The Taj Mahal and my Last day in Delhi
The next day in Varanasi I went out with the Spanish women again which was nice, and it’s a good job I met them because I don’t know how I would have gotten ANYWHERE on my own- the whole place is just a maze of tiny streets, and my sense of direction is poor at the best of times. When it came to leaving for the train station on my own I had a mild panic attack because I couldn’t even find my way to a main road to find a rickshaw- and it’s not a good sign when you can’t get to a rickshaw in India. Anyway after using my old method of just repeating ‘main road’ to people for half an hour or so I eventually resurfaced in the midst of the wierdest main road I’ve ever seen- much busier and more chaotic than I’ve ever seen in England, but bizarrely there weren’t any actually cars, and barely any auto-rickshaws- just a mass of cycle-rickshaws, tongas (horse draws rickshaws), fruit carts, carts pulled by oxen/cattle and bicycles. It was quite an experience.. after I’d orientated myself a little I managed to hail a cycle-rickshaw, and haggled the bloke down from 50p to 30p just out of habit, but after he’d peddled me about 2 miles across town I felt incredibly guilty and gave him double…I haggle every time because I’m so sick of being ripped off by the auto-rickshaws, but the cycle guys are all dead poor and have to work damn hard to get you anywhere, so its worth giving them a tip or the full amuont they ask for.
Anyway, got there early and relised just before I went for a coffee that I’d read my ticket wrong and the train was leaving 45 minutes earlier than I thought- so it was a damn good job I’d left a good hour spare after my ordeal at Old Delhi Station.. I honestly don’t know how I’ve managed to get anywhere in this country. Anyway, got on my final sleeper carriage which happeend to be in a ‘ladies’ berth,’ and I don’t know why because I didn’t request this as I’d heard they’re usually full of screaming kids. Luckily this one wasn’t and I did feel slightly less on edge than I had done in the others, even though I’d never had a problem in the mixed ones. Unfortunately though I was near the open door (train doors always stay open here) so I kept walking up to find these huge locust type things crawling about on the end of my bed. It was horrible at first but I didn’t mind them in the end, they’re big enough to keep an eye on and they don’t move very fast, so you can see ’em coming.
During the night I started feeling really ill which wasn’t a good sign… I felt constantly on the verge of throwing up and had stomach cramps, and at 6am I had to get off the train and spend 12 hours in Agra with no hotel as I was leaving that night.. and Agra was HORRIBLE. Utterly horrible, and I didn’t even venture into the main city bit- went straight from the station to this hotel as I shared a rickshaw with an Australian girl, then walked from there to the Taj Mahal, and in that time got hassled by about 12 people asking if I needed hotel/guide/rickshaw/money change etc etc and people were following me down the street and I had to be quite aggressive in the end just to get them to go away! But it made me feel better, got rid of some tension..
Anyway, the Taj Mahal was nice, I think it would have been more impressive without the massive build up, but it was impressive none the less. However by the time I’d had a good look round it was still only 9am, and I was feeling ill still and just thoroughly wretched, and shouted at a child who followed me for about 10 minutes down the road asking if I wanted a postcard… felt quite bad, but I’d just had enough and in the end I turned around and just went ‘NOOOOOO!’ He looked quite frightened..
So I though ‘to hell with Agra’ and just checked into a hotel, I seriously needed to lie down, and after a few hours I felt a little better and ventured out for the internet. On my way back in I got mobbed by a family of about 12… there were loads of teenage sisters and a few older brothers, and they barged into my room asking me all the usual questions and looking through my bag and just being all giggly and odd in general. In the end it turned out they were trying to set me up with one of their brothers, who was clearly a massive wierdo, and I had to pack my stuff up quickly and scarper, throwing my keys at reception and escaping into the street, because the whole thing just gave me the creeps. All the girls and the wierdo brother were shouting at me to come back and asking where I was going in a hurt sort of way from the verandah, and I was like ‘yeah I have to go, seeya… you bunch of FREAKS…’ as I disappeared into a rickshaw.
Got to the train station three hours early… but it was okay as I just drank coffee and met a nice normal Indian guy on the platform who helped me fend off the beggars. The train was fine, a little cramped but it was just three hours, and my book was getting good. I got back to Delhi and got a pre-paid auto-rickshaw as it’s safer to do this at night as the pre-paid rickshaws are all monitored.
However, this particular driver happened to be just another massive bastard like all the other auto-rickshaw drivers, ad dropped me off in the wrong place, so I found myself lost and alone at 11pm, in Delhi, in the dark… I nearly had a nervous breakdown, but then luckily spotted a man in uniform outside one of the banks on the main road, and he happened to be very helpful and pointed me in the right direction, thank /God/… I had a little way to walk to my guest house, and after a few minutes I came upon this dimly lit archway over the street, and as I walked through I realised it was full of those homeless people I saw sprawled out there that morning- all just sat there in silence, half naked, not even talking to each other, just watching me.. I thought I’d had it, I thought ‘so this is where I’ll finally be robbed of all my things just like I knew would happen from the START’… but of course nothing of the sort happened and I just kept walking fast and didn’t even get a heckle, and made it safe and sound to my hotel.
And today is my last day! I just wandered around Connaught Place in Delhi, got completely lost again, but I’m sick of rickshaw-drivers (last night was the last straw) so I was determined to find my way. I did in the end but I went in the same circle about 3 times, which was annoying to say the least and kept having to pass that crazy old man who tried to get me in his shop last time. (He definately is crazy by the way, he was accosting a business man one of the times I passed, although it allowed me to slink past unnoticed..
After everything I think Delhi has been my favourite place, bizzarely, as it’s usually people’s worst place- it just feels more real than a lot of the places I’ve been to- more like a real Indian city and less like a holiday place. Although of course the village was the most authentic Indian experience I’ve had! And that desert town Khuri and the mud-hut villages were pretty cool. And pretty much every train and bus I’ve been on has been tourist free, apatr from a couple. That’s not to say I haven’t had fun in the tourist places, or that I haven’t behaved like a huge tourist myself, with my stupid pictures and sun-hat and hippy trousers..
I think I’d like to come back here someday.