Total Failure when Visiting Taj Mahal

My passionate spirit of visiting Taj Mahal which wasn’t higher than my trifling guts of conquering cold of every drop of water which coming out from GoStops Agra’ shower, had embarrassed myself on a saturday morning.

Needle is exactly on number 7, a taxi which we rented for full-day through sharing costs arrived and the driver was waiting in hostel’s lobby while tightly holding his hands as a sign that he had been hit by a stabbing cold weather in streets.

Do you want to know our white taxi rent fare?….Sure….USD 17.8 divided by four people. So, I had to give USD 4.4 as my transportation budget that day.

Brushing my teeth without bathing, I approached and talked while waiting for 3 other tourists to come down. “No need long time to reach Taj Mahal, brother“, he said first while shaking his head in Indian style to open a conversation that morning. “Nice“, I said while busy fixing my winter jacket and syall which coiled around my neck.

Ten minutes later, his exhaust fumes began to acquiring thick fog along Agra-Bah Road. Sure enough as he said, 15 minutes later he asked us to come down and point to a bajaj with fare about for USD 2.9 to continuing our journey to Taj Majal Eastern Gate. No problem with price because we finally rode that bajaj with all of us….Oh No, we were unpolite tourist….Hahaha.

At 7:30 a.m, tourists queued to hunt for tickets with fare for about USD 7.2.
A ticket in my hand.

What a fool!….Blindly curiosity had closed my logic that morning. Never clearly thought since leaving my hostel that thick fog storm in Agra would perfectly close Taj Mahal courtyard….Ah, I annoyance stood with a long sigh at Taj Mahal entrance. Not able to see anything 10 meters ahead. Only a thick fog which made me slowly freeze.

There was no choice, like it or not, I had to start exploring Taj Mahal with a definite guarantee that I would never fully enjoy its beauty.

I started slowly up the stairs and entering first gate of that famous site. The first gate is named Jilau Khana.

The area around Jilau Khana or often called Forecourt.

What happened was really out of reason. I haven’t finished yet in enjoying Jilau Khana’s red bricks, my automatic footsteps were unstoppable in approaching main building. Taj Mahal like a magnet for anyone who visits it.

Connecting road between Jilau Khana and main gate

Before arriving at main building….About 100 meters later, I reached the grand Main Gate.

Its name is Darwaza-i-rauza or often called Great Gate.

Tourists complaints began to hear while blaming the mist. “I can’t take a picture“, He complained to his fellow friends. Wry smile, I didn’t care about same disappointment.

Look at carvings inside the Darwaza-i-rauza!

Then, where is Taj Mahal main building which is always hunted by world travelers?

Yup….350 meters at north of Darwaza-i-rauza is Taj Mahal location, the tomb of two legendary “lovebirds“. Shah Jahan as the king and Mumtaz Mahal as the “Persian descent” empress who have a extraordinary beauty.

Not long, I immediately put a shoe cover then I got ready to entering Taj Mahal

Shoe cover will be given when buying a ticket.

Like the commonly mosque, Taj Mahal is equipped with four minarets on each side. The greatness of Mughal kingdom is reflected in every inch of Taj Mahal which composed from white marble which was specially imported from Rajashtan and sapphires which was sent from Sri Lanka.

Minaret as high as 40 meters with a cylindrical wall.

Another intriguing thing when visiting Taj Mahal was when each visitor regularly walked to follow a path which had been made by officers to enjoy each side of Taj Mahal main room where Mumtaz Mahal tomb is located. Three heavily armed police closely watched every visitor. Sometimes they gave order to some tourists to immediately move because taking photos for a long time could make a path to be stuck.

Taj Mahal wall.
Taj Mahal window.
Beautiful art of calligraphy in Taj Mahal.
Not bad….Than not at all.

Such is the fact, the 372-year-old Taj Mahal is indeed charming. No wonder, 4 million tourists are interested in visiting it every year.

After enjoying Taj Mahal, then I immediately retreated and returned to eastern gate for approaching taxi which was waiting for me.

I went back east….Which way did you choose to go back?

Jhelum Express from New Delhi to Agra

It was time to execute the ticket.

11078 which was my departure number only appeared once on display board. After a long time, it didn’t appear, I sat on platform and continued to observe that display board….It’s gone!

Endless waiting on platform 4.

Me: “Sir, can you give me some information?. My train number 11078 is never appear again in that display board. Even though my train will depart on 10:15 am.”.

He: “If your train number disappears from the screen. That means your train is getting delay. “Haze storms” which routinely occur every year indeed often make many trains delay for hours.”

I went back to counter and asked about this problem. They only apologized and confirmed that train was delayed. He estimated that train will leave at 16:00….God.

To drove away endless boredom, I headed for Khan Market. Instead of being stunned, I’d better collected a tourist destination in New Delhi to share with you about it….Later, I will definitely write it.

A corner of Khan Market, New Delhi.

—-****—-

On 14:00 hours…. Ensuring every bond and lock in backpack, I immediately headed to New Delhi Railway Station to ride Jhelum Express which would soon come to pick me up.

An extraordinary curiosity to immediately mingle with Indians in an economy class train, making me be the most impatient person in the world that afternoon.

Portrait of inequality in India’s Capital.

The dull red locomotive shrill screams when approaching me, grimacing and bite the rails to precisely stop on platform 4.

The locomotive hadn’t completely stopped each wagons yet, passengers were running….crowding in front of wagons. I just smiled and was stunned by uniqueness of Indian citizens. While they crammed, I was still busy understanding the wagon numbering because there were wagon numbered 10 and 10A. Very unique person who has the idea of numbering system like that. After back and forth, I finally found my wagon….Yups, Wagon S3 seat No. 41 Low Berth (lower seat).

It was true, the complexity which I imagined from the beginning when buying a ticket occurred. The train inside was very crowded and made it feel cramped.

