05.15.2010 - 05.15.2010 112 °F
The drive to Agra by car was comfortable… way better than by train. My driver was nice and I saw some interesting things along the way. We stopped at a small village called Abhaneri to see an unusual stepwell. The ancient villagers once used this well to tap into the ground water. The steps that lead to the bottom are also like an M.C. Escher drawing. I was invited to see the local people paying respect to a Hindu god. Was asked to remove my sandals before entering the small shrine and burned the crap out of my feet! The stone floor was so hot!
The five-hour drive took us through some of Rajasthan’s small villages. I saw houses made of cow poop. No kidding. See the picture below!
There are many brick factories along the Agra road. They stick out because of their tall, smoking kiln stacks.
My impression of Agra was initially bad.
Agra, is by far, the dirtiest city… gets an additional dirty “star” ahead of Varanasi. The place smells like a sewer.
I’m staying at the Hotel Sheela which is located 300 feet from the East Gate of the Taj Mahal. This is the only thing going for them. The hotel staff is uncaring. The top-level room that I booked is bare and dirty; dead bugs on the floor, stains on the sheets and plaster rotting off the bathroom walls. Yay!
After shaking off the initial shock of the dirty accommodations, I made my way through the East Gate to see the Taj Mahal at sunset. Wow! what a magnificent piece of Persian architecture! As the sun was setting across the Yamuna River, it cast a warm glow on the white marble mausoleum. It was surreal to be at the foot of such a famous, beautiful building.
Unfortunately, no pictures of the interior as no cameras are allowed inside and I didn't want to leave my gear to some stranger at the bag check. Wandered around the grounds and captured some great silhouette sunset images of the mosque minarets then had dinner at the hotel. What a day!
Tomorrow I will visit the Agra Red Fort in the morning, Delhi by car in the afternoon, and then back to Guangzhou via overnight flight. I miss my family and the expensive coffee that China has to offer. I think I even miss Chinese food!