After a very early wake up call, a mad dash to pack the last of our things and zip our backpacks up, a rikshaw ride in the cool before the crack of dawn, and quick train trip, we arrived in Agra. It was early afternoon when we arrived, and the temperature was in the high 30's and although I'm Australian, I was feeling the heat. It's amazing how the same temperature feels incredibly different in another place. We set our air con to ice cold and chilled out.
After an incredible home cooked meal (the advantage of staying at a home-stay) we headed out in the afternoon sun to explore The Red Fort. The Red Fort is cool - but most people visit for the view across the river. We sat, people watching and gazing across the river to at The Taj Mahal for a while, before heading into Taj Ganj (the town surrounding the site) for dinner at a rooftop restaurant. We watched the sun set behind The Taj Mahal and it all felt a little unreal.
We got up early the next morning, hoping to catch the sun rise, but unfortunately we got up just a tad late - it was already light when we opened our hotel room door. However, the dirty silver lining of India was that the sun hadn't quite made it up past the smog so we did get to see a sunrise. After a few snaps from a rooftop restaurant and a quick chai, we headed to the site, bought our tickets, and followed a big group of locals through the gates.
I've been sitting here for hours trying to write the next part of this post, but I'm struggling to put into words how I felt when I stepped through the Darwaza-i rauza and saw The Taj Mahal. It's breathtaking, and I think all I could say was 'oh wow', no picture will ever do it justice. We wandered around the gardens, snapping from every imaginable angle, doing star jumps and taking the cliche snaps. We swapped out flip flops for little feet covers - to protect the marble that surrounds the mausoleum - and took the local route (it goes around the back of the mausoleum) onto the white marble. The closer that you get to the Taj, the more surreal and incredible it is. It's enormous - my travel buddy took a picture of me (I'll post his pictures in a separate blog post soon) standing next to it and I'm a tiny speck in the picture. Once we'd had a good wander around the outside of the building we headed into the mausoleum itself, and jostled for a look at the tombs. Photographs aren't allowed inside the mausoleum - although this doesn't stop Indian tourists - so I don't have any pictures, but it's just as impressive as the outside - ornately decorated white marble, light catching the ruby red pieces set into the marble, and an eerie silence broken by the hushed whispers of guides.
We headed back into the gardens and after once last look we headed off to into Taj Ganj for a quick samosa and then to the train station to book one last train - to Delhi.