After a 4 hour drive from Delhi we arrived at our hotel in Agra. We drove on a new 6 lane toll expressway. Very nice road. We checked into a really old and funky hotel which is in a 120 year old building. Beautiful architecture resembling Raffles in Singapore with wide tiled outdoor hallways and arched columns. Large room with 4 poster canopy bed. Shower in old free standing claw foot cast iron tub. Furniture is all antique with tapestry upholstery.
After check in we drove to The Taj Mahal. Took 22 years to build by Muslim King to memorialize his wife who died at childbirth. The Taj Mahal was never a residence. As astonishingly beautiful as expected. The photo of mom sitting on the marble bench is called the Diana Bench. Princess Diana sat at this same spot for her now famous photo. We spent over two hours exploring the interior and grounds.
The kings lived within Agra Fort. A massive complex which housed several palaces and the king’s army. Today, 25% is opened to the public (palaces) while the rest still houses India’s army. The complex is surrounded by double moats.
Agra is a small town compared to Delhi (4 million to 24 million). Much more rural with a lot of cows roaming around. Never saw a cow in Delhi. A truer sense of India. Few cars and tons of motorcycles and tuk tuks for getting around. Delhi is all cars and few motorcycles. Loving it all. A real cultural experience.
Tomorrow morning we are off on a 6 hour drive through the countryside (no expressway) to Jaipur. Our driver, Vinod, is from Nepal and is quite a character. I ride in the front with him while on the road and in the back with mom when a guide is along with us. We pick up a different guide in each city for the day. I was bitching to Vinod about the Delhi hotel charging 300 rupes ($5 USD) for a domestic Kingfisher beer. When he picked us up this AM he presented us with a 4 pack of Kingfisher beer for only 400 rupes. Unfortunately for us he bought extra strong 8% Kingfisher.