The allocated seat of three passengers facing each other plus one long folding stool above my head which is used as a sleeper seat (Upper Berth)….Ah, I loved it. an amazing condition.

Hello Sir, excuse me“, a young man passed in front of me holding his wife hand and sat facing me. A sinless smile makes my lips do the same thing. How not, now, in front of me has sat 4 passengers on seats which should for only three passengers….Haha.

While the train was running, I hear faint bluff which is either angry or just normally like that. A fat and whiskered conductor checked his guest tickets one by one. A passenger in opposite side of my seat was scolded, He was unable to showing his ticket, then he showed a laminated card from his wallet. And I didn’t know what was that, It was being able to effectively drove out that fat conductor….Damn.

A office worker in front left of me took out a something from his bag. Like Indian films, their culture is still upheld. He held up high a long stack of four stainless steel dinner box with curry scented. If he knew my heart’s face, he would have smiled when see it was roar laughing….Oh God, this was an original Indian. As if it was be a trigger, another passenger on my left and right was doing the same thing.

Their generosity emanated when they offered me to eat together as a family on train. Did I accept? Nup….I also brought out a local burger package with price about USD 0.75 which I purchased at station’s platform that afternoon. Let’s eat together….Ahhaaa.

A passenger at window seat became the busiest person on our journey because he had to keep closing a wooden window whose locking hooks were worn out. Every few minutes, that window would automatically open and put super cold air into wagon.

Maybe that condition was used by “chai” seller to focus on my wagon to sell his wares. “Chai“, another name for “pulled tea” which be legendary in Dhaka, be favorite in India and spreading to Malaysia. Excited, the stack of paper cups which he held was getting shorter. He would go home with a multiple profit this time.

Cuteness of a children’s toy seller made whole train passenger endlessly burst out laughing. He throwed a rubber spiderman every where as he pleased. Amazingly, the spiderman could perfectly stick….Haha. It was be an entertainment to forget many problems at that day which they have faced.

Guys….When did the last time our trains (Indonesia’s trains) still had sellers of all kinds inside it?….Hahaha….I forgot. It was long time a rule about seller restriction in our trains.

The train which stopped….brought down its passenger….took its passengers….Then drove back and kept repeating it at each station made me realize that there was never an announcement where did the train stopped?

Me: “How long will the train run to its last destination?”

He: “Jhelum Express will stop in Pune on 6 am tomorrow morning

Me: “Thanks Sir”, I bitterly smiled with worry.

Now, my enemy was one….i.e Information….the absence of data packets in my gadget further strengthened my mortal enemy that night. I had to asking questions a lot to defeat it.

Me: “Where will you stop, Sir?”

He: “At Mathura Junction Station

Me: “Do you know Agra Cantt Station?

He: “Sure, 2 stops after my station

Me: “Oh, nice”, I was relieved…. Once he got down, I just had to count 2x stops. That was Agra Cantt.

He: “Are you from China?

Me: “No, I’m Indonesian”.

He: “What for do you go to Agra?”

Me: “Taj Mahal, Sir

He: “Oh, very happy to hear Indonesian goes to Taj Mahal

Me: “Taj Mahal….My dream to visiting it

He: “Nice”. Shaking my hand with his happiness which can’t hidden.

That was 10 minutes conversation before he got off at Mathura Junction Station. After that I would get off at next two stops namely Agra Cantt Station.

A side of Agra Cantt Station.

I finally arrived in Agra on 20:30 hours.

It was time to go to hotel….Then slept.

TG 436: Mewah Mengudara Menuju Bangkok

Jalur penerbangan TG 436

Akhirnya aku mengulang perjalanan menuju Negeri Gajah Putih setelah eksplorasi terakhir pada 2013. Empat tahun lamanya, aku menunggu kesempatan itu. Jika 2013, aku terbang bersama Air Asia menuju Don Mueang International Airport maka kali ini aku sangat mujur karena bisa menangkap promo murah meriah yang dikeluarkan oleh Thai Airways pada April 2017.

Menunggu selama 8 bulan sebelum benar-benar terbang adalah sesuatu yang sangat tak mengenakkan. Bukan karena Bangkok nya, tapi hanya karena hasrat mencicipi pesawat premium berbadan lebar. Setahun sebelum, aku pernah menaiki jenis pesawat yang sama milik Air Asia ketika pulang dari Incheon.

—-****—-

Selepas Jum’atan, aku menyempurnakan packing untuk perjalanan selama  11 hari yang tentu akan membuat penasaran. Tepat jam 3 sore, aku bergegas memanggul backpack menaiki angkot menuju Terminal Kampung Rambutan. Angkot yang begitu lama tiba, membuatku terhukum dengan menaiki bus DAMRI satu jadwal keberangkatan lebih lambat.

Jam 16:00, DAMRI meluncur tetapi tak berselang lama kondisi jalan tol menjadi stuck. DAMRI sungguh lama tak bergerak. Terusut sudah terdapat perbaikan jalan di sebuah terowongan dikombinasi dengan insiden truk terguling 400 meter setelahnya. Padahal penerbanganku terjadwal jam 19:05. Itu berarti aku harus siap pada jam 17:55 sebelum benar-benar boarding….Mepeeetttt.

Beruntung sirine Highway Patrol mulai terdengar merangsek ke depan. Signifikan, 15 menit kemudian DAMRI melaju mulus menuju Terminal 2 Soetta.

Thai Airways akhirnya menjadi maskapai ke-18 yang kunaiki.

Beruntung Soetta melompong dan hanya perlu 5 menit untuk proses check-in kemudian boarding pass ungu putih tergenggam. Semua pos pemeriksaan x-ray kulewati dengan sangat cepat karena hanya satu backpack 45L saja yang perlu di screening.

Mulai boarding.

