The Christmas bells were ringing across the city and year was about to pave way for the next to engulf us, when we decided to spend our long weekend judiciously. It was a spontaneous decision to pack our bags for a short trip to Agra, but the proximity to the city helped us plan and execute it well. We took off on Friday morning by road. Travel time was 3.5 hours, thanks to the Yamuna expressway. We had reached and settled inside Agra by early evening but the fatigue of the meticulous city life had overpowered our enthusiasm to carry out a sightseeing venture. So we decided to stay in for a while and later when to attend the Light & Sound Show at Agra Fort. It was very informative, but I found it more sound than the light show. While you go for the Light & Sound Show in Agra Fort, make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes as the road inside the fort is not smooth and being pretty dark at some of the places, the chances of getting toppled are high. We returned to our hotel to enjoy the dinner. The cuisine at the hotel was sumptuous Mughlai served with an Irish tiramisu as dessert. The day ended when we slowly moved to our respective rooms and slumber took the best of us.
Sound & Light Show, Agra Fort
Next morning we set out to explore the city and did not start with the clichéd, the Taj Mahal. Rather, we started with the other two UNESCO listed heritage sites, the Agra Fort and the Fatehpur Sikri. The Agra Fort can also be referred as a walled city. The fort has a semicircular plan with walls as high as almost seventy feet. It had four gates of which two are notable: the “Delhi Gate” and the “Lahore Gate.” The Delhi Gate which is the grandest of the four gates faces the city on the western side of the fort. (Though it is inaccessible to the public as the Indian military is still using it.) The fort is an exceptional sight and witness of the lives of the Mughals. Opposite to the fort is one of the largest mosques in the world, Jama Masjid. Our next stop was the exceptional testimony to the Mughal empire, Fatehpur SIkri, also known as the “City of Victory”. You find both religious and secular buildings in the city: Buland Darwaza, Jama Masjid, Tomb of Salim Chishti, Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-e-Khas, Ibadat Khana, Anup Talao, Mariam-uz-zabani’s palace, Naubat Khana, Panch Mahal and Birbal’s House.
The sun had set by the time we decided to call off our expedition so we decided to rest in the lush green Ram Bagh, a popular garden of Agra. While we sat in the garden and pleased our eyes, calmed our souls, we got to know that along with being surreal and pleasant, the gardens of Agra have a story of their own. The Ram Bagh, Mehtab Bagh and the Soami Bagh are not just fragments of the past of the city. Later we went to the famous Agra market – Sadar Bazaar for obvious reasons – to pick up some soft stone inlay souvenirs for our very limited social circle. You could also keep an eye for other sought after commodities like The Zardosi adorned cloth pieces, Itar (natural fragrances), Brassware, Carpets and Durries and Leather made items. No, we did not forget to pick up a few boxes of different varieties of the most famous sweet of Agra ‘Petha’. Just so you know that the original ‘Panchi’ brand showroom is at Sadar Bazaar and no one can match the quality.
Panchi Petha Agra
If you choose to travel by auto rickshaw, do some home work, ask your hotel for some guidelines so that they do not take you for a ride. Sharing this from my personal experience that when we decided to visit Sadar Bazaar, the auto-rickshaw driver tried his best to push us to visit one of the handicraft showrooms and when we refused, he took us to back lanes of some market where most of the shops were closed so that we get convinced that Sadar Bazaar is closed and go to a place of his choice. We ignored as we had done our homework well and asked him to drop us near ‘Mama Franky Chicken’ which is kind of a landmark where you will have access to all the shops. While you are here, do not miss the opportunity of visiting Taj Street which has all the Chaat shops offering Golgappas, Tikki, Bhalla Papdi Chaat, and many more items. While I am sure it would be difficult for you to stop relishing the amazing Chaats, do keep some place in your belly to enjoy amazing Chicken Tikka and Fish fry at Mama Franky Chicken. This one is not to be missed. The co-ordination between its different kiosks spread across the Sadar Bazar street is done through loudspeakers. The kiosks serve different cuisines; 2 Non-vegetarian food, 1 for Vegetarian food including South Indian cuisine, 1 small stand for Momos and a few more here and there. I have seen tourists literally licking their fingers while enjoying their meal here.
Famous Food joint Agra
Amazing Chicken Tikka
Next day, early morning we went to visit the world famous Taj Mahal. We chose to leave our car behind at the hotel and took an auto to save ourselves from searching place for parking. We went through the Paschimi Gate which was closest to reach. Right from the place you step down from the auto, many people approach you for buying handicraft items, marble decorative items, buying petha or getting pictures clicked. You are offered to get a picture clicked and by the time you return from Taj Mahal, you will have pictures in all poses and backgrounds ready to take back with you. We chose not to go for that and rather click our own. But, it did not end here, the moment you step into the Taj Mahal, people with cameras start hovering around you offering various deals. You can get some pics clicked if you want. We went around the Taj Mahal for some time and like everyone else were mesmerized with the beauty of this Monument of Love. It took us about 2 hrs to enjoy this beautiful place and click some pictures, after which we decided to return to hotel and start our journey back to Delhi. I am not writing more about Taj Mahal here as a few lines are not sufficient to describe its beauty. I may dedicate a complete blog to this wonder.
Western Gate, Taj Mahal
It was a short and sweet getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life!