The bus ride from Allahabad took about eight hours to arrive at the ISBT Agra bus depot which is on Bhagwan Talkies Road, located about nine miles west of the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal was the reason I wanted to visit Agra. I had no cameras for taking photos of the places I visited on this journey. Therefore, I have no photos of my visit to this gorgeous location. I have only what I remember in my mind. I remember being afraid to walk all the way up the walkways on both sides of the long reflecting pool leading towards the monument. There were touts and venders of postcards and trinkets standing on the walkways between the main road and the Taj Mahal. They were young boys standing in various places looking directly at ME! I looked at the beautiful Taj Mahal then I looked at the boy who was closest to me then I walked towards the left of the walkway into the Taj Mahal gardens. I sat on a bench in the gardens. I relaxed on the bench after walking through the gardens. I wanted to sit on the grass to have a picnic but there were no other personages on the grass. That told me that the grass may not be used as a picnic area. Eating snacks at the bench proved to be quite relaxing with one of the most magnificent and recognizable landmarks in the world looking down on me. I was sitting just beyond the Forecourt and the Great Gate. The predominant image that remains in my mind is eating the snacks while admiring the iconic architecture and idyllic landscaping surrounding me.
After I finished my picnic in the Taj Mahal gardens, I went over to Taj East Gate Road and a motor rickshaw driver approached me. He wanted to bring me to a hotel and I told him that I am staying at a hotel just down the street. There are several hotels within easy walking distance to the Taj Mahal and I chose a small one on West Gate Road or Taj Western Gate. This is in the neighborhood south of the west gate of the Taj Mahal. The rickshaw driver followed me and told me that he would give me a ride around town for shopping if I paid him a small price. RED FLAG. I knew he would want to bring me to places where he could receive some commissions. Even so, I thought about it while he drove along the road following me and I decided to let him drive me around if the price for the ride could be made reasonable and I was not expected to purchase anything I did not want. He told me that the ride would be only a couple of rupees so I told him that I wanted to buy silk pajamas (These are not sleeping pajamas like those in our country, but rather, the loose fitting long pants that look like our pajamas in the west but are worn outside in public throughout India. They are tied with a drawstring at the waist). That made him happy and he told me that he would charge me just a couple of rupees if he could bring me to a certain shop where he would receive just a small commission if I bought some pajamas. He also told me that he would meet me every morning if I needed a driver each day; he would be my driver during my stay in Agra ( just great, what did I get myself into)?
After I checked into the hotel I chose, I let him drive me around Agra and then he drove me to the shop he was telling me about. The shop he brought me to is nice, organized, but small. There is a large white topped table in the middle of the room with many colorful fabrics on shelves up and down the walls of the room. The tailor was friendly and spoke English. He first tried to talk me into buying a full suit but he was not too pushy nor overly insistent. He quickly resigned himself to my desire for 2 pair of pajama style pants made from silk fabric. After I looked at several types of fabrics of several colors, I chose 2 types of silk. Both were shades of beige although one was a shiny type of silk and the other was more of a cotton looking type of silk. The tailor took my measurements and told me to return to the shop in two days to pick up the finished product.
After I left the shop with the motor rickshaw driver, he again asked me if he could be my driver during my visit in Agra. I thought that it would be a good idea because I did like him and he would be easily able to bring me back to the shop to pick up the pants. I told him that I would agree to that but I am not interested in visiting tourist sites. I was interested in some good restaurants and West Gate Road area. For now, I just wanted to return to the hotel and relax.
The next morning, my motor rickshaw driver friend was waiting outside of the hotel (they do that a lot).🤔 I decided to let him bring me to an area where I could choose a place to eat breakfast and to walk around for awhile. Although he tried to talk me into letting him take me to other sites, I told him that I was not interested in other sites that day. This day was for relaxing. He must have understood that I would not want his services much because, after I was finished with breakfast, he was not outside the restaurant where I ate. I do not know for sure but I suspect that someone else hired him for his service. This left me free to just explore around West Gate Road.
There are a few mosques in the neighborhood. I passed by the Fatepuri mosque and the Barah Khamba mosque. Walking along South Gate and Miyan Nazir Roads, I passed by a Jain Temple, a post office, and a police station. Of course, there are also several Hindu temples in the neighborhood such as the Dauji Ka temple. There are many shops in the area but I did not want to buy anything else besides the silk pajama style pants that I had bought yesterday so I did not go into any of them. I did walk towards the west along Agra Road that follows the course of the Yamuna River here and leads to Agra Red Fort and Yamuna Park. The Agra Fort Railway Station is across Gwalior Road from the Red Fort grounds. The Red Fort is very impressive and imposing. It is really a walled town. Mughal and Maratha rulers lived here. It is a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE. It was renovated by Akbar the Great when he was emperor here around 1600. Just like at the Taj Mahal, I did not enter the interior. Walking around the grounds is all I was interested in this year because I did not want to deal with touts or stand in any long lines. Also, this trip was supposed to be more a pilgrimage than a tourist vacation.
The next morning the motor rickshaw driver was outside the hotel again. At least I would have an easy time returning to the tailor shop to pick up the new silk pajama pants. Everything was in good order. We arrived at the tailor shop and my order was ready. I paid what we agreed I would pay. After we left the shop, the rickshaw driver brought me back to the hotel so I could check out and leave for Vrindavan. After I finished checking out of the hotel, the rickshaw driver asked me if he could drive me around Agra to do some sightseeing. Since I had decided to walk around Agra for awhile, I decided that it would be worth two or three dollars if I had a place to stow my duffel bag while exploring the city. I was able to leave the bag at the hotel so we could visit some temples and restaurants. At the end of it all, I just did not feel like dealing with the bus or train to New Delhi then to Vrindavan so I told my driver friend that I would stay in Agra one more night. We went back to the hotel where I had stayed but the driver asked me if we could pick up the bag and go to a hotel of his choice. He told me that he would bring me to a better motel that is clean and cheap and in the morning he would be able to bring me to the train station or the bus station for New Delhi. I was trusting him by this time so I agreed to this and he told me not to tell the hotel staff what we were doing; "Just pick up your bag and say goodbye." We arrived at the Tourist Guesthouse Agra on Buddha Vihar Gwalior Road. It is a very basic guesthouse, small, and well kept with a cozy patio in the back. I also paid only about $8.00 to stay there so I imagine that my driver friend did keep his word.