What kind of year puts 2nd October, Christmas, Diwali all on Sundays? Yeah.. its current year 2016 only, which left the cult status holding August mid as almost the last long holiday to roam places for professionals across India. Result??? Almost each popular destination across Metro was supposed to be flooded with desperate crowd looking to have a good time.
This year cult August Mid had kind of double treat considering not only Monday was off but a Thursday too, means those who missed the first long weekend Sat-Sun-Mon, were allowed to make it into the second weekend after taking just one day Friday off ending up having Thu-Fri-Sat-Sun. The same scenario enabled those offices with multiple shifts overcoming the issue of only one of them getting the chance and others slogging through weekends. But for me, it was still tough considering the question that where to go?
Been to Lansdowne few weeks back, been to Nainital in April end, been to Dharamshala in mid of March, been to Manali in last December, been to Rishikesh before that, Mussoorie trip would have been of no point, then where to go? Sitting back home was kind of becoming only option considering unavailability of hotels in all major hills around Delhi, but then knowing that there is no other long weekend left this year, we had to go for some trip.
We explored the idea of a Chail monsoon trip as never been to Shimla side but then colleague from Mohali and others who been to that area warned about the kind of roads in last leg of journey during unpredictable Monsoon. Same time hotel rates and unavailability in general became last nail to coffin of another Shimla side plans. (That side trip always getting dropped in planning stage since a while, let’s see when I manage to change that.)
Agra was selected based on shortest possible distance though I been to Agra once (before marriage), wife been to Agra once (before marriage), brother been to Agra once last year itself and the only partners who haven’t been to Agra were brother’s wife and my daughter. That was enough excuse for us to go for another trip.
Booking hotel through GOIbibo was another ordeal. Brother booked the same and at first Hotel Karan Vilas was confirmed by GOIbibo but brother got call from hotel that they don’t have any rooms available. On reaching out to GoIbibo support, he was ridiculously asked to cancel the booking and bear the charges of 500 Rs on him, which sure was enough to make us furious as what fault was on our part?
Later after discussing with seniors in GoIbibo support, we been offered Hotel Orchid. Hotel Karan Vilas which we had selected was on Main road, had swimming pools etc while this one was little off-road and without swimming pool etc so this was sure a rip-off on us but we okayed it at the end. Though later on during the trip, we got call from same Hotel Karan Vilas that they are holding two rooms for us. Don’t know where the miscommunication was but then we ended up in Hotel Orchid only.
The day of trip
By habit, I always prefer to start as early from home in any such trip and same was this time when I planned to start by 0330 hrs. But as brother was to join from Gurgaon, so at the end, we ended up starting by 0415 hrs. After some deliberation, I preferred Mathura road route only as been to Vrindavan via that in past and it was supposed to be workable. Expressway side might have added around 20-30 kms.
The start was not very good due to water logged roads, ongoing construction of flyovers till Palwal I guess and then Truck traffic, but it was still manageable. Faridabad transport would be totally transformed when these flyover constructions get completed along with various connecting roads to inner areas, but till then for locals its ongoing trouble. Earlier it was Metro construction which though happened to be one of the fastest but still took its sweet time and now its flyovers and widening work. Just like kids, it gives immense joy once labour pain ends but that time ……
Anyway… back to the trip.
Destination selected in Google Maps was Mehtab Garden as my motive was to take Taj Mahal shot through river with reflections and reading through various travelogues had pointed Mehtab Garden perfect place for the same.
Somehow the place wasn’t kind of highway accessible and we ended up taking some detours etc through inner streets but being early morning (around 8AM), it was almost breeze.
The above was first glimpse of Taj by 0829 hrs around. This wasn’t Mehtab Garden but some adjacent property. We walked towards river from here, but locals told that Mehtab Garden is little further from here though if we want the view then can illegally enter into this particular property from the broken wired boundary as shown in picture. Many locals been playing inside already. Though skeptical of the fact if we would get any kind of parking near Mehtab Garden, we chosen not to break the rules and drove further to Mehtab Garden after taking some pictures at this place where locals been also enjoying morning view on a holiday.
To my surprise, Mehtab Garden entrance was kind of low key affair. The same standard rates as we find at various ASI places like Surajkund even. Earlier the ticket rates been 5 Rs only and now recently the same was raised to 15 Rs.
May be there was a parking but I didn’t see that at least. First I tried to park on front gate but then was asked by Ticket keeper to park little ahead. Being morning, there was almost no one apart from guys at nearby shops and our car was among first one. Hardly one two four wheelers might have came after us.
I was really surprised about the place. Mehtab Garden is undoubtedly the best place to watch Taj Mahal away from the usual crowd in the main Taj Mahal campus and even at cheap tickets. I walked towards the river side to get a better view with reflections, where I found three guards who were just awake from their sleep. They been ensuring that no one jumps the boundary to go near the river so obviously that part was ruled out. They themselves suggested and gave me way towards the last end on the boundary from where there was a better unhindered view.
Must say, the particular place is not really maintained nor the riverbank though sure it can be developed as even bigger attraction than the main Taj Campus itself. I believe there is an ongoing project in the same reference in works already since last year.
