Waking up with some excitement, and not because we was having McDonalds breakfast for the 3rd day in a row but because today was the day we would tick off another 7th wonder of the modern world, the Taj Mahal.
We opted to take a private car to Agra costing £50 and stay in a very highly rated hostel called Zostel. The four hour journey flew by and we was soon unpacking at the hostel ready to venture out. Another reason for booking Zostel is its close proximity to the Taj Mahal with the east entrance only being a few kilometres away.
After doing a little research online we realised that the ticket office for the east gate was 1KM from the entrance to the site so we knew we would have to stop here first. Luckily it was very easy to find and we was soon at the Taj going through security.
My bag got pulled up at the scanner and I was informed that laptops were not allowed inside and that I could store it in the lockers outside. I walked out the exit and was swamped with people wanting to store my bag. A little apprehensive I followed one guy and he pointed to a corner in his shop where I could leave my bag for free. No chance!
Annoyingly I realised I needed to make the 2KM trek back and forth to the ticketing office were I knew there was secure lockers. Not fancying the walk I jumped on a peddle powered Tuk Tuk for 50p each way, however he asked if I wanted a go at driving so I basically chauffeured an Indian guy around and paid for the privilege. We did beat a German guy, who was doing the same, in a race but it didn’t get me any discount.
Back at the ticketing office I had to show the security guy what was in the bag and when he saw the laptop his said “OOOOWW a laptop” and grinned at me. Great, that’s not going to be there when I get back, but I thought I would risk it, we have insurance and I didn’t fancy going all the way back to the hostel. It was then he handed me the key, locker 13, perfect.
Back at the Taj I met up with Hayley and Tolly and we set off to explore this wonder of the world. The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum, a detached building constructed as a monument to house a burial chamber. It was constructed in 1643 by Emperor Shah Jahan after his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died giving birth to his 14th child. Standing 70 meters tall and made almost entirely from white marble it very difficult to put in to words the splendour, it’s just somewhere you have to visit and experience.
To my surprise you are actually allowed in to the Taj Mahal to see the tombs of both Emperor Shah Jahan (he was later buried here as well) and Mumtaz Mahal, but later reading I found out that these are not the true tombs and that they are actually buried in the lower levels and stickily off limits.
Once we had finished at the Taj it was the moment of truth, was the laptop still there. We all breathed a sigh of relief when we got the bag back with it in, having it stolen would have really spoiled the day.
On the walk back to the hostel we stumbled on a park that offers great views of the Taj Mahal over the surrounding forest land. With time to kill we decided to head up and take a few photos, if you are in the area its definitely worth the time.
Right next door to our hostel was the Radison Blu Hotel, it’s amazing how a mid range hotel can look like a palace in India. Surrounded by high walls and security it was very surreal and we were very surprised to find out that its only £60 a night to stay there, albeit way over our budget as poor travellers. However we did decide to go there for dinner and was delighted to see that for only £6 a head we could have a lovely set menu. The restaurant was beautifully decorated and the service was exceptional. Well, what I mean by exceptional is that it was up to a western standard, generally the service in India is horrific.
The food was fantastic and we really didn’t want to leave and return to our cheap hostel with its fury mould growing from the walls, but I think we may have been kicked out if we had tried to stay in reception.