The Embodiment of all Things Pure

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Apr 30, 2011

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Where I stayed
Taj guesthouse

Flag of India  , Uttar Pradesh,
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From Bundi we caught a slow twelve hour night train to Agra. Standing on the platform at Bundi station we attracted the usual stares but one guy in particular insisted on standing about one foot away, staring and then trying to communicate to us in Hindi. It was obvious that we didn’t have a clue what he was trying to say but he persisted nevertheless for about 30 minutes before he eventually got bored. Once on the train another man came up to us and shook our hands and then started patting me on the cheek! He went away and then came back a short time later and shook hands with me again, this time stroking my hand with his middle finger as he did so. He then whispered in my ear ‘Are you lonely?’! All of this in front of Tom who told him to get lost. Indian men can be really odd sometimes!

We slept a little bit despite a group of locals getting on in the early hours and switching the lights on and talking loudly. Indian society is a noisy one and people don’t seem to respect other people’s space. Often mobile phones will ring at full volume in the middle of the night and someone will start having a conversation while everyone else tries to sleep but no one seems to mind!

We pulled into Agra at 6am passing through the outskirts of the city where people squatted on large rubbish piles next to the railway tracks. Outside the station we met a nice taxi driver who drove us to the main tourist area near to the Taj Mahal while playing Backstreet Boys on the stereo! After trying a few different guesthouses which were all full we eventually checked into the Taj Guesthouse, which was nice enough but located down a little side alley where raw sewage flowed in the side gutters. We spent the rest of the day relaxing after our long journey ready for rising early the next morning to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise.

We left the hotel at 5.45am and walked in the darkness to the eastern gate where we purchased our tickets and waited in the queue for the gates to open. The Taj Mahal is such a familiar iconic building that you worry that seeing it might be the amazing experience you are hoping for. Fortunately, this was absolutely not the case. It is without doubt the most beautiful building that either of us has ever seen. Rudyard Kipling was spot on when he described it as the ‘embodiment of all things pure’. It is built of milky white translucent marble. On the walls of its four symmetrical arches are flowers made from semi-precious stones and quotations from the Quran made of jasper. Inside the Taj the echo of all the visitors inside is intense and sounds like a roaring sea. Surrounding the Taj are ornamental Persian gardens. Visiting at sunrise was definitely a good move. It wasn’t too busy so you had space to move around freely and the temperature was still cool. We stayed for over two hours just staring up at this thing of beauty and soaking up the atmosphere.

Then it was back to our hotel to pack for our long journey north, through Delhi and up into the Himalayan foothills where we are looking forward to some crisp mountain air and cooler temperatures.
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