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Old 9th October 2011, 11:09   #1
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Default Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

Date: September 25, 2011

My friend & his daughter were visiting India from LA; friend was visiting after 10 years and it was his daughter's first. Amongst all other things, daughter's one point agenda was to see The Taj.

All the arrangements were made by me and I made bookings for 3 at the Oberoi Amarvilaas, Agra.

Friend's flight landed at 10:20 am at T3 and I was there to receive him & his daughter. I had booked an Innova Taxi to take us to Agra. We left the airport around 11:10 am and were to touch the NH 2 via Nehru Place. Everything was going as per schedule when disaster struck.

We crossed Subroto Park and went over the flyover and descending that a car in the front took an emergency brake and stopped. A few bikers behind that car also stopped with screeching of tires etc., and our driver, inspite of his best efforts to stop the car banged into a bike from behind. Although there was no damage to the bike or the rider except the silencer getting misaligned, our car's fender's left side sported a gaping hole and dangled down.

The biker, seizing the opportunity, feigned serious hidden injuries and wouldn't settle with the driver. He insisted on being taken to a hospital for X-Ray & treatment and some compensation and we agreed. The funniest part was that he also had a choice of the hospital for treatment - The Indian Spinal Injuries Centre in Vasant Kunj. We had thought of going to a hospital enroute but this was a diversion.

To cut the story short, at the hospital the x-ray was all clear and only a minor concussion to the left knee was found. Rest was all clear. A pain killer cream was applied and some medicines prescribed and the "victim" extracted Rs.2500/- from the hapless driver. When all this finished, the clock showed 2 pm; we were still in Delhi.

Finally, we hit the road again, our plans to see The Taj today was quashed as it would be around 5 or 5:30 pm by the time we reached Agra. Sale of tickets for entry to The Taj closes at 4 pm.

It was peak traffic hour and it took lot of time to cross Faridabad, Ballabgarh, Palwal. We were hungry and tired and it was decided that we would stop at Kosi Kalan for lunch.

By the time we crossed Hodal & reached the Maharaja Motel/Restaurant on NH2 at Kosi for lunch it was 4:30 pm.

New Maharaja Motel/Restaurant

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Address: N.H 2. Dehli-Agra Road, Kotwan, 281403 Kosi Kalan, Uttar Pradesh


to be continued.../-
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Old 9th October 2011, 12:55   #2
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Default Re: Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

Date: September 25, 2011

After a sumptuous lunch, we hit the road again, crossed Mathura and the Refinery, entered Agra. I had already called my guide and had informed him about all this and it was decided that Taj would be viewed at sunrise the next day. What surprised me was the unusual density of traffic; after crossing Sikandra it was a nightmare. I was to know the reason of this unusual traffic later in the evening. We got stuck at two traffic jams for more than 30 minutes and by the time we reached Amarvilaas, we were a bunch of tired & irritated travellers.

The welcome and the hospitality by the hotel staff soothed our nerves and we were escorted to our rooms by the liveried & turbaned staff. My room #: was 207. At the time of booking I had specifically asked for a Taj facing room. It turned out that Amarvilaas has a total of 102 rooms and all are Taj facing. So far so good.

I had already phoned my friend, a fellow T-Bhpian and Agra resident Varun Kochar about my arrival and asked him to come over to my room to spend the evening.

It was time to freshen-up. A hot bath brought me back to my self and I was ready to host Varun. Checked with my friend & his daughter and they were already having dinner and wanted to hit the bed early.

Oberoi Amarvilaas, Agra

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A corridor in the courtyard

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Fountains in the courtyard

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A wall with gold motif in the courtyard

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Opulent Room at Amarvilaas

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Varun came around 9 and we spent a good two hours gossiping. He informed me the reason behind the unusual traffic on NH 2 and was surprised that we didn't get stuck much longer. It was the festival of "Janakpuri". I had not heard of this Hindu festival till date.

This is a festival to commemorate the wedding ceremonies of Lord Ram with Sita as conducted by King Janak & Queen Sunayana. It is a three-day festival where a certain part of the Agra City is selected for this purpose and is decorated like a bride. An eminent citizen of that area & his wife are invited to play the role of King Janak & Queen Sunayana and following traditional wedding ceremonies, Tulsi (Holy Basil) & Shaligram are married off.

