Thoughtlessly I forgot to change my alarm clock to Indian time so I was woken up at 1.30am (5am in Japan) having struggled to get to sleep before that. A few hours later I took the 6.15am Shatabdi Express to Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) in the comfort of an air-conditioned carriage with free newspaper, water and a meal. Not bad for a two hour journey!
As we pulled out of New Delhi station the Indian way of going to the toilet was confirmed to me as there were many boys squatting on the other tracks doing their business and using their left hand to clean up. Compulsive viewing!!
It was raining heavily in Agra when I took an auto-rickshaw to Hotel Kamal where I paid RP250 (about 3 pounds) for a room and went on the rooftop for my first view of the famous Taj. First on my itinerary though was Agra Fort – a huge red sandstone palace and fort – from where I could also see the Taj Mahal. It was here that I had my first experience of Indian guys wanting their photo taken with me. The glare of their steely eyes for far too long on top of a mistrust of many Indians can be quite intimidating at first but its something I got very used to as it repeated itself constantly for the remainder of my trip.
Next, I walked up behind the Taj Mahal where I was this time surrounded by a large group of kids begging for money and wanting a photo. I escaped them by paying RP750 to go inside and it was very nice but having seen it so many times already that day from other angles I didn’t get any special feeling but I guess anyone who has ever travelled with me knows that I’m often underwhelmed by these things!
Temperatures that afternoon were at a peak of 42 degrees celsius and I posed for many photos with Indian men (never any women the whole time I was in the country!) and rarely got left alone from their interrogating questions in an english accent which at times was difficult to understand.
At night I finally thought it time to get stuck in to some local food which I did on the hotel rooftop where I had curry, naan and a chapati with two Dutch guys.