My last trip of 2015 took me to India to spend Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. I haven’t been back to India since I was twelve years old so I was long overdue for a visit!
As kids my mom always took us back every few years for at least a couple months at a time, but this got harder as we advanced in school. We also never did any tourism around the country since the point of the trips were always to spend time together with the family. Now that we’re adults we finally went to see the Taj Mahal! I’m actually glad we waited until now and didn’t go as kids as I can fully appreciate it as an adult.
We flew into Delhi for two nights and drove the three hour journey to Agra. The expressway between the two cities is open, smooth, and clean with fun views of rice fields. Getting through each city is a different story – both are packed full of both cars and smog. In fact, flying into Delhi it was like a brown cloud covered the city and was pretty distinct from above. In Agra they actually advised us to leave the city before 8PM as that’s when the smog gets worse.
We got to the Taj at about 3PM – much later than we had planned but we were delayed in the morning leaving Dehli. We had hoped to get in the Red Fort as well, but didn’t have time – guess I’ll have to take another trip up there in the future! The lines were CRAZY LONG but thankfully being foreigners – and women – we whizzed right past the queue and got in right away. The only bummer, which isn’t a big deal, is that foreigners pay Rs. 750 while locals pay only Rs. 20. But for the benefits it’s totally worth it and it’s only really $12 or so USD when you think about it.
The Royal Gate – inside the main entrance. Walking in was like something surreal. The weather was perfect with a sunny, cloudless sky and the setting sun provided perfect photo opportunities. Along with everyone else we crowded at the entrance trying to snap the perfect shot.
First view coming through the Royal Gate – can see the crowds!
The Yamuna River right next to the Taj.
A good-to-know piece of advice that I have for foreigners visiting the Taj is to be prepared for a bunch of people asking to take pictures with you. I read about this before going and had at least three different families take pictures with me for about 5 minutes at a time. I felt like a celebrity! It got so funny I even told the first people to watch out for me in the latest Hunger Games movie and they believed it! After a while it did get annoying as it distracted from my own time there so I had to refuse others. Oh well!
Inside, the replicas of the both the Shah Jahan’s and his wife’s tombs can be see through the marble gates surrounding them. However, it’s tough to get a decent picture! The real tombs are below them and almost nobody is allowed down there
It’s pretty amazing how much thought and symmetry went into every detail at the Taj. Each piece of marble is identical and individually carved and inlaid with stone and decorations. Something I didn’t know beforehand is that the entire complex also has versus of the Quran etched all around it in decoration.
One of the four pillars around the Taj – the monkeys are using the construction as a playground!
The Mosque on the western side with a small pool in front for the Muslims to wash their feet prior to entering.
It was an amazing day that my family and I won’t forget in a hurry. In a few years I’d like to go back and spend more time admiring the architecture and check out more of Agra. Now that I’m an adult I can afford to experience more of India and hope to go back every few years to different cities.