It's where Taj Mahal is - it's Agra

Here is a little nasty prologue to the Agra story. 

We were very careful about food in India, we did. No eating on the street, no ice in drinks, no meat, desinfecting plates and forks, using hand sanitizers, having charcoal pills with meals. We almost thought we did it! We survived Delhi without Delhi Belly

As you might have guessed, it came unexpectedly. After some nice take out of Naan, dal and vegetable sauce and some sweets, Oleg spend the night in the toilet. The craziest part is that at 6am we have a bus booked to Agra, and trust me, an Indian bus is not where you should be with a Delhi Belly, in fact in no condition you should ever get on a Delhi-Agra bus.

We couldn't go on a train because our booking was on a "waiting list" and our turn didn't come up. Indian train booking system is pretty facinating - if you book a popular route in advance you can pay and get your seat, if there are no more seats available, you pay anyway and you get on the waiting list in case someone cancels their seat, then there is the third option - you pay for your ticket, but it's very very unlikely that you're going to get on that train :)

Anyway, a 215km trip takes about 7-8 hrs by bus and half of that time we were getting out of Delhi. I however got a feeling that we never actually did get out of Delhi because the scenery along the road just never changed - neverending food and fruit stalls, cart-shops, buffalos, dogs and goats, slums, people "chilling" along the side of the road. And this is an intercity speed way, mind you :) Besides the velocity issue, the road was bumpy all the way to Agra and our bus was far from being equipped with anything against bumping. Long story short - poor Oleg. 

Agra is a small city with about 1.5 millions living there, there is Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, couple of other historical monuments and that's pretty much it. Other than that it's polluted, dirty, smelly and tourist oriented. 

Taj Mahal is a very romantic place, regardless of the crowds of tourists around (mainly from other parts of India btw). They say you should go there during sunrise, but sunset was charming too. It's all is built with white marble and when the setting sun throws the last glimpses of sunshine on its walls and marble terrace - it just becomes magical and almost surreal. Contrary to the regular sightseeing in Europe or North America, in India people actually come to hang out at the monuments, have a picnic, play with their kids, enjoy the atmosphere vs. click-clicking their cameras and leaving. 

Next day we learned that there is pretty much nothing else to do in Agra. We got some Electrolytes drinks that they sell in all local pharmacies (probably because of Delhi Belly tortured tourists) - they help to re-hydrate and calm down your stomach. And we got some stuff against rashes - oh yeah, thats another Indian curse - dirt, dust, sweat and local water will make your skin itchy and will get you permanent rashes (until you get out of India)

We went to walk around Taj Mahal (it was closed on that day) trying to find some trustable food, but all we found was a Western style air conditioned coffee shop where we finally got some less questionable breakfast. At the back of the shop we saw some Chinese tourists who looked like they spent there more than 3 hours. They looked desperate - and we knew why - nothing to do in Agra + hard to find sanitary enough food = that's not a very convenient situation :)

We also met our first Indian she-male at our hostel - a she on top and a male on the bottom. From what we learned, Indians worship she-males and treat them nicely. Most of the stories Indians told us about why they worship she-males tell a bit different version, but they all seem to stress that she-males deserve this kind of respect by others because of this big decisions they made in their lives. Fair enough, and if you don't treat them nicely, they will curse you. Our she-male was a bad bad girl/boy though - she stole Oleg's phone from the hostel room.

Later on we met Jan, a traveller from Czech Republic who got stuck in Agra for a while. He confirmed that there is indeed nothing else to do in Agra. So 3 of us we went to the only place we could imagine going - an air conditioned mall. "Nothing to do" is actually a big motivator to try something new and ridiculous, so we went to a haunted house in the mall. It's basically a scary dark room full of tiny corridors, ghost dolls falling on you, hands grabbing your legs on every corner, all sorts of sounds and visuals. And that was hilarious - 3 grown ups from Europe got stuck in this room unable to figure out where to go and how to move past the ghosts and grabbing hands, and actually scared to try going through :) Eventually a local guide took us by hand and got us through one by one - how ridiculously embarrassing! Ok, if you are in Agra go to Pacific mall and visit the haunted house on the second level.

We did discover something else that was cool enough to spend time in that mall - a Sheesha cafe where we basically spent the rest of the evening.