I don’t have a bucket list of places I need to see before my eyesight dims; and, if I did, the Taj Mahal (Crowned Palace) wouldn’t have been on it. Nonetheless, if one is in northern India, it would be silly not to make the effort to see one of the wonders of the world and I am very happy that Joan and I made the effort. It is magnificent and if it didn’t bring tears to my eyes, which it did not, it was not for lack of beauty and romance.
Joan and I made two trips to the Taj Mahal during our brief stay in Agra. The first was on Friday evening with Rajesh. We wanted to see it in the waning light of the afternoon and Rajesh took us to a place on the opposite side of the Yamuna River from which to view it. There weren’t too many people there and it was lovely. Lots of large birds soaring around the central dome in the golden light.
Saturday was our day for seeing all the sights of Agra. We had booked an all day tour consisting of a “sunrise viewing of the Taj Mahal” to be followed by a visit to Agra Fort a visit to Fatehpur Sikri and a trip to see the tomb of somebody-or-other. Okay, first let me say that overall the day was very good indeed. Now let me vent a bit about our Taj experience:
As Americans with the need to pin things down ahead of time, we had booked our tour on-line through Viator. Our particular tour had gotten very good reviews, so we felt fairly confident about it. You remember how in previous posts I said that our lack of faith was not well founded, well this is where our blind faith was not well founded.
We were told we would be picked up at 7 am. Our hotel people told us that was far too late for a sunrise viewing. We called our tour folks, expressed our concerns, and arranged to be picked up at 6:30 am. No sooner had Joan hung up the phone than the tour folks called us back and said 6:45 would be plenty early. Joan expressed our very strong desire to be viewing the Taj at sunrise; she was assured it would be so. It was not.
As it turns out we weren’t picked up until 7 and, after hiking at least 3/4s of a mile to get to the entrance, we had to stand in an excruciatingly long line (“high value tickets female”) to go through security (to make certain we weren’t smuggling in any small stuffed animals*). Our guide kept telling us not to worry that the gates don’t open until 6:55 or some such, forgive the French, bullshit. Why, then, we inquired, are there already 24,000 people inside? Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration but not much. He also told us that although most people think the Taj Mahal is the stunning, white tomb, the Taj Mahal is actually the entire complex. I don’t know if he thought that meant that as long as we got to the parking lot by sunrise the company had met its obligations or what but we weren’t buying any of it. Actually, I guess that isn’t true; we bought all of it sight unseen!
After a couple of other little delays, we finally got inside to see the monument. Even with the aggravations of getting there late, the scene was breathtaking. And the early morning light, though not sunrise, was beautiful. The interior of the mausoleum was also incredible with its unbelievably lovely marble inlaid with intricate designs of semi precious stones, gorgeous bas relief work and lacy, carved marble screens.
*I’m very happy I’d gotten a photo of Buster and the TM the night before because you cannot take little stuffed animals into the monument. Toys along with food are prohibited items.