Continuation from here ...
I finished visiting both the Agra Fort and Itmad-ud-Daulah's Tomb at around 4pm and quickly we headed to the Taj Mahal. Along the way, I couldn't hide my excitement. Who wouldn't right? I was going to visit one of the wonders of the world yo!
My auto-rickshaw driver dropped me at the entrance of the west gate. From here actually you have to walk almost 1 km to the ticketing counter so there will be many trishaws and horse-drawn carriages' drivers calling you to ride with them. Also there will be people following you trying to get you to buy stuffs or offering to be your tour guide.
As I neared the ticketing counter, I could already see the crowd. Huuuge crowd. I already bought the ticket earlier at the Agra Fort so I straight away walked to the entrance check. Thank God they have a special lane for foreigners so you can literally cut the massive lines (because the long lines were formed by the locals). I didn't know until later that actually if you buy the ticket here at the Taj Mahal, foreign visitors will get a bottled water and shoe cover. Not sure whether you can claim both the items if you buy your ticket elsewhere.
Anyway, a tip for you. If you want to avoid the crowd at the entrance, use the south or east entrance instead of the west. The west entrance is the busiest as most people, tour groups or individuals are dropped off there because it is near the main road.
Passing the entrance check, there is a large courtyard where you can see all the three gates and the main gateway to the Taj Mahal.
the main gateway
The Taj Mahal cannot be seen from this courtyard as the view is obstructed by this main gateway.
Walking through the main gateway made of red sandstones amidst the crowds, the glimpse of Taj Mahal caught my eyes. My heart fluttered with excitement. We walked in slowly as the crowds were huge so there were some bottlenecks at the gateway. Everybody was racing wanting to see the Taj Mahal in its full glory during sunset.
As I finally made it to the front of the platform, I stood there transfixed.
There, standing at the other end of the garden beyond the fountains, the Taj Mahal was definitely one of the most amazing sights you would ever see of a monument.
I was mesmerized. And speechless. A few times, I closed my eyes and opened them again just to be sure I wasn't dreaming. Nak tampar diri sendiri nanti orang ingat gila pulak kan? hahahaha...
I was really in India. I was really standing in front of one of the new seven wonders of the world. Words couldn't describe my happiness. Thank you God for letting me be here. It was like a dream come true. But at that same moment, I felt a tinge feeling of sadness. I looked around me and all the people there came with their partners or families. But me? I was alone. *emo moment*
Anyway, this mausoleum needs very little introduction. I guess everybody knows about this monument of love. Described as a symbol of everlasting love, it was built in the 16th century by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She died after giving birth to their 14th child.
The mausoleum took 22 years to build. A fine example of the Mughal architecture, it incorporates Islamic, Indian and Persian styles altogether.
This white marble dome stands on a square plinth and this is where you need to take off your shoes. You can deposit your shoes at a shoe guardian there (not sure about the fees though), or just leave your shoes somewhere and risk them being stolen or put on a shoe cover over your shoes. You then walk up the steps onto the platform where the Taj Mahal is. Four minarets frame the mausoleum, one at each corner of the plinth.
The queue to go inside was sooo long! But foreigners or high value ticket holders as they call it may skip the queue and enter the mausoleum straight away.
Inside there, the fake tombs of the king and queen lies unsymmetrical. Their actual graves are at the basement. People said everything at this mausoleum has symmetrical design, with the tomb of Mumtaz in the centre. But when Shah Jahan died, he was buried next to her, thus spoiling the symmetry.
You can't take pictures inside but as usual, I don't pay high entrance fees for nothing so degil jugak secretly snapping all these pictures.
the cenotaphs were surrounded by octagonal marble screen
Anyway, just look at the interior and the exterior decorations. They are breathtakingly beautiful.
calligraphy on the archway
It is as beautiful as the postcards, if only there weren't so many people around!
Taj Mahal mosque
I waited until sunset, watching the reflection of the Taj on the pool.
As it got darker, I reluctantly made my way out from the main gateway. I wanted to stay longer but there were no lights inside, so I couldn't really see much. I headed to the South Gate as it is very near to my hotel. There is a small road flanked by souvenir shops just outside the gate and as soon as I stepped out of the gate, I was flocked by little boys, asking me to go to their brothers' shops to buy souvenirs.
Taj Mahal is open daily, except Friday.
Visiting hours are from sunrise to sunset.
Entrance fee is Rs750 for foreigners and Rs20 for Indians.
Taj Mahal as seen from the banks of Yamuna River
Taj Mahal view from rooftop restaurant of my hotel
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site crossed off the list. That visit was definitely the highlight of my trip to India.