Up at the crack of dawn and saying bye to rach sleeping soundly in the next bed I headed to meet the nice taxi driver to go to the Taj Mahal. Only to be met by an 18 year old guy who spoke no English whilst the hotel manager explained the other guy had to go to hospital in the night with his kidney stones so I had the youngster to take me there. Well let me tell you Tasty came out as I just didn’t feel safe with this guy and it was a five hour drive each way to the Taj. The hotel manager tried his best to calm me down and explained that the driver knew to take me straight there where I would meet an English speaking guide, then he would bring me straight back. I guess I looked like a right diva but being by myself I had to be assertive and show this guy that I wasn’t some meek timid woman to be messed about.
Feeling a bit more assured off we went and it was all going well until two hours in we were on what I guess could be called a motorway, it was actually a dusty long road full of ancient looking lorries and a few beat up cars, where we stopped at the side of the road. The driver got out and waved some piece of paper in my face before running across the road. Err now what!? I guessed that he had some documents to show to someone to let us pass, so I locked the doors and sat up alert hoping he wouldn’t be too long.
In the meantime, men with monkeys sat on their shoulders chained by the neck had walked over to the taxi and were encouraging me to buy bananas to feed the monkeys and get a photo. No way was I opening the window to some flea ridden ape. I then heard a scraping noise at my window and when I looked all I could see was this old haggard arm reaching up, with its long fingernails scratching at the glass. The arm belonged to this greying wrinkled disabled man with no teeth or legs sat on a skateboard who was pulling himself up using the door handle to beg for money. This wasn’t really happening was it! I felt like a mouse being circled by hungry angry vultures. Luckily the driver ran back and shooed them all off and started driving like nothing had happened!
Eventually we got to Agra which is a total dump. Everything looked like it was neglected from about 50 years ago but was still teeming with people and animals walking, sitting, staring at any form of movement. Buildings were crumbling, animals looked like they needed to be put down rather than pull ridiculous loads on their backs. The amount of beggars was crazy as well as kids playing in mounds of rubbish that I could smell even with the car windows up.
We picked up this cheesy looking man who was to be my guide for the day. He had a sharp purple shirt on and slicked back greasy hair but did speak good English. We walked up to the entrance where I haven’t seen that many people milling about since the Full Moon party on New Years eve. He got the tickets and as we were on the foreigner rate of 750 rupees compared to the Indian rate of 20 rupees we were ushered to the front.
When I was getting my Indian visa in the embassy in Bangkok there was this huge mural of the Taj on the wall and waiting in line I promised myself that I would see that with my own eyes. Well this was the day and even after the stressful journey I was beyond giddy. After entering a small atrium I looked through these huge doors and saw it. I burst into tears, was so overwhelmed with the beauty of it as well as the journey it had taken me to get here.
I had the biggest grin on my face as Mr Suave explained about the place as well as acting as my personal paparazzi, pushing people out of the way like a proud parent at a school play so I could get the best shot. No matter how cheesy!
To be stood on my own in front of this magnificent iconic building was just too much. If you had said to me a year ago that I would be here now having gone through all that stress and pain I wouldn’t have believed you. I kept pinching myself, I had made it here. It was just one of those defining moments that I will never forget.