How many times have you planned and planned a trip and it never seems to push through? How many times have you been excited about a holiday and it gets canned the last minute? How many times have people backed out, got sick or got an emergency call days or hours just before you leave? I know you know what I’m talking about.
Now, how many times have you had legendary adventures springing out of spontaneity. It’s one of those times when you had a brilliant idea, everyone’s hyped up, adrenaline flowing and the next thing you know you are on your way somewhere. No time to plan, just plain eagerness. No time to pack, just picking up what’s in front of you. No time to second guess, just go with the flow. Spontaneous trips almost always are the best trips and always memorable. My trip to the Taj Mahal is one of them.
I have an itchy feet and I have a friend named Eunice who is a travel drunk (fancy name for kaladkarin). We share the same love for traveling and exploring that is why we are both in the profession of flying around the world in a ridiculously short span of time. This April we share a lot of common days off and we have decided to do something and go somewhere. Something and somewhere. Two vague words. Simply said, we don’t know what to do or where to go. Later on we defined our vagueness into two locations Petra, Jordan and Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Both known for their innate beauty and history. Eunice and I are keen on seeing the Wonders of the World. Eunice is in the lead with 5 visits to these Wonders of the World and I with a measly three!
Days before our common off starts, we are still undecided on where to go and we barely get a chance to talk. I was away in the UK attending a good friend’s wedding and her flying in and out of the hub. Probably a lot of people would’ve given up and think that there’s no way that this will push through BUT the call of travel in our bloods is overpowering us. Travel beckons and we heed its call. We just decided to meet each other on the day we land, sleep for a few hours and get cracking.
At 0800 hrs I landed after a week long merry making in the UK. Eunice landed after operating a 14 hour New York flight. We slept for a good 6 hours and I popped in her flat at 4pm. We have finally decided to pay a visit to the Taj Mahal. Main reason being is we get visa on arrival in India. (one of the very few countries to do so for Philippine passport holders!)
At this point we have about 3 hours to make it to our flight. ETD is at 2000 hrs. We did a little research to find out what’s the best way to get to Agra from Delhi. There are seasonal flights to Agra but unfortunately at the moment, flights have been suspended due to construction. Next best thing would be by train. We tried to book train tickets but unfortunately the only tickets being sold are waitlisted. That won’t do since we only have three days to spend in India. The only option for us is to hire a tour to take us from Delhi to Agra. With that being decided, next thing is to book a hotel which Eunice is such a pro at. It didn’t take her a long time to organize our hotel stay at City Park Airport Hotel. Last thing on the agenda is to book our plane tickets which is a breeze (airline crew perk!). We lost track of the time and when we glanced on the clock we missed the flight! We had to content ourselves by booking on the next available flight which leaves at 0410 the next day. It was a bummer but we manage to get ourselves together and reorganize everything. We told ourselves as soon as we land, we’ll look for a tour and go straight to Agra and back to Delhi by night and head back to the airport the next day. Another option for us is tour Delhi when we arrive then day after head to Agra and from Agra straight to the airport to go back to Dubai. It’s a bit hectic but we are still determined to go and make it happen. As we are about to book the tickets, Eunice gave me a smug smile and then told me we didn’t miss the flight. We just read the time wrong! Instead of 2000 departure it was in fact 2210! So, we made a mad dash to the airport.
We landed at 0200 hours in Indira Gandi International Airport in Delhi and head straight to the Visa on Arrival desk. The cost of the visa is 60USD and remember to bring a photocopy of your passport and photograph. It just so happened that I didn’t have any of those. I was breaking in cold sweat and scared that I might get deported and ruin the trip. Luckily, they let it slide. The just photocopied my passport and told me to bring those documents the next time I come back. Whew! Although there was just the two of us it took about an hour to get our visa done. I think the guys were hitting on us and we even got a marriage proposal right there! hahaha
As soon as we were done with the visa, we changed our money to Indian rupees (INR) and booked for prepaid cab to take us to our hotel. The drive didn’t take long and we got to our hotel at 0400. Since our check in time is at 12nn and the hotel is not flexible in adjusting the time we were charged another day. We didn’t mind at all. All we want is to take a shower, a power nap and be ready for our tour which is in 2 hours time. We booked the tour at the hotel as soon as we arrive. The great thing about hotels is that they can organize almost everything for you at the last minute.
Our driver, Ginesh, came and picked us up at 0700 but was kind enough to wait for us to have a quick breakfast before we start our journey. He told us that the drive would be about four and a half hours each way. He was a quiet man. He didn’t talk much. I think that perhaps he’s the shy type or perhaps he’s not so confident with his English. In any case, we kinda prefer it that way. We need a lot of snoozing to do. I tried to stay awake to do a little bit of sightseeing but frankly speaking there’s really nothing much to see. Basically, what you see in the first few minutes of the ride would be more or less the same until you get to Agra. Cows, monster trucks, rickshaws, monkeys and people.. Lots and lots of people on the street. I zoned out the sights and sounds out and momentarily I was snoozing comfortably in the backseat. I just have to mention that Ginesh is a hardcore long distance driver. He only stopped once for a cup of tea and quick toilet break.
When we awoke, we were already in Agra. Along the way, we stopped momentarily to pick up our guide, Nunu. Born and raised in Agra and in the profession for 12 years, what more can you ask for? I am confident that he would be able to give us a tour worth our while and he definitely delivered.
I will not expound on my Taj Mahal experience, it deserves a separate post. So stay tuned. 🙂
Our Taj Mahal excursion lasted half a day and Nunu even managed to squeeze in a visit to a jeweler to show us some of the precious stones that was used to decorate the Taj Mahal. We also went to an artisan’s workshop (a descendant of one of the builders of the Taj Mahal) where we were educated on how the marbles were painstakingly decorated and how intricate these methods are. Obviously, there is a hidden agenda on this side tour. Apart from sharing the knowledge, it is a sly move to sell their products to tourists. It was both an amusing and enriching experience; a perfect way wrap up our Taj Mahal visit.
We left Agra before dusk with our mission accomplished. Another Wonder of the World ticked off our list. Our thirst for travel satisfied (for now). I cannot help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the Almighty for this wonderful opportunity. I think I should rephrase my profile to, “ItchyFeetCha is one blessed girl given the chance to travel around the world.”