Taj Ma Hell

Trip Start Jan 29, 2003
Trip End Feb 01, 2004

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Where I stayed
Hotel Shajahan

Flag of India  ,
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

14th Feb 2003:
Valentines Day - Yet again I spend it alone! Well I suppose I was with Nick if that counts as somebody? But out here even my Mum can't send me the normal obligatory Valentines card! This morning I woke at 7, washed and went for a walk on the hill-tops over-looking our hotel, through the Rose Gardens and fields where they grow their own food including chapatis etc. I climbed the mountain about half way up (proud of me Sahdev?) Took some good pics, then walked back but not before pulling a muscle in my back attempting to scale a 7ft wall (successfully I might add). Then went into town where we walked through and I bought a necklace and a bracelet for 80 Rupees! Not bad I thought! About half 12 we set off for Jaipur! Saw lots of overturned lorries and I had only seen a couple before. Maybe I normally sleep through it? Back to Garden View Hotel where we stayed on our last visit to Jaipur. I think I am in actually in travel mode now. As Rich Jackson said before I left, you start off paying more than necessary and not worrying about the few pence you might lose, but now I seem to haggle for every penny! It seems amazing that no matter where you go in this country, however desolate and isolated somewhere might be, there always seems to be adverts for Pepsi, Elf & Castrol everywhere. Had Valentines meal with Nick tonight at Jaipur pool shack, where I had my first Thali, which is a combination of 5 different types of curry and yoghurt, unlimited chapatis, poppadum, rice and a sweet. This cost 60 Rupees - 80p!!!! And I have to admit this was by far the best Indian meal I have had so far in India!. It being a pool bar, we played pool on a ropey table where I humiliated Nick, then played doubles against a couple of Indian lads, who we stuffed 2-0! Its amazing how when we first came to Jaipur, it didn't seem so bad after coming from Delhi, but now after being in the countryside for a couple of weeks, you realise what a polluted shit-hole it really is. Cars, Rickshaws, Beggars everywhere!

15th Feb:
Got up at half 6 today, even though we didn't leave before 8. Today was our last day with Amit. (Only found out the correct spelling today)! Stopped off at pricey roadside cafe where I got a masala omelette. Then stopped briefly at Fatehpur Sikri, where I got an unprecedented amount of hassle from 1 bloke who was trying to sell me a pregnant owl, and elephant(wooden)! According to him, me not buying his wooden crafts meant his children would die and his business goes bankrupt! He only wanted 100 Rupees for gods sake! I gave biscuits to the boys who had monkeys on a lead, though I somehow doubt that the monkeys will get much of the snack. Also saw a lot of dancing bears, who at about 5ft tall, may look kind of intimidating also look very cuddly, and had it not been for my overpowering sense of ethics I would have loved to have paid the 15 Rupees to get a picture with the bear though sadly I declined! Staying at Hotel Apollo, which is a good 20 minute walk from the Taj, so we may find somewhere else tomorrow! Said goodbye to Amit, after firstly presenting him with his watch and 1000 Rupees tip. Though he didn't seem that appreciative and wanted my sunglasses aswell, the ungrateful bastard!. Had another Thali in hotel restaurant, then watched Man U lose at home to Arsenal, what a great day!!!! Finally about 1am, a coach load of screaming students arrived at the hotel, who were far too high-pitched for my liking. They must have heard I was here? Got offered more hash, though very expensive at 8000 Rupees for 10 grams, and once again I declined!

16th Feb:
Lied in until about half 10, at which time we got up, jumped in a rickshaw, and headed for Taj Ganj, the area around the Taj Mahal, where we booked into the first hotel we saw, that was reccommended in the L.P. Hotel Shajahan is undoubtedly the worse hotel we have stayed in yet, but at only 200 Rupees a night is also the cheapest! We are told that its the first hotel of its kind, and was built 35 years ago, though I don't think they have found time to do any cleaning since then! Though we do have a good view of Taj from roof-top. Took my washing in today, to a dry-cleaners which advertises a 90 minute service, though on request of this he said the quickest possible was 5 hours, which turned out to be 7 hours and it was still wet, but there you go, thats Indians for you!. You can understand why people don't stay long in Agra. The pollution is quite overwhelming, and gets worse as the day goes on! Tonight we had a powercut from 2pm until 8pm, which was OK until it got dark, at which time I got remotely jealous of Nick's headlamp! Quite noisy in Taj Ganj, so ear-plugs have to be donned when attempting to sleep!. This is also the first squattie toilet we have had to use!

