A Teardrop On The Cheek Of Eternity


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Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Agra
November 24th 2016
Published: December 21st 2016
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The Money ShotThe Money ShotThe Money Shot

Managed to get a reflection off the water too. This shot was surprisingly easy to take as tourists cannot walk by the watercourse.
So. It was time for my first train ride in India. But first, I had to get to the main train station in Delhi.

On the Delhi metro, all bags have to be scanned and all passengers have to be patted down airport style because of security fears. It is usually pretty efficient but with my backpack this time, it wasn't. Basically it was too big to fit through the scanning machine and rather being nice and waving me through - it's not like I look like or am a terrorist - the security guard insisted I couldn't take it onto the metro. Annoyed, I then had to take a tuk-tuk to the station and I really didn't think about the price I got quoted and realised halfway into the journey that I was ripped off by about 80-100 rupees. Sure, the ride was just £2.50 but I now only have £10 left to spend for the day! Bloody backpacker's budget.
At the train station, utter chaos. It was probably a normal day, as me and my luggage squeezed through the crowds to the platform furthest away from the entrance. On board the train, my bag wouldn't squeeze under the
Close Up Of The MosqueClose Up Of The MosqueClose Up Of The Mosque

Magnificent Mughal architecture of the mosque at the Taj.
seat and again I was left thinking I should've brought a smaller bag despite having travelled with mine for over a year now. And it was quite possibly the most antiquated train I have ever taken. With bars on the windows, it looked like prison transport. Old prison transport. Suddenly I was pining for Swiss trains, despite their price. But in truth, I was rather excited about this train ride - this is real travelling, I told myself. A family of locals shared my open cabin with me, the mother changing her baby's nappy right in front of everyone.
Like on the cheaper buses in Latin America, beggars and sellers do their rounds on an Indian train. I had my first cup of chai in India on-board - it was delicious! Like milk tea mixed with cinnamon, maybe cumin and lots of sugar.
Outside, we pass the rail side slums of outer Delhi. With the exception of the ones I saw out the window just outside of Cape Town, these were perhaps the poorest I have seen. Improvised brick buildings, corrugated iron roofs, rubbish strewn everywhere.

Politeness and courtesy aren't things here. People will often just do things involving you or your stuff without
Taj From The MosqueTaj From The MosqueTaj From The Mosque

The red sandstone building to the west of the Taj is a mosque.
asking and use curt orders when they want something from you. They don't seem to know how to ask for anything nicely. The lady sat next to me wanted my window seat so she could eat. Can you not eat where you're sitting now? Not wanting to cause a fuss, I swap seats. I've also had trouble understanding some of the locals and their accents, especially if their English isn't great. I don't understand any Hindi apart from when they put in English words into the middle of Hindi conversations, which is really often. I have also noticed that the word for "no" in Hindi is "ney" - the same as in Dutch, funnily enough ("nej" in Dutch).

Our train left about 45 minutes late and constantly stopped in the middle of nowhere. I ended up arriving about two hours after I was supposed to. I'm guessing this is just Indian trains for you and I now realised why so many people were camped out on the train platforms.
I got an honest tuk-tuk driver for once and as well as charging me the right fare to the hostel, he also gave me tips about getting into the Taj
The JawabThe JawabThe Jawab

Red sandstone building to the east of the Taj Mahal, acting as a mirror building for the mosque on the west side of the Taj.
Mahal. He was hoping I'd agree to an all day tour the next day but at least he wasn't ripping me off.

Here in this most touristy of cities, I noticed food was more expensive and served Western style with curry in separate dishes along with the rice and bread that you ordered on the side. I missed my ₹60 thali in Delhi. The puri I had for breakfast the next morning however was delicious and may even have been the best thing I have eaten in India so far - even if it was ₹100.
And I do have to say that the highlight of India so far has been the food. Pretty much everything I have tried has been delicious and I have been eating curry literally every day. In saying that though, skipping lunch means that I am always starving when I have eaten, which might make things taste nicer than it is! But seriously, I have absolutely been loving the food over here - even better when it's ridiculously cheap!

