Heading Inland in India
After a short visit in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), we started the next leg of our trip cruising the coast of India. But there was no way I was coming this far and not taking a trip inland. We would leave the ship for 3 days to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise and sunset! But that was only one of the things to do in Agra. We visited the Agra Fort and found it much more extensive than we expected. A stop at the Kohinoor Museum provided us with more history and a look at some amazing art. We started on our Delhi drive to explore Agra with much anticipation!
Leaving the Port in Mumbai
We started our very long day with a 4am wake up call. The ship departure processes were long. We then boarded a ratty old bus that had a bizarre circular stairway. Half the people on our tours had trouble getting on a regular bus. This entry challenged most of us.
Security processes to leave the port were pure security theatre. Three busloads of tourists stumbled around in the dark to walk through a terminal before re-boarding the bus. The bus was not searched. There was no process to ensure that people actually went through the terminal. Had there really been a threat from our cruise ship, they surely would never have found it. But they finally did let us leave.
The guide on the bus proceeded to narrate details about Mumbai to the sleepy group. Most of the details repeated things we had learned on our tour of Mumbai the previous day. The tide was out and the stench permeated the bus. We were not surprised to learn that nobody swims in the water where raw sewage is dumped.
As we headed to the airport, we got a view of the massive slums. We had watched the City of Joy movie the previous day. The movie did not exaggerate the conditions in these areas of the city.
Flying to Delhi
We arrived at the airport about 50 minutes before departure. Even for a domestic flight, we figured we were toast.
Our tour guide marshalled us from spot to spot. Even with a rigorous security check and a shuttle to the outfield, we departed only 20 minutes late. But this delay would be the beginning of delays that would ruin the best laid plan for the day.
The plane was a typical budget flight. We were gone for two nights and we really did not want to check bags. Carry on limits were very tight but David got me to one 7kg bag. Yes – I really can pack light if I have to!
Most people in our group ignored the limits and travelled with their large North American rolling bags. Nothing was weighed and there were not penalties. The breakfast was inedible but at least we got a drink choice that included bottled water.
Our guide met us at baggage checkout. Slow ladies bathroom lines added more to the delay. But eventually we were marshalled through the parking lot to a big roomy bus. This would be our transport for two days as we started our Delhi drive to explore Agra.
Driving Through Delhi
Our new guide talked the whole way on our Delhi drive to explore Agra. He just ignored the nodding heads. We passed through many local areas. We saw crowded streets with roadside vendors selling fruit.
As we had found travelling through SE Asia, people used bikes, scooters and small motorcycles for everything. Families piled on with no thought about helmets or other safety precautions. Goods were stacked high. Tuk tuks were brightly coloured and often spilling out with people.
On our Delhi drive to explore Agra, our tour guide pointed out some tourist sights. Delhi appeared far greener, cleaner and less dilapidated than we had found Mumbai. But we would not end up with any time to see Delhi on this trip.
We got our first view of how much the cows rule. Everywhere we looked we found cows wandering the roads. Brahman cows are said to have great health benefits. For centuries they were protected for their health properties and over the years a religious mystique was tied to them and the cows apparently know it. They seemed pretty free to do what they wanted.
The Delhi Drive to Explore Agra
We finally made it onto the major highway. On our Delhi drive to explore Agra, we could see the vast expansion taking place around Delhi. New communities and roads were visible everywhere we looked.
There was much to see along the side of the highway as we sped along on our Delhi drive to explore Agra. We were surprised when we saw a large group of camels. There was a lot of farm land. Interesting small buildings dotted the side of the highway. Small local mosques could be found along the way.
Arriving in Agra
When we researched the Delhi drive to explore Agra, people commented that travel time would depend on the cows. Most of the road was a large highway, but we did see cows wandering on the side. When we moved to the smaller roads around Agra, cows ran wild and wandered everywhere. Just one more thing to slow us down!
The small roads in Agra were busy. We continued to see the long line ups at banks. Certain denominations in Indian rupees had been recalled and people were anxious to exchange them. We would never end up getting Indian rupees through our visit to India. It was a good thing we travelled with U.S. dollars.
