|Early start for today.
We got picked up at 7am at the hotel for the '2 hour' drive to Mathura (birth place of Ghandi aparently) and then onto Agra where the Taj Mahal is.
The journey was expected. Mayhem! But we stopped a couple of times on the way for some fud (over priced at a 'tourist stop') and also so our driver could nip across the road and pay a road tax thing. While he did the latter leaving me and Em to sweat in the car a man walked past with a monkey on a leash. Ok fine, but then the monkey jumped onto my window (see photos!).
It didn't look healthy for one but as it was quite amusing I took a couple of photos. Bad move pilgrim!
The Monkey man was up like a shot with his arm stuck through the drivers window shouting "MONKEY, MONEY!!" and continued to do so for a good 5 minutes!
We probably would have given him some money if he was nice about it but he really was a horrible man with a serious attitude problem!
I ended up giving him 10 rupees (about 12p) and both me and Em rather unpolitely at the top of voices told him to "go away". He deserved it man, properly.
Anyway from about 2 minutes later we stopped off for some lunch at we're guessing the cab drivers mates restaurant. Em was still steaming about the Monkey Man, but that soon passed when she noticed they had cheese toasties on the menu!
They must've given us the 'special menu' though as 2 toasties and 2 drinks come to 7 quid!!!
After this we headed on to Mathura, Ghandi's birth place where there is a temple and stuff.
We got there, got harrased while walking to it, outside it, and on the way back from it. Fair enough it is only kids trying to sell us stuff or women shoving their half naked babies in our faces begging for food, but already we are losing our patience with these people and are really struggling to politely rufuse them any more.
I think the Monkey Man may have been the last starw for Em!!
Anyway this Temple looked quite cool, and was really busy, but men and women were not allowed to go in together so we scrapped that and went back to the cab.
About and hour later (about 3 hours in total) we arrived in Agra.
This looked pretty much the same as Delhi (which I know Em liked!) and it was just before we got to the Taj Mahal that we picked up our guide.
Even though it was cool having a guide because we learnt so much about the Agra and the Taj Mahal, we had specifically requested NOT to have a guide because we wanted to just chill out and take our time, and also another person in the loop automatically leads to more money, as was to prove the case.
I'll say again that it was cool to have a guide.
He told us that Agra has changed names 3 times in it's history.
He also told us all about the Taj Mahal (which literaly translates to 'Crown Temple'), how long it took to build the temple (22 years) and that the King had it commissioned as a tomb/shrine for his dead queen. He had also bought a plot of land directly behind the Taj Mahal(across the river) so that he could build a second, black Taj Mahal so that he could be buried in it when he died.
Unfortunately before he died he handed over his power to his son who poo pooed the Black Taj Mahal idea and locked him up in the White Fort just down the road till he died instead!
Anyway if you look inside the Taj Mahal now there is 2 coffins/tombs in there - 1 in the centre for the queen and also one just to her left for the king. It is the only thing in the entire Taj Mahal that isn't symetrical because, as I have siad, his tomb wasn't meant to be in there!
However, as expected we didn't really get to chill out there at all, and also as expected the tour guide had a coupe of suprises in store for us....
First he took us to the place where they make/carve the stone/jewels that make up the Taj Mahal (only ancestors of the original builders are allowed to do this).
It was really interesting, but then it turned (as seems to have happened non stop for 3 days now) into a bit of a hustle.
We got taken into a room with all these beautiful marble tables and told how much it would cost to send home etc. We 5 minutes of badgering we declined saying we couldn't possibly as we are travelling. "No problem" said our tour (sales man!) we have smaller items just through here...
So into another room we got taken where they had smaller trinkets and coasters etc. All beautiful but still do we really need GBP50.00 coasters while we are travelling. After about 10 minutes more hard selling and harrassment I turned around and saw another 3 Western couples all sitting with their 'Tour Guides' getting much of the same. Like us, they all had bewildered looks upon their faces. One minute they were enjoying a guided tour of the Taj Mahal and how it was made, the next they are in a room with a man shouting figures at them about stuff they can't afford not to have even they they didn't know they wanted it and have survived so far without it!
We finally gave in a bought a couple of small things just to put an end to this horrible saga, but honestly it just soured the whole thing.
We got back in the car shell shocked but still furious, where the guide suggested another 'tour' of the precious stone place, or maybe if we were hungry....
We made it very clear that we were going straight home.
The rest of the car journey was very quiet!
We got stuck in traffic on the way back to the hotel as well. Yes DELHI TRAFFIC so got back at about 9/10 O'Clock ish.
We we're pretty exhausted from the day but mainly drained from all of the schneeky money grabbing scumbags we had met.
We went out to the only half decent restaurant we could find near our hotel (at the bottom of a hotel) that was full of Westerners!
We were in no mood to be social though so we ate (I had a vegetable biriyani and Em had a Chicken Korma - both delish!) and crashed out back at the hotel.
Em reflected that maybe Agra should change it's name for a fourth time to AGRO!