Why should you visit Agra? To visit the’ Taj Mahal’ of course! Built-in 1643 its unbelievable that the marble was cut piece by pieces and delivered individually mainly on the back of Elephants. It was built-in honour of Shah Jahan’s wife who died giving birth to their 14th Child. It took 10 years to complete! In September 1657, Shah Jahan fell seriously ill, which sparked a war of succession among his four sons, in which his third son Aurangzeb won. Shah Jahan recovered from his illness, but it is said that Aurangzeb put his father under house arrest in Agra Fort from July 1658 where he could only gaze at the wonderful ‘Taj Mahal’.
We arrived into Delhi and got into a government taxi to Agra which took hours and cost £60 for 4 people. We got to Agra when it was dark but luckily had a booking to stay at ‘Hotel Sheela’ which wasn’t the nicest of hotels but we knew it weren’t too far from the Taj. After checking into our room at Hotel Sheela we realised we wasn’t alone as there were lots of bugs and a gecko staying with us.
We woke up the next day at 5.30am to go to the ‘Taj Mahal’ at sunrise. Luckily our hotel was only a 5 minute walk to the entrance (the closest you can stay to the Taj). After queuing up to get in we were told that we had to go to the ticket office to buy tickets, we then rushed there as it was 1km away and got back just after it had opened. This is the best time to see the Taj Mahal as it is cool and not completely packed out by the time you enter.
After the Taj we had planned to leave for Varanasi but because it was a public holiday all train seats were taken. We stumbled upon ‘The Fruck Chill Out Cafe’, Hot, bothered and not knowing our next step so we decided to sit down for a drink. The Fruck Chillout Cafe were owned by a young couple who spoke very good English who were very happy to help us as much as they could. Vj from the tour shop next door recommended a sleeper bus. We gave it a shot and while we had to wait until about 11pm to depart, VJ took us on a walking tour of Agra. Firstly, he took us to the Red Fort, not far from the Taj Mahal, it was said that the Red Fort was built as a prison for Shah Jahan. Secondly, VJ showed us the old side of Agra where Harry tried his first Lassi. We also got to see how local sweets are made, sample them and he taught us about local spices and garments. We then ended up at an old school built by Shah Jahan’s first son to provide free education for the children of Agra. The school was surrounded by monkeys. Lastly, we visited a black mosque right by the Taj Mahal which Shah Jahan’s daughter built.
We then returned to the ‘Fruck Chill Out Cafe’ where they cooked us an amazing dinner and ended up taking us to where we had to get the sleeper bus from. The sleeper bus was delayed by 1 hour so make sure you have some cards, a book or something to keep you entertained!
TIP: Make sure you get the tickets for the ‘Taj Mahal’ the night before to avoid having to double queue on the day!