I woke up 7am and called for breakfast, which was included and they delivered to the room :) I had ordered toast, coffee and orange juice. I got warm toasts (I think it was melted butter on it), good orange juice and not sure if I got coffee or tea, because I asked for coffee, but it was very very sweet and with lots of sugar, so it was difficult to say, I think it was indian tea, but it was good.
At 8am a new driver, Mahender, picked me up at the hotel and we begun our journey to Agra. I’m a little bit disappointed that I’m doing the tour alone, because we were supposed to be a group of 3-4 people, and it ended up with only me… :/ Well well. Btw, no, sorry mum, they don’t have belts in the car here. Or they have the strap on ”the wall of the car”, but not the belt knuckle in the seat. I have one arm in the strap all the time. Haha.
Mahender told me he was married since 10 years back and had a daughter and a son (7 and 8 years old). The daughter goes to a government school and the boy in a private school. Apparently the private schools are only for boys! And there are no mixed schools here.
Delhi in the morning is a little bit calmer, the traffic is still chaotic but there are not so much people on the streets. It is very foggy, apparently this is only during wintertime, but I wonder if it’s not because of pollution as well.
Agra is about 200 kms away from Delhi, but the journey took 6 hours. We had a quick stop at a place to go to the toilet, and the driver had some breakfast, and then we kept driving.
It was very entertaining to just look out of the window to all the cities, villages and people we drove by. Sometimes Mahender said “This is city blabla” “this is bla bla”.. But I really can’t see where a city ends and starts, everything look the same. Brown dirty road along constructions, people and lots of vehicles. But sometimes there is a bigger town entry.
The high way just goes through everything, sometimes you can drive a km without any hustle, but most of the times there are jams because someone has to make a left turn to get into the city we are driving past. It’s crazy that it’s all in the same way and that they don’t have any slip road or anything. I must say I admire all the drivers here in India, they need to be so focused all the time.
I’m impressed by what I saw people carry in their vehicle along this road. Like one bicycle, he had about 20 pcs of 4m long burton tubes mounted on his cycle. Another one had about 15 big 20 kgs flour packs on his bike. And the big trucks carry a lot of wood or cementary or colliflower – and they don’t have any “door” on the end of the truck, it’s just open! So if they have a bad bump and you are just behind you can probably get some of that on you. You better wish for it to be the colliflower then.. ;)
When we got into another state you have to pay a tax, and just after the toll, it was a little little hovel where it said something “tax”. How the heck are you supposed to know you have to stop there to pay tax? Haha.
We passed by university areas (luxurious and modern!), green fields of wheat and rice, industrial areas with lots of fabrics etc… but mostly brown soil and fallen down houses. Sometimes there was a big hotel resort or touristic resort (who would like to live in a resort in the middle of nowhere with just brown dirty fields around you filled with chaotic traffic? I don’t know…) or a luxury banquet/palace for like weddings. Or some big monument (like a mini taj-mahal) or something. Very weird. All though all the gasoline stations are like the European ones, and the mc donalds, the wolksvagen and Honda shops etc… they all look the same everywhere! And just beside; another hovel.
And yes, guys to stare at you. Women too. While I was sitting in the back seat of the car, all the tuk tuks and buses with people inside do really stare at me. I just ignore. Don’t know how long time they stare but I can see them in my periphery.
But maybe it’s not because I’m a woman, and white, because apparently my hair is quite remarkable here. I get a lot of stares and questions about my dreads, didn’t think it was going to be so special about it. It’s not known for being hippy here. They treat me as if I were a queen and had a million dollars here.
Another remarkable thing is that all the woman sit with both their legs on one side of the motorcycle. I think it’s because of the dresses and skirts, but still, it looks so easy to fall of, especially in these roads!
So.. Agra then. It’s in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and has a population of about 2 million. As my hometown Stockholm! We picked up our guide from here. Danish is his name. I could not completely understand what he said, hes English was very broken compared to yesterdays guide, Soni.
English is the second language here. Almost all the signs are in English, and everybody speaks some English. They mix Hindi and English. For example they always count in English, and some words are easier in English so they use them instead. But there isnt’ that many that can actually speak fluently haha. “Yes mam” is something I here all the time. Everybody says “Yes mam”, even if they haven’t understood what I had said or asked. It’s funny.
Anyhow. Once again we started the tour before checking into the hotel. We went to see one of the seven wonders of the world, Taj Mahal, and there was no cue or anything. We bought tickets and then we had to take a special car up to the taj mahal, because they don’t allow any vehicles that runs on gasoline up there, only electronic cars, because the pollution colors the white marble to yellow and makes it ugly.
