I was sitting on a 14 hour train ride from Varanasi to Agra, on my way to see the Taj Mahal – one of the Seven Wonders of the World. And then it occurred to me: for someone who had spent the best part of the last eight years travelling, I haven't seen many of these so called wonders.
The Taj Mahal
The lists seem to vary greatly, but according to this list, the only one I've “ticked off” is the Roman Colosseum, which I did back in 2005 when I was just getting started.
Who knew it would take so long to see another one of man's greatest creations?
I've seen some great sights in that time: La Alhambra in Spain, The Eiffel Tower in France, Stonehenge in England and the Statue of Liberty in the US, among others.
All were great in their own way, but what makes one of the “Wonders” that much better?
I guess I was about to find out.
Arriving in Agra early in the morning, the first thing to do was to check into the hotel and dump my stuff. Now everyone who has travelled through India will tell you that the best time to see the Taj Mahal is the first thing in morning, which means finding something else to do with your first day in Agra.
Luckily, Agra has another World Heritage listed monument in town, just a short walk from the Taj, Agra Fort. The Fort is massive and contains 16 separate palaces built over the centuries by successive rulers. And do you know what the most interesting thing about Agra Fort is? Its that every person has the same reaction while they're walking around it and get a glimpse of the Taj Mahal a short distance away. Its clear what everyone is really here to see.
View of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort
I finish off my first day in Agra doing what dozens of other people do – heading to the park across the river to try and get that perfect photo of the Taj Mahal's reflection and amazing colours during sunset. I settle for a so-so photo and an early night in preparation for an early morning start to see the Taj.
Cheesy landmark photo
After establishing that the “high value” ticket queue was code for “foreigners”, I arrived at dawn to see this wonder of the world and it was.....pretty cool.
My attempt at the artistic shot
Ok, I might have undersold that a bit. It is incredibly beautiful. To see something like this in person, after seeing it so many times on film or pictures, was kind of surreal. It almost didn’t seem real. You had to keep looking at it, and telling yourself that you are seeing this with your own eyes.
More restrained pose inside
Having said all of that, was it any better than any of the monuments I'd seen that didn't make the list? Probably not.
Taj Mahal in all its glory
I'm looking forward to seeing a few others from the list during this trip – Christ the Redeemer, Machu Picchu and Chichen Itza are all probabilities – but I don't believe these lists are the be all and end all of what is to see.
Like Beauty, it's in the eye of the beholder.