Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Backtracking: More Khaj and a little Agra

Now that I'm in Delhi, I seem to have a reliable (and cheap) internet connection. Hallelujah because there's a LOT of catching up to do!

When last I left off, I told of my tentative plans for the following day in Khaj. I missed the yoga class because of a mix up at the hostel with renting a bike, but I was already up and it was ear
ly (about 7am), so I went ahead and got started with my day. I ran into Miguel and Yacob and the three of us decided to grab a breakfast of banana pancakes and coffee before renting bikes. For Rs 20, we had the bikes for the whole day. I'd say we saw about eight temples, six in the eastern group and two in the southern group. Not all of the temples had the erotic images that the western temples are known for, but a lot of them did. At some temples, you really had to search for the images because they weren't always so obvious. This image to the right does NOT have an erotic image in it, so don't strain your eyes trying to find it. :-) I did take a number of pictures that included the erotic images; they are on my Flickr page, if you're so inclined to check them out.

In all, I guess we probably biked about 7km. The weather was beautiful and it was nice getting even a little bit away from the crowds and touts that are focused in the center of town. We rode through a couple of tiny little villages which were very interesting. The homes were all whitewashed or pastel colored giving them a totally different feel to any other houses I'd seen in India up until that point. In each village, whole crowds of kids greeted us with big smiles and shouts of hello. The majority of them then asked for chocolates, school pens, or rupees, but they were still super cute.

By this time we were getting hungry, so we headed back to town. As we ate, Miguel and Yacob were trying to decide if they wanted to spend the Rs 250 on the western temples. I was leaving on a train for Agra that night and was pretty well templed out, so my plan was to (try to) check email and pack my bags. They went for it, with mixed results. Yacob said it was "same-same, but different" and not worth the money; Miguel said it was pretty cool, but would've been even better if it hadn't cost so much. So I made the right decision, I think. :-)

My train to Agra left at 6:15pm and was scheduled to arrive in Agra at 2:20am. There was a delay and I knew it was going to be late, but I wasn't sure how late. I asked the attendant to wake me (the train went all the way to Delhi and I didn't want to end up there!) and went to sleep. To boil the story down to it's essence, the attendant forgot about me and I had to get off at a later stop and backtrack to Agra. This included an hour long wait in Mathura and I ended up getting to Agra many hours after I'd planned to, but all's well that ends well. (This is also the train where I met Ranjeet who, you may have noticed, has commented a few times. He helped me in my train mix-up. Hi Ranjeet!)

So finally I arrive at my hostel, Hotel Central Inn, which was recommended to me by a CSer who wasn't availabl
e to host me. After a hot shower, breakfast, and chai, I met Munna who is essentially the owner/manager of the hostel. (Munna, by the way, has quite the life story. I'll have to share it at some point.) I ended up spending my first day in Agra with Munna as my personal rickshaw driver. First we went to Agra Fort, a tiny portion of which is shown at the left. The Fort is a massive compound. Only a section of it is open to tourists and I still managed to wander around it for an hour and a half. It's the kind of place that, just when you think you've seen all there is to see, a whole other area is in front of you waiting to be explored. It was pretty cool and I can't imagine what the people of 1565 (the year it was built) must've thought of it.

Next, Munna took me to a great, cheap restaurant that I never would've found on my own before we headed to the Baby Taj, as it's called (official name Itimad-Ud-Daulah, something unpronounceable to me). I wandered here for awhile and then went to Chini-Ka-Rauza, the tomb of a poet that is apparently not really known about by tourists. By this time, it was just about time for the sunset, so Munna directed us and his rickshaw to the other side of the river so that I'd have a view of the Taj Mahal. It was kind of an overcast day, so I'm not sure that I got the best view, but it was still pretty incredible.

You'd think that would be enough to make a pretty full day, but no. We went to a factory of sorts where they make carpets and I got to see the whole process, from start to finish. We also went to a marble shop and I was able to see how marble is inlaid using the same steps taken at the Taj. Dinner was another not-in-the-tourist-guide place, and was the first time that I'd been "allowed" the real deal when it came to spice level. I'd asked for spicy before, but I think most people assumed that I couldn't handle it. The waiter at this restaurant asked if I was sure, but then had my food prepared the way it would've been prepared for Indians. My nose was running with spicy goodness! :-) Finally, my day with Munna ended with a bit of shopping. My pair of pants were pretty well destroyed in two separate food and drink incidents in India, so I got another pair. I also bought myself a ring as an early Christmas present.

Speaking of Christmas. . .Ah, well, that's another post.


  1. WOW. The pictures are amazing. Did you even for a second say to yourself, "I'm at the Taj Mahal!" That is certainly a beautiful place. I would love to see all of that inlay up close. It sounds like Agra was a fabulous stop. Thanks for the long blog post and uploading so many pics. I've been going through Shan withdrawal! Love ya!

  2. Hey! I'm back! Not only do I have a working computer but I have two!

    The pictures are awesome and I agree with ToadMama that it is great to get a long post!

    Miss ya and love ya!

  3. The pictures are awesome and so is the detail.
    The pictures of the erotic images, well I'll
    say "damn erotic!!".

    I'm glad to see your having some beautiful
    weather for sight seeing.We had 18 inches of
    snow here!

    Love ya!

  4. hi shan,

    Nice to see you all pictures and its fantastic to hear tht your trip to agra finally went well......I hope you enjoyed tht.....n finally see tht you are at Delhi.....If you do have any issues and will like any assitance then you are welcome to contact me and have a nice stay at DILWALOON KI DELHI......hahahaha....thts a little hindi 4 u......

  5. Thanks everyone for the compliments on the pictures. Believe me, the pictures don't even begin to do it justice!