Leaving behind us the amazing Goa wedding we arrived at the Delhi airport. Not as impressive as the Mumbai one!!! I have arrange airport pick up. A strange guy was holding a paper with my name, who led us to our “taxi”, a small van which was about to fall apart. I felt that was my last day in India!!! Driving in Delhi is insane comparing to Goa. A 4 strip road was transformed to 7 strips, everyone was trying to get in front of the other. That is why all the cars were hitted all over.
Arriving at the hotel…
I have booked a budget hotel near the Main Bazaar Road as I thought that we will “get” the city vibes. We arrived at Smyle Inn, the hotel, near midnight. The scenery was scary. Dark alleys with a lot of rubbish and mysterious figures wondering around. The driver asked us for money. This is an Indian thing, everyone is asking for tips. We walked in an alley to get to the hotel. Stray dogs were wondering around, big piles of cables were hanging above us. We arrived at the hotel and we carried our luggage to the second floor as there was no elevator. The smell of naphthalene was so strong when getting into the room. The room was small and had the basics for a budget room. The bathroom was the same to the ones when I was in army :P. The sound insulation was absent, we could hear whoever was getting in the hotel and whoever had sex :p. Anyway the transition from 5 stars to 1 star hotel was “sensible”. I will not hide it from you the first night was a bit terrifying.
My plan was to book a hotel near the city center (looking at the map) and walk around as I was doing in all my European trips. This plan is not suitable for India as the distances are longer and the weather is polluted. Thank god my Indian friends helped me to arrange my 3 days in Delhi. The first day, I booked a driver, from Savaari company, to take us to Taj Mahal and back. Booking the car cost us around 60 euros for the day trip. In Agra we were going to find Salmaan Khan, who is a friend of my friend, as he is a tour guide. He was very friendly and very good tour guide. If you visit Agra contact him (Imran tour guide Agra – +9175001 82007). It is better to book everything in advance as there are situations that people were tricked, they were taken to a wrong location and the driver asked for extra money to take them to the correct one. One thing I realized in India is that you don’t get the same service with the same price as in Europe, they are not as “professional”. The driver came on time, 7:00am, who did not know English. The car was a bit dirty. I didn’t mind, as I was excited for my Taj Mahal experience to start.
After 4 hours trip, with one stop, we arrived to Agra, the city of Taj Mahal. Looking around, you feel that things here are not developed. A poor city with no pavements, old houses and buildings in awful condition, and cows in the streets. YES cows sitting in the middle of the street, I was lucky enough to see this phenomenon. Traffic changes according to the cows’ movements. Crazy!!! We picked up Salmaan Khan and we went to Taj Mahal. On our way, I was surprised by the poverty and misery that exists, as there are millions of people that visit Taj Mahal. As Salmaan told us the government is corrupted and they don’t help Agra to develop. As we were getting closer, my heart started pounding, I could not believe that I was going to see Taj Mahal, a place I was seeing through photos and I was dreaming of visiting.
A dream comes true…
Salmaan told us that Taj Mahal, which means the Crown of Palace, was created to house the tomb of the Mughal emperor’s (Shah Jahan) wife, Mumtaz Mahal, and after this became his (emperor’s) own burial place too. Arriving at the main gate Salmaan showed us the eleven miniature domes on top that represent the years that were needed to build Taj Mahal. The mausoleum was created based on geometry, everything is aligned and connected. If you draw a straight line that divides the Main Gate Arch’s in half, the same line divides Taj Mahal in half too. Passing the gate, a big garden spread in front of our eyes and passages were filled with people. The Taj Mahal is build between the mosque (servants place) and the guest house. There was a long queue for a photo on the bench that princess Diana sat on during her visit at Taj Mahal.
After a few minutes the white marble mausoleum was above us, we wore shoe covers, and we climbed the stairs craving to see one of the 7 wonders of the world. The exterior decorations prove that Taj Mahal is a masterpiece with calligraphy on the walls, paint, stone carvings, and plant motifs. The plant motifs on the exterior were designed to bloom to represent life, on the inside they were designed as dead to represent death. Salmaan used his flashlight straight on to the decorated wall gemstones proving us that they were original precious stones, as they were enlighted, and he informed us that most of them were imported from outside of India, back then. The same decorations continue inside the building with 8 carving arches, aligned symmetrically, that illuminate the interior. In the center, are the two tomb prototypes of the emperor and his wife, as the real tombs are underground.
(Panoramic interior photo taken from here)
We took as many photos as possible to cover all sides and corners of Taj Mahal, and then we paid a quick visit to the guest house. We then got back to our car and we went to the Agra Fort, which used to be the residence of the emperor and his family. The fort is huge but only the 25% is available for tourists, as a part of it is used by the army and because local tourists were destroying the fort (the reason, their illiteration, as Salmaan told us) so the 85% is protected. Every room of the fort is big and has its own architectural details like carvings, paintings and motifs. The most interesting part was a room that has small pieces of glasses for decoration and in there Salmaan told us that one candle can light up to thousands. A photo that he showed us proves that, the glass pieces are reflecting the candle light and it’s like lighting up a thousand candles. The view of Taj Mahal, from fort, is outstanding!!!
After an hour tour of learning more details and secrets about the fort, we took the car and we went to a restaurant for lunch. The place looked clean and the food was ok, not anything special (forgot the name of it). With our tummies full we got back to the car and we went to a souvenir shop where they were making marble souvenirs with gemstones. They showed us the whole process of how they carve the marble and how they file gemstones to create their designs. There you could find a variety of marble products. In India sales people are pushy in terms of buying stuff and they are trying to trick you by selling you things more expensive. This is where you will train your bargaining skills. Therefore, we did the same here with some souvenirs we bought, even though it was our first bargain, in India, it went well!!!
Back to Delhi…
We thanked Salmaan for his awesome tour and we headed back to Delhi. It took us 4 hours to get to Delhi and 2 hours to get at home. The traffic was crazy. We stopped at Mc Donald’s to get something for dinner. As you know in India they don’t eat pork so they were selling only veggie, chicken and paneer (indian cheese) burgers only. I got a chicken one. It was the most dreadful burger I ever eaten. During our stay in India we realized that Indian people don’t support international brands as they love their local food, therefore big brands like Starbucks, Mc Donald’s, Costa Coffee, etc, are not as “good” as they are in Europe.
Headed to our hotel I was shocked by a huge flag of India that waves in the center of Delhi. Arriving back home at 9 o’ clock, we have seen that the Main Bazaar Road was full of people and we realized it didn’t seem so scary as the first night we arrived. We went straight to bed because the next day we booked a tour in Delhi.
Stay tuned for more adventures in Delhi and Mumbai. Don’t forget to to check my Goa Wedding Experience and let me know your opinions and your own Taj Mahal experience. The Old Delhi Experience follows go check it out!!!
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