18th November 2010 – At Leisure
Originally, we had planned to celebrate Eid in Bangladesh. However, due to a couple of unforeseen delays, we could think of no better place to celebrate this auspicious occasion than in Agra.
Despite the hype, the Taj Mahal was every bit as good we’d heard. And better still, Muslims did not have to pay the 750 rupee entrance fee that day!
We then headed back to the hotel for lunch, and then treated ourselves to a haircut, shave and traditional Indian head massage. If you fancy the prospect of taking a vigorous beating to your head, neck and face by someone much younger (and smaller) than you, then this is definitely the thing for you!
All spruced up, we took a tuk tuk out to see the Agra Fort. The fort was built primarily as a military structure but Shah Jahan transformed it internally as a palace, which later became his prison for eight years after his son Aurangzeb seized power. The maze of buildings that forms a city within a city was slightly marred by a) heavy rainfall; and b) an opportunistic security guard.
The aforementioned guard (pictured below) insisted that we should pay the foreigner entrance fee of 300 rupees as opposed to the local rate of 20 rupees that we paid following a spot check [despite the fact that, yet again, we were told by the ticket office to purchase the lesser priced tickets]. Acting on a hunch, Johur then insisted that he escort us back to the ticket office where we would happily pay the difference. Whilst walking back, he suggested that if we were to pay him some “tea money” then he would overlook our oversight, to which Johur informed him that we would sooner pay the full ticket price than pay him a small bribe. Knowing full well that he may get into trouble for this, he bid us farewell and wished us a pleasant stay. Boy did the tables turn … i’ve never seen someone back pedal so fast!
Soaked to the skin, we made our way back to the hotel for dinner, where we met some American MBA students who were on a sabbatical at Chennai.
And following this, we wanted to see how the other half live and popped into the Oberoi hotel over the road from ours for a night cap, reputed to be the best hotel in India. Room rates range from 30,000 to 262,000 rupees here.
Overall, we had a great day and it was probably the highlight of our overland trip.