It was 8:00 AM when Eastern gate was opened as we were waiting in queue to enter. As soon as we enter, I was mesmerized to see the beauty of structure. Sun has started to shine and Taj was looking awesome. No fog no clouds. It was end of December and we were very happy to have a clear day.
This was a family trip. We are five families of total 15 members. I knew that not all will be able to wake up that early, specially with kids. But I want to see the Taj in sunrise, so my friend Gurinder and I made a plan to wake up early. It was 6:00 AM, alarm on my cell phone rings, that woke me up, I turn it off and get up from the bed. My wife and son were still in deep sleep. I looked outside the window, it’s still dark. I called Gurinder and he is also ready to go. Ticket counter was few steps away from our hotel. We brought 12 tickets, 2 for ourselves and 10 for revisit with all group. At that time kids entry was free up to 15 years.
They opened the gate just before the sunrise. We spent around one and a half hour in premises. Clicking some random shots and then I saw a boat on the bank of Yumna. I had seen many photographs of Taj reflected in Yumna. Within 20 minutes we were in boat. We clicked some photographs from boat.
By the time we returned to hotel it was 11:00 AM. All group members were almost ready. We took a quick dip in hot water and got ready for breakfast.
We enter the premises again about 1:00 pm(yeh it’s too late). This time we hired a guide, Mr. Rahul Singh, Left most in image below. He provide some amazing facts and features of Taj, I will not go in details about this. He will save yours a lots of time.(drop your email in comment section for his number)
Stay, Eat and roam.
We stayed at a hotel on western gate road. I also recommend to find any good hotel and stay on western gate road because:
• It’s not main gate so it’s less crowded.
• Ticket counter will be very close to your hotel if your hotel is located on Western gate road.
• You can take a 5 minute walk to Western gate from your hotel.
But be careful before you choose a hotel specially if you are booking online. Our hotel was in very bad shape with no facility at all. Water in washroom was hard/salted water. You can’t even put in your mouth to brush your teeth. We had to use bottled water to brush. Also some hotels are in no drive zone. So be aware of that if you are traveling in your own vehicle.
You will find a lot of good food joints in Agra. Some of good restaurants are Dasaprakash Restaurant, Peshawri, Pinch of Spice, Pind Balluchi, Kesar Restaurant. We choose Pind Balluchi. You can also Search other places with apps like Zomato or Foodpanda.
Although we had our own vehicles but we choose to use local auto rickshaw and Tanga(Horse Cart) to see the city. Its very convenient, you will not stuck in traffic jam and it also saves the time you may spend to find the parking.
Agra is great place for shopping handicrafts and leather goods. Be aware about the price of handicrafts. I bought this 6 inch rounded piece of handicraft(Image below) just for Rs. 700. The seller try to sell me this piece for Rs. 5000. Now you have better idea about the price. You can also get leather goods at reasonable price.
Another unforgettable item of Agra is Famous Agra Petha(Sweet made of ash gourd vegetable), and the best brand of Agra is Panchhi Petha Store
Again beware from duplicaly here. You will found a lot of names and logos similar to original Panchhi Petha store. You can visit there official website and get details about their stores location. Duplicate ones are very poor quality and also much more expensive than originals.I personally bought this delicious sweet from their store located near western gate of Taj Mahal. If you stand facing western gate, then walkabout 200 meter towards your left and you will find their store. All their stores having photograph of original founder of Panchhi petha, Late Shri Seth Panchhi Lal Ji Goyal. (Image below)