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Brian McMorrow | all galleries >> Asia >> India भारत >> Madhya Pradesh >> Gwalior > Click for a report on Gwalior
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Click for a report on Gwalior

I took a day trip from Agra to Gwalior by train. The Shabati express was on time which was nice and I had Executive Class, which means 2-2 airline type seating, free water, tea, newspaper, and supposedly a meal but apparently I wasnt there for a meal time though 5 or 6 conductors were sitting in their eating meals. I dodged the rickshaw drivers at the station and set off on foot through through the old town. It was a relief to be out of Agra, where there is too much tourist hussling.

Here the people seemed for the most part friendly and I didn't see any tourists until I got up to the fort, which sits on a 300 ft/100 m high bluff above the city. Lots of Hello Pen kids around the entrance to the fort. Hello Pen, Hello Chocolate, Hello Shampoo, Hello Money, and a very articulate "Sir, would you kindly give me some American currency". They had to settle for One Photo, which seemed to make them happy enough...and me too. I entered the fort from the Northeast entrance, and it is a fairly steep climb up a rocky road. About half way up is a 1100 year old Hindu temple carved out of the mountain as a freestanding temple made of solid rock. The walls of the fort here are very impressive with round towers decorated with blue tiles.

As I was taking photos of the final gatehouse before entering the fort, an Indian guy (21) came up and chatted with me. He said he was visiting from Delhi and was on his own and a bit bored and would I mind a little company. I figured sure...he said he hadn't been to the fort before so that couldn't make him an annoying unwanted guide and I had a good time with the locals at Rathambhore Fort, so I was hoping perhaps it would be nice. He said he used to work in a call center but didn't like it and now works with orphans and the handicapped. He said he is travelling to Agra that afternoon.

We walked to the north end of the fort where there are a number of palaces in ruins with good views of the old town below. There were about 50 girls in military uniforms visiting as well and I ended up in some of their photos, and they in mine. They were from the National Cadet Corps, which sounded like an Indian version of ROTC. The main palace of the Fort, the Man Singh Palace is in good condition. Admission 100 rupees. The guy I'm with tries to buy my ticket but I don't let him, though he said his pockets are full of rupees. Inside, I was a bit disgusted by an Indian woman with her 3-4 year old son. He had to pee, so right there she had him go on the palace wall. Unreal. Indians will pee anywhere. I'm glad he didn't have to shit. It's a very dirty country. I think they need a sanitation system more than a space program and nuclear weapons.

The next site in is another old Hindu temple. There's no one at the gate to look at the tickets, but as we're going into the temple itself, a ticket-taker looking guy comes up and asks for them. I give it to him and he says something about having to go back to the gate. I go inside and ask the guy I'm with to get my ticket as he said he didn't want to go into the temple. I check it out then we leave heading for the Sikh temple. He says that the gate keeper said I had to pay 50 rupees more to visit the temples, and the Indian guy an additional 20 (though his initial ticket was only 5). Indian guy says he paid him and on the ticket was written now Monuments-50 (just over $1). I think Indian guy just got ripped off in his own country and find it funny, and since he said his pockets were full of rupees I don't worry about it...I wouldn't have paid the gate keeper anything else, esp not without another offical ticket.

We end up on a long circular walk to the Sikh temple past numerous areas belonging to the Scindia private school. On the way is another Hindu temple to visit. The ticket taker is at the gate, looks at the tickets, doesn't turn them over to see it says Monuments 50 and doesn't ask for more money. Indian guy seems to be eager to get to train station but it's only 2 so I'm in no rush. If he really needed to go surely he would go. At the Sikh temple, we had to put on little head cloths and walk through a pool of water before entering. Inside wasn't really that special...I guy in a glass booth chanting stuff. That was the last thing to see in the fort itself. On the way out I offer to buy Indian guy a pepsi. He insists on getting it. They're 10 rupees each. A bit later he asks me if he could change small bills for a 100 rupee note. I don't mind as 10's are very handy here. Turns out his small notes only come to 90...that's fine I figure the 10 was my pepsi.

On the way out the west gate, there are huge Jain statues carved out of the mountain, some 30m/100ft tall. As I'm going along, Indian guy asks me not to take long. I tell him he's more than welcome to go to the station without me. When I'm done we continue walking down the hill. He mentions that he's spent 500 rupees today, and only has 400 left, and wondered if I could help him out with 100 rupees. He says he only makes 5000 rupees a month working with the orphans and handicapped people. I smell bullshit. I don't commit. I figure it's just his version of the unwanted guide scam and he's 90% likely not to be from Delhi at all. At least he wasn't annoying, and as my watch battery had died, I needed some Hindi translating to find a watch shop to get it fixed...I figured that would have him earn the 100 rupees ($2.20). And just in case he was actually honest about everything, that would at least pay the 50 rupees that he got scammed out of.

We get an autorickshaw (tuktuk) which takes us to a watch shop where I get a new battery for 65 rupees ($1.50). The final thing I wanted to visit in Gwalior was the Tibetan Woolen Market listed in the Lonely Planet. I told Indian guy/Scam guide where I wanted to go, but we ended up at the central market instead. He kept saying we should go to the station. I told him I'd be ready to go at 4 (for my 4:45 train) and he was more than welcome to go. When we end up at the station, he asks the 100 rupees again. I give in...for the 10% chance he was honest. Next he says he'd like some coins for the train to buy tea. I tell him I have none. Curious that he has no luggage, though if he was honest guy perhaps it was there in storage. In the station I check at the information window to see if my train is on time. It is, and I don't see Indian guy again. Not even a handshake or good bye. 100% scam guy. So I'm thinking the test of if an Indian guy is an honest friendly guy is if he insists on walking around holding your hand (it's an Indian thing) and having his picture taken, like the 3 guys at Rathambhore.

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rsub809-Aug-2005 13:56
Very interesting story. Seems that the scams are getting even more refined. Weird also getting hit up for more money by "ticket takers." I remember arriving in Hyderabad airport. A toothless, wiry Customs Inspector approached me with his palm up; he wanted a handout. He kept insisting, jabbing his hand at me, and I acted like I didn't understand. He took me aside, and I was forced to stand there (my travelling companions didn't know where I was, having already passed through). Finally, he came back nearly an hour later and (somewhat angrily) told me to go on ahead, through the gate. It was a tad scary.