London, United Kingdom
August 2, 2001
Not used to such luxury we were caught out as bell-boys took our backpacks up to our rooms and the staff were so kind and courteous. The rooms themselves were marvelous with television, shower, killer-airconditioning and room service. The restaurant was good and the lobby inlaid with marble. There was a fine portrait of Shah Jahan gazing wistfully at the Taj Mahal on the wall.
But outside was the chaos of Agra. Along our road were most of the tourist luxury hotels (next door was a Pizza Hut). The predatations of the rickshaw drivers was just as persistant here and they prowl up and down the road looking for followers. We took one up on an evening trip to Taj Ganj where we wanted to take a look at the backpacker scene there. How very different, the streets were very narrow and the hotels very frequent. But the street-hassle was intense - people trying to sell us carpets, drugs, tickets, postcards. And autorickshaw drivers following us up onto the pavement eager to get the fare. It was the most intense we experienced since leaving Connaught Place in Delhi.
But as with most of India you weather it or go mad. And we found a terrific hotel with a rooftop restaurant giving us amazing views of the Taj Mahal. Night had fallen and the great dome and minarets were illuminated. And we could sit down with a biryani and lassi and watch the great building in the moonlight.
From journal Agra: The Taj Mahal - Monument to love...