THE TAJ MAHAL AT DAWN
The Taj Mahal is often on the bucket list of many travellers, I first visited it in 1983, my love affair with this great monument started then and despite my numerous visits, remains to this day. It always takes my breath away, with its beauty, majesty, symmetry, setting, grandeur and perfection.
In my opinion the best time to visit the Taj Mahal is at sunrise. Rising early and making my way through the streets of Agra as it slowly comes to life, is a surreal experience. I love watching the day awaken, so still and quiet. The shops are usually still closed as we make our way from our hotel near the South Gate of the Taj Mahal to the entrance. Sharing this time with people waking up and slowly making their way through their morning ritual, drinking chai or perhaps huddled around a communal fire if it is cool. In a country that is so intense, music blaring, tooting horns, revving motorbikes and Tuk Tuks. This is a special moment quiet, calm, serene.
I love watching places come to life anywhere in the world.
The entrance fee of Rp 750 (about $A15) also supplies you with a bottle of water and a pair of shoe covers which you are required to wear once you actually start to walk on the actual building. You can go bare footed and there are shoe minding areas that you can leave your shoes in ,(for a minimal fee) , however, once you get over the fact that you are going to look ridiculous in your white shoe covers, (but not as silly as those wearing bright yellow and orange ones supplied by some of the larger tour companies) , you just get on with it , and once you are there you realise how important it is to take any measure possible to protect this amazing place.
Once you get your ticket go over to the cattle runs at the entrance and don’t forget as with many places in India, there are separate men's and women's entrances, so make sure you get yourself into the right one!
There is a bag check and a bit of’ International Frisking ‘that you go through before you can enter ‘Eating and smoking is strictly prohibited inside Taj Mahal. Arms, ammunitions, fire, smoking items, tobacco products, liquor, eatables (Toffees), head phones, knives, wire, mobile charger, electric goods (except camera) are also prohibited. 'And believe me there are trays full of confiscated booty, so leave it all in the safe at your hotel.
Once you are through the security check, a world of magic and wonder unfolds and there standing before you (surrounded by other magnificent buildings) is one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World "Breathtaking.
MARY HAMILTON-SMITH : AUSTRALIAN WOMENS TRAVEL