Leaving Jaipur, it was the first time I really was not sure where I was going next. I really was not mentally prepared for the big city of Delhi just yet, I wanted to stay in Rajasthan, and I had no interest in a touristy excursion to Agra. After sitting in the government tourist office with the lovely Tourist officers, we sit and page through the Rajasthan book. We plan a route for me that is headed in the opposite direction of Agra so he recommends I first go to Agra and then start my route. I look at him very puzzled and unsure of what to do. A bus to Agra was leaving in ten minutes so I had to make decision: to get on the bus or to not get on the bus that was the question ha!
I look at my tourist officers and I look at a large portrait of the Taj Mahal on the wall and say, “Okay fine.” By the tone of my voice, I was acting like a child who wanted to stay home all day, but was forced to go to school. I really was not excited about it and at this point just wanted to go somewhere to sit and write because the mind is on overload.
On the bus a 5 hour journey became a 7 hour journey and the blaring music was quite annoying. Indians like to play their music off their phone and do not believe in headphones. Sometimes it is nice hearing the music being played on the bus FROM the bus stereo, but from the phone behind your ear is obnoxious and annoying. I had the music coming from three different angles-behind me, in front of me, and to the right of me. God loves to test my patience and he won this match. I stared at the guy behind me and eventually he got the picture to turn it down to a decent volume. The sunset was accompanied by some Bollywood beats that were off another phone-the volume was not blaring and I liked the songs so this worked for me.
Arriving in Agra, I look around and start to groan about what I am seeing. It looks filfthy, dark, and unattractive. Many people say that Agra is not well maintained except for the touristic areas of the Agra fort and Taj Mahal. Plus landing in Agra at 7pm after the sunset is my least favorite time to arrive by myself off a government bus. Here comes the “Riksha circus performance”, I tell myself.
I get off the bus and start moving quickly towards the Taj mahal signs. The Taj mahal is 9KM away from the bus stand and I decide to walk and hitch a ride to the hotel area. I get over there and walk from hotel to hotel with many being full or not worth the money. I decided that I wanted to treat myself to a nice, posh yet affordable room. It was difficult to find this as many Indian hotels do not meet my expectation unless they are running 5 stars.
Approaching me on a bike is a Punjab young guy named “Lucky” who says he wants to help me. He says his name is “Lucky” because tourists are lucky to meet him. Lucky mentions helping many tourists in Agra and smiles in a friendly manner inviting me to get on the bike. It is like an ice cream man who is not really selling ice cream, but as a kid you see the ice cream truck and are tempted to just hop on. I am the child who is persuaded to get on the truck-the bike. I am tired of walking with the backpack and I just jump on the back of his motor bike.
At first,he says I can stay in his home for free and I say, “No Thanks.” He tells me, “Okay no problem, I just want you to be happy my friend.” He is a difficult one for me to read and I question his honesty and motives. My dad told me to never trust the turbins, but the few words of advice from my father are pretty meaningless and who knows the truth. It is about to be 8:30 and I just have to make a decision on a place. He recommends his friends place the Hotel Taj Prince. Arriving I feel a sense of hope as it turns out to be completely brand new with a modern room with flat screen and clean white sheets that smell of bleach. Meeting his friend, he gives me the room for half price. There are four rooms and just one is occupied by an Asian man from Canada so he could definitely use the business. After negotiating, I am ready to do what I have been dreaming of, which is sit in a REAL bed with crisp, clean WHITE sheets and write on my laptop. The Bollywood music videos and a hott water shower are just an added bonus considering I have not seen hot water for a month or two-I lost track.
Unfortunately, this discount comes along with a proposition. Lucky asks if he can come into the room with me and “share time.” I thank him for his help with the room and tell him I am going to sleep. He sits outside in the lobby and pretty much waits for me to change my mind. Eventually he leaves and I am left to enjoy my “peaceful room.”