Phew...!

Varun left and having almost spent close to 8 hours sitting in the car had exhausted me. I wanted to sleep but had a peep outside the window to see if some kind of light was available to photograph the Taj. I had carried my camera gear and the tripod wanting to photograph the Taj in the night from my room's window. It was the darkest night I had ever seen having forgotten that it was Amavasya (New Moon Day).

Disappointed, I went off to sleep as I had to get up early the next day to see the Taj at sunrise.

to be continued.../-
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Old 9th October 2011, 14:39   #3
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Default Re: Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

Date: September 26, 2011

I had requested for a wake-up call at 04:30 followed by a reminder at 04:40 am and the concierge performed the chore flawlessly. Started getting ready having decided to take bath after coming back from the Taj.

I had organized a guide before leaving for Agra, having found him on Google. His name was Shanoo Ali, fluent in about 16 languages and knowledgeable. He had also some good reviews on various travel forums. He turned out be very good and my friend & his daughter were quite impressed and happy with his services. I'm giving his contact details & charges here for the benefit of others:

Mobile: +919927761616
Email: shanno_taj@yahoo.co.in

Guide fees: Rs. 950/- for full Agra sight-seeing
Rs. 500/- for only Taj sight-seeing

We all came down to the lobby at 5:15 am and Shanoo was waiting for us. There is a saying - "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely".
I shall add to this - "Luxury & opulence are addictive, absolute luxury & opulence are absolutely addictive". And that is what The Amarvilaas does to you.

No sooner were we ready to move out, the concierge materialized out of no-where and handed us our entry tickets to Taj. Wow.. Of course it would be charged to my room but this saved me from standing in a line at the ASI ticket counter that was some distance away from the Hotel. Since my friend & his daughter were American citizens, their ticket was priced Rs.750/- each while for me it was Rs.20/-. Sometimes it is beneficial to be an Indian..

I had phoned my driver to come to the porch to take us to the gate but then was pleasantly surprised to find the Hotel Golf cart (battery operated) already parked & ready to take us to the last point. Hmmm, impressive to say the least.

We walked a short distance to the Eastern Gate entrance and stood in a que. Almost every person in the line was a foreigner. I was told that mostly foreigners come so early to see The Taj. The rest, and they mostly being Indians amble in around 9 am or so. We stood in the line for about 20 minutes as the security personnel were getting ready with their apparatus and the gates were thrown open at 06:05 am.

This great monument, The Taj, being very high on the terrorists's list and a probable target during the three wars that India fought, has very strict security set-up. The rules & regulations are given below:

Rules and Regulations at the Taj Mahal

Security is tight and rules and regulations are very important and must be followed at the Taj Mahal. There are many rules to be followed at the premises of the monument to maintain the holiness of the monument and other rules are mostly for the maintainance and protection of the monument. Remaining rules and regulations are to be followed for the protection of all the tourists visiting the Taj Mahal.

Arms, ammunition, fire, smoking items, tobacco products, liquor, food, chewing gum, headphones, knives, wire, mobile charger, electric goods (except video camera) such as Tripods, iPods and similar MP3 and music players are prohibited inside the Taj Mahal complex.

Mobile Phones are allowed but must to be kept switched off.

Eating and smoking is strictly prohibited inside the Taj Mahal complex.

Lockers are available at the gates to keep your belongings (of course, at your own risk).

Avoid carrying big bags and books inside the monument as this may increase your security check time.

Video camera (handicam) is allowed up to the red sand stone platform at the main entrance gate of the Taj Mahal complex. There is a charge of 25 Rupees per video camera.

Photography is prohibited inside the main mausoleum, and visitors are requested not to make noise inside the mausoleum.

Tourists must co-operate in keeping the monument neat and clean by making use of dustbins.

Avoid touching and scratching the walls and surfaces of the monument as these are old heritage sites that need special care.

Tourists are advised to hire official audio guides available at the ASI ticket counter or to use only approved guides and photographers who exhibit their identity cards.

Tourists are allowed to carry a water bottle inside the monument. Shoe covers, 1/2 litre water bottle and Tourist Guide Map of Agra are provided free of cost with the foreigner's entry ticket for the Taj Mahal.

