Friday

Visiting Agra and the Taj Mahal

When you think of must-see places in the world, the Taj Mahal is going to be pretty high on the list. For me, it was proper bucket list territory, so I couldn't wait to experience it on my India tour. We ended up visiting at sunset and it was just perfect!

Visiting the Taj Mahal at sunset


Before we got to visit the Taj Mahal though, we had to make the long trip to Agra. We checked out of our hotel early and set off in our mini bus. The traffic in New Delhi is pretty awful so it took about an hour to get to the other side of the city, but once we hit the expressway, we were off! The 150 miles took about 5 hours, with a stop off at services on the way. 
Plus size outfit Agra

Top: Boohoo (similar here)
Skirt: Boohoo (similar here)
Shoes: Primark (similar here)

It was this stop off where things got a bit weird. Waiting by the minibus for the rest of our group after buying supplies, a group of three teenage boys approached me and Rich. We were already pretty used to hawkers and beggars, but this wasn't the case here. Instead, one of the lads wanted a selfie with us. His request surprised me so I hesitated, and he took this opportunity to snap his photo. Bit strange, but OK.
Agra Fort
Anyway, the rest of the group returned and our journey continued to Agra Fort. Now, to be perfectly honest, we visited a lot of forts over the week and they all start to blur into one. The main thing I remember about this fort is the beautiful pillared platform where I tried- and failed- to get the perfect shot with nobody in the background, and the view across Agra towards the Taj Mahal. This was our first glimpse of the building and even from this distance we could see how majestic it was.
Agra Fort Taj Mahal
Then, finally, it was time to head back to the minibus to visit the real reason we were all here. We arrived at about 3:30pm and our tour guide took a torturously long time outside telling us about the building. I have to admit I found it difficult to pay attention because I was so impatient to get inside! As we approached the doorway, I tried to keep my eyes down so I wouldn't see any glimpse of the Taj Mahal until I'd reached the perfect vantage point.
We shuffled through the doorway with the rest of the crowd and then, there it was, glistening in the sunlight, white marble catching the sunlight. It was beautiful! 
Taj Mahal January 2020
After taking the obligatory selfies, we walked down a quieter side path. Our tour guide stopped us in front of an Italian girl who had instructed her partner to take photos of her in yoga poses with the Taj Mahal behind her. After lecturing her on how it was disrespectful to point her feet at the building and take 'silly photos' in front of it, he admitted to us that he had deliberately positioned our group to ruin her photo. That's the kind of passive aggressive tactic I live for!
Taj Mahal River
We were given plenty of time to explore the area independently, which ended up mostly being me fielding off more selfie requests. A lot of selfie requests. Not even just selfies- there was a lot of attempts at taking photos without me noticing. I felt like a celebrity! At the airport on the way home, we got chatting to an Indian student who was travelling back to Leeds Uni and asked him what the deal was with all the selfies. He explained that for many Indian people it's a novelty to see a white person so they like to have photos with them. Our whole tour group was white though and I was the only person approached. I'm not sure why I was the focus of this but it took me by surprise how intense the experience was. I'm a massive attention seeker I broke my foot at my brother's wedding but even so, I felt uncomfortable. It was mild discomfort and it certainly didn't ruin my experience, but I think it would have been less overwhelming if I'd been prepared for it. Something to bear in mind if you're visiting! 
Taj Mahal side view
Whilst the paparazzi snapped away, Rich and I explored the building. This is going to sound ridiculously naive but I had no idea you could actually go up to the building and walk around it. You need to put little shoe covers on your feet which adds a fun element because the marble is a bit slippy. So there I was, sliding around the Taj Mahal, getting excited because I can actually touch it, taking selfies of myself touching the building while Indian families gather around me taking surreptitious photos. It sounds odd when you put it down like that but somehow it seemed completely normal at the time.
Taj Mahal plus size outfit
Once I'd had my fill of actually touching the actual Taj Mahal, we climbed down, discarded our shoe covers and walked back to meet our guide. On the way back, we stopped the nearest tourists to take a photo of the two of us in front of the building. They turned out to be Irish, and in a weird coincidence, we walked past them the next day in a completely different place. Small world!
Taj Mahal Jan 2020
With the sun setting, we sat at the front of the site and watched the setting sun change the perspective of those famous domes. The warm rays caught the gold details and made them sparkle as birds swooped over the rooftop (real birds too, not Photoshopped ones. Ooh, throwback!). I was afraid to look away for even a second because I knew soon we would be leaving and I would never have the chance again. It was quite emotional.

Taj Mahal at Sunset
With the day over, we headed to our hotel for the night, where we had a massive room complete with bar, for some reason. But also the lights kept turning off, we woke up to find the mini fridge had flooded everywhere and the hotel kept our passports overnight, so it wasn't all great! But hey, that's just part of the experience! 
Thanks to On The Go Tours for this prize. In the interests of full transparency- the competition was open to everyone and I have not received any compensation to write these posts. Affiliate links have been used in this post.

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