Waking up on the sleeper train at 5:30 am we came to a sudden realisation that we were delayed, which made us wonder what we would be doing for the next 5 hours, considering we were now awake and the bunk beds had officially turned into seats.
Soon we decided it would be best to put some of the beds back together… mostly because I was still exhausted. Once the sun had officially risen we decided it was most probably a reasonable time to get out of bed and have a look out of the windows for any sort of sign of the Taj Mahal. What we didn't realise was the extent that you would be able to see the Taj from the train as it towered above the surrounding greenery.
Alex decided the best view was from the open door of the train and dangled his legs over managing to get amazing views of the red fort and the Taj Mahal in the same shot. These views definitely woke us up and got us excited for the day that was to come.
Once we finally got to Agra we headed straight for some food, as we had barely eaten in the last 24hours due to the sleeper train.
At the restaurant, I surprisingly had an amazing carbonara.
After we had eaten we found that due to the delayed train earlier we barely had time to get changed before our first activity. So we quickly showered and changed at the hotel and head out to the Red Fort, our first stop.
The Red Fort is the famous sister monument of the Taj Mahal as the emperor who lived in the red fort also built the Taj Mahal for his beloved wife who passed away.
Shah Jahan’s grandfather who had previously inhabited the Red Fort liked to have things built out of red sandstone which is why the red fort is built as it is, however, Shah Jahan himself tended to have buildings made of white marble.
Jahan also destroyed some of the earlier buildings inside the fort to make his own out of marble.
The Fort was the place to which Shah Jahan was held by his own son nearer the end of his life as his son wished to become emperor.
His room which we got to see within the fort looked over the Taj Mahal that he had previously built so that he could look out and remember his wife and feel closer to her.
While inside the fort we also got to see where all the different emperors of the countries came and sat to discuss their movements forward.
However, one bench was the kings... but looked different for a reason you might not expect; There was a large cracked hole in it from where the British had launched a cannon and hit the bench and then bounced off into the side of the wall.
Although, they didn't manage to hit anyone as they had probably planned to, as only the bench was damaged.
We then made our way to a viewing point that had an amazing view of the Taj Mahal, which we later learnt to be an optical illusion to make the Taj Mahal look closer to the Red Fort than it actually was, we moved on to the vine gardens that were inside the walls. These gardens held a special meaning for Shah Jahan as it was where he met his wife.
Before the vine gardens had been put into place this area had previously been a market space for women, in which they could roam freely without the gazing eyes of men. Although, Jahan had dressed up as a woman to enter these markets and in doing so he caught the eye of his soon to be wife, Mumtaz Mahal who he later wooed through dates such as fishing. During there fishing dates he was overcome by her level of beauty and always letting her win, being unable to focus while being with her.
Finishing up at the Red Fort we headed towards the Taj Mahal which we were all incredibly excited to see and it did not disappoint.
Once we got the gate entrance the scale of the building itself was overpowering and you couldn't help but stare at it for a considerable amount of time. You could spend hours there and it wouldn’t be long enough to take in all its beauty and (as we did) you can take 500 pictures and you’d still be standing there wanting to take more. Until you visit the building itself you can’t understand the extent of the detail put into the building or the gardens.
Every aspect of the Taj Mahal is made with a love and perfection that may be impossible to find anywhere else as the illustration of Jahan’s and Mahal’s love was the inspiration for such a building.
As we walked into the gardens we were told about how the building and gardens are symmetrical, apart from Shah Jahan’s body as due to his wife being buried in the centre of the building he was buried along side her meaning that the symmetrical architecture was thrown off for his want to be buried next to his favourite wife.
The building itself was mesmerising built from white marble with coloured markings on the building. The grounds is also home to a mosque and a guest house and took around 21 years to build costing about 32 million rupees at the time.
My first stop in the Taj Mahal was to sit on princess Diana’s bench and the weather stayed at a level where the pictures captured are beautiful. We also walked along the ponds that are in place and managed to see the reflections of the Taj Mahal in them.
Having the opportunity to be there for the sunset was truly amazing and added to the experience as a whole, last entry is around 6/7 however if you are in there before that time you are allowed to stay in there longer. I would definitely recommend being there for the sunset if it's possible as the photos you can get will be mesmerising.
When we finally finished looking at this amazing building we headed back to meet our tour guide and then headed back to the hotel. This was the only hotel that had a pool and just with this added in it felt like we were in a completely different city than the crazy one we had just travelled through. We sat down to an amazing dinner and a few drinks. The hotel staff here exceeded our expectations as well, just as many of the other hotels had done as well, as when we asked for a vodka and diet coke which they couldn't supply straight away they went to the market to get us a bottle of vodka instead. These little gestures that are apparent through out the hotel industry, due to their belief that guests are like Gods, takes the stay in India to a level that would be unexpected from such a country. When we had finished eating and had a dip in the pool (The men had a swimming competition) we headed to sleep as we prepared for another early start in the morning.