Agra is not the most beautiful city in India, though ironically it contains one of the most beautiful structures in the country. On the day we went to visit the Taj Mahal (meaning “Crown Palace”), we walked the short distance from our hostel straight to the grounds only to find that you cannot purchase your ticket at the east entrance. We were the only ones who didn't already have them. Feeling shamed, we forced our heads high and walked embarrassingly away from the Taj. Apparently the tickets need to be purchased at Shilpgram (the tourism center) which is about a 10-15 min walk from the east gate of the Taj grounds.
How we did not know this I have no clue. We read travel blogs. Talked to a few travelers who had visited it already. Had an India guidebook. Yet somehow we missed a key factor to visiting the Taj Mahal. The way I see it, we did this so someone else won't have to! Once we purchased the tickets, we took the free shuttle from Shilpgram back to the sight and joined the photo snapping extravaganza.
It really is a beautiful sight inside and out, despite the lackluster city it resides in. When entering this mausoleum, the heat and odor from the packs of tourists (2-4 million/year) going through take your breath and you're not given a chance to actually stand inside. You're just ushered right along from the entrance right to the exit. So it's a quick pass through but sufficient. You can only stare at white marble upon white marble for so long anyway!