Aku memasuki Airbus A330-300 melalui jalur kabin sebelah kanan untuk menemukan bangku bernomor 52K. Kali ini akan menjadi sangat lega karena aku duduk di bangku kolom tiga sendirian. Ndeso….Baru kali ini naik pesawat dengan layar LCD didepan mata….Pencat-pencet sesuka hati.

Jakarta-Bangkok yang berjarak darat sejauh 3.000 km di tempuh dalam waktu 3 jam 35 menit dengan kecepatan rata-rata 475 knot ( 880 km/jam). Bisa dibayangkan betapa kencangnya.

Moslem meal yang disajikan setelah brown rice cracker dan apple juice di berikan.

Selama penerbangan, pramugari cantik berwajah khas Thailand memang sungguh memikat sejauh mata memandang. Untung saya hanya backpacker kere…..Andai aku businessman kelas atas…..Pasti aku akan lamar dia….Hihihi.

Pertama kali landing di runway Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

Tiba pada pukul 22:35 menyebabkan aku tak punya opsi lain. Tak mungkin keluar bandara dan beranjak menuju kota. Jika ada waktu pun, saya mungkin juga enggan. Karena bukan Bangkok tujuanku….Tapi, NEPAL.

Yess….Nepal akan menjadi negara ke-11 yang kukunjungi.

Mau tahu kan kisahku berikutnya ke “Negeri Seribu Kuil”

Ikutin kisahku selama disana ya.

Cari tiket penerbangan dari Jakarta ke Bangkok melalui 12go Asia. Berikutnya linknya:  https://12go.asia/?z=3283832

SCAM….Something Real in India

Hotel Staff: “Go to New Delhi Railway Station platform 1 floor 1!“, a short answer was spoken by beautiful staff who still looked busy in accepting traveler from various nations.

Me: “Thank you, honey Ms”.

Oh yes, looking for the nearest dormitory from MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station is a habit which has been in me.

I started to open GoStops Delhi Hostel’s door and passed a few disadvantaged citizens. It was touched when the sun’s rays were the only thing which could help warm them who were still asleep curled up on an old foam mattress which I couldn’t know how they got it.

300 meters later I arrived at Delhi Gate Metro Station. Passing a X-ray gate every time when I entered MRT station in New Delhi made me feel safe while using train on its track.

Let’s see inside of subway station in New Delhi….This is Indira Gandhi Airport Metro Station when I first time arrived in India.

Going through Delhi Metro Violet Line and then transferring to Yellow Line at Kashmere Gate Metro Station, so at third station I arrived at New Delhi Metro Station.

Arriving at final destination, I had to move between two modes of train which weren’t integrated. Leaving clean and well-maintained New Delhi Metro Station to New Delhi Railway Station which is more than just dirty. The distance between them is only around 450 meters.

Walking 6 minutes, I arrived in front of New Delhi Railway Station.

From a connecting bridge between platforms, I noticed that Indian Railways officer sprayed water on railroad track. I thought they were so disciplined to reduce dust rate in air, it turns out some time later I knew that they were cleaning railroad tracks from human waste …. # unique.

Upss….The incident arrived:

Scammer: “Where will you go, Sir?”

Me: “Agra.

Scammer: “Let me help you to get the ticket.”

Me: “Oh thanks. Based information from my hotel that ticket counter is on platform 1 floor 1.”

Scammer: “Oh, yes. But It’s Friday. So, the counter is closed. You can get the ticket at left side of this station.

Me: “Oh, OK.

Either “Unknow” or “Stupid“, I followed all his instructions. A handsome young man didn’t accompany my steps, so there wasn’t slightest suspicion in my brain. Amazingly, there was a person at a station gate who seemed to directing me about where ticket sales counter was located. He was obviously directing me to an office at end of road on the left.

Oh, this is a travel agent’s office, not an Indian Railways office“, I thought. I canceled to going up the next step and turned to leave their office. Even though one of them continued to chase me, I smoothly insisted by saying that I would postpone my departure to Agra until tomorrow, so that I could reduce his emotions that seemed to be rising.

Huftt….I was safe now. Second scam which happened to me after the first one which happened in Bangkok at end of 2013.

—-****—-

Relieving which felt doubled because in addition to being able to find International Tourist Bureau ticket sales office on platform 1 floor 1, I also got a bonus for protect mysely in this office from New Delhi’s cold weather that made me feel frozen.

The modest office is beautified with excellent ticket sales officer consulting services for every tourist. So you have to be patient for waiting for your queue number to be called by sales officer because one buyer could consult for about 10-15 minutes, some even more. Not a problem for me, a longer queue time would be better because I didn’t need to be cold in out of office.

Jhelum Express ticket for about USD 2.9 was already in my hand.

Let’s go to Agra….Visiting Taj Mahal….Yuhuuu.

5 Agra’s Tourist Attraction in 10 Hours

SEVERE……….

A fog storm in northern India has robbed more than six hours of my time. But my aggravation was defeated by my own vulnerability against India’s cold air .

Fog calamity in India

Jhelum Express pulled up at Agra on 8:30 pm. Do you want to hear my story in using their economic train….Just wait….HORRIBLE !!!.

There was nothing I could do that night. Temperature almost touched zero degree Celsius, even air quickly cooled fried noodles I bought at street food stall. Even Indian spices which are stinging, I still couldn’t feel because a frozen began to hit my tongue.

I was like a coward hiding under the blanket of GoStops Hostel while waiting for the electricity to fill all my “electronic friends”.

Hotel staff: “You must be grateful to be an Indonesian. You can easily go everywhere. Not like me, getting a passport is very difficult. Our government protect their citizen from getting difficult life at out of our country. I had waited for two years to get a passport, I hope I will get this year. I want go around the world like you

Me: “Don’t worry, you will get it, my friend. You will go to my country also sometimes.  One thing that should made you proud with India. Your currency is more stronger than my currency…..Aaannnnddddd, Your country have great histories and cultures in the world.

