Sunday, January 14, 2007

Day 7: Delhi to Agra

Friday, January 5, 2007. 11:00 PM IST (Indian Standard Time). Internet access has been a challenge the last week, but here are the delayed postings... Today was a full day of travel on the Taj Express train from Delhi to Agra. After that we visited the Agra Fort, located near the Taj Mahal in Agra. The weekend was an optional trip for us and most attended. It definitely was quite amazing and worth visiting. Tomorrow I will share the details of the Taj, one of the Seven Wonders of the World! Today, however you get to hear about the adventure on the train and a bit of the trip to the fort.

We have been traveling around in a bus to accommodate the group of 25 and the trip to Agra is about 3 hours by train and 5 hours by bus. One great part of the adventure so far is the variety of transportation we have been taking. So far, I have been able to experience a taxi, bicycle rickshaw, auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk), horse-drawn rickshaw/carriage, and now the wonderful train. Now I can handle a lot, but my experience in India has been one eye-opening experience. The dirt and grime that covers everything is definitely something you have not seen before. No, not even in New York. We boarded the train at approximately 6:00 AM for the journey. Did you every watch the Amazing Race? Do you recall some scenes aboard a train with open windows and people crowded in the cars? This is that type of train. Fortunately we were in a nicer Air Conditioned car which was perhaps the cleanest of the cars. Yet even this car was not quite up to par on cleanliness with the NYC Subway. I did get to jump on the train while it was still moving – FUN! But I digress. The train’s windows had enough grime built up such that as we looked out at the countryside, it appeared to be a Nuclear Winter – the dull orange glow cast an eerie and ominous light on everything.

After getting off the train in Agra, we were yet again met by the beggers and street vendors. It amazes me how many people beg on the streets. But that is also a story for another day – perhaps Sunday which is a full day of travel from Agra to Delhi to Bangalore.

We checked into our hotel, the Jaypee Palace in Agra. It was a beautiful place and definitely nice to relax a bit after the morning of travel. Several of us dropped our bags and walked down to the phone booth, or STD for short. You can imaging that as we get slap-happy on long days of travel, the jokes are endless on how easy it is to find an STD in India.

The afternoon was spent at the Agra Fort which is one of the well-known (and touristy) sites in Agra. The fort was built to house several palaces and buildings for the 16th century Moghul empire in Agra. In fact, Agra was the capital of India at one point. The fort was later controlled by the British and over time it has lost some of its luster as gems and precious stones have been stolen.

In the evening, we had dinner with Amit Agarwal, a writer who began a blog on new technology. Not that I plan to make a living from writing, but Amit has become a full-time blogger after and is well-respected for his views around the world. If you are at all interested in emerging technologies, you should read his blog. The discussion was interesting as Amit told us more about where he gains his inspiration, how he handles spam-bloggers and even maintaining his integrity when it could be easy to get paid by companies to write reviews of their products – a practice he avoids.

Sadly, the hotel discotheque closed at 11:00 PM so not a late night for JT. My new friend Razju, the tuk-tuk driver offered to drive me to the liquor store tomorrow, though. Perhaps we will need to do that. Kingfisher Lager is a big hit among the group!