To the Taj!!!
After another HORRIFIC overnight bus (I think the worst so far) we made it to Agra where we were expecting a lot of hassle after numerous warnings from other travellers and the guide books. We were pleasantly surprised to find the opposite to be true and got a rickshaw to our 'hotel' without any fuss at all. Unfortunately the hotel was a scuzz hole so we checked in and checked out half hour later after finding a nicer looking place round the corner. This also turned out to be pretty gross but for two nights it did - and it had a view of the Taj from the roof which was a huge selling point!
The first day in Agra we braved the local bus to Fatepur Sikri which was an old city in the 16th century and is now deserted. The buildings themselves were beautiful and it was so peaceful once inside the complex. It was huge and so calm compared to the outside bazaar and town. We had an incident with a crook trying to lead us astray and it got rather ugly as I had to shout in his face to leave us alone. He looked like skeletor and was really quite annoying. I think he may have then put a curse on me and finished with shouting for us English to never come back to India. How rude!! Luckily he was the only trouble we had and was soon forgotten.
The journey back from there into Agra was interesting as about 400 people tried to cram onto the bus which looked like it should've been taken out of service in 1950. Children were getting shoved through windows followed by bags followed by men, it was crazy! We managed to get a seat with a group of young Indian guys who I'm sure had planned it the whole way. They were really sweet and we exchanged English music with their Bollywood snippets and attempted conversation with lots of gesturing. The bus was about a million degrees so they definitely kept our minds off passing out from the heat!
The following morning we got up early to go to the Taj!!! It was fantastic!! Everything the guidebooks say and more. And it's so true that although it's an image you see your whole life which is beautiful, in reality it's so much more. We got there by 8am before the crowds arrived and although there were Indian tourists around, there were hardly any westerners. And no queue! It was a truly magnificent place, unlike anywhere else I've been. It's kept so clean and is so grand even in clouds it sparkles. The rain stopped as we arrived and although the blue sky didn't appear we were able to view it in comfort. I could easily have spent the whole day there relaxing on the grass looking up at this wonder of the world.
That afternoon we headed to Agra bear sanctuary which I was pretty disappointed with. Having been to Tolfa and seen the amazing work they do there I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to see and interact with these gorgeous bears and hear about the work the organisation do. Unfortunately it was a true whistle stop tour and then we were shown out. No photos allowed, no close ups with the animals, it was a bit of a let down
The following morning we were leaving for Delhi on our first train journey so after watching the sun set over the Taj we got packed up. The train was unnervingly simple and we were convinced we had it wrong. We found the platform, found our seats (with a little help) and made it to Delhi without a hitch. We had booked a night bus straight out of Delhi that evening as we had no intention to spend any longer than necessary there however we did have one day.....
That's ok we thought, the guards said there are lockers at the bus station, we'll go straight there from the train leave our stuff and go explore. In the above sentence, remove the words lockers and bus station. The poor tuk tuk driver finally found where we needed to be after driving for half hour only for us to find it was a dirt road within a slum on a construction site! Not the ideal place to have to spend six hours or so!!!!
Lauren promptly found us another tuk tuk and we headed for (don't judge) macdonalds!! We needed air con, we needed food, we needed something familiar!!! We actually ended up bypassing macdonalds and hit up dominoes instead. It was so good!!!
We then, after dragging out pizza for hours, made it back to the bus to come to Manali!!
We arrived here yesterday and it's BEAUTIFUL!! Nothing to report as yet, we're currently just chilling out in a cafe looking up at the Himalayas in the cleanest place we've been. It's pretty cold up here from what we've been used to and after showering you don't instantly start sweating - its amazing!!!! Totally in love with it here. Now, where's that masala chai I ordered.....