Sunday, February 7, 2010

Agra - Fatepur Sikri

We were woken up at 5:40 by the call to prayer of a local mosque. Josh went back to sleep after, while Mary was kept awake listening to bird song. Later we had a relaxing breakfast of chai, banana honey pancake, and masala omelet at the wonderful Taj Cafe where we have been taking most of our meals.

We tuk-tukked over to the bus station for a bus to Fatepur Sikri, an abandoned capital city near Agra. The bus ride over was pleasant, but full. We chatted up an Indian sitting next to us and talked about trains with the French guys behind us, who were delighted to borrow our timetable. We arrived in Fatepur Sikri. The single woman in front of us chatted with us we left the bus and we decided to walk around together. Her name was Resy and she is a hospice nurse from Holland.

We tried to find our way uphill to the monument and overshot but we found another more interesting route instead (us leading Resy and the French guys). The Jama Masjid (ed note: this must translate to something, as this is the third one we've seen) was big and pretty. As we entered the mausoleum, a guy walked us around. He kept saying, "no charge, I work here." It turns out he was trying to sell us knick-knacks at the end of the tour. He got pushy and rude as we walked away. Too bad for him, Mary had been thinking about circling back on our way out to buy something.

Mausoleum in Jama Masjid from Trip of a Lifetime 1a - 100PENTX

Next up was the Fatehpur Sikri site, which is the palace. It was built in the 1500s and then abandoned 15 years later, due to lack of water. It was pretty.

Fatehpur Sikri from Trip of a Lifetime 1a - 100PENTX

Afterward we lunched (at the same place as the French guys) and tried to find the old city. There was an abandoned city as well as the palace, but we didn't know where it was so walked back to the bus station. After a few minutes, we decided to walk to the place with more frequent buses. Along the way we saw more of the old city along the road and passed through a gate in the old city wall.

Although the Indian person on the bus in the morning said there'd buses every 5 min or so, we waited around almost a half an hour for a bus. We caught a crowded private bus with sleeper seats (used for upper deck seating). The French guys must have thought it too crowded, but we think they would have fit. Nicely enough, they found/made seats for the Westerners on the bus (Josh in a sleeper-bed with 3 other people, Mary and Resy on a little tiny box by the door that probably would have been labeled "keep off" in the US). About 3/4 of the way through the trip that should have taken 1 hour, we hit a traffic jam. You may think you've seen traffic jams before, but you are wrong.

During the traffic jam we saw all kinds of interesting stuff, like carts of cow pies. They use everything here!

Indian traffic jams are caused by a special kind of stupid greed. See, Indian drivers use any part of the road available to them. That means that when traffic is stopped going the other way, they pile up (3 across on a two lane road). Of course, they do that on the other side of the block as well, which makes resolving the ensuing jam difficult to impossible. Josh wanted to get out and walk to a potential bus ahead that was clearing the traffic jam, but Mary didn't want to get out for worry of lack of buses. We cleared it (it was caused by an unregulated 4 way intersection and a lot of wedding traffic) after around an hour, and got to Agra shortly after. It was dark and the bus dropped us at a strange place (not the normal government stop since it was a private bus), unfortunately things happened really fast when got there and we hardly had a chance to say goodbye to Resy before tuk-tukking back to the hotel. I had wanted to get her contact info and ask about visiting her in Holland this summer.

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