The Early Bird Gets The Picture Without People In It – The Taj Mahal – Agra, India

Less than a day after getting back to New Delhi, we hit the road again – this time by car, for a three hour drive south to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. We couldn’t come to India and not see this iconic sight. However, we have to admit that we knew very little about the Taj Mahal. It’s a casino in Atlantic City, right?

When we got to Agra we met up with our guide, Monika. She took us to the Agra Fort, a massive walled city built in 1558 to house the king’s palace. We could only visit 30% of the fort, as the other 70% is currently occupied by the military. What we saw was absolutely gorgeous. The walls were covered with plaster carvings. There were jewels inlayed in marble, creating what appeared to be paintings. Monika seemed to know everyone here – with her connections and a small bribe, we were rushed through a locked gate into the royal dressing room, or “Sheesh Mahal” which translates to Glass Palace. The room was adorned by tiny mirror-like glass-mosaic decorations all over the walls. The man who let us in lit a few candles and waved them around the room, which made the walls sparkle. This was by far the fanciest bathroom we had ever seen!

Agra Fort overlooks the Taj Mahal from a distance, so we were able to catch a few glimpses of it. With thousands of people visiting each day, we decided it would be best to go first thing the next morning. We made it an early night, and left the hotel at 5am so we could be at the Taj Mahal at sunrise. You can’t actually see the sunrise at the Taj Mahal – the gates open at the exact time the sun rises so you miss it. However, getting there this early means you get to see it without the crowds.

We entered the grounds of the Taj Mahal with about 20 other people. Even though it was a very small crowd, there was still a dash through the gardens to start the picture taking. We were able to snap the iconic photo from the pool (which sadly was empty to be cleaned) with nobody in front of us. While the other people stayed to get the perfect shot, we continued on and went inside, where we had the place completely to ourselves. Pictures aren’t allowed to be taken inside because it’s a mausoleum, but take our word for it – it’s impressive, gorgeous, magnificent, extravagant…we could go on. It was built with so much thought, precision, and care. Everything is perfectly symmetrical. There are optical illusions built into the walls. Jewels are inlayed in the marble to create mosaics. And everything was carved from and built with huge marble slabs, all by hand.

Our guide in Varanasi told us we wouldn’t be able to speak when we entered the Taj Mahal, because the only word that would come out of our mouths would be “wow.” He was right, the Taj Mahal was spectacular! And then just like we did in Varanasi, less than 24 hours after arriving, we were on the road back to New Delhi. It’s almost time to go!