My dorm mates went to the Taj for sunrise - I've done a few sunrises and to be honest, I never think that it's
From A Park BenchFrom A Park BenchFrom A Park Bench

I sat for half an hour on a bench inside the ground, admiring this view.
really worth it. It's probably because I'm not a massive fan of sunrises and sunsets. And anyway, a sunset is pretty much the same as a sunrise except that you don't have to get up early innit.
And so that is how I timed my arrival at one of the new wonders of the world. There is usually a giddy sense of excitement and anticipation before seeing a famous sight and the Taj Mahal was no different. And then through the main gate, it's there.
And it is a magnificent sight.
Half of it is the setting - the wonderfully manicured gardens, the fact that there is nothing around it, the raised platform giving it pride of place, the symmetrical waterways that perfectly reflect the mausoleum. The other half of it is the size and grandeur of the mausoleum, even though I thought that it might be bigger. It's just massive. Something like the duomo in Milan or St Peter's Cathedral would be a comparable. The story behind it is a romantic one too; an emperor so heartbroken by the death of his mistress, that he built such a thing in her memory. Already huge by modern standards, this must've been something otherworldly during
Watercourses At The TajWatercourses At The TajWatercourses At The Taj

These channels divides the square ornamental garden in front of the Taj into four.
the time it was built.

The building has been wonderfully maintained, the white marble still clean and smooth, considering it was built in 1653. There are some intricate carvings on its exterior but it was the size and symmetry that struck me the most. You can't take photos inside the mausoleum, not that there is much to take. It is dark and not particularly interesting. The two red sandstone buildings that flank the Taj would probably have been spectacular sights in themselves had they not been literally overshadowed by the Taj.

Literally at the end of the day as the sun set on the Taj - this ethereal presence in the fading light at the end of a heavenly waterway - one last look before I left confirmed why it has been described as "a teardrop on the cheek of eternity".

बाद में मिलेंगे । (baadh mem milengae),
Derek


Additional photos below
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Mirage At The End Of A River Of ParadiseMirage At The End Of A River Of Paradise
Mirage At The End Of A River Of Paradise

The fading light and the haze around Agra makes the Taj Mahal almost appear like a mirage.
Prayer TimePrayer Time
Prayer Time

A man kneels in prayer at the Taj's mosque as tourists walk by behind him. Consistent with the Jama Masjid in Delhi, there is no central, interior room in the mosque.
PuriPuri
Puri

These puffed breads and curry make up the best thing I have eaten in India.
Cheeky MonkeyCheeky Monkey
Cheeky Monkey

There were quite a few of them running around the Taj Mahal.
Size & ScaleSize & Scale
Size & Scale

Comparing the people below to the Taj Mahal in this shot gives you a perspective as to the size and scale of the Taj.
West Side Of The TajWest Side Of The Taj
West Side Of The Taj

Looking at the Taj from the mosque.
DetailDetail
Detail

Carvings on the Taj Mahal.
Evidence SelfieEvidence Selfie
Evidence Selfie

Just to prove that I was there.
Ornamental GardensOrnamental Gardens
Ornamental Gardens

The lovely gardens make up half of what makes the Taj so special.
Detail Inside The JawabDetail Inside The Jawab
Detail Inside The Jawab

Patterns inside the red sandstone building to the east of the Taj Mahal.
Taj MuseumTaj Museum
Taj Museum

A fairly uninteresting museum resides inside one of gate buildings built into the wall of the Taj Mahal.
LamppostsLampposts
Lampposts

These nicely-designed lampposts line the road leading from the city to the east gate of the Taj Mahal.
PethiPethi
Pethi

Bought at Agra train station, these ultra-sweet balls of ash gourd (a type of vegetable) are a speciality of Agra.
Inside An Indian Sleeper CarriageInside An Indian Sleeper Carriage
Inside An Indian Sleeper Carriage

The view from my top bunk of my sleeper carriage. The bottom sleepers act as seats for day trains and as the bottom bunk for night trains.


23rd December 2016

That Taj...
You've captured the Taj Mahal very beautifully...love the light and the angles :)

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