This city certainly didn’t disappoint! We were only stayed for one night, but the things we saw in one day were pretty incredible. We travelled over to Agra from Delhi via train and from what we had previously heard and seen of India’s transport systems it actually wasn’t too bad. It was a 2.5 hour journey, with enough leg room (even for people who are 6ft and above!) with a slightly questionable, but free, vegetarian breakfast. This consisted of something between a potato croquet and a hash brown with exactly three french fries and two peas (it would seem the portion sizes where very specific, as everyone got exactly the same).
The foggy conditions this day meant we could see about 15 feet in front of us, so our tour guide decided it would best if we kept the main event (Taj Mahal) to the afternoon. This meant we spent the morning roaming around the aptly named ‘Agra Fort’. It cost 550 Rand for the entrance to the Agra Fort, which is about £6 ish, which was alright as we pretty much spent the whole morning here. We were greeted by a number of monkeys which were just roaming around the fort. However, we had been warned not to look at them directly in the eyes as they can become viscous! One of the monkeys even enjoyed just the chocolate centre out of a pack of Bourbon biscuits, fussy!
Agra Fort – Once home to the regional Mughal ruler and builder in-chief of the Taj Shah Jahan. Then eventually the seat of power for colonial Britain. This palatial complex has a prime spot over looking the river and grounds which Shah’s masterpiece sits. Well, this would have been spectacular had the fog not thwarted the view for us! The buildings are typically over the top and were obviously built to impress.There was a diamond encrusted Jacuzzi room at one point and living quarters for a 2,000 strong harem. Safe to safe Shah and his decedents weren’t doing too badly. He even got his concubines to play as chess pieces!
Taj Mahal – Luckily, in the afternoon the weather had lifted, just in time for us to go and see what we had been most excited about visiting India for! For some reason, I’m not sure if it was because we were with a group of Westerners, we skipped the rather long queue to enter the Taj Mahal and we were inside within 10 minutes of getting there, which was a bonus! They also scan everyone’s bags, so if you want it to be a quicker process just take your phone/camera as that’s all you’ll need!
The mausoleum took an impressive 20 years and over 20,000 workers to build, all in memory of Shah Jahan’s ‘favourite’ wife. It’s mesmerising to actually see in real life (minus the scaffolding on one of the towers). No matter how good a picture you have seen of this place it will not have done it justice. When you take time to appreciate the craftsmanship and effort that went in to creating the main building and grounds it leaves you in wonder. Every angle, up close or far is spectacular and it allows you to get over the vast number of fellow tourists that you share the view with. This does however make getting that perfect picture in front of it a pretty difficult task. Ten minutes waiting for the opportune moment and we manged to bag a couple we where finally happy with!
We were both a lot more impressed by the outside than in. When you go inside, you’re basically shoved into the central tower and have to scuffle round with impatient locals with no concept of a Great British queue, whilst trying to take in what you can. We did enjoy wearing the paper protective shoes we got given though, the little things! We spent around 2 hours at the Taj Mahal, getting all the pictures we could, as well as trying to avoid having pictures with the locals, as quite obviously white people are fascinating to them! This happened quite often on our trip too, not sure how this would be seen back home!
Visiting the Taj Mahal was definately the highlight of our time spent in India, a day which will never be forgotten!