November 7, 2014

India Photo Diary: Agra

making marble embroidery from semi precious stones. These men are the descents of the craftsmen that built the Taj Mahal.
traffic is awful in Agra. Actually, traffic is awful everywhere in India because no one follows any traffic rules- it's common to see someone driving down the opposite lane.
{Places in these photos: Fatehpur Sikri, Khas Mahal, Agra Fort, Panch Mahal, Taj Mahal}

India, The Land of "Yes... But"

"Why can't I go out at night here?!" I complained to my guide, Qurban.
"Because you are a foreign beauty and Agra men are aggressive!"
"McDonalds is right across the street! I can see the golden arc from here!"
"Agra men are bad. They will try to touch you!"
"That's like everywhere! And I get my boobs pat down every time I go through security at the metro. I don't care anymore."
"Agra men are the worst! Minus me of course... I'm a gentleman. But others will try very hard to touch!"
"I'll make myself look as ugly as I can!"
"Sigh... If you really want to go let me come with you."

Qurban really did not want me to cross the street. Even though the street was lit and paved. I really needed McDonalds. After a week of eating non-stop spicy Indian food everyday, my stomach was ready to go on strike. Any more spicy paneer and my stomach would have popped out of my body and run away without looking back. But I felt bad because if I was to go, then he was to come and twiddled his thumbs rather than be with his family. So I decided to order room service and took an Imodium. Room service is cheap in India anyway, a goat masala with rice was only $7.

Yup. That was my night in Agra. Staying in my room and passing out while watching a Bollywood movie. I'd say our biggest accomplishment in Agra minus seeing the Taj was hauling back a crap load of Valentino shoes and a pair of Rudsak boots. That sounded so pretentious but honestly Valentino is ridiculously affordable in India as they are made here.

India, as I have described to friends, is a country full of "buts". Nothing is as simple as it seems. Or people here will agree with you and promise you everything until you pay them. And then you realize that the thing you pay for doesn't work.

Hotels are awful at this. I have never stayed in so many hotels in which they look great in pictures but once you get there it looks like a civil war occurred in the hotel. Our hotel in Delhi, Prince Polonia, was the absolutely worst hotel I have ever stayed in my entire life. They took our money, but the hotel taxi never showed up after I confirmed 3 times. The hotel itself was open... But all the roads leading to the hotel was closed. When I called the hotel they told me to "find another room for that night" leaving us scrambling at 1am in the morning.

When we finally checked in the next day none of the appliances worked and there were blood stains on the sheets. "I wonder if someone died here," I nonchalantly thought. Nothing in India surprise me anymore. I hopped on the bed and started reading my book. "HOW COULD YOU LIE ON TOP OF SOMEONE'S BLOOD SPLATTER?!" a voice came from the other end of the room.

I went, "Huh?".

After a day of cold shower and lack of WiFi I decided to complain to the front desk:

"You say you have WiFi here." I said.
"Yes, we do." The guy at the reception answered.
"But I cannot get on your WiFi."
"Oh, WiFi not working right now."
"When will it work?"
"Soon" the guy woddled his head.

Indians love to woddle their head as much as they love to not drive in a designated lane and honk at every other car.

"How soon? WiFi hadn't worked in 1.5 days!" I said, the guy woddled his head again.
"And there is no hot water" I continued to complain.
"You have to wait a few minutes for hot water."
"There was no hot water this morning and now it is 7pm and there is still no hot water!" I said. The guy woddled his head once more.
"And the TV won't turn on"
"We will send a guy to look."
"Soon?" I asked. The guy woddled his head. I was getting fed up with his woddling.
"Soon as in the next 5 minutes?"
"Ya," replied the guy, then woddled. It took the TV guy 20 minutes to show up.

Everything in India runs on "Yes... But" while leaving out the "but" until you've paid and discover the 'but' yourself. Our hotel has a pool but the pool looked like it was never cleaned. Our hotel has a restaurant but it is so dirty that I'd catch gonorrhea just by sitting there. Our hotel has a pool table but it was so gross that if I was to use it I'd have to chop off my arm after.

In Agra we pre-booked a Tonga ride (a mini horse carriage) to take to the Taj Mahal but when we got there the Tonga ride was "broken":

"HOW?!?" I asked our guide. He shook his head.
"How can ALL the Tonga ride be broken? Like, all of the horses died?!"

The guide couldn't answer. We ended up having to pay a tuk tuk driver additional and never saw our Tonga money.

I made an Indian "rule of a third". It goes: When you ask for three things in India, only one will get done. The AC unit is broken, the TV can't be turned on, there is no hot water. Well, you're only going to get one of those resolved. Or, you order a curry, with water, and white rice. You get your curry, but they have no white rice but some other more expensive rice, and they bring you juice. And something on the bill won't make sense, always. So I stopped having expectations in India. As long as I remained rape free, mugged free, disease free, and my stomach was happy, I was happy.

