I really needed a break from the crazy month that was October. So when my Couch surfer friend, Eric, decided to make a quick trip to Agra, before he went back to the US- I (Literally) jumped at the opportunity. We left on a Saturday (1.11.2014) at 4 p.m. and reached around 7:45 p.m. that day itself. We were travelling by the Mahakoshal Express from Nizamuddin to Agra Cantt that was on time. But please carry your own food and water, as there is no Pantry on the train. The only stop was Mathura, where I could get some water from the station.
Once we reached there, we took a pre-paid auto to our hotel- The Pyranees Home Stay, it's in R.K.Puram, hardly 20 minutes from the station, and should cost you about Rs 200.(3.3 USD) Our room was comfortable ( Rs 1300/ 21.6 USD per night),There was a lovely, cozy, rooftop restaurant, with a varied menu including chicken and beer.
We crashed early and made it to the Taj Mahal by 7 a.m. but there was still a small crowd. The entry for foreign tourists and women are different, so please don't get stuck in the men's line, unless you want to be leered at. I had to climb over railings to get to my ladies line. The entry ticket to the Taj Mahal is Rs 20 for Indians and Rs 750 ( 12.5 USD) for Foreigners.
Once inside, you can reflect on the beauty of the lovely monument, go crazy taking selfies, or pretend to be a 'serious'photographer and try and take pictures of the Taj from various angles- but whatever you do, please avoid the monkeys. My friend, Eric, decided to shoot them, and they were not very happy.
We went back to the hotel by 10 a.m. when the real rush had started, but not before getting a lovely, intricately decorated marble lamp and some famous ''Agra ke pethe'.
In the evening, we made it to Agra Fort, where we gave the guided tour a miss, and explored the various Mahals and Durbars inside the Fort. My favourite was the Main Durbar that still has Birbal's seat with the commoners.There are also Sound and Light shows depicting Mughal History for Culture enthusiasts. These are at 6:15 in Hindi, and 7:15 in English and cost Rs 150.
We went to a local cafe called 'Sheroes Hangout', started by an NGO that works for Acid Attack Victims. It is hardly 10 minutes from Agra Fort, going in the direction of R.K.Puram. It is a lovely, arty place, with a lot of soul. The people are friendly and you can pay whatever you want- (Tip- Try the Pasta in Red Sauce) I made a lot of friends there, and we have kept in touch. When they came to Delhi, I showed them around my city. :)
Finally, after a restful holiday, I returned to Delhi on Monday morning at 10:30 a.m. on the Agra Intercity Express Mail that left Agra Cantt. at 6 a.m sharp. As I got ready for work, I remembered what my auto driver, Mr Ahmed told me, when I reached Agra, he looked at me and said in perfect English, "I never went to school, but my meetings with travelers has educated me, it has made me grow. And you are such a traveler. You are not a tourist, Miss. I hope you understand the difference.''