As we left Jaipur for Agra I could barely contain my excitement as we were heading to the home of the Taj Mahal. One of the worlds most iconic buildings and Indias tourist hotspot was something I couldn’t wait to see.
The drive from Jaipur to Agra took about seven hours which was longer than expected. The delay was made up for when we stopped at the “Monkey Temple”, at Galta. It is called the monkey temple due to the hundreds of monkeys that run around the grounds. As we walked in we saw many cheeky critters with their babies eating nuts and bananas (that you can feed them for a small price) but as we continued up to the temple we realised there was much more to the temple than monkeys. The temple is the final stop for many Indians at the end of a religious pilgrammage and we found many of them bathing in the waters and praying at the statues in the grounds. It was a pit stop worth making us late for.
When we finally got to Agra it was a bit too late to see the Taj Mahal so we decided to get up and visit it at sunrise the next day. Not to be deterred from seeing it, we decided to visit the Taj Ganj area which is home to tiny weaving backstreets filled with shops, food stalls but most importantly for us restaurants with Taj views. We found a cute little place and head up the stairs where we got our first glimpse of the famous building. As they don’t light it up at night all we could see was the outline against the black sky. It still took my breath away!
The next morning we were up at 5am to see the sunrise over the Taj Mahal as it is famous for its pink glow, however unfortunately for us it was a hazy morning so it wasn’t as spectacular as we had hoped. That said, the Taj Mahal is truly incredible. No picture I have ever seen has done it justice and I was so happy finally being able to see it. After many obligatory touristy photos – including one of me touching the top and James jumping – while fighting the crowds of tourists doing the same, we made our way inside the monument.
To get inside you had to wear little booties over your shoes, this protects the white marble stone and also saves our shoes from getting stolen. Inside you can see a replica of the tomb the mausoleum was built for. Its romantic to think one man built such a beautiful place because he loved his wife so much. I kind of felt bad for his other two wives that were buried in red brick buildings on the outskirts of the grounds. There is nothing behind the Taj Mahal except for a river and fields full of buffalo, which makes the area pretty untouched by the rest of the city.
After we had our fill of the Taj, we headed over to Agras other main tourist attraction – Agra Fort. To be honest, by this stage we were a little over forts so we weren’t exactly rushing to see it but once we got there and had a look around we realized it was probably one of the best we had seen. It had plenty to look at with many different terraces, rooms, gardens and walkways. With views of the river and the Taj in the distance we spent a good hour or so wandering around. We spent a lot of time people watching and it seemed that just as many people were watching us. We sat on a ledge in the shade for a few minutes and had requests from three different groups for photos. One family even made their son sit between us and hold our hands. It wasn’t the first time we had been papped as we had seen many people photographing us before – I now feel kind of famous.
Apart from a quick wander through the local bazaar and bartering over some bracelets (my bartering skills are rubbish but I’m getting better with practice) we were finished with Agra and its stifiling heat. I was sure there was much more to see, but after a week in three busy cities I was looking forward to visiting a smaller place as we were heading to Khaljarho. We just had to survive our first overnight train experience!