January 03, 2012

Two nodes of the Golden Triangle (Part-VI) (Agra Day 1)

On 22 Dec 2011, we boarded our train to Agra and reached Agra Fort railway station at 1540 hours. We proceed towards our hotel Taj Plaza, situated on the East gate side of Taj. This hotel is midway between Taj East gate and Shilpgram and at a 5 minutes walk from both. Taj has three entry gates - West gate, South gate and East gate. Of these east gate side is least crowdy, peaceful and better area. It also has some good hotels and one natural forest area known as Taj Nature walk. If you are a morning walker, prefer cleaner and less noisy area and want to see Taj multiple times, east gate side is for you.
Review of Hotel Taj Plaza, Agra:
This hotel is very comfortable, neat and clean and very well located on east gate side of Taj. We booked an AC family room with four beds. It appeared that hotel has invested good amount on all areas except the rooms. You may find a few glitches like heater not running, paint/plaster peeling off the wall, old plastic trays, problem in getting hot water quickly etc which if tackled properly, may enhance the coziness of the room. Also the bathrooms attached to family room are very small and not comfortable. We did not like the bathroom at all. Apart from these location is an important criteria where hotel wins many points. It has two restaurants, one on the ground floor and another on rooftop. The food quality is overall above average and service is good. Below are some of the images of our hotel. 
Family room (4 beded) in Hotel Taj plaza
Hotel view outside our room
Taj as seen from hotel Taj Plaza
Another view of hotel outside our room
As we settled in our room it was already 1630. So I quickly rushed towards Shilpgram (East gate ticket window is situated here) to buy tickets as tickets are not sold after 1700 and entry also closes by that time. Entry tickets to Taj is INR 20 for Indian tourists (INR 750 for foreigners). Still camera entry if free. We were inside Taj before 1700, courtesy the location of our hotel. We wanted to use this evening by viewing the Taj this day as next day was Friday and Taj closing day.

Next day (23 December 2011, Friday) we booked a full day taxi to  cover following points in the described sequence:
  1. Fatehpur Sikri
  2. Sikandara (Akbar's Tomb)
  3. Lunch at Rambabu Paranthewala (at Sikandara)
  4. Dayalbag Temple
  5. Eaitmad-ud-daula
  6. Mehtab Bag
  7. Back to hotel
Agra fort was also included in above but we excluded it and planned to cover it on 24 december along with second visit to Taj, as we wanted to devote sufficient time for these two monuments. These are prime and bigger ones, so need enough time.
Fatehpur Sikri:
We started towards Fatehpur Sikri at around 1000 hours and reached there by 1100. Taxi dropped us at vehicle parking. Fatehpur Sikri comprises of two sections which are adjacent and situated on a small hillock. These are called "Palace's area" and "Religious/dargaah area". CNG Buses of Agra Development Authority ply from parking and charge INR 5 per person and drop you either at "Deewan-i-Aam" side entry OR "Badshahi gate" side entry. It is a 4-5 minute journey by bus. You can see the two sections in any sequence and again return to the parking by the CNG bus from any of the two points.
Monument is open from Sunrise to Sunset. Entrance Fee: for Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar) - INR. 10 per head. INR 10 per head as Toll Tax (Agra Development Authority) Others: US $ 5 or Indian INR. 250 per head.  INR 10  per head as Toll Tax (Agra Development Authority) INR 500 ticket of ADA is purchased at Taj is valid for the monuments of Agra Fort, Itimad-ud-daula, Akbar’s Tomb, Sikandara and Fatehpur Sikri (Free entry to children up to 15 years).Dargah Complex has 'NO' entry fee.
Notice board at 'Deewan-i-Aam' side entry showing fee and timings
Board showing Palace and Dargah Complex directions at Badshahi gate side 
Map of Fatehpur Sikri at Badshahi gate side
Point number 1 to 8 are inside 'Dargah Complex' and point number 16 to 36 are called 'Palace complex' as marked in following figures point 40 is the ticket window and entry at Diwan-i-aam. All other points are out of these 2 main complexes and can be over-viewed from the palace area. CNG buses start near Gulistan Tourist complex/Parking area (Point 47, 48) and drop either at near point 4 (Badshahi gate) or near point 40 (Deewan-i-Aam).



Many young boys claiming them as guide will start chasing you at parking and will narrate you many stories for not boarding the CNG bus, taking you free, a shortcut route etc. But do not fall in their trap and go to Ticket windows by official CNG bus only. After taking tickets you must hire an experienced guide at entry point. You may also get Self Audio Guide as this is a UNESCO world heritage site. Selection of guide must be done carefully as it is the only thing which will enhance/spoil your whole experience. We got a guide named Fateh Muhammad, who gave us time of more than 2 hours explaining every point in detail. He agreed to offer his services at INR 200 after a bargain on first quoted rate INR 300. 
As far as Dargaah area is concern, people offer "Chaadar (a sheet of cloth)" at  tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti, which you can buy there or you can take your own purchased beforehand according to your wish and capability, however it is not mandatory and depends on your religious belief.
Booking window at  Deewan-e-aam

Inside Diwan-e-aam area
After entry door from Deewan-e-aam to Deewan-e-khas
the patterns on the floor


Deewan-i-khaas : Akbar used to sit here with his Navratnas
Water Tank (Our guide seen on the side, in cap)
Hiran Minar (Tomb of Akbar's Elephant)

'Hide and seek' is a place used to secure the treasure or Khazana
Pachisi court (see chaupar game grid on the floor) and Panch Mahal

Inside palace of Turki Sultana (Big spaces had mirrors)
Work in palace of Turki Sultana
Stone work inside palace of Turki Sultana
Anoop Talab (pond) where Tansen performed music concerts
Akbar's water pot assembled from the existing pieces
Akbar's place of sitting at Khas Mahal for listening the music concerts



Inside Dargah area (White marble building is shrine of Sheikh Salim Chishti)

Asia's largest doorway - Buland Darwaza
Arabic embossed carving - Buland Darwaza
We wer here for 2 hours and after enjoying the mystique and beauty of this ghost city we proceed towards Sikandara - Akbar's Tomb. For remaining points of visit of this day 1 trip click on the link to part - VII below.
Two nodes of the Golden Triangle (Part-VII) (Agra Day 1 Continued)

7 comments:

  1. Hi, it seems that you have enjoyed ur trip to Agra a lot. I am also thinking of Planning a trip to Agra, Mathura and Jaipur. But really confused how to get a good guide who can show us all the stuffs in a affordable price. Do you have any contact number for the guide whom you have picked. If yes, please drop a mailto taoshi.sharmaroy1@gmail.com.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Taposhi

      This is a historical circuit but you do not need a permanent guide throughout your journey. Actually guides are required at individual points like Fatehpur seekri, Agra fort, Amer fort etc which are spread in large area and have a lot of history behind them. You can get decent guides on these spots, but take your time to select and bargain and avoid young boys as they do not have much knowledge. Electronic audio guide is also available at most of the spots, which I have discussed in my blogs following page-

      http://uttamtravelogue.blogspot.in/2012/01/two-nodes-of-golden-triangle-part-ix.html

      I suggest you not to be too critical about this issue. Get some dips in the history of these places from internet and you will enjoy the historical journey. I will be happy to reply if you have any query. Wish you a happy trip.

      Delete
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