February 14th 2002
Hits 2126 | Created 2002-02-14 | Modified 2007-08-02Despair sets in, but I eventually manage to book a train to Agra for that evening - due to the kindly enquiries desk man who helped me jump the queue.
Hot (cold PM), on budget
All of the 13th spent on the road. Sitting on a rooftop with a great view of the Taj - it is
beautiful. Monkeys jump about the roofs and it is hot.
Yesterday a bit of a nightmare day of travel - Quick breakfast and letters of congratulations to Asif of the Rest House, then he asks for more money for hot water - cheek. Then no train to Bhopal until 4pm - we take the bus. Bus is over 2 hours for some reason and very cramped. eventually get to Bhopal train station and the reservations office on platform #1 (but cunningly outside). After usual bureaucratic nightmare I find out that all trains to Jaipur are full, for two days... Caro then tries (one-at-a-time only, due to no-bags-inside rule) and fails - now booked up for 3 days.
Despair sets in, but I eventually manage to book a train to Agra for that evening - due to the kindly enquiries desk man who helped me jump the queue. Four hours to wait for train, so sat around, had lunch in the refreshment rooms (veg cutlet, bread and butter, chai, Rs 34 for 2). Sat around more, and eventually caught late train after a platform change at the last minute.
Train was in chaos, as the outside carriages were not labelled, so we had to walk along half of the train (difficult in packs). Ejected someone from our beds and 'settled' down. Lights out at 9:30pm, our stop was at 3:20am (said the conductor). Sleepless few hours - cold and uncomfortable, noisy. Woken up at 2:35am by the conductor who told us our stop was in 25 mins (early). Got up hastily and then waited much longer for Agra stop.
Station had life, but not much. Hid in the 2nd class retiring room until 6am. Bloody cold and uncomfortable - exhausted.
Took a rickshaw to Siddhartha hotel near the Taj in Taj Ganj area of city. Elections also in 4 days, so streets are full of megaphones, politicking.
Room here with hot water, Rs 200, with cold, Rs 100. We chose hot for now, but should move. En suite bathroom too and fair room. Will check out other hotels too I think.
C still in bed - knackered still, and still cold from the freezing last night (cold in here ever since rainstorm). I think to spend a few days here and relax, explore city etc. Taj closed tomorrow for some reason, so perhaps explore the fort.
Just behind the Taj is a haze of pollution.
-*- Later -*-
Well, Agra is a bloody hassly town indeed. Rickshaws following you down the street for 10 minutes, salesmen on the street and running out of shops, small children unpleasantly demanding rupees, etc, etc. Everywhere...
Wandered out of hotel at the usual super-hot midday - a barrage of hassle outside the Taj entrance, we ignored it and walked towards the Red Fort, a couple of Km away. A rickshaw (cycle) driver wore us down in the end and we 'agreed' on a sketchy deal of Rs 30 to take us to a tourism place (for a street map) and then to a 'couple of other places'. On reflection, we didn't arrange this well due to still being knackered and taken aback by the amount of hassle experienced so far. I managed to avoid any visits to shops on the way after a small argument. Old rickshaw man had to push us up hills (56 years old) and I felt the familiar guilt of people pedalling me at a speed I could walk. Secured street map, which is a bit vague to say the least. Went to a nearby 'bazaar'. Felt pressured and stressed, so found waiting rickshaw man and paid him off - he was upset and wanted to call on the hotel tomorrow ("no!").
Window shopped a little, and looked in a good book shop (expensive though). Walked back after trying to improve mood with ice-cream and choccobars. It didn't work. By the time we finally found the hotel 45 minutes later, after battling to avoid rickshaws and shop owners, we were in a terrible mood. C went back to bed and I collected myself to go and explore local streets. Some hassle but not too bad. Talked to a local silver shop owner and played backgammon (no business discussed!) He told me about trade and other things and invited me to drink rum and coke with him that evening. Also chatted to other shop and restaurant owners who explained that as the Taj entrance fee is now Rs 750(!!!) the tourism of backpackers is really low as people won't come (or stay long). So all the hotels are empty, as are the restaurants etc etc. The people are depressed and Agra seems to be in a downward spiral...
back at hotel had a Mirinda and a bidi on the roof for sunset and watched the locals play the 'pigeon herding game'. Had dinner in the hotel (veg fried rice, veg noodles, large pot of ginger tea, Rs 100). Now in room which seems rather damp if truth be known. May change tomorrow.