The best piece of advice I got before I left was from a woman at the gym who has been to India three times:
“Bring a face mask and latex gloves, especially if you’ll be traveling by rail.”
In fact, during our 19-day trip we had three flights within India, one train ride and lots of bus time. And her advice really came in handy.
Here’s the train station in Agra. Really, it’s the nicest part of Agra, which is to say it’s still dirty and awful. As you can see, we were there quite early and it was a bit chilly.
We entertained ourselves by watching the trains come in and out of the station–and they stop only briefly to let passengers on and off, so it’s a crazy scene.
Here’s a video of the pandemonium when people needed to catch a train.
No, Dorothy, this is not Caltrain.
This whole country could use a bath. Including these trains.
And sometimes, we enjoyed a laugh:
He doesn’t look like a lady to me.
And then, the good stuff happened. A guy came along with leather and fabric stitching tools and offered to mend any damaged bags.
He’s not a pickpocket.
On the spot, while we waited for our train, he fixed three bags for the equivalent of about a buck each.
Industrious guy fixing our bag.
On the spot he fixed three bags for the equivalent of about a buck each.No kidding.
He was great with a needle. Even better than my husband, who’s damn good.
And then, our train came in.Are you getting the drift about how dirty this country is?
Once on the train for our three hour ride, refreshments were served. I wouldn’t have touched them if I were dying of thirst, but I watched a woman in our party order a cup of tea and drink a couple sips before abandoning it. That afternoon at the jungle lodge she got violently ill and missed the entire next day’s events.
Seriously, I didn’t eat much while here for that very reason, and even I got a mild case of Delhi belly. But a few others were hit much harder.
Another thing we take for granted is sanitation, in all its permutations. So, Indian Railways: not the best mode of travel. But if you must, don’t eat or drink. And bring your own toilet paper.
That’s another thing. BRING EXTRA TOILET PAPER FROM YOUR HOTELS!! Because Indians do not use it. More on that later.