Delhi And Agra

Welcome to India

I arrived in Delhi at 2am.  The airport is "scary" at best (although everything seemed to be made out of beautiful marble) and when I finally got out into arrivals I found no one was waiting for me.  I tried to call my hotel (got ripped off - the phone guy charged my 110 rupies for what I would learn should have been a 20 rupie call).  I found a cab - for 850 rupies I got a ride to the hotel.  Turns out it should have been 250 rupees and the driver didn't know where the hotel was.  The hotel (which was highly rated) targeted travelers from Southern India and was rough for westerners.  Shortly after arriving, I was having no fun.

The next morning, I got a taxi (much more reasonable) into the tourist area and found a "government" travel agency.  They told me many of my train tickets weren't available (I looked them up ahead of time but didn't buy them on the internet - dumb).  I decided to get a driver and a car - for 1000 rupies (about $25CDN) for the day, it made life easier.  I also booked a longer range driver for the Delhi to Agra and then onto Jaipur section.  All said and done, it was about $500 CDN, but in hind sight, it really made my trip much more enjoyable (and probably safer).

Red Fort

Columns
The driver for around Delhi had pretty much a set tour.  The tour was pretty simple - first to the Red Fort, then the near by Mosque (closed because of time of day), the Ghandi memorial, lunch and then south to Qutb Minar. 

Red Fort Entrance


Guy Selling Fruit
The fort impressed me.  They had a couple of museums - one for weapons and another for the British occupation.  What impressed me most though was the stone.  Anything that lasts this long has to be built well.


Qutb Minar

Tower Detail
Qutb Minar was high on my list of things to see.  It's a bit out town so it's not on many of the cheap city tours, but the private driver didn't mind driving out here.  The tower was started around 1193 and finished around 1368 making it about 400 years older than anything you can easily see around Vancouver.  The grounds are in ruins and you can basically wander anywhere you want.  I arrived near sunset so the lighting was really good.  While the tower itself is very detailed, you find even the stones in retaining walls have art in them.  For me, it really set home how old this country is.



Tower Over Broken MosqueTower With Base

Crazy Levelof DetailLight Through WindowCarved Detail In The Stone Work
 
I was quite surprised to see parakeets.  They seem to fill a similar niche as pigeons here (and Europe) and they sure are prettier.

Paraqueet FlyingParaqueet On Stonework

The next day I got picked up at my Hotel (they weren't thrilled I was checking out two days early - I figured I was paying about 4 times what the locals paid and I got exactly the same thing) and we headed south towards Agra.

Akbars Mausoleum

The drive down from Delhi wasn't quick.  While it was only 200km on the map (2 hours for intercity highways in Canada) it was well over 5 hours in India - roads just aren't that good and they are very busy.  I quite enjoyed the breaks and when we pulled into Akbars Mausoleum I looked forward to the opportunity to strech my legs.

From Of Akbars Tomb
Akbar is one of the greatest rulers (Mughal emperor) in India's history.  His Grandson (Shah Jahan) built the Taj Mahal.  Akbar is famous for his joining of religions (Muslim, Hinduism and Christianity) by having three wives, one from each religion.  Clever.

South Gate

Roof Detail
I was very impressed by the work in the tomb.  The walls and ceilings were incredibly detailed (compared to the Red Fort in Delhi) and this place is in good shape considering its something like 450 years old.

Top Of Detailed Roof

Hanging LampWindows With Design
  I was very happy to have my 35 f1.4.  The low light levels in here made this small lens very useful.

While walking around the outside of the building, I was approached by a gentleman with a new looking D80 asking if he could hold my camera.  He had two larger gentlemen behind him.  My driver warned me of these kinds of scams - the guy goes for run one he has your camera.  I didn't feel so comfortable at this point.  I politly said no and after a bit of excuse making, they guys eventually left.  Apparently my friends had a pool going for which day on the trip I would loose all of my camera gear.  This was day 2, but I still had the gear.



Taj Mahal

Taj After SunsetTaj Before Sunset

The Taj Mahal.  What can you say?  Many people believe it's one of the wonders of the world.   Some people believe it's the most romantic building in the world.  I know it's one of the most photographed places in the world.  I had high expectations - I was quite frankly expecting to be blown away, and I knew I could do nearly nothing to capture the beauty of the place. 



You can of have to undestand this place.  It costs 750 rupees for a foreigner to get in - 20Rs for a local.  The queue was probably more than an hour long and I actually was kicked out the first time I tried because I had ear phones from my iPod in my backpack.  My guide was slick - he pushed me through the queue, skipping an hour (I didn't feel bad - that kind of "foreigner tax" deserves some special perks other than a 5Rs bottle of water) and he smoothed out secutiy.

