Like everyone else who goes there, we were all headed to Agra for one thing: The Taj. Waking up around 8 and a little rusty, we showered and waited for the others to wake up so that we could head for breakfast and the bus together.
Finally everyone was ready, and after a quick breakfast and chai from the nearest open store we were on our way to the bus. The bus stop was like many in India, super confusing with people telling you any number of things about where to find your bus. We all kept asking and thankfully within 15 minutes we were able to find a bus yelling for passengers to Agra. We all piled on and were pleasantly surprised to find it cost less than we had been quoted, only 6 dollars per person for the whole way there.
The bus ride went smoothly, taking the most direct route possible and therefore not only proving to be cheaper than what we had been quoted, but also over 2 hours faster! While none of us were staying in the same hostels, we were all thankfully staying within 50metres of each other so we split into two Tuk Tuks upon arrival and headed swiftly to our accomodation.
Stu and I decided with Alex that we would all get up early and meet to to go the Taj at 5.45 the next morning, so Stu and I figured we would spend the afternoon just taking a look around the town and the surroundings of the Taj. On our way out we saw Theo________, so we changed our plans and joined him and the group he had just met at his hostel to go and take a boat to see the Taj from its east side.
When we got down to the ‘river’ it was quite a sight. One guy on a rickety wooden flat top boat amidst a sea of rubbish and sludge, so thick that the water looked as if you could walk over it and it would hold your weight.
Undeterred, we boarded the guys boat for 100 ruppees each to catch the Taj from its side as the sun set. It was well worth the two dollars to see it. The sun caught the Taj in a way that made it sparkle and seeing it from the water was just something different to what many others experience. The driver of the boat was also super chilled and he joked and laughter with us as he told us about his life in Agra and what he knew about the Taj.
After getting off the boat we headed into the town to hunt down a place for dinner. We had heard that ‘treat’ restaurant was really good and had a nice little rooftop that you could sit on which was perfect for people watching while you ate. We were met by a lovely middle aged man who took us up the stairs and gave us a few recommendations. We settled on the the two local specialty dishes and had a dessert of coconut pudding and chocolate pudding which we mixed together to create potentially the nicest dessert I’ve had to date. The food was great and the price was very reasonable. Full and with the knowledge that we needed to be up super early the next morning, we headed back to the hostel for a shower and some shut eye.
The night was an interesting one. Everyone in our dorm was planning an early morning like ours, so by 11 the dorm was quiet. We all managed to get to sleep relatively quickly and the cooling in the room made it easy to stay that way. The problem came around 230am when a hostel worker barged in, turned on all the lights, checked beds and left. 20mins later he was back, lights once again all on. Someone came to claim the free bed and too a good 20 to settle in. This same person then asked for a wake up call at 5am! Needless to say. sleep was relatively interrupted in those wee hours, making our 530am get up even harder.
Nevertheless we got up, dressed quietly and left the room as quickly as possible to leave others catch a little more shut eye. We got downstairs just as Alex did and soo we were headed towards the Taj.
We all smiled at each other as we jumped in line; only 10 people where in front of us. But then we spotted something… they all had tickets! I asked the guy in front of me where they had got those from, and to our horror he said the ticket office was actually down near where our hostel was; you couldn’t buy tickets on the door.
We felt gutted.
Instead of panic, we walked at close to a jog back to the ticket office. When we got there it seemed ok from the outside… but inside was only one attendant and a line almost 100 deep. The boys lined up and i waited outside, watching as the sun started to rise on what was going to be a hot but beautiful day in Agra.
It took over half an hour, but finally the boys had tickets and we jumped in a Tuk Tuk in the hope of getting back faster. As we got back though we saw another sight set to gut us – the line was now a good 100 people deep and moving at snail pace. As with everything in India, men and women had to undergo seperate security checks and this meant that while Stu was in within half an hour, I took a full hour just to get inside the gate.
Feeling frustrated I got inside the walls of the complex around 830 – over two hours after our scheduled arrival. But if there is something that will be able to make you shake off any negative energy, its the Taj and as soon as I set eyes on it any issues from the morning dissolved into the background.
The place is genuinely breath taking. It lived up to all I had imagined plus some. There’s really not much I can say to really do this place justice. It is just the kid of place you need to go and be in the presence of to truly appreciate.
We took our time, wandering around and taking it in from every vantage point. Of course, we also took a tonne of photos. I’ll spare you the whole photo reel, but her is a few…
After taking in the Taj one last time, we headed for lunch and then to the bus stand to catch the next bus to Delhi.