Saturday, 19 November 2011

del – agra – kul: my 2nd wonders of the world

as mentioned, it was just a short stay in the comfy and luxurious hotel. i was out of the hotel by 4am, dammit! that’s because i’m going to agra, a town next to delhi, and then had to be back at delhi the very same day to catch my night flight to my final destination, HOME! so the travel agent said that in order to do that, i have to start my journey to agra very early, coz the traffic condition can be quite unpredictable.

i think the driver the tour agent sent had a secret dream to be a formula 1 driver, coz he was driving like a crazy person the whole way! speeding, overtaking, swerving in and out, honking impatiently and worse of all, wanting to pick fights with other drivers! i was quite worried that i may not be able to make it back home in one piece that i didn’t dare doze off in the 5 hour journey…

once at agra, we picked up my guide, whose name had escaped me (sign of old age!) and we proceeded to my 2nd wonders of the world (the first being the angkor wat): taj mahal!

the driver brought us to the parking lot of the complex and my guide told me that that’s the furthest we can go by car. from there onwards, we had to either go on foot, or take one of the various vehicles there: tonga (a kind of horse-drawn carriage), the camel-drawn carriage, tuk-tuk or trishaw. as my package specified tonga, that’s what my guide and i rode in.

DSC_0435 i really pity the horse. very skinny, smelly and it’s very obvious that it has not been well-kept. life is indeed hard there, even for the animals. especially for the animals :’(

DSC_0440 the camels were pathetic looking too… :(

DSC_0442approaching the outer entrance to the complex

 DSC_0443the inner entrance to the complex… we’re there, but not quite there! my guide was explaining to me about the 11 small onion-shaped domes at the top, but i wasn’t really paying much attention, coz i was impatient to go inside!

DSC_0448the front view of the inner entrance…

DSC_0449first glimpse of the white-marbled taj… my guide told me to stand on the line on the floor, and i can see the perfect symmetry of the entrance with the taj inside!

DSC_0454 inside the gate, which is really a building by itself. i should’ve paid more attention to where i was standing to shoot this pic. now it’s not quite a perfect symmetry :(

DSC_0455 and then it’s there, right before my eyes…

DSC_0462but before i can proceed to get a closer look, my guide insisted that i have my picture taken on this bench first and then bore me with a long grandmother story of the background of the mausoleum. things like king shah jahan, his queen mumtaz, the construction process, the architects and artists, the reasons for the various side towers and buildings, the architecture bla bla bla… to learn more about the taj mahal, go read here

then only i realized that he’s not gonna go with me, but will let me explore the place by myself while he waited for me on this bench. hmp, so lazy! but i was glad to ditch him too, coz he can be a real bore! hehehe…

DSC_0468 of course, he did tell me where to go, what to see and where to take the best shots… took me dem long to take this shot, and as you can see from the position of the sprinkler/fountain faucets in the pond, it wasn’t taken from the very middle. that’s because there were so many blardy inconsiderate tourists who were busy posing and hogging the view!

 DSC_0481 before coming here, my indian colleagues told me that we have to remove our shoes before stepping onto the white marble floors. luckily my guide bought shoe covers for me at the ticket booth, coz it was raining earlier and i was quite apprehensive about walking around in my socks on the wet floor, or worse, go barefoot!

DSC_0479 some inscriptions and patterns on the walls…

DSC_0482 marble flowers…

DSC_0483the patterns on the walls were not painted on, because dye tends to fade with time. all the colours on the walls are actually gems and precious stones! i only remember the blue colour is lapis lazuli…

DSC_0493 view of the entrance from the taj…

after exploring the inner chambers of the taj (we’re not allowed to take photos inside, but there’s a replica of queen mumtaz’s [right in the middle] and shah jahan’s [off to the side] tombs in there) and the side buildings of the complex, i went to meet my guide and we left the place. then i found out that my package did not include a ride out and i would have to pay extra for it! *^&@&#$^&#$@

3 men came over to try to get my business by begging my guide to engage their service. but my guide told them it’s up to me and then asked me to choose between a tuk-tuk, a tonga or a trishaw.

DSC_0499 i chose the trishaw, coz i feel the trishaw paddler deserved my money the most, as it will be from his own effort. the tuk-tuk is motor-powered and the tonga operator is just abusing his horse for personal gains! also, the trishaw paddler looked the most kesian…

next, my guide instructed the driver to bring us to a shop selling authentic “stuff”, as my guide put it. earlier at the car park area of the taj mahal area, he stressed to me a few times not to buy from the many street peddlers there, as those are all fakes. i didn’t quite understand what are the “those” he was referring to, but soon realized it when i stepped into the shop.