It was a bit of a serious conversation before I entered room, and a slightly intellectual conversation after previously I only talked to Jhelum Express’ passengers who sitting in front of me and also to taxi driver who transferred me from Agra Cantt Station to hotel.

—-****—-

OKAY….A morning has came

Automatically, I only had 10 valuable hours to explore Agra starting on 7:00 in the morning. This time I wouldn’t justify myself to use public transportation….Too tight….Luckily, I did sharing costs with fellow backpacker roommates for a taxi services which was willing to be chartered until afternoon. Because in the afternoon, I would go to New Delhi. I just needed to spend USD 4.4 for my entire transportation fee.

1. Taj Mahal

Didn’t daring to touch water to wash myself, I rushed into a taxi which was ready in front of hostel. That morning….Fog was so thick which even the morning sun was unable to uncover it.

Yes, finally….I headed for dream destination of tourists all over the world….Taj Mahal

Taxi moved north along Agra-Bah Road. Not far away, only 3.5 km which is traveled in 15 minutes. Taxi stopped at edge of road, I was only remember a sign “Malik Tour & Travel” as a marker.

Bajaj service for USD 2.9 became a next connector toward Taj Mahal West Gate Ticket Office. I spend USD 7.25 to get a entry ticket.

Every inchies in Taj Mahal always carried an impression, a only thing which really disturbed all tourists was fog which made them feel annoyed because they couldn’t capture themselves with this historical building.

Taj Mahal was captured from Mehtab Bagh.

This mainstay of Uttar Pradesh State Tourism is truly impressive. A tomb which is dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal (wife of emperor Shah Jahan) is able to attract 8 million tourists from all over the world each year. One of UNESCO World Heritage Sites which you must visit if you enter Mahabharata land.

2. Itimad ud Daulah Tomb

Two hours of absorbing and enjoying the beauty of Taj Mahal which is almost entirely wrapped in white marble had carved a doctrine in my brain that the world is really beautiful.

Let’s go back to hostel to took a bath and ate a simple free-breakfast which was served by hostel. I immediately packed my backpack for check-out and put it in taxi luggage. After enjoying Agra Fort later, I would immediately go to New Delhi.

Located at 4.5 km north of Taj Mahal, this site offers tranquility and comfort. Unlike with Taj Mahal which is noisy with visitors. Similar but don’t as big as Taj Mahal which make it known as the “Baby Taj“.

A building which inspires architectural style of Taj Mahal.

If Taj Mahal is dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal, the construction of Itimad ud Daulah is dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal’s grandfather named Mirza Ghiyas Beg.

I don’t want to tell much….Visit it, yes!…Yuhuuuuu !!!!

3. Yamuna River

An hour moved quickly. My intention to immediately rushed to next destination ran aground. I was stunned by appearance of a dry river which stretched so broadly, as if showing off its beauty to all who were seeing, crossing or even living in it.

Located at west of Itimad ud Daulah.…Nice.

Guys….That’s Yamuna River….All my life, It was first time to saw a river which very wide like it.

Considered by Hindus as the Goddess Yamuna.

The river which is originating from Yamunotri glacier at Uttarakhand State looked receding and exposed to various forms of waste such as plastic and liquid waste which are easily guessed from its smell. .

4. Mehtab Bagh

Next two kilometers to south….

Licking, sipping and gently swallowing French fries with curry-flavored salt became my next unimportant activity….Set aside for about USD 0.7 to try some street culinary in India! I guarantee that you will be impressed.

Guys, I was already on a side of wide and romantic park….Mehtab Bagh is its name.

Mehtab Bagh” itself has a meaning which is similar to a meaning of pair of words in English i.e “Moonlight Garden“…Yes, how romantic is it?

It was said that….Shah Jahan would build a Black Taj Mahal in this park. But it was never achieved..

It is often been King’s stopover to enjoy beauty of Taj Mahal which is located at opposite it and is only separated by Yamuna River.

The price of admission ticket for USD 2.9 is nothing compared to the beauty of park which you can safely enjoy. Safe?….Yes, park was guarded by two fully armed soldiers who always walk around park.

5. Agra Fort

Masala Tea = 90 Rupee….This is USD 1.2

Egg Fried Rice = 150 Rupee….This is USD 2.1

That was my lunch menu at “The Master Chef” Restaurant at Fatehabad Road before heading to my last destination in Agra….#sad.

Located 2.5 km northwest of Taj Mahal, Agra Fort is also a World Heritage Site which is very prominent in its red color.

The walled city of Agra Fort….Amazing.

You have to pay USD 7.2 to directly imagine how is the Mughal emperor living in Agra Fort.

Walking around as much as you can in Agra Fort before parting with Agra city. I traced one by one of part in this fort.

Entering Diwan-i-Am like Mughal people who are complaining, or entering Diwan-i-Khas like an important royal guest who is being entertained by the king.

Feel the luxury of Jahangiri Mahal, which is a special palace for king’s wife then sat down to relax in Anguri Bagh which was used by women member of kingdom as a royal garden.

And as a Muslim, I also feel obliged to visit Moti Mosque in Agra Fort as a worship place for all kingdom members.

—-****—-

A short time that introduced me to an ancient city in northern India. City whose its architecture influences many building creations around the world.

Make sure that you visit it longer than me because historical values of this city are so high and can’t be enjoyed in an instant time.

