Today is our last day in India, well sort of. We fly off to Istanbul at 5am tomorrow morning.
We have been in Delhi since Tuesday evening after a mad train ride from Agra.
You may be wondering who these people are in this photo? So am I? This picture was taken in Agra Fort on Tuesday. There were lots of Indians visiting as part of their Diwali holiday and we had to pose for lots of photos with Indians who wanted pictures with pasty white people. Anyway, we thought we'd turn the tables and get a photo ourselves. All I can tell you is that they are from the Gujrati province and were very friendly and chatty.
Our two days in Agra were very hectic. We were in full sight seeing mode in what is definitely the tourist heartland of India. This meant double the harassment and pestering and we both nearly lost it on a couple of occasions. One young boy in particular insisted on taking us up to the entrance of Fatepur Sikh, the abandoned city, saying he did not want any money, only wanted to practice his English. When we got inside the mosque he tried to physically drag me to his little shop and got angry when we refused to follow him. We yelled at him and he finally left us in peace.
In Agra we spent a morning wondering around the stupendous Taj Mahal and the surrounding parkland and after that took a crazy bus ride to Fatepur Sikh, the abandoned city dating back to the 1600s. It was abandoned by Akhbar the Great (considered the greatest Mughal - Muslim - ruler of all time) . It was a 40km ride on a rickety old bus packed to bursting. Along the way the driver had to dodge donkey carts, a pack of meandering water buffalo, cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, motorcycles, people and some kid who was showing his bike to his mates in the middle of the road. To top it all off, some kid threw up next to me and his mother decided to rush him past me allowing him to smear his face all over the back of my top. Charming!
Faterpur Sikh was very eerie. An entirely planned city, abandoned due to lack of water all constructed out of red sandstone with palaces, courtyards and beautiful manicured lawns. The other major sight we saw was Agra Fort, built by Shah Jehan, the man behind the Taj Mahal. The irony was that he was imprisoned in the Fort by his son so spent his last few years gazing at the Taj from across the Yamuna River. Poor bugger.
Delhi has been really good. The contrast between first world and third world is stark even more so because the two worlds co-exist side by side. Yesterday we took the ultra modern, incredibly clean, air-conditioned metro to Old Delhi (it is about 100 times cleaner than the London tube) and then stepped into a world of bazaars, congested streets, rubbish, pollution, cows, monkeys, food stalls etc. We also saw first world India on our way from the train station to our hotel - wide boulevards, enormous mansions, fancy shopping malls - where the rich live and play.
Well I could go on and on about India, the sights we have seen. I think everyone should see India in their lifetime, but at the same time, it's probably not for everyone. Alongside all the incredible mughal and Hindu architecture, the richest of cultures, a diversity of food and tastes unmatched anywhere in the world is abject poverty, animals walking around just bags of bones and filth and chaos unlike any I have experienced. It hard to experience one without the other, perhaps on a package tour, but then you would never experience the real India.
Suffice to say, we are both sad to be leaving, but looking forward to some normality (hopefully) in Istanbul and then America! India is in our bones though and we already are thinking about when we can come back. Some photos below taken over the last month in this country that is a world all of its own: