Driving From Agra to Ranthambhore

After the come down of excitement from seeing the Taj Mahal, I was completely happy and not expecting anything else from the trip and just going with the flow. We got on the bus for the 7 hour journey from Agra to Ranthambhore which I was not looking forward to as I had already finished the book I brought with me. I still travel with actual books because I love that you can just leave them anywhere with a little note and pass it on. The downside, books are heavy and I am limited in the amount I can carry.

A few minutes into the ride our tour guide tells us to always double check that our luggage makes it onto the bus because his was lost. We continue driving for a few minutes and he gets a call that his luggage has been found and someone would bring it to him. We pull over on the side of the road at a local morning market and we are able to get out and explore. Finally we were able to interact with some locals and see what India is really like instead of sitting in the comfort of our bus or hotel as part of a huge tour group.


The market is like a wholesale fruit and veggie market. The street vendors come here in the morning to buy what they need and then sell it at a small profit to everyone else.

The women of the household usually stay home and take care of the house including all the shopping. The vendors will go door to door and sell their produce and the women will yell what they need from their balcony or a window and then negotiate from there. Negotiating is a way of life and 100% expected! When the negotiation is complete, they will ask where their green chilis are? Apparently, those are expected to be thrown in for free! Once all is settled, the groceries are brought up and the vendors move on.

Back on the road again and our next stop was at Abhaneri, known as The ‘Eastern Gateway to Rajasthan’. Founded in 1733 AD, it was once an impregnable well-fortified city, carved out of the region formerly known as Mewat.

We walked around the amazing Chand Baori (Stepwell). Built back in the 10th century, the incredible well of Chand Baori was a practical solution to the water problem in the area. The arid climate forced the locals to dig deep for a dependable water source, one that would last throughout an entire year. The Chand Baori is 30m deep, has 13 floors and 3,500 steps. So many people would gather here to collect water, that any message that needed to be spread would be announced here. It was the perfect news forum!

Goats all over the road. Goats everywhere! I have never seen goats with long ears like this and I just thought they were the cutest things ever (aside from my little squirrels).

We arrived at our hotel and realized that our tour group was taking over the entire thing! The hotel had a dinner buffet ready to go when we arrived with absolutely amazing food! The call time to be ready for the morning was 5:30am so even though we spent most of the day on the bus, it was time for bed! I think it’s amazing how you can be exhausted from sitting on a bus, but I was.

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I Finally Saw The Taj Mahal!

We were finally in Agra…the city where the Taj Mahal is located and the ultimate reason for my trip to India! The morning started off incredibly foggy so our tour guide decided we would go to the Agra Fort first and hope that the fog would clear in the afternoon.

There are monkeys all over the fort and they are not shy. I swear this monkey family sat and posed for all of the tourists hoping for a little treat. They got nothing from me except a smile and a clap and a thank you for allowing me to take their family portrait. You’re welcome monkeys!

Okay, so I will admit that I fed this guy in order to get him to pose for the picture. The first two were not very cooperative and climbed all over my body instead of eating nicely out of my hand. They are just so cute that I cannot handle it and I had to hold one!

I promise the pictures of the fort are coming but I love capturing the animals and the people I meet. The tours have quite a few people on them and as human nature would have it, there are only a few I got to know. One was Scott (pictured above) and his uncles. They turned out to be fantastic people and I spent quite a bit of time with them!

Inside the fort was full of beautiful marble. As in more marble than I think I have ever seen outside of the statue section of the Louvre! You can see the amazing marble archway that connects one room to another (and also my travel companions).
Kalindra and I had fun taking pictures in archways all over the place and this was like a changing of the guards or maharanis as I was joking. We each got our turn in the archway and graciously passed the torch to one another.

