Friday, January 26, 2018
After a refreshing time in Jaipur, we were ready to take the long drive to our grand finale, the Taj Mahal, in Agra. On the way we stopped at several super cool sites: the Galtaji Temple, better known as the Monkey Temple; the Chand Baori, an incredible step well; and the Fatehpur Sikri, which was briefly the capital of the Mughul empire.
The boys’ favorite stop was only 10km outside of Jaipur. We were told that the Galtaji Temple, or Monkey Temple, is home to about 2,000 monkeys.
If you have been reading my other posts, you will be familiar with our nervousness about our decision to skip the rabies vaccine when getting our travel shots. Our driver kept telling the boys that they would be able to feed the monkeys, pet the monkeys, and have the monkeys climb all over them. Each time we would quietly remind the boys that our driver’s suggestions were completely opposite of what we agreed to when we made the family decision to skip the vaccine.
Of course, as we walked in, our driver bought some peanuts and kept encouraging the boys to feed the monkeys. We managed to hold out for a while, but the boys looks of longing as other people fed the monkeys was quite sad. The breaking point was when our driver let the monkeys start climbing on his shoulders and was feeding them from there. We finally gave in and told them that they could feed them, but they were not to pet or let the monkeys climb on them. Such delight!
All in all, it was quite fun. Aren’t they cute? They couldn’t possibly have rabies, could they?
After driving for a couple of hours, we made a stop at the Chand Baori Step Well. Amazing! While only Jeremy and James saw the impressive step well in Jodhpur, both claimed that it was a shadow of this one. This was a delightful stretch break.
Jeremy bought the boys some soda to give them a little energy and were a bit surprised when we saw the note on John’s “Thumbs Up” soda: “Not intended for children.” Parenting fail.
We continued on for another couple of hours until we reached the Fatehpur Sikri, which was briefly the capital of the Mughal empire in the 16th century. On arrival, we took a very crowded bus up to the top and toured the fort. Quite beautiful!
We enjoyed wandering the building and grounds, then went to see the nearby mosque. After fending off a bunch of adult touts (“Ma’am, I’m not a guide, I just work here.” Yeah, right.), a kid decided he was going to be our tour guide, and we weren’t able to get him to go away, so we continued on as best we could, pretending we didn’t have a shadow. Eventually he gave up, but it took much longer than we had hoped.
We took the bus back down, picked up some snacks for the kids (deciding that skipping lunch might be preferable to most of our other road trip lunch experiences), then continued on to Agra!
We arrived in Agra, expecting our driver to find us a great hotel, as he had so many times before. The problem, though, was the combination of the “Republic Day” holiday, and Agra being the location of the Taj Mahal. For that reason, hotel choices were far more limited, and we got a fairly tiny room at the Ray of Maya hotel, with cots for the kids. And some mosquitos in the room. This was all disappointing, particularly given that we had reserved, but cancelled, a much nicer hotel in Agra – but our choices seemed to be limited at this point.
Since it was Friday, the public entrance to the Taj Mahal was closed. That said, our driver suggested that it would be nice to see the Taj Mahal at sunset, and said that he knew of a good picture point from an area on the back side. We managed to arrive just after sunset and got a few pictures, with the fog adding to the ambience.
After getting some pictures, our driver took us to a fairly trendy and slightly overpriced restaurant, Pinch of Spice. It was packed and could have been a fancy Indian restaurant in America, which at this point in our trip, was fabulous. The food was tasty, and I even tried the various chutneys, even though I knew I was breaking the rule about only eating foods that were cooked or that you could peel. Fortunately no stomach issues came from this.
We returned to the room, knowing that the next day would start early and would be a long one. This room definitely didn’t have the creature comforts of the previous hotel, with the “hot” water being decidedly lukewarm, and with us having to pester the hotel staff again to set up the kids’ beds.