I’m a sucker for a good list. I am that person who will add something I’ve already done to a list, just so I can cross it off. I love making them, I love reading them. One of my favorite lists is the 7 Wonders of the World, and by extension, the New 7 Wonders of the World. Of the New 7 Wonders, I’ve only been to Chichen Itza in Mexico. So when the chance to go to India came up, I knew I had to see the Taj Mahal. Since returning, I’ve been asked many times, “Is it worth it?” To be honest, this isn’t a question that often enters my mind when traveling. I pretty much want to see and do everything and I find nearly every experience on the road to be “worth it” for some reason or another. But for people who are not me, it’s a fair point. Is dealing with the thousands of tourists and long travel distance to see a one roomed mausoleum really all it’s cracked up to be? My answer is an emphatic “YES!”
The day after our first wedding ceremony in Delhi, one of Nitish’s friend Abishek offered to personally drive us to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. It takes several hours by car, so we got up before sunrise to be ready. We stopped briefly at the Lotus Temple before heading out to find a spare tire for Abishek’s car. His mother insisted that before he drive us all the way to Agra, he get his replaced.
We drove all over Delhi (which is so big, you could drive for an hour and still be in the city) before finally finding an acceptable spare.
As we got on the road, the sun began to come up.
About half way to Agra, we heard a loud pop, and suddenly we were no longer driving straight. Sure enough, we had blown a tire. What are the chances that we would spend all morning searching for a tire on the small chance that this would happen, and it actually did?
Thank goodness for Abishek!! We could have been so stuck out here in what felt like quite literally, the middle of nowhere. While he was changing the tire, he took this moment to explain to us the meaning of Jugaad, a Punjabi word for “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” If Indian’s want something to happen, they make it happen, even if it takes unusual measures to get there. I love this, and I’m pretty sure it’s why we see so many overloaded carts and motorcycles with families of 6 or 7 all packed on.
Soon enough, we’re back on the road and in Agra!
It takes awhile to find parking as it’s incredibly crowded here, but we manage and Abishek finds us a tour guide to take us through the monument. Because we’re foreigners, we pay more, but I think it was about $10. Very reasonable, but considering that India’s pay around $.25, you kind of feel ripped off. But with our more expensive ticket, we get to use the foreigner line, which is hours shorter than the Indian lines. Totally worth the extra money, in my opinion, but Maggie did not like being treated differently, especially by basically cutting the line. I’m pretty sure she got over it.
It takes awhile to get through security, even with our much shortened lines, but finally we make it and walk towards the entrance gate. The entire complex is surrounded by a red sandstone wall with red sandstone gates. We walk the entire length of one of the walls before we finally catch our first glimpse!
I’m so excited to finally stand here and take these shots I’ve seen in books, on TV and of course on the internet.
The Taj Mahal was built in the 1600’s by the Mughal emporer Shah Jahan for his favorite wife. It’s often considered one of the most beautiful monuments to love ever built. It’s entirely made of stone, and every detail you see is inlaid semi-precious and precious stones from all over India. Even the black Arabic caligraphy all over the front and back faces is inlaid jasper and black marble. The attention to detail here is incredible.
We had to put on booties to walk on the marble.
I don’t think I can accurately describe this place, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
The inside is so much smaller than I thought it would be. We walk around the outer wall in a one-way circle, admiring the false tombs (the real tombs are located in a room beneath us which is not open to visitors) and marble lattice work. Unfortunately we aren’t allowed to take pictures of the inside, but I took a this one looking back out.
After our tour of the tomb, we wander around the gardens, admired all the different views of the Taj. It just doesn’t get old.
Finally it’s time to head out. We walk around the craftsman market just outside one of the gates, buying a few souvenirs before driving around Agra briefly and getting ridiculously lost.
We eventually got through the massive rush hour traffic jam, stopped for a pizza at Pizza Hut and got back to our hotel after dark. How people ride in/on vehicles here is crazy.
It was such an amazing day that I’ll never forget. I got to spend the day seeing something that has been on my bucket list for a very long time, and it was as worth it as I possibly could have hoped it to be. Thank you so much to Abishek for putting up with 4 chatty and probably very weird foreign girls and taking the day to show us around. It was so much fun. And if you ever find yourself in India, do yourself a favor and see the Taj Mahal. You won’t regret it!