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    All These Colors Tour: India Part 35

    Thursday, October 18, 2012
    Agra, India

    Looking North from the Hotel Kamal's rooftop cafe in Agra, India.

    Something woke me up on the train in the 4:00 am hour, and I never did make it back to sleep. All told, I got maybe three or four hours of shut eye. A man in the bunk below mine kept blowing gas–loudly, I might add–all night, which made our compartment smell like the interior of a giant bowel. The extra two bananas I packed in my messenger bag for breakfast already got all slimy, but luckily, I had put them in a plastic bag, which prevented another mini-disaster. I just left them laying on a shelf. As the train slowed down and lurched toward Agra, we crossed some long bridges over the Yamuna river, where crusty-looking people wandered among scores of shabby shacks and scattered rubbish on the vast banks.

    As I exited the station, a bunch of autorickshaw drivers started to shadow me. I ended up choosing a really nice, older Muslim man–forget those young punks who might try to take me to a shop or a hotel of their choice, where they’d earn a big commission. Surprisingly, traffic was really light, making for quite a mellow drive, which was highlighted by a view of the distant Taj Mahal bathed in the early morning mist. Unfortunately, the ride was also punctuated by an unbelievably putrid odor emanating from the river–most likely created by decades of accumulated urine, feces, trash, industrial runoff, etc. After two or three miles, we arrived in an area close to the Hotel Sheela, where I had made an email reservation.

    Vegetable soup, naan and potato curry at  the Hotel Kamal's rooftop cafe in Agra, India.

    I had to walk the final quarter mile, as the immediate area around the Taj Mahal is closed off to vehicular traffic because tailpipe emissions had begun to stain its white marble surface. I made the mistake of saying “No thanks” to a bicycle rickshaw driver who tried to give me a ride, which prompted him to follow me for a full 10 minutes, pestering me the whole way with offers of transport and tours. As I walked into the driveway of the Hotel Sheela, I was stunned by the sight of dozens of monkeys running around and climbing up on the roof. The front desk clerk told me no room would be available until noon. Since it was only around 7:00 am, I obviously decided to look elsewhere. I didn’t really mind, as the Hotel Sheela had received some really bad guest reviews recently on Trip Advisor for dirty beds, bathrooms, etc.

    I schlepped another quarter mile over to the Taj Plaza hotel, but they also didn’t have any rooms available until noon. So, I headed back toward my third choice, Hotel Kamal, which, like the Taj Plaza, also got mostly good recent reviews. On the way, I was startled by three incredibly fat, giant pigs that ran across the street in front of me. India is can be really surprising that way. I got really lucky at the Hotel Kamal, as they had a fan room available in the back away from street noise, with clean pillowcases and sheets, to boot. It didn’t take me long to settle in for a nice, long nap that lasted until the early afternoon. This hotel boasts a cafe with one of the best rooftop views of the Taj Mahal, which I enjoyed as I ate lunch. Right then, singers at two or three different mosques blocks apart from each other started wailing away over the loudspeakers. The way their different songs clashed together and blended in with the other noise of the city sounded so amazing, I frantically whipped out my mic and iPod touch to capture a field recording. I just took it easy and rested for the remainder of the day, lounging around on teh internetz.

    Roll over photos for captions.
    Words and photos ©2012 Arcane Candy.

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