For our trip from Delhi to Agra we got what looked like a ramshackle bus that would hopefully deliver us in Agra some three to three and a half hours later with the wind behind us. The road was mainly two-way traffic except this being India there was a mystical third middle lane that anybody in a hurry helped themselves to. On top of all that, there were the horses, tuk-tuks and the occasional camel and cart. That middle lane was a nightmare. It was used like something from ‘Who dares wins’ as traffic flew at each other head-on until one or the other driver bottled it and pulled in avoiding head-on crashes; but above and beyond this was everybody having to dodge abandoned tyres or the very occasional large dead animal. It was a white knuckle ride from beginning to end. Luckily, still in one piece we arrived, threw ourselves out the bus door, feeling lucky to have survived that horrendous journey. At the end of the day this is all part of the India experience or so I'm told.
We only had one night here so no time to waste: bags ditched in the hotel we set off through the rubble that was Agra in the direction of the Taj Mahal. Everything around us looked half derelict or a crumbling mess. How on earth could the Taj survive while the streets around it were like an after the war zone, but somehow it has. Construction of the mausoleum was completed in 1643 and the architecture is Mughal. When you first set eyes on it, it looks like it was built yesterday until you get up close; then the cracks do start to appear. It was built by Emperor Shah Jehan in the memory of his 3rd wife Mumtaz.
We were lucky as the place was reasonably quiet allowing us to have a really good look around, one odd thing was that the river behind was almost dry or at least drier than I expected. I still find it hard to believe that this building is still standing and looking as magnificent as it is while everything around it is crumbling.
After an hour or so we decided to head up river to the Agra Fort which is built on the right bank of the river Yamuna. This had over the years become more of a walled city but with a wealth of history in connection with the Taj Mahal. The story goes that Shah Jehan was imprisoned in the fort by his son Aurangzeb and died with the view of the Taj Mahal and his wife.
The fort still looks stunning red brick, especially when you think how many monsoons it's been through throughout the years. We came across a market on our way back to the hotel, lots of souvenirs such as the Taj in a snow dome and that sort of thing, nothing that interested us in the slightest, the memory of this wonderful sight that is the Taj Mahal was all I needed.
Born in Chiswick West London, grew up in Royal Berkshire, currently living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands