I took a train from Delhi to Agra (about three hours) for the sole purpose of seeing the Taj Mahal. Although it seemed a bit cliche, I figured a tour of India wouldn’t be complete without seeing this Wonder of the World and what is possibly the most recognizable building on the planet.
While in Agra, I had the chance to explore some side streets, thanks to my prepaid Taxi driver depositing me at the hotel of his choice, despite my protests. Maurading children, shouting for rupees and photos kept me on my toes. I abandoned my explorations early when they started to get a little too crazy-eyed, making me feel slightly anxious and uncomfortable. It was the first and only time I felt unsafe in India. Regardless, it was interesting to meet some of Agra’s residents, who live within 100 meters of this fabled building. I was also amazed at how beautiful the streets were, all cobbled and lined with brightly colored buildings.
After scoping out a few places, I decided that Hotel Shahjahan was the place where I would lay my head for the night. The combination of the warm and welcoming staff, clean-ish room, the 200 rupee price tag ($4 USD) and free wifi throughout were just what the doctor ordered. The Indian toilet…eh, oh well. Thank goodness for wet wipes, as I there was no running water to be found.
I had dinner on the rooftop of Hotel Kamal, which boasts the best view of the Taj, according to the Lonely Planet. For once, the LP didn’t disappoint. During dinner, I would lose myself for a moment in my egg curry and book and then look up and there was the Taj all over again. The cycle repeated and the view was equally astonishing each time.
From my rooftop spot, I watched life continue as the sun dropped low in the sky. A girl learning to ride her bike, boys flying kites, two monkeys wrestling with a pink shopping bag.
I woke up early in the morning to visit the Taj Mahal. It officially opened at 6:30, but when I got there around 6:00, there were already people inside. I found out that laptops weren’t allowed so I was forced to go to the lockers to check it. Of course, when I got to the lockers they didn’t open until 8:30. Determined to not miss the entirety of sunrise, in an act of desperation, I left my precious Macbook Air in the hands of a souvenir shopkeeper who was a few feet from the entrance. Luckily it was safe and sound when I returned, a favor I happily paid 200 rupees ($4) for.
Seeing the Taj Mahal was definitely worth the trip. It was stunning.
It was the first time on my trip that I encountered hoards of tourists traveling in large groups. It was a little bit of a culture shock. However, even the rude Australian man shouting at people to move out of the way so he could get the perfect Taj photo with his point and shoot couldn’t mar the experience.
Early in the morning the light hits the domes from the East and viewing from each different direction gives a totally different experience. I took several minutes to catch the main building from each angle.
And I lied, the tourists did start to get to me after all. After about 90 minutes, I fled the scene to recover my laptop and have breakfast at the hotel.
And that was Agra. Not much to offer. Definitely worth spending a night to catch the Taj early, but in my opinion, not worth spending more than 24 hours there.