Onto another bus. The journey to Agra was not superseded by the stop over at the ghost town. We spent 500rs each and got to walk around an abandoned city - with a guided tour, of course. It wasn't worth the tour but if temples are your thing, it may be worth the stop.
Actually it was quite a pleasant little stop and probably one of the calmer forts we had seen as it wasn't over-run by tourists. It is sold on the tourist trail as an abandoned ghost town and it was looted before it could become protected. There is also a big mystery surrounding its demise...... We got suckered in big time!
Long story short, this fellow decided to start a new religion by putting together all the 'good' parts from other religions (subjective I know). So he built this fort and then one room for each of his concubines in the style of their religion plastering them with gems and precious metals. At some point, he got distracted or something and then didn't finish it off. It got abandoned then looted and now it is sold as ghost town. It's not a ghost town, but might be worth stopping to see it if you are into your temples.
Agra has really only one key attraction and yup, it's that one. Fortunately, Andrea was super keen to see the Taj early. We were up and at the gates at around 5 and were first in line. It was worth it. As soon as the gates opened we ran to the main gate. It was empty and quite beautiful...I'll let the pictures do the talking. You can see from the top picture just how busy it can get.
Sunrise over the Taj Mahal
Look how empty it was!
Oh yea and it's 1000rs for tourists and 40rs for locals!!!! I know right. The official figures put foreign tourists in the minority - not because of the price but because it is a once in lifetime trip that many Indian people save up their whole life to see.
I did sort of have one of those moments as we were walking in, you know, this is the real life Taj Mahal.
After our escape from the hordes of people we went off for a walk by ourselves only to get warned off from a slum by a local, so we turned around and hotfooted back the way we had come.
Sunset over the Taj
We popped across the river to watch the sun set over the Taj Mahal. The garden was pretty and once again we paid for the ticket, to take two strides for someone to check the ticket. The Garden was pretty, it probably had more foreign tourists than I had seen for a while.
Unfortunately the battery had run out on the camera so the below snap is from the phone and not great quality.
Agra was made a lot more fun by the ending of Navaratri - the 9 day festival I have spoken about in my previous entries. The streets were one big party! Colours were flying everywhere, everything was painted, from asses to people. Unfortunately when we arrived, the celebrations were dying down and we missed the big party - It was very odd to see what was basically a place I had expected to be very respected churning out music you were more likely to find at Glastonbury.
The clip panning over Agra with the Taj Mahal in the background with rave music blaring out is my favourite. Wait for the drop...
The food in Agra is not worth writing about. Although I did have my first bit of meat, chicken tikka. I was fine, no problems with my belly at all. Excellent more meat it is - I'm just not touching fish until I'm down by the sea.
If anyone has ever been to Notting Hill Carnival, it was pretty similar, with trucks blaring out music and people following them around the streets. The music was bad. Most of the speakers were those ones you get at village fetes, you know those grey plastic looking ones that ask Mrs Wainrwright to "move her green rover (car) off the show ground as the sheep parade is about to begin". The ones that are incapable of handling the lower frequencies rendering your ears with temporary tinnitus. Still it didn't stop everyone from having a cracking evening!
Many people had different views and the celebration of Navaratri by muslims is a bit of a tense area in India at the moment. Shit, why can't everyone just get on. Oh yea, they do but the media spins it. No really. In India at the time of writing there a several powerful figures in the newspapers from both religions condemning muslims from celebrating a Hindu festival. No one 'on the ground' seems to be paying attention to this. For example, there are stories of a group of muslim girls in a local village who fast with their Hindu cousins through us witnessing many muslims joining in with the partying on Navaratri. I mean, who doesn't like an excuse to party!