Monday, 25 November 2013

Agra-vacation

Leaving the flat plains of Delhi behind, we next journeyed towards Agra with the goal (of course!) of visiting the Taj Mahal.  We had been warned that the one and only thing worth seeing there was the Taj - or as a friend succinctly put it, "Agra's a bit of a shithole, really". Consequently, we decided not to stay in Agra, but instead to rough it here in the gorgeous Laxmi Vilas Palace hotel.


Here are some photos just to make you sick.  It was cheap as chips too....


The dining room


A corner of our room
However, we don't believe in doing things the easy way and, en route, the Shah decided he wanted to stop at a place called Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh which is supposed to be the repository of family records as well as being the birthplace of Krishna and thus, very holy.

So there we are, bowling along the dusty road towards our destination - actually with no bleedin' idea at all of where we were going - we just trusted the driver with our lives - when said driver pulls into the side of the road.  In the middle of nowhere.

There was a little old bloke standing there who just hops into the passenger seat and starts chatting away to the driver in rapid-fire Hindi.  Eventually, the driver jerks a thumb at the new guy and says the word "guide".  Oh, okay then.

Shortly afterwards we were dropped off and told that the driver would meet us back in the same place a couple of hours later.  A couple of hours?  Let me tell you, we were well off the beaten track.  It was hot, it was humid, it was foetid. And one other thing.  While we never had a language problem in India, there was definitely an accent problem.  This little old guy closely resembled Popeye and had fewer teeth.  Well, actually none.  I caught about one word in 20. The Shah did slightly better by virtue of babbling in a mixture of native dialects but jeez, it was hard work.  First stop was the Govinda Dev Temple just up a side street.  

Photo credit - Wikitravel because mine was rubbish.
Built in 1590, it was an impressive sight but the guide told us that the top four storeys had been lopped off it during some unrest centuries previously. To reach it, we walked up a steep hill, the Shah hissing at me to mind where I stepped.  Open sewers ran down either side of the street and I am quite serious when I say that I can no longer look a pork chop in the eye having watched the wild pigs snacking on the sewer contents.  Yup, really.

Naturally we were asked to remove our shoes before entering.  Today, the temple is deserted by all except someone to guard your footwear against the only other residents - hundreds of monkeys. I was wearing new shoes that day and it was an utter joy to wade barefoot, ankle deep in monkey piss, then to put my nice new sabots back on...


The culprits.


After this, we were led through winding streets, past many elderly ladies begging piteously (this place is a Mecca for widows apparently) through another temple and out into a garden where, we were told, Krishna had played as a boy.  Our guide insisted on leading us all round it, barefoot once again.  Suddenly I noticed the Shah snorting with laughter and gesticulating at the bushes.  Glancing to my left, I saw a bunch of monkeys shamelessly erm, making little monkeys.  Popeye couldn't understand what we found so funny. Eventually, we were led into an audience with a Guru and asked to sit on the floor at his feet while he coughed all over us and ranted on for a bit. Then came the demands for money.  24,000 Rupees please.  The Shah laughed hysterically.  I think we got away with giving the old scoundrel 1000 Rupees which is round about ten quid.  In return, we were given some greasy biscuits which had been "blessed".  Right.  Thanks for that.  We wept with laughter later when we remembered Sanjeev Bhaskar's Guru in the TV series Goodness Gracious Me.  Like this....





So - on to the Taj.  this was actually the following day because we had decided to see it at dawn - highly recommended and second only to seeing it at the full moon, apparently.  A 4.30a.m. start *groan* meant we were well on the road to Agra by 5a.m. and reached the Taj by 6a.m. when the gates opened.

I have no adequate words to describe the eerie, ethereal beauty of the Taj Mahal looming out of the mist in the chill of the early morning.
This the first sight you get:-
It really makes you catch your breath

It is the most extraordinary place as long as you can ignore all the fat-bottomed tourists vying for a place on the bench in order to have their "Diana" shot.  Quite, quite beautiful and an astonishing piece of architecture and technical wizardry.

Unfortunately, I stood in some camel shit on the way out whilst trying to dodge yet another of the ubiquitous monkeys.  But there you go.  If there's one thing we learned in India, it's that you have to be able to take the rough with the smooth!

Last word from the Taj.  Whatever you do, do not put your leg in the Wazoo Tank....

17 comments:

  1. Glad it was worth getting up 4.30am to see the Taj. It looks wonderful from the pics. Don't fancy walking in monkey pee though. You certainly had some unusual experiences in India!

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    1. It was unusual from beginning to end but I guess you just have to accept the cultural differences and go with it!

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  2. What a cracking travel tale - really made me laugh what with monkey piss and camel shit and the inclusion of the wiki travel photo!
    Love the look of the hotel. Great choice.

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    1. Praise indeed! Thankyou Trish - I highly recommend it as a destination!

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  3. Posh digs girlfriend! and the Taj looks beautiful....and so many people tell me how beautiful India is but I just cannot face exactly what you have described........piss, poo and begging.

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    1. Posh digs are surprisingly easy to come by and relatively cheap too! I did have to give myself a good talking to on the topics of piss, poo and beggars, but it was worth braving those to see such a fascinating country.

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  4. God it looks amazing and I apologize in advance for when my husband shows up and sniggers about the wazoo tank x

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    1. It is amazing and I insist that Mr AG takes you there asap. God knows what the Wazoo tank is - even our guide had no idea!

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  6. Yes puts new meaning in up the whazzoo, or in that case going down?"Agra's a bit of a shithole, really" A pronouncement worth of Thoreau (now his grandson dates Jennifer Aniston!!!) and good enough reason for all that luxuriating poolside with spledifenous.

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    1. haha Jody - hit the nail on the head as usual!

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  7. I'm midway through fitting our new kitchen and I'm now worried that I should have allowed for a wazoo tank.

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    1. For God's sake Andy! Can't you get anything right? Back tothe drawing board with you!

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  8. *Throws up* appreciating the pics, as requested. Great vid. Love your stories and funny take on the Taj. Wonder which you'll remember most in the years to come, the poo and piss or the beauty?! ;) x

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    1. Taking me a bit too literally there Anya! I think I'll certainly remember the beauty of the Taj but also the piss and the poo of the other bits - they were fairly inescapable! x

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    2. An I the only one still worrying about the state of your new shoes?! Love the Taj pictures, a stunning work of art/architecture.

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  9. The less said about the shoes the better Jay!

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