When we arrived at Agra I was expecting the worst. The train station was hectic and when we finally managed to wade through the crowd we were met with 2 options to get to our hotel. Firstly there was a prepaid taxi stand, and then there was an auto rickshaw.
You are at your most vulnerable when you first arrive somewhere, particularly when yet again it is 47 degrees, you have your backpacks on and 2 kids in tow. So I had already phoned ahead to the hotel and asked what is the normal price from the station to the hotel and was told 70 Rupees. The prepaid taxi was 150 Rupees and I managed to haggle the auto rickshaw to 70 down from 100. We are staying at the East gate of the Taj Mahal and in the backpacker area.
Agra is just how I imagined India. The local area is very old looking and distinctly Indian in that the colours were once very bright but are now faded, the buildings look so dry they could crumbs and all around there are locals stores selling handmade crafts, all seem to have rooftop cafe’s (we had lunch at one and it was lovely) We have been hassled but oddly only by rickshaw drivers and people wanting you to enter their store. As yet we have not tried to be scammed.
Agra is much cleaner, quieter and green. It is like paradise compared to Delhi.
I negotiated with a rickshaw driver (the bike not auto) a 100 Rupee round trip to Agra Fort, another one of India special archaeological sites. The deal was he waited while we ate, then took us to the fort (about 5km) wait while we walked round and then bring us back. I told him if he did not deviate or try and scam us I would pay him a further 50 Rupees. So basically 4 hours of a personal driver for £2. A friendly guy called Ajay, the first Indian not to try and scam us and as I learnt one of many in Agra.
The old fort was huge, big red sand stone walls full of ancient buildings from (I think) the 1300’s. Walking round was made slightly easier by a nice breeze which took the edge off the heat. The kids drew loads of attention and posed for 30 or so photographs. The one above is with some Indian children; if you look closely you can see the Taj Mahal in the distance.
I cannot describe how good it is to be here in Agra after what we experienced in Delhi. As I write this it is just after 3pm, I am sat writing this on a garden swing whilst the kids play ‘double dare’ on the large landscaped garden of the hotel. How they can run around in this heat I will never know.
An excellent and exciting day and I am starting to think that finally we are in real India.