17th Feb:
After eating at Kamal restaurant last night, I came back with Nick who went straight to sleep. I attempted to do the same, though I had small shooting pains through my stomach. I will now describe my illness period quite graphically, so those who wish to skip it, move on to the next paragraph!
Within an hour I was suffering with severe diarrhoea, worse than I have ever experienced, and 'through the eye of a needle' stuff! Then I started feeling worse. After lying down, and feeling the room around me seeming to spin, I drunkenly stooped again towards the toilet only this time to be facing it straight on, wher I bent over in pain, and proceeded to vomit what looked like everything I have eaten since being in India! For the rest of the night I was awake for every minute of every hour, shivering, then sweating and on cue every half hour visiting the squattie for a bout of rusty water, projectile vomiting or both! I did manage to avoid doing both at the same time, though got in the habit of doing quick 180 degree turns! Eventually I had to stop drinking water, as I knew within 10 minutes of drinking it , I would be watching it re-surface exiting at a far greater pace! After about 7 hours (around 5am), the frequential toilet visits subsided and although my stomach felt like I'd been sparring with Tyson, I began to feel marginally better!.
Though after a sleepness night I declined the visit to the Taj Mahal today as I continued to rest. The rest of the day was spent in bed, either drinking water, reading, or sleeping, and feeling sorry for myself! This was the first time I had felt genuinely home-sick which must be natural when you are ill and aware how far away from home you are, and only know one other person on the continent! I did manage to pluck up the stamina to venture outside for 10 minutes to pick up 2 packets of biscuits, a bag of crisps, and 2 bottles of water, which made it my cheapest day in India, at only 40 Rupees! Nothing else happened today apart from a monkey who came and saw me in my hotel room. We stared at each other then he pointed to some biscuits on the window sill. I don't think I was hallucinating, but I closed my eyes and soon enough he was gone!

18th Feb:
Definitely feel better now, and managed to eat scrambled egg on toast for breakfast! After debating whether to visit the Taj or not, we decided to bear the brunt of the weather and go for it! (It has been raining non-stop since 8am this morning, and is currently 2:30pm!) Paid the ridiculously high entrance fee of 750 Rupees - equivalent to 10 British Pounds and went in. Now without sounding completely negative, I do have to say that Asia's tourist mecca is somewhat of a dissappointment. OK it was raining, and I was not 100%, but Nick agreed with me in that its not all its cracked up to be! It is a stunningly beautiful building, granted, but I don't know if it has changed, but you are not allowed to see the tomb anymore, and they only have replicas. Also I remember my brother telling me that there was Gold everywhere. Well I didn't see a flake of gold, only marble, upon marble! Very pure marble admittedly, but still just stone! I don't want to put people off, but I think that people only go the Taj because you have to! If you go to India, its the one place that everyone has heard of! On my reckoning for budget travellers, its definitely not worth the 750 Rupees. Maybe if it was cheaper I might appreciate it more, but as it is your money is better off spent on 8 nights accommodation! I'm currently in town, and found myself today almost losing my temper with a Rickshaw wallah. They just don't seem to give up here, and think if they follow you for long enough you will give in and jump in their seat on wheels! Tonight our train leaves Agra for Varanasi, and I for one will not be dissappointed to leave this absolute shit-hole! Saddaam, first stop Agra! Roll on Varanasi!

Keep e-mailing everyone! I will hopefully put some pics up in Singapore! If not, I have been reccommended to put them on in Australia!
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