As promised, we are now back for the second and last part of our Solo Traveler's Journal #3 where we will explore the Golden Triangle of India together.
In case you missed it, check out the first part of this post here: Incredible India - A Solo Traveler's Journal #3 Part 1/2.
Continuing from the last part, where we saw a glimpse of the mighty Taj Mahal through the balcony of the Agra Fort. Today we will see the Taj Mahal in its gloriousness, walk through all parts of the complex, and continue our way to Fatehpur Sikri and then to Jaipur.
Day 4 - Taj Mahal!!
I woke up at 3:30 AM to prepare myself for the once in a lifetime trip, to see the sunrise at the Taj Mahal. My driver was right on time by 5:00 am and we drove for 15 minutes to the ticket booth to buy the entry ticket. Taj Mahal has the most expensive ticket of all the monuments in India. For foreigners, it will cost you around 750 rupees. If you are a citizen of SAARC and BIMSTEC countries, your ticket will be cheaper. Since I'm from Thailand which is part of the BIMSTEC countries, I was able to get the ticket for only 510 rupees. You will be distributed with a plastic bag which you will need to cover your shoes as you walk up to the Taj Mahal.
After I got the ticket, I was told that no cars were allowed from this point on so I had to take a shared electric bus to the western gate of the Taj Mahal. As I walked to the gate, there was a little line full of foreigners waiting to see the Taj Mahal. I thought there would be more but I guess it was a good idea to travel during the monsoon season.
This is the western gate where I went through. You will have to run through a security checkpoint before you are able to enter this sacred place.
This is me right after I enter the western gate. From the clever way the monument was built (towers leaning outward), it creates an illusion that makes the Taj Mahal looks bigger as you started walking through the inner gate.
I heard many people grasped at the beauty of the Taj Mahal as they approached. Hell, I even mumbled "wow" without know it. This place is just freaking beautiful. This place blew all the other monuments I visited and hands down one of the most memorable experience I ever had traveling alone.
Pictures are worth more than a thousand words.
The Taj Mahal up close. The flowers are carved into the marble, the way they did in the marble factory I visited on my third day in India.
The 2 identical red mosques on the sides of the Taj Mahal.
View of the Taj Mahal through the red mosques.
Inside there are 2 tombs, the Shah Jahan's tomb and his wife. Unfortunately, taking photos inside is prohibited, so this was all I got, the exit. :(
Here's the thing about about traveling solo, I can do whatever I want. I just sat on the side enjoying the view of the river and people walking and talking for hours. It was one of the most peaceful moment I had in India. A great break from a busy cities.
After 2 hours of admiration of this massive structure, it was time for me to leave. A look back at the gate.
Sights like this are very common in India. We went back to the hotel, had breakfast and headed out for a 45 minutes trip to Fatehpur Sikri.
After 45 minutes ride, we've arrived at the Fatehpur Sikri, remote monuments consisted of 2 sections, the palace (tickets required) and the mosque (publicly accessible). The mosque part is open to public for praying and as you may have guessed, I was bombarded with touters trying to sell me stuff. It was not as peaceful as the palace part where I can walk freely without being bothered by anyone.
This is me through a star in one of the walls in the mosque area.
Buland Darwaza or the Gate of Magnificence.
Inside the palace complex. As you can see, there weren't many people around which was perfect for me. The area is huge, and I spent hours enjoying the corridors of these ancient city.
After 2 hours well spent here, I left and headed to Jaipur (4 hours drive). I was surprised when the driver told me that he will be taking me to his family living in Dausa, Rajasthan. I didn't mind at all since it was my chance to see how the locals really live in India. It was a welcomed surprise.
As I walked into a very narrow green corridor, racing up the stairs I was met with this little shy boy (who enjoyed getting his photo taken). My driver (Ram) introduced his little cousin and all members of his families.
This is Ram's mother who welcomed me warmly with a drink and a cake.
Enjoying a television show with Ram's father right before the power outage.
Since there was nothing to do after the power outage, I decided to teach this kid how to play Angry Birds on my phone. He loves it so much and didn't want me to leave. :)
After 30 minutes resting at Ram's place, It was time for me to continue my journey to Jaipur. This is what I have always been looking for in a trip like this, a local touch. Seeing how the locals actually live is the best reward I could ever get. Such a memorable experience.
