Journey to Agra

Breakfast & Morning Read On The Bhopal Shatabdi Express

After earlier unsuccessful attempts to visit Taj Mahal, I finally made it in February, piggbacking on a work trip to New Delhi. Located in Agra, which is about 200km south east from New Delhi, you can opt to travel either by road or train. With the express trains, a train ride gets you there quicker, and as I am also keen to sample the India train ride experience, I opt for the Bhopal Shatabdi Express (12002) and Gatimaan Express (12049) trains which ply the Delhi-Agra and Agra-Delhi routes respectively. Getting hold of the train tickets myself was not an easy task (if you are a foreigner buying them in advance from abroad) as you need to register with the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) at their website and specify a valid Indian mobile phone number to receive an SMS OTP (One Time Password) to complete the registration.

It was chockablock as the hotel car approached the New Delhi Train Station (NDLS) drop-off zone at 5.30am, I actually contemplated getting down and walking the rest of the way as missing my train would be a disaster. Thank god the traffic eased up a little and I arrived minutes later. The moment I got down, a team of porters crowded round offering to help with my luggage. I went with the one who had the gumption to just grab my luggage and asked to follow him, I had no other choice :). He got me to the right platform and coach in no time, it’s all about local knowledge, and I am thankful for his help. After a little bargaining, his service fee was pared down from INR400 to INR100, still an inflated foreigner price but that’s ok. The Bhopal Shatabdi Express (12002) departed New Delhi Train Station (NDLS) at about 6 am.

‘Meals On Wheels’ Tea & Biscuits Entree

The Bhopal Shatabdi Express Executive Class fare is INR1010, with a morning newspaper and ‘Meals on Wheels’ breakfast thrown in as part of the package. You start with a cup of tea and digestive biscuits, followed by a small bowl of cornflakes and local bread coming with side dishes. All good, I enjoyed them all and am pretty pleased with the assortment and quality. Over breakfast, a conversation ensued with a couple seated in front of me (I was assigned a 4 face-to-face seat), they are traveling to Agra to attend a relative’s wedding dinner over the weekend. As it’s a big event and all family members/relatives will be present, they planned to arrive earlier on the Friday to spend more time with them. They could have driven down from New Delhi but preferred to take the train as it’s less tiring and they arrive fresh for the event.

Foggy Landscape At The Crack Of Dawn

The changing foggy landscape outside toward the east is quite a spectacle at the crack of dawn as the train speed along towards Agra. The faint details of the passing wheat fields, trees and villages picked up by the warm glow of the sun permeating through the morning fog … everything look so serene and calm … nature and man, rested, revitalised and all ready for the start of a brand new day. After a brief stop at Mathura, the train rolled into Agra Cantonment (AGC) station at about 8.00am.

Agra Cantonment Station

A Visitor Admiring The Taj Mahal Mausoleum At Sunset

As the Taj Mahal is closed all day on Fridays for prayers, I will visit the following day. Meanwhile, I chartered a tuk tuk to visit the Agra Fort in the afternoon and then onto Mehtab Bagh to catch the Taj Mahal Mausoleum view from across the Yamuna River at sunset.

All photos: Fujifilm X-E2 with XF 23mm, XF 35mm, XF 55-200mm and Huawei P9 Lite

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5 thoughts on “Journey to Agra

  1. Glad to read your story.. Finally you could visit the Taj Mahal!! Ashish hails from Agra 🙂 though we are settled in New Delhi, we travel to Agra quite often. If you are planning to cover Jaipur, we will suggest include Jaisalmer and Udaipur too. Also next time when you arrive and need help feel free to write to us ☺️☺️ Cheers, Charu & Ashish

  2. What a great story about your journey. Getting a ticket sounds like a nightmare! How did you manage to have a genuine Indian mobile phone number while not in India?
    My strongest memory of the early morning Indian train (Jaipur to Delhi) is a series of men passing through the carriages selling things, which were difficult to identify as they were announced in Hindi and sometimes heavily accented English. I ended up having Digestive biscuits and Fanta for breakfast!

    • thanks, liz. it was indeed a nightmare, i do not understand why they have this local phone OTP verification step to make it difficult for foreigners to purchase train tickets online from abroad when they already put up an online service, although there may be good reasons for doing so. i circumvented the problem by using a mobile number (unregistered with IRCTC) of a local business partner. was eager to do jaipur too but i just did not have the time, next time, it’s on my list :). regards, ken.

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