Are We Done Yet?

It’s a Thursday afternoon, and I am in Agra, India.  I am sitting in a hotel room, working on my laptop.  Kara is lying in bed beside me, sleeping.  Yesterday, she was sicker than I have ever seen her before, or – for that matter – anyone else I have ever seen who wasn’t facing death.  We called a doctor, who administered a drug cocktail that seems to have turned things around, so now she sleeps, and we wait.  But for what?

At least, we’re waiting to leave Agra.  We’re in a nice enough hotel; they upgraded us to their nicest room because Kara was sick and they had some all-night construction work going on adjacent to our room that was keeping us up at night.  But, once you’ve seen the Taj Mahal and the four other beautiful Mughal sites here, there’s not too much to do here.  And I can’t leave the hotel without being harassed by rickshaw drivers and shopkeepers.  “Need rickshaw?” “10 rupees, really cheap, anywhere you want!” “What country you from?”  The one that annoys me the most is, “Where are you going?”  I always have to suppress the extremely strong urge to respond, “None of your G.d. business,” and come up with something marginally more polite to say.   On our first day here, I had a rickshaw driver follow me for three blocks trying to get me to book a tour with him.  He made a u-turn to catch up with me when I shook him once.  He waited outside for me while I used an ATM.  He even grabbed my arm when I turned to walk away from him.

India has been hard on us.  Being out of the hotel can often be intense.  Usually, every day, you will be approached many, many times by people directly or indirectly seeking something from you.  Tourist touts are all over the place, especially in Agra, since everyone comes here to see the Taj Mahal.  Then, you often run into street kids asking for money.  In Delhi, we had a kid board our train, wipe down the floor of our berth and then demand a tip.  People aren’t shy about asking for tips, even for things you never asked them to do.  Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between people that are just trying to be nice and touts.  At least a couple of times, we’ve had people accuse us of being rude for blowing them off on the street.  We went back to talk to them and had to explain that we just can’t strike up conversations with people on the street or we’ll spend our lives going in and out of shops instead of doing the things we want to do.

It took us about 22 hours to get from Jaipur to Agra.  Fog and some rail accidents had snarled rail traffic through one of the busiest corridors in the country.  Our train was supposed to leave 14-and-a-half hours late, but we don’t know if it ever made it.  In Agra, we saw in the newspaper that many people traveling to the Taj Mahal have had to abandon their plans because of interminable train delays.  We decided just to take the bus. Unfortunately, we waited too long to make that decision, missed the last bus, and had to spend the night at the Jaipur bus station.  That was a hell of an experience.  While Kara tried to sleep in a molded plastic chair with her head on a cafe table, I sat up drinking chai and reading while the waiters watched old Bollywood flicks on TV.  Thankfully, when we finally got to Agra, we found our pretty decent hotel and a really nice rickshaw driver to take us around to the Taj Mahal and the other sites.  But we only had a good 24 hours in Agra before Kara got sick.

I had been thinking about writing about travel sickness before Kara got sick.  Getting sick is a reality of traveling.  Between us, Kara usually caught colds and I usually got the gastrointestinal bugs.  Believe it or not, I think I got the better deal.  Colds stick around for weeks, while I can usually knock out the intestinal bugs with two or three doses of a broad-spectrum antibiotic.  The symptoms suck — especially since in many Asian countries there are not proper Western toilets outside of hotels — but you’re usually only off your feet for a day or two.

Whatever Kara got in Agra is the worst travel bug either of us have had on the trip.  As I said, I have never seen her so sick in nearly six years together.  So, it has us here waiting for her to get strong enough to travel again.  And although Agra is probably not the best place to hold up for a few days, we have a comfortable room in a hotel with satellite TV, a good room service and internet access.  So, we are watching English movies, reading, and working on the blog.  But the 200-ton elephant in the hotel room with us is the question, “What next?”  At this point, do we have it in us to take on Varanasi and Kolkata when we’re already feeling sick, tired and a bit overwhelmed by our experience in India?   Or, are our minds and bodies telling us we should head back to Delhi and get on the next plane to Thailand?  We sit here and wait, and hopefully soon, we’ll figure our the answer.


4 responses to “Are We Done Yet?

  1. Get out- get to Thailand and to the beach and relax. You need to do the ugly american tourist thing.

  2. No-one can tell you the best thing to do…but I can TOTALLY sympathize with you both as we were in the exact same position less than a month ago. We decided to leave and it was the Best Decision Ever for us. We’ve been in southern Thailand ever since and India has become a distant memory. In fact, according to our original itinerary, we should still be in India…I can’t imagine.

    Here are two posts I wrote about it:

    Good Luck!!

  3. Gillian, we read your posts with interest before we came to India. To tell the truth, we were pretty worried when we read it. We were fine in Delhi, and we had a nice visit to Amritsar, but things started to go down hill when we were in Udaipur. It was nice enough — as Indian towns go — but I got sick and there wasn’t a lot interesting there for us. We did do a great Indian cooking class. But we’ve really hit the wall in Agra. I thought we were turning around the day we visited the Taj, but that night when Kara got sick kind of took the wind out of our sails.

    So the big question is whether to persevere and go to Khajuraho. We really want to see the Hindu temples there, but it’s remote and we don’t know if we have the stamina to go all the way there knowing that it takes us further from an airport that gets us to Bangkok!

    Whatever we do, we probably have less than a week in India and then we’ll be there on the beach too.

  4. Hi you guys. You stayed on my barge early in your trip and rather bizzarely Ijust found your post. Sorry to hear of your travel ‘ills’ but I too was at the Taj on Jan 7th 2010 with my girlfriend Isabelle. We braved the fog on the Shatabdi (non) express from Delhi and were wandering round at 2-3pm before dining ( I use the word lightly) on one of the rooftops in Taj Ganj… After that, we got sick! Very sick for six days thanks to a LonelyPlanet recomended restaurant there!! I know how Kara felt! Amazing and sad that we missed each other… It’s a small world… Kevin – Barge Nilaya