Sightseeing in India is not like sightseeing anywhere else. There are a few different stages.
Approaching the monument
First you have to try to find and then approach the monument. This is not as easy as it seems, it’s often a ducking and weaving game, avoiding so-called ‘tour’ guides, advances to take photos for you in front of the monument or direct you to purchase their lovely ‘marble’ souvenirs or overpriced chai.
If you make it to the ticket booth you then need to purchase the foreign priced ticket. Fair enough. In Agra this is made up of two charges, one for the restoration of the building and the other to actually see the building. You need to make sure to read the signs carefully as it turns out your ticket includes shoe covers and free bottled water. Of course, it then takes five minutes to find the guy down the road with the coke cart handing out these free show covers and bottled water.
When you then try to enter the place (be it the Taj Mahal or Akbar’s tomb), you need to walk fast and straight as you will get bombarded with tour guides, jewelry and post cards.
At Fatehpur Sikri you have to take your shoes off. But be careful! While there is a lovely man waiting to look after your shoes for you, turns out you can just carry them around with you inside, as many of the Indian tourists are doing!
You will again be bombarded with cries for tour guides and be called ignorant if you refuse. Even inside Fatehur Sikri children are allowed to sell postcards, jewllery and generally harass you. You will find yourself entering tombs or mosques and suddenly a friendly local will begin explaining what it is you’re looking at (although it’s pretty self-explanatory –I came to Akbar’s tomb to expect to see his tomb funnily enough). Once finished the more polite people will hold out their hand and say ‘As you wish sir, as you wish.’ The more direct will simply say ‘I’m very helpful yes? 30 rupees.’
Occasionally when sight seeing your bladder calls. You go to the nearest bathrooms and outside is an enterprising fellow asking 10 rupees for you to use the bathroom. “But I have my own toilet paper and handwash and I doubt these are even clean?!” you exclaim. After asking the Indian woman next to you (who doesn’t speak English) if it really is 10 rupees, the boy drops the price to 5 rupees. “ I paid the entry fee, if the bathrooms are clean I’ll pay you on the way out,” you say and march in. Surprise surprise, not particularly clean. But good on them for trying!
It’s been a loooong day!
love b and b