Steamy Moments at Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri

We woke up early at 5am to visit Taj Mahal, the India’s most famous site which is listed in the Seven Wonders of the World. Sunrise is said to be the best time to visit for less crowd and colder temperature. We left the hotel at 5:30am and arrived at the Nature Park in less than 10 minutes. We walked on the park’s walkway leading to the entrance ticket booths. An entrance fee was paid for 1,000 rupees per adult. Included in the fee was a bottle of water and a plastic foot cover which has to be used once inside the Taj Mahal.

Snapshot of Taj Mahal from the Great Gate


The entrance gate was still closed. We blended ourselves in a long queue of tourists whose also availing the sunrise scene of the famous site. The gate opened at almost 6am and everyone passed through security scanners and strict individual inspection. The inspection took time especially in women’s lane because majority of them were carrying bags. Foods are totally not allowed. Even us didn’t escape because my wife brought cookies and bread for my son who we pulled out from bed few minutes before leaving. Our tour guide rescued us by giving my son chances to eat or else those hunger reliever food will destine into trash. We’re not alone on such scenario. Small children were busy chewing food beside the inspecting guards while parents took most of the portion.

The sun was already up but we’re still at the entrance gate. After we cleared from inspection, we followed the flow of the crowd up to the Great Gate. We belonged to the first wave of visitors, so the place was so crowded and humid. Sharing and having long patience must be considered by everyone to have a personal space of a dreamed backdrop of the majestic marble monument and its symmetrical garden.

After the Entrance Gate of Taj Mahal Complex
Tourists on Early Morning Scene
The Majestic Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum built by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife who died on giving birth to their 14th child in the 16th century. The architectural design was the living monument of his love and grief which inspired everyone. Agra claimed as the City of Love because of it.

We wore the foot cover and stepped on the marble flooring of the mausoleum. I was amazed on the artistic carvings before my eyes. In the center of the mausoleum lies the replica of where the original tomb was situated. Photography was not allowed in that particular area. The entire marble mausoleum was uniquely carved and decorated with gems and precious stones. According to our guide, it is best to see during full moon as the gems shine on moonlight beam.

We left the site at 7:30am with a sweaty experience and took our buffet breakfast in the hotel.


The monkey family greeted us in the park.

At 9:30am, we left the hotel going to Jaipur. We did a side trip at Fatehpur Sikri which has the biggest gate in the history. It was a former palace of Mughal Emperor Akbar before moving to Lahore and Agra Fort because of unavailability of water supply in the 15th century. The history of this landmark was important in the construction of Agra Fort and Taj Mahal. The father of Shah Jahan, named Jahangir, was predicted and born in Fatehpur Sikri. The connections of Agra’s architectural sites were rooted to the civilization which started from this great site.

The Entrance Gate – Fatehpur Sikri


We arrived in Fatehpur Sikri at 10:30am and met our site tour guide. The architectural form of the fort brought our curiosities. Both human and goats carefully climbed up on the inclined stairs to reach the huge gate. Yes, number of goats were present at the entrance gate.

We removed our shoes as it was required and left them at the gate for a fee. The guide explained to us the site, some part of its history, mosque, tombs, palace ruins, and the escape underground tunnel which led to fort in Agra. Aside from a mosque, the place as a whole is now a wide mausoleum.

Watching the Modern Town Fatehpur Sikri from the Gate

DSC_0220Visiting the fort at Fatehpur Sikri has no entrance fee but it was consider unstable because of those annoying guys who sell items inside the tourist site. They were still following though I declined their offered products so many times. Every time that the site guards came, those guys pulled out and ran nowhere playing hide and seek. We didn’t know if we fell on the scam trap because the needed materials for the ritual at the Tomb of Salim Chishti was bought at the back side and hidden from authorities. The area was clear with vendor when the guards routinely rove but again they occupied it back. The ritual had done by buying first the required materials; a cloth, yarn, and red flower petals for 1,200 rupees. We went inside the white marbled mausoleum by placing the cloth on top of the tomb, scattering the petals, and tying the yarn at the wall with our individual wishes.

We left the site at 1pm for it was too hot to walk on the fort barefooted. Our guide led us to a local store where they crafted materials and exhibited their local products. The store owner convinced us to buy stuffs which we are not interested. We were irritated especially when forcing a belief and insisting that we should have it. The stuffs were overpriced! He offered an item worth 1,500 rupees and dropped to only 300 rupees when we walked away from the store. At such descended price, I will never accept it even he will give it free. A souvenir from a cheating attempt is not worth to bring. I was so upset realizing that the historical tour ended with a hot confrontation. I rather advise not to visit Fatehpur Sikri unless you’re a believer of Salim Chishti.

We left Sikri finally at 1:30pm going to Jaipur. The beautiful scenery and heavy rainfall cooled off my mind from before steamy conversation. Jaipur City is hiding from the mountain as we entered a tunnel passing through it. We arrived in the hotel, the Anuraag Villas at 4:30pm.

Meanwhile, our trip buddies in Dubai successfully complied the travel requirements and waiting for their flight to Delhi. They will directly go to Jaipur to meet and join us on the remaining tours.

( Day 2 of my customized tour to the Golden Triangle of India last August 25 to 30, 2017. )

Sighted the Islands of Maldives

Where is that? It’s the normal question from someone who is not familiar with the country of Maldives. It is a small country consisting of several islands located in Indian Ocean. Its neighboring countries are India and Sri Lanka.

