Wednesday, Agra. After breakfast one half of IndianInterlude went for a walk around some local streets. I think I can confidently say I was the first foreigner seen in those parts that morning. I was followed through the street, invited into someone’s barber shop, and generally made to feel quite welcome, despite being the object of some curiosity. With one exception when I went to look at some local building work, and an older man on a motorbike, whose English seemed limited to “go”, told me to “go”.
Late morning we were collected by our driver and guide for the first stop of the day, Agra Fort. What a surprise this was. Behind the red sandstone walls, lay courtyards, gardens, and palatial rooms. The Indian army still uses around eighty per cent of the Fort so we saw only a tiny portion.
After that we sent our guide and driver on a wild goose chase looking for St Mary’s Church.
Then lunch (we admit at a safe restaurant catering to the tourist trade complete with western toilets). This was quite average, and our waiter was almost threatening in his request for a “service tip”.
Then the Taj Mahal. Beyond beautiful, beyond impressive, beyond emotional, it really is extra-ordinary.
At night one of the highlights of the trip so far. In a open field near our accommodation a wedding party was underway. We could hear the music from our room, and jokingly said to our driver to cancel the restaurant for dinner, we would instead go to the party, which sounded like a lot of fun. As we drove away he gave us a story about too many people, and cars, but five minutes later he stopped outside the field, and talked his and our way into the party. As long as we did not take photos, or cause any trouble.
Imagine an area, maybe half a soccer pitch. Around the perimeter are trestle tables all connected, all with table cloths, and all serving food. In one corner, opposite the covered walkway where one had entered the ground is a stage for the bride and groom, in front of which are covered plastic chairs for honoured guests. In the opposite corner near the entry point is the DJ, and the dance floor where young men (boys really) are demonstrating their skills. We are by now attracting a fair bit of attention. Our faces are shown on the big screen, and we are made multiple offers to have something to eat, all of which the driver declines on our behalf. We are ushered closer to the dance floor to better see the action.
Our driver heads for the DJ and money changes hands. The music changes and our driver is on the dance floor, displaying excellent skill, and performing all the traditional moves. I suspect he may have had some classical training, all he would confess later was that he “loved a party”.
Soon IndianInterlude was being encouraged to take to the floor, but in the interests of Indo-Australian relations we decline as graciously as possible. Not long after we are on our way to our planned restaurant, which delivers one of the best meals of the trip.
Just a note about the photos. Whilst we would ordinarily provide accurate descriptions, witty captions, or searing socio-political insight, mobile blogging is not as easy as it looks. So enjoy them as best you can and we’ll attempt to remember what they are when we get back.