India Highlights: Part 2

A trip to India is not really a trip to India if you don’t visit the Taj Mahal – so in this next recap let’s take a trip down memory lane to the famed lands of Agra.

In order to make this a more bearable read (trying to avoid tl;dr), my post on Agra will be split into a series: (click either destination to move ahead to the next post)

  • Agra Fort
  • Taj Mahal (coming soon!)

[If you haven’t read the first installment – head over to Part 1!]

Let it be known that traffic in India is the key creator of chronic tardiness and can be is a key destroyer of plans. So, when traveling anywhere it is crucial to either leave very early and have buffer of at least an hour – if not more. (Side note: interestingly enough, the amount of congestion that is rampant in big cities has kind of created the idea in the minds of many in India that it is no big deal to show up late. I can’t say that I haven’t noticed this in the US as well with Indian families, generally speaking – and I don’t mean this as an insult. As all Indians joke around saying, “The function is at 7 PM, but the guests won’t arrive until 8 or 9.”)

During my second week in India, my dad, my uncle, and I made the  roughly 220 km drive to Agra – approximately a 3 hour drive, give or take an hour or so with traffic. I woke up super early (I was still somewhat jet lagged, so 6-7 AM was still an ungodly hour for me) and made our way around 7:45-8 AM. Due to the rainy weather in the morning, just getting out of Delhi took an incredibly long time. (Surprise – the roads had flooded again and weren’t draining out despite the drainage holes specially engineered into the roads!) Eventually we made our way out and into Noida, a neighboring city just outside of Delhi and proceeded towards the Yamuna Expressway.


Traffic signs along the Yamuna Expressway

And let’s just talk about the Yamuna Expressway for a while because it was one of the nicest highways I’ve ever been on – take that America. You are basically driving through miles and miles of the Indian countryside, and the scenery was stunning. I can only imagine how much nicer it would’ve looked if it weren’t raining. In contrast to the chaos unfurling in Delhi, the Yamuna Expressway was essentially empty, and we were cruising at a dandy speed of roughly 100-120 km/hr (62-75 mph). The roads sweep over many rice patty plantations and farming villages – so again, it was an interesting moment for me to introspectively compare the differences of the wealthy and poor. I was on a multi-billion dollar expressway while the locals of the villages were laboring away at their crops, most under slave-like conditions with no ownership or claim on the lands they were toiling away on. This would just be one of the few things that would trigger some cognitive dissonance throughout my 5 weeks in India.

Nevertheless, after each passing toll stop, my excitement grew and we finally made it to the last toll booth with “Agra” labeled on it. As we gradually arrived at the end of the expressway and exit into the town, the rolling plains quickly subsided into a dense and slightly rundown area – which would describe much of the “main city” of Agra aside from the city’s two most touristy attractions (Agra Fort & Taj Mahal). Soon after meandering through locals with their cow-drawn carts and weaving our way through the winding roads to our first stop, I saw the grandiose red sandstone walls appear to my right through the car window. We had reached our first destination: Agra Fort.