After 2 more hours drive, we arrived at Jaipur or the Pink City. The first thing I noticed was the city is much cleaner than in Delhi and Agra. We arrived at the Rani Mahal hotel, a very well decorated heritage hotel, at 4 PM and I was told that the surrounding is quite dangerous for a foreigner to walk alone since the hotel is located in a middle-class neighborhood. I was feeling super tired at that point so I decided to rest and ended the day early.
Day 5 - The Pink City (Jaipur)
Ram was supposed to meet me at 9:30 AM but again, he was late, due to unexpected traffic. He eventually arrived at 10 AM and we headed to our first stop, the palace of the wind (Hawa Mahal).
This place is very underwhelming. It looks huge in photos but it actually is a very small building on the side of the road. I didn't go inside since the next destination excited me more, the Amber Fort.
As we approached the fort. This place is the highlight of Jaipur for me and I was not disappointed.
I rode an elephant up (complimentary by the India by Car company)the fort. To tell you the truth, despite the touters along the way, I felt like a prince of persia returning to my fort. :) It was that epic.
These are the views the top of the fort. You can see the wall of Amber stretching across several miles protecting the city from invaders.
There's something about the design of doors in India that really caught my attention. You can almost always find a unique detail of each doors around India. So mesmerising.
The garden inside the fort. Unfortunately, the fort above (up on higher mountain) is a private property and is closed to public.
Every corridors are interconnected. It felt like I was Indiana Jones getting lost and finding my way around these ancient rooms. This is the beauty of exploring places without a guide. :)
As I walked through a corridor trying to find my way out, I stumbled upon this little family who decided they wanted me in their pictures so hear I was, randomly appeared in local's camera. :) This is the moment I fell in love with the locals. They are very kind and incredibly friendly. Nothing like I expected before. This really shows how human perception of things are usually bullshit. If you have never experience first hand, don't dismiss it.
After an hour wandering around fort, we drove down (instead of riding an elephant back) the other way and headed to the city palace to learn about this so called Pink City.
We stopped at the flooded temple (Jal Mahal) on the way.
We decided to go see the Observatory or the Jantar Mantar, the biggest observatory in India. This place consisted off multiple calculation instruments used by the people living here hundred years ago to measure time, days and months.
My guide explained how they measured time by looking at the shadows of the sun casting on the instrument. It was almost accurate with only 10 - 30 minutes variation which is pretty impressive for an ancient instruments.
Two instruments used to calculate the month by looking at the shadow casted from the little metal object in the middle being held by a string of metal. One for each half a year.
This is the biggest instrument in the observatory which can tell you time as accurate as 2 minutes differences. All you have to do is walk up the stairs and find where the shadow is casted on the scale.
The heat was unbearable since there were no shades to be found around the observatory (for obvious reason). We left and headed to the City palace to learn about the history of the Maharajas ruling in Jaipur since ancient time and learned how the name "Pink city" came to be.
Unfortunately taking photos are prohibited in the city palace.
During the regime of one of the maharajas, Sawai Ram Singh, he maintained a very good relationship with the UK and decided to paint the city pink to welcome Edward, the Prince of Wales. Pink represents a warm welcome and parts of the city are still painted pink to today.
We ended our last full day in India at around 3 PM and went back to the hotel. I decided to give a tip to Ram before hand, which I do not recommend. Since I was unaccustomed with the way tips work in India, I gave him way too little, and he was clearly disappointed. He would answer my questions vaguely and went to silent. It was extremely uncomfortable for both of us, so I decided to double it to around 2500 rupees and his attitude shifted like a switch. At least this made the trip back more enjoyable.
Day 6 - Back to Delhi
Since my flight back was at noon, I had to wake up at 3:30 AM, took a 5 hours drive back to Delhi and arrive in time at 9 AM. I said goodbye to Ram, check in and prepare myself for the 4 hours flight back.
The airport was very impressive all around. Huge and not too crowded (contrary to what most people said). I flew back home and concluded my 6 days trip around India
And this is the end of the third entry of our Solo traveler's journal by BucketListly.com. I hope you enjoyed the post. There are many life lessons to draw from when traveling around India, and If you are planning to go there soon, you will now know what to expect.
Don't dismiss India because of your perception toward the country. This is by far one of the most authentic traveling experience I had and you will never know what it feels like if you never try it first hand.
Again, If you have any suggestion or recommendation of places we should visit, let us know in the comment.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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