The Travelling Teacher: The one and only, Taj Mahal
What’s it all about?
In my last blog I visited two very beautiful but very different locations. I was surrounded by sand in Pushkar and most of my time in Jaipur was spent visiting the many wonderful forts.
This week is very different! I’d always heard of the Taj Mahal but never actually known where it was in India. Agra, that’s where and that’s where this week’s blog will be all about. So, if you want to hear about my experience, read on!
Similar to how we got to Pushkar and Jaipur, we used a taxi service to make the journey from Jaipur to Agra. This took around 4 hours to get there. Again on route, wherever there was a toll there were often beggars. At one of the tolls a small boy came up to our window with an instrument that had been made out of wire and sticks.
This drive was plentiful in terms of things to see. We saw such a variety of sights from goats being herded across big main roads, to monkeys on leashes and small girls playing cats cradle. Having not seen many women working whilst in India, I was surprised to see women as labourers on the work sites we passed. On the building sites the women would have sticks on their head and would be carrying bowls with rubble or building materials in.
Christmas in India
It was no coincidence we were here for Christmas. Being away from our families, which for me was the first year of my 27 years that I had ever spent a Christmas away, we wanted to make it special. What could be more spectacular than seeing one of the most famous, beautiful sites in the world?! I had some worries though, as I hadn’t really seen any Christmas related objects during our travels and had only seen the odd thing when we passed a mall.
Our first hotel was lacking in a Christmasy feel. Now I do have to admit, I adore Christmas – it’s my favourite time of year! So, I had high expectations. Being disappointed by the bare tinsel in the lobby we decided to move to a different hotel. And oh boy, this next one had Christmas everywhere.
Hotel number 2 was set on a much larger piece of land, and was even closer to the Taj Mahal and even had a gated entry. When we entered the hotel forecourt there were ice sculptures and pretend snow men. This was a good sign for me. Upon entry there were beautiful decorations inside and even a pretend gingerbread house which was filled with delectable (but expensive) cakes and pastries. To top all this off there was Christmas music! Nothing puts me quite in the spirit like a good old Christmas tune. The only disappointing thing was that they had served Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve and as we had arrived on Christmas Day, that would not be on the menu.
Sticking to traditional Christmas traditions we made the most of the mini bar snacks, used the Wi-Fi to watch some Christmas classics (including some of my favs – like Elf!) and enjoyed being tucked up in bed with the Christmas spirit around us….as well as being surrounded by food!
Taj Mahal: Getting inside
Now I kind of naively thought you just walked on down there and it was as easy as that but you have to get transport there. To get our transport we headed to Gate 3, which was a mere few minutes from our accommodation.
In a big to protect the Taj Mahal from further pollution, motor vehicles are not allowed within 500m of the complex. When you get there you then have a walk down to the main entry gate. At the gate you need to purchase your tickets before you can enter. It was around 1000 rupees for the two of us which is around 11 British Pounds. There was a massive queue for people paying with cash and luckily, we were paying by card so we went straight to the front with no waiting. You then go to another area where you collect your free bottle of drinking water, which is for foreigners only, and your shoe covers. In this same area you will find the baggage storage. It’s important to remember the area you are in as you’ll need to leave from the correct exit so it’s easier to retrieve your things. As they search your bags on entry and they are very strict, I would recommend taking as few belongings in as possible.
***TOP TIP*** Pay by card to avoid any queues and make a note of the gate you are entering so you can easily go back and collect your belongings.
As you queue up to enter the gate there are different queues for foreigners and if it’s as busy as the day we went, it can be very confusing. The women and the men also have to go through separately. Be warned this part isn’t a great experience as people are very excited and it can get a bit pushy.
It’s not over once you’re through the gate. You are given a body scan and then your bag is completely emptied. You’re not allowed all sorts of things so no gum, no books….they almost took away my first aid book. Here’s a few of the items that aren’t allowed in:
Large bags in
Generally video cameras are not allowed.
Anything edible – including sweets
Mobile chargers or electrical items – iPad etc.
The women’s queue seemed to go much quicker and there was a massive gathering of women waiting for their men and the security here kept blowing their whistles to get people to move on.
Taj Mahal: Such beauty!
The name itself, Taj Mahal, translate as ‘Crown of the Palace’, how apt for this ivory-white marble mausoleum. It is busy here but this place is something else! It’s so beautiful! There are gardens in front of the Taj Mahal with some fountains. For all of the things to see there are different lines for the foreigners to queue in. Whilst in the queue for the Taj Mahal you have to put on the shoe covers.
You are able to walk around the tomb, which was commissioned by Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is very clear that she was his favourite wife as this 17-acre complex has a mosque, a quest house and gardens all with the tomb as its centrepiece. Rumour has it that this place cost around 58 million rupees to build. In addition to this, this labour of love took around 14 years until it was completed. Her tomb is also surrounded by a carved marble screen which has been carefully decorated with semi-precious stones. Photography is strictly forbidden in here so it’s a great chance to really take it all in. It’s a great example of Mughal architecture (Indo-Islamic architecture) and is even regarded as one of the best examples of this. In 2007 this place was declared a winner of the New 7 Wonders of the World – wowzer!
What’s it like to work here?
The internet was average here. In our first hotel the connection speed was pretty poor and then in our second, even though this was a luxury hotel, the connection was limited at times. Luckily it was the Christmas period, so for me, work was the last thing on my mind and as I only spent a few days here I could do my basic office work. However, if you plan on spending longer here I would definitely recommend you purchasing a local sim-card and checking with your accommodation their internet speed prior to your stay.
What’s up next?
What’s in next week’s blog? Well, it’s not quite the Taj Mahal but it is very well known – Delhi. I’ll be telling you about the few days I spent here as well as my plans to go to the beautiful Havelock Island. I hadn’t heard of this place before but it is compared with places like the Maldives…doesn’t sound too bad right?!
Are you planning on moving abroad or maybe working abroad? I’d love to hear your plans. I’m always looking for somewhere new to add to my list so maybe you could help me expand my ‘To see’ list! If you want to contact send me an email via – firstname.lastname@example.org .