Agra is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Famous Taj Mahal is located here.
THe easiest way to get here is express train. 180 kilometres in 2 hours. It's really quick! For example the train from Pune to Mumbai makes 150 kilometres in 3-3.5 hours.
To buy a ticket you have to fill a special form and write there destination point and list of travellers.
It's crowdy on the train station.
The train is really good. Passengers even served the lunch (which is already in the ticket price). This express is one of the best in the country.
Then we needed to get somehow from Agra to Taj Mahal. Uber doesn't operate, unlike in Delhi or Pune, So we had to find a cab. We also had to keep in mind, that it is not allowed to go on the gas or diesel car nearer than 500m to Taj Mahal, and South entrance is the less crowded one. With any sign of fraud (like "you have to buy a special car entrance permission" or stuff like that) just find another driver. There are a lot of them there.
It was very hot in Agra in that day. +37 in the shadow.
September is not a high season in Taj Mahal. It's still too hot. Not really a lot of tourists here. Next to the tickets window a local guy (well, he's not really Indian, he was born in India, but he's Australian cause his mother moved here) suggested as to be our guide. The price for service started from 1000 rupees (13 euro) for the entire group. However we didn't plan to hire a guide. The guy was really persistent and he finally offered us to be a guide just for 100 rupees (1.3 euro) (!). So we couldn't deny the offer.
It was a good guide. We enjoyed him. He showed us a lot of shortcuts for foreign visitors, which we could easily miss if we were on our own. It really saved us a lot of time.
The guide showed us a lot of ways to make a perfect photo and even made some on his own.
Some people say that Taj Mahal stone is not that white anymore. The dirt and bad environment make it a bit grey.
I don't know how white it was in the old days, but it is hardly possible to look at the stone without sunglasses. And the stone is really white.
It really catches an eye, that locals love to simply sit on the floor and eat or talk there.
The colons around Taj Mahal are not straight. It's tilted for 7 degrees, so in case of earthquake it would fall outside and won't break the main building.
Taj Mahal is not just a tomb for Shah Jahan's wife, but also a mosque which still is working nowadays. Every Friday Taj Mahal is closed for tourists, here comes around 5-7 thousands of prayers. Only a small part of mosque has a roof and shadow. I guess in the best case about 200 people might fit there. The rest will pray outside. Under direct sun and +38 degrees outside it must be really hard.
After the tour our guide made us to visit a souvenir shop. He promised that just in 5 minutes they will show us some stone work with materials like in Taj Mahal and how it looks like under night light. The prices are dozen times higher than it really costs. It doesn't worth it to buy something there.
Once we run away from all the souvenir sales we headed to Agra Fort.
From here you can see a beautiful view on Taj Mahal. According to old legend, when Shah Jahan's son took over the father, he put the father to the Fort. And Shah observed the Taj Mahal building from there.
Here they also have buildings from white stone. It's hard to look at them under bright sun.
And very green grass. They must spend really a lot of water on it.
By the way, about the water. Near Baby Taj (Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, the tomb which inspired Taj Mahal architects a lot) we were at the river side. And the water there was extremely dirty. But people swim there. They don't afraid of it :)
The we headed to Akbar's Tomb. Looks like they really like tombs here :)
After a long way on rickshaw we understood why so many locals hide their face in scarf: it's really hard to breathe with all the dust flying in the air. With hidden mouth and nose it's really much easier.
After dirty and dusty streets such tombs and gardens (especially very green gardens) really differs from the rest of the city.
There are way too many cows on the streets. Ah, by the way, don't mix cows and buffalo. It's allowed to eat buffalos :)
You might noticed, that local cows are different from European cows. Indian cows have a hunch, which European cows don't have. It's cause of different ancestor.
So it was already not too far from sunset, so we made the last selfie with locals and headed to the railway station.
The road was really colourful.
Sometimes even with a huge trash hills.
In general it was an amazing day. Even though it was an extremely hot day with a lot of walking and endless argues on price with rickshaws and other nice things. Taj Mahal in real life looks much more beautiful than on pictures. The visit worth it.