India 2015: Agra – Day Two to Three

Day Two
Most of today was spent driving from Delhi to Agra. It’s quite a long journey but it’s not too bad. It took us about 4 hours but that was with a couple of stops on the way and we slept most of the way.

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When we arrived in Agra, I noticed the vibe was completely different – it was still busy and hectic like Delhi, but something about it was different. Agra is much smaller but it still has everything you need. We crossed over the river . . and we could see the buffalos swimming and women washing clothes in the river.
Our hotel here is lovely, it’s called Hotel East Gate and the door staff are lovely. Bilou is staying downstairs with the staff so every time we pop down he’s there chatting as if they’re old mates. They might be, with how long he’s been doing this!

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We’re starting to feel the time difference today so we decided to spend most of today relaxing. We found a nearby hotel, which is far posher than ours that has a swimming pool that you can use for 500 rupees, but it was well worth it to bring our core temperatures down!

We went for lunch at a little restaurant down the road where Josh had tandoori chicken and I had some chow mein (why not?) which was really nice and saw a demon face hanging above lots of doorways, which Bilou said was to ward off drushti, or the “evil eye,  having the same function as the hamsa.

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We had dinner at a really lovely place called A Pinch of Spice which had lovely food and we met a couple from Jaipur who were celebrating the girl’s, Soni, birthday and offered us cake. Bilou told us that a lot of the time, Indian people will take a picture of them posing with white tourists and then will frame it and put it on their wall to show their family!

Day Three
We got up really early this morning to get to the Taj Mahal to see it in the best light. Apparently by about 7:30 ish,  the colour of the marble on the Taj Mahal isn’t as good as earlier on. It’s also much quieter early in the morning, so we headed there for around 6:15.

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The building is absolutely stunning and an amazing monument to death. It was built in 1632 by Shah Jahan to bury his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal in. As he loved her so much, he built the whole Taj Mahal to honour her life. I found out some news about a friend last night so this was a perfect place to honour her memory.

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After the Taj Mahal, we were so knackered that we went back to the hotel for a nap. Bilou picked us up again at 1:30pm and we drove to the Agra Fort. This place is absolutely incredible and not what I was expecting. As we walked in through the gate, I was struck by the feeling of being very, very small.

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The Agra Fort is the original of the Red Fort in Delhi and is absolutely massive. There are lots of different parts of the fort, one being the first part that you walk into. It is mainly a garden with lots of arches at the front for the gentry to sit in and look out. The garden is surrounded by cloisters which, again, we’re designed for the gentry to walk around the garden in whilst being in the shade.

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Another section, and my favourite, is the marble summer pavilion. When you enter the main part, you can see the Taj Mahal. Bilou told us that the Mughal emporer who built the Taj Mahal for his wife, was imprisoned by his own son after Mumtaz’s death in the Agra Fort and had to stare longingly out of the grates at the Taj Mahal he had built for his late wife. He told us that the Mughals were quite crazy and cruel, except for …, so this kind of treatment wasn’t too unusual.

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After the heat started to get to us, we decided to head back to our hotel, go for a dip in the pool and go to bed as we had another early start in the morning, driving from Agra to Pushkar. It should take around 7 or 8 hours and we are planning on stopping off at a couple of places so we need to be up super early!
I will post about our journey later!

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India 2015: New and Old Delhi – Day One

So yesterday, we arrived in Indira Gandhi Airport in New Delhi around 9 : 30am and got straight on the metro just outside the airport. It cost 100 rupees and we got a little blue token to use as a ticket. When we got down to the platform, we had to go through bag searches and security which seemed a little over the top, but I suppose it’s better that way and it’s kept safe! The inside of the trains were very modern and the journey was very smooth, it took us around 20 minutes to get to New Delhi metro station. I took the photo below before realising that you weren’t allowed to take any photos on the metro and narrowly avoided getting in trouble with the guard that was only the next carriage along!

New Delhi metro carriage, India

When we arrived in New Delhi, we were totally overwhelmed by the sights , sounds and smells. Traffic was all over the place with incessant honking and strange smells of a busy city. We crossed the road and attempted to navigate our way to the other side of New Delhi Railway Station but gave up and got a bit lost.

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We took a rickshaw to the tourist centre for 20 rupees (around 20p) and   met a very nice man inside who helped us change our plans a little. He insisted that our original plan of 5 days in Delhi was far too long and that we should cut it down and, instead, fit in another destination; Pushkar. We decided to spend only one night in Delhi, which I was a little worried about, but by the evening I was ready to move on.

