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.

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india chronicles: ajanta hotel

a proof of hotel booking might be required by the immigration officer when visiting india on VOA.  it is actually a requirement if you check their immigration website and i did not took chances not to get one, anyway i have always made advance bookings for accommodations on all my travels.

the first budget hotel i stayed in new delhi was ajanta, which is located in paharganj, central delhi.  it was included in expedia’s insiders select, 2012.

it has also received some good reviews at tripadvisor site which was one reason i decided to stay at this hotel.

they offered free airport pickup when i booked through their website though i had to make a call at the hotel to follow up with the driver when i arrived from my flight from bahrain.  it was a 45 minute drive from indira gandhi international airport to hotel ajanta.

i was first given a room at the fourth floor of the building for i requested a room on the higher floor.  i encountered some issues in the room for the cable television wasn’t working and worse, there was no signal for wireless internet connection.  i called in the reception and was told that it will be checked but after an hour of waiting there was nothing so i decided to speak directly to the hotel personnel at the reception.  the lady receptionist again told me that the connections will be checked but i insisted for a new room.

i was then given a room at the second floor which honestly was way better than the first room they gave me.  everything was working fine.

the toilet and bath was old but clean and the tap with good water pressure.

the hallway looked newly renovated.

a buddha on display.

i had my lunch and dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, cafe vagabond.

the place has a nice, cozy interiors.

thali is a meal with portions of vegetable, chicken, and egg curry, rice, salad, raita, and sweet dish.

crispy papadum and plain naan.

chicken biryani.

a piece of naan, brushed with butter.

in india, most local restaurants will serve the guest dried anise seed and sugar crystals as an after meal mouth freshener.  it usually goes alongside with the check or bill.

cafe vagabond was awarded a certificate of excellence from tripadvisor.