Intipan Hypothermia di Taj Express Menuju New Delhi

Buseet….Dikejar pengemis cilik yang tak terima karena cuma kukasih sebungkus beng-beng coklat yang kubawa dari Jakarta sejak seminggu lalu. “No….I need money”, katanya sembari terus mengintili aku dari belakang. Bahkan ketika aku membongkar isi backpack untuk mengontrol apakah ada benda-benda mencurigakan masuk setelah seharian kutaruh tas itu di bagasi taxi, si bocah tetap berdiri sembari mengoceh tak henti-henti di depanku yang sedang berjongkok di pojok stasiun untuk merapikan kembali backpack yang sudah acak-acakan. “Hi Boy….I don’t have much money….Sorry”, Aku menjarakkan mukaku hanya sejengkal dari mukanya. Dia hanya meliuk-liukkan leher sambil memperlihatakan gigi kelincinya.

Tepat jam 17:00, aku melewati metal detector stasiun Agra Cantt dengan mulus walau polisi berkumis melintir itu terus memandangku aneh. Selangkah kemudian aku menuju platform dan mencari informasi keberangkatan Taj Express 12279 di LCD board sederhana. Tertera suhu di angka 12 derajat….”Mulai mendingin”, batinku….”Delay”, otakku merekam informasi. Padahal seharusnya aku sudah meninggalkan kota Agra pada jam 18:40.

Tiket kelas CC (Chair Car) yang harga tiketnya hanya Rp. 51.000 tentu tak berakses menuju station lounge yang menawarkan udara hangat dan makanan enak didalamnya. Menyedihkan, aku tercecer bersama penumpang kasta bawah di sepanjang platform yang semakin dingin mengikuti putaran jarum jam stasiun Agra Cantt.

Lalu lalang kereta yang terus menjajikan harapan….Tak kunjung tiba.

Semakin lama berdiam duduk maka jari-jari tanganku mulai kebas. Sial….Aku salah perbekalan, jaketku kurang tebal. Terkadang toilet menjadi tempat hinggap sementara untuk menolak beku. Tapi itu tak bisa lama, toilet berbayar itu menebar bau pesing kemana-mana.

Suhu sudah dibawah 10 derajat memasuki jam 10 malam….Siaga

Aku tak mampu menyembunyikan panik ketika suhu menyentuh 7 derajat. Kaos kakiku tembus dan perlahan membasah membuatku seperti merendam kaki di air es. Sedangkan t-shirt rangkap 3 dibawah jaket tak mampu menangkap panas tubuh….Aku mulai merinding ringan di tengah malam.

Lihatlah pemuda India itu!….Ingin rasanya merampas paksa selimutnya.

Perlawanan menggunakan secangkir kecil chai (teh tarik) dan setangkup burger asongan tak bertahan lama. Akhirnya aku hanya terus bergerak untuk mengatasi dingin.

Taj Express baru merapat sekitar pukul 1:30 dinihari. Gembira bukan kepalang aku memasuki gerbong, tapi harapanku sirna ketika tak merasakan perubahan suhu ketika 5 menit duduk di bangkunya. Pantesan….Ternyata ada celah kecil di semua jendela gerbong yang memasukkan udara dingin kedalam. Walah….alamat.

Bahkan bangku sekotor itu tak membuatku jijik karena fokusku hanya melawan dingin.

Lebih menjengkelkan lagi, kereta ini benar-benar tak bergerak hampir 40 menit setelah tiba. Kini kondisi di dalam gerbong menjadi tak ada bedanya dengan kondisi di platform. Sementara penumpang lokal sudah tertidur bertutup rapat selimut, sementara aku masih sibuk melawan udara yang semakin mengancam. Aku mulai kefikiran tentang hypothermia. Benih kepanikan mulai tumbuh di otakku.

Gerbong yang tak bisa menyelamatkanku dari kedinginan.

Aku sudah tak peduli lagi walau kereta terus melaju mendekati New Delhi secara perlahan. Aku benar-benar terduduk meringkuk terengah-engah. Kukunyah burger tersisa untuk membantu menghasilkan panas tubuh sehingga memperpanjang asaku menaklukkan dingin.

Semakin masinis menaikkan kecepatan kereta maka aku semakin tak bisa bergerak. Aku seperti tak punya harapan, meringkuk kaku memeluk backpack sepanjang perjalanan. Hanya do’a senjata terakhir yang kumiliki. Di suhu 3 derajat Celcius dan entah telapak kaki bisa basah, telapak tangan  mengkerut pucat dan bibir menggeretak, aku seperti susah sekali menghirup nafas.

3 jam 10 menit aku benar-benar bak patung hingga akhirnya sekonyong-konyong aku sanggup melompat dari bangku dan memastikan apa yang kulihat di seberang jendela. Ya….Itu kereta  Metro Delhi….Aku sampai. Oh, Belum….masih setengah jam lagi baru benar-benar tiba. Setengah jam terakhir yang membuatku bisa tersenyum tipis untuk segera memasuki stasiun Hazrat Nizamuddin di kota New Delhi.

Selamat tinggal Agra dan selamat datang New Delhi

Terimakasih Tuhan.

Cari tiket kereta dari Agra ke New Delhi melalui 12go Asia. Berikutnya linknya:  https://12go.asia/?z=3283832

Kharisma Merah Bata Agra Fort

Get off here and walk straight there. I will wait here for maximum 2 hours”, ucap pengemudi taxi sewa harian setelah meludahkan kunyahan sirih keluar jendela. Bekas ludahan sirih terlihat merata di area parkir kendaraan memang….Menyedihkan.

Loker penjualan tiket
Lumayan juga harganya….Rp. 98.000.

Tak menyiakan waktu, Aku segera menyelinap ke antrian pengunjung untuk membeli tiket masuk. Tak lama….Tak lebih dari 10 menit, tiket sudah digenggaman.

