Still in Agra at the Bonfire Hostel
So much happens in a day that it is truly hard to know where to begin. I’ll do this in chronological order and hope I leave room for a punch line.
Although I often wake at 0530 it is a time I regard as stupid o’clock and I wish my body would cut it out. Today I wake up before stupid o’clock because the plan is sunrise at the Taj Mahal.
There are very few things that make me uncomfortable in life. One of them is being locked inside somewhere. It doesn’t exactly freak me out, but when someone locks a screen door – I am talking with a key – I look for an alternative escape route. So coming downstairs this morning and finding the door to the street locked from the outside…
Auto driver was there as agreed. I think he may have slept in his vehicle right out the front 😛 Should I go into the story of how the hostel will pay the auto driver and he still tried to hit me for a fare? Crap, I just did. He wanted R50 for a R20 ride! That is $1, outrageous!
I am actually being generous with drivers and other people. I will haggle from R50 down to R30 just because I want them to know I know I am being ripped off, then I will give them R50 anyway.
The idea of the Taj at sunrise (0645) is not original. There is a line for tickets but in true Indian style, no one is selling, they start at about 0600. It is 1km to the entrance gate and I avoid the overcrowded shuttles and walk. It is a full moon and I am rewarded with this shot of the East Gate.
There’s nothing like waiting in line, and there is a pair of lines outside the closed gate. One for men and one for women. Oh and then there are sub lines for foreigners who have paid R1000 and Indians who have paid R40. Guess which one moves faster?
The gate finally opens at 0625 and as I approach the Taj I realise that given the smog, sunrise is going to be a very different experience to seeing one in the desert air at Uluru.
My challenge this visit is to try to take some different photos to last time. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but it actually isn’t easy to find new ways to photograph this incredible building.
You aren’t allowed to wear shoes in the mausoleum area – you did know that the Taj Mahal was built by the Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favourite wife, right? Premium payers are given a bottle of water and shoe covers (I chose barefoot – why wouldn’t you?).
Indians get to use the free service below and then are badgered into paying a tip after watching their shoes being treated with disdain.
I liked this guy
It was lovely being there, spending most of the time sitting, people watching, Taj Mahal staring, crowd avoiding.
On the way out I stopped for breakfast and had a yummy paratha, why isn’t my Indian food ever this good? Sitting watching the world go by, this tractor loaded with women pulled up.
I may have gotten this wrong, but it seems that only poor women cover their head with their sari. I guessed correctly that these women were here to work. Pretty soon they are doing about the most meaningless job I may ever have seen, they were cleaning out some of the dirt between the cobble stones on road! Not like it is being pulled up or anything like that, just making that space between the stones deeper. But at least they are earning about R80 a day. I think this is a good thing.
Next mission was to hit the ATM, about 1.5km from Bonfire. Having already walked a long way I decided to get an auto. One picked up 3 young guys and it often happens that they add more passengers, so they stopped for me.
One guy speaks quite good English and wants to help me by taking me to where there is more than one ATM. Did you notice I stuck the magic word help in there? I also stuck the word stuck in there because this guy stuck with me as I went from ATM to ATM trying to find one that would cough up.
Of course, he has an auto and would like to take me on a tour… Though if he had an auto, why was he in an auto? But let’s not get pedantic. I can shake most people but this guy was like that critter in Alien, nothing could dislodge him from being in my face.
I told him I had no money which was true at that point, hence me looking for an ATM. At least 5 didn’t work so I could keep the no money line going. Eventually I struck Rupees, quickly put it in my pocket and came out saying “another one doesn’t work”.
Despite me telling him that he had worn out his welcome, was making me unhappy, was not a good advertisement for Agra, that I have leprosy, he tagged along.
I was starting to get the shits because he didn’t stop talking the whole time, this has been about 45 minutes by now. Eventually I realised we were near Sheroes and I concocted a story that I would visit my friend there to borrow money.
As I walked up to the door one of the staff recognised me from the last two days and shook my hand like, you guessed it, a friend. And when I turned around, alien was gone.
I have a yarn about a rug making factory (sorry, couldn’t resist) but this post is long enough already. Tomorrow is a travel day to Jaipur so I will save it.
It was a long day, and I was happy to end it with a meal on the hostel rooftop. Because I had been to the ATM and thought I deserved a treat, I finished the evening with 500ml of cock.
I should sleep well tonight.