July 17th, 2017
“Could you pull over please? Now?” I pleaded to the driver as we weaved through the busy streets of Agra, India. I leaped out the door and ran to the side of the street, my stomach churning and an acidic taste burning my throat.
I steadied myself on a railing, only to notice the driver gesturing wildly to me. I looked up and saw an ornately decorated temple right in front of me. I ran a few meters down the street from it before doubling over and retching yellow bile into the ditch.
It's simply good travel etiquette to try not to puke near places of worship. Tweet That!
Earlier that day I had been on a day tour of Agra, home to the famous Taj Mahal. Seeing this building for the first time was one of my most mind-blowing travel moments. As you walk through the towering gate entrance and look down the long, symmetrical gardens, this exquisite building sits squarely on the horizon like something out of a dream.
Made of white marble glowing golden with the rays of the sun, it commands your focus even from hundreds of yards away. Its curved domes and pointed spires reflect in the Lotus Pond that stretches out before it, a perfect mirror image shimmering in the hot Agra sunshine.
Described as a 'teardrop on the cheek of eternity' by the poet Rabindranath Tagore, this majestic building gets even more amazing when you get close up.
After photographing it from afar, we slipped on the fabric shoe covers and stepped into the marble interior – refreshingly cool even in the 40-degree heat.
The semi-translucent white marble is inscribed with delicate floral patterns, each inlaid with a dazzling array of semi-precious stones – lapis lazuli, tiger’s eye, agate, onyx and turquoise. The result is awe-inspiring and I couldn’t help running my fingertips over their smooth, gleaming surfaces.
I walked around this world wonder in hushed reverence – likely the very reaction that the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan was going for when he commissioned the tomb for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
I’ve been to more than 40 countries now, but I can honestly say that the Taj Mahal was one of the most exquisitely beautiful works of art I have ever had the pleasure to behold. As travel days go, this was one to remember.
After the gorgeous tranquillity of the Taj Mahal, as well as several other historic sites in Agra, our day tour driver took us to a local restaurant for lunch. The food tasted great, but I should have avoided the creamy, milky lassi that had a slightly sour tinge.
We were drinking chai tea in a hostel in Agra when it hit me – a pain like I was being stabbed in the gut. I curled my knees up to my chest in agony, something was wrong.
After narrowly missing the temple on the way to the train station, it became clear that I was going to be violently atoning for that lassi every 10-15 minutes for the rest of the evening. I realised that I was a long way from my bed in the hotel in Delhi – a three-hour train ride that felt like an eternity.
I’m not sure which was worse – vomiting into a garbage bin on the train platform while an Indian family looked on in amusement or being sick into a squat toilet while trying to balance on a moving train.
When I finally staggered through the garbage strewn streets of Delhi to my hotel, I collapsed in exhaustion and stayed within close range of a bathroom for several days afterward.
There is an intensity in India – in the extraordinary culture and the frenetic chaos – that is unlike anywhere else in the world. India is a travel destination of extremes and I discovered that in one day I could find incredible beauty and terrible discomfort in equal measure.
It’s so worth it, trust me. Just try not to puke on any temples.
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