India – Delhi, Agra and The Taj MahalBack to Story

Delhi and travel to the Taj Mahal

There is no doubt that India is an affront to the senses. No travel destination will hit you in the eyes quite the same as India. As soon as you walk out of the airport you will be greeted with the heavy pollution that plagues most of the country. The trick to getting to know India is peer through the smog, rubbish and polluted water to see the colour and vibrancy that exists in abundance. Travel in India is not easy but the flip side is that it is uniquely rewarding and it is easy to see how many people are drawn back again and again.

I arrive into Delhi airport, which has benefited from a refurbishment conducted for the recent Commonwealth Games. It is not until I visit one of the smaller airports such as Varanasi that I truly gain an insight into the chaos that India can give to an airport.

Some invaluable travel advice I was given before arrival was that nothing ever happens as expected in India and remain calm and count to ten. I think 100 is more appropriate but the advice is sound – just relax, go with the flow and it won’t phase you at all. Fight it at your own peril because you are not going to change the outcome.

Road travel in India is a travel experience in its own right. Never before have so many modes of transport been seen on a road system. If it can carry something it is used as a means of transport. Closer in the cities there are rickshaws, motorised rickshaws, cows, cars, buses and people all moving together in seeming chaos. The further out from the city centre every space is crammed. Bus’ are full, trains overflowing, and every flat deck on a truck is occupied. Safety rules seem to be non-existent as people perch where-ever they can. Taking a rickshaw through the streets of Delhi is an excellent way to see the city and great alternative to walking.

Taj Mahal (Agra)

Our next journey was over to Agra to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal. Our experience was to originally include an overnight train but at the time they were notoriously unreliable and services we running more than 10 hours late.  Once again our tour guides came to the rescue and had a couple of back up plans already in place – one involving multiple train bookings but we finally resorted to flying back to Delhi and taking our mini bus down to Agra.

The nearby town of Agra is not a drawcard in its own right.  However, it does make a reasonable base to explore the Taj Mahal and also the Red Fort.  It is difficult to describe the Taj experience without sounding like it was a let down.  As our group was set to try to photograph the Taj we began this task by trying from the rear angle on a body of water that let’s just say wasn’t clean even by India’s standards.  The distracting element on both of our attempts to capture the Taj at sunset and sunrise was the air pollution.

As with many occasions in India you need to peer through the pea soup sky and enjoy this amazing site for what it is.  My favourite view of the main tomb, which we have all seen photographs of, was from the gardens at the entrance. Cliché I know but being here really puts this amazing building in context.  Time needs to be taken to visit the smaller mausoleums on either side that were built for other wives and one for a favourite servant.  Through moody arches you can appreciate some of the detailed carvings and calligraphy without the swarm of fellow visitors.

As for where to stay – the luxury chain Oberoi Hotels and Resorts has one of the best locations in town and boast views of the Taj from some of their rooms. Our group stayed at the Grand Imperial in Agra, which is a well preserved historical hotel.

Travel photographs of the Taj Mahal at dawn and dusk, Images of The Red Fort and around Agra.

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