There is no direct flight from Saudi Arabia going to Maldives as far as I know. So we opted to book an airline which shows cheaper flight fare in anyhow to Male neglecting the long transit hours on returned flight. My first choice was the Sri Lankan air which has daily flight from Dammam, Saudi Arabia to Male, Maldives with two hours stop over in Sri Lanka. However, I was surprised that Oman Air is also flying to the country at a very good offer. A very good opportunity especially booking a flight four months before the expected vacation date.

DSC_0310Finding a resort in Maldives was the hardest things I’ve done. Luxurious and with star ratings. But I sorted my category into child friendly resort and its distance from the main island. The closer the resort from the main island will give me a cheaper option and health security especially when traveling with a toddler.

We departed from Saudi at night and have a couple of hours transit at Muscat in Oman. Oman Airline is flying to Male but I noticed that only few passengers was on the flight.The morning clouds covered some of the beautiful islets of Maldives as we’re cruising  above the country after more than three hours on board. We tried to get photos until we finally landed in the smallest main international airport I’ve been. The airport, itself is an island, surrounded by water.

Male International Airport has no boarding bridge so the passengers have to deplane in the ramp and enter the terminal building for immigration processing. There are few questions from the officer like how many days and which hotel we are going to stay. A 30 days visa stamped on our passport which normally given to most of the nationalities arrived in Maldives.

DSC_0339.JPGWe went out and removed our jackets for the weather was humid and hot. We looked for a hotel representative whom I called an hour before we depart from Saudi Arabia. He confirmed that a hotel staff will fetch us at the airport. We didn’t find anyone from the hotel, so I managed to exchange money to local currency (one dollar=15 rufiyaa) as I heard that there is limited ATM and only American dollars and local currency rufiyaa are accepted. I bought a mobile sim for 120 rufiyaa which will function for a week. I immediately called the hotel and the guy from the line asked me to wait for 10 minutes. We waited for 10 minutes at the airport exit (after the travel agent booths) until I saw the cab with the hotel name arrived. He immediately recognized us and we headed to our first hotel in the country for two nights.

DSC_0295Location: Hulhumale, Kaafu Atoll, Maldives

Where I stayed: Rivethi Beach Hotel

Buddies: Family

Rivethi Beach Hotel is a 10-minute drive from the airport. A new hotel offering a beach front accommodation in the man-made island Hulhumale. All staffs here are all men but very accommodating. We checked in early. Normally, the check-in time is 12nn but we arrived at 8am. We’re lucky that the hotel was not fully book and the room was available for it was not peak season. We checked-in without additional charges and gave us welcome drinks.

DSC_0022.JPGAll staffs from the driver, reception, housekeeping, and restaurant are all courteous and nice. As we were experiencing jet lag, we decided to sleep until noon time. In the afternoon, we walked on the white sand shore observing how the local people here lived and finding a store for some snacks as well. We ended our snacks/dinner back in the hotel with a pasta (the waiter told it was not spicy but it still hot) and a sandwich.

DAY TWO – Exploring The Capital Male

We asked the receptionists about the excursions they were offering and if there was available trip to Male. They even urged us that we must visit the capital. We also asked if a guide was necessary and they politely said that it was not needed. The capital is small and safe to roam.

DSC00116In the afternoon, the receptionist helped us to get a taxi to bring us to the ferry terminal. The flat rate for taxi in Maldives is 25 rufiyaa. From the jetty, we rode a public passenger boat for 5.50 rufiyaa each. These passenger boats depart the jetty in every 25 minutes which is also the travel time going to the capital. Once the boat docked and unload passengers, the incoming passengers will get in.

We arrived in Male after passing both commercial and tourist boats, cruising the busy bay of Hulhule. From the port, we hired a taxi to bring us to the famous Sultan Park.  We strolled inside the park and spotted the museum, the mansion, the mosque, until we reached the park where the Maldivian’s military were preparing for the independence celebration. The public event was the reason why all those buildings were closed. We also stopped in one souvenir shop at the side of the park. As we’re confused about the name of attractions and government buildings, we stopped a vacant taxi and asked the driver if he could guide us to the tourist attractions we have not yet known. We both agreed with 200 rufiyaa for an hour guide. We are very thankful that we stopped the right person who told us a lot about Maldives tourist spots, economy, history, and its people. We were informed of those building names (National Museum, Islamic Center, Independence Square) and he also shown us important buildings in Male such as the president mansion, public hospital, schools and university, water supply plant, the main streets, famous stores, tombs, old mosques, and Maldivian’s apartment. I observed that most infrastructures in Male were built in small scale.


After an hour of strolling, stopping, questioning and answering portion, we understand and we knew a lot about Maldivians. Thanks to the driver, he gave us a lot of information. Instead of dropping us to the ferry terminal, we requested the driver who became our instant tour guide to drop us to his recommended restaurant. He dropped us to Shell Bean Restaurant, a few minutes walk to the terminal. A well known to tourist because it was always full. The place was too small for so many costumers coming in and out.

After a full meal in Shell Bean, we returned back to our hotel in Hulhumale. I completed the first thing to be done on this trip which is to visit Male, the capital city of Maldives.