Monthly Archives: March 2015

People-Watching at the Taj

I GoPro’d it, Lumixed it, shot it from every possible angle, from varying vantage points.  The Taj is now the one landmark I have most pictures of.  After Taj fatigue, I thought the tourists in Agra were as interesting as the Taj itself.  Why not shoot pics of people?

First is a series of “I’m holding it up” poses.  Almost everyone was doing the obligatory Eiffel gesture.  Their equivalent of “I’m pushing the Leaning Tower” pose.  I hoped they nailed it.

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Next, their beautiful garb.  No other country in the world has a more amazing mix of traditional wear than India (or maybe other than Japan).  It’s nice to see their women use it for everyday wear, not just during cultural presentations.  The dyes, the silks, the long unstitched saris, the intricate ear jewelries, the diversity — everything is still vivid to me as the whiteness of the palace itself.

Some friends in our group mourned that there were just too many people, that they wished there were less so they could take in the romance and grace of the Taj.  That would never happen.  So just take it all in.  Embrace the colors of India.  Watch an authentic parade of national costumes.

The Taj

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India is one of those places that always turns up in lists of sights to visit before you die.  It was on my bucket list.  But I never planned to visit it within the next few years knowing how grueling the trip would be for a Filipino.  I’m so blessed to have been given the chance to see it much earlier than expected.

The agency network I belong to organized a trip to Agra after a 3-day conference in Delhi.  I grabbed the chance since it would’ve been expensive for me to do it on my own.  The flight alone from Manila to Delhi via Singapore costs hundreds of dollars.  And a pain too, if I’d do Agra on another occasion.   You fly to Singapore for a little over 3 hours, lay over in Changi for 3, then take another 5.5 hours from Singapore to Delhi.  It was exhausting.  The only consolation was the nice, chilly weather that greeted the Philippine delegation in Delhi.  It was around 11 degrees.  Early March was a great time to be in that part of India, where temperatures rise as high as 45 in the summer.

About 30 people from the conference stayed on for Agra.  A fun group composed of colleagues from the Singapore, Jakarta, Seoul and Manila offices.  We rode a huge bus that traveled for 3.5 hours through the swanky Yamuna Expressway.  The 165-kilometer-long highway connects Delhi and Noida, the access to Agra.  It was a comfortable ride — think NLEX and 3 hours of watching the Bulacan countryside.

We got to Agra early Friday evening, then checked in at the ITC Hotel (great exteriors, nice lobby and restos, but the rooms desperately need a makeover).   We took the 10-minute trip from ITC to the Taj the next morning.  This is what we saw.  Not much annotation needed.  You must know about how an Emperor’s love for a dead wife made it happen, the special white marble, the symmetry, its unique architecture an all.   India is incredible indeed.

The entrance.  You can't bring it lots of things: food including mints, water, cigarettes, lighters, even selfie sticks!
The entrance. You can’t bring it lots of things: food including mints, water, cigarettes, lighters, even selfie sticks!
the courtyard
the courtyard
the other courtyard and structure to your left
the other courtyard and structure to your left
The crown of palaces is peeking through.
The crown of palaces is peeking through.
the main gate to the Taj
the main gate to the Taj
ceiling detail
ceiling detail
the best part:  the reveal
the best part: the reveal
in all its glory
in all its glory

marble and inlay detail
marble and inlay detail
the back view
the back view
the Yamuna River
the Yamuna River