Stop XI of the Asian Saga, maybe the most famous tourist landmark in the world, the Taj Mahal. I covered Amritsar, stop X, here
. From Amritsar, I started my journey towards home, stopping my travels eastwards and slowly heading back west. Amritsar -> Delhi and then Delhi -> Agra. Finding myself back in the tourist triangle, the scams and traps became overwhelming. Just trying to book a train ticket to Agra without getting taken was damn near impossible. The situation in Agra was even worse. Every tuk-tuk driver had a sweet deal to show you, and a friend's shop just around the corner. I can't blame the guys for trying but one has limits to the amount they can be hustled. It was worth the stop to see the Taj, and Agra has some other interesting sites. I had previously seen some beautiful photographs of the back side of the Taj, reflected in the nearby river. At sunset I went to try my luck from the other side only to find the area closed off by barb wire and guarded by military men. Any enchantment and authenticity that used to exist in Agra has all but evaporated. The Taj Mahal, The pyramids at Giza, Angkor Wat, same same but different.
My next stop planned was Varanasi but that required another train ride and a stop in Lucknow. I had never heard of the place but thought it couldn't be that bad. Wrong. It was the exact opposite of Agra. No tourists, no hotels, and very little to see. Authentically a dump. I had never had such a bad premonition regarding a place and somehow started catching a cold as my train neared the city. I was sick the entire day I was there and had one bad experience after another in my hotel, with taxi drivers and at the few sites I did tour. I started referring to it as Bad Lucknow. The next day I caught a train to Varanasi, and within minutes of leaving, my cold began to alleviate. Within a few hours and Lucknow behind me, my spirits had lifted and I felt great. I got some good shots of the decaying monuments, so not all was lost.
• Video Link
Next up, I'll wade into the life giving waters of the Ganges.