The Taj Mahal
Located in Agra
A sight that is awe inspiring and will not disappoint
Agra is the where the Taj is located and this is the dirtiest most unappealing town we visited. The area leading to the Taj was smelly and the street vendors here incredibly persistent. If people just arrived in from a cruise ship and just saw the Taj and Agra, their impression of India would not be good. So many times you get to see a sight that you have built-up in your mind only to be disappointed. This is not so with the Taj Mahal. It is a magnificent structure. I loved it and just could not stop looking at the Taj.
It is worth getting up in time to visit the Taj when it opens at 6:00 am. As the sun rises it was amazing how the colors of the marble changed. It is nice and cool early in the morning and there are also very few people here at this time so it makes the whole experience much more pleasant. For the picture at left, I am sitting in the same spot where Princess Diana sat and had her picture taken. See how few people are here early in the morning.
You cannot drive right up to the Taj Mahal entrance in a car or bus. The hotel in which we stayed The Oberoi Amarvilas is only 600 metters from the entrance and if you are a registered guest they will take you to the entrance in a golf cart. These run back and forth and there is a man at the entrance to the Taj that radios ahead if they need a cart to come and get you. The other hotels are serviced by small battery operated vans. The shuttle is free but the drivers do expect a tip.
Once you are at the Taj there is fairly tight security. There is a line for women and a line for men as they will pat you down. They do not allow anything but cameras, so no video cameras are allowed. They are also very serious about anything that could be used to scratch the monument, so they search every bag. I strongly suggest you take the absolute bare minimum with you when you go. The line you encounter will be very dependent on how many are in front of you and how much they all carry. There are bathrooms here but the ladies is eastern style. The bathroom will be on your right as you enter. I do suggest you take care of this prior to coming to the monument. With your entrance ticket, you will be given a bottle of water and covers for your shoes. These must be placed on your shoes prior to entering the monument.
Once inside, you pass through a gateway. If you stand directly in the middle and walk it is very interesting as the Taj seems to be coming directly to you. Once you pass through this gate, there is a wonderful camera shot right in the middle of the reflecting pool. If you kneel down here, this makes for a better shot. On both sides, there are gardens and the entire area is beautifully maintained. All the way down the views are wonderful as you get closer to the monument. There is a raised area past the pool with benches. The first bench in the middle you come to is where all the VIPís sit to have their picture taken. The bench at the front to the right is where Princess Diana sat for her picture at the Taj. These are of course very popular for pictures.
The inside is not very large and your guide will explain the two tombs and show you the places to look to see the exquisite workmanship up close.