Wow - what an awesome sight. Nothing can prepare you for seeing the Taj for real.. We arrived in Agra on Thursday, planning to visit the Taj Mahal on the Friday - then we found out that as the sight contains a mosque, it is closed to visitors on Fridays! Luckily we had 3 nights in Agra, so we were able to visit on Saturday, which was all the more lucky as it rained nearly all day on Friday, but was dry on Saturday.. We arrived at the Taj Mahal early to try and avoid some of the crowds. We bought our tickets for 750 rupees each, whilst Indians pay 50 rupees (foreigners are always charged considerably more than Indians for entrance fees). The ticket price included a bottle of water and natty shoe covers (that we had to put on when we entered the Taj Mahal, to protect it from wear and tear). We ended up spending 3 hours just looking at it, and taking more photos as the weather got brighter..We stayed at a 'homestay' in a quiet residential part of the city and it was really a little oasis from all the hustle and bustle of another Indian city. The family that ran the accomodation were lovely and the mum cooked amazing food (surprisingly neither of us are yet bored of eating curry every day, and most days twice a day!.. Paul - you'd love it!) Their house had a small courtyard and we awoke to the sound of birds chirping, and tried not to trip over Bruno & Micky (the 2 resident cute rabbits that had free reign of the courtyard and dining room) on our way to breakfast. It was very different from staying in a hotel, and we both enjoyed the home from home, and meeting and chatting to other travellers from different countries.
We left Agra on Sunday and a taxi collected us to take us to Ranthambore (about 5-6 hours drive). We soon realised that the driver understood little English, as he didn't stop at an ATM nor did he turn down his loud indian music, as we had asked him to. After we heard him ask for directions at a road diversion, we realised he was taking us to the wrong place - by now we were 200km in the wrong direction. After arguing with him for 10 minutes and showing him on a map where we should be going, he turned around and headed back to Agra. He droves through the countryside - literally - we pass through small villages, along farm tracks, through fields for 3 more hours. And arrive 1 hour outside Agra by 5pm. He then thinks that he is going to drive another 5 hours to Ranthambore! His driving is scary during daylight hours - there's no way we are going to stay in a car with him in the dark! So, we get him to call his boss and take us back to the homestay in Agra..
The next day we take another taxi to Ranthambore.. so alls well that ends well..