The Taj, henna, and a brush with Bollywood

The Taj, henna, and a brush with Bollywood
Agra, India

Agra, India


The 10 hour bus ride to Agra took the whole day, arriving around 7pm. We stopped at India’s largest step well on the way, and ran into a South Indian film crew doing some shots for an upcoming movie. They kept waving us out of camera shot, while our guide tried to give the tour. The outside was littered with remnants of the temple next door, which was destroyed in a war. The pieces remaining were beautifully carved with patterns and friezes of people. I would have liked to see it when it stood. Next day, we had a sunrise start (5am) to go to the Taj Mahal. We were one of the first groups in line, and quite a few tours banked up behind us. It was pretty, but I found it a little overrated. It was a hazy day, so I think the sunrise wasn’t as spectacular as it could have been. Still it was lovely to get my photo in front. But as the guide said, the beauty of the Taj is from afar. I got back to our meeting place at a coffee shop and found my American roommate was sick with Delhi belly and was going back to the hotel (second one in a row. I must be an unlucky charm). After a chocolate frappe thing, and being harassed by the sellers on the way back to the bus, we went back to the hotel for breakfast and time out. I quickly went to the room to grab my ipad and phone and sat in the lobby, leaving my roommate to rest, and getting some wifi, since there was nothing to do in town. We had organised a henna tattoo for four of us, but that was about all the excitement until later in the afternoon. We had a fun guide for the Agra fort, who described crocodiles in the moat, Bengal tigers in the inner walls, and a corridor with slots for boiling oil and a slope to roll rocks down on attackers. The man who built the Taj was imprisoned there by his son, and died in jail. The guide was funny and quite animated. On the way out, someone yelled ‘ice cream’, so we all flocked to the stall outside the gates. We got ripped off, because the seller didn’t have any change and just took whatever we gave him. And the people selling drinks tried to charge us 100 rupees each for a bottle of Sprite. We nearly threw it back at him in disgust. He still tried to tell us 150 for two, but he eventually took the 100 I had in my hand for two of us. Next, a building called Baby Taj which was a monument to someone’s husband? I don’t know, I think we were all templed out. It is a pretty white marble building which predates the Taj. Some of the boys in the group had done jumping shots in front of the real Taj and decided to do some more here. They did one awesome photo with one kicking at the other bent back like he was hit. It was hilarious trying to set it up right though. At sunset, we went to a garden that overlooked the back of the Taj, to get more photos. For dinner, I had a curry called mushroom mattar. So creamy and delicious.