Arriving at the Taj Mahal For Sunset
Our Delhi drive to explore Agra was the end of of a very long trip. We arrived at the Taj Mahal about 12 hours after we left our ship. An extensive line up and body search happened before we started to walk the last mile. We reached the gate and admired our first view of the artistry we would find.
It was busy when we arrived at the Taj Mahal for sunset. As we walked towards the Taj Mahal, we could watch the colours change. We found the spots to catch the reflections.
As we got close to the building, the artistry of the building could be seen. We took the time to go inside to visit the tombs in this mausoleum.
It was great to be at the Taj Majal at sunset and fascinating to watch the colour change as the sun went lower.
Finishing Our Long First Day
It was a long wait until the group finally all congregated. Luckily it was a short drive to our hotel once we finally got everyone back on the bus. We dragged ourselves through the JayPee Hotel check-in process. It had been a very long day since we started our Delhi drive to explore Agra. The hotel was a massive facility and we seemed to walk for miles to find our room. We thought we might have a nice view from the room but opening the sliding door let in the worst smell. We hoped it would be gone before bed time.
The evening entertainment was local Diwan-E-Aam dancers. The music, moves and bells on their feet told the stories. Most people headed up to their rooms early since we had another very early wake up call the next day.
Sunrise At the Taj Mahal
We arrived at the Taj Mahal as the sun was coming up over the horizon. It was beautiful to see the building change as it was lit.
While the Taj Mahal was the main building to visit, we spent some time wandering around the Mosque.
If you take the time to do the Delhi drive to explore Agra, book enough time so you can see the Taj Mahal at both sunset and sunrise. It is a magical experience.
The Agra (Red) Fort Is Not To Be Missed
Many people finished their Delhi drive to explore Agra with just the Taj Mahal. That was a big mistake!. We spent half a day exploring the Agra Fort. This was also known as the Red Fort for the local red sandstone used in construction.
As we explored this fort, we found many different buildings and palaces to admire. The large Khas-Mahal or King’s Palace was a marble jewel in the middle.
It was also fascinating to visit the Muthamman Burj. This was the palace used to hold Shah Jahan when he was imprisoned. Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal as a mausoleum for his wife. He could look out the window and see the Taj Mahal in the distance.
Amazing beauty was found everywhere we went in the Red Fort. The Diwan-iAm, originally the place where Mughal emperors received members of the general public, was yet one more place we stopped to admire.
If you make the Delhi drive to explore Agra, make sure you visit the Red Fort. You will not be disappointed!
The Kohinoor Museum Will Add To The History of Agra
After seeing the Red Fort, we stopped at the Kohinoor Museum. In a special room, you will find the most amazing three dimensional embroidery art created by Sheikh Shams Uddin. We were entranced as piece after piece was lit for our enjoyment.
The Kohinoor Museum was an interesting thing to add to our adventures on our Delhi drive to explore Agra. It certainly added another measure of the great artistry to be found in India.
Views From The Air
Like many places, it is often interesting to take to the skies to get another perspective on interesting sights. Agra is no exception. We saw hot air balloons launched in the early dawn in the mist. The view from above must have been awesome.
When you plan your Delhi drive to explore Agra, look into options to get into the sky for a different perspective. The mornings may be quite foggy some days. While the sunrise view is great, you may want to consider a ride later in the day.
Many Interesting Things To Do In Agra
There are many things to do if you do the Delhi drive to explore Agra. Most people know of Agra only because of the Taj Mahal. It is on the “wish list” for many people. But if you plan a visit to Agra, ensure you have time to see the other things to do that Agra offers. Fort Agra was s a massive site and at every turn we found yet another beautiful building steeped in the history of the Mughal empires. If you want to see some of the other artistry that Agra has to offer, consider a visit to the Kohinoor Museum.
We had a short time in Agra and this was all that we could see. If you can plan a longer trip, there are other things to do in Agra. Consider a visit to Fatehpur Sikri. This site was built by the Mughals with palaces, mosques, residences and administrative building. While abandoned after a short time, much is still there to see. Itimad-ud-daulah is another mausoleum built of white marble and inlaid with semi-precious stones that is referred to as the Baby Taj. And of course, don’t miss the Indian food and shopping!
Did you do the Delhi drive to explore Agra? What other things to do did you find when you visited Agra? Was there a site that you would suggest that people skip?