Post 2: The Taj and the Baby Taj

What a trip! The trip consisted of taking a car trip, bus ride, and a train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, the Baby Taj (The Tomb of Etimud Abdullah), and the fort of Agra. The trip began on a Thursday evening when the scheduling, planning, and arranging began by making lots of calls, looking online for bus tickets and train tickets.
We drove from Thikana Bharatwala by car to arrive at the bus station in Dehradun, the car ride was about thirty minutes down a winding road. We arrived a little timid, clutching our backpacks, watching the other passengers crowd by ticket stands. Rachna took us through security and bought our tickets, 800 INR each, all seated together at the bus station-however next time we should look up the bus tickets online. Each bus departs every 30 minutes, so it is very simple to book online. After giving us a very important and necessary pep talk on staying safe and sticking together, Rachna left us on our adventures to Delhi/Agra!
The bus itself was everything but ordinary. The windows were cracked glass, the people were majority males, and the ride was extremely bumpy. The bus workers offered us bottled water which was safe to drink-as well as a trash bag to use if feeling sick for the pending winding and bumpy road. The bus stopped once at the beginning of the trip, in which Noemi and Julia got off to use the restroom-which the bus driver gave us some money to use. The bathrooms were extremely dirty, exposed, and the stalls had pots in it in place of toilets. After using the rest of our hand sanitizer, we continued our journey. However, the second time the bus had stopped, it was at an actual station where better bathrooms and rest stops were. After boarding the bus again, all of us hung on to each other-trying not to fly towards the front of the bus with every turn and bump in the road. We arrived safely to Delhi-however a little traumatized from the sketchy and adventurous bus ride. After 5 hours with all of the scary and uncomfortable aspects of the bus ride, we did get some great footage of all of us interns experiencing the ride, giggling, worrying, and making the most out of the trip.
After we reached the bus stop in Delhi, we took an auto-rickshaw to the train station. The best advice for taking an auto-rickshaw is to learn how to haggle and when to say no to the drivers. When we immediately stepped foot in Delhi, we were greeted immediately by needy, overly-confident, and aggressive rickshaw drivers, who ushered us over to their own rickshaws. Thankfully we had wonderful Noemi to speak in Hindi and haggle. They originally charged 800 INR for six people into two different rickshaws. However, Noemi confidently brought the price down to 600 INR, so 100 INR for each person.
We squished ourselves into the tiny rickshaws and headed off to the train station of Delhi. We arrived four hours before our train, and so we walked around, visited the toilets, and played cards on the floor. After 20 minutes of playing go fish, crazy eights, and spoons-we were approached by a security guard who told us we were not allowed to play cards-however we just moved to a train platform and continued to play until the train arrived. The train station in New Delhi was very dirty and many travellers unfamiliar with viewing poverty may be startled or upset. There were people begging aggressively as well as using guilt to their advantage-however it is illegal to beg in India, so unfortunately we needed to ignore every little girl and child who approached us for money.
We boarded the Gatiman Express at 7:45am, and arrived in Agra at 9:40am. The train offered a full breakfast with coffee, omelets, toast, fruit, cucumbers and carrots, digestive biscuits, and mango juice, and bottled water, which was all safe to eat. However, at the end of the ride, the servers went up to all of us and asked for a tip, so we gave them 10 INR, however this was not customary and they were probably taking advantage of us being foreigners.
When we stepped off onto Agra, were immediately greeted by a travel tour guide Dharmend who took us to a car with lots of air conditioning and comfortable seats. We were directed to The Trident Hotel, in which we were able to use their beautiful and luxurious facilities, change, and freshen up in the restrooms. We then met our tour guide named Rahit who was an entire library of knowledge, rich in culture. He took us to the Taj Mahal and we spent around two hours touring and viewing the Taj. It was almost unbearably hot, and wearing loose and cotton clothing was still a challenge. We were given water bottles and shoe covers as part of the high value tour. We tried to keep in the shade as much as possible to fight off the heat.
After the Taj Mahal, we were given the opportunity to go back to The Trident and had an amazing and traditional Indian lunch. The entire experience was extremely luxurious and delicious! The buffet was full of traditional curries, breads, rice, and other dishes. After the lunch, we were then taken to the Baby Taj, or the tomb of Etimud Abdullah, shortly after, we were taken to the Fort of Agra-both were extremely beautiful and rich in history. Towards the end of the trip, we did come to a challenge of how much to tip the drivers and tour guides-in which we unfortunately gave them the wrong amount-so we eventually sent more rupees by mail.
We then were brought to the train station to start our journey back. After boarding the train, receiving a large dinner, we left the train station at 5:50pm and arrived in Delhi at 7:30pm. We then took a rickshaw for another 100 INR, and arrived at the bus stop. Because we did not book online, we had to wait in line with everyone trying to cut in line or cheat their way to the front of the line. The return bus tickets were 700 INR, however when we gave bigger bills of rupees, they wouldn’t give full change-so it is best to try and give exact change. We boarded the bus back to Dehradun, again seating us all together. After arriving in Dehradun, we took a cab and were safely driven home to Thikana.

Julia H

Utilizing a multi-faceted approach to village development, the Agency for Non Konventional Urban Rural Initiatives (ANKURI) empowers rural women through income generation, alleviation of poverty and promotion of health, education and the full participation of women and children in Uttrakhand society.

One thought on “Post 2: The Taj and the Baby Taj

  • June 1, 2017 at 3:28 pm
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    Sounds like a crazy adventure! It can be overwhelming experiencing so many new things at once (like the toilets!), but it can also be the best way to explore a new culture. Would you do this again?

    Reply

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