Our day started early morning at 6am. I’ve asked hotel to prepare a sandwich, couple bananas and pineapple juice to take away for the trip. We booked Executive seat in AC carriage for almost ₹ 1250 as the normal AC seats were already sold out two days before. We didn’t manage to buy tickets to go back and the only way was to be on waiting list (WL8 as they show on website), but there was no guarantee we will get them, so in the end we cancelled them.
By the way, if you are foreigner – you will have a difficult time buying tickets online as it requires a lot of Indian details, like local address in India, local telephone number and etc. A colleague was very helpful in arranging the ticket.
We took a taxi to the train station, which took around 45min and costs us around ₹ 566.
Be aware that trains sometimes arrive early and do book the ticket at least 2 days in advance. This one was 40min already in the station. It left on time though. At least this time anyway.
Above the train ticket and how much information they collect! Name, age, gender, ID number, address, telephone! Basically if you lose the ticket – someone knows where you live and who you are. That definitely wouldn’t work in Europe.
I was trying to take some pictures through the window, but they were so dirty that barely could see anything. Anyway mainly trash and poverty everywhere.
In 1h 50min we arrived to Agra. We’ve noticed a suspicious man following us. Then he started offering taxi. He was saying only ₹ 400 to Taj Mahal. We wanted to go to Mehtab Bagh, which opposite Taj Mahal across river and a bit further, but he said it was still ₹ 400. We bargained down to ₹ 300, but then they asked to pay in advance as it was government taxi. I decided not to go for it as it sounded suspicious, but is turns out it was government controlled and requires to pre-pay to avoid scamming tourists and since it was AC taxi it was indeed a fair price. Anyway, a Tuk Tuk driver approached at the same time we were walking away from annoyingly following taxi driver and offered to take us for ₹ 150. We agreed.
We had to pre-pay here as well, as it is government controlled as well for the same reason. We’ve ben charged ₹ 10 extra, which was annoying as we agreed on different price. The payment place looked like a betting table! Everyone’s shouting and trying to get a ticket to move faster out from there!
These women were asking if we wanted to take a photo. And when you take a picture you have to bae a fee of ₹ 100 – to each of them! I took with a zoom from far away and they were in the background and for free.
The practice of laundry on the river in the Indian city of Agra dates back centuries. Indian washermen, or dhobis, have long been the traditional washing professionals in India, taking care of the washing needs of their communities. In Agra, this has been no different.
Agra’s river, the Yamuna, has been an important part of the city’s daily life for centuries. Dhobis have set up their laundry businesses along the river banks, where they can take advantage of the river’s natural washing powers. The dhobis wash the clothes and linens of the city’s residents by hand, using soap and water to clean and whiten the fabrics. After washing, the dhobis hang the clothing on long lines along the river banks for drying.
The practice of laundry on the river in Agra has been an important part of the city’s economy for centuries and continues to be so today. Dhobis still ply their trade along the banks of the Yamuna, providing a valuable service to the people of Agra.
Our Tuk Tuk driver (Khan) was very friendly and offered to take us to multiple places (Baby Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Taj Mahal and then nice hotel/restaurant and then back to Train station) and only for ₹ 500. Which sounded a good deal and we agreed.
Next stop was baby Taj Mahal – Itmad-ud-Daula. Entrance again higher for foreigners. Around ₹ 600.
Itmad-ud-Daula, also known as the ‘Baby Taj’, is a Mughal mausoleum located in Agra, India. The mausoleum was commissioned by Nur Jahan, the Empress of Mughal Emperor Jahangir, in memory of her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg. The construction of the mausoleum began in 1622 and was completed in 1628. It is said to be the first Mughal structure to be made from marble, and is one of the most beautiful and intricate buildings of the Mughal period. The mausoleum is known for its tremendous intricate carvings and inlay work, which is a testament to the skill of Mughal artisans. The mausoleum also serves as a reminder of the strong bond between Jahangir and Nur Jahan, and the love they shared for each other. The mausoleum is now a popular tourist destination and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Taj Mahal complex.
If you look to the left – you see cows.
Next we quickly stopped at red fort for some pictures. Since I have been there before we didn’t enter inside. Also there was a big queue, but at that time we didn’t know that foreigners can skip the queues as they pay 10-20 times more! By the way magnets are cheap and you can bargain to something like ₹ 20 – ₹ 30 per magnet. I’ve bargained from ₹ 2000 for a book about Taj Mahal down to ₹ 300.
Agra Fort is a large 16th-century fort located in Agra, India. It was built by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1565, and is one of the most impressive Mughal monuments in India. The fort is considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a major tourist attraction. The fort was originally a brick structure, but was later transformed into a majestic red sandstone fort by Akbar. It was used as a military base and palace by Akbar, and was the main residence of the Mughal emperors until 1638. The fort was later expanded by his grandson, Shah Jahan, who built the famous Taj Mahal. He also added several more palaces, halls, and mosques to the complex. The fort is a massive structure and is surrounded by a 20-foot-high wall. It has four gates, each with its own drawbridge. Inside the walls, there are several palaces, halls, mosques, and other buildings. The fort also has a large garden and a large pool.
