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Goodbye, Chennai. Hello, Agra!

INDIA | Friday, 4 November 2016 | Views [377]

November 3, 2016

It's been a few days since I've written. I have been out late and was too distracted to keep up. To summarize the past few days, I mostly explored the other portions of Chennai that I hadn't gotten around to yet. Those areas are Elliot's beach and surrounding area and a zone called T Nagar. T Nagar is an absolute madhouse. I filmed myself trying to cross the street there. It took me over 3 minutes and I almost got hit by two buses, I think. Jay spent more time with me so I was more comfortable just walking around. The US Embassy also issued a security warning for all US citizens in India warning of a possible ISIS attack on places frequented by Westerners. That news was troubling. Very troubling. I kind of avoided going out alone in certain places after that. I've also kind/maybe/sorta got used to moving around in Chennai. I still don't like it and and I still think it's chaotic, but I'm more comfortable doing so.

I had to wake up at 4am on November 3rd so I could checkout of my hotel and catch a 6:25am flight to Delhi. The hotel front desk and Jay both said getting there an hour early is fine. In the US, it's at least two hours early. I went with my gut and got there an hour and a half early. Jay and his family got there about a half hour after I did. Needless to say, we should have gotten there much earlier... we were the last ones to bored the plane and it was waiting for us. Airports in India operate a bit different than in the US. Firstly, you can only get into the airport if you have ID and a ticket. So you need your ticket printed out beforehand. Also, your checked luggage is scanned right in front of you and then taped up so it can't open. I actually like that concept. Security is also so much slower than I've ever experienced in the US. It also doesn't help that absolutely no one just waits their damn turn there. People are always pushing and cutting. I believe you'd get your ass kicked in the US doing something like that.

We got to Delhi at around 9:30am and drove to Agra. We have a driver to drive us around, and the traffic in Delhi is insane. And so is the pollution! Getting through Delhi took forever, but we finally did and mad it onto a highway system that someone resembled what we have in the US. I think it took maybe 3.5 hours to get to Agra and then we checked into our hotel. I have basically no phone service in Agra, and I'm not sure why. After checking into the hotel and relaxing for a bit, we went to the Taj Mahal. Before we went, I found out that our driver had taken it upon himself to call a friend and ask him to be our guide... at the low, low cost of 5000 Rupees(~75 USD). Apparently, once the driver saw an American was in the group, he saw it as a money-making opportunity. I was warned this would happen a lot, and it has. Jay ultimately had the driver call that "guide" friend and tell him not to come because we do not want a guide. For foreigners to get in to the Taj Mahal, it costs 1000 Rupees (~15 USD)! That is absurd. Especially since it costs only 30 Rupees (.45 USD) for Indians to get in. The entrance to the Taj Mahal is about 500 meters away from the ticket booth. We started walking, and were immediately approached by seemingly everyone trying to sell us a guide. Once we were walking for a bit we saw a horse buggy and thought it would be a good idea to take the horse buggy to the entrance. It was kind of fun, I have to admit, but the poor horse looked malnourished. Once we got to the entrance, we had to go through strict security. Maybe it's normal, or maybe it's because of the possible terrorist attack, who knows. It kind of made me feel at ease.

Once we got in, there was a bit of a walk to get to the garden of the Taj Mahal. Once we stepped through the gate, you could see the Taj for all its magnificence. I heard it glows white when it's hit by the sun, and it really does. It's a bit of a hike through the garden before you actually get to the Taj. And along the way, everyone is stopping to take their pictures. I am guilty of this, too. I don't know if you've ever played those Pokemon games for Gameboy where you can't walk through grass without encountering some annoying and worthless Pokemon, but that's how I felt whenever I took a step through the garden. You will constantly be held up by people taking their million pictures with their countless poses. I don't really blame them, but just get the hell out of my way! ...so I can stop and take pictures as well! It was hard to get good pictures with the Taj in the background. The sun was too bright and I had a rough time keeping my eyes open or non-squinted. Plus, I think my camera was broken... it was making me look ugly. Haha. So after going through the garden and taking lots of pictures and checking out all the gorgeous Indian women, I finally made it to the Taj. You either have to take off your shoes and socks, or buy shoe coverings for 10 Rupees. I've seen enough Slumdog Millionaire not to trust taking off my shoes, so I bought shoe coverings for 10 Rupees. The line to get to the actual line is insane. This is where my American privilege came in. I was able to get expedited past the pre-line and go straight to the line because I'm American! The actual line was still pretty long though. I'm not really sure how long we waited, but it was a good chance to get some nice pictures of the Taj up-close.

