CLOSED TAJ MAHAL AND UPSETTING PEOPLE IN AGRA | GRACE FILLED TRAVEL JUNKIE

CLOSED TAJ MAHAL AND UPSETTING PEOPLE IN AGRA

It was 1 AM in the morning when I arrived in Agra. Feeling restless, I stayed awake through my entire train ride from Delhi to Agra. Bad idea!

The plan was to wait for another 4 hours at the station since nothing was open at that hour. A few tea sellers carrying their thermos walked here and there waiting for customers from the next train to pass by. Some families decided to lay out mattresses on the floor of the station to sleep on while waiting for their train. The train station was alive in that early morning.
Much alive indeed.
Tea sellers waiting for the next batch of customers to arrive.
Feeling drowsy, I walked inside the waiting room to try to get some sleep. As I walked inside, snores were the first thing I heard. Somehow people managed to turn the waiting room into a massive sleeping room. With their sandals and shoes off, stacked chairs as their temporary bed, everyone was sleeping comfortably. I had to force myself to sleep through the snores and the foot smell to keep me energized for the day. 

I woke up at 6 to find the station more crowded and alive. That was when my friend and I walked outside the station at 11 degree Celsius. Soon enough we got a cab and moved on to our first destination, Fatephur Sikri.

Fatephur Sikri is located on the outskirts of Agra. It took us more than an hour to reach the location. Our taxi driver wasn't really a pleasant companion. Later on we found out that he overcharged us, lied to us and he was more than rude. Not long after we found out that he wasn't the only one in Agra who isn't someone pleasant to meet. But, that's for later!
One of the imperial building called Panch Mahal in Fatephur Sikri.
Tunnel vision.
Cloudy blue sky on top of an entrance gate to Fatephur Sikri.
Fatephur Sikri is a city in the district of Agra. Inside, you can find a lot of imperial sites reachable on foot. These sites offer great sights of palaces, mosques and even tombs. Back in the 16th century, the imperial sites were home of Akbar the Great, whose name is familiar to me since I played Age of Empires. Who says computer games doesn't teach you anything?

Shortly after building Fatephur Sikri for 15 years, Akbar the Great had to abandon the imperial complex due to shortage of water supply around the area. Today, the complex stood as one of the most beautiful locations to visit in Agra.

Spotted this tourist writing post cards for his friends and families back in Europe.
"If life had background music, I'd dance everywhere I went."
In pursuit of good angle.
Playing with lights.
Entrance to the queen's palace.
Making use of this abandoned stair.
Overlooking the palace's horse stable.
Walking from one site to the other is mentally exhausting. Locals would walk to us and offer tour guide services. Some would even lie to us by telling us that we need to pay for expensive shoe deposit fees or a hat rent so we can walk inside the mosques. I told my friend to ignore them and turns out, we didn't have to pay a single dime. Shoe deposit cost as cheap as 10 rupee (approximately Rp 2000,-). You don't even have to deposit your shoe if you wish to hand carry it with you. The hat to be used inside the mosque is free to use with no charge at all.

At one point, a local approached us saying that he worked in the touristic site as free tour guides. Even though we said no to his free tour guide offer, he kept on following us and telling us useful information about the site. At the end of our visit, he took us to a craft vendor that belonged to his family. As Asians, we were familiar to this kind of scheme. He could have walked to any vendor in the area saying that it belonged to his family. Since we weren't interested in buying anything, he ushered us to the exit gate heavy halfheartedly. His last resort was telling us that he collect international currencies from 'friends' from other countries and asked if he could give him some. If it was really a hobby, he would have received my Indonesian coins, yet he refused. 
With cheap shoe deposit fee, this was all the safety we got.
Inside the tomb.
One of the craft vendors on the tomb complex.
In our plan, the next destination was supposed to be Taj Mahal. However, due to lack of research, I failed to note that Taj Mahal is closed on every Friday. With more research, I would have known that info and would have gone to Agra on any other day other than Friday.

Yes, I failed to see Taj Mahal up close. However, I got the chance to see Taj Mahal from a garden called Metabh Bagh just right across the famous tomb. It was good enough for me.
In the middle of Metabh Bagh.
The view of Taj Mahal from Metabh Bagh.
Metabh Bagh was very much calming after a heated argument with our taxi driver. In the middle of our taxi ride to Metabh Bagh, the driver insisted us to stop by at a shopping market. He literally drove to the market and told us to get off the taxi for a while. Apparently by just taking us inside the market, the driver would be getting free lunch from the shops owner. However, as you walk inside, persuasive salesmen will come at you in ways you can never imagine. I didn't have the time and the mood to face these salesman so I kind of yelled at the taxi driver. It wasn't something that I'm proud of, but it was something I had to do.

After hours of sitting down and calming myself down in Metabh Bagh, I was finally ready to visit Agra Fort. Alongside with Fatephur Sikri, Agra Fort is also a UNESCO's World Heritage Site. Lasted long ago since 1080 AD, the fort stood through many battles. As a result of the battles, the fort itself has been in captive by many different rulers through the ages.

Sometime ago, one of a Muslim king ruling the fort decided to build a majestic mosque inside the fort. The mosque is well known in Agra for its beautiful decorations on the wall and ceiling.

The gate to Agra Fort.
Pretty garden in front of the mosque.
Beautiful decorations on the mosque's ceiling and walls.
Jahangiri Mahal, a palace especially made for women belonging to the royal household.
Not long after that we had to hop on to another train to Jaipur on the evening. This was a good idea because of the physically and mentally exhausting short day we had in Agra. 

I might be wrong, but Agra wasn't the nicest city to visit on Earth. As I am writing this, I am trying to recall the good memories of Agra, yet there is nothing much. Pardon me for being honest about my feelings toward Agra.

This is my analysis as a tourist. Since Agra is not a big city, poverty is quite high and visible on the streets. At the same time, a lot of tourists came to the town to see Taj Mahal and many other touristic sites! Today, the locals in Agra see tourists as cash cows they can milk as much as possible. European, Australian or American tourists wouldn't probably mind since everything is a lot cheaper in Asia. However, that's not the case with Asian tourists who are familiar with these schemes. In my humble opinion, India tourism could be in problem if the government refuses to do anything about it.

Soon enough I found myself in a better city called Jaipur! On the contrary, I love Jaipur so much and I can't wait to share it to you next week! 

Pardon my expression. Probably, I wasn't in the mood because of the taxi driver and the locals' scheme.

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