After breakfast on the terrace and a few photos on the lawn, we said goodbye to Tiger Den to set off for the 5 hour drive to Agra. Via just the one more shopping trip at Dastkar.
This journey seemed interminable and we were all quite pleased to stop briefly for lunch. Even though it was a pretty grotty restaurant, it had a shop where both Jacquie and I were able to pick up a Christmas decoration each. Jacquie got a call to say that we were able to go the Oberoi that evening for drinks so Chotu put his foot down to enable us to get there in time.
I wasn’t expecting much of Agra itself and it didn’t disappoint. Another busy, dirty, overcrowded city with ridiculous traffic. It was exciting to see signs for the Taj Mahal though and to realise that we were getting close to one of the wonders of the world.
We pulled up outside the Pearl of Taj homestay and ran in to get changed before heading on to the Oberoi. The owner was a rather odd little man but it turned out he was extremely well travelled as he had driven from India to the UK back in the 70s – possibly in the vintage jeep parked up outside.
We were shown to our room which was perfectly acceptable – infact the bathroom was nice – but missing a third bed. When it did arrive it turned out to be, quite literally, a door on foldable legs. So basically whilst in India I experienced sleeping on a window ledge, a foot stool and a door. For the record, the door was the least comfortable. Rather disturbingly, when I asked for a pillow, they went and took it from a bed on which a guy was lounging in his underwear with the door open. Ugh. Good job I had brought my own pillowcase!
After a quick change we jumped back in Chotu’s car to go to the Oberoi. He wasn’t sure of the way but it wasn’t a problem as Jacquie had the waze app on her phone. At least it shouldn’t have been a problem but as we got further and further down an incredibly narrow street and almost took the bottom of the car off on a speed bump, we all started to realise this was not going to end well. The locals looked incredulous when they saw us and shook their heads when Chotu asked if he could get to the Oberoi this way. Fortunately Chotu did vaguely see the funny side of things as he tried to do a 3 point turn in a side street and made the point that India’s roads were not really ready for google maps. It was even more embarrassing when we got back to the main road and it turned out that the Oberoi was only about 500m from our homestay down a straight road. Oops.
The Oberoi was lovely although, given the fact that we had an appointment, we were surprised that the manager did no more than come and say a cursory hello. It can’t be denied though that it was rather special to have our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal from its terrace whilst enjoying (very expensive) cocktails.
We did consider eating at the Oberoi but they didn’t serve food on the terrace so one of the kind concierges drove us back down the road to our homestay in one of the hotel cars. When he realised how close it was, he didn’t bother charging us. There we ate in a cafe beside the homestay. Just a tiny come down from where we had just had drinks….