2018. My friend from Germany, Deiter, and I were on a business trip to Delhi, India. We had the 26th January holiday (India’s Republic Day) to kill and decided to take the drive to Agra (the city where the Taj Mahal is located) on the new Delhi-Agra super highway. We had booked a car (a Suzuki swift desire) which arrived at 7 am for an early start. Deiter is a tall man and wasn’t quite comfortable in the mid-sized sedan. And, all hell broke loose when he could not find the seat belts. He refused to travel without one! They were hidden under the seat covers! The driver was surprised when Deiter asked where were the seat belts? Hello, in India, passengers in the rear seat do not wear seat belts! Deiter was adamant and the driver was reluctant to remove his spanking white seat cover. After my tirade and explanation in Hindi he finally agreed and we were on our way after half an hour’s delay.
It takes about 4 hours from Delhi to Agra on the Yamuna expressway. We took a refreshment break at the half-way point at the services. After taking the exit to Agra we arrived at a roundabout and immediately got caught in a jam. All vehicles, which included, cars, buses, trucks, three-wheeler scooter rickshaws and bullock carts, were trying to move all at once with none actually moving. I had to get out and temporarily control the traffic for us to go through! (Don’t try it unless you are of local ethnicity).
The Taj Mahal car park is a good kilometre away from the main entrance to keep the pollution away. From there you can either walk or take a ‘to-to’ electric rickshaw. We were immediately accosted by a barrage of guides and we took one after checking his credentials and hearing his long sales pitch! ( need to be a bit careful here!). The guide turned out to be quite helpful. At first, we were quite alarmed by the long queue in front of us. I decided this is going to take hours get in. With the temperatue at 35 C this was not a welcoming proposition. The guide quickly quashed our concerns and took us to the ticket counter for foreigners (where you pay almost 10 times the normal price for locals). We were quite happy to pay the $ 15 per head fee and made a swift entry. The guide took over and regalled us with his stories and pointed out the photo points.
The Taj Mahal is truly a wonder of the world. The beautiful white marble edifice overwhelms you. It leaves you in complete wonder and utter sensation and delight.