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We sorted out our hostels/hotels for the next 9 days and found a driver whom we have hired for the 9 days before we fly to Mumbai. His name is Bilou and he has been doing what we have hired him to do for 30 years and, so, is fantastic. He’s very friendly and informative and has already helped us out several times with vendors trying to rip us off and overcharging us.

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Bilou took us to our hotel, Hotel Sunstar Residency in Karol Bagh, where we dumped our bags, and then took us for a tour of Delhi. Our first stop was Humayun’s tomb in New Delhi. It costs 250 rupees to get in but you get more than one monument inside.

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Probably considered a side attraction to Humayun’s tomb is Isa Khan’s mosque, a beautiful building from the Mughal period that predates Humayun’s tomb. The architecture is stunning and it is a lot quieter than Humayun’s tomb as most people go straight to see that, but it is definitely worth a look, even though it is crumbling quite a bit.

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Humayun’s tomb definitely is spectacular, though. It has clearly been carefully designed as you walk through the gates, the tomb lines up perfectly and you are given a postcard view as you look through the archways. It is remarkable and has been heavily restored to its former glory, which makes it a wonderful place to visit. With the steep steps and intricate decorations, this is great value for money on entrance price.

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After we had seen Humayun’s tomb, we went to the Lotus temple, also in New Delhi, which I was desperate to see and it did not disappoint. The incredible view as you walk through the green grounds, watered by recycled water with a solar panel field to power the Temple, is something special but the real view is inside (it’s FREE, might I add). As we walked up to the Temple, surrounded by blue pools, we were asked to remove our shoes, put them in a bag and put them in a free cloakroom before entering. We were spoken to about staff and asked to turn off all phones and cameras, so I wasn’t able to get any photos of the inside, so I would heavily recommend going to see this as the inside really is something to behold.

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As the inside and the benches are made from white marble, it is very cool inside, which was refreshing after walking through the intense heat, and there is a lovely breeze that goes around. The temple was very serene and we sat inside for a long time admiring the awesome ceiling and meditating a little.

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After leaving, we had one more place to visit: the spice market in Old Delhi. As this is in the old part of Delhi, it is very busy and there aren’t many tourists so we had to rent a rickshaw as Bilou couldn’t take his car through the roads. The man that took us was very friendly and took us around the main markets before showing us the entrance to the place where the owners live and keep their spices and sell them to locals. The smells were overwhelming, particularly when we got to the floor where the chilli was stored; we kept coughing as it was sitting right at the back of our throats!

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He took us up to the rooftop where we were able to see as much of Delhi as the pollution would let us and was definitely worth the walk. In one of the markets downstairs, the owner stood with us for a long time showing us all of the different types of spices and let us taste some black salt which tasted like boiled eggs!

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Although I was aware of this before we went, I wasn’t quite prepared for the staring and touching that I experienced! Be prepared and keep your wits about you and you should be fine! 🙂

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As we left the market, we headed back to the hotel, had a shower, went for food and now we are going to bed as we are leaving 8am tomorrow morning to drive to Agra do I will post all about that when we get there! Lots of love! Xx

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Ayutthaya: The Ruined City

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts from other travellers posting about underrated places to go in Thailand but nowhere in Thailand I went was as good as Ayutthaya. I don’t doubt that there are a million underrated places to visit there, but this is my favourite place we visited!

Ayutthaya is the capital city of Siam, which, when Siam became Thailand and the capital city became Bangkok, Ayutthaya became ruins. The temples were kept the best but even they fell into ruin. All it was was a two hour train journey from Bangkok, costing 15 baht each way for a third class train ticket (Read here for more information).

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Taxis in Bangkok

Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, been super busy with finishing university for the year and deadlines etc. I’m getting ready to head off to India on Wednesday too, so that’s taken up a bit of time! But, here’s a non-India related post before I shoot off and then flood this blog with India posts!

When I went to Thailand, Bangkok in particular, I noticed different coloured taxis. The different colours of the taxis simply mean that they are run by different companies. I was informed by a local that the green and yellow taxis were the best to get as they are privately owned.

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How to Make Friends While Backpacking

Not usually one to reblog someone else’s post but I love this one! Makes me so excited to travel again!

wayfarerkate

IMG_1955 Fun at the beach in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

My favorite part of being on the road (and especially while traveling solo), is meeting new people. I love how traveling solo can bring you together with people from all over the world, people who you might normally have a chance to interact with. That’s not to say I wasn’t extremely intimidated on my first solo trip. I had no idea if I was going to make friends or if I would be traveling for 4 months not interacting with anyone, feeling like a lonely, antisocial weirdo. One of the biggest questions I get from people who are interested in traveling alone for the first time is “How do you make friends with people on the road?” 

The first thing to remember is that most travelers on the road for the same reasons- to see something different, to explore the world, and…

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