I woke up feeling transformed by the antibiotics I’d taken last night, and was well enough to amble down to the nearest pharmacy to pick up a full course of the Ciproflaxin that had set me back on my feet last time I had fallen ill. By the next day I felt well on the way to recovery, and well enough to get up and out onto the streets of Agra for the sole reason anyone came here: to visit the Taj Mahal.
It was within easy walking distance of the hotel, so I set off, deflecting the offers of rickshaw rides to its entrance. It was remarkably sedate in the ticket area; I’d expected a madcap scrum of sellers and scammers trying to pick off the tourists. I queued up for my special foreigner ticket ($20 as opposed to the mere dollar Indian nationals pay) and passed through the understandably overbearing security into the compound.
The Taj is possibly the world’s most grandiose tomb. Built by a (Muslim) Mughal leader in the 17th century in dedication to his wife who died during childbirth, and containing his remains as well, it is situated in a vast complex of gardens protected by a fortress-like wall and a number of huge gates. I wandered the way of the crowd to get my first view of the building.
In my experience visiting world-famous sights is generally a bit of an anti-climax. Television and books have already saturated your mind with the best views of the sight, and when you see it with your own eyes, it just doesn’t tend to live up to your expectations.
This wasn’t the case with the Taj. It was very special indeed.
Sitting serenely in the midday sun, its white marble positively gleaming, it was the one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture I had ever seen. It towered above the chattering tourists. The interior was beautifully simplistic, adorned with elegant repeating patterns and arabic stylings. The strong symmetry and minimalistic design of the tomb were striking.
Wandering back to the vantage point on the steps and taking one last long look from afar at the Taj quietly exuding sheer class and charm, I felt a sense of completion, as if I’d reached the pinnacle – and the end – of my trip. Although I had an entire week left until my flight, I decided there and then to knock any more sightseeing on the head. Nothing could surpass the Taj, and I felt I just didn’t have the energy or patience to tackle any more sights. India had drained me good and proper. I’d just use the remaining time to work, eat curry, recover from my latest bout of illness and shop for goodies for people back home, making my way back to Mumbai in good time for my flight back to Blighty.
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Fancy a trip to India? This blog follows the preparations, deliberations and travel experiences of a solo backpacker tackling the Indian subcontinent for the first time.
About the Author
As a "keen traveller" (or "professional bum", depending on your point of view), Steve James has visited more than thirty countries and enjoys writing about his experiences for shits and giggles, in passing hoping to inspire others to undertake an extended period of travel and experience the freedom and inspiration it can offer. Click here to contact Steve