I woke up to the smell of urine and a train conductor prodding me with a metal tin demanding a tip. With a toothless smile he told our group that we would be arriving in Agra within the next couple of minutes, and prodded me with the tin again. After tipping him, he threw a boxed breakfast onto my lap that contained two pieces of bread, a box of room-temperature spiced milk, a packet of ketchup, and a small serving of potato curry. My friend nudged me to look out the window, and as the train was slowing down I saw dozens of men squatting while going to the bathroom and waving frantically at our group. This was our first class ticket to Agra from Delhi.
I stepped off the train to find hundreds of people curled up in sleeping bags waiting to get on the next train. While stepping over bodies, I noticed monkeys digging in trash cans and right when I stepped outside there was a horse cantering past me with a pack of dogs chasing after it. It was a bizarre start to India!
We spent the day at the Taj Mahal which was just as, if not more, beautiful than any time I had seen it in movies pictures. It was amazing how even though there were thousands of tourists there, it felt like only a few people were there because of how much space spanned the area. After the Taj we went to the Agra Fort which is this phenomenal piece of architecture that has an awesome view of the Taj and its surrounding area. After that we spent six hours on a bus driving to Jaipur. In Jaipur we took an elephant ride up to a castle, visited markets, and bought sarees. It was so much fun!
India was certainly a country of contrasts…but I only saw the better half of it. I saw the slums of Delhi and Jaipur through a bus window and the rural shacks of Agra by train, but had no experience interacting with them (something I’m sure my parents are thankful for). I hope to return to India to avoid the touristy areas so I can get a little taste of what India really looks like (here’s where my dad makes a comment about how that’s not going to happen).
I spent my last day in India in Kochi with a couple friends just exploring around with no idea what we were doing to the day, and in that day we discovered an awesome pop-art store (pictures were prohibited), amazing food (Laur—I tried real paneer makhani!), and were mistaken for British fashion models that were supposedly in town that week (this was at a McDonalds…). We had a fantastic time. I am so lucky to have such cool friends to travel with!! Cutting this post short because I need to catch up on the rest of my posts!