When we finally got to Agra, it was already dark, but from the rooftop restaurant of our hotel, we could see the silhouette of the Taj. The next morning, we woke up early to catch the Taj at first light and see it before it got crowded. Wow. It really is a spectacular sight.
From there we toured Agra Fort (another Mughal complex) and an old mausoleum. The most incredible thing about Agra (which, generally speaking, is a real dump), is the way in which the Taj Mahal jumps out at you when you least expect it. We hired an autorickshaw to take us around for the day, and every once in a while we would go around a curve and, all of a sudden, there she would be.
The following day we left Agra for the nearby town of Fatehpur-Sikri, the capital of the Mughal empire (before it was moved to Agra and later to Delhi) under emporer Akbar, some 100 years before the Taj Mahal was built. What remains of this period in history is a mausoleum built in honor of Akbar's spiritual advisor, and a massive complex of palaces for the king's many wives. The latter complex is really remarkable and we are certain that Akbar made a huge mistake in relocating his capital to Agra, which is (as we previously mentioned) a dump. The moral of the story: even powerful rulers sometimes make mistakes. I know it's hard to believe.
We left Amritsar and the Golden Temple at 4:00am, taking the first bus of the morning to the train station. Not a minute after we boarded the bus, it began to rain, and what an impressive rain it was. Along with our French friends Guillemette and Quentin, we boarded the train to Agra, not realizing that we were going to be on it for about 13 hours.