Monday, November 10, 2014


The city of Agra itself is quite nondescript and just looks like another blurry traffic-filled suburb of any city in India. Of course nobody really comes to Agra to see the city, they come for one building and it's the only thing you'll hear Tuk Tuk drivers say; "Taj Mahal?"

The madness of India's roads seems to lull me into the most peaceful of sleeps where the only thing to disturb me is the harsh swerving to avoid cattle on the roads. Four hours later we arrived in Agra and after my first taste of a masala dosa we were off to India's pride and joy. Our ticket got us a complimentary bottle of water, a free ride in a battery operated tourist wagon (exhaust fumes ruin the marble so there is a ban on cars in the nearby area) and some foot cosies (really used to cover your feet in a sign of respect or to protect the marble or both! I just enjoyed having my mosquito bites covered up for a while). We passed through airport-like security and you were barely allowed to take anything in so Teddy had to stay at the hotel. A massive storm cloud had been dancing around the sky for most of the day and by this point it had unleashed whatever it was brooding and we might as well have poured our complimentary water over each other - we were soaked. The weather did make for very atmospheric photos with white marble against dark grey clouds and authentically Indian photos with the Taj Mahal and monsoon rain.

Our guide told us the history of the building but as ever I was far too distracted looking at it. It's much smaller than you think and you don't realise there is so much greenery around it but the true difference to photos and real life is when you get up close and see the intricate carvings in the marble. The building is entirely symmetrical on the inside except for the kings body which lies to the side of his "favourite wife" who he built the tomb for - jealously obviously wasn't a factor between women in these polygamous marriages. The rain finally stopped and so we went for a walk around the building, along the river and gardens.

The behaviour of tourists trying to take photos of everything is funny at the best of times but not more so that at the Taj Mahal. It's also homage to the ways of the 21st century where people feel the need to take all kinds of photos of everything (yours truely is one of the major offenders). Here

the biggest queues are not actually those to go inside the Taj Mahal but the one so you can take the profile-picture worthy shot of you with the Taj Mahal on the same bench Princess Diana did. Indian families also differ greatly from British families; where the latter would take one hasty photo of the whole family with everyone blinking and babies crying, Indian families will take hundreds of pictures with every combination of family members looking their finest - this didn't help the patience of any British families who had attempted to create a organised queueing system.