I’d never seen a wonder of the world before, or as Simon so romantically called it ‘A big gaffe for a dead bird’, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when we decided to make the trip to Agra yesterday. It’s always so hyped up – when you think of India you more often than not picture the Taj right? – so I wondered if it would be like when people think of England and think of red telephone boxes. You’re so excited and then you get there, take your picture with it and realise it’s just another phonebox, with a gazillion other phoneboxes in the world. I’m pleased to say however that the Taj isn’t like that, far from it.
Note, I had my reservations about this trip but for anyone who visits India and doubts whether its worth visiting or not, do it. To be fair I’d already had many warnings about Agra in advance, most running along the lines of “get in, see the Taj and get the hell out”, so both of us were ready for a day of tout-bashing, “nai”-ing and general headshaking and hand-waving before we’d even set off (6am departure – sigh!) but personally it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. I expected the place to put the Agra in ‘aggravated’ (see what I did guys?! Okay so not quite there but phonetically it works) but to be honest it was no better or worse than most of the other tourists hotspots I’d been. Arguably it was much more organised in many respects, with electric transport to the Taj Mahal included in the general ticket and security on the ground to keep everything ticking over, the only real annoyance being the heavy fog that had decided to settle in for the day. We even managed to have a bit of banter with the many ad-hoc guides that tried to latch onto us, the best claim having to be “I’ll tell you more than Google ever will” to which Simon sarcastically replied; “I don’t need Google mate, I’m just massively intelligent”, to which even he had to laugh. Of course there were lots of touts there, these tourist places naturally breed them, and it can be very upsetting to see lots of beggars, but don’t let it intimidate you out of visiting as it’s a definite must-do whilst on the Indian Subcontinent.
So, how did the real thing measure up to the masses of postcards, photographs, posters and movie backdrops featuring the white minarets of the Taj? Perfectly. I have no doubt that the Mughal Emperor that built it was clearly a mentalist (if someone loved you that much today you’d probably get a restraining order against them) but the fine line between genius and insanity here is evident. The symmetrical landscaping and architecture means that from every angle your eye is drawn straight into its centre, the long rectangular fountains lined with trees intuitively drawing your focus to its huge white marble dome. Only one building I’ve ever known has even come close to it in my mind, also an Indian creation, the huge sandstone façade of Umaid Bhawan at night, and even then the Taj has to be the clear winner. Sorry England, but your castles ain’t got nothing on India. Anyway I could sit and talk about how it looked all day, but pictures speak a thousand words, so I’ll let you decide (note the fog – grr!).
After the Taj, we decided to visit Agra Fort too, another Mughal creation. My camera decided to run out of battery half way through (too many Taj jumping pics I suspect) so you can’t quite get the same idea, but here goes.
The trip to Agra was a long day – beginning at 6am and getting back to the hotel for 10.30pm – but one which was well worth it. I strongly recommend a visit for anyone travelling in India!
Over and out Amigos,
ps. If you noted a lack of imaginative captions or titles, its because the beach in Palolem is waiting for me. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay. This place is like heaven on earth (next post).