Agra, India (28th Oct 2007) Today has been the first full day of the tour and has been quite a jam packed one! After not getting to sleep till gone 12 last night it was a 6am start to get the train to Agra at 07:15am. The journey to the train station was an interesting one as we watched our bags being placed precariously on top of the van secured with just a piece of string and as we made our way to the railway station we saw our first accident and the preparations being made for the Delhi half marathon. At the station is was mind-blowing how long the trains were, when we first got on the platform you literally couldn't see the end of the train either way and our fears of being in cattle class with bars for windows were quickly quashed when we entered a surprisingly spacious air conditioned carriage where we stayed for the next 4+ hours. Arriving in Agra felt different to Delhi, it was still bustling but the air seemed cleaner and the people didn't seem to be so manic. We saw our first Camels on the trip to the hotel and caught sight of the Taj Mahal in the distance both from the room and them from the roof terrace of our hotel. The room is pretty basic in comparison to the one we had in Delhi but we still have a bed and a toilet so can't really complain! We had some breakfast up on the roof terrace in the mid day burning soon, which was at least 40C. Shortly after brunch we headed for a first site of the day, the Red Fort. Agras Red Fort is about 2.5 km northwest of its much more famous sister monument, the Taj Mahal. Our guide for the fort said he liked to think of it as 'walled palatial city'? Our guide was very much in the know and talked us around the whole of the fort in spectacular detail. "At one point in time it had been the most important fort in India and the country was governed from here, it contained the largest state treasury and mint. It was also visited by foreign ambassadors, travellers and the highest dignitaries who participated in the making of history in India" or so we were told. This is just a few of the major points told to us by our guide, who knew lots of history and had plenty of stories to tell. The only downfall was that the guide spoke so fast when he was telling us something interesting and so slow when he was banging on about nothing any of the group really cared about, but the whole visit was great none the less. After our last experience at a carpet shop we were somewhat apprehensive about going on an actual tour of a carpet factory and although it was quite interesting in parts we knew the inevitable would come and sure enough at the end we were sat in a room and showed lots of rugs but the taking the pressure off of us were the two Americans in our group, Phil and Rachel who came through for us and bought a few hundred dollars worth of carpets and so took the pressure off us to show any real interest in buying one! The final stop of the day was the one we were most looking forward to, the Taj Mahal; the main reason people come to Agra. Some of the main points about The Taj Mahal (Also known as Devanagari: ताजमहल) are as follows, and were drilled into us all day by various guides and world heritage workers: It was built under Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is considered as the finest example of Mughal architecture; a style that combines elements from Persian, Turkish, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles.Shah Jahan's cenotaph is beside Mumtaz's to the western side. It is the only visible asymmetric element in the entire complex. Although it is a very familiar sight in the media nothing compares to actually seeing it in the flesh. It seemed everyone clambered for the classic shot posing in front it and so it was a struggle finding space to get a decent picture but walking the distance along numerous opportunities came about and we hopefully have some nice ones of us both there. We had to take off our shoes and put on some sexy white bags over our feet to go inside and see what is essentially a basic looking, small room/tomb where little light entered and noise echoed around overhead. Wondering around the outside was the best experience of the day, capturing the building from all of its almost identical sides. It is one of the only times Kara will admit that the exterior far outweighs the interior of a building! We wanted to experience the Taj Mahal at sunset and so Raj, our tour guide sent us down a path that lead to the river where we could get a better view, little did we know this particular path was overrun with monkeys which have a reputation as being quite a dangerous animal in India, however the only ones we saw actually doing anything were the two having sex, see photos. Although the setting wasn't exactly perfect, picture a small beach cove with litter everywhere, crows eating dead animals in the shore, military men with weapons and a pony in the background! The sunset wasn't directly over the Taj Mahal as we had originally hoped but it still made for an impressive and unforgettable site. On the way back to the hotel we experienced another Indian method of transport, the bicycle Rickshaw, and as pictures will prove Mark even had a bit of a go himself and nearly lost his sunglasses to the driver in the process. As a surprise to one of the other people on the tour Raj turned up on a motorbike as if by magic and took him for a ride on the 1940's model, shortly followed by his daughter and then Kara had her first ever experience on a motorbike and loved it, money couldn't have bought the spontaneous experience! At night the majority of the group headed out for tea to an outdoor restaurant that had entertainment in the form of a puppet show but it was nothing compared to what we were to experience later. After the meal we were told we were going to experience some cultural performances so we headed inside and found ourselves in what seemed to be a disco room complete with funky Bollywood music, disco lights and a mini laser show. Then out came a young women performing a mix of Indian and Bollywood dancing and then our worst fears were confirmed when she headed over to us and pulled us up to dance with her... as embarrassing as it was it was actually a lot of fun and Mark and his twisting hips went down a storm with the ladies!!