Okay, I’m falling behind here – not enough time and not enough internet connection.. Moving quickly through the cities to present time..
On the train from Varanasi to Agra, I shared space with two young guys from South Korea and a young couple from France. This far I’ve enjoyed spending time and train with locals but it was really nice for a change to be around other travellers. Apolline and Vincent from France were cool and we talked a bit. The guys from South Korea were nice as well and shared their fruit and we talked a little as well – every other sentence they talked in their native language and giggled like schoolgirls, a kind of cliché phrase but that’s what they did :)
In Agra, I already knew which hotel I wanted to stay at, which is helpful when dealing with rickshaw drivers so we went straight there and luckily for me, someone checked out so I could check in.
The rooftop was amazing – lots of flowers and the most beautiful view of Taj Mahal. Tourist trap or not, that place is spectacular!
I would only be in Agra for less than two days so after breakfast and a shower, I went out. I had already decided that I only wanted to see the Red Fort and Taj Mahal and since the latter really should be at sunrise, I took a rickshaw to the fort. It’s a very old fort and build by the Mughals, which means a lot of beautiful decorations and details. Parts of both that and the taj reminded me of Alhambra in Spain – I love it. Of course there was lots of tourists and a lot of pictures was taken of both the fort and… me. It’s weird to think about how many people around India by now have pictures of me and I wonder if I’ll make it to their photo album or maybe even get a spot on the wall next to their relatives.
After the fort I just wanted to walk and adventure around the city and as usual I managed to make my way into the neighborhood furthest away from tourists and anything that could resemble western civilization. I don’t think I got really lost, just enough to be the absolute only white person – but by now I’ve (almost) gotten used to the looks and it really only takes a smile and a single hindi word to get adopted and helped if necessary :)
Afterwards I was exhausted and needed a few hours to relax – and then I went out with a couchsurfer for great food and great company. It seems that in India, if you want to go somewhere relaxed you need to go to the more expensive places so we ended up going to the rooftop restaurant (it’s always a rooftop around here) of a fancy hotel. This place was really cool and the food was sooo good! I finally tasted my first Indian beer, the Kingfisher – it was good although kind of thin’ish. All of the sudden it was past 1am and I wanted to be at the taj at 6 next morning so I got a ride back to my hotel and went straight to bed.
When the alarm went off very shortly after, needless to say I was pretty tired and for a minute I considered if sunrise really was important. Then the muslim morning prayers blasted through the speakers, which I’m sure must have been places just on the other side of my wall, and so I might as well get up.
For some reason, that morning was cold and foggy and not really great for playing tourist but I was excited to see this wonder up close and dressed warm and walked fast. In line for buying tickets, I met Apoline and Vincent and we walked around together for a bit until I wandered off in my bubble of amazement.
Taj Mahal is build in marble and that has got the be the most wonderful material ever. When you touch it, it’s warm and soft and feels alive, transparent and very solid at the same time. I was as much in awe of the marble as I was of the architecture. Such a beautiful little building.
Agra in itself is not a particularly wonderful place but I’m still very glad I stopped by.
That evening I made my way to yet another train station. I was one hour early and it turned out that my train was one hour late. Ah well.. Fortunately I’m blessed with a mom who will call me even when I’m in India so the extra time was put to the absolute best use :)
Waiting for my train, I was adopted by another Indian family. First, the two daughters decided to be my new friends and in their adorable English, they asked me the most basic questions. I then gave them a postcard with pictures from Copenhagen, which they then proudly showed to the rest of the family. Then we did the mandatory photo shoot and as a final tribute I even took a picture of them. That concluded the official adoption process and we all hung out and waited for our train, one big happy family.
Very late that night I arrived in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. Very tired and very grumpy after spending the last couple of hours with an obnoxious, loud, stinky Indian family. For the first time, I had the misfortune of sharing the train with such an annoying bunch of people, a couple, their son and the grandparents. I’m not even going to describe them but I can revel that the granddad talked, burped and farted a lot – and loud. In return, I let them know exactly how I felt about them all – in Danish though..
So when the rickshaw drivers attacked, I was not having it. There was no discussing where I was going or how much I was paying – I told them to leave me the f*** alone and then I sat down and let them put on their little show. After 10 minutes I chose the one who had been the most silent one and we left.
I was going to stay with a couchsurfer in Amer, which is the old part of Jaipur. It took almost half an hour to get there and I was soooo tired and when I could finally lay down on my bed, it was really really REALLY hard. All night, every time I turned over, I was in pain and I’m pretty sure that a couple of my ribs have been injured.
Another couchsurfer was staying there as well, a guy from Lithuania, and the next day we hung out and explored the area. We found an ancient version of a swimming pool and almost went into combat with a huge and scary monkey. Augustas had left a bag of fruit on the ground while he was standing and looking at the pool. I was standing on the other side and when I look over, the monkey is no more than maybe two meters from him. I shout “monkey!”, Augustas turns around and the monkey gets into combat position, not moving away. They both stand like that for a few seconds, each trying to scare the other one. That monkey was a different kind than the usual kinds around here. This one was bigger and more grey’ish and with a very long tail – and very big teeth! I come over to back up Augustas and the monkey moves back a few steps – but not until a local comes running with a big farming tool, it gives up.
The rest of the day was pretty undramatic and the next morning we go into town – Augustas to catch a train and me to find a soft bed.
I move into Heritage Hotel Vaishnavi and for the next days I have a bit of luxury – at least compared to where I’ve stayed this far. I hire a driver for the day and go explore the Amber Fort, the Water Palace and a Mughal textile factory. The first one was beautiful but I think I’m reaching my limit of forts. As a tourist thing, they have elephants that you can ride all the way up the hill to the fort. Huge majestic animals with colorful decorations, completely degraded with small men sitting on them, kicking them, dragging the same ignorant tourists up the hill all day long. My heart was crying for this injustice and if one of the elephants had decided to revolt, I would have been right there by its side.
The Water Palace was very lovely and the factory was pretty cool. I got to see how they make the textiles, put block prints on them and make the hand broderie – and then I got to sit and drink chai while they tried to sell me one amazing thing after the other. Well, they did succeed and I bought three bed covers and a sari. Had I been a millionaire, I would have bought one of everything they showed me.
Finally, all caught up to present time.. Tomorrow I’m taking the train to Jodhpur – I will only stay there for one night and the day after I have an 18 hour ride up to Chandigarh.
I’m going to need more books and plenty of snacks!