Continuation from here...
I couldn't get enough of watching the Taj Mahal so I went up to the rooftop restaurant for breakfast.
Breakfast at the restaurant was quite cheap. Here's the pricing for your reference on food price in Agra. Other restaurants' pricing are more or less the same.
After breakfast, I asked the hotel manager for direction to Fatehpur Sikri.
Located some 40 kilometres away from Agra, Fatehpur Sikri was a city founded by Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 16th century. It was his capital and the seat of the grand Mughal court for 14 years, before being abandoned due to water scarcity and turmoil in north-west India. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whatt?? Another one? Well... there are 28 World Heritage Site in India as of 2010.
There is a direct local bus from Idgah bus station, which plies quite frequently. It's damn cheap (the fare was only Rs27) but as I was alone, I didn't dare to ride it. So the manager offered me a taxi for Rs1000. Considering the journey would take approximately an hour each way, I thought it was worth it. If you go together with a friend or more, then it would be much more cheaper after you divide the fare.
Sadly, it was again, a foggy morning. It was so bad that it affected the traffic. All the vehicles were moving slowly as the visibility along the journey was less than 200m.
The driver dropped me at the parking lot and from there I walked to the complex. I was bored exploring other monuments alone so this time, I decided to hire a guide. He charged me Rs400 but I thought the money was well spent. He was both knowledgeable and amusing, plus he doubled as my photographer. :p
The complex, built in Mughal architectural style, includes the Diwan-i-Khas, Buland Darwaza, Panch Mahal, Jama Masjid and the Tomb of Salim Chishti.
As you entered the complex, you will see the Diwan-i-Khas.
This Diwan-i-Khas is famous for its interior decoration, particularly the massive central pillar. The pillar supported Akbar's throne on the first floor.
In the same area is the Panch Mahal, a five-storey architecture marvel and Akbar's personal citadel of pleasure. It was here where he would spend his evenings with the ladies of the harem.
Nearby is the Anup Talao, a pool with a central platform and four bridges leading up to it. It's used for imperial amusement and private functions.
Located south of Anup Talao is the Khwabgah, which was Akbar's residence. Being the residence of the Emperor, it is one of the most beautiful buildings within the complex with amazing artwork and murals carved on its walls.
the Emperor's bed
Then there is the Mariam-uz-Zamani's Palace, the home of Akbar's wife. This palace is huge. There are many apartments inside and they are linked by courtyards. It was designed to ensure the women in purdah had everything that they needed for their daily life.
At the other side of the city, Jama Masjid stands beautifully with its design which has Persian and Hindu elements.
In the mosque's compound, you will find a white marble Tomb of Salim Chishti. He was an important person to Akbar. As what was told by my guide, Akbar was childless. He then went to see Salim Chishti for blessings and after that, coincidentally the Empress bore him his first child, the male heir to the Mughal throne. In gratitude, Akbar named the child Salim (although he was later known as Emperor Jahangir) and built a grand tomb for him when he died.
It is widely believed in India that prayers at this tomb, traditionally the offering of a cloth and tying a piece of string to the marble screen inside, will grant you what you wish. Anyway, do note that if you are going inside the tomb, you need to cover your head with a scarf.
Also part of the mosque complex, is the Buland Darwaza.
It is said to be the largest gateway in the world. It was built by Akbar to commemorate his victory over Gujarat. A long flight of steps lead to the gate, I thought it looked almost similar to Jama Masjid Delhi.
Fatehpur Sikri is open daily.
Visiting hours are from sunrise to sunset.
Entrance fee is Rs260 for foreigners and Rs20 for Indians.
The whole complex would take around 2-4 hours to cover depending on your interest. After the tour finished, I bid goodbye to my guide and walked back to the parking lot to meet my taxi driver. I didn't know if there are other attractions in Fatehpur Sikri's vicinity but we headed back to Agra straight away. Thank God the visibility was better and there weren't so many vehicles on the road so the traffic was smooth.
We reached Agra at around 4pm. My train to Jaipur would depart at 7.30pm. I still had more than 3 hours to kill so I headed to the Taj Nature Walk, located near the East entrance of the Taj Mahal.
It is a reserve forest, aimed to educate visitors about the flora and fauna and to conserve the natural heritage along with culture and historical monuments.
It also provides a unique view of the Taj.
Taj Nature Walk is open daily.
Visiting hours are from sunrise to sunset.
Entrance fee is Rs50 for foreigners and Rs10 for Indians.
I made my way to the train station at 6.30pm and to my disappointment (actually it was advantageous to me later), the train was delayed. After hours of waiting, finally the train arrived and we departed at 11.30pm...
to be continued...