Aku tenggelam dalam keangkuhan julangan Benteng Merah. Benteng kota itu sungguh tinggi seakan mengawasi setiap gerik langkah orang yang mendekatinya. Kota Mughal seolah menjadi kota teraman di dunia dengan ketebalan dinding yang melingkarnya

Yuk mulai masuk….
Amar Singh Gate dihadapan.
Dinding benteng di sekitar main entrance

Layaknya benteng pertahanan, aku harus menyeberang kanal melalui sebuah jembatan yang menghubungkan jalanan utama kota Agra dan gerbang benteng itu sendiri. Memasukinya, setiap jalur kota di sisi dalam benteng harus dilalui dalam hapitan dinding yang perlahan berubah dari menyeramkan menjadi menyamankan.

Gerbang kedua dengan dinding 21 meter menjulang menjadikanku bak kurcaci.
Eksterior sekitar gerbang

UNESCO World Heritage Site yang berusia 4,5 abad ini adalah tempat tinggal seluruh anggota keluarga kerajaan Mughal. Benteng Merah otomatis berhenti berfungsi ketika ibukota kerajaan Mughal berpindah ke Delhi. Agra Fort sendiri terprakarsa dibangun karena terjadinya beberapa kali peperangan antar beberapa kerajaan yang ada di sekitar Hindustan hingga daerah Afghan.

Lalu….Kelicikanku mulai menguasai diri ketika intuisi “gratisan” menuntunku untuk mengekori langkah seorang tour guide yang sedang membawa turis-turis asal Tiongkok. Setiap penjelasan yang keluar dari bibirnya coba kucermati dan pahami. Beberapa turis mengernyitkan dahi ketika aku ketahuan sedang menguping, mereka sadar bahwa aku adalah penyusup dalam kelompoknya.

Yuk mari….Dengarkan dengan teliti!….

Satu hiburan yang menarik adalah ketika aku disodori sejumput bubuk kuning oleh seorang bapak tua. Aku bingung kenapa?. Ternyata beberapa detik kemudian tupai-tupai kecil naik ke tanganku dan memakan bubuk itu. Baru kulihat ada tupai super jinak seperti itu.

Tupai jinak di sekitaran benteng mendekat ke pengunjung.
Mengintip kondisi sekitar dari atas benteng
Taj Mahal samar terpantau dari Agra Fort.

Kemudian langkah mengantarku memasuki bangunan putih berjuluk Khas Mahal yang merupakan istana pribadi sang raja. Bangunan ini terbuat dari marmer dengan lukisan-lukisan indah di dalamnya.

Interior Khas Mahal
Air mancur di depan Khas Mahal

Tak jauh dari Khas Mahal, terlihat bangunan dua lantai berwarna putih dengan taman luas di depan pekarangannya. Bagian ini diberi nama Anguri Bagh.

Anguri Baghh berarti “The Grape Garden” yang merupakan taman pribadi milik anggota kerajaan perempuan.

Anguri Bagh
Golden Pavilion di sekitar Anguri Bagh
Bangunan di sekitar Anguri Bagh yang sedang di renovasi

Dan bagian terakhir yang kukunjungi adalah Jahangiri Mahal (sering disebut juga Jahangiri Palace). Inilah jantungnya Agra Fort. Istana megah yang diperuntukkan sebagai tempat tinggal istri raja.

Duh….Cakepnya….Siapa sih itu?

Singkat kata dan singkat langkah kemudian….Aku buru-buru ke stasiun Agra Cantt. Ditunggu kereta menuju New Delhi.

Merunut Shah Jahan, Menikmati Taj Mahal di Mehtab Bagh

Selepas penat mengurus pemerintahan Mughal, aku terbiasa menuju Taj Mahal untuk memantau progress pembangunannya. Kala sore menjelang, kuajak beberapa buruh Taj Mahal untuk menyeberangi sungai Yamuna dan kusambung dengan berteduh di sebuah tanah lapang untuk menikmati Taj Mahal yang berdiri megah tersiram oleh sinar senja merah jingga….Begitu indah, aku membayangkan itu. Membayangkan?….Ya, karena aku bukan Shah Jahan. Hanya dialah yang bisa melakukan aktivitas itu di masa lampau. Siapalah aku….Hahaha.

Taj Mahal tertangkap dari Mehtab Bagh

Aku tiba setelah 10 menit sebelumnya masih mengeksplore Itimad ud Daulah di Barat Laut Mehtab Bagh. Taman indah nan luas itu belum juga mencuri perhatianku, karena aku lebih tertarik dengan aksi seorang bapak setengah tua membolak-balik gorengannya sehingga menebarkan aroma harum penggugah selera. Pantaslah banyak orang bersedia mengantri untuk mencicipinya. Kurelakan Rp. 10.000 untuk menebus dan melahapnya, french fries panas beraroma samar kari menjadi menu cemilanku sebelum mamasuki Mehtab Bagh.

Beli tiket dulu lah sebelum masuk.

Aku segera menuju gerbang disertai membeli tiket seharga Rp. 40.000. Sontak terkagum dengan kondisi taman. Jalur yang tertata rapi itu diperindah dengan kolom bunga yang memanjang di tengahnya. Difasilitasi pula oleh bangku di beberapa spot. Bangku yang hampir semua terduduki oleh pasangan muda-mudi India yang sedang terjangkit asmara. Aku tak bisa menampiknya, karena memang taman itu sangatlah romantic, sesuai namanya. Kamu tahu kan arti kata Mehtab Bagh?….Mehtab Bagh memiliki makna yang sama dengan Moonlight Garden. Beuh….Gimana ga indehoy tuh.

Rapi banget kan?…

Ketika muda-mudi itu saling berpandang dalam ketertarikan masing-masing maku aku lebih tertarik menuju ke sebelah kanan taman karena dari kejauhan penampakan Taj Mahal itu begitu mempesona mata. Kini aku baru tahu, kenapa Shah Jahan sering meluangkan waktu sorenya untuk sekedar bersimpuh memandangi karyanya disini. Bahkan dia pernah berniat membuat Taj Mahal kembar berwarna hitam di Mehtab Bagh. Namun niat itu urung karena dia keburu menjadi tahanan rumah di Agra Fort pasca dikudeta anak laki-lakinya sendiri. Si anak khawatir terhadap keuangan kerajaan yang rawan dihabiskan ayahnya untuk merealisasikan niatnya itu.

