Aladdin…

This will be short, and unfortunately – picture less. It’s 2am and I’m tired.

Today I went to Agra! I was up at 4am (did I mention that it’s now 2am the following day yet) to shower and make myself look all nice (read: I changed out of my PJs), jumped into a cab at 5am, arrived at the train station at 5:20am, got on the train at 5:30am and departed the station at 6am. First let me just say – this is an impressive start. As I would find out later, India’s trains are notoriously late this time of year – fog and whatever, and even as I want waiting for the train, there were several announcements of trains being delayed by up to 3 hours.

Anyway – I booked a first class ticket (it was $18 or so), the car wasn’t exactly covered in gold but it was fine. Seats were comfy, they served us breakfast and we got a free bottle of water, whee.

Train ride took about 3 hours I believe, got off at the Agra station, found out that you pre-pay for your taxi at a little police booth, which I’ve heard about so no biggie… right? Right. Sort of. Except you have to quite literally shove your way to the window. No, you’re not getting it… you have to SHOVE your way in. I’m Canadian. I’m polite.

I don’t shove.

I had to shove.

So anyway, you SHOVE your way to the window, and the second your face gets there you yell out what you want and SHOVE the money into someones hands, hoping they know it came from you. This took me about 15 minutes to do. I’m not very good at shoving. The taxi people who were anxiously awaiting me to get the ticket so they could take it kept trying to shove me in there.

ANYWAY, got the ticket, got a taxi, the guys driving kept trying to get me to give them more money to stay with me for the day or whatever, I politely declined – several times. Can I just say that I consider myself a pretty nice guy, but I’m getting mildly irritated with the standard questions from these guys.

What country are you from? Oh Canada nice country!
How long are you here? Oh that’s a short time!
Are you a student or do you work?
What do you do? Oh that’s interesting!
Want me to….. <insert money grab here>

I get it – build a rapport and then take advantage of it. But it’s the same thing every time!

Anyway – rebuffed taxi peoples offer, which shut them up half way into the trip. Got out at the Taj Mahal West Gate, there was almost no one there, certainly no lineups. Skillfully navigated the 20 or so guides who wanted to show me around for 600 rupees or whatever, decided I could handle this one on my own much to their disappointment. Went into the Taj for the entry fee of 750 rupees.

The first sight is a red stone structure, which is cool in itself, so a nice way to start. I took a picture.

Then you look through it… and kind of similar to your first time at Disney, looking and seeing the magic castle for the first time, it’s a bit of a sight. It’s actually quite extraordinary. I wasn’t expecting to be “blown away”, but I was. It’s a pretty amazing building, and the way the sun bounces off it in the morning (well all day really, but you get the idea) is very, very nice. In case you didn’t make the connection, that’s where the title of this entry came from – I started humming the theme to Aladdin at some point around then.

Anyway I’m keeping this short, so forgive me.

Did the Taj – walked around a lot, spent a couple hours there, saw the inside, the outside, took a bunch of pictures, some very nice ones actually, read up on the history of it on my iPhone as I moved around, googled a few references from there and kept digging, had a very good time. I was quite impressed.

After that I found a bike guy to take me to the Agra Fort, went there for an hour or so – again, very impressive, not quite as much as the Taj, but cool structure and very worth the visit. You can also see the Taj from there, so that was cool.

After that I found a rickshaw and kept the driver with me for the rest of the day. Visited a few sights – Baby Taj, Mehtab Bach, had lunch at a nice restaurant and then went to the Taj Nature Walk. One more commentary on these guys – nice guy. But they ALL TAKE ME SHOPPING! IT DRIVES ME CRAZY! They start by saying how nice the stuff is in India – you should buy something. Take it home, give it to your wife/girlfriend/mother whatever. No room? Free shipping. Yada yada. I’m polite, so I’m not explicit enough apparently, but I always make it pretty clear – I won’t buy anything, I’m not interested, if I bought stuff in every country I went to I’d be broke.

BUT THEY BRING ME TO THE STUPID SHOPPING PLACE ANYWAY.

Why? Because they get paid to do it. They get 20 rupees to bring people there. So I got kinda pissed today, walked in to the stupid shopping place, did an about face and walked out before he got paid to bring me there. Tough beans. Not impressed. Waste of time. The other guy I had the other day did that to me twice.

Anyway – all the places I went were nice and interesting to look at, pictures on Facebook. I’m trying to make this quick, remember?

End of day – did the nature walk, got more pictures of the Taj from several angles in a few of the places, caught a rickshaw back to the train station. Arrived, looked at the board – my train was delayed by 2.5 hours. W T F

Not impressed at all I look around a bit, and of course this triggers an instant reaction from someone – hey is your train delayed? Blah blah. He looks at the board and tells me my train is delayed (I say I can see that). He says it’s delayed by 2.5 hours (I say I can see that). He says it could be delayed me (I say I can see that – if you’ve ever worked with me, you can take a wild guess at the tone of voice and look on my face at this time).

Anyway he suggests I take a cab back, I tell him it’s too much, he tells me the police thing outside does it cheaper – so I check it out. It’s 3000 rupees, the train would have been 1000, but whatever. I decided I wasn’t going to waste my time, so I got a cab.

The guy drove me out to his taxi place – standard questions begin. Again. Wait for a few minutes for the driver, driver arrives, we go. Excruciating drive – the traffic here is the worst I have ever seen, and I’m not exaggerating or just being cranky. We are stopped so many times I’ve lost count. 3.5 hours turns to 4.5 hours pretty quickly, I’m tired, cranky, hungry, have a headache, cold, and… well isn’t that enough?

We finally make it into the city, he doesn’t know where I’m going and oh yeah, doesn’t speak english – bonus. So I use my iPhone to get directions, iPhone dies before we get there, we stop a few times and ask people and EVENTUALLY GET BACK TO THE HOTEL!!!!!! I was cranky. I got out, thanked him and jumped into a hot shower.

And that was my day. Nothing disastrous, no major issues. The train still hadn’t left by 9pm, so I made the right choice grabbing a cab, and I think I’ll be able to get a refund on it, so alls well that ends well. As far as interesting stories go, I can say that there were buffalo wandering the streets all day today, monkeys all over the place, and other animals causing traffic distractions, but that’s ’bout it.

Sorry to disappoint, and sorry for the kind of rushed story here – if you’ve got me on FB check out the pics, otherwise I’ll try to get some up tomorrow if I’m writing at an earlier hour. At the moment I need sleep – tomorrow’s my last day, Thursday I take off on a 9am flight to Turkey, which means an early morning and hopefully an early night tomorrow. Plan is to keep it light – I’ll check out a couple of things in Delhi that I haven’t gotten around to, but there’s nothing I NEED to see, so I’m sleeping in (closed the curtains already!) and taking it easy.

CYA!