After our friend Judy’s successful arrival from New York via London to Delhi we hopped on a train to Agra. As Judy pointed out cows, rickshaws, garbage, and other Indian anomalies that Manor and I had grown used to we were reminded again how bizarre and fascinating India can be!
We didn’t get to Agra until the evening and we planned to go to the Taj Mahal at sunrise so we decided to take it easy and ate dinner at our guesthouse and attempted to go to sleep early. That plan was foiled when a rowdy group of Brits decided to drink three bottles of vodka and get into a huge fight. Ah, low-budget traveling.
We did still manage to wake up before sunrise and made the trek to the south gate of the Taj, the only one that opens at sunrise. We were determined to be one of the first people in so we could have the Taj somewhat to ourselves. Although there wasn’t much of a sunrise as it was overcast and it even drizzled briefly, our early rise paid off when we stood in front of the truly magical love letter that is the Taj Mahal.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I can confidently say that seeing pictures of the famous mausoleum in no way measures up to the real thing. The perfection and symmetry are beautiful and the magnitude of it is simply astonishing. This was Manor’s second time seeing it and he reported that he was no less impressed.
We took our time walking around all four sides and inside and although there were of course some people there with us, when we left there were hordes and hordes coming in. Waking up early definitely pays off! Plus, we got to see this awesome couple:
After some breakfast we returned to our guesthouse for a much-needed nap before heading off to the Agra Fort in the afternoon. As previously mentioned, I was unimpressed with the Red Fort in Delhi, so I wasn’t sure if the Agra Fort would excite me at all, but I was pleasantly surprised.
When we first entered it seemed like we could only see one small part of it, but a small staircase in the back of one of the pavilions opens out onto a huge area of many more pavilions and structures, as well as balconies with views of the Taj Mahal and some beautiful wall engravings. We easily spent several hours there and probably could have spent several more. But alas, evening was approaching and we still had one more sight to see: the Baby Taj.
We had seen the Mini Taj in Aurangabad and we had seen the Taj Mahal this morning, so of course we had to complete the trifecta and see the Baby Taj! And what a cute name! The Baby Taj, known as an inspiration of the Taj Mahal, is officially known as the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah and the man buried there, Mirzā Ghiyās Beg, is the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal, who is buried in the Taj Mahal. It is similar to the Taj Mahal in terms of symmetry and style, but the Baby Taj’s main building is covered with gorgeous floral inlay work. It’s much smaller than the Taj and we perused the grounds in about a half hour. If you have the time, I definitely recommend checking it out. Agra has so much more to offer than just the Taj Mahal!
As darkness fell we headed back to our hotel for some rest and dinner before getting on the overnight train to Jodhpur. We unfortunately didn’t spend any time in Jodhpur, but instead hopped on a bus directly to the desert fortress town of Jaisalmer.