Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of India  ,
Thursday, December 6, 2007

We decided to take the train in the evening to Agra so we could get a jump on the tourist masses coming up on the morning train.  This was, in principle, a great idea.  Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out.

We booked the 7:20 train, which was scheduled to arrive at around 10:30.  Not desirable, but not that bad.  Of course, the train was delayed.  So we waited on the platform and fended off the giant rats until the train finally arrived about an hour later.  We were in carriage S3.  Little signs along the platform indicated where the carriages would be, and stopped at S2.  Logically, ours would be the next carriage.  So we found ourselves trying to get on the wrong car until a friendly policeman took us way down the line to the carriage that was clearly labeled S3.  It was a sleeper train, so there is a lower, middle, and upper berth to stretch out on.  We did so, and our train spent the next couple of hours with a little bit of moving and a lot of standing still.  I wrote in my journal and tried to ignore the man staring at us over his paper and the chai man.  If you caught the chai man's eye he would have three cups poured before you figured out what was happening.

So our train finally arrived at a wonderful 1:30 in the morning.  We wouldn't have known to get off if the helpful man across from us hadn't helped.  It was pretty cold and we got a rickshaw to our chosen hotel.  It was full.  So was the next one we tried.  So we had to accept our rickshaw driver's choice (and pay his commission).  It was painful but we got to sleep.

After all that we didn't get up to see the Taj at sunrise. 

We did finally get to move into the other hotel in the morning.  It had a rooftop restaurant with a great view of the Taj.  That is, if the entire city weren't covered in a dense layer of smog.  So we squinted at the misty image and then had breakfast.  Our room was much cheaper.

We did all the other sites today.  First, we wandered over to Agra Fort, a giant red stone monster.  It was fun to wander through this place and see all the beautiful marble work.  The relief in marble is a couple inches thick in some places and incredibly ornate.  Good old Akbar was said to have a huge chain, the "chain of justice," which anyone could shake for guarranteed judgement from the ruler regardless of class.  We climbed up to a platform with a giant black marble throne and nice view.  Unfortunately the Taj was hidden in the smog.  There were a bunch of monkeys hanging out here

We took lunch in a sketchy looking restaurant and had a great meal although we sat in wet yellow paint.  Then we took a rickshaw to the Baby Taj across the river.  He got as far as the bridge before a policeman inexplicably pulled him over and wouldn't allow him to continue.  It was really weird.  We walked. 

The Baby Taj is really nice and, best of all, free of crowds.  We wandered around the complex for a little while.  I was so proud that I bargained the rickshaw driver down for the ride out to our next stop, the park with a Taj view.  I realized my mistake later: he knew we would need him for the ride back.  No bargains there.

We avoided the guy desperately trying to get us to pay to enter the park and walked down to the lakeshore for a wonderful view of the Taj as the sun was setting.  In some ways the view here is better than from the front.  Especially since it's reflected in the river.  There were all kinds of people following you around asking for money or selling things.  I took a lot of pictures.  We caught the same rickshaw back to the fort and then walked home from there.

It was pretty funny.  No one thinks that we should walk anywhere.  At one point we had three cycle rickshaws, two autorickshaws, and a camel cart following us down the road. 

Back to our rooftop restaurant for dinner (the Taj and the night were indistinguishable).  Then we found out the Taj was closed tomorrow, keeping us in Agra for yet another unplanned day.  It seemed we would never leave.

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