To get my India trip organized, I browsed the lonely planet website, virtual tourist and other websites for some information on tour guides in India. So I emailed many and asked for quotations as this seemed to be the best method to get some idea. Finally I ended up with “Sh*ine G**old Tourist In*dia”. In their quotation, the prices includes, accommodation, trip to Agra, Jaipur and back to Delhi, Breakfast, tax and fuel charges, pick up and drop off the airport, as well as accommodation for the driver during the whole trip, basically everything except for spending money and entrance to monuments.
We paid INR22,125 for the whole 5 day trip which gives us a budget accommodation. In preparation for our trip I also went searching online for cheap shopping places and it seemed like every tourist who visits India would go to the same place thus I didn’t bother writing it down as I assumed my driver would bring us there which in the end was actually a big mistake.
First day “Delhi – Agra”
Our initial plan for our first day in Delhi is to walk around Delhi in the morning, drive to Agra in the afternoon just in time to visit the sun set at the Taj mahal. Things had to change, instead of arriving Delhi at 10PM we arrived Delhi at 4AM because our aircraft diverted to Lahore Pakistan due to a very foggy weather in Delhi.
Our driver A*sim and A*sif welcomed us with a flower necklace upon arrival and drove us straight to Hotel Karat Inn.
At 11 in the morning we headed of to Agra, stopped at Maharaja Motel for prayer and lunch to a dreadfully expensive restaurant where a “Thali” costs INR390
We continued our journey to Agra and arrived at 6.30pm, since we only have an hour to spend in the Taj, we canceled our initial sunset in the Taj and plan on watching sun rise instead.
Before we reached our hotel, driver brought us to a so called factory outlet in Agra, because the shop assistant could sens us as beginners he tried to sell plain raw silk for INR650 per meter.. I bargained for INR300 and got it but seriously I think It should be cheaper because other shops that I went to had a starting price of INR350 meaning you could bargain lower than that.
So we headed to our hotel which is ‘Apollo’. PLEASE trust me this place is dreadfully disgusting, don’t ever stay here no matter how cheap it is. Walking towards the hotel to the reception counter I had to cover my nose with my headscarf as the alley is filled with exhaust fumes from the bus, cars and trucks parked in front of the hotel. Before accepting the rooms I demanded to take a look at the room , again as I walked up the stairs I can smell the car Fumes and thought to myself if I had to stay here ill probably die of suffocation the next morning. Unhappy with the room we asked to change to a different hotel.
We then moved to Hotel Royal Residency which was so much better.
SECOND DAY - AGRA
Arrived at the ticketing counter to enter the Taj Mahal, paid INR750 each (for foreigners and INR20 for locals) inclusive of a of bottle mineral water (which we gave our driver since we brought our own mineral water from Malaysia) and shoe cover (needed when we enter the mosques).
Gates opened and we went through security check as well as bag check…food and drinks are not allowed in except for mineral water.
This magnificent marble structure which was completed in 1653 is unbelievably stunning. Islamic calligraphy decorated its entrance The only thing that prevented us from viewing the beautiful sunrise on the Taj was the thick fog probably due to the winter weather. Its pure marble structure was awsome every intricate detail of its decorative carving can be seen; I wonder who it majestically looked with diamonds glittering when the sun shines during its glorifying days.
The tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Shah Jahan stood at the centre and Shah Jahan’s tomb which was slightly bigger laid next to her. We spent almost 3 hours taking pictures, touring the Taj as well as the Taj mahal’s mosques after which we actually planned to visit the Red Fort of Agra where Shah Jahan was locked by his own son and spent his final days just gazing to the Taj. Due to our time constrain we skipped the fort and headed to Jaipur by road. Now come to think of it, I should have visited the fort as its another great historical monument worth visiting.
After one satisfying Taj Mahal trip, we went back to the hotel supposedly to have some breakfast. Husband had some kind of Indian bread that looked liked its been reheated countless number of time, I had toast bread with butter we had one bite of our breakfast and went back to our room to have our own snack brought from Malaysia.
At the hotel, we refreshed, packed our bags and headed to Jaipur, another 6 hours drive by car. Arrived at our accommodation and as usual we went to see the room first before agreeing. Many foreigners can be seen as this place is very quiet. Its called ‘Ashirvad Guest House’
Lesson:- We should have visited the Fort, and the museum in Taj mahal (it was closed when we visited) , we should have also look for Agra t-shirt souvenir since its so hard to get one in Delhi.