Luke, who was on our bus to Agra was also travelling to Jaipur, so the previous day we had arranged to share a car stopping off at Fatehpur Sikri, a UNESCO site which was only 45km away from Agra. We met him at his hostel and started the journey on the crazy Indian roads. As this journey was in daylight, there was something to look at every second of the journey but it also meant we could see how bloody crazy the driving really was (and the near misses along the way). I wish I could put it into words the road etiquette, or lack of, but I can't as it is just that mad, especially coming from English roads. It really is every man for himself!
On the drive, we saw peacocks, pigs, chickens, birds of prey, monkeys, goats, cats, dogs, cows, the list goes on. The animals are everywhere and most are 'free range', basically they just go where they want. We rarely saw animals tied up or caged, except the chickens just before they were going to be killed and eaten. We saw the farmers working in the fields picking crops and tending to the vegetables. The women's brightly coloured saris stuck out and shone in the sun in the fields. Blocking out the noise of the constant beeping of horns, it was really beautiful to watch the locals going about their day to day lives. It was a massive shock how most farm work was still done by hand and it really woke me up to the reality of the differences between the world we live in and theirs.
During the journey we got chatting to Luke, who came from London and also had a law degree and was taking a few months out before starting his training contract...what a small world! It was great talking about the profession and I think Luke was definitely travelling at the right time before he qualified, as it is much harder to quit your job once you qualify due to the pressures and expectations that are placed on you when you are a solicitor.
We reached Fatehpur Sikri, which was built in the second half of the 16th Century by Emperor Akbar and is a collection of temples and monuments and includes one of the largest temples, the Jama Masjid. The Fatehpur Sikri fort is a mix of Persian and Mughal architecture, mostly made out of red stone, which makes it even more unique and interesting. As there were three of us we decided to get a tour guide and split the cost and it was well worth the money. After walking through the main entrance I was very surprised, it was vast and impressive and a lot larger than I expected.
Our tour guide was full of knowledge and I could barely keep up with the facts and history. We were told that Emperor Akbar had nine wives from all different religions and as you walk around their quarters, you can see carvings which symbolised their individual faiths. If it wasn't for the tour guide, I definitely would have completely missed this!
We walked around the main courtyard, the Salim Chistis Tomb and the Jama Masjid, amongst others, the entire complex was so alluring as the walls were all carved with such beauty and intricacy. There was a band playing cheery happy music outside the Tomb and it really set the scene. The area was very impressive and just like the other monuments and temples we saw in India, the attention to detail is just out of this world. Fatehpur Sikri was abandoned by Akbar in 1585 and was later used by the British as an army outpost.
On our way out we started talking to some children who were on a school trip and of course, they wanted their picture taken. They were so cheeky and full of energy! I love the poses they pull just before you take the photo. It was time to say goodbye to our guide and continue the drive.
After a quick thali lunch and another few hours driving, we reached Jaipur, the Pink City. We dropped Luke off at his hostel and after some heavy traffic and our driver getting lost a few times, we finally made it to the Hotel Pearl Palace. I picked this hotel as they had some really unique looking rooms and it had a rooftop restaurant. This is what our room looked like...so colourful and crazy, it felt like we were in a gypsy caravan and it had a CLEAN SHOWER AND TOILET, YES.
The only downside of the room was the mosquitos that had decided they wanted to live in the crazy gypsy caravan as well. My feet had already doubled in size after been eaten alive in Agra...my blood must be really tasty as the mozzies seem to love me.
We spent the evening on the rooftop with a view over the city and tried our first 'kulfi' which is Indian ice-cream with nuts and is packed with flavour. After a great evening eating curry and drinking lassi we called it a night, excited to see what the Pink City had to offer.
All in all, it was a great day, and is Fatehpur Sikri worth it? Yes! I was pleasantly surprised and was not expecting such a large, beautiful and interesting place. It was not overcrowded like the Taj Mahal and was a great way to split up the journey to Jaipur. If you have time to squeeze Fatehpur Sikri into your itinerary, then I would highly recommend it.