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Old Posted Jan 29, 2013, 7:21 PM
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Trapped at the Taj

Stop XI of the Asian Saga, maybe the most famous tourist landmark in the world, the Taj Mahal. I covered Amritsar, stop X, here. From Amritsar, I started my journey towards home, stopping my travels eastwards and slowly heading back west. Amritsar -> Delhi and then Delhi -> Agra. Finding myself back in the tourist triangle, the scams and traps became overwhelming. Just trying to book a train ticket to Agra without getting taken was damn near impossible. The situation in Agra was even worse. Every tuk-tuk driver had a sweet deal to show you, and a friend's shop just around the corner. I can't blame the guys for trying but one has limits to the amount they can be hustled. It was worth the stop to see the Taj, and Agra has some other interesting sites. I had previously seen some beautiful photographs of the back side of the Taj, reflected in the nearby river. At sunset I went to try my luck from the other side only to find the area closed off by barb wire and guarded by military men. Any enchantment and authenticity that used to exist in Agra has all but evaporated. The Taj Mahal, The pyramids at Giza, Angkor Wat, same same but different.

My next stop planned was Varanasi but that required another train ride and a stop in Lucknow. I had never heard of the place but thought it couldn't be that bad. Wrong. It was the exact opposite of Agra. No tourists, no hotels, and very little to see. Authentically a dump. I had never had such a bad premonition regarding a place and somehow started catching a cold as my train neared the city. I was sick the entire day I was there and had one bad experience after another in my hotel, with taxi drivers and at the few sites I did tour. I started referring to it as Bad Lucknow. The next day I caught a train to Varanasi, and within minutes of leaving, my cold began to alleviate. Within a few hours and Lucknow behind me, my spirits had lifted and I felt great. I got some good shots of the decaying monuments, so not all was lost.

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Next up, I'll wade into the life giving waters of the Ganges.
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Old Posted Jan 29, 2013, 7:27 PM
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Fantastic thread and pictures, Okayyou! Thanks for sharing.

Spectacular quality and beautiful shots, as always. Love the colours in your shots, and the sharpness of course.

Those temples are amazing. And people shots are brilliant.

Congrats and greetings from Madrid, Spain!
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Old Posted Jan 29, 2013, 9:26 PM
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Such an incredible structure.
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Old Posted Jan 29, 2013, 10:10 PM
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This thread took my breath away! WOW!
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Old Posted Jan 30, 2013, 12:31 AM
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Great freaking photos man. I will have to make it there someday! What strikes me and from other photos Ive seen of that place is just how freaking dirty everything is. That river is absolutely disgusting.
Look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now, history is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world.
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Old Posted Jan 30, 2013, 12:14 PM
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Astounding pics of one of the most magical places on earth.

10 years ago I (and my wife at the time - a Bharatanatyum dancer) were given the ultimate gift a tourist could receive: a guard let us into the Taj for 20 minutes before anyone else... imagine having the Taj all to yourself. Imagine the photos of a trained dancer all alone at the Taj.

Imagine just having photos of the Taj grounds... with no people in them. Nearly impossible. Though you seem to have had the place to yourself in some of those shots.

Unforgettable experience.
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Old Posted Jan 31, 2013, 11:11 PM
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whoaaaaaa. I'm also impressed by how many seemingly empty shots you got. You must of gotten there pretty early or are just really patient.
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Old Posted Feb 1, 2013, 5:10 AM
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The world's most beautiful man-made structure. I need to see it in person.

Fantastic photos as always.
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Old Posted Feb 1, 2013, 6:54 PM
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Great pictures!
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Old Posted Feb 2, 2013, 3:22 AM
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Amazing photos!
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Old Posted Feb 2, 2013, 3:41 AM
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Damn son!
I built it ground up. You bought it renovated.
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Old Posted Feb 2, 2013, 5:28 AM
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Most impressive photos.

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Old Posted Feb 2, 2013, 10:43 AM
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You captured a well photographed building fantastically. The first shot is the money shot, how come there are no tourists in it!

What is Agra the town itself like? I've been to India 5 times but still not seen the Taj! Maybe one day.

Thats interesting what you say about Lucknow, I actually had it in my head as a place I want to go. It has quite a strong history, a bit of a centre in the Mogul Empire. Maybe thats all there is/was and its all gone now....but for some reason it has always been a place that sounded exotic in my head and made me want to see it.
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Old Posted Feb 2, 2013, 6:27 PM
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Thanks all.

Photolith, I couldn't believe how trashed the river was. I have a shot I didn't post of the banks that is literally all garbage. Very sad to see.

Maldive - that sounds like an incredible experience.

brickell - little bit of both. I got up around 4:30 to enter the grounds by 6:00. There were probably fifty people that did the same. Had to be very patient with some of the shots but with so few people it is possible. If anyone plans on visiting the Taj, get up for the sunrise, definitely worth it.

Xander - That first shot is from a platform that everyone kind of stops at when they first arrive. Since I was one of the first in, there no one had continued on to the Taj yet. There might have been one tourist but I was able to snap while he was behind a tree. One difficulty, no bags are allowed in the grounds so I only had had one lens. I opted for my 24-105 since I wanted the versatility. Would have loved to have had my 17mm or 70-200.

The rest of Agra is worth a look. The fort and baby Taj are nice and very few tourists venture out to see anything other than the Taj. The city itself was pretty junky and the touts are everywhere. I had to yell at my tuk-tuk driver to let me walk across that bridge which was worth the hassle, he wanted to take me to his friend's shop, restaurant, etc.

I think there is more to Lucknow than I saw, I only had a few hours in the afternoon to explore. I was feeling run down and in a bad mood, sometimes that just happens and it affects your experience of a place. I'd still keep it on the list if I were you, maybe do some more research if you plan on visiting it.
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Old Posted Feb 3, 2013, 8:38 AM
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Can't beat the Taj for symmetry.
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Old Posted Feb 5, 2013, 4:03 AM
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What a monument too true love..
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Old Posted Feb 6, 2013, 2:06 PM
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That was incredible. I wish I could have experienced the sounds and smells associated with your visit. Thanks Ok.
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