My first travel excursion in India was a big one: Agra and the Taj Mahal. Before I left, many people asked me “Are you going to see the Taj Mahal?” to which I would respond, “Well, I’m going to India, I kind of have to, don’t I?” It was my time to finally see one of the Wonders of the World.
Everyone in my program took the train to Agra, which was an experience in itself. These station was bustling with people who came prepared with their own tarps, blankets and chairs to sit on because there were not nearly enough chairs for even half of the crowd. We sat in a café as we ate a small meal before disembarking on the over 10 hour train ride.
Once on the the train, we talked, played cards, indulged in a train meal (a traditional Indian meal of dal, rice, chapatti, etc.) and few cups of chai from the chai valla moving from car to car. After a while, we set up the beds, which proved a very interesting sleeping experience, and settled in for the rest of the ride to Agra.
An hour or two later than scheduled, we got off the train and started chatting and haggling with the auto rickshaw drivers. After getting what we felt was a fair price, we headed off to the east gate of the Taj Mahal. We walked under the hot sun for a long time afterwards to find the ticket office.
After finally arriving at the ticket office, we bought some tickets (1000 rupees for foreigners), stored our belongings because many things are not allowed in the Taj Mahal and headed off to lunch. After refreshing and replenishing our body with something other than train food, we approached the Taj Mahal. I realized that security was not going to let my Wisconsin Badger flag in, so I ran out, dropped it off in storage and ran back to the Taj Mahal.
After all security issues, we entered through the gate into the Taj Mahal. The sight was so beautiful! I was in awe of seeing it. The sun brightly shined off of the white marble.
Inside the Taj, the inlay marble work was beautiful, but the tombs were very similar to all the other tombs built at the time. It reminded me of Humayun’s tomb in Delhi.
After sweating profusely, as I always seem to do in India, we sat down for a bit in one of the gardens next to the Taj Mahal before promptly being kicked out by a security guard. We weren’t the only people being kicked out though…so we’re not hooligans.
As we left the Taj Mahal, I glanced back quite a few times. I don’t think I will ever forget such a beautiful sight, and I’m still in awe that I saw one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
After picking up a few postcards from the shop where I stored my flag, I was starving! We walked down the road for a bit before stopping at a rooftop restaurant.
Our train back to Varanasi was set to depart at 8:40 p.m. After ordering our food, we realized that it was already 7 p.m. We ate very quickly, I paid the bill and we rushed back via auto to the train station.
When we got to the station, we looked on the screen and saw that the train was already an hour late and would not arrive to the station for another hour and a half. We rushed for nothing.
We ended up leaving the station two hours late, and once on the train – I could barely keep my eyes open. I crawled into the top bunk and fell asleep.
When I woke up, the train was still moving. The ride was only supposed to take 10 hours, but the ride dragged on for almost a full day. I was so hungry once we finally pulled into the station, but thankfully we stopped at a restaurant before heading home. Food never tasted so good.
It was a great day in Agra. I can’t say enough how grateful I am to be here.