The latest in the series of snippets from the blog of my erstwhile travelling companion, Burness, as well as a short interview, on his views on a World Wonder. This time: the Taj Mahal.
I’d been to Agra before, on my first visit to India I stopped off on an afternoon visit to the Taj Mahal and on my way from Varanasi to Delhi. I wasn’t too impressed with it and thought it was overrated. Before our visit I let Nev how I thought about the Taj, when we were in Sydney I told him I thought the Opera House was a better building. Well I was wrong, and I had to take my words back.
I picked a budget guesthouse called Shanti Lodge out of the lonely planet which was meant to have commanding views of the Taj Mahal from its restaurant and from the deluxe rooms. It turned out to be a great choice, and made our visit to the Taj that it more special.
Nev and Danielle opted for the deluxe room while I went for the budget option. The view from their room was outstanding, as was the view from the restaurant. I started to feel like a bit of an idiot for underrating the Taj, it looked absolutely magnificent. Even from my first sighting, I knew that it was by far the best thing we’d seen. I was cursing it for being so beautiful, I couldn’t believe it failed to impress me on my first visit. There were contributing factors why the Taj Mahal didn’t making an impression first time round. It was monsoon, it was overcast and the skies were grey. I’d fallen ill in Varanasi and still wasn’t 100%, I was on my own, and the hassle from touts and the hordes of visitors had pissed me off.
As I’d visited the Taj before I wasn’t keen on the obligatory double visit that Nev insists upon with most of his wonders. I let Nev and Danielle enjoy the spectacles of the Taj and the Red Fort on their own. While they were out sightseeing, I spent the late afternoon in the rooftop restaurant taking in the Taj, and I started to fall head over heels in love with it. I had a beer during sunset and watched the building change from white to dark shades of brown, until just a black silhouette of the famous building was left.
I visited the Taj on our second day. The only downside to the Taj Mahal was Agra, a city rammed to the rafters with touts, and tat sellers. You never get a moments peace, until you’re actually through the gates of the Taj, where the touts aren’t allowed. The visit installed my feelings that the Taj Mahal was indeed a magnificent world wonder, and probably very hard to beat. I’m not going to bother going into detail about what it looks like, it’s so iconic no explanation is needed and words couldn’t do it justice anyway. All I’ll say is if you’re ever in India, you HAVE to check it out.
Had you heard of the Taj Mahal before travelling?
Yeah, of course.
What were your expectations?
Pretty low, I’d been there before [in 2007]. On my first visit, my expectation were very high. It is regarded as one of the modern/new Wonders of the World. In photos it looks pretty spectacular.
What was your first impression?
On my first visit, maybe the weather didn’t help it, it was overcast, and I was on my own, getting annoyed by all the touts, and I did it on a day-trip, kind of rushed around, and there were load of people there, and I didn’t like the whole experience. And for that reason, I wasn’t really looking forward to going back that much. I thought it was overrated. On my return, when we checked into our guesthouse, went up to the rooftop, and I couldn’t believe I’d been so wrong. I’d been saying to you and Danielle that its not a Wonder, you’re not going to be that impressed, you’ll be let down, and my first view I realised it was probably the most beautiful building I’d ever seen.
What did you like most about the Taj Mahal?
It was just spectacularly beautiful. The white marble sparkles int the sunshine, and it’s just a building done to perfection.
What didn't you like about the Taj Mahal?
The touts. The tat sellers. And the crowds. But there’s nothing I didn’t like about the building.
Would you regard the Taj Mahal as a World Wonder?