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?”. So it was my time to finally see one of the Wonders of the World.
It was all of us from the program going by train to Agra. The train rides were a whole experience within themselves. We departed from the program house to the train station. The train station was full of people. These people were also pretty smart to bring their own tarps, blankets, and chairs to sit on because there were not nearly enough chairs for even half of the people to sit in. We sat in a café as we ate a small meal before disembarking on the over ten hour train ride. I had a nice snack of idli samber.
We headed up closer to our platform before sitting down again to wait for the train to arrive. We arrived around two hours earlier so that we would have enough time for our first train ride in India. Then after gathering a crowd because someone tried to practice their Hindi, we were told our train arrived at the station. We found our car in the 3AC class and took our seats. Six of us where in one part of the train and two of us were in the other part. The train started to leave on time and we were off to Agra.
On the train we talked, played cards, got a train meal (which is just a normal Indian meal of dal, rice, chapatti, etc.- but mass produced for a train), and got a few cups of chai from the chai valla moving from car to car. After a while, we set up the beds- which were really interesting to sleep on- and settled in for the rest of the ride to Agra.
We were supposed to arrive in Agra around ten in the morning. However that was not the case for our train. We arrived about an hour or two late. It was not a problem, we were in Agra and ready to be off the train. We got off 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 around for a long time afterwards to find the ticket office. It was hot and sunny.
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- I had some lovely fried rice-we approached the Taj Mahal. After realizing that security was not going to let my Wisconsin Badger flag in, 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 shone off of the white marble. It was so bright.
After taking as many group photos as we could, we headed towards the inside of, of the Taj. Even though we had the more expensive tickets, we chose to wait in line where people who purchased domestic tickets. By this time we had already removed our shoes and the ground was pretty hot. We waited for about ten minutes and finally went inside. Sadly no pictures were allowed, but I bet there are plenty on the internet.
The inside was fine. It wasn’t anything extra spectacular. The inlay marble work was beautiful, but the tombs were very similar to all the other tombs built like it at the time. It reminded me of Humayun’s tomb in Delhi. The outside of the Taj Mahal is the most memorable to me. It’s so beautiful.
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.
We walked to the other side from where we were and checked out the free museum. It had a lot of the original blueprints and layouts of not only the Taj Mahal, but the Agra fort that we saw when coming in on the train. It was nice to look at and it had plenty of fans to cool us down.
We sat and talked for a bit afterwards for a brief rest before making out way out of the Taj Mahal. I looked back quite a few times as we left. I don’t think I will ever forget such a beautiful sight. 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. After ordering our food, we realized that it was already 7. 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. So we rushed for nothing it seemed. We sat and ate a few snacks we bought from the station and looked at the many pictures everyone took during the day.
Around 9:20pm the train finally arrived to the station. After a bit of confusion on which car was ours, we made it to the correct seats. We sat for another hour and twenty minutes before the train left. So we were already two hours late in leaving the station. After staying up a bit, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I crawled into the top bunk and fell asleep.
When I woke up, the train was still moving. It turns out we would be on the train until 4pm. We had almost been on the train for a full day. The train was only supposed to take ten hours. It was safe to say that we all wanted off of the train when it pulled into the station. I was so hungry. Thankfully we stopped at a restaurant before heading home. Food never tasted so good.
It was a great day in Agra. The whole experience was great- even the long train rides. It was such a great way to start my travels in India. I can’t believe that I’m here in India travelling to the wonders of the world. I can’t say how thankful I am to be here and how amazing a simple trip to Agra can be.