Shopping malls largely devoid of shops, a freshly painted antique telly, and Lil declines the offer of a goat.

Day 154: Agra, India. Today’s big plan was a shopping trip to buy clothes for our UK visit next week.

Fuelled by a hearty breakfast and some very strong coffee we headed out, resigned to the horrors of crowds and changing rooms. A vegetable stall had randomly set up in the lane way outside the hotel, with an impressively flexible stall holder, who weighed and sold vegetables to passersby with his foot firmly planted on the top of the wooden cart the entire time. Had we attempted the same feat, we likely wouldn’t be able to walk for a week.

We’d collated details of half a dozen shopping malls, spread across the town. The first one was a complete wash out. Only four or five stores were open, mostly selling saucepans and dinner plates, and the rest of the building was derelict. There was one mens’ clothing shop so Jim had a quick look around, with three eager shop staff trailing one inch behind him the entire time. The clothes weren’t even close to what he was after, but he spotted some shoes he quite liked. Disappointment followed, as Jim’s shoe size is 11, and the shop’s stock only goes up to 10.

We walked a kilometre to the next shopping mall, through lots of small streets that clearly don’t see many foreigners, causing a bit of stir as we went past. We were amused to see a heap of cows bathing in a very muddy pond nearby, clearly happy to cool off from the afternoon heat. And to be honest, it looked a lot more relaxing than shopping.

The next mall was a little better, with two open clothes shops catering for both men and ladies. Lil had a quick rummage, found a dress she liked, and headed to the changing room to try it on. When she came back out to show it to Jim, he was in the process of being reprimanded for daring to step three inches across the threshold of the changing room, with a sales guy barking at him “Not allowed sir, no men, you must stay outside all times!” On a positive note, a gang of eager sales staff crowded around and gave Lil a big thumbs up on the dress she’d chosen.

Jim tried on many many pairs of trousers. The fashion trend in India just now is to wear pants with very narrow legs, and in some cases cropped bottoms too. Frankly, they made Jim look like a goof. The sales staff kept bringing more and more options into the changing room, each more ridiculous than the last. One of them even tried to upsell him with a pair of yellow and white patterned shorts, and looked pretty horrified when Lil started falling about laughing.

We decided to stop for a caffeine break, although we struggled to find a coffee shop. We asked a couple of security guards, who seemed baffled that we wanted coffee at a shopping mall. In the end our only option was McDonalds, though we decided to skip the ‘McAloo Tikka’ burger on offer.

We caught an Uber to the next shopping mall, a few kilometres away, thinking it couldn’t be any worse than the previous ones. Turns out we were wrong. The entire place had been knocked down, so there was no shopping mall at all. At that point we gave up and headed home to work on travel plans for our UK trip and beyond.

Early evening we walked into town for dinner at the same restaurant as last night. We initially decided against going up to the rooftop due to the mobs of mossies, plus we spotted a sign warning that monkeys are out to get people’s food – they love thali apparently.

The downstairs restaurant had just undergone a major painting job, with every single inch of the room now covered in fresh paint. Including the antique telly, which was now sporting the same brown woodstain effect as the panels on the walls.

We ordered two beers, which came in chunky mugs, and were asked to store our half empty bottles under the table. We’re guessing they’re not licensed to sell alcohol.

A little kid appeared at the window while we were drinking our mugs of beer. He waved madly at us, then started doing some sort of weird interpretive dancing, and was clearly after money. We smiled and waved him away. We could see a bunch of his mates lining up across the road, ready in join in if any rupees happened to be on offer.

After a bit, Lil went outside for some fresh air and to get away from the paint fumes. She wandered over to have a look at a very cute black, brown and white goat outside a shop across the street. The guy offered to sell it to her, however she explained that it might be tricky to get it into the overhead locker, and that customs might not be too happy either.

The paint fumes eventually got too much for us, and we made our way up to the rooftop. Thankfully the mossies weren’t as bad as last night, and the monkeys left us alone. We chatted for a while to a lovely couple from Australia, who are just starting a six week stay in India, and were keen to pick our brains on all things India. We had lots to say.

Tomorrow is shopping day number two, with two more malls on our list. Hopefully the shopping malls still exist, the trousers have wider legs, and someone somewhere stocks size 11 shoes.

More then.

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