Where We Be
The one shot any self-respecting Taj tourist has to take
Taj Mahal -- Agra, India
Okay, I'll try not to bore you with too many Taj
pictures, but it's hard, it's hard. The place is just so
darned photogenic.

We got up early and were in by sunrise. We spent
the next few hours blissfully wandering around the
grounds of the Taj. Of course, the highlight was
that first view through the main South Gate where
you see the Taj and the long rectangular pool of
water leading up to it. We stood in line to take the
obligatory and totally worth-it photo from the far
end of the pool. The air was misty and smoky, in
part because of all the bonfires from the Holi
festival the night before. (Did I mention the
bonfires were built not just of wood but of cow
patties arranged in decorative patterns?!)

We made our way progressively closer to the Taj,
taking pictures as we went, and eventually put on
booties over our shoes to allow us to go up onto
the main marble pedestal upon which the Taj sits.
We learned that putting the Taj on top of this
marble pedestal was considered a “master stroke”
of design because only the sky is visible behind it.

From close up, we could really admire the detail
work of the Taj, including floral and geometric
patterns carved into the white marble. Inside the
mausoleum itself were countless flower petals,
each consisting of inlays of 64 different semi-
precious gems. At the very center of the Taj is the
marble cenotaph (false tomb) for Shah Jahan’s
beloved wife, for whom this whole labor of love
was built. The only thing not symmetrical in the
entire Taj is Shah Jahan’s own cenotaph, which sits
to the left of his wife’s. (He and his wife are really
buried in a protective vault below the main floor.)

Back out in the misty sunlight, we walked to the
back of the Taj and enjoyed looking out at the
Yamuna River and its abundant wildlife, which
included emerald-green parrots, great blue
herons, and circling hawks. We strolled, very
relaxed, through all the grounds of the Taj after
that, seeing the mosque to the left (and the fake
mosque to the right, to keep the symmetry).

We particularly enjoyed walking through the
gardens to either side of the main structure, which
offered unusual views of the Taj, not to mention
lovely plants and animals. We were both surprised
at the “nature preserve” feel of the grounds inside
the perimeter of the Taj. It’s not just an amazing
architectural treasure, it’s also a haven for a
surprising amount of wildlife, including a number
of monkeys who seem to have the run of the place.

Your pass to get into the Taj is 750 rupees ($15 US)
and it's good for
one entry only, so we tried to make
the most of each minute of our time there.
Here's a view you don't see every day, from the extensive gardens on either side of the Taj
The Taj framed from within the entryway of the fake mosque
Happy to finally be here in person, seeing it with our own eyes
This is the mosque to the left of the Taj Mahal, as seen at sunrise -- it's interesting that the most famous icon of a mostly Hindu nation is the Islamic Taj Mahal
Examples of close-up detail work at the Taj -- marble inlays and latticework carvings
Monet-like misty morning view of the Yamuna River behind the Taj Mahal
We were both surprised at the "nature preserve" feel of the grounds inside the perimeter of the Taj Mahal
Monkeys have made themselves very much at home here!
The Taj Mahal Nature Walk offers peaceful views of this national treasure -- and our own private moment alone with the Taj
We had two separate rooftop dinners offering splendid views of the Taj Mahal
The impressive South Gate is the main entrance to the Taj
One of the hexagonal towers overlooking the Yamuna River
Robin enjoying a relaxing moment in her Taj "booties"
Amazing attention to detail in every niche
Now that's what I call a window frame!
Red sandstone building at the perimeter of the Taj
Marble latticework lets natural light into the mausoleum
The grounds are beautiful
The mists cleared away so we couldn't resist taking one more head-on photo