Taj Mahal is a mig mauselium of white marble from Northern India, beautifully built. It is one of the Indian Muslim masterpieces of architecture.
There are very nice details in the stone that you can se up close, like florals made with inlaid stonework, completely made of natural colored stones, not painted. So there are stones from Afghanistan, Africa, Belgium etc that they hat cut out and very nice ornaments.
The Taj Mahal was built between 1631 and 1648 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife because she died to early. They are both buried there inside. The wifes name was Mumtaz Mahal, and Taj Mahal means Crown Palace.
That’s about what I learnt from my guide. He seemed quite tired and not so interested. He did not have so much empathy for what he was telling about, didn’t really seem to enjoy his work, he just rushed through things.
After the Taj Mahal we saw the Red Fort, it’s really huge and can’t fit into any photo (Did not even see it completely from anywhere, just red walls). We didn’t go in, my guide said about 70% of it is closed to the public due to military is occupying it, so it didn’t seem worth to go in.
Then we visited a marble factory, where they make marble like the one in Taj Mahal. It is very typical from Agra, and it’s such a niiiiice handcraft. Omg. So they get the stones, and then they hand grind them into the shape of for example petals. Every every single piece, on a wheel with water sort of.
They paint the white marble with red color, so it’s easier to see the engraving they do, and they do a pattern. Then they hack out the rest and glue in the stone.
They have some really precious hand craft work there. For a big table, it costs about 700 euros. Not so much after all the work behind it. It takes about 6 months to make on of these tables!! I asked if they have a factory there, but it’s made in the neighboring hand crafters houses, since the tools are so easy, they have it themselves at home. A total of 120 families in the area works with it. I couldn’t buy a table, but I bought some smaller easier items, as a memory, and also to contribute to the families. Once again they invited me for tea, asked about my hair, and presented aaall their stuff… I was there for almost one hour, and of course I felt guilty if I didn’t buy anything. The manager was also very sweet.
Then we visited another place like the ones I visited yesterday in Delhi. This time I did actually find a nice ganeisha silver pendant for my collection around my neck. Then they wanted me to see the fabrics, the paintings, the elephants, the glasses etcs… But I was quite tired of it, but I ended up buying indian tea and spices from there..
After that the guide asked me if I wanted a snack or something, and I said sure (we hadn’t had lunch), I said something typical indian, not touristic. I thought he would bring me to a street corner or something.. but he brought me to a big restaurant, where I saw a big tourist bus leaving from. Hmm… Inside was totally empty. Such a typical tourist place. They showed me the menu, but I said that I didn’t want to eat eat, so I had something called “Pakoda”, that’s like some bread thing and inside it’s cheese, or onion, or cheese. It was quite good, but I also had a doggybag with me home with it. I had some coffee too.
Then once again, another shop.. this time a jewelry shop. I said I don’t wear jewelry. “You don’t need to buy anything, you can just see the work from here”… well… I ended up buying a ring tailor made for me. They also wanted after that “come and see our fabrics, come and see our paintings”… but no thank you.
I’m sure the guides have some kind of arrangement to bring the tourists to these places. They are all super luxurious and “very good quality”. It’s weird that I can actually afford to go to this kind of place, it would be like to go to a Gucci store or something in Sweden and be able to actually afford something there. But still, I don’t like these shop-stops. The first time was fun, because it was the first, but the rest is all the same. For me, a tour should be visiting something local, but not enter a store. I’m getting fairly tired of being treated as a big spending tourist (even though I really am this two days in India, but I would have rather done that on my personal time). Also since I’m the only one in the tour, it feels very personal, like that I need to buy something. But now I really don’t want something. If they bring me tomorrow to another place, I’m just going to say no, I don’t want to enter. I have to send home a fucking package with all I have bought here now.
After the last shop we had some drive through around Agra, Danish showed me apartments they are building, nursery schools, villages etc. Just passed by with the car. We actually passed by a street that looks like a regular street to me, quite empty, no trash, nice houses. It was a little bit of a surprise. But yeah. I think my guide did want to go home. Haha.
Anyhow. Agra is a quite ugly city, as everyone had said to me earlier. It doesn’t really have anything more then Taj Mahal, and if it weren’t one of the 7 wonders of the world, it would not be worth the trip. The Red fort I could only see one little piece of from the motorway. I enjoyed to see how they do the marble work, but not the feeling of obligation to buy something from there afterwards.
I did the check in at the hotel which was in the center and it was really great! Polite English speaking staff, really good shower, big tv with many channels, nice temperature, clean room, a desk, big nice beds… Top top! It’s called Amar Yatri Niwas. Very happy!