Well, we survived our first sleeper train, though it was not the easiest journey in the world. People always say that travelling by rail is the best way to see India, and they may well be right, but what they don’t mention is the fact that it’s apparently normal for trains to be delayed by as much as ten or fifteen hours! Our train was due to leave Varanasi at 6.30pm, in order to arrive into Agra at 6.15am the following day. In actual fact, we finally got on the train at 1.30am, after waiting at the station for seven whole hours. It’s fair to say that ‘tired and grumpy’ was an understatement!
However, when we did make it onto the train and into our compartment, things started to improve. After shivering on a platform for hours, the berth was invitingly cosy. After making our beds up we quickly snuggled down for the night and were lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the train.
The morning sunshine woke us up and our bellies were crying out for a hot tasty meal. A man came by around 10am to take lunch orders, but due to the language barrier we didn’t know how long we would have to wait. About five minutes later another man came along, asking if we would like a breakfast – kind of confused we agreed as we didn’t know how long lunch would take. We hungrily dug into our breakfast and yep, you guessed it, lunch came along about two minutes later! We exchanged shrugs and giggles with the two other backpackers in our compartment, who had made the same mistake, but since we were so hungry we ate the lot anyway!
We whiled away the time drinking copious amounts of 10 rupee chais, reading up on Agra and working out where we would travel to next, whilst the Indian countryside rolled by our window. We eventually arrived at our hostel in Agra around 5pm the next day, tired and rumpled. A quick shower, dinner on the roof of our hostel and a well-earned beer later, we collapsed gratefully into our bed.
The next day we were up early, ready and excited for our trip to the Taj Mahal. Luckily we were staying within walking distance, so we shook off some persistent tuk-tuk drivers and stretched our legs. Beating the crowds, we bought our tickets and walked straight in without a queue. The Taj Mahal is probably one of the most recognisable buildings in the world – everyone knows what it looks like. But actually seeing it close up, in real life, is an incredible experience. The beauty, intricacy and symmetry are breathtaking. Once you have fought you way past the crowds of tourists trying to take the ‘perfect’ picture, you are free to wander in the lush grounds, to see the Taj Mahal from different angles. You can also go inside and view the mausoleum, but the best part is being able to get close enough to the walls to touch them and to see all the painstaking detail up close.
Here’s some proof that we were actually there! Unfortunately we don’t have any pictures of the very fashionable shoe covers that we had to wear. We were very glad that we went around 9am, as by the time we left the queue to get in was stretching all the way down the road. We’d definitely recommend arriving early if you visit.
Overall, we were only in Agra for around 18 hours, but since our hostel was a bit pants and we’d seen what we came to see, we happily boarded a coach to Jaipur – our next destination.
C & D xx