|Morning time along the Ganges|
From here we caught an overnight train to Agra complete with chai wallahs and sleeping compartments with sheets, blankets and powerpoints to charge laptops and mobile phones. Agra is famed as the home of the Taj Mahal which did not disappoint. The beautiful mausoleum was captivating from every angle and sets a pretty high standard for all men given Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built it in honour of his dead wife. Get cracking MTV boyfriend!
|Perfect symmetry at the Taj Mahal|
Just like the colours changed when we crossed over the border so did the food. Suddenly there was an explosion of spices and flavour from the plainer Nepalese food. To start off we went easy on the street food hoping to harden our stomachs to avoid Delhi belly. So street food aside, these are my picks of where to eat in Varanasi and Agra:
|Chicken curry at Brown Bread Bakery|
|Tiny street food stalls line the sides of Varanasi’s alleyways|
|Thali at Keshari Ruchikar Byanjan|
|Pakora and beer with a view of the Taj Mahal (it is the domes in the background) at Saniya Palace Hotel in Agra|
Saniya Palace Hotel
The Taj Mahal is Agra’s star attraction and from the rooftop of Saniya Palace Hotel it’s possible to spend all day looking at what is considered the most beautiful building in the world. An international menu is served up amongst pot plants, under a bamboo pergola but the Indian food is the best bet. Crunchy pakoras (R60) were perfect beer snack material alongside a large bottle of Kingfisher (R150) while the vegetable korma (R100) was subtle and multi layered.
Details: Saniya Palace Hotel, Chowk Kajziyan, Taj Ganj, Agra, India (Ph +91 562 3270199)
|We visited Agra at Eid and this goat was dressed up for the occasion|
This tiny hole in the wall is a travellers institution with its brightly painted walls and cheap as chips menus. The lassis at Joney’s were sensationally creamy, particularly the banana and chocolate version (Rs25) while the toasted “jayfelle” (Rs25) oozed melted cheese and fresh tomato.
Details: Joney’s Place, Taj South Gate, Agra, India.
Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve
|Sensational lassi at Joney’s in Agra|
Gourmet Travel Tips
- We caught a ten hour bus from Lumbini in Nepal to Varanasi but the easier way to get to both Varanasi and Agra would be to fly into Delhi (£500 from London return with Kingfisher) and then catch a train.
- In Varanasi we stayed at Kedareswar Guesthouse, a simple but charming place which faced right onto the Ganges. The lovely owner Mintu organised boat tours and was helpful with restaurant tips. Most importantly, in the dust and dirt of Varanasi this place was so clean that you could just about smell the lemon scent they used. Details: Chowki Ghat, Varanasi, India (Ph +91 2455568). Damage: Rs 2,200. Reasonable. 8/10.
- In Agra we stayed at Hotel Sheela Inn the sister hotel to the perennially booked out Hotel Sheela. The hotel was no frills but clean and very close to the Taj Mahal east gate. It also had a nice roof top terrace for breakfast with Taj views if you looked carefully. A good budget option. Details: Taj East Gate, Agra, India. Damage: Rs 800. Such a bargain my mother would approve. 6/10.
- The Taj Mahal is best viewed early in the morning or at sunset. We opted for the morning session. The nearby Agra Fort is also well worth a visit.
|Our room at the Kedareswar Guest House in Varanasi – I highly recommend for a budget option|
Category: Travel - India