My Return To India – Part 4: A Day Trip To The Taj Mahal
I got a huge surprise on Monday when the company that I am working for this week sent me on a trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra. I wasn’t expecting this but I got a hint that it might happen when I was asked to be in the hotel lobby wearing “comfortable shoes” which implied that I was going to do something that required walking.
Now Agra is a 3.5 hour drive from Gurgaon. Two hours of that is simply driving from Gurgaon through New Delhi as the traffic is insane. To give you an idea of how insane, here’s a few pictures and videos taken with the Nikon D3300 (in fact, all the pictures and videos in this article are taken with the Nikon D3300). For starters, here’s a video of the drive between Gurgaon and New Delhi. Keep in mind that people drive on the left hand side like they do in the UK. It’s a two lane highway where people can cross over to the opposite lane at will. Sometimes that can make for some “interesting” situations as evidenced by this video (which is by the way shot in 1080p at 60 fps):
It’s a good thing that I had a local driver to take me there and back as there is no way that I would drive in this place.
Along the way, we ran into cows in the street just walking around. Cows are a sacred animal here in India, so they pretty much can do anything they want to and go anywhere they want to:
Here’s another video of the traffic in Delhi:
Insane isn’t it. In fact, during our journey through New Delhi, we had a low speed accident with a motorcycle. Nobody was hurt, but my driver got into an argument with the motorcyclist and a police officer had to intervene.
Once we were out of New Delhi, we went on an expressway that took us direct to Agra. It is a toll road that goes past the Formula 1 racetrack as well as the national cricket oval and has very little traffic on it. However, you get about 90 minutes of this sort of scenery with very little traffic:
You go past a lot of agriculture and it is really interesting to see. Eventually, you get to Agra where you’re back to this sort of traffic:
Now once we were arrived in Agra, we picked up a tour guide. The upside to this is that it really enriches the experience at the Taj Mahal. The downside is that they will take you to local stores who will try to get you to buy everything from trinkets to rugs. I’m sure that the guides get a cut of anything that tourists buy. Another thing to watch out for when you park your car to get into the electric vehicles that take you to the gates of the Taj Mahal are the “hawkers” who are selling very cheap trinkets in a very aggressive manner. You’ll also see people begging for money which is sad because I don’t think you should have to be reduced to doing that to survive.
The entrance fee to get into the Taj Mahal for foreign tourists is 1000 INR and includes a bottled water which you will need if you are coming in the summer. The day that I was there, the temperature was 38 degrees celsius and it was close to 100% humidity.
You’ll go through the west, east or south gates to get onto the grounds. But once you’re on the grounds, you’ll go through the north gate to get to the Taj Mahal:
If you look closely, you’ll see the Arabic script and the artwork:
If you look through the gate, you’ll see Taj Mahal:
And when you walk through the gate, here’s what you’ll see:
The reason why you see scaffolding is due to the fact that the Indian Government is doing restoration work to remove the effects of pollution. That way you can see the incredible amounts of detail such as this:
In fact, any sort of pollution causing industry has been banned in this city. To replace that industry, the Indian Government gives tax breaks to industries that do things who make handmade goods. There are two other buildings on the site. They both look almost identical to this one:
They are on the left and the right of the Taj Mahal. The one on the left is a working mosque. The building on the right might have been a guest house. The picture above is the building on the right.
Now I don’t have any pictures inside the Taj Mahal as pictures inside it are forbidden. But it is very impressive. In fact, the entire site is impressive from the buildings to the gardens. It’s easy to see why it is one of the seven wonders of the world. Don’t forget to go to the back of the Taj Mahal as you’ll get a great view of Agra and the Agra Fort.
I’m glad that I had the opportunity to go to the Taj Mahal and if you go to India, I encourage you to go if you can. It is totally worth it. For the rest of the week, I’ll be hard at work and I hope to have some updates for you over the next few days.