Friday 20th October 2017
Delhi to Agra
Had breakfast in the hotel then back to the room and packed our bags as we were leaving this morning. It is a public holiday here in India today for Diwali and not many places will be open. We set off in the bus and the first place we visited was the Baha’i Temple shaped like a gigantic lotus leaf. Very similar in many ways in structure and design to the Sydney Opera House. We looked at the grounds and were ushered in single file into the temple. It is plain and unadorned inside but with beautiful manicured lawns and lovely gardens outside. The religion was founded in the 19th century and has about 7 million adherents worldwide. We drove to India Gate, a very impressive stone war memorial to the 85,000 Indian servicemen who died in the First World War. There is an eternal flame and many people were visiting today to pay their respects. We then drove to view the Presidential Palace set in a monstrous building with huge grounds. You cannot go inside and so we just viewed from the outside. We were going to visit the largest Hindu temple in India but when we got there, it was surrounded by people celebrating Diwali so the guide decided not to try to get inside the complex. We headed off to the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi the “Father of India” and a revered figure here. The memorial was sited where Gandhi had been cremated after his assassination. We then drove to a carpet shop for a demonstration after which we went to a restaurant for lunch. After lunch we set off from Delhi out through the suburbs to the expressway heading towards Agra. Took us about 3 and a half hours to get to our hotel, had dinner in the hotel then to bed around 10:30pm. Today was hot and humid around 32C.
Saturday 21st October 2017 (David’s birthday)
Agra -Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
Up at 5:30am today for our sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal. The bus was late leaving as two of the passengers did not advise the guide that they were not coming, so we left about 10-15 minutes late, enough time to get caught up in more crowds than were expected. The lines to get into the Taj Mahal were very long by the time we arrived and today being a public holiday meant that there were many more local people than normal visiting the monument. After we had been through security, the sun was well up and we walked to see the outer buildings and then caught sight of this magnificent place. It just shimmers, being constructed from white marble, intricately patterned, just sublime. We took many photos, had a group photo taken and then walked to the building and looked at everything we could, soaking up the very special atmosphere that goes with visiting such a unique place. The Taj Mahal lives up to every superlative and is a wondrous place. It took us about an hour and a half to get through and see everything and then we had to go. Very, very sad to leave. Back to the hotel for a late breakfast then at noon we again went out to visit the Agra Fort, another huge set of walls, buildings, chambers and gardens that are a part of India’s history. The fort is immense and was very crowded – it is still holiday for locals, the weather was hot today (max 36C) but we had a very interesting tour of the fort and all of its history. Finished there after 2pm, and went to a marble factory and shop, then shopping at a “market” where some people bought souvenirs and gifts. Back to the hotel, dinner and to bed around 9:30pm.