Premise: Our friends – Sarah and Lisa are visiting us for 10 days and we are planning a tour of North India with them.
Disclaimer: I am donning a ‘Loving hat’
Date: 27th Dec, 2007
7:00AM, Pahargunj, Delhi: After checked out of our hotel, we walked towards the street where we met our new driver. The travel agent said, it would be someone by name “Jai Kishan”, but it turned out to be “Hansraj”. (I should stop here and mention about our driver. He is the best driver and most amazing guy you would meet in Delhi. He speaks very good English and he drives very carefully. He is just amazing. If you happen to be in Delhi and looking for a car rental – call him on 09891539684). Since we had about 4 big bags, we decided to get one bag on top of our car. Sarah had a big suitcase and it won the contest of going on top by default. But we all could tell the strain in Sarah’s face all the way to Agra as she was worried that the suicase might just drop off!
As we drove to Agra and started our long drive, I chatted with our driver about the distance and about the fields around us. He was also telling us about how he can take us to Dharamshala too, if we wanted.
10:00AM, rest area, somewhere in Haryana: We stopped by a rest area and had our breakfast. Sarah and Lisa got eat their favorite – Porridge and we had Omelettes. As we walked out of our restaurant we saw a snake charmer and we all wanted to take a look. Sangita volunteered to put a cobra around her neck. Lisa stayed away. Sarah, as usual, was video taping the whole thing and I was taking photos. It was just a small thing and as I went up to give the old man some money – he demanded 200Rs. It was crazy to shell out 200Rs for just touching a snake. I gave him 10 bucks and I guess he cussed us out.
12:45PM, Railways Reservation, Agra: We decided that we will get our tickets to Dharamshala before we go visit Taj Mahal. So we ended up in this stinky and old railway reservation building. After filling in the reservation form, I was standing in line and all the girls were waiting. After a long time Lisa walked next to me to check and the guy inside the counter saw a White girl walking by and he just yelled at Lisa to come to the front of the line. As he was shaking his head vigorously to convey the meaning – to which Lisa totally didn’t respond – I had to tell him that she was with me and I am in line.
So, finally when my turn came, we came to know that there are no tickets available either to go to Dharamshala or to come back on the dates we wanted. The waiting list was 19 in 2nd class AC. This caused a lot of mental trouble to me, as I started to get worried about it. Finally we decided that we should just go see Taj first and later worry about our trip to Dharamshala.
1:30PM, Front gate, Taj Mahal: The foreigner discrimination showed it ugly face again. We paid 20Rs for our tickets to Taj Mahal and our friends paid 750Rs each! That’s crazy. So, after we got harassed by various people who wanted to take us inside from the other entrance (God know where that is) and guys who wanted to be our friends and guides – we finally managed to stand in a line that took forever. After about 1 1/2 hour we managed to get in.
3:00PM Taj Mahal: It’s impossible to explain when you first see Taj Mahal first time. It’s just so huge. I was overwhelmed by it. It was just beautiful. Wow. What a way of showing love? Even though it’s a silly tomb – the whole conceptualization and someone dared to think like that just overtook me with immense feeling. Everyone in our group was in amazement. We took lot’s of pictures, videos – especially Sarah posing and Lisa dancing. A lot of people approached our friends and asked them whether they can take a picture of them. It was fun for them to be celebrities and they kinda ran away from people who asked them for pictures.
4:30PM Taj Mahal: Note to self – next time I go to Taj Mahal make sure I have my lunch before I go in. We all were starving. We spent good amount of time devouring Taj and then decided to go out and have a actual meal.
5:00PM, some hotel, Agra: We all had the worst Indian food ever. The curries were bland and sort of raw. I think seeing white people they just decided not use any chilly powder and salt. Instead they gave us pickle to add flavor to our curries.
After late lunch, we decided that we will try our luck with tickets again. So, we ended up at the reservation counter again. No luck. All the trains were full and we had no clue what to do. We called our hotel room which booked in Jaipur to tell them about our late arrival. The hotel we booked our stay for 2 nights was “Umaid Bhavan” but they told us that there were no rooms available. Even after we paid for the rooms! This was crazy. That stupid site said the rooms are available and now we come to know that there are no rooms. Me and Sangita were pretty depressed.
5:30PM, Railway station, Agra: This was amazing. Sarah sprang into action. Suddenly she became the super hero. She charged us all up with action. As we drove from Agra to Jaipur, she helped Sangita to make calls to all other hotels in Jaipur so that we can get a stay for that night. We knew that we will get to Jaipur late in the night and we need to make sure we have a place to stay. So after making about 20 calls frantically – we finally found a place which had a room and accommodate all 4 of us in 1 room. It was kinda pricey but we were relaxed a bit to know that we have something when we arrive in Jaipur.
11:00PM, Hotel Narain Niwas, Jaipur: As we walked in the hotel manager (Sunny) was kinda surprised to know that we were 4. He assumed that there were only 2 people. So we hit another road block. He said we have to pay 8000Rs for 1 night for all 4 of us. It was ridiculous, we were all tired and this guy was loud and hyper. Finally Sangita talked him into giving us a room for 2 people and charge us extra 1000Rs for 2 beds. It finally came down to 6000Rs – the most expensive hotel we stayed in all our trip.
11:30PM, Our hotel room: This hotel was a heritage hotel. It was a beautiful place. The room was just amazing. I had to bribe the guy to get us 2 space heaters. We all had showers – actual showers with hot water after such a long time. Our driver got to sleep in some driver’s quarters.
Finally the crazy day where we witnessed the amazing Taj Mahal and frantic phone calls to find a place came to an end. As we went to sleep it was kinda dawning upon us that may be we won’t make it to Dharamshala.