Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Agra - make it a small pit stop!

I felt at peace! Was this the Varanasi effect?

I arrived 2 hours early, I wait patiently at Varanasi train

station gently nodding in our of sleep while watching other passengers calmly letting time pass. Trains were delayed - I couldn't tell if it was by minutes or hours. I wasn't too bothered mine was still on time. 

Other than a platform change at the last minute I found my carriage. An upgrade from my last journey. A 4-berth cabin. The carriage was pretty empty. The steward arranged my sheets and pillows then demanded money - I was bewildered - money money!
I fell straight to sleep and only woke at 6am when another passenger boarded my berth. I rolled over and slept further, my alarm rang at 7am to prepare me for my arrival in Agra at 7.30am. 8.30 came and I began to get nervous - were we that delayed? My fellow passenger woke at 9.30am and explained the train had been delayed 2 hours when she boarded - and was delayed by a further hour. We exchanged chitchat (it’s amazing how you pick up this word in India) and she advised me for the next hour until we finally rolled into Agra Fort.
Touts were awaiting me - I knew this beforehand but this would be the start of my dislike for Agra. They knew how to spin tourists. They hassle beyond hassle, walking with you the entire way waiting for you to give in. 

I made a wrong decision - bartered and took a rickshaw driver with a bad personality. Hotel bound we then fixed a day rate deal - big mistake number two! It would have been cheaper for separate rides and more at my own pace! 

First stop - Taj Mahal. 750R entry, no cigarettes nor video cameras allowed! Screwed again on both counts. The sky was hazy, thick with pollution, so the backdrop was not a stunning Rio blue. The Taj is terrific and worth the visit.

Next stop - Agra Fort, this is very impressive and worth spending about 2 hours whiling around. Fantastic architecture, fine design and brilliant views of the Taj. 

Finally I wanted to walk Taj Ganj for sunset, so I found a rooftop terrace enjoyed a Lassie ( a local milkshake type drink) whilst I chatted to a German traveller, then I moved to another rooftop for nighttime photography and dinner while chatting to yet another German traveller.

My night was done and having ended my tour with my rickshaw driver earlier, I negotiated a deal that was half the rate to get to my hotel. Typical

That was my time in Agra done!