Continuation from here ...
Around 7.15am, I checked out from the hostel and walked to the railway station. My train to Agra would depart at 8.10am. The station is just 5 minutes walk from my hostel but I decided to go there early. Since it was my first journey with the Indian Railways, and New Delhi Railway Station is one of the largest station in India, I thought I should be there earlier just to be prepared.
There are display boards at the train station displaying the scheduled train name and its number, its departure time and departing platform.
I checked my ticket and the display board, and headed to my train's platform, Platform 8. Altogether, New Delhi Railway Station (or NDLS for short, also as stated in your train ticket) has 16 platforms.
I looked around the platform and all I saw was the locals looking curiously at me. Agra is one of the most popular destinations in India so I was expecting to see fellow foreign travellers at the platform. When I saw none in sight, I thought to myself, did I go to the correct platform? I was convinced I was at the right platform though so I just waited there.
It hit me a moment later. Of course they took the earlier train, the Shatabdi Express (number 12002). This express train departs at 6.15am and arrives at 8.12am in Agra so most travellers will opt for this train. Unfortunately, it was already full at the time of my booking.
As my trip was during the peak period (Christmas - New Year holiday), it was fortunate that I was able to get a seat on one of the trains. My train, Hirakund Express (number 18508), is a long distance train operating between Amritsar Junction station in Punjab to Visakhapatnam Junction station in Visakhapatnam. The route covers a total of 2574 km.
I got a seat at 3A class for only Rs301. It was quite cheap as Shatabdi Express will cost Rs370 for the CC class and Rs700 for the 1A class.
A few minutes later, a Mat Salleh couple turned up. Ok I was at the correct platform. hahaha... We said hi to each other and talked about our journey. They also wanted to take the earlier Shatabdi Express but it was already full.
The train arrived around 7.50am. Thank God it wasn't delayed as I heard a few announcements about some delayed trains due to the heavy fog. It was a Thursday so we couldn't afford the train to be delayed as Taj Mahal, the main attraction in Agra is closed on Friday. So we MUST arrive in Agra that day, no matter what.
When the train stopped in front of me, I saw the coach number S5. My coach number was B1. The train was super longgg so finding our coach would be a challenge.
Okayyy.. so where should we head now? To the left or to the right?
All the coaches are numbered so you can always refer to your train ticket which coach you would be in. The couple and I were in the same coach, B1 so we walked together finding our coach.
It is actually easy to find the coach as they are numbered according to classes. Each class will have a number of coaches per train.
Class 2A is numbered as A1, A2 and so on while Class 3A coaches are identified as B1, B2 and so on. As for the sleeper class, they are indexed as S1, S2, S3 and so on. These sleeper class are usually the main chunk of an express train, with about 10-15 coaches per train.
So as the train passed you while stopping, look out for the coach number. Tak la terpinga-pinga nak pergi arah mana like us previously. :p
We went in our coach and looked out for our seat number. The train departed from Amritsar the night before so some people were still sleeping.
As I explained in my previous post, class 3A has six beds in each compartment. When I found my seat number, the upper and the middle beds had already been folded down for passengers to sit. There were three other Mat Sallehs already seated in the compartment. They were heading to Agra too.
The train departed at 8.10am sharp. The journey took around 3 hours and 30 minutes. We arrived in Agra Cantonment station at almost noon.
I wasted no time and quickly went out of the railway station. There is a pre-paid auto-rickshaw booth just outside the station. The fares to each area are already fixed so you don't have to worry about your haggling skill or being overcharged by the driver.
I asked to be sent to Taj Ganj, a backpacker area immediately south of Taj Mahal. The ride only cost me Rs100.
Chowk Kagzi at Taj Ganj
Before coming to Agra, I actually searched through the Internet looking for hostels to stay in but I found none of the choices given were suitable. I then found one hotel in my guide book which looked good. The hotel is situated within walking distance to Taj Mahal so I thought it was a very good deal. Unfortunately when I contacted them through email, they didn't reply it. :(
But considering the location and the price, I decided to gamble and tried my luck. If they're full, I would just walk around and find other hotel or hostels. So I asked the auto-rickshaw driver to send me to the hotel, Shanti Lodge.
Chowk Kagzi, Taj Ganj , South Gate of Taj Mahal
Phone : 0562-2231973
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
I guessed throughout this trip, lady luck was on my side. Luckily they had a vacant room. The staff showed me the room at the annexe building just behind the main building and I immediately agreed.
the annexe building at the back
Accommodation in India, if you managed to find the right one, is really cheap. I got this double room for only Rs400!
Well, the room was good enough for me.
I put my bag, refreshed myself and in no time, I was ready to go out.