The Taj Mahal
There is not much one can say about the Taj Mahal without sounding cliche. I remember reading about the Taj Mahal as a teenager and keeping a picture of it in my diary, thinking “I will likely never get to see it.” And although I had seen many more pictures of it since (the Taj is one of the most recognized buildings in the world), seeing it in person was still breath-taking.
We got to the complex at sunrise on Sunday while the air was still cool and it wasn’t too crowded. To my surprise, the Taj is not actually visible from the street. We had to walk through a park, pass a gate where the ticket checks are performed, then go through another archway before finally getting a full view of the Taj. It definitely built up the anticipation! The final archway is so narrow and dark that you only see a little bit of the palace. It makes for a grand entrance when you finally exit the archway and the Taj and its gardens are revealed in front of you.
We had plenty of time to walk around the Taj and to take pictures from the many vantage points that the gardens offered. I got so preoccupied with my camera that I had to stop taking pictures for a bit and just take in the extraordinary palace.
After the Taj, we visited Agra’s Red Fort. We could only see part of it as other parts are still occupied by the Indian army. From the fort, we could see the Taj Mahal in the distance. The Red Fort is a wonderful fusion of HIndi and Muslim architecture and we enjoyed it immensely.
Our ride back to Delhi took a long time. Indian highways are full of bicycles, rickshaws and pedestrians and don’t necessarily provide a fast means of transportation. At our lunch stop, we were greeted by a snake charmer who even got a few people in our group to pose with the snake – not for the faint of heart.
Further down the road, we experienced a sand storm, a rain storm, downed trees and power lines and even got into a little fender bender with another bus. Even the simplest things in India are anything but boring. India is a country that cannot be described; it has to be experienced.