Oh, you’ve heard of the Taj Mahal?
We tried to skip visiting Agra, fearing the crush of tourists wielding massive zoom lenses, but everyone told us we were crazy to pass up a chance to see the most beautiful building in the world. They were right. It was pretty nice.
But you can read about the Taj anywhere. The real story here is the incredible contrast of its marble splendor with our cheap-ass hotel room in Agra, which I’m pretty sure is the shittiest place we’ve slept in a year and a half of traveling.
It was missing a few basic amenities: a table, chairs, even hooks to put wet towels on. As you can see from the photo to the left, it was just a bed in a room, and the room was so narrow that we had to awkwardly shuffle in from the foot of the bed.
Our window (or what was left of it) looked out onto the front steps of the neighborhood mosque. And this wasn’t just any mosque. They must have had tourist dollars flowing in from the Taj pilgrims, because they had the most advanced public address system in India.
Shortly after our daily dawn neighborhood wake-up call we were bound to be alert because the ceiling plaster above our bed was crumbling, and the early morning construction on the building shook it onto our heads, covering us in a thin film of white dust. GOOD MORNING!
Then there’s the door. I fought with the damn door each and every time I touched it. Locking it from the outside involved pulling it shut with all my weight, then twisting and prying the bent and rusty bolt to line up with the lock. This produced deafening screeching noises, making us very popular with other guests. Opening it from the inside was no picnic either, which made stumbling to the shared bathroom in the middle of the night especially convenient.
Oh, the bathroom. What a joy. A shared bathroom is bad enough, but when you’re sharing a single squat toilet with the popular hotel restaurant and the staff that are sleeping on the lobby couches, that’s a whole different ballgame. Because it got such heavy use and abuse, it was constantly in a shocking state. This was not helped by the fact that the shower drain seemed to only work in the wrong direction, not allowing waste water out, but letting used water from below back up in and flooding the floor with old soapy-grey scum. Yum! Thanks, Lonely Planet!
So yeah, much like our time in Delhi, Agra was about contrasts.