Monday, August 14, 2017

Agra: The Transfixing Wonder of the Taj Mahal...and Other Amazing Sights

I've been fortunate to have visited some of the world's most amazing sights--of the man-made and natural variety.

Some of my favorites prior to this trip to India can be seen on this Seth Saith blog post (sorry that I don't have means to throw in a contextual hyperlink):

Yesterday and again today I saw a sight that would undoubtedly find a place in such a list, perhaps even in the top slot:

The Taj Mahal

I can't recall how early in my childhood I first became aware of the spectacular marble mausoleum in the Indian city of Agra, but my hope to someday see--and photograph--it obviously dates back decades.

And in person, the Taj Mahal was everything I ever dreamed it would be.

Although the inside--where photography is prohibited--was rather dark, quite warm and not nearly as mind-blowing as the exterior, the Taj was truly magnificent from all angles.

Since March, when--as I was about to book my trip to India--I learned that in 2017 the Taj Mahal is undergoing cleaning that had parts sheathed in scaffolding, I was concerned that I might not see it in pristine form.

I decided this wasn't worth postoning my trip indefinitely, but just a couple weeks ago, NBA star Kevin Durant had tweeted pictures of him at the Taj that showed the structure's front and one minaret scaffolded.

This didn't look to terrible, but I was thrilled to arrive at the Taj Mahal with my tour group Sunday morning to find no metal upon it anywhere.

Needless to say, I took TONS of pictures from every angle, and even had a few taken of me with one of the world's greatest backdrops.

I don't have means to share any in this post, but hopefully you'll be able to see some somehow. (I put several on Facebook and plan to create an online gallery after I return home.)

This morning, with a few hours in Agra outside organized tour activities, I asked the hotel to hire me a driver to take me to Mehtab Bagh, a prime viewing spot--with an admission fee--from which to see & photograph the Taj from across the Yamuna River.

Between a friendly driver and a quite knowledgeable local man whose solicitation to show me prime locations within the Mehtab Bagh garden I accepted and greatly benefited, this too was a phenomenal excursion.

And the Taj Mahal isn't the only wonder to be seen in Agra.

The Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah--aka the Baby Taj and built before it--and the Red Fort are both stunning in their own right.

Though seeing both yesterday afternoon made for a wearying day--we were up at 4:30am to see the Taj at sunrise--but were magnificent.

A group dinner last night at an Agra restaurant featuring an attractive Bollywood style dancer made for a nice end to a pretty staggering day.

After my private riverside Taj experience this morning, we rode from Agra to a hotel near the Delhi airport.

I am writing this lying next to a beautiful outdoor pool, with a final group dinner about an hour away.

In the morning I will catch a flight to Mumbai and head to the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where I'm booked for a single night before heading on to Bangalore.

Unbeknownst to me beforehand tomorrow is India Independence Day, and the 70th anniversary at that. And Paolo, who went to Mumbai for a couple days before the tour started, reported that that city is just as chaotic as Delhi.

So perhaps I won't be able to do all that much, but I'm excited to go there anyway.

Though this trip has been terrific for many sights, experiences and interactions, seeing the Taj Mahal is clearly an experience I'll never forget.

No comments: