Friday, June 23, 2017

A Most Memorable Way to Begin a Day!


It was an early wake up call this morning. I was the first one out of bed followed by Chantale. I had to rustle Ayşe out of her deep sleep. I thought she had slept well but apparently, it was a very restless night for her so poor thing, she woke up tired. I know she'll push through but I know she will crash one of these nights.

On a happier note for me.  My ankle is feeling a whole world better today.  I still have to limp a bit but it's far less painful for me to put weight on the ankle.  I will continue to wear my brace for a few more days and hobble along but things are progressing in a positive direction.  I was fearful I would end up with another stress fracture that would again put me in a plaster cast.  That would be horrible!!

This is what I woke up to seeing 😁

While the gals finished up getting ready for the day, I hobbled around and took a few photos.  Our room is fairly spacious though missing a window.  No complaints though considering I really don't think we'll be spending any time here other than to sleep and shower.


From the front door of our room looking down into the space that serves as the dining room and registration desk.

The kitchen.  That's the owner.  Her kitchen is quite large; she offers cooking classes here.

The kitchen looks out to the front of the hotel.

Breakfast was super simple - toast with butter and jam,  masala omelette, and tea.  Hey, what would expect for $33 USD per night room?  We're each only paying $11 to stay here.

Breakfast over, it was time to wait outside for Saeed and Dinesh. 

From the front entrance looking out on to the street.  We are in the backstreets of Agra!

The front door.  The kitchen is the window on the left.

I think every Hindu home has an image of Ganesha.  This guy was a stuffed toy!

Aman Homestay.  Our room is on the 2nd floor.

Saeed was already waiting for us, standing nearby.  It took a few minutes for him to spot us.  There was no Dinesh.  We would not be needing him til later.  So, we followed Saeed to the main road where he flagged down a tuk-tuk.  All four of us got in.  I had no idea where he was taking us but it had to be a place on the itinerary so I just kept an open mind.


From the tuk-tuk's, we transferred over to cycle rickshaws.  I shared my ride with Chantale.   Okay, I was really getting curious now because when I did my pre-trip research for Agra, every place I had noted as places we would want to visit were all located on main roads.  None were places that needed cycle rickshaws to arrive at.  Intrigued.




Come along for a few seconds of ride with our driver Jameen (sp?).


I spotted a familiar site.  It was a wing of the guesthouse of the Taj Mahal. I've looked at so many photos of this building, including my own, it's one that I cannot misidentify!


Our drivers dropped us off at the bottom of a hill.  In the distance, I could see the waters of the Yamuna River.  I just Googled to figure out exactly where we were and this place is referred to, at least on Google Maps, as the Taj Yamuna Viewpoint.   We were now on the opposite side of the river from where we were standing yesterday at Mehtab Bagh.  Looking at the map below, it just dawned on me that Shah Jahan, who built the Taj, had planned to build his mausoleum aka the Black Taj, across the river at Mehtab Bagh.


From the pathway, you do get to see the famed monument from yet another angle.  It does not have a bad side.  The Makrana marble had taken on a warm hue from the early morning sun.



We took the path to the water's edge, passing by a small Hindu temple along the way.  Sadly, it's not a pretty area here, the ground is riddled with trash.  I noticed this poor bird hopping by.  It looked like its beak was trapped inside a small ring of plastic.  But before I could take another closer in shot, it flew away.


There was a small wooden boat out in the water that seemed to be drifting in place.


We watched it approach shore.  Yesterday, Chantale had eagerly repeated to Saeed that she wanted to see the Taj at sunrise and at sunset.  I had planned for us to see the Taj at sunrise tomorrow so today's visit was a really nice surprise.  


The moment Chantale found out that we would be getting on the same boat, she could barely contain her excitement.  She was the first to get down to the water's edge and the first to board the boat!  She got in place to take her photos!


After we all board, the boat captain steered us towards the middle of the river.   We weren't close to the Taj but in a good spot to take photos.  He's obviously done this many times before with people who told him where to maneuver the boat to.

Given that we were on a boat were our freedom to move around was extremely limited otherwise, the angle from which we could take photos was limited.  Nonetheless, we had some pretty shots.  I particularly like seeing the Taj bathed in the early morning light. 


Our boat captain.  The cigarette never left his lips :-)






Our captain did take us quite a distance from shore.   Today was a picture perfect morning to take photos of the Taj - the waters of the Yamuna River were still enough that I could capture a mirror image photo.  Too bad that one of the minarets is covered in scaffolding.


Our boat ride lasted probably no more than 15 minutes and in all honesty, given that all we were doing was drifting around a small area, it was enough.  I have more photos of the Taj from this one angle that necessary. 


Off the boat, it was back to meeting up with our cycle rickshaws and their drivers.

Walking pass the small Hindu temple.

I had to pause to take a few photos of the exquisite facade of the Taj's guesthouse.



Our ride to the Yamuna viewpoint was all down hill so now it was an uphill journey.



Chantale and Saeed in the rickshaw ahead of us.


At one point, the rode got quite steep and our driver asked if we would mind getting off.  Actually, Chantale and I had already thought about doing that when we noticed how difficult pedaling had become for the poor man.  We are *hefty* women, overfed on the American diet. 😁



Chantale decided to give rickshaw driving a try.  Recently retired, she is looking for a second career.  😁


Most certainly, it was not an easy thing to ride a bicycle while pulling the two seater behind. All three of us shared some good giggles over her attempt.  If you ask me, I think the driver was doing more pulling to move the rickshaw along than Chantale was cycling.


When we first arrived into this area, it was so early in the morning, we were the only people around.  Not so on the way back to our tuk-tuk.  The daily life of Agra on the move.  This might be a big city and one that gets a lot of tourist dollars but that does not mean that life is easy for everyone.





We eventually made it back to where our tuk-tuk driver had dropped us off but this time, instead of getting back into a tuk-tuk, we were back in our car with Dinesh.  It was nice to see his face again - he's a very friendly guide who loves nothing more than to flash a smile.

We are off to see the highlights of Agra!