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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 20: A visit to the Taj Mahal

INDIA | Sunday, 25 November 2007 | Views [752] | Comments [3]

Sunday 25th November

Thankfully my ticket on the 6am train to Agra - home of the Taj Mahal - was for a sleeper carriage, so I was able to get some more shut-eye after a 4.30am start. The journey was 3.5 hours south of Delhi, to the town in the west of the state of Uttar Pradesh. Although this is only the third train that I have taken in India, I am already a big fan of the service, punctuality and value that these trains offer, especially for tourists like me. Although meals were not included in the price of this ticket, a breakfast of an ommelette sandwich - for that is what it was - cost 20Rs, and quite tasty it was too. 'Tea boys' regularly walk through the carriages offering cheap cups of 'chai' and coffee. So, it's a very comfortable way to travel, making long journeys much more bearable, especially when compared to the buses. We were also provided with pillows, sheets and blankets to put out on the fold-out beds which hang from the coach walls.

Once in Agra, I had little difficulty in getting a room at a good budget hotel called the Tourist Rest Hotel; it's clean, friendly and isolated from the noise of the road out front and they do come god, cheap food. It seems a very popular place with other non-Indian places.

After a quick shower and some food, I took a rickshaw to the Taj Mahal. My expectations for the TM were fairly low, anticipating a let-down on a Giants Causeway scale of disappointment (apologies to anyone involved with the NI Tourist Board and the folk from the Antrim coast, but you have to admit it's shite!). The throngs of people and con-men at the entrance didn't do much to create a more positive opinion in my mind.

However, I have to admit, to my surprise, that it deserves all of the plaudits it receives. The first sight of the marble building, from a tower gateway in front, is outstanding. It looks like the most intricate of models in the distance, perched high on the horizon and gleaming in the sunlight. With the gardens and water features surrounding it - not to mention the two red sandstone buildings on either flank, both of which are impressive in their own right - it really is stunning.

Despite the crowds, there is enough space around the building to chill out and just enjoy the view, especially so in the huge shaded parts of the area directly surrounding it. I took a load of photos, and was once again asked by several groups of people to have their picture taken with me! I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a snap for myself, to keep a record of the genuinely nice (and curious) people you meet when they are not in it take make a quick buck from you.

The colours and shading of the Taj Mahal, in its northerly setting, alter quite rapidly with the changing sun, and they say that the early mornings and late evenings are the best times to see it. I can imagine this to be the case, but I didn't feel the need to hang around for another few hours to see it in a different light. Even up to the last minute, I was taking shots, happy that the view had made a greater impact than I had anticipated. It's always good when that happens.

It was a good thing that I was satisfied as I felt the 750Rs that foreigners have to pay was steep in the context of Indian prices, but relatively great value for money. An admission into similar monuments in Europe of the US would no doubt cost considerably more (and I ain't talking about Buckingham Palace or any other third rate place like that).

Also included in the ticket - or so I thought - was entry into the Agra Fort. However, after waiting in two different queues (due to the usual lack of information indicating what you need to do to get into these places) I was told to go back to the ticket office and fork out an extra 250Rs. Sod that, I thought, now they're just taking the piss!

I had come to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and really enjoyed the experience, so I wasn't about to fork out the equivalent of three nights accommodation to see that and the Fort in one day, particularly as the Fort would only act as a come down. I went back to the hotel to chill out for the evening, a much better way to round off what had been a very good day.

Tags: Sightseeing




Right - hold on a freaking minute McMahon!
To be clear, the Giant's Causeway is truly the 8th wonder of the world and is a national treasure that has the added benefit of being barely a stone's throw from the jewel of the northern riviera - Ballycastle.
Ma McCaughan has officially revoked your "Welcome Any Time" pass.

  Pete Nov 26, 2007 6:36 AM


Mmm... come god? Sounds like you've been watching more than Bollywood films over there!!!

  Donal Nov 26, 2007 10:06 AM


Further to Pete's point you will be telling us next that you have found a high elevation eating establishment higher than the Ponderosa there in the Himalayas. Unlikely. NOTHING breaks up the journey between Derry and Belfast better than a wee cup of tea in Ireland's highest pub.

  Dave Nov 27, 2007 8:31 AM

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