14 March 2012
Driving in India you need three things. Good horn, good brakes, and Good Luck. (Quote from our driver Puapu in Agra.)
After our 2.10am wake up we left the desert. Driven to Ajmer to join the hundreds of people who were catching a train, waiting for a train, or just living in the train station. The train was extremely comfortable. Yup, extremely comfortable. I was surprised and relieved. After seven hours we arrived to the chaos of Agra train station. Where we were completely scammed by a friendly local into committing to three days of transport and guide services, by of course his brother-in-law. But you know, it’s all part of the experience, and for the minimal cost, who cares.
Our present hotel is $8 per night. Thank you so much Isobel for bulk buying us the Dettol Wipes. This hotel room has never been so hygienic. I’m not OCD, but I did have a moment. There is a lock on the outside of our dank and dirty bathroom, and we’re using it. Not sure why it’s there but there must be a good reason, so who are we to question. We get the added pleasure of having a high window through to the bathroom next door. Glass obviously is a luxury this well-positioned hotel can’t afford. Hot water for bathing comes in the form of a bucket we request from Reception. Actually it’s quite effective, but messy. Now I know why bathrooms have so much tiling.
Did I mention the hotel is in a great position? Mike laughed when he saw the room I booked us into. I’m taking that as a good sign. Or was it a nervous laugh? However It is only a 1 minute walk to the West Gate entrance to the Taj Mahal.
Location Location Location.
We are having dinner at the Taj Cafe, one of the many restaurants that is located on a roof terrace. Ours is in the “Lonely Planet” travel guide, so of course it’s the busiest in the area. It would seem no one takes a risk when it comes to dining in India, us included.
Looking over the street below, the sound of honking horns, drain dogs fighting and the general noise of a community that lives on the street rises up. Like the TV show “Neighbours”, but it takes place on a busy street, and the characters’ names are Gupta, Singh and Ravi – apart from that, I’m sure the story lines are the same.
At last I’m having a meal fit for a carnivore. Chicken Dosa, mmmm. Trust me to pick a Muslim establishment, however – another curry with no beer!
From our rooftop table I look across the gap directly into several other restaurants, and in the distance the Taj Mahal. Well at least it should be there, it’s night time. Today we watched the sun setting on the Taj Mahal from across the river (courtesy of our train station guide). The blue light of dusk reflecting on the marble dome was quite breathtaking and restored a bit of inner peace that the Indian streets had robbed from us.
I know it’s cliched, but this is the most amazing monument to someone’s love, and to the loss of someone they loved. There it’s said; I’ll try and stay away from any more trite “Taj Mahal” comments. Although we’re actually visiting it at dawn tomorrow (for the best light and least crowds), so I can’t guarantee it.