A travel and lifestyle blog

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

India: The Travel Archives - Taj Mahal and Agra

India was a once in a lifetime experience for me because although I loved it, I also found it quite hectic and a bit stressful 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, eating amazing curries, riding on rickshaws fearing for our lives (I'm not joking) and 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 was a problem when we visited almost all the monuments).

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 it as if it was yesterday. Isn't that funny?! How you can forget what you ate for breakfast but some things 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 buildings. I spent as long as I physically could there until the monsoon heat got too much for me.

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 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. There was a really nice outdoor area with swinging hammock seats which made us feel much better about wanting to relax inside at night.

We spent our evening just in the hotel because genuinely as soon as we left the gate for a quick walk, people were immediately 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 something...to be honest I think we'd just been missing out on more stress haha.

We got up at 5:00am and headed 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 office...at 5:00am...is 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 because we had no idea and my partner ended up with pretty bad culture shock at the beginning. 

The main thing to bear in mind though...is that it was 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 were really ornate but as soon as we walked through them we could see the Taj. It's a shame really - if they were anywhere else people would visit them as their own monuments I think.

It's completely made of white marble and is so intricate; really beautiful 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; Lots of detail carved into the marble and semi-precious stones embedded into it. The part of the mausleum that's open to the public is quite small but we enjoyed visiting it.

At the time there was some building work going on which was a shame but of course, necessary - I had seen some photos with green scaffolding covers on but luckily when we went it had been taken down and only the metal scaffolding remained which didn't detract from the view for me. I was relieved - it would be just my luck to go and the whole thing be covered haha. 

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

We managed a couple of hours until (even at that time) the heat was too intense and then we headed back for breakfast.

Have you been to the Taj?



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