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Agra: Diamonds of the Souls of Our Feet

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 10, 2017

July 25–28, 2017

The view from the hotel

Be Fancy

When we got to Jaipur we booked a stay at the Comfort Inn. It’s an American hotel chain. The Comfort Inn is a nice business hotel, nothing fancy. It’s clean, nice, and dependable.

But the one in India was a 4 star hotel. It was a fancy hotel, yet still a Comfort Inn with a standard Comfort Inn price. …And yet, fancy.

So when it was time to pick a hotel in Agra we asked, “What can I get for about 60USD per night. The answer was… opulence.

These guys played while we ate breakfast every morning

We booked a 5-star hotel and it was nice. But I never felt very relaxed there. One reason was that there was always someone lurking around every corner to make Mark and me more comfortable. For example, at dinner if I were to run low on mint chutney on my plate, before I had the opportunity to pour some more myself, someone would pop out of nowhere to pour it for me.

If I were to drop a spoon or something, before I could pick it up, 3 people would rush over; one with a new spoon, one to pick up the dropped spoon, and another to apologize for the slippery spoons. There was even a guy who pushed the elevator buttons for guests. At first I thought this was nice, but after a day or two I felt like a toddler.

We didn’t realize just how fancy the hotel would be until we pulled up at the gate. The taxi we came in was a dilapidated old junker that coughed as it went down the street. It’s driver was the least shadiest guy hanging out at the train station that night. I made Mark pick a cab quickly because I felt like I was on the verge of tossing my cookies.

When the car pulled up to the hotel and a bell-hop took our back-pack, the shame started to sink in. Then I remembered that we used to live in a very posh apartment in Bangkok and would come home muddy and dirty from camping trips almost every weekend. We would walk through the lobby and staff would run to open doors for us and hand us our mail. If we could afford to live in such an apartment, paying our rent on time, they didn’t care what we looked like when we returned.

So, I acted like I did when I lived in Bangkok. “Yes, this was just normal stuff for people like us who travel adventurously and regularly stay in fancy hotels,” I thought to myself. I have no idea if we fooled anyone. If we did look out of place, everyone was too polite to say anything.

The view from the back of the hotel.

Another reason for my discomfort was food poisoning. I drank a lassi somewhere in Jaipur before getting on the train and was quite sick by the time I got to Agra. I almost didn’t see the Taj Mahal. We had 4 days in Agra and I spent the first 2 in bed… and the bathroom.

The truly sad part, was that at our hotel every breakfast was a buffet of Indian dishes from all over India. I sat and watched Mark enjoy all the food he could stuff into his face. I ate mainly plain eggs, a banana, or milk. On the last day, I was feeling much better and sampled more types of foods. But, by then Mark had gotten sick.

I was so sick, this was the best smile I could fake.

I didn’t feel well enough to go to the Taj Mahal, but I was not going to miss it! I went and just walked very slowly. I was so weak, I kept having to sit down. I also kept an eye out for bathrooms, hoping that I would not have to use any, or worse, end up throwing up on the grounds of the Taj Mahal.

We hired a driver from the hotel. He dropped us off and would come back for us in 2 hours. All I had to do was “contain” myself for 2 hours. I did manage just that. We saw the whole thing, though I did want to stay much longer. My body couldn’t take it and I was glad to be back in bed afterwards.

Tea and Taj later that day

(Republic of India)

How to get there:

You can enter India by plane, train, bus, or boat.

The question of visas are a little hard to answer. There are conflicting options online. Some sources say most people can get a visa on arrival, other’s saying you can’t.

  • I recommend getting an e-visa before you go.
  • If you get a visa from the embassy or consulate on your country, just know that the visa process might be outsourced to  Cox & Kings Global Services.


  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 100
    • Ambulance 102
    • Emergency 108
    • Women help line 1091






  • Watch out for touts.
  • Be wary of anyone being too nice or helpful. They are usually, but not always, looking for a way to get your money.
  • When taking tuk-tuks or taxis, use google maps or some other GPS app to make sure the driver has taken you to the correct destination.

Taj Mahal

Basic Information



  • 1,000 rupees
    • Includes:
    • Bottle of water
    • Shoe covers
    • a bag to hold the water and shoe covers
    • a ride to the main gate


  • sunrise – sunset
  • Closed Fridays



  • Built between 1632–53.
  • There is no official audio guide for the Taj Mahal.
  • Be careful when hiring a guide.
    • If you don’t want a guide, keep telling the people who harass you that while you walk away.
    • They will follow you.
  • Don’t forget to sit on the Diana bench, if you can.


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