We arrived into Agra late at night – we arrived ten minutes earlier than schedule even though the train had left Sawai Madhopur quite late. It was funny getting off the train and seeing so many more tourists than anywhere else we’d been so far, but then again Agra undoubtedly the most visited place in India for the Taj Mahal. We headed out of the station and took a prepaid taxi into the city. I found it quite exciting seeing all the road signs to the Taj Mahal and its different gates, and when we arrived at the hotel our room was at the side of the rooftop restaurant, which had a fantastic view of the Taj itself! Unfortunately for me it wasn’t floodlit and we could just see the silhouette. Like a kid on Christmas Eve I’d have to wait till the morning for my first sight of it.
After lots of consecutive very early mornings we decided that morning was going to be a no-alarm morning, though our room being at the side of the rooftop restaurant we woke pretty early from the noise, not just of the diners having breakfast but also of the mosques and the call to prayer at 5am. Dad thought putting the aircon on would cover the noise, it didn’t and I lay there shivering!
When we finally rose, I opened the curtains and said “There it is!”. The Taj Mahal was gleaming in the sunshine so close to us and I was desperate to go. We had decided that we’d visit at sunrise, a real bucket list thing to do, so that day was too late as the sun had already risen, the next day was a Friday and the Taj Mahal would be closed as it is also a mosque, so we set our sunrise visit for the Saturday.
Neither of us were particularly happy with our room at the hotel, it was too hot, too noisy, and we could get something quite a bit better for only a little extra, so Dad went looking at some other hotels and came back successful. We were checked into another place, just as close to the Taj Mahal but with a view from a different angle.
It was that evening that my belly started to misbehave, and I was back and forward to the loo ALL. NIGHT. LONG.
The following morning, having hardly slept and feeling pretty horrible, I was less than keen to get up early and sit in a car for an hour to visit an old Mughal city called Fatehpur Sikri. I tried to be optimistic thinking the feeling would just wear off and having taken a ton of Imodium I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be an incident!
I sat in the front seat of the car on the way to Fatephur Sikri and dozed, really not feeling great at all. I had to stop the car once feeling really unwell, and on arrival at our destination’s car park I got out of the car and burst into tears. I felt really horrible and the thought of walking round in the sun all day feeling like that was more than I could bear the thought of. In the end, Dad stayed there and the car took me all the way back to the hotel in Agra.
We both thought that by the time he got back early afternoon I would have slept it off and be fine. We were both wrong. When Dad got back I had been sleeping solidly for over 4 hours, and went back to sleep afterwards. He woke me in the evening to try something to eat down in the restaurant, but walking down three floors of stairs and sitting up for more than two minutes was far more than I could manage. The heat, and the noise of the restaurant all closed in around me, I went sheet white and started shaking. I’ve fainted before and that’s how it begun. Somehow, having not eaten for almost twenty four hours and feeling very weak I managed to climb the stairs back to my bed on the third floor, where I slept until the morning.
The morning I talk of was the special early morning we had planned. The alarm went off bright and early (well, not so bright – it was before sunrise). Going to the Taj Mahal at sunrise has been something I’ve wanted to do for years, and sadly, it didn’t happen. I couldn’t sit up for more than a couple of minutes at a time, never mind stand. I was never going to manage to walk the ten minutes there and spend an hour or so looking round. Such a fantastic opportunity missed and I couldn’t do it. My Dad left me at the hotel and went himself to see the sunrise. I’m bitterly jealous and not afraid to admit it.
When he returned two hours later I was still fast asleep. In fact, I select most of that day sleeping too. I managed some toast at lunch but otherwise just slept.
I’d missed any chance of seeing the Taj Mahal at sunrise but had to TRY and see it at any time before we left Agra- that evening.
Late afternoon I struggled out of bed and downstairs. We took a cycle rickshaw to get our tickets for the Taj Mahal and he then took us to the East Gate. I felt horrific. Once inside, before the big main gate, I had to sit down for almost ten minutes. I only managed to walk for five minutes at a time before sitting down, exhausted. In the end I spent most of the time there hovering round the toilets. I didn’t even make it to the building itself. I didn’t even stand in the middle and take a picture of the reflection. I didn’t even get to feel the cold marble under my feet, and I’m totally gutted. I didn’t even have the energy to leave on my own two feet, and had to be taken back to the East Gate in a wheelchair.
Late at night we took a car for an hour to a station outside Agra called Tundla. It was a really dirty, smelly station, full of homeless people, rats and litter. We had a while to wait there, luckily I slept on my bag waiting for our sleeper train to Varanasi.
My time in Agra DID NOT go to plan. I am thoroughly disappointed that I didn’t experience the Taj Mahal properly. I feel annoyed at Agra, and particularly at the hotel for giving me food poisoning and spoiling my time there. Who knows if I’ll have a chance to go back to the Taj Mahal again? No one can tell.