India - Part 2
Train travel in India is something to behold! We had already experienced a train journey from Varanasi to Lucknow, which we vowed and declared would be our once and only train experience in India. That particular journey took 9 hours rather than the scheduled 5, and we honestly felt we could walk faster in the end, convinced there was something wrong with the mechanics of the train, and the air con, which had died at 10pm, when we didn’t arrive until 1.30am.
Our second train journey was anticipated with dread as we waited at the Kanpur station. After leaving late, Agra-bound, we were quietly confident as the train barrelled along the tracks. Surprising who you meet on a train. There was a whole expat Indian group living in England on board and after a few exchanges of pleasantries we discovered they lived in the same city I was born in, Leicester UK. Truly a small world. We arrived at Agra at 11pm and were whisked off to the Clarks Shiraz Hotel, and a late dinner the staff had especially stayed up to serve to us. And I have to say I had the best Gimlet ever with that dinner. The Hotel was fabulous and we didn’t get to experience it to its fullest as we had to meet in the hotel lobby at 5am for our early morning visit to the Taj.
Well worth getting up early for, the Taj Mahal is such a majestic building, you feel almost honoured to say you have been there up close. Even my daughter who at 23, felt privileged to have been right there. The Mausoleum was built as a symbol of eternal love, by Emperor Shah Jahan to his beloved Queen, Mumtaz, who died in her 14th pregnancy. The building itself, made of Marble and inlay semi precious stones of Lapis Lazuli, Malachite, Coral, Turquoise, and Onxy is a work of art. As the sun rises, the Taj takes on an orange tinge and apparently if you visit at sunset, or full moon, pink and white colours predominate. Now a protected UNESCO site, security is rightly strict and we had to wear overshoes, similar to what we see surgeons wear on TV, when you go inside the monument. Cameras, thankfully are still allowed, which they weren’t in Akshardham Temple in Delhi.
This was my second most imposing building I have ever seen. A new temple only completed in 2005, Taking just 5 years to build, it was built to revive the ancient art of stone sculpture. What a magnificent building. The carvings on the inner walls of the temple were nothing short of amazing. You will have to google it though, as cameras were not allowed inside or outside. Such a sacred site in Indian religion, it evokes a kind of revered feeling when you visit such places.
I could go on, with passion for the sights we saw, but to finish off, the other place that really stood out for both Rosie and I, was Amber Fort in Jaipur. You can ride up to the Fort, which is atop a hill just outside the city of Jaipur, on elephants, but the day we visited the elephants were being used for a festival, so we drove to the topmost car park and walked the rest of the way. Completed in 1614, and made from red and white sandstone, Amber Fort is rich in history and our guide successfully took us on a journey to those bygone days. One of the amusing things that happened there is a security guide took us to a room with a nice view to take pictures, after the expected “tip” we paid her, she then proceeded to sell me a silver anklet! – Only in India.!!
My recommendation for anyone looking for a new and exciting destination, with plenty of culture, richness of history, an open mind, and a sense of fun and adventure, come and talk to us about India.
Blog by: Louise Allen