India - Touch the Taj
Yes - experiencing the Taj Mahal was definitely on our bucket list since many years. Going to Agra was not on that list. But one does not go without the other. As we were already in Vrindavan, it was just a 1 hour drive to Agra. So this time, we took the chance and went to visit the well known symbol of India. But we made our homework well, thankfully.
On different blogs as well as from other travellers we have heard and read horrible stories about accomodation and about scams in Agra. So we spent quite some time looking or a nice guesthouse. And we found a perfect one. It was not a cheapy, more a midrange option. But the price was perfect for what it offered. It was Mohini Homestay. We had a big clean room, a super clean bathroom, no stains on the bedsheets and the towels. It was warm (quite important as the nights can be chilly at this time of the year) and we got a great breakfast and lovely pure veg dinner. Sanjay, gave us some important tips around the city. We did not book anything, no private taxi or rickshaw driver (which is very common here for tourists, as there are too many scams when you want to get a rickshaw on the road). But we knew the prizes thanks to Sanjay....
First morning, with both of us having a strong cold, we slept long. After breakfast we walked to Taj Ganj, the old, busy area around the Taj. Finally we settled on a rooftop of a place, recommanded by the Lonely Planet: Saniya Palace Hotel. How happy we were that we did not have to stay here. After looking at the filthy rooms, the shared bathroom (with squat toilets) and the horribly dirty kitchen (and hey, we are used to a lot of things - but this was awful, with cockroaches and rats running around) we were only going up to the rooftop, had a safe, bottled soda in the cafe just to enjoy our first view of the Taj. And it was lovely. It was sunny, a bit foggy and mysticaly the Taj Mahal, the symbol of love, was right in front of our eyes. Wow! What a beautiful building. But as it was sunday and midday, it was already very crowded.
Therefore, the Taj had to wait another day for our visit. We went down, argued with some rickshaw drivers and finally were on our way to the Agra Fort. If you think, Agra only is the Taj Mahal - wrong! There are so many more stunning things to see. One of them, without any doubt, is the Agra Fort. How big it is! And the architecture and the whole grandeur of this place simply made us speechless. We took a lot of time to wander around and enjoy the silence in the gardens. After, again we had some arguments with the rickshaw drivers, but we found one who took us over the bridge of the Yamuna River on the other side of the city to the Baby Taj. This is also a mausoleum, much smaller in size than the touch, with only few people - but also very beautiful. And it was so peaceful. We enjoyed a small selfmade picnic in the gardens before we made our way to the Metha Bagh - the sunset viewpoint of the Taj Mahal across the river.
The Mehtab Bagh is a nice botanical garden where one can wander around. It reaches the holy Yamuna River. From here you have a wonderful views of the Taj. Unfortunately, it was too foggy and the sun had already disappeared. So we did not have a sunset view. But a very nice view anyway.
The next morning we woke up at 5.30 am and made our way to the entrance gate of the Taj. It was still dark and a bit hard to find the way on our own. But we finally made it. There are some security checks and, as in all sights of Agra, the tourists have to pay about 10 times more than the locals. So it is not a cheap thing to do. But we entered the gardens and here we were: through the fog we could spot the Taj Mahal! A majestic view and, with the fog a mystical view. We took it slowly. There were only few people around at this time of the day. So we could freely walk around without following the crowds. It was wonderful. But it was cold and we were very happy when finally the sun tried to fight the fog. What an amazing light. The Taj Mahal is really beautiful. There are no words to describe the beauty and the detailed work. One must experience it. And even though it is one of the main tourist sites in the world - if you come to the right time it is worth every penny! We were so happy that we finally made our way to the Taj. Our pictures will not do justice to what we really saw. Neither do our words.
There are more things to see in and around Agra. Unfortunately, we did not have more time. Because of some work issues, Markus had to take a flight back to Switzerland (but will be coming back to India after 2 weeks). And Nina decided to head south into the warmer parts of India for a relaxed time on the beach.
So, do not let the horrible stories of Agra keep you away from visiting it. Do your homework and you will have a fabulous stay here! Go and touch the Taj!