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.Red Fort
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).
driver for around Delhi had pretty much a set tour. The tour was
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.
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.
Minar was high on my list of things to
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.
I was quite surprised to see
parakeets. They seem to fill a similar niche as pigeons here (and
Europe) and they sure are prettier.
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
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.
is one of the greatest rulers (Mughal
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
very impressed by the work in the
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.
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.
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
foreigner to get in - 20Rs for a local. The queue was probably
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
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.
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
can actually walk into the Taj Mahal (the
was quick) and while the marble work inside is fantastic, there is so
little light you can't photo anything. I was very impressed.
grandfather saw this place durring WW2 and
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
I read about Keoladeo National Park in the
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.
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.
in Delhi again
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
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.
It was lunch time so I decided to finally eat
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.
And finally, I went shopping. I tried a
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.
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.
Tags: India(48), architectural decoration(13), place of worship(9), sunset(7), bird(6), safari(5)
From: John Harvey Photo > India > Delhi And Agra
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > India > Delhi And Agra
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?
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.
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 :)
Monday, December 20th, 2010 at 19:20:05
Last Modified Saturday, August 8th, 2009 at 23:15:58 Edit
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