29 Oct 2013
4.30 comes around much too fast – particularly as there had been a wedding party going on next door. We set off in our minibus at 5.00, transfer to a tuk-tuk and then walk the last 50m, and manage to be first in the queue (in the dark) at the east gate – the gates don’t open until 6.30. Bhanu has gone to get our tickets and takes quite a while – we are starting to get worried. The queue is getting long behind us. Sue (England) starts talking to a man at the gate who promises to let us in anyway. He has worked there for 40 years.
Entry is very strict and we have just the bare minimum with us as we go through security but are provided with a bottle of water and some paper covers for our shoes. We are keen to get to the ‘Princess Diana’ seat to get photos with no-one else there. We have arranged for a professional photographer (who was the man at the gate) to be with us and he whisks us into prime position. Sue (England) has dressed especially for the occasion in a long dress with an orange shawl.
After group and individual photos we are whisked around to all the prime photo spots including watching the sun come up over the Taj Mahal. We had begun to feel that our lives had been taken over but the results were fabulous and we tipped the photographer and his son well before donning our overshoes and heading inside the Taj Mahal to walk around the marble tomb. The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz who had died in childbirth (her 14th child!). She was only 37 years old. He loved her so much that he had this building made from white marble with beautiful floral inlay patterns. It is a very beautiful work of art – sometimes referred to as ‘the teardrop of eternity’. We then have an hour or so to relax a bit and stroll in the gardens taking in the beauty and serenity.
We meet Bhanu at a coffee shop at about 8.30am and our photos are ready also. We indulge in chocolatey treats before heading back to the hotel for breakfast and a bit of a rest before the next adventure.
Next stop is Agra Fort – also built Shah Jahan in the 1600s. Agra Fort is much more impressive than the Red Fort in Delhi so we don’t feel so bad for missing it. We have a local guide ‘Chai’ to show us around. It is truly beautiful but it is far too hot for the history lessons to sink in. There is a lovely view to the Taj Mahal in the distance and we learn that Shah Jahan’s son killed all his brothers and imprisoned the Shah in the Fort for the last 8 years of his life. Even when he was very old and sick, they rigged up a pulley/mirror system so that he could lie in his bed and look at the Taj Mahal.
Another late lunch (half the group opt for Pizza Hut) and then back to the hotel. Some go out walking but most opt for a rest. I check out the masseuse and write up my diary. My phone is finally working again (sort of) so I upload some pictures from the camera so that I can email some pictures to people we met along the way.
That night we head out for a group dinner and also to meet our respective new groups. Our group has OD’d on sugar during the day and is very raucous but we have a lot of fun. The other groups are only just starting out and wonder what they are letting themselves in for.
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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