The Agra Fort is a vast fort which was the home of the Mughal Emperors and their many courtiers during Agra’s era as capital. Enjoying an important position on a bend of the Yamuna River, Emperor Akbar the Great initiated construction, building a vast sandstone fort. However, it was his grandson Shah Jahan, the creator of the Taj Mahal, who added to it and embellished it using the finest marble, intricate carvings and inlaid precious stones. This architectural largesse was not entirely appreciated by his son, Aurangzabad, who thought Shah Jahan was wasting the Empire’s fortune, thus deposing his father and keeping him under house arrest in a tower within the fort – his one consolation, a view of the Taj Mahal, home to his beloved late wife.

It was time for the ultimate of ulitmates…the Taj Mahal. This has been on my list of must see places for a while for reasons I was unclear about but felt the need to see it. This is considered one of the new seven wonders of the world and is now number 5 of 7 for me that I have seen! I still need Mexico and Jordan to complete the list to see Petra and Chichen Itza.

I will just let the pictures speak for themselves!

22,000 men and more than 1,000 elephants spent 22 years constructing this monument. It is the only monument that has two people buried in it because Mughal ruler Shah Jahan wanted to be buried with his wife after he died. This is an eternal symbol of love and inspiration with intricate mosaics, precious designs and perfect architectural symmetry as if they were poetry created by hand from prized marble. No pictures are allowed inside the mausoleum.

The Taj Mahal seems to float above the banks of the Yamuna River, and blends Persian, Indian and Islamic elements in perfect symmetry.

This was such a magical day and I was incredibly happy. We had quite a bit of free time to walk around and explore and at one point I just sat and stared at the magical building!

A Drive From Delhi to Agra

Jetlag is no joke! I woke up bright and early with energy to go to the gym and rocked a workout (I am not a morning person) before a 4-5 hour bus ride to Agra. The thing about these tours that I find pretty great is that you get to see so much in such a short amount of time which is truly an advantage of having the transportation and route already set for you.

First stop was to Humayun’s Tomb. It seems that most of the stops on this tour are tombs since the elaborate architecture is what I find so fascinating and apparently many other people.

An elaborate complex of tombs from the 16th century, set within beautiful gardens as the final resting place for Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor, and his family. Humayun’s garden tomb — India’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site — influenced the designers of the much more famous Taj Mahal.

The little blue things that you see around our necks are our listening devices. Basically, the tour guide could be almost anywhere on the site and speak about the history and we could roam around freely and take pictures and still listen. It may have looked a bit silly but it made the tour much more enjoyable.

I fell in love with these squirrels which at first I thought were chipmunks. You will see more of these coming as the trip continues.

As usual, it was back on the bus and on our way to another destination. Next up was a stop to visit Itmad-ud-Daulah, also known as the Baby Taj. Emperor Jahangir’s queen, Nurjahan, built this exquisite marble tomb in memory of her father, Mirza Ghias Beg from 1622-1628 A.D. The tomb’s elaborate carved white marble with inlaid semi-precious stones reflects major influences from the Persian Empire. Both historians and Agra locals believe this marvelously intricate stone inlay, called Pietra-Dura, also inspired the design of the famous Taj Mahal.

These kids were at the site and would call you over to take a picture and after you take the picture they would ask for money. Our tour guide said that we should not promote a society of begging and try not to hand out the money or offer it for things. To be fair, because of the financial crisis, I didn’t have money anyway!


The entire day, even with all the driving, was incredibly magical. It ended with our arrival to the Courtyard Marriott in Agra where there was a woman selling bangles and offering to do some Henna for about $2! I ended up getting this hand done and the next night my hand and a foot. There is a tradition to have this done the day before a wedding ceremony. My friend’s sister was getting married in Mumbai and so I felt like my henna was justified as more as just something that I find completely awesome.

We went to the bar in the hotel and the bartender had FANTASTIC english although he spoke so fast that sometimes it was hard to understand what he was saying. I learned about Old Monk rum and McDowells rum as well as the most crazy game called kabaddi. Think Red Rover meets Rugby meets capture the flag. I would suggest that you You Tube some of the matches and check out this sport. There is a 13.5 hour time difference from California to India and the jetlag was catching up and it was the perfect way to end the day!