After graduating from college, I went to India for a month with a non-profit group called the Louisiana-Himalaya Association (LHA).
It took a couple of days for the members of our volunteer group to acclimate to the culture shock of landing in New Delhi, India. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before – the sights, sounds, and smells were just all so different. I quickly fell in love with the country and the people I had the pleasure of interacting with. New Delhi was exciting and heartbreaking at the same time.
It’s a Long Drive, But Enjoy The Roadside Stops Along the Way
While in New Delhi, we took a day to sightsee. We rented a van to take us to Agra and the Taj Mahal. It was about a three hour drive each way. There were interesting places to stop along the way, too. We went to a big restaurant where men outside had monkeys to take photos with. The monkeys tried to cop a feel on me! There were also people with an elephant that we could pay to ride on. After taking photos of the beautiful animal, I felt really sad that this elephant might not have much freedom. But that’s content for a different kind of post.
The other stop we took on the way home was at McDonalds. I know, I know, who goes to a foreign country and eats at a McDonalds within the first week?!? It was hilarious to see the Buddhist monk we traveled with, Tsering, sitting next to a Ronald McDonald figurine. And I was pleasantly surprised by all of the vegetarian options that Mickey D’s had in this country, such as the McVeggie Surprise!
And Then You May Have to Take a Rickshaw
Once we reached Agra, we then hired rickshaws to get us to the Taj Mahal. This was fun since it was a first time on these passenger bikes for all of us on the trip. We got to see the people who lived in this area up close, waving to the children and talking with the drivers about their home.
Be Prepared for the Weather
We happened to go see this splendor on an extremely hot day. There isn’t really anywhere to go inside to get away from the heat. The English gardens that surround the kingdom consist of low shrubbery, which doesn’t help give any shade. Two girls on our trip had a really hard time in the heat and sun and had to lie down and have people help them with water and cooling off. You probably don’t want to be that person, so make sure you wear sunscreen, a hat, and have water and snacks to keep energized.
We did find some shady, less crowded areas to the sides of the main building in the complex. These open hall buildings are very beautiful and ornate, but not white marble like the main part of the mausoleum. This was a nice spot to rest in the shade. Others had the same idea, but we still managed to find our own personal spaces.
You Have to Take Your Shoes Off
I don’t think most people would have a problem with this, but do be aware that you can’t wear your shoes into the mausoleum. This makes sense, to keep the beauty intact and not dirty up this Wonder of the World! Lots of shoes will be piled up beside the steps leading into the Taj Mahal’s main white building (I’m sure there is an official name for it, but I don’t know it). Kick yours in there, or bring pair that can fit into your bag if you’re skeptical about parting with them.
You Might Be a Tourist Attraction Too
After taking my first glances at the stunning site and snapping some photos, I realized that a handful of people were facing the opposite direction. I did a 360 to check out what they were photographing, but couldn’t see anything very interesting. When I turned back, I realized that their photo subject was me! I was really embarrassed and thought I must look stupid or something.
Tourists travel to the Taj Mahal from all over India, and some may never have seen someone that looks like you or dresses like you in person before. So…Smile!