Indian Train to Hotel Paradise

Trip Start May 17, 2012
Trip End Jun 03, 2012

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Flag of India  , Uttar Pradesh,
Sunday, May 20, 2012

(S) I write this as we ride the Indian rails to Agra. We are rolling through the country-side now, with people out in the fields, harvesting what looks like wheat, by hand. Others are tending to their small herds of cows. It is about 107 degrees outside and we are in our tiny, but cool train car. Not all is perfect. We have also rolled by absolute poverty in the form of slums and people on the train platforms taking advantage of the water fountains there in the form of doing their laundry. While they are still wearing it.

Getting on the train in Delhi was another traveler experience. Luckily, Chad had printed out the tickets at home, but until this morning, we were on the wait list for this train. Slightly stressful. But at 10 am, we found out we made it and after another amazing breakfast in our ridiculously nice colonial hotel, a quick dip in the pool, a whirlwind shopping trip to FabIndia at Connaught Place, a hotel driver and a BMW took us to New Delhi  station. Since we stick out, people mobbed the car, but we pushed our way inside. We had to go through a metal detector and put our bag through the mag as well. Since only one was working, everyone had to go in one "line." We were in an absolute sea of people and more were coming in – all flowing toward one metal detector. Chad was able to reach over the heads of 5 people (because let's be honest, the guy is tall in our home country; he is GINORMOUS in India. Even I stand head and shoulders over all the women) and get his backpack on the conveyor belt and made it through. I was behind him and got actually pushed to the ground, while wearing my huge backpack. This only pissed me off and when I jumped up, someone again tried to push in front of me to put their bag ahead on mine. Really? No. That is not how I’m going to be played. You will not push me to the ground and then continue to get in front of me. I pushed some poor dude’s bag out of the way, nearly taking out the whole table with it, slammed my bag on the belt, and pushed at least 5 Indians out of the way in one fell swoop. I felt a bit like a giant ogre since as I said, I am so much taller than everyone, even the men. I stormed through to Chad on the other side, who missed the entire short spectacle. Why does this always happen to me in train stations?

But all is well now.  Chad had a train lunch, all veg. I decided to skip it and wait for dinner. And on to Agra and the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal. We arrived safely to the Agra train station and took a taxi to our hotel. Ok, our hotel. Chad found this hotel, the Oberoi Amarvilas, months ago and REALLY wanted to stay there. I said “um, no” because it was too expensive. Good old American Express and the off season kicked in and we got a pretty decent deal, which includes breakfast and dinner. We pull through the guarded gate and my mouth gaped open. Hopefully the photos do this place justice. Since there are so few people here we were upgraded to a suite, but what we really wanted was a room with a terrace. We stuck with our original room, as the poor guy showing us looked at us like we were crazy. Because, really, who turns down a free upgrade. Us. And here is why. Our huge terrace looked directly across at the Taj Mahal, the ridiculous hotel pool, the sunset and the town of Agra. We sat up there and had a few Kingfishers, watched some kite fights over the city in the setting sun, staring all the while at the most famous of buildings. It was absolutely surreal and peaceful.

After the sun set, we quickly sullied our beautiful terrace, and this hotel, by doing some laundry in the sink and hanging it on the terrace to dry. In this heat, you cannot wear items twice, so our usual European way of traveling must be altered a bit.

We had dinner in the hotel, in the Esphahan Restaurant. It was here we discovered our new Indian favorite: paneer kebab, which is grilled cheese. Yes, please (if you are a regular reader of Gr8escape adventures, you know I find fried cheese in every country we visit). Eat it with a bit of red onion and mint sauce and the pleasure is yours. We also started with a cauliflower, which was stuffed with spices and lentils and grilled. We also had some complementary tomato and coriander soup. Main courses: I had chicken kofte, which are little meatballs made with chicken, in a tomato based sauce. Chad had the rogan josh, which was amazing here. We of course had some garlic naan, because it would seem I can’t get enough bread or rice or fried cheese. We did not order dessert, but the chef sent us an entire cut up chilled mango, which tastes like sorbet, only a thousand times better. Yes, it is a billion degrees outside, but it is also mango season.
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