This weekend, we were taken to Agra by our company. It was a family event so all the employees brought along their spouses and kids. 🙂
While thinking of Agra, none of us were very excited. Add to it the hectic release schedule that stretched on till the last minute. The offsite is an annual thing which they do at our company. Every year, there are lot of preparations and fun things that happen before the actual offsite. So, you find people busy preparing dance items, fun activities before the real 3-day break. This time, everyone was so busy with release work, no one had time.
So, people were least enthusiastic even till the last day before the offsite. They were all just drained.
But, the moment we boarded the bus, the energy and enthu- started coming in. And, it was all-fun after that. 🙂
The best part about company off-sites are the luxury hotels. ITC-Mughal was no exception. And, I give it full marks for the hospitality, service, facilities, food. Basically, everything that you would wish and expect in a good hotel.
And, the sprawling area, the beautiful gardens, the spa. They all just add to your experience. There are around 3 different swimming pools for you to enjoy. The Spa is totally worth the money they charge. And, having experienced the spa from Taj Hotel, Gwalior, I would say way better. I can go to Agra just for getting that spa done again. It’s that good! 🙂
Then came the trip to the Taj Mahal.
Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the world. We all know that. For the foreigners, it is a must visit. For some of them, it is perhaps the reason to visit India. But, for Indians, especially ones living in North India, and that too Delhi-NCR!? Well, people from Delhi-NCR already have a hard time finding a place to getaway over weekends so Agra is one of the few places they have as the only option. So, anyone who is above 18 has already visited Taj Mahal at least once in their lifetimes.
Our group was no different. Our trip’s itinerary was so packed that the only time we had to visit Taj Mahal was Saturday Morning, 7.00 AM. Since there was no other place planned to visit in Agra, many people enrolled for the trip. Almost all of them did half-heartedly.
Having said all of this, let me tell you, the experience totally reversed my opinion.
We missed our bus because we couldn’t leave without giving Anay some breakfast. Thankfully, Taj Mahal was only 2 kms away from our hotel so we decided to go later, solo. The Autowallah that he hired from hotel, was very helpful. I don’t know if he was helpful so that he could get us to call him back for some other trips, or he was genuinely helpful. Nonetheless, his advice helped us. I paste the same here for the general public.
1. Don’t hire a Guide from outside the Ticket Office. They tell you they will charge only 100-200 but when they return, they con you into paying Rs 300-400
2. Don’t buy anything from the Taj shopping area. The stuff there is all duplicate and heavily over-priced. The shopkeepers even use abusive language if you browse in their shops but don’t buy anything.
3. Take the guide from inside the Taj premises. If you have to buy souvenirs, buy from UP Tourism Ministry shops. You’ll get authentic things, authentically priced.
I didn’t buy anything. Neither did I hire any guide. So I have no way of proving or disproving the veracity of the above.
Coming to the Taj Mahal.
I don’t know if it was the timing of my visit, or it was the beautiful sky, or they cleaned up the Taj. I don’t know what it was. But, in my multiple visits to the monument, it was my first time.
I thoroughly, completely savored watching it. I saw it in a different light. I saw what makes it one of the wonder of the world.
We visited the monument at 8.00 AM. We were advised in reaching early. It is very less crowded. I saw the Taj of the photos. The edited, beautified version of Taj, right in front of my eyes. It was so beautiful. Breathtaking. Totally.
I really think they did some cleaning of the marble. The white marble was really white. The times I had visited it earlier, it was much paler because of the industrial pollution. The Government had taken some steps to remove the industries around the area. The Yamuna river flowing behind the Taj was actually clean. I remember it being extremely polluted in my previous visits. Now, sitting on the benches, you could actually feel the tranquil, the soothing breeze. You can feel the peace in the air. You enjoy the whole experience and take back a bit of it with you. It’s not one of those where you visited and forgot by the time you reached back hotel.
So, if you’re a NCR-ite and if you have visited Taj Mahal before, I would suggest you visit it again. Once. Visit it in the morning. For the sake of India. For the sake of seeing what only 6 other places on this Earth have. Coz, it’s totally worth it.