After that we went to Taj Mahal. It was quite a long walk from the gate. There is electric transport that supposedly is free. We also were warned by our driver, that there is a free guide scam. They say it is included in the price and then at the end they ask for money and if you refuse to pay, they get the police involved.
The queue was pretty quick as foreigners have designated line. Just took some time to put things to storage as no back packs allowed inside, only small sport bags on the strings. Also absolutely no fruits inside (I guess due to the abundance of monkeys in there).
The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum that was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632 and was completed in 1653 at a cost estimated at the time to be around 32 million rupees, which in 2015 would be approximately 52.8 billion rupees (U.S. $827 million). The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.
The most famous theft from the Taj Mahal was a gold and jewel-encrusted finial, or sculptural ornament adorned with precious stones, including emeralds and rubies, which was stolen from the top of the mausoleum’s central dome in 1848. The finial was eventually recovered and replaced.
The Taj Mahal attracts 7–8 million visitors a year and in 2007, it was declared a winner of the New 7 Wonders of the World (2000–2007) initiative.
There are many legends associated with the Taj Mahal. One popular legend is that the emperor had the hands of the builders and architects who worked on the Taj Mahal cut off so they could never build anything as beautiful as the Taj Mahal. However, this is not true. Another legend is that a secret tunnel exists which connects the Taj Mahal to the Agra Fort. However, there is no evidence of this.
It was 41°C, before we entered mausoleum. The light reflecting from the building was heating up my dark jeans!
People sleep near the Taj Mahal on the floor to show their devotion and respect to the monument. It is an act of paying homage to the love story behind the iconic structure and to the Mughal Empire that built it. People also believe that sleeping near the Taj Mahal brings good luck and fortune.
That was the end of Taj Mahal, which was followed by a lot of annoying merchants, trying to haggle their way selling stuff. From ₹500 rupees to ₹ 100 for Taj Mahal globe.
We’ve got lost on our way back from Taj Mahal while looking for the place where our Tuk Tuk driver has let us out and told us to meet him from 4pm to 4:30pm. We managed to wonder off to a wrong direction. We ended up in some parking lot instead of West Gate. There were so many merchants trying to sell stuff! One was trying to sell a pregnant stone elephant, which actually looked quite good. He was asking ₹2000. I didn’t need it really and we decided to take another Tuk Tuk to the hotel our Tuk Tuk driver Khan mentioned to meet him, which was another ₹200 (quite a rip off!). So the elephant merchant kept insisting, putting the elephant on the seat of Tuk Tuk and going down in price and eventually he was asking ₹200 instead of ₹2000, but still I didn’t buy it.
We arrived at Maya hotel and decided to have a lunch there. AC inside and fans were so great coming in out of 41°C oven! We’ve got some cold beer and I’ve ordered some grilled chicken. Our driver Khan showed up as well. I told him not to wait as we are going to call Uber to Gurugram from there. He was asking if we already called it and silly me said no. So he started making arrangements for a car. He asked how much was Uber and I said ₹2300, though we were planning to take sedan for ₹4200 just to have more comfort as the trip was going to be around 2.5h.
Khan came back with an offer of ₹3500 to Gurugram and confirmed that AC will be there. We agreed.
Once we’ve got into car, Khan asked to pay ₹1500 in advance, as it was a kickback for him and the rest we should pay once we reach our destination. I had only ₹2000, so I’ve paid that.
Once we left the town, I have noticed on GPS that instead of moving north we were moving east. The driver seemed friendly and he said he needs to fill up gas. We nodded.
The AC was barely working as we could still feel the heat from outside and it was around 30-35°C inside of the car, but it was better than nothing.
Once we arrived to gas station our driver asked to pay the rest of the money as he needed to fill his tank. I’ve tried giving him just ₹500, but he insisted it wasn’t enough and I’ve paid everything. My mistake!
The road was long and he was quite far off and driving quite slow (probably to save gas) in around 80-90km/h and after gas station once we’ve paid he opened up his windows and switched of AC. I could feel hot air blowing from outside. It was as if you open an oven and hot air blows into your face.
At some point our driver took some pills. Not clear what it was, but seemed not very legal and after that he started heavily spitting through the window. At some point he spat such a big one that it not only landed on the door, which he was cleaning later on, but also on my elbow. I was completely disgusted.
So it was almost after 4 hours when we arrived at Greater Noida, where our driver said “Change of the car”. We saw a taxi which he called and we thought it was paid for. As we found out after another 2hr ride it was set on cash setting so we had to pay another ₹1360. Funny enough driver didn’t have changed from ₹2000! No one else at Hudan City metro station had change from those ₹2000! Finally our driver found another “successful” taxi driver who had loads of money and exchanged it for us. Paying the extra fair was not a big deal, just felt annoying as we have been scammed.
- Download offline maps wherever you go before you go!
- Make pins where you need to come back as it is easy to get lost.
- Always hire official Tax if possible (like UBER) as it is much more reliable
- Never pay in advance for taxi and only pay when you arrive to destination!
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!
- Always bargain with sellers in the street. Try to divide by 4.
1 thought on “World Wonders: Taj Mahal and Agra’s gardens”
Thats very detailed blog. I liked pictures you taken. They are amazing.