We landed in Delhi last night about 9:30 (our flight was delayed slightly from Raipur) and arrived at the Taj Mahal Hotel a little while later (when you are tired, it’s hard to keep track of time). For those of you experiencing a sense of déjà vu, you are correct. We had already been to Delhi and stayed at this exact same hotel.
There was only one difference. This time we were in Delhi for less than 12 hours. In fact, I think it was closer to 8 hours. 5 or 6 hours of which we spent sleeping before we had to be up bright and early to catch the 6 AM train to Agra. I’m beginning to think that everything that is worth doing in India has to happen before sunrise.
But we made it up and we even left the hotel on time to head to the train station.
I don’t have the right words to describe the Delhi train station. Overwhelming, crazy, and confusing might all be a good place to start.
When we arrived at the station, we were informed that our mini bus would not be able to enter the gates and we needed to unload our luggage across the busy (I.e. crazy) street just outside of the station. No big deal. Except that most of us packed in duffle bags. Which are hard to carry for any distance.
So we arranged to have a group of porters carry our luggage for us. Which they did. For the low, low price of $50.
Wait, what? 6 pieces of luggage. Maybe 300 yards. $50. It was a deal, let me tell you!
Although it was rather interesting to watch the porters carry our luggage on their heads.
To get the luggage up, they wrap a piece of cloth into a basket shape on their head and then left the luggage up high and gently sit it on their head. Well, gently might not be the right word for it. I swear, some of those guys looked like they were going to get a concussion the way they were throwing the bags.
Then we made our way across the street. Between speeding cars, passing rickshaws, and ambling cows. This was a take your life in your own hands kind of moment.
Once we made it to the station, we discovered a large number of people sleeping outside the security gates. My first thought was that they were homeless. And I can’t remember exactly what our guide told us, but I think it was something about them being stranded travelers. Waiting to get to their destination.
I am so glad that worse way to be stranded back home is to have to spend the night in an airport chair.
We bypassed security. I’m not kidding, we walked around the long line at the metal detector. Although our bags were subjected to a cursory x-ray scan …
And then we made it to the train platforms.
I was so glad that we had a guide to direct us through the station. In fact, other tourists were also grateful as they fell in line behind us. I guess they figured that there would be only one reason that white foreigners would be at this particular station this early in the morning. So they followed us. It’s probably a smart idea and it’s my plan if I ever find myself in the same situation. Of course, with my luck, who knows where I will end up if I just follow a random group of strangers just because they look like they know where they are going.
The train itself is fine. Just, fine. It wasn’t overwhelmingly dirty and they even offered to serve us breakfast. Which we declined. I also decided not to put my head back on the seat. But chances were that nothing bad would have happened if I had dared.
Oh, I forgot to mention that our luggage made it on to the train fast than we did. And I mean that literally. Our porters pushed their way on to the train way before us. I guess that they needed to make sure that we got enough overhead space (sound familiar?). But we were not as successful at being pushy.
Finally, one person got in position to block more people from entering the train and held back the crowd while the rest of the group made it on board. I’m so glad he was willing to sacrifice himself to the chance of being trampled. Or there was a possibility that our luggage would have left for Agra without us!
Alright, fine. It wasn’t that bad. But I still don’t understand why it was such a mad rush to get to our assigned seats on the train.
By 8 AM, we were in Agra. And ready to view the Taj Mahal. After a breakfast, shower, nap and a change of clothes that is …