Friday, January 13th was our first full day in Agra. We woke up early and attempted to get our train ticket without success. We found this great little coffee shop called Costa Coffee and finally had some much needed caffeine! We wandered around through town past the entrance to the Taj Mahal (closed on Fridays for prayer, we could hear them singing from our hotel) to the Agra Fort. Shah Jahan was imprisoned here by his son after he bankrupted his empire in building the Taj Mahal. The view from his room over looks the valley straight at the Taj Mahal where he would always see the reminder. The views were just amazing!
During our wandering we found a great restaurant called Qaisar-Bagh that had the BEST garlic naan and spicy chicken curry! So far this is the best curry we've had. We're noticing that every where we go people tone the favors and spice down considerably for our palettes. Not a fan of that! We want authentic!
Saturday, january 14th we woke up early to make sure we got to the Taj Mahal a early as we could. We arrived by 7:30am and were able to get tickets quickly. Security was tight! She took one battery from my flashlight and ALL my emergency granola bars, candy, and gum! We must have looked panicked because she allowed us to stand to the side to eat some of it and even gave me back my gummy bears if I promised not to take them out! She must have sensed those were my absolute favorite... My audio guide died not even 10 minutes into the tour and Sarah and I shared one device for the great info. The property itself is huge and upon entering a big gate with steps down into the garden, the Taj Mahal is right in front surrounded with beautiful gardens. Building started in about 1631 and took 23 years to complete. Upon the start of the black 'Taj Mahal' across the river bank, bankrupting the empire in the process, his son arrested him and held him captive at the Agra Fort. Shah Jahan started construction on the Taj Mahal when his beloved wife died in child birth delivering their 14th child. He wore white (color of mourning) for two years and appropriately the Taj Mahal was built using white marble with beautiful stones inlaid as flowers and decorations. Absolutely gorgeous!
We arrived at the train station in Agra (cannt) early and had some great people watching experiences. We were excited to see we weren't the only 'white' tourists around and even talked to a few people. The 36 hour train ride (25+ stops) was an experience!
Things we learned in that 36 hr train ride:
1. Never walk along Indian railroads
2. Wives all over the world try to make their husbands healthier by feeding them cucumber sandwiches
3. Life still does exist after 3 days of not showering!
4. Cleanliness is an objective term.
5. ALWAYS bring your own toilet paper!!!!!!!!!!
6. Indians use the 'Western Style' bathroom as their personal smoke lounge.
Monday, January 16th we finally arrived in Goa at 6:30am and hired a taxi to take us to Panjim to our hotel. After we checked in we wandered around a but but nothing is open before 10am. The area where we stayed had many english elementary schools and we could hear them singing every morning when school started.
Tuesday, January 17th we slept in and found a big hotel where we could use wifi and had a great western breakfast of eggs and bacon. We were able to plan our next few days and make hotel arrangements. Stopped by a 3 story mall and got a small collection of candy for 46 Rubees (under $1). While hanging out in a small park we met 2 fellow backpackers that had some great tips on what to see and do in Anjuna as they had just come from there. Had dinner at a great local place Lonely Planet raves about called Viva Panjim. Had a great atmosphere and the owners enjoy walking around and talking to their guests. We had prawn papads, kingfisher masala, and chicken chili fry. Amazing food!
Wednesday, January 18th slept in and checked out of Paradise Inn in Panjim and got a cab to Anjuna. The thing about taxis here is that you will always be more scared by the driving of the next ride you take.. They also have to ask at least 3 people directions before the location is actually found. Once we got to the Vanilla guest house, we were informed we had been emailed and could not stay just one night. Thankfully she was so sweet she made up a room for us and we were able to walk less than 200 feet to the water and the flea market. Enjoying lunch and a beer with a great view!