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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

India: The Travel Archives - Taj Mahal and Agra

India has been a real once in a lifetime experience for me because although I loved it so much I also found it to be quite hectic so I don't know that I will go back, at least not for a few years...having said that it was full of incredible experiences from feeding monkeys, riding on rickshaws fearing for our lives, exploring the colourful markets but of course...the cherry on top was the Taj Mahal.

Hands down my favourite experience was going to see this because..the stars aligned and we were basically the only people there! It made it even nicer to walk around in the morning without anyone hassling us (which we found a lot when exploring monuments) and it was so much more spectacular because we were really able to enjoy it.

I've been journeying back into the archives as it's been one year since I was travelling round India. I've posted about my trips to Delhi and Jaipur but now it's time for the ultimate bucketlist item - the Taj Mahal...and I remember so completely as if it was yesterday. Isn't that funny?! How you can forget what you ate last night but those really poignant moments can stay with your forever and still feel fresh?

On our way to the Taj Mahal we stopped at Itmad-ud-daulah (the baby Taj), Fatehpur Sikri and Agra Fort. The baby Taj is about 4 hours away from Delhi and is a beautiful, small marble temple set in gardens across the river Yamuna from the Taj Mahal. It was a great place to stop on our way over because it broke up the journey and there was a beautiful view. We also stopped at Fatehpur Sikri (aka the Ghost city) which I loved because it was so empty that we felt like we were the only ones there for the majority of the time. When I turned a corner and saw a courtyard filled with tourists my first thought was '...wait...when did you get here?' haha. I'd really recommend the ghost city because there is so much to see, you really could get lost in the maze of ornately carved red buildings. I spent as long as I physically could there until the monsoon heat got too much for me and I headed for the car for some much needed air-con! 

Next we visited Agra Fort which was good to see but harder to enjoy because it was ridiculously busy - I think everyone must go here on their way to the Taj Mahal so I'd recommend seeing the Amber Palace instead. It's a bit more enjoyable with less people - you can see more and it's less of a rush round trying to slalom round people to escape all the crowds in the heat. Agra is very very hectic so Agra Fort is sort of good preparation for it but really being around so many people at once isn't my cup of tea so I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

We spent the night in Agra at this amazing hotel which gave me serious interior goals. The colours are great aren't they? Plus there was an outdoor swinging seat which makes you feel like less of a coach potato for just wanting to sit down all the time haha.

We spent our evening just in the hotel because genuinely as soon as we left the gate for a quick walk people were non-stop trying to sell us things; I was so relieved when we met some other travellers at dinner and they said that they spent their evenings inside as well because of that happening. We relaxed then because before part of us had been thinking...are we missing out on experiences because we're being too shy. I definitely think staying in was the best idea for us though, especially because my partner hadn't been to Asia and was having a bit of a case of culture shock. So we relaxed...

...before getting up at 5:00am and heading to the Taj Mahal. You buy tickets a little further down the road and then you can catch a shuttle bus up - you can't drive up and although you can walk Agra was so intensely busy and hectic you wouldn't want to. I'm not kidding when I say there were people waiting outside the gate for guests to walk out and from the second it opened people were shouting, running up to us, begging, trying to sell us things etc. non-stop, so I would really recommend getting the bus because the 5 minutes walk to the ticket more than enough hassle for the day. On the way back people follow the bus trying to sell stuff so just get your legs on and power-walk as fast as you can away from it all haha. I definitely don't want to put anyone off going, I just think it's better to know what to expect so it's not overwhelming? I would always rather know what it will be like. The main thing to bear in mind that it is all completely worth it.

I know 5:00 am sounds a bit nuts to get somewhere and I would normally agree but it was great because we were once of the first people in there, it was a little cooler than in the middle of the day and we got to watch the sunrise. The Taj Mahal is set in the middle of red buildings, which on their own are exquisite with ridiculously pretty gateways but as soon as you walk through them that's it, you forget all about them because the Taj Mahal is that breathtaking.

It's completely made of white marble and is so intricate; really a beautiful thing to see. It was built to house the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, one of the wives of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (and clearly his favourite...just saying haha). She died giving birth to their child and he was so devastated that it's said he grieved for a year in seclusion. The Taj Mahal is considered a sign of his undying love for her and he's also buried there which is a lovely tribute. I can't even get someone to text me back but yanoo...not jealous or anything haha.

The views over the reflecting pool and fountains are amazing but when you go right up over the marble plinth and into the mauseleum it's just as beautiful; it's quite amazing seeing the detail carved into the marble and the semi-precious stones embedded into it. The part of the mausleum that's open to the public is quite small but is definitely worth visiting.

At the time there was some building work going on which was a shame but of course, necessary to keep the mauseleum intact for future generations - I had seen some photos with green scaffolding covers on but luckily when we went that had gone and there just the metal scaffolding bars remaining which didn't detract from the view for me at all.

We really enjoyed our time here, it was so peaceful and it was just such a nice experience to be walking along in this amazing scenery just talking about the history of the did feel so special.

The place was pretty empty when we got there which was great. We stayed for a couple of hours until (even at that time) the heat was too intense and then headed back for breakfast.

Have you been to the Taj?



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