India ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ: A packed train ๐Ÿš‚ to Agra & Taj Mahal

It was a pleasant afternoon in Agra. We just came back from Taj Mahal and were lured into Mr Honey’s roof top restaurant. Very enjoyable the view from the roof terrace and we were promised a good, home-made meal.

It was a bit annoying to have the boy and girl fighting in the corner with a scissors – did he want to cut her hair and she refused? Who knows. However, the gentle sound of horns of cars and tuk-tuks and motos as well as the singing of the Muezzin made up for it.

Time to reflect on a crazy train ride and the impressive Taj Mahal. And there was time to chat with a Venezuelan globetrotter as well.

Packed train ride – 2nd class standing

Our journey from Jaipur to Agra was scheduled to take 4,5h. Since it was daytime, we opted for 2nd class seated with a reservation. At first that worked well and we got our seat. Comfortable.

Next stop more people got in and the train was absolutely packed as half india travelled to gather for the annual Holi celebrations (21 March). Movement hardly an option, not to mention with luggage like us.

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It was only now that someone reminded us that while we sat on the right seats, we were in the wrong waggon. Damn it!

Standing on the menu for the next 30mins. Thankfully an Indian gentleman got up for Laura. Interesting conversations followed. About indian cows (their genes differ from Jersey / Holstein cows and their milk is meant to be healthier due to different proteins – A2 type. See here), religion and much more. Especially on religion i need to learn a lot for i know nothing and couldn’t relate to much of what he said.

Once we had the chance, we moved down one wagon to our seats. They were taken by a young family with two children. Naturally i didn’t claim my spot, but the husband made space for laura.

Laura visibly enjoyed talking with the mother (25y old and 11y in relationship ๐Ÿค”) and did a bit of virtual sightseeing by way of showing her photo gallery.

Once the train cleared, Shaquib (and later his buddy) joined us for more discussions. Both of them are from Kolkata. According to them it seems i picked a good spot to hike in india – Sikkim. Let’s find out.

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Majestic Taj Mahal

It is with some irony that the most famous Indian building is first muslim and second surrounded by sheer poverty. So while foreigners pay U$20 to get in, people in the street struggle. Don’t pay a guide to get you past the crowds. It is a scam as there are separate (short) queues for foreigners.

Taj Mahal basics

Taj Mahal means ‘Crown of Palaces’ and is actually not a palace, but a mausoleum for the king and his favorite wife for which he built the Taj. His wife, Mumtaz Mahal, was a Persian princess who died giving birth to their 14th child.

It was commissioned in 1632 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and took 21y to complete. 20,000 workers were involved and the cost, in todays prices, was above U$800m (white marble doesn’t come cheap).

The Taj Mahal, regarded as the prime example of Mughal architecture (indo-islamic architecture), has been Unesco world heritage since 1983 and in 2007 was part of the list of new 7 wonders of the world.

Agra – not much else to see but poverty

Most hotels in Agra are based close to the Taj and there is little need to go into Agra itself. There isn’t a whole lot else to see anyway other than Agra Fort (we passed gladly having seen so many in Rajasthan, India ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ: The hill forts of Rajasthan ๐Ÿฐ).

A reminder of how tough life can be where the shanti towns right opposite the fort. For me it was soon enough and so we headed back to the hotel for a ๐Ÿป and ๐ŸŠ.

Pics from the railway track

Leaving Agra behind wasn’t hard and offered a few more opportunities to capture life in and around train stations and along the railway track. While close to cities you often witness poverty up North in India, once the countryside opens up it is very beautiful and, judged from a bypassing train, also very peaceful.

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