It was the month of September and the Sun has started to show some mercy. The weekend was coming and we were planning for a short weekend excursion, the options to explore in 2 days were:
1. Lansdowne, Uttarakhand.
2. Agra & Vrindavan.
3. Alwar, Rajasthan.
4. Neemrana, Rajasthan.
For Uttarakhand I wanted to have atleast 3 days, so it was out and Rajasthan we would have to take NH -8 which is seriously a drivers worst nightmare these days. Hence the plan was finalized for Agra and Vrindavan.
The planned itinerary and the route:
Day1: Start at 6AM from Gurgaon, head to Taj Mahal reach by 11am cruising through Yamuna expressway.
By Lunch head to Agra fort and later to Fatehpur Sikri and return to Agra for a night stay and if possible drive to Mathura for Night stay.
Day2: Go to Kesi Ghat and Bankey Bihari Temple, after some loitering around in the Vrindavan, head back home and reach back home late evening.
Disaster struck early morning, I woke at 5:45AM, where the planning was to head by 6 and thu s avoid rush hour traffic at Noida. We left home at around 6:45, but were lucky enough to escape rush hour traffic and in no time we reached the entrance of Yamuna expressway. At the entrance, there was this small photo shoot.
As you can see there are grooves at regular interval on the concrete. IMO
that is the cause of tyres making so much of noise.
After the photo shoot we started cruising. Since I was working for a Road construction company on NH8 few years back, I always had hated Concrete roads, but I had read reviews from many people that this Yamuna expressway is different. I started cruising within the speed limits of 100kmph, the few things I noticed in my trip was that the tyre make so much noise ( may be because the company fitted tyre that came along in my car are appolo acelere) and tyre wear out more than on bituminous carpet. Anyway, I drove at leisurely speed of 80-100KMPH and was listening to various mix of Indian music, Old hindi, sufi, Punjabi and English.
Total toll for Noida – Agra (To and Fro) is 520 INR.
The pic is the Utilities and restaurant set up by the concessionaire at every toll on both sides of the road. The prices are bit on a higher side, but worth it. There were many cars, buses and trucks parked.
I had heard that there are no puncture shops available enroute, only at pitstops, but since necessity is the mother of invention, enoroute we saw many puncture shops. What they had done was that the shop was way down the pavement, but they had long hoses for the air supply.
At around 10:45 we reached the Taj Mahal parking.
We parked the car in the parking and before we had got down, there were atleast 20 people surrounding us. Among them were many so called guides, camel cart and horse cart walla.
I always ensure that I hire a guide when visiting some historic monument; they will always tell you the history in the way that will amuse you ( alteast I always find it amusing). I really don’t know if the facts they tell are true or not, but its entertaining for sure.
The Guide started quoting rates as high as 700 INR, but it was settled for 280 INR and he pays for the entry fee and the monument protecting shoe cover ( costing 20 each totaling to 80).
My wife was interested in Camel cart, the camel cart owner was smart, he started his story by saying that the main entrance gate is about 1km from here and quoted for rate 100 INR. Since it was pretty hot there, we just got into the camel cart. As soon as we entered the main road to the main gate entrance for Taj, he started telling stories about how Government pulled up the strings on the Industries that were flourishing in Agra and because of which many people were rendered jobless etc, then started with telling us the stories of the dense gardens that were on the both sides of the roads and very swiftly he says,” Isko batane ke liye hum 50 INR charge karte hain” ( We charge 50 INR for telling you this info) and there was this grin on his face. I was in good mood and didn’t want to spoil it for 50INR. Just about 200 mts ahead,he parks the cart on the side of the road, where there is some Handloom emporium.
We entered the emporium and the sales guy starts showing us various miniature taj mahals and ofcos the story about the workers who made it (which I seriously think was exaggerated and most of it were lies). My wife likes few and we enquire few. I said Okay when we will get back, we will purchase.
Here comes the trick of their trade, the saleman says” Sir aap yahan se vapis nahin aaenge, nikalne ka gate doosra hai” ( Sir, you will not be coming out from the same gate, for exit there is another”. I though he must be saying the truth and we pay him 2000 INR for the things we bought, when asked about the discounts and all, the sales person starts with the story that this is Government run and hence the prices are fixed. Although the quality, I later found out was better than other similar items sold in the open market, but I paid atleast 500 INR more to them. Anyway, as a token of appreciation, they gave us a guide complementary and shoo’d away the one we hired.
The best benefit of a guide is that you won’t have to stay in the que for the tickets. The guide got the tickets from the side window and within no time we were in the Taj Mahal.
Since my wife wanted to have an album of this trip, we hired a photographer for this trip. I must say they are very shrewd and one should negotiate with them, first when I spoke to the photographer, he quoted a rate of 60INR per shot and minimum of 60shots. For this price he will be printing the photographs, setting it in an album and giving us a CD as a soft copy. 3600 INR total, and when I heard 3600, I said do I look crazy or what? 3600 INR?. I don’t want it and started walking, but then my wife was eager to get the pics ( which I seriously can’t afford to ignore for my own safety reasons). Hence the deal was struck at 2400 INR. But the photographer did a good job and although the price was on a higher side, I didn’t mind ( as my wife as happy).
By the time we got out, we were thirsty and hungry, but the show was not over ( atleast for the guide). He starts with the story that the people who built taj mahal, their future generations are still here and they are the one who makes original Taj Mahal Miniatures. After listening to this, I ask “ Then what the @#$% did you guys sell me?” to which he says, those are original too. Government sources it from them only. He takes us into this narrow alley market and before entering he warns me to lookout for my wallet as there may be many pickpockets. He asked me to just follow him. We diligently followed him, hoping to look at the people who will be making the TAj mahal miniatures, but he takes us to a shop similar to the Government shop from where we bought Taj Miniatures. I got angry, but not to show to him ( as I was not comfortable in that place). I just declined to everything they showed and finally got out of the shop.
Since, he was unable to sell us anything ( which would have resulted in, him getting some commission out of the sale) he asks us if we want to purchase authentic “Panchi Petha”, to which I said Yes. Then he took us to this shop, where there were varietly of Petha’s. We took 2 packs for 500 and started from there to the parking lot.
Soon I started wondering about one things, what would be the cost of 1kg petha, I thought maximum it would be 400INR/kg and when I measured the weight of the 2 packs I bought was not even more than 500gms. I laughed at my stupidity and how easily the guide convinced me to buy it.
Later to our horror, he took us out from the same gate from where we entered. I got seriously angry for them lying to us, but then I said never mind, whats happened has happened.
By the time we reached parking lot, the photographer got us all the prints in an album and gave us a CD.
We bid them adieu and as a tip my wife gave the guide 200 INR ( which he seriously didn’t deserve)
Here are the pics:
After the ticket checking and security check, this is the main gate for the taj entrance. The white chorten type structure which you see on the top of the strucuture, when the Tai
was being built, with every year passing, one of these were erected. There are total of 22 of these ( Only 11 in this pic) hence it took total 22 years to taj to be built. ( as told by my Guide)
In this pic you can see the other 11 ( but need to zoom)