Lihatlah fondasi itu!….Cikal Bakal Black Taj Mahal yang gagal.

Semua pengunjung pasti merasa aman ketika berada di taman, karena dua serdadu muda bersenjata lengkap berkeliling taman untuk mengamankan situasi.

Serdadu: “Where are you come from?”, seloroh beriring senyum.

Aku: “Indonesia, Sir”, timpal membalas senyum.

Serdadu: “How about Taj Mahal?. It’s good. Are you happy?”

Aku: “Yes, Sir. It’s beautiful. I Love it”, imbuhku.

Serdadu: “Enjoy

Aku: “Thanks Sir”.

Pepohonan nan rindang di taman.
Sisi lain taman.

Aku tak bisa benar-benar menuju ke tepian sungai Yamuna karena pengelola taman membatasi taman dengan kawat besi. Kulihat seorang turis Eropa terkesan professional ketika mengeluarkan DSLR berteropong panjang dan mengambil banyak sekali gambar Taj Mahal dari berbagai sisi yang dia suka tepat di depan pagar kawat itu. Aku hanya membayangkan jika suatu saat bisa memiliki kamera seperti itu dan berkeliling dunia mengambil gambar-gambar ciamik untuk kalian lihat. Alhamdulillah, Akhirnya 3 bulan kemudian aku memiliki kamera mirrorles Canon EOS M10. Tak sebaik miliknya, tetapi cukup bagiku yang berpenghasilan pas-pasan untuk menangkap gambar lebih baik….Hahaha #curcol

Cukup rasanya meniru aksi Shah Jahan di Mehtab Bagh. Kini aku akan melihat Agra Fort, tempat Shah Jahan dipenjara….Kesian. #sedih

Itimad ud Daulah….Cetak Biru Taj Mahal milik Ghiyas Beg

Description: D:\BLUE PRINT\travelingpersecond\Baby Taj 01.JPG
Itimad ud Daulah

Taj Mahal boleh saja tersohor di muka bumi. Tetapi sesungguhnya dibalik kemasyhurannya, ada satu kreasi arsitektur yang telah disepakati dunia sebagai blueprintnya Taj Mahal. Prototype itu ada pada Itimad ud Daulah.

Sangat bersyukur, aku berkesempatan melongoknya siang itu. Bak kejutan membaca novel. Kali ini Bab Pendahuluan dimulai dengan sekonyong-konyong keluarnya barisan keledai yang mengangkut bata merah diiringi nyanyian sang pemilik. Takjub melihat para donkey “mengucap permisi” di depanku. Seumur hidup baru kali ini melihat satwa itu berjarak satu meter dihadapan. Sang pemilik hanya melempar senyum melihatku menganga tanpa berkedip mata sembari tangan menekan tombol record kamera HP.

Keledai dan pemiliknya

Merogoh kocek Rp. 38.000, aku merangsek masuk ke pelataran “Baby Taj” (panggilan kesayangan Itimad ud Daulah).

Dapatkan tiketnya di gerbang depan.

Jika Taj Mahal menjadi milik Mumtaz Mahal, maka Itimad ud Daulah menjadi milik Mirza Ghiyas Beg yang tak lain adalah kakek dari Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal dibangun oleh suami Mumtaz Mahal, maka Itimad ud Daulah dibangun oleh Nur Jahan yang merupakan anak Ghiyas Beg.

Pintu sebelum masuk ke makam
Ini dia makan Mirza Ghiyas Beg dan istrinya

Menulusuri bagian demi bagian, nalarku mengkonfirmasi bahwa Itimad ud Daulah adalah bentuk mini Taj Mahal. Tak sama persis tetapi arsitektur, desain interior dan eksterior mendekati mirip. Masih sama, mengandalkan marmer putih sebagai tampilan utama.

Interior Itimad ud Daulah
Bagus kan….

Cuaca yang mulai menghangat membuatku terduduk nyaman sembari menikmati keindahan mausoleum itu. Kali ini, pandanganku sedikit terinterupsi dengan kedatangan seorang turis cantik berambut pirang panjang. Bukan parasnya yang menggodaku, tetapi kekagumanku pada effortnya mendatangi Itimad ud Daulah dalam kondisi bertongkat kruk dan balutan gips yang menandakan ada cedera parah di kaki kanannya. Susah payah dia berusaha duduk di pelataran sembari mengarahkan DSLRnya kesana kemari. Diselingi sesekali membaca Lonely Planet yang dikeluarkan dari backpack kecilnya. Sayang,  aku tak memberanikan diri untuk menyapa. Kecantikannya membuatku tak berkutik….Backpacker pengecut kamu, Don!.

Bab Penutup eksplorasi Itimad ud Daulah dimulai dengan melangkah ke gerbang di sisi kanan. Aku sungguh terpesona akan hamparan sungai yang luas nan mulai mengering. Aku tentu tahu itu sungai Yamuna yang oleh umat Hindu India dianggap sebagai Dewi Yamuna, yaitu Dewi yang dipercaya bisa membebaskan mereka dari siksa kematian apabila  bersuci dengan airnya.

Gerbang yang berbatasan langsung dengan sungai Yamuna
Sungai Yamuna

Begitulah…Sungai Yamuna menjadi penutup sesi eksplorasiku di Itimad ud Daulah. Penasaran dalam menantikan berbagai kejutan atas keindahan arsitektur Agra di lokasi lain yang akan kukunjungi hingga sore menjelang.

