We got to the taj, but had to take electric buses to the gate… trying to avoid the pollution of gas vehicles. We met up with our tour guide and he led us inside and told us the history of the taj. We had a photographer take a group photo and we also had the opportunity to get solo pictures, which we took advantage of. We got three photos, printed as well, for $6. I’m sure anywhere in the western world this would have easily been $60. We were then free to walk around and take pictures. It was pretty crowded, but didn’t take away from the majesty of the monument. It was an amazing sight, pictures just don’t do it justice. There was a line separate for locals vs. tourists, since tourists pay more for entry. Our tickets were included with our tour, but the price would have been $19 each. Again, in the western world, that would have been $100 each.
We noticed people throwing coins on the tombs inside, we asked our CEO about this and he explained the coins used to be thrown in the water, but there was an issue with the copper, so now for luck they throw coins to the tombs.
We did some shopping before heading back. Derek did some great bartering. We got a marble elephant with semi precious stones and a Taj Mahal snow globe for $12. Whether the elephant is real marble is another story. One heartbreaking scene was while we waited for some of our group, we watched a boy of around 7 who was picking up garbage, asking some of the group for cigarettes.
Back at the hotel, we met some of the group for dinner. It was probably the worst dinner of our trip. Whatever we ordered was some kind of dumpling in sauce, but the dumplings had foil on them which was impossible to get completely out of the food. Derek couldn’t eat it because of his fillings. We had spoken to the CEO about it later, and its silver you can eat. Derek wasn’t convinced his fillings would handle it. We also had tandoori chicken for the first time on the trip and it was just ok. The worst one was one lady in our group just ordered soda water with lime and it looked and smelled like sewer water. The awful thing was that she drank it before she realized. She handed it back and went back to her room. Our CEO spoke to the hotel about it in the morning and they told him it was maybe some spices they put in it.
We got back to our room after dinner and it occurred to us how damp the room was. The sheets were practically wet. The walls were blistering. Derek slept on top of the sheets and blanket, but I wouldn’t have slept if I hadn’t. We also had a lot of issues finding electrical outlets that worked, especially with our power converter. Also the wifi didn’t work in the room. In the morning, we had to call down to the front desk as our hot water wasn’t working. And just like our CEO told us, it was working a few minutes later.