It was a long three days in January while we waited for the fog to clear. It was cold and damp weather of Agra and we never did manage to see the Taj Mahal properly. We left without stepping foot on the premises.
Taj Mahal, Two Times a Charm
When we heard about all the hassles that people were facing when they tried to re-enter India due to their new visa rules, we wondered if we would ever get the chance to see the Taj Mahal again. And then in happened.
We arrived for the second time to Agra on a beautiful sunny afternoon.
No More Fog
The fog had lifted, the sun was shining and the touts seemed more relaxed since we last visited the town.
The internet owner remembered us immediately when we entered with our two laptops and brought us free chai and baked goods while we tapped away on our key boards. After a little prompting, our hotel manager even remembered that we had been to Agra before.
Everything just seemed so much better this time around. We actually had fun.
We didn't go to the Taj Mahal until the third day of our arrival. We instead spent the days relaxing, writing and chatting with other tourists.
Finally, after viewing it from every surrounding rooftop and angle, we managed to wake ourselves up at 5:00 am to beat it to the front of the line.
The gate opens at 6:45 am, but the queue starts early and when we arrived at 5:45, we found ourselves already behind a GAP tour of 8 people.
Within minutes, the line was forming down the street and the crowd grew quickly. The energy was high as everyone anticipated their entry to one of the New World Wonders.
We felt like old pros by now and kept that not so interested look on our faces as we listened to the excited conversations around us.
Once the doors opened however, it was a free for all and we were suddenly very interested.
Empty Taj Mahal
We all started running to be the first in and for a brief 5 minutes, we snapped our shots of the empty grounds of the Taj Mahal.
In an instant it was over and the masses of people already began to walk ahead.
Our friends Julian and Becca gave us excellent advice that we must share with you.
Once you snap your photos, make your way immediately to the Taj itself. We were the first inside the dome and it was silent. We sang our do re mi's and listened to our voices echo in the acoustics above.
Our solitude lasted for exactly 3 minutes and suddenly people were inside laughing, talking and hooting and hollering.
But at least we had our moment of silence.
Being one of the first in to the Taj Mahal offered excellent opportunities to take photos from everywhere free of people.
We will admit, we didn't love the place. It felt like an empty vessel. Grand from afar, but uninspiring up close.
Everyone knows the story.
Built by Shah Hahan in 1631 it is considered the ultimate monument of love. He was so heartbroken by the death of his wife during childbirth that he built the Taj Mahal as a memorial.
It took over 20 years and a fortune to build. Soon after its completion, he was overthrown by his son and sent to live out the rest of his days in a cell at the Agra Fort where he could only gaze upon his masterpiece from afar.
I talked to a young man named Ravi on the train as he told me the history of India one day. I said it was pretty brutal what his son did to him, but Ravi disagreed. He said that the Shah wasted all of the money and need to be imprisoned.
Are we glad that we came back to Agra to see the Taj Mahal? Well, we might as well have, we were already in India, so we should see it's most famous site.
Does it deserve to be India's most famous site? Well, that is a debate that goes on and on.
I am sure that it was magical once, but for us, it was filled with thousands of people running around snapping cheesy photos, ourselves included...see below.