There seems to be some digging / restoration work going on as well from ASI side. I am sure that they don’t allow tent etc. It’s an awesome place, if one spends entire day from morning to evening to watch the changing colors of Taj Mahal through river and greenery during favorable season like Monsoon.
We might have stayed here for a little more longer as it was the perfect place to innovate through poses as everything was at our disposable without issues but then rains started. We had to move towards Agra fort then as we were already on clock in the tight trip schedule.
Somehow even last time, I liked Agra fort more than the Lal Qila of Delhi or Amer Fort of Jaipur and this time it wasn’t any different. Luckily, rains had stopped and the day throughout remained cloudy keeping the weather as pleasant as possible.
Lush green views, properly maintained lawns along with freshly washed walls and floors of the place were giving it the perfect look.
The place was full of squirrels and there were even some guys who been offering photos with them on Rs 10 or 20 by luring them by biscuit powder etc. Kiddo sure tried but obviously touch of nails from small legs were enough to spook her whenever she tried.
By 1115 hrs around, we been out of the place and took our car from the parking. Fixed rates across Agra seems to be 60 Rs for parking. The first leg of journey was completed in satisfactory way and it was time to head for the hotel to check-in and rest a little.
We settled in, took lunch after one and half hour and might have slept for 2-3 hrs before getting ready for Taj Mahal finally. Yes! We were tired but delaying Taj trip to this hour wasn’t a good idea.
We might have reached to the place by 1645 hrs around and it was cutting close as we found too much long line even for entrance when we had secured the tickets online already. Things were much mismanaged there due to crowd. Inadequate checks, Police personnels letting VVIPs passed based of references, people been barging through queue from all over considering the fact that rest gates were closed and this one would have been closed in next 90 mins.
There was a funny incident too when after reaching through gate which was almost 2kms away from parking, we remembered that we forgot the camera and tickets in car itself. Left the ladies in one restaurant and we came back and then after reaching car, we took only camera and then started walking back. After almost 500mtr, we remembered that we forgot the tickets yet again. Grrrr…
We (males of the group as there was a smaller line for females which had not that much issues) had to take the same shortcut (barging into the queue) as many and finally we were inside the Taj Mahal campus.
The first glimpse of the Taj Mahal with a holiday crowd can give you an idea that how crowded the place might be. Also notice that how careless planning been about the whitening work by officials despite of knowing that there would be immense holiday crowd across week. The front two pillars and some front portion of Taj being whitened while backside of Taj Mahal rather has unhindered view about which most of tourist don’t even know anything about. But whom to blame as the whitening work goes on across year and there would always be festivals, holidays around and for them its like usual business.
As we had already seen Taj Mahal in proper glory from backside, we weren’t much interested in cutting through crowd and going closer on the main ramp so we stayed back than lining through another hour long queue which was there for walking into the main ramp.
Finally it was time to leave the place and go for dinner and rest.
For dinner, we roamed around the city as brother had to buy the famous Panchhi Petha and some Sandwitch Petha etc.
In the process, we came around a small café in front of Indian Oil Petrol pump, which was run by Acid attack victims. Menu of the place was intriguing as there was no rate card and those who running it said that its on choice of the consumer that how much he/ she want to pay and they don’t put a rate intentionally. I still think if that’s a good idea. No matter how much you pay, you would be ended up with guilt than having a good feeling about it. Why not put a fair price instead?
Anyway, we might have come back to hotel by 2200 hrs around and all of us were fully tired. Ladies of the group and kiddo went to immediate sleep while we brothers took a while robbing Hotel’s free wifi and then went to sleep by 0000 hrs around.
Trip to Fatehpur Sikri
We didn’t had much idea about the place apart from the fact that it would be near to Agra and we can cover it while returning and then would enter Expressway from Mathura entry. There was a toll in the way and we reached the place with almost ok roads.
The parking was again almost 1.5 or 2kms away from the main place and we had to take an auto. A young guy tagged along as guide for 50 Rs and we gave up on his insisting and funny shayaris. The gate was really tall structure.
The place was definitely solid construction design wise. Specially with fresh rains and washed out floors and walls, it looked like a treat. Apparently this is the place constructed by Akbar for his spiritual teacher once he had a son from Hindu Queen Jodhabhai. I actually didn’t knew that Akbar had queens of three major religions each, Hindu, Muslim and Christian. The guide even told us story that how Anarkali wasn’t put behind wall but given way to this place from Agra via underground tunnel which has been closed since in fear of collapse of old structure, but we all know such theories are rubbish.
The white marble structure in middle is the main majar while many small ones by its right side while those of females in the hereditary in backyard inside. Small sellers been selling some awesome crafted stones. For example, we were shown one Elephant carved from single marble, where there was one Elephant inside one and then one again. One really wonder that how they do it.
Today was sure more humid than the other day and we decided to move back finally by 1200 hrs. There was a Sikri fort behind this structure as well which was more costlier affair and considering the time, we gave it a skip.
I must have taken some wrong turn that ended up paying toll for Agra yet again and also went through villages roads for a long 20-30kms along with jams etc. The ordeal might have ended around 1430 hrs around when we managed to enter into Expressway finally.
The drive was a smooth run post that. We took Lunch around 1600 hrs post a toll and might have reached back home at Faridabad by 1800 hrs around. Apart from minor mess here and there, this was again a good trip. What you say?