I am determined that this blog doesn’t just become a travel diary, what I hope to do is to describe and comment on things that we do and see here.
Our driver was here to meet us bright and early for our drive to our next location at Agra. Fortunately we were going against the flow of traffic so it wasn’t too bad and before long we left Delhi and went into the region of Noida. We were on a decent dual carriageway so progress was good. I would estimate that for about half an hour, on both sides of the road there were huge building developments going on. When I say huge, I mean massive. Think Moscow in the nineteen sixties type massive; in very high tower blocks; all packed tightly into groups; and they went on, and on ……. and on.
Now I realise that India has a serious problem with slums and lack of housing but is this really the solution? Where are the people going to come from as this is right outside Delhi before it even starts? How are people going to get to and from work? And I hope that sufficient planning is in place for things like water supply and sewage disposal, it does present some real problems.
Anyway, rant over and we carried on south across a seemingly endless flat plain, in fact it was completely flat all the way. In the next part of the journey beyond the high rises everything was agricultural with lots of people working in the fields. The potato harvest is currently in full swing providing employment to gangs of men and women.
Dominating much of the area were the tall, tapering chimneys of brickworks, what we would call “artisan” production. Each chimney had its associated clay pits and yards of brick stacks drying out. Everything appears to be done manually and the smoke from the chimneys does nothing to improve the air quality.
Once the chimneys disappeared the air was cleaner and we could see more so we competed for who could see what: bullock carts, an eagle, some antelopes and some monkeys until we reached the Agra area where the traffic became, if anything, even worse than in Delhi. All the usual problems but aggravated by terrible road surfaces and lots of sacred cows just wandering about getting in the way.
Our first stop was at Sikandra to visit this
which is the tomb of Akbar the Great. Here we met our new guide who once again proved a mine of information. This is a magnificent building and he gave us all the history but the best thing is that a visit is very popular with young courting couples as the building provides very large numbers of discrete little niches which are ideal if you can get away from your parents. And true enough as we went round we kept hearing giggles from young couples canoodling. Delightful.
On to Agra and our next hotel, the ITC Mughal, which again appears very comfortable although much newer and larger than where we in Delhi; and to be honest we both fell asleep but were up again for a late afternoon visit.
But first I took Mrs S to the observatory on the hotel roof for our first view of the Taj Mahal seen across the rooftops of Agra
which is actually unusual as it is usually seen in isolation but in reality it’s right there in town.
When England is mentioned in the media they usually show a picture of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, similarly America gets the Statue of Liberty; these images have become icons for their countries and so it is with the Taj Mahal and India and it was the one place we were both agreed on as a “must visit” place. All my life I’ve seen the pictures but nothing can prepare you for the real thing.
It’s wildly beautiful, so elegant, balanced and decorated; its so clever too with all the subtleties of perspective that were used building it – they were a clever old lot those Mughals. But the thing I found so unexpected was how BIG it is, probably a third bigger than expected and as the sun was setting it appears to grow a bit more.
Hopefully I will find time to write a bit more later about our first visit to the Taj, but for now here is my best picture of “an angel’s tear fallen to earth” as our guide so elegantly put it.
12 March 2015