Agra (Taj Mahal) and some more Delhi

We got up at 5 am to catch our train to Agra for the day L I don’t remember anything, so either it was terrible or I simply fell asleep. When we got there we found the pre-pay rickshaws where run by the Police, to ensure they are fair to the tourists etc, which really impressed me. We got into a pink rickshaw driven by a really cool old dude, who spent the duration of our journey to the Taj trying to convince us to buy his services for the day. We have developed a habit since parting with Mike and Lauren of walking most everywhere, and planned to in Agra, but we liked this guy and took him up on his offer.

We get to the Taj (you can only call it that when you join the cool kids) and find it to be very epic. We had to pay 750 rupeess, which is an outrageous price, but you also get access to a load of other sites or so we thought. They really need a trades description act here as they write whatever crap they want and do not honour it. Tom had to leave his bag in security and was asked to remove all valuables, only to be denied access because of his MP3 player and gorrila pod (tri-pod) at the gate; they got all pissed off when he told them that they asked him to take them. We where half expecting it to be a scam to find out what people have, followed by theft.

The Taj was fairly Epic, but is not as good as St Pauls up close, which I got to see everyday for two years; The Taj awesome from a distance though. There was no photography allowed on the main lawn or near it though which is retarded; luckily no one paid attention to that stupidity and pictures where being taken by everyone. There was another no pictures sign in front of the tomb, which is fair enough and we respected it, but many people didn’t which was fairly sickening. You have to take off your shoes / cover them as we did, which is again fair enough, but the inside of the tomb absolutely reeks of feet; it was seriously bad, so bad we did not stay in there long. That is all. So in summary, it is slightly overrated and smells of feet.

We then went to the mini-Taj, which was very cool, but was not inclusive in the Taj ticket as expected. There was an incident that has set the tone for this blog and the previous one: the racist dirt bag. There was a dude watching the toilet, who says we have to pay (you don’t have to pay), so I ask him how much and he says “as you like”, I say two rupees, which is standard, and he says 30 rupees, which is ridiculous; he then says 15 rupees, which is also ridiculous. I ask him why so much, but already know; he says he wants a tip and I ask him if it is because I am white, and he says yes, as another guy admitted to Tom also. I asked him if he knows what discrimination and racism are; tell him he is a cheat and would rather piss in a bush for free. He really did not understand why I was upset. I extracted revenge quite literally later.

We got back in our rickshaw a headed to the fort, which cost us another 250rs each (grrrr). It was supposed to be inclusive as described in the Taj ticket. The ramparts and bastions where off limits, so it is a pretty pointless fort to visit. They had some cool tunnels and shit though, which where all off limits again. Meh.

Our friendly cab driver takes us to a “cheap” restaurant. We stand and check out the menu, as they are all insisting we sit as usual. We find the menu to be seriously overpriced; not just a little but ridiculously. Agra is a very touristy city filled with 1 / 2 week visitors who are happy to spend relatively stupid money, which made our stay harder. We walked out and the really creepy manager asked us “what happened man? What went wrong” and we told him it was over-priced, to which he offered us 15% off immediately; it was two times the cost of a dump like that, so we got back into our cab and go somewhere else. The cab driver was obviously on commission, but he took us to a more reasonable place. We go to this very strange garden restaurant down a back street, which was super cool and chilled out. Our cab driver disappeared into the kitchen for the duration, which was strange. We are sitting alone in this place drinking our drinks and eating our food, when it crossed my mind how easily they could have drugged us etc, as I have heard some stories about, which further strengthens my belief I need out of this place. I need to be relaxed and the shit we have gone through has made me ubber paranoid and stressed out. I was going to recommend the “Garden Restaurant” but they charged 70rs for two slices of toast, which was no doubt the commission for the driver. Tom was happy to pay it as he was in a funny mood and I was too tired to argue (plain toast is 20rs tops).

The driver took us on the last part of his tour “Mogle culture” which was a silver shop and a carpet shop. We had time to burn and we are always looking for silver, so we agreed. The silver shop was in a hidden basement and was occasionally visited by green tourists (Green is a Vietnam reference to noobs), who thought they where getting a good deal. They charged 60rs a gram for silver (17.3 on the stock market, plus 5 to 10 rs for workmanship is standard). We left there pretty sharpish as they tried to push us into buying over priced crap we did not ask for, but I guess a green tourist may be easily pressured. The carpet shop was actually quite interesting as they showed as looms, workshops etc, before they went for the sale. They where polite enough not to harass us into buying, which is rare here.

I was going to recommend the cab driver, but he turned out to be money oriented and not nice as I thought in the end. He seemed to be uninterested in the 1/3 tip we gave him and obviously hoped to make more money selling our bodies to the shops he took us to, under the pretext of “mogul culture”. We could have refused but we had time to burn. Tom still reckons he was a good guy though. I can’t blame him for trying to make extra money as he had throat cancer and had trouble communicating with us, but we paid a good price and gave him a good tip.

We asked to be dropped off at the station an hour earlier to avoid more shops, which he was not happy about. He even asked why we did not buy any carpets from that shop, but c’mon what does he expect. The carpets where up to £4K in silk BTW. Our train was 1.5 hours late as usual, but I managed to find a noodle walla for 12rs a portion, which has to be a record.

The hassle was pretty immense at the station from beggars. In this country when you decline them, they harass you until you give in. You may be thinking, meh it’s the same in the UK sometimes, but these guys grab at you. The most annoying thing is when they tickle your exposed feet… it has happened to me a few times. You cannot do anything except walk away, and then they stalk you. The only escape is running into a shop… or near a policeman or guard. But none of those options are available on a train, so you have to sit and take it. I really do feel bad for them, but I have been asked for money more times than I can remember, and would no doubt be back in the UK if I gave 10rs to all of them. Plus I refuse to give into such tactics, as allot of people no doubt do.

We are still in the Vivec and I think they are either making noise for us on purpose or the hotel is just a piece of shit. I turned off an extractor fan in their kitchen at 2:30 in the morning directly above our room (we got back late from Agra), which was really loud. I was expecting to find an industrial freezer deliberately placed over our room, but I guess it was just thoughtless design and general thoughtlessness (lack of empathy).

Tom took his suit in for dry cleaning for our trip to the imperial.  They have tried to clean it four times now and each time it comes back more dirty… I need out, it’s so typical for this place.  They are supposd to be famous (kinleys) as well.

Thailand looks like it is falling apart. I hope our flight is not cancelled.  Things in India look messed up to.


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