The Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri
05.02.2012 - 06.05.2012 95 °F
We didn’t know what to expect from Agra since most people we had met say that Agra is a one day stop to see the Taj. We would now disagree after spending a few days exploring and having really enjoyed it. We stayed inside the car-free zone just a 3-4min walk from the Taj on the East Gate, and enjoyed the quiet streets far from the more frequented and crowded West Gate area. We found a small café being run by three young brothers helping their parents while on summer break. We visited them daily for a rematch in a game called Carrom (similar to billiards, but instead of a cue stick and balls, you flick checker-like pieces with your finger).
The Taj Mahal dominates the skyline and since there are no other high buildings in the area you can view it from many different angles. One of our favorite two spots was the classic South angle at sunset while having a roof top dinner and a ‘off the books’ Kingfisher beer (in this Muslim town, cafes don’t openly serve beer and it’s not on the menu):
Our other favorite view of the Taj was from the East at sunrise from the not so well known Nature Walk (which just so happened to be directly across the street from our hotel)! What we thought would just be our normal morning exercise routine turned out to have some astonishing views of the Taj Mahal without a single other person around. We couldn’t help but see the opportunity for a new Richard Simmons workout video from one of the perfectly placed cabanas :-)
After having an eyeful of the Taj we had thoughts of not entering into the grounds but were glad we did. We had way more fun that we thought we would thanks to the way the Indian tourists reacted to seeing us… We visited first thing in the morning to avoid the heat and walked around mostly with other foreigners. By 9:30am the hordes of Indian tourists showed up and we had our first taste of being celebrities; we must have been asked to have our picture taken with every Indian family that came that day! To escape being asked for ‘just one snap’ we posted up by behind the main photo spot and began the most amusing people watching. Crowds in India are not like our crowds… they filled with at least four generations of full families all pushing and shoving each other around (including grandma)!
To round out our Agra adventure, we took a day trip out to Fatehpur Sikri, a 90 year old city that was abandoned due to lack of water just 15 years after it was built. The walled city contained many buildings and structures of which the meaning is largely unknown. We could have hired a guide for their made up stories, but we had fun creating our own fabrications of what the unorthodox architecture was used for. There was an impressive acting stage in the middle of the city that was surrounded by water with impressive viewing platforms, and there was a crazy looking throne suspended in the middle of a square building.