Our second day with Salim, started off better than the previous night - that is, he was no where to be seen when we woke up at 6am. In the new light of day, things were seeming a little better. We were off to see the Taj Mahal which was but a stones through from our hotel – at least Salim had been honest about that part. Even better, we had a train booked to Varanasi that night so we would be rid of Agra and Salim forever.
The Taj was, of course, great. It was foggy, very foggy, but its still an amazing building and the fog added a little extra mystic to the experience. Funnily enough, we actually ran into our friend Estel while exploring the inner dome. We had met her on our Ger trip through Mongolia and had spent time with her in Beijing. I hadn’t seen her in months and had no idea she was in Agra.
Our early morning visit, meant that we were all wrapped up and eating breakfast by about 10 am. We were actually still waitlisted for our train that night so we had to head back to the hotel to check our status.
Salim was waiting for us.
He immediately asked us where we were going and offered to take us on a tour of the city. Once again, we told him no. We didn’t want a tour.
He continued to hound us until we eventually told him we were leaving to go eat. We did want to go see the other city sites, just not with Salim. We walked down the road, hired another rickshaw driver to take us to Agra fort and went about our day.
We were still on the waiting list for the train, so throughout the day – in between visiting the fort, eating lunch, and going to the market we had to return to the hotel. Always, Salim was there- lying in wait. He got more and more aggressive with each visit, at one point he actually followed us out of the hotel and down the street until we were forced to seek refugee in a local jewelry shop.
We had passed the point of polite refusal, we were now at the point of ignoring him, running away and repeatedly saying “no.” Salim just wasn’t getting the point.
On our last return to the hotel, we tried to stand just outside it in hopes of picking up the extremely weak wifi signal. Salim was standing at the windows watching for our return and caught us. He ran out of the hotel to harass us again. At this point I was seriously at a loss for a way to convince him we weren’t interested in any further services from him. It was getting extremely uncomfortable feeling like we had had to avoid our extremely persistent stalker.
To make matters worse, the final train list was published and we hadn’t gotten off the wait list. We had already booked train tickets (and in Caroline’s case a plan ticket) and there was no way we were spending another night in sunny Agra. It seemed our only choice was to hire a taxi to drive us through the night to Varanasi.
I can tell you who we weren’t hiring.
We walked down the street and hired a cab from a nearby travel agency. The cost wasn’t extreme – about $50 each. However, I had a feeling it would be a huge sum to a man who had been willing to spend all day lurking around our hotel.
I tried to explain the situation as delicately as I could to the travel agent. I suggested that it may be better if he didn’t pick us up at the hotel.
“Don’t worry, they are my friends, no problem.”
Of course they were…awkward.
When the car did come for us, Salim was of course waiting. He yelled at us as we tried to collect our bags – blocking our path and snapping at us indignantly. He claimed we owed him money – extra money for the ride he gave us to the hotel. We had already paid the agreed upon rate the night before, but now he wanted extra money since he had taken us to the new hotel. The hotel HE had recommended.
Then he claimed he had gotten us a good rate at the hotel and since we hadn’t taken a tour with him, we owed him the difference between the ‘deal’ we got and the actual price.
The list went on, but the summary was was angry that he had waited around all day and made not money. His shouting went on and on and eventually I let him know that no matter what he said we wouldn’t be paying him any other money.
“You think you are smart, but you are not!” He screamed at us in the streets of Agra.
The other driver, his friend, shuffled his feet awkwardly while the other man from the company we had used helped us load our bags into the car. Finally, we simply got into the car and shut the doors to block out his ranting. There was nothing to be done, but we all felt horrible. It’s not everyday you incite a man to yell at you in public in a foreign country.
We were all glad to leave Agra but not eager for the 12 hour overnight drive to Varanasi.