Saturday, 28 March 2009

Enter Agra

(Short for aggravation?)

The train ride from Agra was fairly comfy. Actually I tell porkys, apart from the 6am start it was very comfy. We found ourselves in plush seats with attendant waiters whilst India rushed past outside. Across from us we met Ritesh, who Nipun spotted reading the White Tiger. “Any good?” She enquired in her best Hindi (Pretty damn good at this stage).
“Yeah not bad” he replied in his best Mancurian accent. Happy days. It turns out that Ritesh had pretty much been doing our trip in reverse in many ways and for the next few hours we swapped travel experiences, tales of blaggers and places to stay, eat and some to avoid. He veiled his contempt that we had never visited Manchester before pretty poorly though. It was, after all, the centre of the Industrial Revolution and home to some amazing bands and art galleries. Yes, it is! Sorry never got there! And then on to some pictures on his camera that made me pretty jealous (at this point I confess that he had the compact and I have the D300 with three lenses, a bunch of filters and two flashes).

Our arrival in Agra was greeted by the usual barrage of shirt tugging touts offering to take us to hotels that would exceed our wildest imagination and still offer change from a fiver. Fortunately we had already booked a room and as such got a pre-paid taxi to the Kant Hotel, an unassuming place from the outside but with a shower that rained hot pins and needles with clean sheets and a comfy bed. The little things in life are by far the sweetest at this stage.
Showered up, breakfasted and eager to explore we headed out in search of Fatephur Sikri. Nipun had the good sense to seek out the local bus stop and after an entertaining wait on board with many a local selling 1970 style bodybuilding manuals and nutritional guides (not so bad in itself if it was not on offer from a frail septuagenarian) to our fellow explorers we were on our way. Fatephur Sikri is pretty amazing, At the top of the (steep) hill you are greeted by an imposing 54 metre high gate that leads into a courtyard in red stone. I add the latter because you are required to go in without any shoes and the red stone flooring soaks up the heat like an electric blanket in a bath. We yelped. We howled. We danced like bears and poised ourselves on our tip toes with all the elegance of a falling a tree. After all, we are from England and are lucky to have a ray of sunshine slip off our shoulders. Heat on the soles of our feet is an outrageous and dangerous proposition.

But I digress. Again.

Fatephur Sikri is startlingly beautiful like so many places that we have visited. Whilst much is in red stone with the tombs of holy prophets interned there-in, there is also a mosque in white marble with ornate stone work that was built in later years. The complex combines Hindu, Muslim and Christian architecture and was built by the Moghul emperor Akbar, who was clearly an ambitious man. After all he married three wives, one Muslim, one Hindu and one Christian (from the shores of Goa where I write this). That’s just crazy right? Imagine coming home late to three wives… Your life just would not be worth the air in your lungs.

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