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Published: October 15th 2011
Our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal
A few minutes after 6:00 am and all these people had already arrived.
Henceforth, let the inhabitants of the world be divided into two classes - them as has seen the Taj Mahal, and them as hasn't. - Edward Lear (1874)
We arrived at Hotel Sidhartha in the late hours after a relatively short train ride from Delhi. Another rather nondescript place to stay, although nicer than Delhi, extremely central, and with friendly and helpful management. Very tired. I'm beginning to come down with a wee bit of a cold, brought on no doubt by the lack of sleep we've been getting and the excess of pollution. Sleep.
Got up in the early hours to catch the Taj Mahal at its finest, and before it became overrun with tourists. A good plan - we arrived within minutes of leaving the hotel, no lines, touts made an attempt at us but of course we were prepared. Still, many people beat us there. It was, as expected, a breathtaking sight. Gardens were lovely and cool, water-filled pools reflected the sky, the Taj Mahal itself was almost indescribably beautiful. We spent several hours in admiration, inside and out, while the tourists multiplied and the heat intensified. Tourists here seem more aggressive than the touts, determined
to get the photos they want at all costs, including being disrespectful of the site and their fellow travelers. It is the most visited site in India, and a dream destination for many. But that's no excuse.
Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in the 17th century as the mausoleum for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in her mid-thirties soon after giving birth to her 14th child. Later deposed by his son, for the last eight years of his life he could only gaze at his creation from his palace prison of Agra Fort. Love, loss, beauty, intrigue - a timeless and fascinating site.
There's a lot more to see in Agra including, obviously, Agra Fort, but our true purpose in traveling here completed we decided to get a bit of rest for the remainder of the day, venturing out only to eat at the rooftop restaurant at Saniya Palace Hotel. Great views, nice staff, decent food. No reason not to stop by for a drink or a bite if you're in the area.
Another train in the evening, this time to Khajuraho. Hopefully we'll be able to get lots of sleep and will arrive
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