Gil e Jorge § Taj Mahal
Twenty-one hours is the longest I've spent in any single vehicle without a break. The trip from the door of my house in Korea to the door of my parents house is about thirty hours but that's broken up into several pieces. I read, wrote in my notebook, mostly slept, and sat looking out the window at times.
It was difficult to differentiate one station platform from another, as we climbed up into the heart of the country, except that the further we went, the heavier people's clothing was getting. It began with thin cotton shirts in Mumbai, then to wool sweaters, now winter jackets and toques (tuks).
It must have still been close to 20℃ outside, still a hot December to me, but I guess not for everyone else.
Agra has a reputation for being the worst town for tourists to stay in. The train arrived just after dark and I made my way out to face the stampede of rickshaw drivers. A French hippy couple with a couple young children were walking beside me and without any introduction he began speaking to me with a heavy French accent, "I've been to India twenty times. The trick is to be strong with them." Hmm, being strong has never been my 'strong' point... He then told me to get into the rickshaw with him and his family and we drove into Agra town.
The budget section of the Lonely Planet recommended a guesthouse just by the East gate of the Taj Mahal that had a decent rooftop restaurant but was best known for its view of the Taj. The room was 100 rupees more than advertised in the book so when I mentioned it I was told because they are in the book they're more popular now. Maybe they didn't know the LP will usually edit places out of the next edition when this happens.
I still had an hour before the restaurant closed and I was hungry. I would say I was starving but that term seemed a bit insensitive to use in India... The food was good but in the misty darkness I had no idea where the Taj Mahal was. There was a faint glow in the mist over one corner of the roof but I couldn't make anything out.
It was actually really cold at night. The blankets on the bed looked a bit grimy but it was too cold for me to care. I was actually relieved that there was a thick wool blanket. I set my alarm for 4am and tried to remove my mind from the excitement that tomorrow I was finally going to see the Taj Mahal!