What a day!
Our alarms went off at about 4:30am, Laura jumped up for a shower whilst I did the old straighten-the-hair-whilst-still-lying-down trick.
Today was the Taj Mahal.
I'd booked a private guide through an internet website, which seemed fine at the time but then the more people who asked me how exactly I'd found him, the more I was worried I'd reserved a day with an axe murderer. Luckily for us he turned out to be an excellent tour guide, although it was not the man we were originally expecting. It was his cousin, or brother, or...?! Apparently Sunil had injured himself and so A.K.Mudgal came to our rescue!
Sunil, our original tour guide, had arranged a private AC cab for the day and so we were picked up at 5:30am for our journey. In fact if anyone was to visit the Taj I'd suggest getting a private tour guide, most westerners went for this option and it made the day so much easier as the amount of people who came to offer us trinkets etc was halved simply because we had a local person with us.
So anyway, we jumped into the cab and our night time security guard escorted us to the car and said 'Look after them.' Personally we were more concerned with the fact that our bedroom door wouldn't lock and so had left it open and the key in the guards hand...
Due to my lack of sleep that night (from constant whatsapp messages, the Bollywood party going on outside the hotel and quite possibly this tiny detail known as jetlag) I found it incredibly easy to sleep for the entire 2.5 hours of our journey. The drive was very smooth-I think-and much improved by the new highway, which makes getting from Delhi to Agra half the journey it was in the past. Apparently whilst I was sleeping a man came up to my window and peered in at me during traffic...so glad I didn't wake up at that moment!!!
Whilst on the subject of sleep: Should I be concerned that every so often at night my bed shakes as if there's an earthquake and I'm the only person to know of it...? Or just accept that I'm next to a busy road...?
We arrived in Agra just after 8am and went straight to the Taj Mahal. Like the places we visited yesterday there's a few entrances surrounding the building and a symmetrical garden around it too. Our guide took care of our tickets and told us to say no to whatever anyone offered. As soon as he left to get the tickets a young boy came up to us to sell us tiny memorabilia. Luckily he understood no, but made sure we knew his name and where to find him after our tour. He was about 11 years old.
The Taj Mahal is stunning and no pictures can do it justice, it is also bigger than you can imagine. Jahan arranged to have it built to show the love for his dead wife. Our guide told us as we admired a tiny flower imprint in the side of the marble that each flower took almost a month to make.
It was at the Taj Mahal when this strange thing happened. People kept stopping and staring at me. As in they actually stopped walking. Now there are many reasons this could be down to I.e. they thought I was famous or they were blinded my my natural beauty. However as it turns out they were just amazed by my blonde hair, pale skin and freckles. After posing whilst Laura took a picture a father came up to me and asked if I'd do a photo for him, or so I thought. No, what he meant was that he wanted to take a picture OF me and his daughters, whilst his wife stood by smiling shyly as if I was the best thing since sliced bread. This pattern continued throughout the day. I was waved at, smiled at, spoken to etc. Laura's blonde streak didn't get her quite as far.
After the Taj we visited a marble workshop, which had awesome AC, where we were told we didn't have to buy anything. Of course this is a great exaggeration as once you are in a shop you are theirs. The marble was beautiful and the work that had been put into it was amazing, but getting it home would have been a nightmare! So in the end we purchased a little something between us.
Following the marble shop we went to the 'Baby Taj' (I'timad-ud-Daulah). Baby Taj has no real connection to the Taj Mahal and was built by a woman for her alcohol loving husband. Part of the design is images of wine jugs! At baby Taj I met some more of my fans; no autographs were required this time.
Our final monument of the day was the Agra Fort. This was the point that Mudgal told us to watch out for monkeys stealing our cameras! Well I'm no animal lover, but I would have put up a good fight. The Agra Fort was a complex building, many mini palaces within large grounds. It is said that Jahan was sent to live here by his son, he could only see the tribute to his dead wife by looking across the river Yamuna. The Agra Fort was also a place filled with emperors and harems. It was a very important building in its day, as described by Mudgal 'It's now a building without it's heart.'
Finally we stopped off for lunch and attempted a meat course. We got a bit paranoid during it and gave up. Currently official vegetarians for our tour of India...
Agra on the whole is a busy place, we felt a lot safer with Mudgal than we would have done without him. However, men around the city seem to find it perfectly acceptable to relieve themselves up any wall they can find-be it in the middle of a crowded street or not...
We returned earlier than planned, but mainly because we didn't want to go shopping and get guilted into buying something we didn't need again. Just in time for a birthday dinner (you guessed it-curry) and a birthday beer.
Oh and not only was our bedroom locked, but it was also spotless on our return. Worried about nothing all day!!
Throughout the day Mudgal was funny, attentitive and keen to please. He apologised for some miscommunication between the languages but in actual fact we found his English very fluent and told him so. He humoured our many photo requests and allowed us as much time as we needed at each place. We would very much recommend him or Sunil for tour guides around Agra.