Wheelchairs for disabled persons and First Aid Boxes are available at A.S.I. Office inside the Taj Mahal complex. A refundable charge of 1000 Rupees is to be deposited as security before wheelchairs are made available for the disabled.

All the above mentioned items along with the mobile phones are banned for the night viewing of the Taj Mahal.

Video cameras are permitted after the security check during night viewing of the Taj Mahal, though extra batteries are prohibited.

Remember that the Taj Mahal is a religious site and it is best to dress conservatively when visiting the Taj Mahal complex, not only because the Taj Mahal itself is a mausoleum, but also because there are mosques inside the Taj Mahal complex, if you wish to visit them as well.

Entered the Taj Complex after a thorough security check-up that included a body search as well. The section for females were separate. I shall now stop the narration and let the pictures do the talking.

The Entrance Gate

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The first view

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The Sun rises & the first light hits the Taj giving it a divine orange hue - 06:13 am

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The Sun rises further & the Taj acquires a different hue altogether - 06:15 am

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The Sun is up & has lit a side of Taj with a soft white light - 06:33 am

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The The Sun is up on the sky, shining at full power and bathing the Taj in a white light - 07:50 am

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The Minaar - up above the world so high

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The real Masjid on the left of Taj

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The silhouette of the replica Masjid (to maintain symmetry) on the right of Taj

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River Yamuna flowing by the Taj

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The devout bathing in Yamuna on the occasion of Amavasya

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View of the Taj Eastern Gate from the Taj

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The Taj sight-seeing was over and it was time to return to the hotel, get ready and leave for Delhi by 11 as my friend had a flight to Mumbai at 16:45. We came out of the complex and my friend wanted to buy some marble trinkets for memories. We entered a shop, outside which some artisans were working on the marble pieces.

Marble carving artisan, claiming to be a descendant of the families of artisans who built Taj.

Using the same tools of trade as used by his ancestors. Sharpening his chisel. at Taj Complex, Agra.


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Filial duties also being performed while working.

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My friend's daughter bought a set of coasters and a mini Tajmahal. We reached the boarding point & the Golf Cart was waiting. Reached hotel, freshened up, had breakfast and came down to the Lobby. My friend & his daughter were already there and were surrounded by the Hotel staff. Was something wrong?

Oh boy, my friend had found a stapler pin in his sandwich. The hotel staff was extremely distressed and apologetic. This wasn't expected from Amarvilaas. I wanted to write a complaint but my friend stopped me from that. Though it wasn't a part of the deal, Hotel gave my friend a big basket of brunch for the road.

The car & driver were ready and the luggage was already loaded. We left for Delhi. Remembering the previous evening's traffic nightmare, we were apprehensive, but our worries were misplaced. Getting onto NH2 from the City took a while and after that it was a breeze. Stopped at the Panchhi Petha store on the highway after Sikandara and bought Dry Petha, Angoori Petha & Kaaju Daalmoth for home.

The entire NH 2 unto Faridabad was a breeze and we made good speed. Reached Delhi Airport at 3:35 pm. My friend & his daughter went in and did the check-in & then proceeded for security check. Called me to inform that everything was perfect and thanked.

I returned to my office where my vehicle was parked. Thanked the driver and then left for home. It was an enjoyable trip.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures & the travelogue.

The end.../-

Last edited by gd1418 : 9th October 2011 at 14:41.
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Old 9th October 2011, 14:44   #4
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Default Re: Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

A mini Tajmahal ? Ain't that supposed to be inauspicious ?
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Old 9th October 2011, 14:49   #5
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Default Re: Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

I too have heard about this since Taj is not a monument but a mausoleum. But I guess the non-Indians do not believe in this as I saw a lot many foreigners buying a min-Tajmahal.

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A mini Tajmahal ? Ain't that supposed to be inauspicious ?
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Old 10th October 2011, 09:01   #6
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Default Re: Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

Thread moved here from Assembly line. Thanks for sharing
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Old 10th October 2011, 09:21   #7
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Default Re: Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

Very nice. Good to see different shades of azure as the times of the day changes.

