India with Kids 2013: The astounding Taj Mahal! Agra Fort too!

June 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm
How many millions of these photos must be taken every day?

How many millions of these photos must be taken every day?

The following day we met our driver for our day trip to Agra.

Agra gets a bad rap in most guide books. But it’s the #1 destination in India, as it’s home to the Taj Mahal.  Back in 2008 Gal had not been happy that we had spent almost three weeks in India, and hadn’t seen the Taj. The fact is, on that trip we had been in South India, which in many ways can seem like a different country. Today we were making it up to her.

There is a new highway from Delhi to Agra, and its like nothing I had ever seen in India before. Multiple lanes that would make it an easy candidate for an interstate in the USA. New huge housing estates and apartments flank the road as you depart Delhi, further signs of the incredible changes that are taking place here. Driving on the highway is a bit surreal – it’s a toll road, so hardly anyone uses it. No doubt as people get wealthier, they’ll go for ease of use rather than austerity.

Agra remains a dirty and massively crowded place. On our way in we stopped in the traffic long enough for Eitan and I to rush out and buy him a hat – his ear had been so badly sunburned up in the mountains. We bought him a fake India cricket hat, for 3 dollars – knowing that we were being ripped off (recommended price $1.50).

Visiting the Taj Mahal is a bit of a mission. Firstly, the entire perimeter has been enlarged so that you enter the tourist precinct at least a kilometer or so from the actual site. After buying tickets, we rode in a free electrified buggy to the security check point. There are about 50 things you are not allowed to take with you into the Taj.  Some are kind of strange – no books, newspapers, flashlights, flags. No pets or toolboxes either. Somehow hands are also not allowed!

After exiting security, which is very thorough, it’s time for the real deal. The first sight of the Taj Mahal is simply breathtaking. It doesn’t matter that there are thousands of others around – it’s a huge place. The kids were in awe – and Gal was finally appeased. Interestingly, the vast majority of visitors were Indian – you could just pick out a few foreigners here and there.

Gal with her instant new friends

Gal with her instant new friends

After spending a good amount of time – clearly locals make it a whole day affair by the way many had camped out in the shade – it was time to leave.

After a poor lunch at a highly recommended restaurant, we went to the Agra Fort. It’s an astounding building, and would be the greatest attraction in almost any city in the world, but in Agra, it’s a clear runner-up. By now Gal wasn’t feeling well for whatever reason, and so I took the boys around the Fort. There isn’t much inside – the most impressive part is definitely the entrance gate and outer walls. Shah Jahan who built the Taj for his wife was later imprisoned here by his own son – and we saw the terrace from which he apparently would gaze at the Taj every day for the many years of his imprisonment.

While we were away, Gal apparently became the #1 attraction for local tourists at the entrance gate – and appeared in hundreds of photos. Something that would repeat itself throughout the trip.

Later, it was back to Delhi on the empty highway.

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