 
Taj Reflected In Dark Side
The guide told me where to stand, which lens to use (use a 50mm here) and even gave hints (get low here to get the reflection in the water).  I was amazed by the level of detail he had, but he does this twice a day for a few months of the year - he had better know.  Always an wanting to try something new, I did take a few novel angles.

Taj Mahal From Mosque Side


Taking Photo In Front Of Tower
You can actually walk into the Taj Mahal (the queue was quick) and while the marble work inside is fantastic, there is so little light you can't photo anything.  I was very impressed.

Waiting To Get Inside Taj Mahal



Taj From The Side
My grandfather saw this place durring WW2 and he throught it was fantastic.  He says he almost had the place to himself.  With the rise of the middle class in India, tens of thousands of people visit the Taj Mahal every day in the good (winter) season.  Even with the crowds, I was very impressed.


From here I stay overnight in my hotel in Agra and the next morning we left for Jaipur

Fatephur Sihki

This part of my trip was a bit spontanous so I kind of took it as it came. The first stop on our trip was Fatephur Sihki - the ghost city.

Woman Walking With Jug On Head
This large complex (being activly restored) was the capital of Akbar's empire about 440 years ago but wasn't abandonded soon after it was built because the water suply couldn't keep up with growth.   This place is being activly restored (apparently since the british were here) and it's great to just walk around in.

Depressed Courtyard

Very Ornate ColumnInside BalconyWalk Under Roof


Next to the temple complex is Jami Masjid - Dargah Mosque.  Compared to the palace complex, the Mosque is a hive of activity.  I was suprised - western churches in my part of the world are generally pretty empty when not being used officially.  The mosque here had market activity as well as lots of family tourist activity.

Courtyard

I somehow managed to pick up a "guide" who was "practicing his english" - short for building up a relationship so you feel bad and give him a tip.  He was actually quite useful - he described lots of detail and practices - it may not have been true, but it certainly sounded good.

 
Strings On StoneworkWriting On The WallHorseshoes Tacked On Door

 
I was most impressed with the mosque area where the prayers are spoken from and the men pray on their carpets.  There was not formal acticity (wrong time of day) but the physical space was very impressive.  I can imagine the continuity knowing your great grandfather prayed in the same place you are praying now.

Internal PillarsSections Of MosqueVery Red Ceiling Detail

Keoladeo National Park

Guide And Tourists In Park
I read about Keoladeo National Park in the planning phase, but I was planning on doing this part of the trip by train and there isn't a train stop near here.  Once I changed my schedual (driver rather than train) I didn't realize that Keoladeo was actually a possibility.  It was my driver that suggested we stop in and I was quite glad he suggested we do,


The park is internal combustion engine free so you have to hire a bike or rickshaw to get around.  My driver hooked me up (something silly like 200 rupees - $5 CDN for the two hours) with a guide that was knew the names of the birds in english.

Two Birds In TreeBlack Ibix
 
 Three StarlingsKingfisher On a BranchJackal At Side Of Road


Back in Delhi

I've now been in India for two weeks, taken the train, stayed in lots of hotels, I get it.  With the transfers from Jaisamere to Ramnagar I would up having a few hours free in Delhi.  I got a cheap hotel room, showered, and then went exploring.  By this point I was starting to understand street photography a little better.

  Cart With SweetsBoy Selling At Cart

Back in Delhi again
After Corbett, I had another day in Delhi before my flight out the next morning.   I arrived at the hotel (this one was nice) at 6am and they bent over backwards to accomodate me.  I got a driver for the day (from the hotel) and hit some of the things I had missed.  One was the Lotus temple. 

Lotus Temple In FogLotus With Pools

They won't let you take photos inside, but this space is one of the most amazing I've seen in my short life.  There was a woman singing near the center and the reverb was simply stunning.  I can imagine why this place is so romantic for people.  After that I visited Akshardham - a huge temple complex outside of Delhi.  This temple doesn't allow photography (or cameras, or anything else the could be a weapon) so while the temple was impressive (mostly for what modern money and practice builds) I have nothing to show for it.

Mcdonalds
It was lunch time so I decided to finally eat at McDonalds.  Being vegetarian, India was a fantastic place for me to eat.  McDonalds didn't disappoint, it tasted much like I remembered it (before I found the fries in Canada have beef in them).  Sadly, India is probably the only place I can safely eat there.  Give the amount of Indian food I had eaten, I was quite happy for the break.



Kid Oriented MobilesMetalwork
And finally, I went shopping.  I tried a few places, but my favorite was Dilli Haart.  It's a little bit out of the way, but the variety of shops and nice people really made for a fun time.  I wouldn't buy a carpet here, but I did get some nice little things to fill in the cracks in my shopping list.

