Today we took an early train to Agra. Again, chaos confronted us at the train station, but we were able to find our seats and get settled. Apparently the pushing is not just limited to the Metro! There was some confusion as we approached the ticket window as to the validity of our Internet-purchased tickets, but a quick trip to the government tourist office proved that they were fine.
The train was about 45 minutes late, and during that time, we stood on the train platform listening to the nonstop train arrival and departure announcements first in Hindi and then in English. Each one was punctuated with a sound effect from Windows 95, which got on my nerves after a while!
The two hour train ride was lovely. We got to our hotel without any trouble and set off to the Taj Mahal. Here in Agra, with fewer people wandering around (I'm assuming most people just visit as part of a bus tour) the cab drivers and street sellers are much more aggressive. It's best to adopt a firm but polite stance of "no, thank you" and then no longer engaging in discussion despite what they might say. It is difficult, because all of the Indian people we spoke to on the street were so polite and helpful that you don't want to be rude. Still, it can be exhausting to turn down a cab ride from the same driver for nearly a mile. Navigating on our own seemed the best way to ensure we'd get where we wanted to go, as some cab rides end up at gem shops or other places at which the driver will make a commission for bringing you in.
We made it on foot to the Taj Mahal. What an amazing site! I've seen many pictures, but to see it up close is quite a humbling experience. You really only see one side in photos, but all the sides are identical, so it's basically 4 times as ornate as what you expect to see. Jon and I took zillions of pictures and enjoyed wandering around the expansive grounds. We went to a nearby luxury hotel for lunch, and spent about $55 for a very fancy Indian meal. For contrast, yesterday's lunch was about $5 for both of us! I think the key to me for dealing with the chaos on the streets was to find places to duck out of the crowds for meals.
After lunch we walked along a nature path for a different view of the Taj Mahal. Then we took a spin through the local market streets complete with goats, cows, monkeys, etc on our way back to the hotel. We headed out later for a glimpse of the Taj at night, but apparently it's not lit so we settled in to our hotel and went to bed early.
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Street vendors and taxi drivers sound the same as in Mexico and Cozumel.
Your descriptions sound great. Did the monkeys bother you?
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