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: humayun’s tomb

humayun was a mughal emperor who ruled parts of northern india during the mid-1500’s and his tomb is in one of unesco’s world heritage list.  it was built by the order of humayun’s widow, nine years after his death.

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i walked towards the tomb’s portal entrance and there were a lot of tourists like myself either just starting or just have finished their visit.

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there were water channels like these around the structure.

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the site plaque and the tomb.

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the structure is mostly made of red sandstone.

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the six-pointed star is a common feature on its designs.  it is actually a hindu symbol as i have read in some mistaking it as the star of david.  additionally, the hexagram is one of the oldest and most universal of all spiritual symbols.

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 cenotaphs in the entrance.

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humayun is actually buried in the basement below, this is his cenotaph.

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the chamber dome.

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more cenotaphs inside the tomb.

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intricate inscriptions.

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the jaali, are architectural decorations done by carving geometrical shapes on the stones.

india chronicles: delhi on an auto rickshaw

it was my second day in delhi when i decided to start a short tour around the city.  i did not have the interest to learn about the metro or the bus rides and just thought about hopping on and off the rickshaws that populate the city streets.  the hotel reception wasn’t that helpful on giving me clear instructions on how to get to one place that i ask using public transportation for all they could recommend was the taxi service that they offer which was obviously not cheap.

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i walked out from paharganj to the main road and as i stood on the roadside, an auto rickshaw driven by a sikh guy stopped infront of me. he asked me where i was going and told him that i need to go to india gate, i then asked him for how much and we both settled for 50 rupees.

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it took us a few minutes to reach india gate and while we were on our way, i made a deal with “shamu” and offered him 500 rupees to go with me with his rickshaw to go around nearby tourist places of the city and he did agreed on this.  there were a number of people who were mostly locals having a morning walk at the india gate as i took pictures of delhi’s famous landmark.

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rashtrapati bhavan is a mansion that is the offical home of the president of india.  i was only able to view the presidential house from its main gate.  i am not sure if tourists can go inside though.

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the jaipur column is erected infront of the building.

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one of the government ministry buildings near the palace.

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i spent almost an hour around humayun’s tomb.  i will blog a separate post about this place they call as “little taj mahal”.

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purana qila is the oldest fort found in new delhi.  pictured above is the sher mandal, an octagonal tower which was used as a private library of humayun.  i have read that humayun died due to injuries he received when fell on the steep stairs of this observatory.

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the humayun’s gate where his tomb can be seen from here.

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the fort is said to be more than 5000 years old.

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it was a good six-hour tour and going around delhi in an auto rickshaw is quite an experience to have.

india chronicles: india gate

“There will never be great architects or great architecture without great patrons”. – as quoted by Sir Edwin Lutyens, British Architect of India Gate

it was my second day in delhi when i visited india gate, india’s national monument.  i hailed an auto rickshaw near the hotel i was staying and told the sikh driver to drop me off in this monument and wait for me.  i took random pictures as i walked around.

a prominent landmark in delhi, i have read that it was built in the 1930’s.

it commemorates the soldiers of the british indian army who lost their lives in world war one and the anglo-afghan war.

engraved on its pale red sandstone are the names of the soldiers.

behind the gate is a canopy, also made of sandstone.

there were these soldiers wearing their traditional uniform.

i also took a picture of a sleeping stray dog which i noticed are common in the delhi streets and a classic car.

a soldier caught me taking his picture, but i did asked for permission after the shot, lol!

i went back to the auto rickshaw of shamu, the sikh driver whom i asked to wait for me then offered him 500 indian rupees to show me more of delhi.

india chronicles: visa on arrival

i intentionally planned to visit the golden triangle in india using my company provided flight ticket to manila intended for my regular days off.  two weeks earlier, i e-mailed our hr supervisor and informed him about my travel plan and requested a change of flight from bahrain – manila into bahrain – delhi.  after waiting for a week and a few follow-ups with the travel agent, i received my e-ticket.

on the day of my flight i arrived early at bahrain international airport.   comfortably, i waited at the gulf air golden falcon lounge (where i only recently found out that i can avail access even if i’m only in a low tier frequent flyer status).  free wi-fi, drinks and sandwiches were not that bad at all!

majority of the passengers of the plane were locals on their way to return to their home country.  it took nearly four hours for the plane  to reach indira gandhi international airport in delhi.  as i was walking towards the immigration counters, what greeted me were these copper discs and gigantic hands sculpture jutting out on the wall.

i have seen pictures of them before on the sites of travel bloggers who have visited delhi.

the sculptures are actually inspired by “mudras” or hand gestures common on classical indian dance.  they are made of resin, a light-weight material and the discs out of aluminum.

tourist visa on arrival for filipinos was granted by the government of india last january 2011.  check this link for more information on VOA in india.

because i arrived in the wee hours of the morning, i noticed that there was no one in sight when i walked towards the VOA counter.  when i got nearer, i saw two immigration officers having a snooze as they sat slumped in their chairs – LOL!  they easily woke up from their dream-like state when i said .. HELLO!  the officer handed me a form for the visa which took me a few minutes to finish filling up.  i had all my documents ready – a return ticket to manila, hotel bookings in delhi, jaipur and agra, passport copy and two passport-size photographs.  i was not asked any questions except on how many days am i staying in the country – i told him 8 but can he write down 10 in the passport which was granted without a fuss.  i paid a $60.00 fee which is a charge for the visa and was given an official receipt.

i have pre-arranged a taxi to the hotel i am staying at in paharganj which was about 45 minutes from the airport.  a first glimpse of what they call as the backpackers hotel hub in delhi welcomed me.