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Travel Story by Caroline O'Neill

  Agra Nightmares
Agra, India
 


Taj Mahal

I can't believe we've only been here for four days, it feels like a lifetime already! We've done Delhi, Agra and Jaipur so far. Jaipur is absolutely gorgeous, it's nicknamed the "Pink City" because the old city has all been whitewashed in pink. By far it's the most friendly place we've been to and we're really chilled out. Found a great bar that sells Castle Beer (a nice change from Kingfisher, which is usually served warm!!).

Agra was an experience in itself - we went to see the Taj Mahal - in total we had about 15 photographs taken with us! It seems that white people are a bit of a rarity there - we could barely walk 5 steps before some family asked if they/their children could have their photo taken with us. I imagine this is what it must be like to be famous! It's bearable - but I think the worst thing is probably the constant attention - being white is bad enough, being deaf and sign-language users is even worse! All the hotels/bars/cafes we go to people stare at us. I guess it's the kind of thing you have to get used to, but it's not pleasant!

As you know, we booked a driver to take us around the region. This is definitely recommended to save time, but be careful - many of the drivers have done this route many times - and thus know all the shops and touts. We've been taken to two carpet factories already and the persuasion is relentless. Can't afford it? Pay by card/'we'll give you a good deal because you're a good customer'. Backpacking and can't carry it? We'll deliver it to your house in England for just under a million pounds. They just don't give up, to the point where you pick up your backpack and walk out! We've had to learn how to not be polite here.

The other day we went to a temple in Agra - we had the world's worst guide. When visiting monuments you have to ignore all the people in the walk to the monument as they have a lot of fake guides. To be fair, we had some excellent photos of Lydia and I feeding the monkeys, but he was the most bossy guy ever! He literally dragged us around by the arm and kept telling us where to take photographs from. If any of you ever come to India, bypass the tour guides, they're a waste of money. If you do want a tour, then make sure it's an official person recognised by the monument so you get value for money, there are so many scammers around here.

The hardest thing is probably the kids. Every time you walk around, children run up to you asking for rupees or food. It's not recommended that you give them anything as they are only collecting for the adults. And there's no guarantee as to where the money goes. I guess us English tourists are easy pickings! We've had to ignore them and say no, which is really hard as they're so young and adorable. It breaks your heart. Our guidebook says the best thing to do is give money to a specialist charity and that giving money to children will only encourage them to beg. It makes me feel so bad, but it's for the best and I for one am definitely going to donate some money to a suitable charity.




Click on photo to enlarge


Caroline at the Taj Mahal  Lydia feeding the monkeys


Date Submitted: 18 Dec 2008


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