Day 14 - Thursday, November 10, 2016 - Taj Mahal and Agra or Red Fort
Because of the heavy smog again today, we did not even try for the sunrise photos of the Taj Mahal. We were up at 6:15 and then fought the crowds at the breakfast room. The hotel is huge with only one breakfast room and only one coffee station. The line was 20 deep until a manager finally came to help expedite the process.
We got on the bus at 8:00 and met our local guide, Prashant who is a Jain, an ancient Indian religion. Sujay suggested we leave all of our bags on the bus, because large bags, sharp objects, and food are not allowed in the Taj Mahal Complex.
A small electric shuttle bus took us to the main entrance of the monument and we had to go through a security check that was much more rigorous than at the airports. When we passed under the main gate we got our first glimpse of the iconic Taj Mahal.
Prashant gave us more information about the mausoleum that was built to honor the favorite wife of the Mughal emperor, Shan Jahan. Queen Mumtaz Mahal died in childbirth in 1631 after delivering her 14th child when she was only 39 years old.
Sujay took us to a little known museum where we saw paintings of the Emperor and his wife as well as a set of drawings, the original blueprints for the monument. After visiting the museum, we put on little booties so we could walk in the mausoleum without scratching the marble floors.
Many buses had brought thousands of visitors to the monument, but the grounds were so large that the crowds did not seem so massive. Probably 2/3 of the tourists were Indians, and only 1/3 were international visitors like us.
No photos were allowed in the actual burial chamber, but many people seemed to think taking photos with iPhones and iPads was acceptable. It was very dark as we walked around the tombs and the crowds were very intense in this part of the complex.
Mingling with thousands of Indian locals and a few hundred international tourists, we finally made our way to the outer regions of the monument and then we had 30 minutes on our own to take photos and walk around the gardens.
Sujay and Prashant met us at 11:15 and we got back on a shuttle to find our bus. Our next stop was near; we went to the Red Fort, the Palace of the Mughal Emperors for at least 4 centuries.
Built in the 11th Century, the Red Fort was a maze of passageways and great halls. We saw the prison where the deposed Emperor Shan Jahan spent his final years gazing at the Taj Mahal. Today because the smog was so thick, visibility was negligible.
We left the Red Fort at 1:00 and then because lunch was on our own we voted to go to McDonald's to look at their menu and taste a veggie burger. No beef is served but they serve chicken and fish sandwiches.
Everyone mentioned the strict quality control of the McDonald’s brand, as the fries tasted the same, as did the fish sandwich. Vic tried the veggie burger and said it was OK.
We said goodbye to Sadish and Salin because they will drive the bus back to Delhi and we will go by train on the next leg of our trip. By 2:00 we were at the hotel and working on the journal and the photos. We sorted our belongings and repacked our bags because we have an early wake up call to board the train for Jhansi in the morning.
Dinner was at the hotel this evening at 7:00. We did not linger but came back to post the journal and get some sleep. Sujay has warned everyone that the last few days of this trip will be a whirlwind.
Taj Mahal was begun in 1632 and completed in 1653 by 20,000 workers at a cost in today’s money of $1 billion.
Taj Mahal Facts
Accommodations: Jaypee Palace Hotel - - - Meal: B & D
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Did you ever think you would see the Taj Mahal? Feel like I've had a touch of your experience. .
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What fabulous experiences. The Taj Mahal is quite a check off a bucket list! I get so annoyed when the sign says "No photos" but some people don't care.
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