The Golden Triangle | India
Delhi – Agra
Today we had a 1430 flight to Delhi so we just took our time, packed as light as we could as we have a 15kg domestic flight bag limit and went for breakfast. After checking out we caught a cab 1100 and got to the airport in only 45 minutes, compared to our hour long journey into Mumbai, this was great. We arrived in Delhi domestic airport 1630, collected bags and met our driver 1700. After fending off a child similar age to Spring begging for food for money and making some choking noises (mind you this was really full on and some older kids were not far away encouraging him), our driver took us straight to Agra. It was a 3.5 hour drive but only approx. 200km.
As we pulled into Agra, 2030, we stopped to pick up some random English speaking tour guide. He gave us the run down and then Summer asked how much his tour would cost in the morning and he said ‘no fee‘. Once we checked into the hotel and had dinner, some of the best food we have had since being in India, we settled in and Summer checked over the scams and found that the tour operators run a system where they say ‘no fee’ and hope for a large tip or commission when they go shopping at the designated shops.
The Taj Mahal is on my Wonder of the world wish list and it will be the 2nd one visited on this trip. We researched tours and found the Golden Triangle was a popular tourist path. As our heads the pillow we had completed the first of three legs.
Agra | Taj Mahal – Jaipur
Up early this morning 0600 and tried to Skype my father for his birthday. Couldn’t get hold of him and then woke up the family. At 0700 we met our guide for the tour, early to beat the crowds. We entered the West Gate as this is not as busy as East we are told. It wasn’t too bad when we arrived and we only had to walk just over 500m to the actual ticket booth and security check point. Along this path you could take a camel and cart ride or electric Tuk Tuk. I reckon that by the time you chose your mode of transport and haggled the price, you could have walked there. So we walked and the guide purchased our tickets for us. The kids got in for free so this was good, security screen, no selfie sticks allowed and so this had to be removed from our bags and stored for a small fee.
After we entered our guide gave us a short overview and then left to be sick. He encouraged us to continue while he recovered, saying to me ‘something not well‘. We proceeded on through the main gates and took some classic photos and walked as far as the Diana chair, made famous by Princess Diana, before our guide caught up. We continued the tour and it was OK, he did point out a couple of things we didn’t know or had read online. The Taj Mahal was named and built after the Emperors favourite wife, apparently he had plenty. She passed away after giving birth to their 14th child.
The Taj Mahal marble only gets cleaned with mud and the process takes a couple of days. The entire structure is massive and the 4 outer watch towers shoot up and lean slightly away from the building as they are designed to fall out wards so they don’t damage the Palace in case of an earthquake; it is unbelievable that this was considered. Once inside we were able to see the ‘fake’ tombs of the wife and her husband because the ‘real’ tombs are on the lower level of the palace, so all foreign visitors see is a replica but Indian visitors are able to enter the lower chamber to see the actual tombs.
Before making our way up the steps to the Taj Mahal we had to cover our shoes so as not to damage the marble. It has huge arch ways that are many individual pieces of Marble and these reflect light, making the building seem as though it is changing colours. It is a truly impressive place but it was starting to get busy. I think we were lucky that we got in early. Our guide left us to take our time. After spending about 2 hours looking around and taking photos we returned to meet our guide at the exit and saw a massive queue to get in.
Our next and only other stop in Agra was Fort Agra. An equally impressive set of buildings with some stunning views over to the Taj Mahal. Only 25% is accessible to the public, both foreign and Indian, as the rest is used as a working military fort. It looks like something out of an historical movie set. Our guide tells us that the Emperor’s son (the Emperor that built the Taj) had imprisoned his father here because he wanted to stop him building another Taj Mahal like building with the people’s money. We also learned that Agra was once the capital of India during the Mughal Empire. After the tour we returned to our hotel at the disappointment of our guide but we did give him a modest tip because payment for services, even though they were stop start, is the right thing to do.
We then checked out of our hotel and traveled 4 hours to Jaipur, along the second leg of the golden triangle tour to the Pink City.
Jaipur | Pink City – Delhi
We learnt that many years ago the city of Jaipur had to prepare for a visit from some British Royalty and to get itself up to scratch it wanted to paint the town. Well the only paint colour they had was pink and so all major buildings were painted pink and it remains pink to this day.
Our first destination was Hawa Mahal, meaning ‘Palace of Winds’ because the open rooms allowed the breeze through. This was once a place were the women of the palace could view the outside world but would sit hidden away from the prying eyes of others.
From here we moved on to the City Palace, Jaipur. We spent over 2 hours strolling around the grounds and visiting the many displays such as the armoury and textile rooms.
Last stop was Jal Mahal, meaning ‘Water Palace’ it sits in the middle of Man Sagar Lake. We took some photos and tried to dodge the street peddlers and returned to check out of our room. The final leg of our Golden Triangle tour is a bumpy 4.5 hour drive back to Delhi. The road is shockingly bad and safety doesn’t seem to concern anyone. Many times we were startled by a bus or truck coming toward us on our dual carriage way, so strange.
Arrived to the madness of Delhi approx. 1730 and checked into our hotel. We decided to walk around the local area and see if we could find a laundry but it wasn’t very pleasant and the prices were the highest we have encountered so far and so returned to the hotel for dinner and bed. Pretty excited to be out of a car and stationary for a while and able to tick another Wonder off my list.