Wednesday, 21 February 2018

India and the Golden Triangle. Part 14.

Having had a sleepless night despite the late arrival in Delhi we dragged ourselves out of bed after a 6.00am alarm call. Out tour of Delhi started at 8.00am and we had to sort out a few things beforehand too.
The hotel was shambolic. With no places to sit in the restaurant we returned to our room to pack before once again attempting breakfast. It was no better and in fact when we looked it wasn't just tables and chairs there was a shortage of, there was no cutlery, plates, cups and everything else you might need for a buffet breakfast other than a glass for some juice. We made the best of what we could, a glass of orange and a hand held pastry whilst sat on the steps leading in to the breakfast area.
Oh, and this wasn't the city centre hotel the brochure had promised either. We were out in Dwarka, 25 minutes from the airport but a good hour and a half from the city centre which was where we were heading on our tour.
The traffic in Delhi is pretty mad. It takes a long time to get anywhere and whilst we were there they had bad smog problems too. One of the reasons we had had a sleepless night was that you could taste the smog and it actually woke you up.I hate to think what long term damage it causes those who live in it permanently.
Anyway, we arrived in the centre, saw a few sights as we drove past. Embassies, parliament buildings, ministry buildings and the famous India Gate.
India Gate,Delhi
No chance of stopping though, we kept going to our first stop, The Great Mosque.
Grand Mosque,Delhi

Set in a less prestigious part of town the locals here bathe in the streets as they have few of the luxuries we in the west are accustomed to. 
The Mosque itself is a huge complex and to be honest, feeling the way we did we couldn't be bothered to go inside so, along with half our group, we just hung around outside until the rest came out.
The promised visit to the Market was actually a drive past too but I can't see that anyone was too bothered about that.

Spice market,Delhi
No we went back to the more upmarket part of town where a buffet lunch was provided. Our first meal in 24 hours, and much anticipated, it was to continue the tone for all the meals included in our tour, Unexciting, bland, insipid.
After lunch there was a visit to Humayun's Tomb, the first garden tomb in India and probably the inspiration for the Taj Mahal.
With few people there I suggested to our guide that this was probably a better option to visit than the Taj Mahal. His reply was that the Taj was something special, something even a photograph even cannot do just to.
We'd find out tomorrow!
In the meantime we had a fairly long drive to arrive in Agra early evening.
The hotel was pleasant but we didn't have much time to enjoy it. It was dinner and early bed as from memory I think we left the hotel at 6.00am to make the short journey to the site of the Taj Mahal.
The fact there was a large wedding going on in the hotel didn't bother us one bit, we were out for the count, but talking of weddings have you ever seen a set-up like this?
Wedding party, Agra.
We hadn't noticed it until we went up to the 10th floor ( apologies for the reflections in the glass in this photo!)
It might have been 6.00am but everyone was really looking forward to seeing what is one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world so an early start was not a problem, infact it was still dark as we walked to the start of the queue to enter.
Dawn patrol to the Taj Mahal
We had arrived sufficiently early to be amongst the first handful to get through the gates when they opened, it was just a shame that our guide insisted on gathering us together to give us a pre-amble about the history etc. While this was going on dozens of people went on ahead before us which meant the photos would have more and more people in them.
Taj Mahal,Agra.
I suppose it didn't matter too much, at first light the crowds are not as big as they can get later.
And first light is definitely the time to be there.
Taj Mahal,Agra.
The early light shows the Taj's fine detail.
Taj Mahal,Agra.
Whereas the brighter light later on starts to reflect back.
Taj Mahal,Agra.
I can honestly say I have never been quite as impressed with any building as I was the Taj Mahal. Simply stunning.
It's important to get there early though because it soon gets busy.
After the Taj the rest had to be an anti climax but Agra Fort did at least provide some wildlife ( actually the Taj did too but I largely ignored it!).
Three-striped Squirrel
Interesting in it's own right though the fort might be, I kept on being drawn to distant views of the Taj.I could have spent the day there waiting for the sunset views!
Still, the Parakeets in the fort were a good challenge from a photographic point of view.
Rose-ringed Parakeet.  Psittacula krameri.  Agra Fort,India.
We returned to the hotel to freshen up and pack ready for our next journey, there were Parakeets on the fountains there too!
Rose-ringed ( Ring-necked) Parakeet
Enjoying a welcome drink in the now high temperatures as it neared midday.
Rose-ringed ( Ring-necked) Parakeet
The hotel foyer was fairly busy with guests from the previous night's wedding celebrations and a view from the 10th floor revealed the state of play.
Wedding tent, after!
Everything was being knocked down, it was just for one wedding.
Goodness knows what it would have cost to stage this particular wedding.
We headed off on our continuing journey, this time heading to Jaipur.

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