We had a busy day in Agra exploring the sights, and turned to Lonely Planet for a place to go to recuperate before boarding a bus to Jaipur. This is the day we discovered the limited utility of Lonely Planet: while the “things to see” will never change, we’ve found that some places to eat and sleep tend to rely heavily on their guidebook recommendations, and let quality and service decline out of laziness and comfort that customers will be guided there regardless.
We ate at the Saniya Palace Hotel, which boasts an incredible rooftop view of the Taj. While the view is great, the food was not. The “fresh papaya juice” that Beth and Julie ordered was warm and tasted more like cheese than fruit, and Julie and I were greeted by improperly cleaned and cooked chicken. The view of intestines while you’re trying to enjoy your first butter chicken is pretty stomach-turning. We informed the waiter and insisted he take the two orders off of our bill, which he did, but no apology or alternative was offered. Since this experience, we have made it a habit of cross-referencing any Lonely Planet recommendations with Trip Advisor, to get the most up to date information. It’s not really Lonely Planet’s fault, you can only publish guidebooks so often. The view of the Taj was great, so they got that part right. We also enjoyed the people-watching, as there were lots of locals hanging out on the rooftop. One man hollered at Taylor, “You are a king! (in reference to the fact that he was hanging with three lovely ladies) Please, give me one!”
We traveled to Jaipur on an air-conditioned bus, which was thankfully more than half empty. Even though the ride wasn’t bad, Beth and I don’t plan on taking more buses, opting for the safety of trains and private drivers. The problem with the buses is that they stop in the middle of nowhere – our one pit-stop on this 5-6 hour journey was at a place simply called “Midway” where we could grab a cup of tea… or a shot of whisky if you wandered out the back door to the neighbouring bar. While we braved this mode of transport with our friends Taylor and Julie, we wouldn’t recommend it for women traveling alone or in small groups.
Upon arriving in Jaipur, it felt as though the bus was ambushed by auto-rickshaw drivers. This was to our benefit, as we were able to give our business to the lowest bidder! That night we stayed at the Hotel Madhuban, and were greeted by a hot shower, a comfortable bed, and wifi!