The worst was when we were at the Mumbai airport. We went for a drink at a fancy airport restaurant where you'd think they'd be more professional since they are charging western prices. The menu read:

Kingfisher 500 
Kingfisher Ultra 600 
Heinkien 700 
Corrs 700 
Budweiser 700 

"Can you explain the difference between Kingfisher and Kingfisher ultra?" Eric asked.
"Oh we don't have that."
"Neither Kingfisher or Kingfisher Ultra?"
"No" the server said, and woddled her head.
"Okay... So can I get a Corrs?"
"We also don't have that."
"So what beer do you have on this menu?!"
"We have them. But the prices are in draft. We only have can. So extra 300 rupees for all of them."
"So you are telling me that none of your prices match what your menu has printed on here?"
"Yes" and woddled her head again.

It's not like you can argue with them on their own pricing. I ordered a bottled water but they charged me additional 20 rupees because "the new menu says 80 rupees" in which they never mentioned about this new menu until the bill came. The "green salad" was the saddest green salad I have ever had. It consisted 8 pieces of chopped up onions, 8 slices of tomatoes and 8 slices of cucumber. There wasn't even any dressing.

"Ha! Those foreign suckers!" I pictured the server saying while waving the extra rupees in her hand and woddling her head to another server after we had left. Perhaps with bloodshot eyes and horns growing from her head too.

For the longest time I did not understand why how outsourcing can lead to lowering the quality until now. How hard is it just to deliver what you promise? Apparently it is impossible here. Sure, in Canada we pay twice, or three times more for services, but at least I know I can depend on them. When I pay my internet bill I know my internet will work all month. When I look at a restaurant menu I know what I am eating and how much I will be charged.

In India, if you were ask if your phone works in your room, you can't just ask "does the phone work?". I made that mistake. Instead, you have to ask: Will the phone ring if someone was to call me from the outside? Can I call someone from the outside? Do all buttons work?

Sure, prices for things are amazingly cheap in India after you haggle, but the service remains awful. On the other hand, the workers salary is next to nothing, and the police and the government are so corrupt, so can you blame them for not wanting self-improvement?

In my heart, I can understand where these people are coming from. You don't thrive to smell roses when you've only been around mud your whole life, and you definitely won't if you know you are staying in mud forever. As much as they are unethical to foreigners, I sympathize with them. I never realized what a luxury it is for things to "just work" after paying for it, but oh I definitely have a new appreciation for it now.


  1. I can understand why they would want change too... I am extremely grateful to be living in Canada... I would love to visit there one day, I am not so sure about staying in the nasty hotels and all the other disgusting things you had to endure. It is a beautiful country for the architecture ... what a perspective you gain from actually being there.

    You look lovely in your pictures by the way :)

  2. Hey dear..welcome to South Asia.
    I am from Pakistan.its in the neighbor of india. I would love to see you here & I hope you will not be facing any problem like that here. I admit here people too only working when you pay them well..most of the people think Foreigners are coming from Heaven may be,, haha.. they charge too much that's why! I am living in the capital city Islamabad which is nice. People are good here with foreigners & hopefully you will enjoy your visit any day!
    On the other hand, these clicks are too cute, I love all of the photography images!

  3. The pictures are amazing, it's bad that men can be agressive. xoxo
    I'm hosting a giveaway, I think that you might like it:

  4. Sounds like you had quite an adventure. I am loving these pictures - they are just stunning. And your skirt in the last photograph is gorgeous!


  5. Grrr! My best friend's parents spent a month in India and they commented with frustration too that nothing was ever transparent. Nobody said exactly what they meant and it drove them crazy! That being said, your photos are PHENOMENAL! Worth it to brave all the headaches to get those shots. :)

  6. Oh I absolutely love elephants! I love those little elephant figurines. I know I've said it before, but you visit the most beautiful places. I really enjoy your blog. (:

  7. Loved loved reading this and seeing the gorgeous beautiful shots! I'm very certain your guide was trying his best to keep you safe. With all the crazy amounts of rape, assults and corruption with even the police, he's trying his best to keep you safe and sound. I am glad to see you were traveling with a partner! Yes, these things we take for granted, wifi, 3G, decent service, people following the law or traffic law..! That's why sometimes I think people in singapore complain far too much! They have no idea how lucky and well smooth things run here!

  8. Wow, what a travel story. I don't know if I'd have the patience for India.

  9. This is what travel is for - to discover how other people live and understand them better. Definitely puts things in perspective when you get home too, huh!? Haha, oh man, though based on your story, if I were to visit India, I'd like it to be on the shorter side...
    I'm in love with your photos though - such gorgeous shots!

