Today we woke up super early, we left our hotel at 0430 and were down at the ticket office waiting (at the front of the queue) 10 minutes later. The ticket office opened at 0455 and then we went across to the gate where we waited for half an hour along with an ever-growing crowd (by the time we went in there was around 30 people there). We were finally allowed in and made our way inside and went straight to the end of the infamous ornamental pond which runs perpendicular to the Taj Mahal. To get there you have to pass through a huge, impressive, red-stone gate which reveals the Taj itself.
The gates are meant to open at sunset but due to being monsoon season the sky was grey and overcast meaning it was still very much dawn/pre-dawn so trying to capture photos was a tough ask, even when changing the camera light settings the photos were underexposed, however with every passing moment the sky was getting brighter and we managed to get a couple of crowd-free, iconic photos, both individually and of Harri and I together. Totally worth getting up so early for.
We then went and explored the rest of the complex including going inside the Taj Mahal, the whole thing was so impressive, both of us said it easily beat any picture we had ever seen of it. By the time we left the complex at 0645 there were already thousands of people inside and any chance of getting a crowd free photo was long gone, not that it is all about the photo but they are nice and the ambience was totally different, far more relaxed, when we arrived. We got back to the hotel by 7, had a quick shower and then went back to bed for a couple of hours.
We packed and checked out after we had roused ourselves from our much-needed nap however check out wasn’t the most pleasant experience ever. As we both always do we had booked our stay through Booking.com however we had noticed a couple of days ago that we had booked the stay for the wrong dates, we had tried to change them on the website but to no avail therefore we cancelled and rebooked the stay but were charged for the cancellation. On check out I enquired whether or not they hotel could take the cancellation amount off the room price, the answer was no and the receptionist very aggressively said it was our fault and there was nothing that could be done, what followed was more back and forth including me requesting to speak to his manager which he refused, after a good 10 minutes of being spoken to like a piece of dirt he rang his boss who immediately said to refund the money. Feeling rather ill treated we went for breakfast. The breakfast took an absolute age (45 minutes) to arrive however it was very good when it did turn up. Harri had a cheese toastie and I had a Puri Bhaji (15).
Having seen the top two/only two sights in Agra and with a few hours to kill before our train that afternoon we went and found a “western” café where we whiled away an hour or so reading. We then returned to the restaurant with the friendly proprietor, he was very happy to see us, we had veg biriyani and butter masala (16), not the nicest curry we have had however the view and the wifi made up for it.
Our train left at 1535 to New Delhi, we were in 3 AC which was more than fine for the three-and-a-half-hour journey, there was also only one other person in our area so we just sat and watched House of Cards for the duration. When we arrived, we caught an auto-rickshaw to our hotel. Our room was the plushest of any we had stayed in during the trip, it even had a massive circular bed. The hotel had a rooftop restaurant which we opted to eat at instead of venture out again and we had daal, channa masala and our usual rice and naan (17).