After a week in rural India, hitting the big cities again was bound to be a shock to the system. One day in each of Agra, Delhi, and Jaipur was enough for me as I’m not a big fan of cities and these are BIG cities. Even after those few days I was yearning for some peace and quiet.
Agra is famous for being home to one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. I arrived off the train from Orchha in the afternoon, dropped my bag and went straight there. There’s not much else to see or do in Agra so I knew I wanted to be on a train out of there in the morning.
The Taj Mahal is a glorious monument to love. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had it built for his beloved wife, Mumtaz, upon her death in the 1600s. The whole complex took 20 years to build.
The day I visited, it had been raining and the sky was grey, so the white marble of the massive Taj seemed to blur into the sky. It gave the monument an ethereal quality.
Its hard to put your finger on what exactly makes the Taj so beautiful. Is it the sheer size or the perfectly rounded domes? Is it the many different colours in the marble that you can only see when you get up close, or is it the spiralling calligraphy? Is it the symmetry or the way it reflects in the pool stretching in front of it?
It certainly isn’t the expensive ticket or the masses of Indian tourists milling around, dressed up for this special occasion. The hordes of people are clearly proud to have one of the wonders of the world in their country, but you can’t help being entertained by watching them pose in all the clichéd ways.
I planned to just quickly go around the city, see the sights and leave the next day. However, a vomiting bug hit me (what else do you expect from Delhi!) and I was forced to stay a few more days. Of course, this coloured my Delhi experience, as although I was in a comfortable hostel, Delhi isn’t the best place to be sick.
On that one day before I got sick, I crammed a lot in, which I wouldn’t recommend. You need a lot of time to explore this vast city, and an organised tour would also be a more relaxed way to explore. Doing it myself was exhausting.
In the morning, I went to the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid and walked around Old Delhi. I didn’t find the Red Fort or the Jama Masjid that exciting. The Taj Mahal is a more impressive example of Islamic architecture, and I’d seen more interesting forts in Madhya Pradesh. Exploring Old Delhi, however, was a great way to get a real taste of the city.
Then, I tried to get a rickshaw to take me to Humayun’s tomb, but something got lost in translation and I ended up back at the Red Fort. I decided to get back on the metro instead and go to Lodhi. (Quick side note here: the Delhi metro is really clean, safe and efficient. Its worth using, I only wish the stops were closer to each other!) There, I sat for a while in the Lodhi Gardens, a surprisingly beautiful and peaceful park hidden away from the chaos. Dotted around the park are a few monuments and tombs. Afterwards, I explored the Lodhi Art District, a residential area decorated with loads of street art and murals covering topics of culture, environment, and more.
Of course, there remains much more of Delhi to be explored, but these were my main points of interest. For me, the most fascinating part about Delhi was seeing how people lived in this famous city. I got a taste of this in the contrast between Old Delhi’s chaotic, crammed streets and Lodhi where middle class families played cricket and enjoyed clean and spacious residential areas.
By the time I reached Jaipur, I was fed up with the cities and just wanted to be somewhere easy and quiet. To keep things simple, a friend and I got a tuk tuk to take us around everywhere.
We started by heading out of the city to the collection of forts in the hills. It was so refreshing to be back in nature. The landscape is arid here. There are three main forts – Nahargarh, Jaigarh, and Amber – but the Amber Fort is the one most worth going into and is also a palace. It is a beautiful sandy coloured building with some stunning painted archways and a maze of corridors to explore. The best part is the mirror rooms, where mirrors and tile work create an interesting effect in the light.
On the way back to the city, there is the Jal Mahal, a palace which lies stranded and sinking in a lake.
In Jaipur itself, the pink city, I didn’t explore much as the traffic and chaos was a bit too much. I found the famous Hawa Mahal underwhelming, and it didn’t help that the building backs onto a busy road.
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So, there you have it. My underwhelming experience of the Golden Triangle. I haven’t heard many other travellers get excited about any of these 3 cities, so I find it kind of sad that so many people come to India and only see them. They don’t even scratch the surface of this vast and wonderful country.