A Day of Choo Choo
Trip Start Feb 21, 2013
181Trip End Jan 02, 2014
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Where I stayed
Today was to become round two with New Delhi Railway Station, as I was to make a return to jump onboard my first Indian railway train, heading for Agra. Knowing how manic and confusing getting around the station can be, I took no chances whatsoever and checked out of my hotel at 10:30am, even though my train was departing at 11:30 and I was a five minute walk away. Fortune smiled upon me as the whole process of platform search and boarding wasn't as arduous as I thought. I suppose with the huge beast of a backpack I was sporting and the narrow aisle ways of the train; it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to maybe butter my sides for ease and comfort. My sleeper carriage wasn’t exactly five star on wheels but it was sufficient enough and comfortable living for the amount of time I was going to spend on the train. Now of course I’ve learnt over the first few days here, that in India; nothing is simple
The lack of simplicity train wise comes in the form of other passengers trying to hock your seat. They either nonchalantly sit next to you in your seat compartment, which is of course what you as the customer have booked. Or there was the blatant asking of "You can take my seat, I want your seat" which for all those out there who know me, quite frankly isn’t going to happen. So with hard firm hand signals, ushering those inclined away and even firmer verbalization of the word “no” I eventually was left alone in peace to start my journey. Interesting sites were seen on the journey. Including a herd of cows on one of the platforms. I wonder if they also need rail passes? Also there were vast quantities of open fields that had one or two wooden huts on them. Homes belonging to people in the rural regions I guess. Two hours and fifty five minutes later I arrive at Agra Cantt Station.
Which was no more different from any of the other stations I’d seen so far. Step out and again it’s more of the Motor Rickshaw hustle. Through intuition one man was selected, who proved to be quite a cool dude actually. Elam was his name and he had lots to say about his fair old city. It’s a 20min drive to the Taj Mahal. On the way he explained the prices and where to queue. Also that all the luggage that I’m carrying will not be permitted in there. He then suggested a lodge we could go to that for75 Rupees, have a set of lockers that could hold my stuff. Now based on my previous experiences of Delhi, to be honest I wasn’t too keen! But I wanted the Taj Mahal! And whatever Dean wants Dean gets. So I did what any travelling backpacker must do at certain stages and take a chance. Onward some more in the Rickshaw and we hit the south gate entrance of the Taj. Elam would be back in an hour and forty-five minutes for me. All good! Now in India queuing is somewhat different from back home. In the fact that nobody actually queues! It’s just one big free for all. So the mild mannered Britishness and restraint shown, was going to do me absolutely jack squat here in this situation. So when in Rome, it was the flexing of elbows and making sure all that gym time would finally be put to good use. I even took out a mean and very hyperactive old woman. Sorry but it had to be done. Then through the madness I bellowed out “one ticket please” It worked! And I was away. Through security I’m stopped with my mini rucksack, which it turns out also wasn’t allowed. So I had to put it away in the tourist holding lockers. Another problem! As my applemac was in there and again for those who know me, know that I don’t like to be parted with my baby. Still I had no choice! And as I walked through the security barriers again, I prayed to every known God existing in hope that my laptop didn’t go missing by the time I got back.
As I entered through the main gate, what I then saw was so stunningly breathtaking, that all I could do was remain silent. The Taj Mahal is as epic and as spectacular as I’ve seen on every postcard and TV show before it. It was everything I imagined and then some! Hooked up with a girl called Abbey from Essex once inside. The deal was we’d take each others photographs for one another. She’d been travelling around India a few weeks now and loved it. This moment was it for me. One of the main things I wanted to see in India, that iconically is for me India. We walked down the water flow and up inside around the mosque type area. Shoes have to come off at this point, replaced by white covers given to you for your feet! But you can actually get away with covering your footwear with them, rather than taking off your shoes. Positively beautiful! To a degree where it actually took my mind off my laptop situation and that’s quite a feat to do believe you me. Got some great advice about Goa from Ab’s and conscious of the time I made my way back to the south gate. Now back at the tourist property locker hold, I opened my locker with eager anticipation, praying that my laptop hadn’t mysteriously vanished. As I peered into my bag, I found no harm, no foul and all as right as rain.
Like a Muppet I forgot the way to the Lodge where my main bag was being held. Time was moving fast and I had to be on time for Elam to get to the station for my next train but again the assistance given was valid. Eager anticipation again, locker opened and again, all in order. Back downstairs, where Elam `top geezer’ stood in wait. Everything from there was smooth! And I even got into conversation with an American Mormon family who have pretty much seen and done it all. The four year old took rather a shine to me. Awww she was a cutie. The train was punctual as most of the trains I’ve seen in India are; so don’t believe everything you hear! And now I sit here in my compartment, after a nice conversation with a group of young backpackers next door to me, on the way to Jaipur, which is a 4hr 30min journey, just so you know. Let’s hope when I arrive, my journey to the hotel I’m staying in, is more of a straight forward process than my Delhi fiasco was.
I step out of the station to a wise cracking Rickshaw driver called Ali. His constant persistence payed off and away we went. He proposed being my driver for tomorrow and for 500 rupees, I'll have him from 10am - 7pm...... result! Got to my hotel which. hmm?! Still, home is what you make it and I'm only here for three days. The wifi's a let down, so the rest of this blog comes to you via the hotel restaurant room. Would have preferred my bedroom but hay ho! Tomorrow among the many tourist attractions, I mount an Elephant. Yes that's exactly what you heard, I go on an Elephant ride. Actually drove past one on the way to my hotel. Have to say, I feel on initial reaction, more settled in Jaipur than I did in Delhi. but you never know; a lot can happen in three days.
1. When queueing for anything in India, I'm afraid you'll have to dig deep into your aggressive go getter side of yourself. Otherwise you maybe waiting quite a long time for whatever it is you're trying to purchase.
2. Barter everything you possibly can, as th locals are up for and 9 times out of 10 it'll ensure yourself quite a good deal.
3. Don't let any of the locals either con or try to intimidate you out of your pre booked train compartment. It's yours and they'll need to quite simply go jump!