Day 8 – Agra
Our overnight train from Varanasi is delayed so we don’t arrive until closer to midday. Delays are fairly common so it’s handy to have a supply of food just in case, as you might not know when you’ll next be eating. Unlike our previous train journey which served a breakfast option, this train does not, so we are both famished. We take a short ride in an auto-rickshaw to our hotel which is the Seven Hills Tower, and I am pretty impressed. Kevin has decided to splash out on two
nights of ‘flashpacking’ (basically swapping the cheap hostels for something a little more fancy) for my 27th birthday. There is also the possibility to do a day visit to Agra from New Delhi if you are tight on time, as there are various trains running daily between the two cities. It’s such a nice luxury to have our own room with a huge king-size bed, a TV, amazing AC, and there’s even a rooftop pool. We spend my birthday by the pool with a few Kingfishers beers. I was certainly in need of one of these days, simply recharging from the travelling and the constant hustle & bustle that India throws at you.
The hotel has a rooftop restaurant too with a varied menu so we head there for dinner. A full Indian feast is served and it is delicious, a perfect way to end my birthday, I guess 27 isn’t too bad after all!
Day 9 – Agra
Today has definitely been one of the highlights of the trip so far for me. An early start and a 5 minute rickshaw ride takes us to the Westgate of the Taj Mahal. The sun is yet to rise so its still quite dark as we walk towards the ticket booth, where the tourists are already starting to arrive. As expected, yet another crazy difference in ticket prices, 1000 INR for foreigners and 40 INR for Indian nationals! Something that would be highly discriminatory if enforced back home in the U.K.
Upon purchasing our expensive ticket you receive a free bottle of water and a pair of shoe covers to use in certain areas. When visiting the Taj Mahal, I would recommend taking as little as possible; camera, sunglasses, sunscreen if visiting during the day and maybe something light to keep you warm if visiting during the early morning hours for the sunrise. The more you take, the more likely the staff will ask you to put your bag in a locker which is a 10 minute walk from the main entrance and you will be charged 20 INR too which is what happened to us! Thankfully this doesn’t cut too much into us managing to get through the gates before the sun rises.
As we walk through the main archway entrance, the spectacular site comes into view. It’s quite a surreal feeling to actually see the Taj Mahal in person, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. There is an option to have a guide show you around, however if choosing to do so make sure to prearrange, or else you may end up with an unregistered guide who may charge a much higher price than a genuine guide.
There are so many photo opportunities so take advantage whilst enjoying the beautiful surroundings. Unfortunately you have to be lucky to get a snap without the crowds of people getting in the way, just like the iconic photograph of Princess Diana back in 1992 who didn’t have that same problem.
After a few hours of admiring the Taj Mahal we visit the Agra Fort before the midday heat kicks in. If you decide to visit both attractions, it’s useful to keep hold of the entry ticket from the Taj Mahal as it allows a small discount on the ticket price of 50 INR.
The sky still appears misty, possibly due to a blanket of pollution, and in the nearby distance the Taj Mahal looks even brighter and exactly how it looks on photographs. We decide to spend the rest of the day making the most of the pool before heading back to true backpacking life.
Find out what we got up to at our next destination here.
Have you ever visited the Taj Mahal? What do you think about the huge difference in ticket prices? We would love to hear about your thoughts & experiences!
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