I never really thought I would be given the chance to see this seventh wonder of the world, yet there I was standing in her glory!
I almost didn't think it would be worth the struggle and exhaustion of adding such a long side trip from Jaipur, but last minute I decided to make it happen. I decided to visit the Taj Mahal at sunset AND sunrise!
My driver was excited for us to be visiting Agra and with him speaking very very little English and me not having phone service, I'm surprised we managed to navigate our way around the city. After going down a few sketchy turns we finally found the Mehtab Bagh on the Yamuna River, across from the Taj Mahal.
Like most of my travels I hardly do any research, so I didn't know a tripod wasn't allowed in the park so I had to run that back to the car. The guys at the front said it looked like a gun and they would take it for me...which I thought was funny. Here a backpack is fine, but not IN the Taj Mahal, so I was able to take my entire backpack.
Mehtab Bagh Entry: 200 rupees for foreigners
At this point I had yet to actually see the Taj Mahal so I was getting really excited! I was also preparing myself to have one of those Instagram disappointments, yah know...where it's not as good as people make it out to be?
Then suddenly...it was there! I'm not kidding when I say I think I wiped a tear from my eye. It was indeed the most beautiful piece of architecture I had ever seen!
I made my way across the garden where I came to a fence facing the river with the Taj Mahal overlooking it. I was surprised how few tourists were gathered and I made my way over to a rock wall where I settled in for sunset!
It was around 4:30 pm and sunset would be at about 6pm, so I took some photos for a bit before setting up my time-lapse. During that hour I simply sat there staring at the Taj's beauty. Occasionally I watched some villagers cross the river and I even saw some kind of antelope running around. I think the Yamuna River was lower than normal, but I loved watching everyday life continuing, even with the white marble structure hovering above.
As the sun slowly starting sinking the colors would shift across the face of the Taj Mahal and I started getting a little chilly. I stopped my time-lapse and grabbed a few more photos before packing up. The Mehtab Bagh closed at sunset, and same for the Taj Mahal. I couldn’t tell you how many times I stopped to look back as I was leaving.
I was so excited to see it even closer tomorrow for SUNRISE!
That night I actually ate the weirdest McDonald’s I’ve ever had, (I might have gotten a little too excited for something other than Indian food) and needless to say was feeling rather gross. Yet when 5:30am rolled around I was out of bed and waiting for my driver exactly at 6am. It was cold and for the first time on my entire trip I was glad I packed my down jacket.
I was confused the entire time why my driver was trying to get his friends to be my tour guide. I had to finally tell him enough when he had another tour friend waiting for me inside my hotel. I think everyone and their Mother was confused why I wanted to go alone as a woman.
However, I was still very confused on if a tour guide was necessary or not? It seemed like it was...but of course as soon as I was dropped off at the East Gate at 6:15am I ended up letting a guy be my guide so the process would go faster. For all I know I paid him too much, but he helped me skip lines and honestly got me in the Gate faster than I would have alone - so that reason alone I would say was worth it!
I also couldn’t believe the line to get in so early. I guess when it comes to seeing the Taj Mahal at sunrise, literally the ENTIRE world is willing to get up early!
It was like waiting to get into Disneyland, but this time there was no Indiana Jones Ride.
I didn’t know when the Taj Mahal was going to reveal it’s sunrise splendor...when I suddenly walked through the final part of the East Gate. I couldn’t help but gasp. I stood there for a moment and had a funny realization that no matter what language we all speak, a “gasp” sounded the same!
Once I was through the final “gateway” it was a madness of selfies, and photos. For some reason this made me want to worry less about trying to get a photo and I found myself focusing on capturing people.
I noticed people were rarely looking at the Taj Mahal, and I mean really looking at her. People had their phones, go pro's, selfie sticks and large cameras everywhere. In some ways I couldn't blame them.
After trying to push my way through a few crowds to get some "iconic" reflection shots, I found myself getting lost in something else happening - the SUN! The Indian sunrise that was happening was stunning! It poured all over the gardens and I'd wished I had more than my 35mm. (I only went in with my camera around my neck and one lens.)
I couldn't help but keep chasing it around the property, making my tour guide so confused!
I made my way up to the top deck of the Taj Mahal and couldn't believe how beautiful the different areas were.
I spent a total of about 2.5 hours exploring around the property and as I was heading back down I saw the crowds had tripled.
MY TRAVEL TIPS:
- Get there EVEN earlier to beat the long lines to enter.
- Go ahead and get a guide if you don't mind spending the extra 500 rupees - just don't buy souvenirs from their "friends".
- Take your time and be patient if you're wanting to get that one "awesome" shot.
- Look beyond the beautiful Taj Mahal and notice all the other hidden gems: Doors, light, people, did I mention light...just everything!
- Pack an extra lens in a lens case - I was stuck with just my one lens.
- **Really look at the Taj Mahal
Last of all...
Why travel the world to simply have your face pressed in your technology. AS A PHOTOGRAPHER I understand the pressure to get some awesome photos + something to share on social media, but just try it.