How we went to see the Taj Mahal without seeing the Taj Mahal

How we went to see the Taj Mahal without seeing the Taj Mahal

Agra

The first morning of our stay in Agra, we got up at 6am to go see gorgeous Taj Mahal shimmer in the light of sunrise, as a friendly local advised us to do.

As soon as we walked outside we could barely see anything, it was incredibly foggy. I got all excited for the picture I could snap. Taj Mahal slowly appearing between layers of fog, glowing in the light of sunrise, little did I know then…

First we had to go through the complicated process of entering Taj Mahal, which included some security checks in which it turned out Kevin wasn’t allowed to bring his laptop, so we had to go take it to some locker room (don’t bring your laptop, super unfriendly people!) and start the whole procedure again, eventually we made it in.

While we learned that the Entrance to Taj Mahal used to cost 2 Rupees for everyone,tons of tourists every year have made it (relatively) expensive to go inside, about 750 Rupees for tourists (~10Eur, I’m sure if the Taj was in Europe, it would’ve been 30Eur 😉 and 20 Rupees for Indians.

We walked through the gate, into the garden and saw…nothing.

It was so completely foggy. We walked the whole way through the gardens, up all the way to the Taj Mahal and saw…nothing, again.

We decided to check out the inside first, the tomb of Shah Jahan’s wife. And the beauty of the detail the Taj was built with. We couldn’t believe how much detail there was – all made from marble.

It was freezing cold out, but we decided to wait anyway for the fog to go away. 2 hours later we could at least sort of make it out, but only when we stood right in front of it, so no typical Taj-view from the gardens for us. 🙁
We also didn’t see it later, from the rooftop of our hostel, which had a view of it, still too foggy, therefore we met a backpacker from Boston, who officially declared us travelers 😉

The owner of our hostel asked us five times in which city we got our Visa, and was very upset that we didn’t remember. That’s when we learned that each hotel has to fill out a form with a copy of our passports and take it to the police, where they control tourists carefully and the owner would get into trouble if he can’t answer all the questions about us. That is apparently the case because US President Obama is visiting India soon, so they’re looking for suspicious people.

We ended the day with a beer that we bought from an 8 year old in a restaurant O.o and trying to book continuing trains, which seems quite impossible, since the power is off every few minutes. On a trip to India you learn to not take things for granted that are granted back at home, including clean water and electricity.

 We also visited the gardens on the opposite side of the river across from Taj Mahal, and there FINALLY was our view of the Taj, in its full glory – gorgeous, majestic and bigger than we thought. We spent about an hour just staring at it.

Later that day we tried out a sweet shop and a restaurant where I was served moldy bread, but at least they didn’t make us pay for it. Sweets are ridiculous in India. It seems they are all made from milk and they don’t have a sugary sweet taste, but a spicy sweet taste. We didn’t really like it that much, but they helped the wait in a creepy train station, in which everyone stared at us. One guy in fact stood a foot away from Kevin and read what he was writing in his notebook, and another guy opened his notebook when Kevin closed it to see what he was writing. Very strange!

We had a ton of our most common conversations, that we have at least 5 times each day, and looks like this: 

Local: Which country?

Kevin: America.

Local: Thank You (and walks away)

 

From the creepy train station (IDGAH) we board the train towards Jaipur.

Weirdly it said it was on time until the minute it was supposed to arrive, and then it was suddenly 1,5 hours late, lost somewhere between Idgah and Cantt, which are approximately 5km apart from each other, however that happens, we don’t know.

At the end the short distance of 240km, which was weirdly supposed to take 4 hours for some reason, took 8 hours. At least we were in a sleeper train, so we got to lie down and sleep for a bit. We only made it to our hostel at 3am instead of 11pm.

 

Learn about the hype of taking pictures with westerners next time and how we got our hands on the original Chai Tea Recipe 🙂

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