DSC_0501 a demonstration of how the gems and precious stones were laid into the marbles…

apparently, the “fake stuff” my guide was talking about were marbles! here at the shop, i was shown “authentic” marble furniture and other decorative stuff, with an explanation of how to spot a real marble from a fake one. as if i’d wanna buy a huge and heavy marble dining table that seats 12 people while on holiday! *rolls eyes* and when my guide saw that i only bought 2 tiny marble fridge magnets, he was clearly disappointed. and we all know why!

DSC_0504 next, we went to visit the agra fort just opposite the river from taj mahal. read all about it here

DSC_0525 it was said that nearing the end of his life, shah jahan was imprisoned by his son (who has overtaken the throne after killing the crown prince, shah jahan’s eldest son) in this fort, and this was the balcony from where shah jahan would look out towards the taj mahal everyday, which holds the remains of his beloved queen mumtaz

DSC_0523 view from the chamber of shah jahan’s youngest daughter, which is right next to the chamber he was imprisoned in. the reason their chambers are next to each other was because the king (the son who deserved to be lightning-struck) wanted his sister to care for their father

DSC_0526 some similarities with taj mahal, as parts of the fort were built by shah jahan, who prefers white marbles to red bricks

DSC_0529 it’s a huge complex but as i’ve seen what i’ve come to agra to see and also i was really worried if i’d be able to make it back on time to delhi for my flight, i wasn’t really interested in exploring every nook and cranny of this fort

DSC_0534the journey back to delhi was jam crazy!

DSC_0537 on the way back, we made a stop at fatehpur sikri, as part of my tour itinerary. but as it has started raining again, the guide asked if i wanna go in coz there aren’t any shelter in there, just a huge open space complex. i said no, coz it’s just a lesser-known unesco world heritage site that i’ve never even heard about before i came. so we just dashed out from the car to snap this photo and back into the car! and the driver didn’t even park the car, coz the traffic was jam like mad outside. the car was just a few meters ahead from where we got off!

DSC_0543 on the drive back to delhi, the driver said i had to take a picture of this mosque, which was built as a replica of the taj mahal. not that i care, but he purposely slowed down the car for me to snap it, so had to oblige lar… :P

DSC_0545 having checked out of the hotel at such an ungodly hour, i only had some oreos biscuits with plain water for breakfast and i was nearly dying of hunger by 2pm, when the driver turned into this roadside makan place. it’s obviously an establishment for tourists and travelers like me, coz there are shops selling trinkets and stuff at the side, something like those roadside food courts that some of the express busses turned into back home. i contemplated on getting a kamasutra book for my brother from one of the stalls there, but decided not to in case the customs officer wanna check my bag!

DSC_0548 not really liking the idea of eating food from a road side establishment but not having much choice about it, i took my chance with a chicken thali, remembering how good they were in pokhara. but obviously they’re not the same thing… didn’t really finish it. luckily it didn’t do anything weird to my stomach

DSC_0550 made it to indra gandhi international airport in good time at about 6pm (my flight was at 9.55pm) and this was my last meal in india: mc donald’s! so obvious that i’m done being adventurous with food, huh?

205994_2189583613467_1063385369_2564826_7318654_n touched down in lcct at 6am the next morning, exhausted and in serious need of a shower! here’s a pic i posted on my fb wall…

so, this concludes my dxb–ktm–del–kul holiday series! *phew* took me long enough to post everything up… sorry again for stretching them over nearly 3 months. now i can go on and post about something else. and also looking forward to my 3rd wonders of the world holiday next year! ;)


gina said...

So now, you are conquering all the 7 wonders of the world? 2 down liao.. 5 more to go.. and Beijing's great wall is next!

Wah... cool leh! I wish I could go to India one day to see Taj Mahal for myself. :D

gina said...

PS.. I won't choose the trishaw peddler if it was me.. coz I lagi kesian him, kena carry triple the weight of a normal person. HAHAHAHHA!!!

Biow said...

the not symetry photo can use photoshop to make straight..

agree with gina, so cool to see Taj Mahal.. afterall, it's one of the 7 wonders, kan?

stargal said...

actually there are more than 7 wonders. there are 7 natural wonders, 7 underwater wonders, 7 man-made wonders, 7 ancient dunno what wonders etc. too many! but gina is right, next is great wall!

gina, lol @ the trishaw comment! also, even though i dun like the country, but the taj mahal is worth the trip!

biow, really? but lazy lar :P

Mona said...

finally! long wait but worth it lar..... waited this post so long already. if i ada janggut, sudah sampai lantai lar. :)

it's really a worlds' wonder isn't it? thanx Sue for bringing me there virtually. :)

stargal said...

hehe... dun say like that lar, paiseh. i'll try my best to update more regularly... :P