“I was hungry, tired and hot, so not in the best of moods. And I still hadn’t seen this bloody building!”
My guess is that you’ve seen more photographs of the Taj Mahal than you can count on both hands and feet. So why do people travel half way around the world to visit a building that they can most likely see with their eyes shut? I was thinking the exact same thing when I got the 5am wake up call from the receptionist at my hotel – ‘wake up, wake up, time to see the Taj!’ All I wanted to do was crawl under the covers in my comfy, air-conditioned room, but no, instead I climbed on a minibus (if you can even call it that, it was more like a shed with wheels) and then a rickshaw, which I can assure you, at 5am was not pleasant (in case you are unaware, a rickshaw ride includes numerous near death experiences and an uncomfortable proximity to wandering cows). As if I thought this was bad enough, I then had to get past the street vendors, which felt like I was taking on a full-blown rugby team! Make eye contact with just one of them and you may as well wave your white flag right there and then! No, I did not want a Taj Mahal snow globe or miniature model, but hats off to anyone who manages to avoid purchasing one of these beyond delightful souvenirs.
By the time I’d reached the gates of the Taj Mahal, feeling rather smug about surviving the street vendors I then had to go through the laborious task of what was basically an outdoors version of airport security. This mission was made considerably more exciting having seen a monkey ride past on a motorbike, although the time being way before 7am it was still all a little more than I could handle.
When I finally made it inside the outer gates I was hungry, tired and hot, so not in the best of moods. And I still hadn’t seen this bloody building! Tentatively walking around the corner and through the archway I got my first peek at the Taj Mahal and although I am slightly ashamed to admit it, my eyes teared up. Now I’m not normally a girl who cries at just anything, let alone a 400-year old building, but there is something about this lump of marble that has the ability to take your breath away. At first, its outline resembled a ghost on the horizon but as time went on the sun began to rise, casting a golden glow onto the dome of the Taj. This made it seem more majestic than I think any photographer could ever capture. After going through the routine touristy activities, including queuing to sit on Diana’s bench and planking in front of the Taj (yes, that happened), I made my way up to the main building. A little concerned when I was approached by two young men who asked me to cover my feet with what looked like plastic bags, I obliged (I’d seen Slumdog Millionaire and was not prepared to give up my shoes any time soon). Standing at the base of the Taj Mahal looking up, there is no description to do its size justice, except maybe that I now know what an ant feel like outside founders building. You would think that decoration on a building that size would lose its detail, but the intricate designs engraved on the entrance are like nothing I’ve ever seen – so complex and elaborate, but also so delicate they look like they belong on your gran’s glassware.
I had been completely transformed from a grumpy, fed up traveler to an inspired and elated explorer, and the reason for this? Simply one glance at this marble phenomenon that goes by the name of the Taj Mahal. So if you ever find yourself wondering, is it really worth the air miles when I can just Google it? The answer is yes, it is totally worth the trip, and I can guarantee you won’t regret it. If you’re lucky, you might even see a monkey riding a motorbike…