Agra itself seemed OK and certainly not as bad as everyone makes out, although admittedly I didn’t really make it far from the hostel. We were the only people staying at newly opened Bedweiser Hostel, which was perfectly located just 500 metres away from the ticket counter for the Taj Mahal. Unfortunately Hugo had decided to give it a miss so we are no longer together. Sob sob. I couldn’t leave India without seeing this global icon and one of the seven man-made wonders of the world.
Travelling in a big group is difficult and something I sometimes find stressful but we managed to get everyone out the door by 5:15am, only 15 minutes later than planned. It was an early start but one which was necessary if we were to see the Taj Mahal without the crowds. I already knew I wouldn’t be able to get photos without strangers being in them but I was determined to do all I could to reduce the number of people unknowingly photobombing my shots. I really hate it when some stranger stands in front of my camera ruining what would otherwise be a perfectly good photo.
Getting a ticket and navigating to the entrance was simple. We paid the inflated tourist ticket price, 20 time the cost for Indians and picked up our complimentary water and shoe covers. Of course, we were hassled by a few “guides” along the way but escaped by jumping on the free shuttle bus by the gate. Just a word of warning, I’ve been told that only a small bag is allowed inside and backpacks need to be checked into the security storage taking up precious time in beating the crowds. However, I’m not 100% sure about this as we left our bags at home.
The Taj Mahal is absolutely incredible. It really is as beautiful as the photos make out. Unfortunately I had only managed to get roughly about an hours sleep the night before, due to excitement, so I was struggling. Big time. As the initial excitement wore off I struggled to keep my eyes open and needed some caffeine BAD. I was there but I wasn’t really there. If that makes sense?
We spent over two hours doing absolutely nothing but taking it all in. As far as I am aware there isn’t much else to see apart from the Taj and some smaller beautiful buildings around it. I tried to duplicate that all important Diana shot which, of course, got photobombed by other tourists. I reckon I got some good photos though, despite looking (and feeling) like I’m on deaths door.
The river running along the back is filled with lots of rubbish, which is a shame but I guess it does make the Taj look even more stunning. The grounds are a good place just to sit and chill out and although there were tourists there, it was really very tranquil. A big thanks to my friend Dan for letting me use two of his pictures below. He was far more productive in his photo taking than me.
So was the Taj worth the time, money and effort? Yeah I think it was. What’s more I had a great time with the group and gained new travel buddies too. Me and the boys are off to Jaipur!…..