India: Delhia and Agra
In the last 10 years, I have visited over 50 countries, and while I knew I'd eventually make it to India, it was always knocked down in favor of other countries. Women here were being gang-raped to death, and it seemed like the populace did not care. This was an indication to me that I should spend my money elsewhwere. When a deal came along, we decided we had put it off for far too long, deciding that our first trip in 2018 would be India. We opted to visit six different cities, traveling by train, plane, bus, and tuk-tuk.
Our first destination would be Delhi, we arrived late at night after a short stop in Amsterdam (the worst airport for layovers; nowhere to lay down) and took a cab straight to our hotel. We checked in and passed out. We only had this night and the next in Delhi before we moved to the next city, Agra. I brought my Rolleiflex 2.8D, Fuji GF670w, and my Konica Big Mini for this trip.
Delhi was an interesting and bustling city. We were only here for one full day before moving on to Agra the following day. We did not feel like there was much to see here, other than walking about. We also decided to see the Red Fort, which was a few miles walk through Delhi from our hotel. The streets are busy, there are people everywhere, there are also animals everywhere. While walking in India, one always has to keep an eye open in every direction, you can ignore the ever-present beeps. It seems as though beeping the horn is vital to the operation of a vehicle in India.
The Red Fort was our first foray into being in a populated place with tourists, which meant it was our first experience with Indian tourists asking for selfies. I never got tired of being asked for a selfie, two solid weeks and I was fine with it. As for the fort itself, it was also where we learned that Indians pay one price, and foreign tourists pay a much higher price to visit attractions. This was also fine with me. To be honest, I don't know what the Red Fort is there for, but it was pretty to look at and walk around in. I'm not the largest history buff, so I do little in terms of historical research. There was a guy with a Mamiya 7 here, he happened to be a jerk when I talked to him.
The Red Fort was also our first foray into the Indian selfie culture. Carmen had read that we would be asked frequently to take photos with people, mostly Indians from the country who had never seen a white person; if I am being honest, I was looking forward to this. I don't want to be a stick in the mud about people taking my photo, so I embraced it. So many people asked for our photos on the trip, one lady even handed me her baby so she could take a photo with me. It was wild.
We walked back to our hotel, avoiding the near hundreds of requests for a tuk-tuk, and ended up at a huge market, the Chor Bazaar and mosque, the Jamal Masjid.
The rest of our time in Delhi was spent at the hotel or walking to get some food. Carmen found some vegetarian place that was rated highly, though, finding any vegetarian place here was not difficult. We spent the night, getting ready for our 8-hour train ride to Agra the following day.
Train Ride to Agra
The train ride to Agra was our first glimpse into the railways of India, which, all things considered, turned out quite well. Of course, the 14-hours delayed Jaipur to Jodhpur train was awful, but we ended up on a wacky bus, all was worked out.
We purchased tickets through their weird paper system: fill out the train you'd like tickets for, give it to an attendant, then get your tickets. One had to know the train number based on schedules. The first ticket we bought was slightly annoying, mostly because we did not know the system. When we got to our platform for our train, we had no idea where to get on the train, and we did end up picking the wrong carriage and class. When our tickets were checked, the conductor chuckled at our mistake, then he just moved on. The train ride was uneventful, with the exception of an hour stop outside of Agra for a signal. The people on the train, myself included, got off and stood on the tracks, take that OSHA! I took some photos with some kids. As with most third world countries, people ride the trains trying to sell you their wares, food, and so forth. It was a great ride.
Agra: The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
We decided when we arrived in Agra to first purchase our tickets for the following day. We had one night booked in a hotel, time to see the Taj Mahal, and then time to leave. When we did get off the train, a very laid back older man with a Tuk Tuk offered to be our driver for the day and showed us to the office to purchase tickets. On account of how nnonchalant he was about the whole affair, we opted to use him. He took us to our hotel after purchasing our noon-tickets the following day. My only real issue with him was that he did not ask for a set price but "pay what you think is fair". This is fine with me, except I feel like I can severely underpay. I believe we gave him roughly 15 bucks for two days driving, which he seemed more than fine with.
We had read, multiple accounts, that Agra was not worth spending more than the time it takes to see the Taj, and while I could see that as being true, I found it to be an eclectic little town, not the best of our trip, not the worst.
We got up early to catch the sunrise at the Taj Mahal, which is not very good at the actual Taj Mahal, but across the river. However, what was really wonderful, was getting there long before everyone else. There were quite a few people there already, but when we were leaving there were throngs of people. The Taj was as beautiful and majestic as you'd expect, it was foggy while we were here, which was a nice addition to the scenic nature, too! There are also monkeys everywhere; inside, outside, roofs, the ground, monkeys everywhere.
We spent a few hours here before deciding to head back to our hotel, pick up our bags, and head to the train station. Our driver, in typical Indian fashion, had places he wanted us to stop, a textile store as well as a tile and stone place. We did buy something at the tile and stone place. We tried to buy postcards at the textile place, but they lied about having stamps so we gave them the postcards back and left. Our driver said we had plenty of time to get to Agra Fort, which was entirely true, so we went there as well. Like the previous fort, I do not know why it was there or anything about it, but it was vast.
After Agra Fort (sorry there aren't more photos, I ruined the roll of film from here) we headed to the train station. We arrived heckin' early, paid our driver, then hung out on the platform watching trains come and go; we also watched a cow rock up the platform, look like he was waiting for a train then walk down the length of the platform. I also met two people who were in Agra for a test for work, one of whom bought me some candy.
Our train for this leg of the trip was a first class train, which was actually very similar to an Amtrak regular class train. The train was overnight, which meant we really could not see much out the windows after the first hour. We arrived in Jaipur while it was still dark and walked to our hotel. Hopefully I can jot all them words down for that trip more promptly than I did for this one.
You can read other posts about this trip:
Dogs in India