Melangkah keluar, aku mulai membuka peta dan menggerakkan niat untuk mengunjungi Mehtab Bagh, sebuah taman mempesona yang merupakan titik terbaik untuk menikmati keindahan Taj Mahal.

Yuk kutunjukkan tempatnya dimana!

Gagal Total Bertamu di Taj Mahal

Gebu semangat menyongsong Taj Mahal yang tak lebih tinggi dari nyali remeh temeh dalam menaklukkan dinginnya setiap tetes air yang keluar dari shower goStops Agra telah mempermalukan diriku sendiri di sebuah Sabtu pagi.

Jarum di angka 7 persis, taxi yang kami sewa harian melalui sharing cost tiba dan si pengemudi telah menunggu di lobby hostel sembari mendekapkan erat kedua tangannya sebagai pertanda bahwa dia telah diterpa kedinginan yang menusuk di luar sana.

Mau tahu harga sewa taxi putihnya?….Boleh….Rp. 240.000 yang dibagi empat orang. So, Rp. 60.000 harus kurelakan untuk naik diatas rodanya.

Bersikat gigi tanpa mandi, aku menghampiri dan mengajaknya bercakap sembari menunggu 3 turis lain turun. “No need long time to reach Taj Mahal, brother”, tutur pertamanya sembari menggeleng-geleng kepala ala India menjadi pembuka percakapan pagi itu. “Nice”, timpalku sembari sibuk membenahi winter jacket dan shall yang melingkar di leher.

Sepuluh menit selanjutnya, asap knalpotnya mulai mengakuisisi kabut tebal di sepanjang Agra-Bah Road. Benar saja katanya, 15 menit kemudian dia meminta kami turun dan menunjuk sebuah bajaj seharga Rp. 40.000 untuk melanjutkan perjalanan menuju Taj Majal Eastern Gate. Tak menjadi masalah dengan harga karena bajaj itu akhirnya kami tunggangi berempat….Dasar turis tak beradab….Hahaha.

Jam 07:30, para turis telah mengantri berburu tiket seharga Rp. 98.000
Tiketku digenggaman

Bodoh sangat!…..Rasa ingin tahu yang membabi buta telah menutup logikaku pagi itu. Tak pernah berfikir jernih sedari berangkat meninggalkan hostel bahwa badai kabut tebal kota Agra akan menutup pelataran Taj Mahal secara sempurna….Ah, aku berdiri lama menghela nafas panjang kesal di gerbang masuk Taj Mahal. Tak mampu melihat apapun 10 meter didepan. Hanya kabut tebal yang membuatku perlahan membeku.

Tak ada pilihan, suka tak suka, aku harus mulai menjelajah Taj Mahal dengan jaminan pasti bahwa aku tak akan pernah menikmati kemolekannya secara sempurna.

Aku mulai menaiki tangga perlahan memasuki gerbang pertama situs termasyhur itu. Gerbang pertama ini bernama Jilau Khana.

Area sekitar Jilau Khana atau sering disebut forecourt. Bahasa Jawanya “halaman depan”.

Yang terjadi sungguh di luar nalar. Belum juga selesai menikmati merah batanya Jilau Khana, langkah kaki otomatisku tak terbendung mendekat ke bangunan utama. Taj Mahal bak magnet bagi siapa saja yang berkunjung.

Jalan penghubung antara Jilau Khana dan gerbang utama

Sebelum tiba di bangunan utama….Sekitar 100 meter kemudian, aku mencapai gerbang utama nan agung.

Namanya Darwaza-i-rauza atau sering disebut Great Gate

Mulai terdengar keluhan para bule itu sembari menyalahkan sang kabut.”I can’t take a picture!”, keluhnya kepada sesama temannya. Kecut tersenyum dengan sunggingan sebelah bibir, aku tak memperdulikan kekecewaan yang sama.

Lihatlah ukiran di bagian dalam Darwaza-i-rauza itu!

Lalu dimana bangunan utama Taj Mahal yang selalu diburu para traveler dunia?

Yup….350 meter di utara Darwaza-i-rauza adalah letak Taj Mahal, makam dua sejoli yang melegenda. Shah Jahan sang raja dan Mumtaz Mahal sang permaisuri keturunan Persia yang konon cantik luar biasa.

Tak berlama waktu, aku segera memasang penutup sepatu untuk kemudian bersiap memasuki Taj Mahal

shoe cover akan diberikan saat membeli tiket.

Layaknya masjid, Taj Mahal dilengkapi dengan empat minaret di setiap sisinya. Kebesaran kerajaan Mughal tercermin dari setiap jengkal Taj Mahal yang tersusun dari marmer putih yang didatangkan khusus dari Rajashtan dan batu safir yang dikirim dari Sri Lanka.

Minaret setinggi 40 meter dengan dinding silinder.

Hal menggelitik lain ketika mengunjungi Taj Mahal adalah dikala setiap pengunjung berjalan teratur mengikuti alur yang sudah dibuat petugas untuk menikmati setiap sisi ruang utama Taj Mahal dimana makam Mumtaz Mahal berada. Tiga polisi bersenjata lengkap mengawasi setiap pengunjung dengan cermat. Terkadang mereka berseloroh ke beberapa turis untuk segera melangkah karena keasyikan mengambil photo dan membuat alur jalan menjadi macet.

Dinding Taj Mahal
Jendela Taj Mahal
Indahnya seni kaligrafi  Taj Mahal
Lumayan lah….Daripada tidak sama sekali

Begitulah adanya, Taj Mahal yang berusia 372 tahun ini memang mempesona. Tak khayal, 4 juta wisatawan tertarik mengunjunginya setiap tahun.

Selesai menikmati Taj Mahal, maka aku segeran undur diri dan kembali ke eastern gate menuju taxi yang menungguku.

Aku kembali ke timur….Kamu mau kembali lewat mana?