I can't count the number of people (usually Indians) who just cut in the line. I was getting pretty worked up about it, and Jay had to remind me that this isn't my home territory and things operate differently here. Once you finally make it into the Taj after waiting in line for so long, you can't even really enjoy it. It's kept super dark and you are literally pushed through it. I definitely lost my cool inside there. I absolutely snapped at a few people. At one point, while going through a corridor, I literally could not move forward any further because I was stuck behind other people, but this jackass Indian guy behind me still kept pushing me. I finally lost it and said something to the tone of, "If I could fucking move forward, I would. So stop fucking pushing me. Otherwise I will get fucking angry, and bad things happen when I get angry." It seemed to work, because the one guy stopped. But then a few minutes later, I was being pushed by yet another Indian guy. I had to tell him that he'd get his ass kicked doing that from where I'm from. I don't think he understood me though, so I said in a kind, but angry way, "Please. Don't push me.". Anyway, now that I got my blood boiling again, it was really difficult to enjoy and appreciate the inside of the Taj. I didn't get a single picture from inside and feel like I saw nothing in there. Once we exited, I took a walk around to get a few more pictures. By this time, the mosquitoes were horrible. I'm worried I could get malaria from all the bites I had. I had to leave my bug spray in my backpack, which was left back with the driver, because you can't bring in big packs to the Taj.

Once we exited the Taj, we stopped at some nearby shops for souvenirs. I got to try out my bargaining skills. I found a really nice small sculpture of the Taj that was pretty detailed. The guy wanted nearly 2000 Rupees (~30 USD) for it, and after thinking about it for a while I told him I'd give him 25 USD (~1667 Rupees) for it. He accepted and I was proud for getting such a deal. By now, you're probably realizing I did not actually get a deal. Not a minute later he asked if I wanted to buy another, to perhaps give to my girlfriend or wife (neither of which I have, obviously). I told him the max I'd pay is 1000 Rupees (~15 USD). He said deal. I was mad at myself for that point because I just waaaay overpaid on the first one. I changed my mind and didn't buy the second one. But later on, Jay's dad bought it for me (at the 1000 Rupee price I negotiated!) as a gift from his family. He told me to give the one I bought to the woman I marry. Haha, we'll see if I ever find someone.

In other news, remember how I said I was on Tinder in India? I still suck and have only one match (I guess that means I'm ugly), but I've been chatting with that one match. She's in Chennai and I asked to meet up with her for coffee or chai when I get back on Wednesday, November 9th. I asked her that completely expecting her to say "no", but she said "yes". Needless to say, I was pretty excited. But my friends back home and my brother are telling me not to go because I can't really be sure this isn't a scam or a possible robbery. Now I'm full of doubts. Perhaps I can have Jay and a friend or two of his come and sit at an adjacent table. I already picked the place when I asked her and she said that sounded good. But who knows, though. I'll figure it out.

In other, other news, my hotel in Agra has a potty shower. In case you aren't aware, toilet paper is not typically used in India. Instead, they typically have what looks like a small nozzle and they spray and clean with their left hand. My hotel in Chennai had toilet paper. The one in Agra does not. This did not go over well...

Tags: agra, chennai, india, t nagar, taj mahal, tamil nadu

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