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India Day 4 - Engaged in Agra

Added: December 06, 2008

Tags: India castle city photos
Tuesday 4th November is the most important day in our Indian trip. We came to India, because Zuzka dreamed about visiting Taj Mahal for 10 years - since she built model of it as school project (that helped her to decide she wants to be an architect). So her dream is finally fulfilled. And I have realized there is not better place in the world to propose. So apart of wanting to fulfil Zuzka's dream, it is important place to go for me too. I hope magic of Taj Mahal will work :-)

Taj Mahal

We wanted to be there before sunrise even Col. Lamba told us it will be foggy at that time. So we set alarm clock at 5:25, had light breakfast, just to survive till 10:00 when we arranged proper breakfast in our guest house. I have checked engagement ring is still in its place and in good shape and we could go. Taxi has been already waiting, driver was again in very good talkative mood. Whole Agra was engulfed in fog, it was comfortable cold. Not like yesterday in New Delhi.

After our arrival to parking lot near Taj Mahal (cars are not allowed 500m from Taj) we went together with driver to gate. He was showing us monkeys and other stuff. He told us not to buy anything and to avoid giving anything to beggars. As we approached main (west) gate there was terrible long queue. So we came late :-( Driver took us to ticket office where guides started to sell their service. It costs 475 Rs per person! "For showing the best places to take picture from" Well, we can find them ourselves ;-) "And we will skip queue" Now that's something! :-) So we agreed and he helped us to push through people. Later our guide showed to be useful also for pushing people away from "that spot" if they occupied it for long time.

Visibility of Taj was not good from distance. Sun was not visible yet, sky was not blue but gray and everything looked a bit disappointing. And my photos looked really weak. As we got closer it was getting better, then I caught sight of sun between the trees, I asked our guide to find good place to take photos and he took us to the west side so sun was raising behind Taj. After satisfying of our needs of sunrise photos we went to other side, took several photos from that place. Guide brought our attention to stones shining in the sun (we would certainly miss them without him). Taj finally started to change colours, sky suggested that it could be eventually blue, and also photos got better.

As it was disappointing in the beginning it turned gorgeous from close distance and with better light. Beautifuly decorated with perfect craftsmanship of details. Shiny stones mentioned in previous paragraph are red flowers (you can see them in photos). We went around then he left us some time to sit at bench to enjoy changes in colours. It's my time! I produced ring and asked Zuzka if she wants to travel with me whole life. She agreed! :-) We were both very happy.

After some time guide returned and we continued with our wandering around and inside. We went to gardens, took a few photos there then got again in front of Taj. Fountains has been already turned on so we took some photos there again. In my opinion fountains made them worse. Or it could be 1000 additional people...

Then guide told us he wants us show how transparent white marble is and how those red stones are shining with light. Somehow we missed that we need to leave Taj Mahal and go to nearby shops... It was too late to return, but his boss was probably uncompromising - every tourist needs to go there otherwise they would lose their commissions :-) But we did not buy anything (even I liked those small boxes from marble with embedded colourful stones). I was curious how much they cost, because prices were not attached (of course, we are in India!), but I did not ask just to avoid more pressure from their side. Problem is we wanted to stay longer inside to enjoy it more. And if we waited longer we could get really nice photos as they should be. OK, at least we will be for breakfast on time.

Main gate to Taj Mahal complex.


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Intricate details done with colourful stones embedded in marble. Notice 2 red shining flowers (one on the left, other on the right). More later.



Another shot with shining stones visible. (It did not occur to me I should zoom bit more...). Shot on the right (zoomed!) shows how the same spot looks from normal angle.
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Our guide.
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One shot from gardens


Working fountains make this photo bad (IMHO), but better colours than in the early photos make it worth of publishing. Notice how many more people are on this one compared to the 2nd photo.

This photo was not taken by me (obviously!). It was only usable photo our guide took. Additionally it was taken by Zuzka's point&shoot Canon (!) and edited heavily by her to remove ubiquitous people from "our photo"! Lot of reasons not to show it here, but it is our engagement day!


Back to guest house

Driver waited us, I guess he was not happy it took us so long and he told us we should not accept offer for guided tour. In hindsight he was right.

On our return we stopped at money exchange to get another bunch of those smelly brownish papers :-) A clerk gave us many of 1000 Rs notes that would be completely useless to us so I asked him to give us smaller notes. So we got a lot of 50 Rs (these were smelly). Another 200 GBP vanished.

Breakfast in our guest house was delicious! Much better than we could risk in restaurants near Taj Mahal and much safer too.