Initially I thought it might have been Post Processing. But I remembered you mentioning as no such thing in another thread.
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Old 12th September 2013, 01:32   #8
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Question Re: Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

Thinking about flying into Delhi for the sole purpose of a quickie visit of TajMahal at Agra with my children.
Spend the night I fly in at Delhi.
The next day, is it possible to take an early morning (around 4~5 am) taxi drive to Agra and be back by night to Delhi?
Will it be tiring?

And what area in Delhi can I stay which makes it easy to get on the highway to Agra (Yamuna expressway?) and which is also close to the airport?

Any medium-range hotels safe for a family?

(I have never been to Agra before)
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Old 12th September 2013, 10:47   #9
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Default Re: Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

you can definitely do Agra as a day trip from Delhi.. 5-6 hrs to and fro journey,the rest for sightseeing. But leave early.

Better to move closer to the Yamuna X-way and stay in Noida the night you arrive in Delhi (the next day will be a long one, and you would want to have the max time for sightseeing).
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Old 12th September 2013, 10:49   #10
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Default Re: Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

Brave man, braving both Mathura and Agra traffic. The Yamuna Expressway would definitely have saved at least 90 minutes each way.
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Old 12th September 2013, 16:12   #11
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Default Re: Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

^^ not in 2011 .
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Old 30th December 2013, 18:56   #12
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(Hope I am not hijacking gd1418's thread)

08:00 am Started by Innova from Radisson Blu Greater Noida (just 3 kms from Yamuna-expressway) One food and toilet break at last toll.
10:30 am Entered Taj
12:40 pm McDonalds for lunch
01:45 pm Agra-Fort
03:00 pm started drive back to hotel, one food and toilet break at last toll.
05:40 pm back at hotel (greater-noida).

The Yamuna-expressway made it easy!
It was foggy, but still the Taj looked beautiful!
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Last edited by manim : 30th December 2013 at 19:02.
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Old 30th December 2013, 22:56   #13
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Default Re: Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

Great going Guruji and Manim. Guru g special thanks for showing the insides of the Amarvilas.
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Old 30th December 2013, 23:42   #14
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Default Re: Just The Taj - Delhi - Agra - Delhi

Hey manim, good to see you made the trip, do post a travelogue if you will. Ciao

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Originally Posted by manim View Post
The Yamuna-expressway made it easy!
It was foggy, but still the Taj looked beautiful!
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Old 22nd January 2015, 17:36   #15
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Default Agra - Shopping

This post is possibly the most embarrassing one that I have written on this forum yet.

But then they say that in times of need you remember your dear and near ones, and when it comes to travel advice, i hold fellow team bhpians very dear indeed.

Before you stop reading further, let me come to the point.

The wife has not seen the Taj. In my knowledge, we have booked tickets to Agra at least 10 times but never made it.

I think 90% of Indians whose parents were/are in the salaried class have seen it. Would that be a correct thinking from your perspective?

Anyways, we have planned yet again to try and visit Agra. The good part all bookings are done, the bad part is that a big chunk of it is non-refundable. So if we don't go, we pay. Hopefully, we will.

The brief itinerary

Day 1 - Reach Mathura at 4:15 PM by train, Golden Temple Mail from Mumbai
Sight seeing in Mathura and Vrindavan- Krishna Janmabhoomi and Prem Mandir

Day 2 - Day trip to Bharatpur Bird Sancturary. There are a number of amazing threads on the same. Have noted the name of the guide recommended by WAG7(sic).

Day 3 - Leave for Agra after breakfast. Visit Sikandra on the way to hotel. Visit Taj Mahal in the evening. Shopping

Day 4 - Taj Mahal closed. Visit Fatehpur Sikri and Agra Fort. Shopping.

Day 5 - Visit Taj Mahal in the morning at 6:30 AM. Leave for Mumbai at 12:15 by Mangla Lakhswadeep.

Would appreciate your valuable comments on the itinerary. Am I shortchanging Vrindavan/ Mathura by not spending a day there.

Second, embarrassing part as mentioned above, is the shopping part.

A well meaning friend had told my better half that Agra is the place to shop for shoes and she is hell bent on buying some (Note for married men: some!).

Could you give me some advice as to IF I should go and where i should go? Any tips would be appreciated.


Thanks
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