5:30am and I'm up and at 'em! Quick rickshaw journey and I arrived at the east gate to the Taj Mahal (there are four main entrances to the complex, north, south, east and west) where I had to pay my Rs. 750 entrance fee which is only about £10 but compared to every other sight entrance fee (Rs.100-200) it was expensive and go through a rigorous security check which was like going through airport security with a metal detector and bag check. After this I walked through towards an arch where all was revealed. It's a strange sensation when you see pictures and images and hear about something throughout your whole life and how amazing it is and especially after watching 'An Idiot Abroad' (if you haven't seen it, do!) and then it's right on front of you and you can go up and touch it and walk around it it's absolutely breath taking! I do not say this lightly and I have only experienced this feeling once or twice but it makes all the money, travel and home sickness (not that I have had that...yet) totally worth it! I took my time walking around the gardens and then made my way up to the balcony of the Taj Mahal where you have to take your shoes off again because out of respect and walked around on the marble floor which was just a little warm but which I can imagine later on in the day would become scorching hot which I have experienced before, walking around a temple looking like your doing some sort of Irish jig because your jumping from one foot the other, ouch! Then I went inside the main mausoleum which was just one giant room same as the exterior entirely marble but was beautifully decorated with carvings and colourful flowers and different patterns inlayed in the marble with precious stones from all around the world.
I then headed back down to the garden and had a sit down on the white marble bench in the gardens which Princess Diana was most famously photographed on which is where I bumped into the nice Spanish couple from the train again and we just talked about our plans in Agra and how they managed to get away with their lighter and cigarettes through the rigorous security check at the entrance to the Taj. There are many "professional" photographers wandering around who you can ask to get pictures of you taken and for a lone traveller like me unless you want most of your photos of yourself handheld camera style or squint and out of focus because you happened to ask the wrong guy, then a pro photographer wandering around asking if you want a photo is great! I did several poses in the gardens on from of the Taj and chose my favourite which I was told to collect in half an hour at the entrance. To bide some time I then went over to sit on a bench beside some trees with a nice view of the Taj and then noticed lots of chirping and squawking. I looked up and there were a hole bunch of green parakeets with bright red beaks and a baby one in a hollow in the tree being fed by it's parents, so I spent a good half hour just watching them and got some good pics out of it too! Then off to collect my photo and a rickshaw drive back to the hotel where I got some breakfast and had a little rest and then back out again, no rest for the wicked!
I had read in my guidebook that pretty much the only place you can see the Taj Mahal for free from is down the side and to the back of a complex down at the river beside a (as I discovered) little known temple called the Krishna Temple. I actually found it quite easily but was shocked to find that it was deserted, it was a prime spot for a good view of the Taj because everywhere else (such as the gardens across from the river charges people and even extra with a camera!) Then a little boatman with a punting boat asked if I wanted in the boat for "good picture" for a very reasonable price of Rs. 100 (about £1.30) so we slowly drifted up past the Taj Mahal and back again but got some great pictures and was quite happy with myself for finding this little Taj secret!
I then made my way back to the hotel after getting rather lost and arrive to check out with an hour to spare before my train to Jaipur where on the platform who should I meet but the Spanish couple, which again was a relief to know we must be on the right platform. I told them I had to go and buy some conspicuous snack from the stand yonder and to watch my bags because through all my Taj sightseeing I had completely forgotten about lunch and dinner and they very kindly gave me one of there "emergency" cans of tuna from their backpack but I just stuck to my tomato 'Lays' (Walkers crisps) and a 'magic fruitcake' which wasn't so magic but tasted alright and I was hungry, we shall see if my emergency can of tuna will be put to good use! On the train I had a nice nap and shortly arrived in Jaipur, my 4th Indian destination where I was to stay the next 3 nights.