Taj in the Fog

Agra

India

It’s 5:00 a.m. and we’re on our way to the Taj Mahal. It’s cold. Colder than I expected India would be. I’ve pulled out the warm clothes I packed for Nepal.

Since arriving in Delhi a few days ago we distrust rickshaw drivers. He suggests a different entrance than the guidebook. He tries to explain that the entrance we’re requesting doesn’t open until 8:00 a.m. Neither of us believe him and assume he has ulterior motives. It turns out he was being honest.

We get in line to buy our tickets. We have about 45 minutes to kill in the dark and cold. Two Korean girls are in line ahead of us. Tourists – foreign and local – arrive after us. After we’ve secured our tickets, we’re in another line to enter the grounds, and then a line for security.

Thick, deep fog has set in since we cued up for tickets two hours ago. We enter the grounds and I can’t see the Taj Mahal. I don’t know which direction to go.

We follow tourists and approach the iconic Taj Mahal viewpoint. The fog has stolen the mausoleum and replaced it with white.

As we get closer, the fog moves in and out of view and we get our first view of the Taj Mahal. The mausoleum’s sudden appearance out of the fog has made it seem mystical. It’s early and there are few tourists. Sometimes we’re the only people in view.

As the Taj Mahal rolls in and out of view through the fog, the morning sun lights the building. The quiet is a contrast to the chaos outside the gates.

We circle the building a few times and work our way out of the grounds. The surrounding area is full of other attractions. We visit another mausoleum, a fort, and sit in the shade in a garden across the river from the Taj Mahal. We spend the day walking through these sights but nothing compares to the scale and beauty of the Taj Mahal.