Set off early for the train station early, dodging the usual stares and hassles. The station was crazy -people everywhere spitting, sleeping, walking across the tracks, jumping on and off of moving trains. I tried to imagine this scene at London Waterloo - haha! On the train I was sitting with a family - it was comfotable and I got to hassle like the guy in the 'tourist office' told me. I watched miles of town and countryside go past and saw several people going to the bathroom at the side of the track which was funny in a very immature way! I also discovered where all the used plastic bags of the world go - India! Must make even more of an effort to use reusable bags when I get home.
Once in Agra a swarm of taxi drivers descended upon me.
I bought a prepaid return ticket to the Taj Mahal and me and the winning driver were off! On the way the driver stopped to pick up his 'friend'. No doubt another person trying to befriend me in an attempt to get mponey. As doubious as I was, he gave me loads of usual information about gtting into the Taj - where I have to walk, what you are not allowed to take in and how much the lockers cost. Even where to look out for people scamming me for tickets etc. His info was spot on so after walking to the lockers, checking in everything I couldn't take (inc. phones, books and batteries!), dodging the scammers and getting a ticket, I got one of two queues to enter the Taj. I was wondering why there were so many people waiting in the long queue when I joined the much shorter one until a few men were giving me very rude stares and some schoolgirls were giggling and pointing at me.
I was in the men's queue! Blushing profusly I slunk to the back of the huge women's queue and waited my turn to be taken behind a curtain and searched.
Inside the grounds was just incredible. To be standing in front a view I've seen a thousand times on TV and in photos was breathtaking. The schoolgirls who were laughing at me in the queue shyly came up and asked for a photo with me, which resulted in me spending the next 10 minutes having my photo taken with a stream of Indian children and families. No shoes are allowed inside so everyone must take theirs off and follow a moving line across the marble and around the inside. Some of the floor had carpet laid across it, but not all. The white marble was red hot from the sun which resulted in me 'dancing' across a lot of it to the amusement of all the Indians who didn't seem at all bothered by the bottom of their feet being burned off.
Afer staying a while to drink in the beauty of the marble and the surroundings, I went back to meet my taxi driver at the agred time. His friend was still with him, and once in the cab he insisted that we visit a workshop where the same marble designs as those on the Taj Mahal are made. After trying to refuse about 10 times I acepted my fate and off we went to the workshop. Surprise surprise there was a shop there too, and the owber looked on eagerly as I had a look around. The marble produce was in fact very beautiful and I couldn't resist buying a small marble elephant despite the fact I resented being taken there agianst my will to shop!
Back in taxi, he wanted to take me to another shop but this time I put my foot down and said no - train station! The train was an hour late so I spent a lot of time sitting around on the platform watching the mayhem.
This invited hoardes of beggars, street children, cripples and even whole families to come up one by one to hassle me. This I find so frustrating about India. Seeing so many children in filthy clothes begging was heartbreaking, but there were so many you couldn't possibly help them all, and giving to one would create an absolute frenzy among the others! I was eating a packet of buscuits when two boys came up to beg. m I held out the packet for them to take one and they tried to snatch the whole lot and run. Luckily I had a good hold so they just grabbed as many of the buscuits as they could and ran away. Everyone just wants something from you here. I saw another western girl being hassled by a little girl. She took her to the food stand on the platform to buy her something and within 20 seconds she was completly surrounded by children and beggars shouting and pulling at her clothes.
I felt really bad for her, but felt glad that I hadn't caved to the children earlier!
Finally the train showed up and a yound man helped me to find the right seat and the right carriage. He didn't want anything from me to do this - he was just being helpful! I was very shocked! We didn't get back to Delhi until 11 so I just collapsed into bed exhausted when I got in. What a day!