Agra is a great and noble city. It is home to the Taj Mahal, one of the most famous monuments in the world. Nearly everybody who goes to India will visit Agra. And I am here to tell you the truth: Agra kind of sucked a lot.
It's not really Agra's fault. It can't help being the biggest tourist trap in the country. And we only planned to spend two days there. But as John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." And so it was that when we got to Agra, we found out that the Gujjars had gone on strike and closed down all transport into and around Rajasthan. They were literally sitting on the roads and the train tracks. Our plans to go to Ranthambhore? Train was canceled. Our hastily concocted backup plans to leave the day after we were supposed to leave? Train was canceled. Our harrowing escape came at great personal, karmic expense. More on that later.
We arrived in the evening and made our way to the hotel. Tourists Rest House. Good place. I highly recommend it. The next day, we met our rickshaw driver from the previous evening. We had agreed on a set price to hire him for the day to take us to various places in Agra. And thus I present the Agra picture porn:
Our hotel was less than that. Go EARLY to avoid the massive crowds.
Overall, I was pleased with hiring him for the day. Until the end of the day, when we suddenly found ourselves being brought to shops. Beau quickly learned to follow my lead when I started begging poor and heading for the door. Manish earned his commissions, but lost any tip that we may have been inclined to give.
The next day, we checked out of the hotel and went to the Taj Nature Walk for the afternoon. Naturally we saw Manish as we passed the Taj entrance.
For Rs100 each, the Taj Nature Walk was a good way to pass the time. Sure, you only saw the Taj in the distance, but there were no crowds of people. The few kids that bothered us there quickly figured out that I really wasn't going to give them chocolate or money, and they left us alone. We spent a few hours wandering the paths and startling large, hooved animals.
Then we went back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and went to the train station for our journey to Ranthambhore and tigers! Except remember that little Gujjar strike? No trains were running. Back to the hotel, check into another room, find some tatkal tickets for the next day, with a new plan to skip Ranthambhore and head straight to Udaipur.
The next day we woke up, checked out of the hotel and decided to kill some time by taking a cycle rickshaw around the city. Pedal power is not only cheaper, but slower. We stopped at a travel agent to inquire about bus tickets to Udaipur. These were normally around Rs300. They quoted us Rs600 for a seat and Rs800 for a sleeper. Since we had the tatkal tickets, we went back to the hotel, grabbed our bags, and went to the train station. No trains were running. We hopped a rickshaw back to the travel agent, but they told us the bus was full. Back to the hotel, check into another room, have a small fit.
The next morning, Beau went back to the travel agent, who quoted him Rs1000 for a seat. He got it down to Rs900, then bought two tickets. We had time to kill, so we went to Pizza Hut for lunch. We also documented some hideous wiring.
Up next: The Great Escape, Or How We Got To Udaipur