Agra and beyond
There is a bit more to Agra than the Taj Mahal and we tried to cover the bases.
First, I want to acknowledge the staff at the Oberoi Amarvilas. Making a few adjustments to our itinerary we made our own arrangements with the Oberoi. And WOW, they were amazing. We are still not quite sure how we deserved the incredible upgrade they gave us to the Robert Burns Suite, or all the other things they did for us including the bespoke touches in our suite. But we loved every minute.
Our guide today Dr. Vinney, was another interesting history/architecture Ph.D., and after we toured the Taj, we saw the Red Fort of Agra and the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, also known as the “Baby Taj.” Built before the Taj it was completed prior to the Taj Mahal starting construction. It is a beautiful work of art, sometimes aptly described as a “jewel box in marble.” The painted floral designs and inlaid stone created a very lovely, ornate, and sumptuous effect. I loved it.
We also visited a factory where they still do the same type of inlay stonework seen at the Taj. Workers hold almost microscopic pieces of stone between their finger and nail to make the inlay pieces. It was interesting to see first-hand how the process worked.
Now it was time to transition worlds and we headed to the train station in Bharatpur for a three-hour ride to Sawai Madhopur, the closest rail station to Ranthambhore. I can now say I experienced an Indian train. I’m glad it was only for three hours. The car was messy with windows either so dirty or yellow you couldn’t enjoy the scenery. Locals do not sit in their assigned seats. Sarah and I, however, did sit quietly in our seats avoiding the chaos about who was supposed to sit where, and were eventually joined by an American couple and British couple. In a humorous coincidence, we realized the photo we’d taken of a rowboat on the river behind the Taj, was of our new British friend who hired the boat so he could get a better photo. iPhone time & location info made it so easy to verify.
We had several hours of lively conversation but were all very happy to arrive at our destination and get on to our various safari camps just in time for dinner.
BTW, it gets dark here around 5:30 and it seems to be really dark very quickly.
PS – there was no scaffolding at the Taj Mahal – but apparently they have not yet cleaned the dome.