Small Stone Carvings

I went back to the hotel (stopping in to buy a carpet) watched some TV and went to bed early for my 3am wake up call to go to the airport for my 7am flight.   I was amazed to see my driver from the day before (8 hour previous) there to drive me to the airport.  I was happy we got along well and I tipped him enough to make him smile.  Too bad about the fog.


Sections Of Mosque
Tags: India, place of worship
Lotus With Pools
Altitude: 233m (764 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: India, place of worship
Crazy Levelof Detail
Tags: architectural decoration, India
South Gate
Altitude: 161m (528 feet)
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Tags: India
Light Through Window
Tags: dappled light, India
Two Birds In Tree
Species: Turdoides striatus (Jungle Babbler)
Altitude: 166m (544 feet)
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Tags: bird, India, safari
Windows With Design
Tags: architectural decoration, India
Metalwork
Altitude: 207m (679 feet)
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Tags: India, shopping
Tower Over Broken Mosque
Altitude: 236m (774 feet)
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Tags: India, place of worship, sunset
From Of Akbars Tomb
Tags: India
Strings On Stonework
Tags: architectural decoration, India
Writing On The Wall
Tags: architectural decoration, India
Top Of Detailed Roof
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Columns
Tags: fort, India
Kingfisher On a Branch
Species: Halcyon smyrnensis (White-throated Kingfisher)
Tags: bird, India, safari
Very Ornate Column
Tags: architectural decoration, India
Inside Balcony
Altitude: 193m (633 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: architectural decoration, India
Internal Pillars
Tags: India, place of worship
Black Ibix
Tags: bird, India, safari
Walk Under Roof
Tags: India, roof
Taj Mahal From Mosque Side
Location: Go To...
Tags: India, memorial
Roof Detail
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Tower Detail
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Woman Walking With Jug On Head
Altitude: 195m (639 feet)
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Tags: city, India
Kid Oriented Mobiles
Altitude: 204m (669 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: India, shopping
Hanging Lamp
Tags: architectural decoration, India
Horseshoes Tacked On Door
Tags: architectural decoration, door, India
Jackal At Side Of Road
Species: Canis aureus (golden jackal)
Tags: India, safari
Cart With Sweets
Tags: India, street food, street photography
Taj From The Side
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Carved Detail In The Stone Work
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Boy Selling At Cart
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Taj After Sunset
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Tower With Base
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Small Stone Carvings
Altitude: 214m (702 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: India, shopping
Taking Photo In Front Of Tower
Tags: architectural decoration, India, sunset
Taj Reflected In Dark Side
Tags: India, memorial, reflection, sunset
Courtyard
Tags: India, panorama, place of worship
Lotus Temple In Fog
Altitude: 218m (715 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: fog, India, place of worship
Very Red Ceiling Detail
Tags: architectural decoration, India
Waiting To Get Inside Taj Mahal
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Guide And Tourists In Park
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Paraqueet On Stonework
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Taj Before Sunset
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Red Fort Entrance
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Tags: fort
Guy Selling Fruit
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Depressed Courtyard
Altitude: 196m (643 feet)
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Tags: city, India
Mcdonalds
Tags: India, lunch
Three Starlings
Species: Sturnus pagodarum (Brahminy Starling)
Tags: bird, India
Paraqueet Flying
Tags: bird, India
Tags: India(48), architectural decoration(13), place of worship(9), sunset(7), bird(6), safari(5)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > India > Delhi And Agra
From: John Harvey Photo > India > Delhi And Agra

Hello you! I must be suffering itinerary fatigue - have left out getting from Delhi to Agra after flying in at about 13:00. I think driving is the only way we are going to get to Agra by that evening and after travelling already that day from Mussoorie I don't think we'll have much left for a train trip. Could you pls advise - where did you find the driver and did you pre-book? Thanks
Maree
Thursday, October 29th, 2009 at 00:32:01

I drove because by the time I tried to book my train tickets, they were sold out. The drive was rough - it's slow (40km/hr) and a lot of it is rural. If you do go train (I hear the Delhi to Agra train has some really nice first class cars), book your train tickets in advance, probably over the internet. The travel shop I found was really random - I just started walking around Connaught Place in New Delhi and found a place that looked busy. The whole driver thing is pretty random - the drivers seem to be independent operators and each services at least one booking shop as well as their own privately found (internet) clients. Sadly I can't give you any specific contacts.
John Harvey
Thursday, October 29th, 2009 at 21:38:11

Sir, I was born and brought up in India. I have been to all these places you have described above. I am amazed by detail in your posts here. Now I feel like I have to plan another trip to retrace your footsteps :) Cheers !

Monday, December 20th, 2010 at 19:20:05

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