Monday, November 23, 2009

Agra - It's Totally 'Taj'

Q: How many Indian men does it take to change a bus tyre?
Approximately 26 (one doing the work, and 25 standing around discussing it).

This scene of Indian masculinity was something we witnessed when our bus to Agra got a flat tyre.

Q: How do you avoid paying commission to a rickshaw driver for taking you to a hotel?
A: We don't know... we've tried many tactics (with various degrees of failure), but the most promising method we tried was in Agra... We directed the rickshaw driver to a cafe nearby a hotel we wanted to stay in (thank you Lonely Planet for your helpful map). We then sat and had a chai hoping the driver would get sick of waiting and go look for another fare. When this didn't work, we split up, with Claire staying at the cafe with our luggage, while Paul and Amy snuck off in search for the hotel. A few minutes down the road, Paul and Amy were congratulating themselves on outsmarting the rickshaw driver when, out of nowhere, he popped up out of the shadows and followed us to the hotel - no doubt to collect his commission... turns out he outsmarted us

Q: Are you lacking a calculator and hate doing mental addition? Does your job require you to do many sums in one day?
A: If you answered 'Yes' to this question, you need... THE HUMAN CALCULATOR!!! (Who also doubles up as an amusing, elderly, tip-requesting waiter).
Here's how he works; Your customers come to pay, you write up their bill but you can't be bothered working out the total yourself, so you call on your Human Calculator, who ambles arthritically downstairs to do the dirty work for you! Simply yell out the numbers you want added, and the Human Calculator will do the math in his head and give you a speedy total. Brilliant! And way more amusing than a regular calculator...

Q: Ever wondered what a tomato salad looks like in India?
A: Probably not, but just in case you ever attempt to order one in India, you should know that all you're in for is a tomato sliced up on a plate with a wedge of lime. Generally the food we've had in India has been amazing, but, like this tomato salad, all the food in Agra was pretty crap.

Q: Wondering why we haven't mentioned the Taj Mahal yet?
A: We're about to...
For the most visited sight in India, the Taj is surrounded by some whopping big lies. Yes, it is every bit as amazing as you've heard, BUT we were told a few porkers that were a little saddening...
First of all, many of the hotels and restaurants around Agra claim to have "Taj views"... well, as we discovered, what they actually mean is that from their rooftop, if you look at a specific angle through other buildings, you can see portions of the Taj, but not enough to take a photo... oh, and ignore the restaurants that try to lure you in for dinner with these "Taj view" claims... it's not lit up at night, so you won't see much.

The second (and most hurtful) lie we were told about the Taj, is that you can sit and watch the sunrise over this magnificent piece of architecture. Now, this isn't entirely a lie, because you can line up at the ticket window and wait for it to open at sunrise and then, as the sun is rising, you can stand in line at both the ticket window and then the gates of the Taj waiting to be let inside. Once the sun has well and truly risen, THEN you'll be let into the complex. Thanks for stealing our beauty sleep for no reason, Agra.

The final lie we were told in Agra (not actually, Taj related though), was that our train to Delhi would leave Agra station at 10 am... 5 hours later, when we were still sitting at the platform waiting for our train to arrive (despite the computer screens telling us it was still due to arrive at 10am), we wondered if our train was ever coming at all. Annoying, but made completely worth it when our train actually arrived AND we got to see an old naked man picking up rubbish on the tracks! Awesome!

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