Last weekend I went to Agra. Agra’s energy was extremely similar to Delhi, in my opinion. I was immediately approached by rickshaw drivers once I got off the train. By “approached” I mean something more like harassed. As someone who clearly looks like a tourist, I have gotten used to being approached by locals trying to sell me things at an exorbitantly higher price than what locals are paying for the same product. This experience was heightened in Agra though. One man who was trying to get me to hire his rickshaw proceeded to get into my Ola cab with me after I politely rejected his offer. He told the Ola driver that I needed a tour guide and that he had been hired by me. My Ola driver looked at me with a confused expression and then promptly shooed the man away. To say that this experience was bizarre would be an understatement.
Instances similar to this continued to occur as I went sightseeing in Agra. Countless rickshaw drivers and local merchants would follow me for multiple meters trying to get me to buy their products. This has happened in other cities as well, but it was so much worse in Agra. My main mission while I was there was to get from place to place as quickly as possible so could enjoy whatever I was going to see without being bothered.
The most significant example of this haggling was at the Taj Mahal. Foreigners are offered a tour guide as a part of the deal for having to pay INR 1000 to get into the Taj complex. My tour guide was very informative, but once I told him that I was not interested in ending my tour in the gift shop because I was starting to feel a little sick, he yelled at me for being cheap and not supporting the Taj. I was a little startled and decided to just walk away even though he followed me for a bit attempting to apologize. I understand why he was frustrated, but it did not help improve my Agra experience.
My experience in Agra reminded me a lot of my first couple of weeks in Delhi. I didn’t understand how to navigate the city, so I often looked lost and confused. This made me an easy target for merchants who wanted to make easy money off of an unaware tourist. As time went on, I was able to see the appeal of Delhi and be more confident in my surroundings. Being in Agra made me feel like a newbie again. I bet the city is much more charming once you are able to slow it down and really see all of the great things that it has to offer.
Other than being haggled, experiencing the Taj Mahal in person is incredible. I have never seen anything with as much detail as the Taj. It left me in awe. I completely understand what the hype is about now. Everything about the Taj is so detailed and the story behind it is totally captivating.(Me having my Princess Di moment)
On another note, it’s starting to feel very real that my time in India is almost over. I’m not sure if I am excited to go home, or starting to feel desperate to cram in as much as possible before I leave. I have about one week left, so hopefully I’ll be able to see a few more monuments in Delhi and grab some last minute souvenirs. I’m looking forward to being able to reflect on this experience.