Our Agra Experience
Marlene and David’s Agra Impressions! – Written by Marlene Hofstatter
On Finally Viewing the Taj Mahal
On the second day of our arrival we got up early to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. After a long check-in and monkeys who stole chips from the tourists, we finally got in. Unfortunately the sunrise was not that impressive because it was very foggy in the morning.
The Taj itself looked the exactly like the innumerable pictures which I have seen of it. And I can’t figure out what I should think about the most famous historical sight of India. Was it nice? Yes of course, but to be honest, I wasn’t overwhelmed. The marble is beautiful, so is the whiteness, also the full details of the pietra dura technique (stonework which is famous in Agra). Still, during our visit it seems that our expectations were too high and the reason could be that we didn’t have the amazing history in mind. What I definitely know now: I would recommend getting a guide for the Taj, even when you know the background of it to reflect on the incredible history, right then, at that very moment, in front of the Taj.
The interesting point of the Taj for me was that it seemed always so far away, not real more surreal.
The delightful Red Fort
I highly recommend the Red Fort in Agra! It’s incredibly beautiful and David and I liked it even more than the Taj Mahal. You can walk through the buildings, palaces and temples. It’s far better than the Red Fort in Delhi where we were not allowed to enter most of the facilities. In the Agra Red Fort you can walk through history, which I really appreciated. You even have an awesome view from the Red Fort of the Taj. Unfortunately there are also some parts of the Red Fort closed for tourist which belong to military.
Baby Taj: Itimad-ud-Daulah
Very sweet, artistic and beautiful mausoleum! 🙂
Our fantastic Rikshaw driver
We had the luck to meet at the beginning of our Agra stay a very friendly and honest rikshaw driver at the pre-paid rikshaw stand. He struggled with other drivers who wanted to cheat us. His name is Manish, he talked a lot with us, joked and gave us very interesting information about Agra during the drive to the hotel. He even showed us a notebook with recommendations from travelers about him and his daily trips in a lot of different languages. Of course he offered us a daily tour through Agra. At first we were not sure if we should do the daily tour, but we didn’t regret it.
He showed us the most important sights in Agra and craftsmen who made silver jewelry, textiles and also who worked with the interesting marble art pietra dura. We were never pushed to buy something and Manish even allowed David to drive one time his rikshaw. 🙂
Touts and sellers in Agra
There are a lot of people who want to sell you things and when I say things, I mean every kind of thing! We often heard in a loud voice: “Postcards, chai, water!”, and sometimes after that in a lower voice “ganja, ecstasy, speed, ketamine!” One of our answers was: “We are already happy, thanks.”
Maybe because we were used to the irritating sellers we don’t get very bothered from them. We often just ignored them, didn’t look at them and went ahead. From time to time we even made jokes with them. You just have to say in a very insisting voice: “No!” or “No, thanks!”.
Places to eat in Agra
Hotel Sheela Restaurant
We had breakfast in our hotel. The menu is big, good for breakfast and the coffee is also very nice! The peaceful and beautiful atmosphere is framed by the garden.
Lakshmi Vilas: South Indian Food
It’s a cheap Indian restaurant with awesome food.
Saniya Palace Hotel: Rooftop restaurant
The view from the rooftop restaurant was okay, you can see the Taj from there but it was very dark in the evening. Nevertheless it was fine to eat there and to enjoy the romantic atmosphere!
Our Accomodation in Agra: Hotel Sheela
The hotel where we stayed was near the Taj Mahal so in the heart of Agra. When you enter the Hotel Sheela you go directly from a hectic street life to a more peaceful garden facility where you also can visit the charming restaurant. The room is okay and our beds were not completely clean but clean enough :D. Generally we were happy with the quality of the hotel!