    The Dragonfruit Diaries

  10. I've heard stories about India, and some of them scare me. I don't know if I would ever be able to go there, especially after you explained the entire situation that happened over there to you. I would prefer if my Indian friend actually went with me, as to not cause me to lose money, or to be overcharged.

  11. Many thanks to Qurban!!!
    The architecture is just too amazing. It must be pretty sobering to see the "mud" and the fantastic existing so close together.

  12. Love it!!
    After a long break I am officially back and thank you so much for your support!! I deeply appreciate it ;)
    My Lyfe ; My Story

  13. The architecture is amaaaaazing. It's interesting how different the culture is over there. It's really great you had a friend (guide?) to travel and look out for you. Definitely something I'd consider if I were to ever travel to India!

    becky ♡ star violet

  14. YOu have officially lived my dream by visiting India, your photos (and you!) look incredibly lovely. The experience of craziness and things not working, not quite so much, but I think your attitude of understanding and shift of expectations is good. India is still at the top of my to-visit list

  15. I love India and very beautiful photos too! Its nice that you have that patience and understanding <3

    Visit my blog:

  16. I can relate to much of your experiences...I remember the shift in expectations hit me like a brick wall the minute I landed at the Mumbai airport at 4:00 AM (in April...when the temperature was still 31C at the coolest part of the night!).

    Unless you're willing to fork out an insane amount of money for a room at a Western/European hotel chain (or something even more insane like the Taj or Oberoi chain of hotels), your living accommodations will typically suck in the larger cities. This is the one thing that consistently drove me nuts about South Asia and the Middle East. You have hotels in the 0-50$/night range that are absolutely terrible...and then your only other option is spending 300$+/night for something over-the-top.

    BTW, it doesn't matter if you're dining/staying in 5-star accommodations or 1-star...they all rip you off in some incomprehensible way. It just comes down to the scale of rip-offery. 5-star places are simply atrocious at inventing bizarre fees/taxes/surcharges...which can add 100's of USD to your bill...or at the 1-star're typically out 10-20 bucks at most. Everyone gets ripped off...even my in-laws who lived there for 40 years get completely hosed/shafted by unscrupulous travel agents/drivers/saree dealers!

    Your tour guide is a good man. Touristy/bustling places like Agra can be very unpredictable...while it isn't northern Pakistan/Afghanistan/Iraq, you would definitely put yourself in the path of unpleasant behaviour/attention at that time of night.

    BTW, I cringed at your stomach/food experiences! I tended to do better with tandoori/grilled meat dishes (and fish in the South of India) with either plain white rice or Naan/Chapati without extra butter/oil on it....

  17. I just got back from India and adore the perspective of your post, to bad I was not aware of Valentino's origins otherwise I would have had to return on cargo!
    Lovely post ad great blog!

  18. love this post, very beautiful


  19. Like these photos, you look great in the photo,the blue dressing is so impressed!

  20. Adorable pics!

    Check out my latest outfit post ! :)
    XoXo Venoma
    Venoma's fashion diary

  21. "Forehead on desk" moment. Modi has to read this post, what good are new trains if the people are that sort? Tsk tsk tsk.
    Makes you appreciate the simple things in life doesn't it? Well done girl.

  22. Their culture is an example where contentment could be bad because it hampers changing for the better. You’re lucky to have Qurban there with you or something bad might’ve happened. But with all the chaos in India, I am still looking forward to go there someday. I think it is interesting as it is corrupt. Indians are just unlucky to have a corrupt government for a hundred of years.

  23. Oman where I live has a lot of Indian expats working in the restaurants (cheaper ones)so your story reminds me restaurants here:). But since everyone is supposed to speak arabic it is more "nothing is a mishkila (problem) until it is a mishkila." Every indian will be like "ma mishkila" no problem until it comes time to get the TV repaired or the ac fixed. Then instead of the yes, but... it is "mishkila" lol

  24. wow. thanks for sharing a genuine experience. sometimes you can read blogs and everything is so nicely portrayed that the people reading don't really get a true feel for the culture until they are physically in it and it's nothing like what they were told. i felt very much that way when i visited costa rica a few years ago. it was nothing like what i expected. it was beautiful but all the issues and hassle i experienced outweigh the beautiful beaches.
    and you're so right about how these experiences change your perspective on your own life and privileges. everytime i travel and come home, i feel so grateful for the life i have.

  25. Oh wow! i can feel your anger. I'm sorry that you have seen the worst part of India! I have never been to Norlth India, so I have no comments about that... Since I am in south india, I never felt this way, and now i am scared to visit places like Agra and Jaipur!.. Next time you come here(not sure if that happens), may be try to visit Goa, Kerala or Hampi, may be Pondicherryl(i live there), you might love the beaches and scenery... I am sorry about the bad experience you had here, hope you liked the architecture.