india chronicles: dirty pictures

i woke up early to catch my morning train ride back to new delhi.  i hailed an auto rickshaw infront of the hotel i was staying and asked the driver to drop me off at  agra cantt railway station.

passengers were waiting for the next train when i got there.

this is one of the trains.

a busy platform.

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these crows in the rail tracks were feeding on dead rats.  i was taking pictures of them when a man called out behind me. i looked at my back and saw that it was a middle-aged local man.  i backed out a little at arms length as a precaution.  he asked how was i doing and i said i’m good.  he then said – “are you taking dirty pictures?”  “what do you mean ‘dirty’ pictures?”  i asked him back.

he explained that tourists takes photos of dirty stuff and post it at the internet and tell the whole world how dirty india is.  he added that visitors should post nice things about india.  i was surprised of what he just told me and said from where i come from we also have dirty places – we also have dirty railway tracks.  i told him that it was the first time i saw crows feeding and it fascinated me so i took their pictures.  i smiled at him and said – “i went to india to see the taj mahal and it was beautiful”. 

i was left with good memories of my solo travel to india – and that will never be a dirty picture.

india chronicles: three tombs

there are a lot of tombs to visit in agra and I was able to see three of the well-known ones.

tomb of akbar the great

tomb of itmad-ud-daulah

tomb of mumtaz mahal

i took these last four pictures at mehtab bagh, which is opposite the taj mahal along the yamuna river and gives the mausoleum a different view.  it used to be a complex with a garden and fountains.  i was told that this site offers a good picture of the taj mahal during night time.

india chronicles: agra fort

after my visit to taj mahal, I have planned to see agra fort which was part of my itinerary for the day.  I realized as I went out of the mausoleum that I used a different gate  and it was not the one where the tuktuk dropped me off early morning.  I found myself walking on narrow streets and not even knowing where to go.  for a few minutes I just kept on walking, occasionally a tuktuk will stop by my side and the local driver offering me a ride but I just sort of ignored them.  I then saw a  tuktuk stopped in a corner street and I noticed that there were already passengers inside.  I assumed it picks up passengers (same in philippines?!) so I approached the driver standing beside it and told him – “agra fort”?  he nodded and I added – “how much”? he said “10 rupees”!

I then told him “noooo special! I go with them!” ( as I pointed a finger at the guys cramped inside his tuktuk.)  he looked surprised, I asked again how much and he blurted out – 2 rupees!  it was fun bargaining, it’s really not because I wanted to save 8 rupees but getting him convinced for me not to pay the “tourist rate” was a funny experience.  I then sat inside the tuktuk, took out my camera, positioned it infront of me and announced “picture”!!!”and here’s the result. 😀

after a short ride with my new-found indian friends I made it at agra fort.  the fort is a unesco world heritage site.

it wasn’t a friday so I have to pay the 50 rupees “pathkar” – whatever that is, hehe.

a welcoming structure at the entrance.

sometimes it also gets lonely being alone.

it shows here that part of the fort is under military occupation.

this is the hall of the public audience or diwan-i-am.

the octagonal tower, mussaman burj which actually offers a view of the taj mahal from afar.

macchi bawan, which used to have fountains, marble tanks and there were fishes.  also called as the fish enclosure – it’s all green grass now.

india chronicles: taj mahal

from the place where i was standing, the view was like the hazy sky was a canvas and the taj mahal itself was just.. a painting.  it was the main reason i wanted to visit the golden triangle – and felt this kind of excitement comparable to a kid seeing his birthday present.

this was the gate where all the visitors were crowding up for the reason of getting a good picture of themselves with the palace on the background.  i myself have to wait patiently to have my turn.

these ‘shoe covers’ are provided when you buy the ticket.  a bottled water is also included.

i started walking around, taking random pictures.

the details of the intricate design in the walls.

one of the pillars.

the taj looks the same on all sides.

photography is not allowed inside where the tomb is located.  i took this ‘blurry shot’ near the exit.

another one of the gates.

a closer look.

the yamuna river.

.. and this is what i paid for! 😀

india chronicles: going to agra by train

the last stop in my golden triangle itinerary was agra, where the magnificent structure the taj mahal is found. from jaipur i travelled less than an hour by plane through jet airways back to delhi and had to find a place to crash through the night for my train ride to agra the next day.

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i checked-in at this budget hotel (palm d’or) which was very near from the train station.  it was late and i was starving and called room service.  i ordered some tomato soup and asked the room boy if they know how to make grilled cheese sandwich for i was not in the mood to eat local food.  he said they do and after a few minutes my meal arrived.   i was hungry and tired from my visit to jaipur – and just wanted to fill-up my famished tummy and sleep for a few hours.

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i woke up late the next day but had enough time to have a cold shower and was trying to condition myself for i will be having a 3-hour train ride to agra.  i had some black coffee that was offered at the reception of the hotel as i checked-out.  i declined to have breakfast for i fear of being nauseous while travelling for i’ve suffered motion sickness since i was a kid.

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the train station was jam-packed at the entrance.  people were busy moving about and some are just seated on the floor.  i did not even know where the main entrance was, and had to ask a guy in the security post where should i go.  i just noticed that some of the locals do understand english but are very shy when approached by a foreigner.  he gave a smile and pointed out the gate where i should enter.

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the train arrived and it was confusing which coach i was assigned to.  i booked one for first class and had to ask a number of people which cabin it was.  finally i was able to speak to a local guy who was travelling with his family and he showed me the right one.

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this is how the first class coach looks like.  a pillow and a blanket is provided.

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travelling with me was a young couple from the states.  they showed me an india guide-book and i checked on a page detailing the railway transit system.

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after a short nap i woke up as we arrived at agra north central.  i said goodbye to the couple i met in the train and we parted ways.  supposedly i have a complimentary pick-up transportation to the hotel that i will be staying on but i have waited for half an hour and it never arrived.  i took a taxi instead to my hotel.

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the hotel i got was okay but not that impressive.  it was worth the price considering it is near taj mahal and a restaurant and coffee shop shares the same building.  during my stay in agra, all i ate was pizza and pasta at pizza hut then sandwiches at costa coffee.  the hotel also has the most expensive internet wireless connection i have encountered – 100 rupees for an hour.  i asked them how much do i have to pay for a day they said 100 rupees per hour.  so i said for a day that will be 2400 rupees which was.. no, it was crazy!  i did paid for an hour just to get my status updated in my facebook account, hehe.

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early morning the next day was my visit to taj mahal.  it was a hazy morning as i took a short rickshaw ride to the place and had to fall in line for the entrance ticket.

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had to fall in line again while waiting for the taj to open.  women are separate from the men, men are separated from foreign and local.

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a little local boy with puffy eyes, tickets on his hand.  it looks as if he just cried.  i’m just not sure if younger children have free entrance.

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the first structure to see.

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even the entrance door to the palace is so meticulously artistic.

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a marker of the taj mahal.

i was so excited as i saw a glimpse of the structure.

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and there it was.

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one of the greatest palaces in the world, the taj mahal.