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.

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Snapshot of Taj Mahal from the Great Gate

TAJ MAHAL

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.

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

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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.

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The Entrance Gate – Fatehpur Sikri

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.

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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. )

The Faded Pink Sand of Sta. Cruz Island

At 6:30am, we found ourselves back at the Paseo del Mar for the berthing point to Sta. Cruz island or locally known as Las Islas de Sta. Cruz. This island claimed to have pink sand. We registered and paid P25 per person which includes the entrance and terminal fees. The boat rental was P1000.

There is a limit to the number of visitors to the island. Visitors will be entertained on first come, first serve basis. Besides, it is an environmentally protected island. In every group which will go to the island will be accompanied by a tourism police. It is for the security purpose. There was a history of bandit attack on the island. Thus, overnight staying is not allowed.

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We left the berthing point at 7:20am and we arrived at the island after 15 minutes. The traditional vinta colored sail greeted our eyes from the shore. The “vinta” boat is the trademark of Zamboanga. The beach was not pinkish as seen on blogs and websites but there was a little pink particle found on the white sand. We rented a small open cottage and ordered our food. There were locals selling crabs, shells, and fishes. They will also cook and deliver it to the cottage at a very cheap amount.

The place is so quite and peaceful. We asked the island’s tourism staff, who also work for the government, for the special heritage place in the island. He guided us to the preserved Badjao majority tribe cemetery. There were also other tribes laid peacefully on that place. The Badjao, known in the history books as the dwellers of the sea, is one among tribes of Filipino Muslims in Mindanao. He explained the tribal ways and beliefs of burying dead. He also explained that the pink color of the island is also seasonal. There is a special specie of corals which naturally contributed to the pinkish color of the sand and their reproduction take times. However, we saw that the waves left the shore with the pink sand.

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The island is protected by the government. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is leading on funding its preservation. A group of environmentalists and nature lovers were sighted on their scuba suits monitoring the newly planted corals.

We enjoyed the serenity and the water on the beach. However, extra precaution was needed for kids and non-swimmers because of the sudden depth of the seabed. We left the island at 11:30am to give way to other tourist who wishes to visit the island. Bringing back of all the garbage that we brought was our contribution to preserve the island and its environment.

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Environmentalist planting corals