Bharat Darshan 13 Days on a train

#1 Apr 1st, 2008, 11:41
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  • manojb is offline
#1
Recently, I went on IRCTC’s Bharat Darshan tour programme. Here is a short write-up.

This is a tour programme organized by IRCTC. IRCTC runs a special train for this tour. Our train had seven sleeper class coaches. The train started from Madurai (my boarding point was Shoranur in Kerala) and the route was Puri-Calcutta-Varanasi-Delhi-Agra-Jaipur and return.

The average person on the tour was a retired person (teacher, middle-level officials). I myself was accompanying my parents. Very few people below the age of 40 (only 3 in our coach).

Itinerary:
18-Mar-08 Board train at Shoranur very early in the morning (1 am).

19-Mar-08 Reach Puri late at night and stay overnight.

20-Mar-08 Puri Temple, then by bus to Konark (Sun Temple) and then to Bhubaneswar (temples again) and board the train at night.

21-Mar-08 Reach Calcutta, free day (do whatever you want on your own). Stay overnight.

22-Mar-08 Belur Math, Dakshineswaram Temple, Victoria Memorial, Kalighat, New Market. Board train at night.

23-Mar-08 Reach Varanasi in the afternoon. Free day. Overnight stay.

24-Mar-08 Ganga Snan, Temples at Kashi, more temples, Banares Hindu University & Birla Mandir. Board train at night.

25-Mar-08 Reach Delhi late in the evening. Overnight stay.

26-Mar-08 Birla Mandir, Nehru Museum, Indira Museum, Raj Ghat, Lotus Temple and a city tour (Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan and other stuff). Board train at night.

27-Mar-08 Arrive Agra early morning. Choice of going to Mathura or to Fatehpur Sikri. We did both by hiring a taxi to go to Fatehpur Sikri. Agra Fort and Taj Mahal after returning. Board train at night.

28-Mar-08 Reach Jaipur early morning. Jantar Mantar, Jaipur Palace, Jaipur city tour, shopping, Amber Fort. Board train at night.

29-Mar-08 On train.

30-Mar-08 Arrive Shoranur in the afternoon.

Base fare was Rs. 6700 and included accommodation (see below), food and transportation for local sightseeing, but did not include entry fees to attractions.

Accommodation:
Dormitory accommodation was included in the base fare. We chose to pay extra and avail hotel accommodation (Rs. 4100 for double occupancy and Rs. 4900 for triple occupancy) at the places where there were overnight stays (Puri, Calcutta, Varanasi and Delhi). The quality of the hotels provided varied from bad in Puri to acceptable in Calcutta and good in Varanasi and Delhi.

Food:
South Indian vegetarian food was provided for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There was a pantry car attached to the train with about 35 catering staff. Food was provided even when we were out sightseeing or staying at a hotel. They would prepare it in the pantry car and bring it over and serve wherever we were. Quality of food was good, but one got bored of it after a while (there are only so many varieties of South Indian vegetarian food). There were no cases of stomach ailments on a large scale; there were a few individual cases, but I think that is to be expected in a population of about 500. In my opinion, the catering staff did an incredible job keeping 500 people fed 3 times a day for 2 weeks with limited resources.

Tour Management and Execution:
I feel that the tour was designed poorly. If you see the itinerary, the first half is loaded with temples and nothing else. After 3 or 4 days, I had had a temple overdose and refused to visit certain temples.

Also at the end of the tour, after Delhi, there were no overnight stays, and we were on the train for 5 days straight (6 days, actually, due to delays). There should have been a break, probably in Jaipur, before we set out on our return trip.

The day to day management of the tour was outsourced to a private travel agency and they did not manage it very well. At many times, things were quite disorganised, with nobody knowing what to do next.

Our train seemed to have the lowest priority. We would wait endlessly in small stations while other trains zoomed by. The train was constantly late. It was late in starting from Shoranur by 3 hours and arrived 5 hours late in Puri. On the return trip, it arrived 22 hours late at Shoranur and many people missed work because of this. It took 24 hours to cover the 500 km or so between Jaipur and Ujjain. They were no explanations coming from anybody. The tour managers kept saying that signalling was under the control of Railways and they had no information about it. They even had no idea whom we could complain to (I have written to IRCTC, let us see what they say). The train also ran out of water several times during the tour, probably because filling stops were not included in the route.

Security:
Security was excellent. When on overnight stays on sightseeing trips, we would leave our luggage on the train, taking only what was needed for the day. There were security guards posted on the train. It is remarkable that nobody lost anything to theft during the entire trip.

Temples & Temple Priests:
The temple priests in Puri, Bhubaneswar and Calcutta were downright extortionist. We had a situation were some members of the group were not allowed to leave the Lingaraja temple in Bhubaneswar before they paid for pujas they didn’t ask for.
The surroundings of the Kashi temples were incredibly dirty. It may have been because we visited early in the morning before the garbage had been removed. One had to walk through filth to reach the temples. Once inside, everything was clean and washed down. Lots of AK-47 wielding security folks, even inside the temple.

Highlights:
Konark was definitely a highlight. The carvings in the temple are very detailed. One downside of a package tour is that you don’t get to spend enough time at the places you want.
Belur Math was another highlight. The atmosphere was very serene.
Amber Fort in Jaipur was beautiful.

Would I do it again? No. For me, the tour was too hectic. I couldn't handle travelling every day without much rest. Moreover, it was hot. By the 10th day, I was finished. I would consider a more relaxed, slower tour or a shorter one.
Last edited by manojb; Apr 1st, 2008 at 19:20..
#2 Apr 1st, 2008, 11:45
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  • capt_mahajan is offline
#2
Thanks manojb, interesting write up.

Would agree that there were too many temples. For me, two is too many.

The price was not too bad, though.
#3 Apr 1st, 2008, 11:48
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  • jyotirmoy is offline
#3
Thanks manojb. The tour is terribly hectic in my opinion. This tour seems to have been designed for pilgrims.
13 days feeding on vegetarin food would have finished me in the first place.
#4 Apr 1st, 2008, 19:11
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  • manojb is offline
#4
Quote:
Originally Posted by capt_mahajan View Post Thanks manojb, interesting write up.

Would agree that there were too many temples. For me, two is too many.

The price was not too bad, though.
I am not fond of temples either. But one has to humour parents who don't speak a work of Hindi.

I thought the price was very cheap, too. Probably they are able to offer such low prices due to the number of tour participants involved and spending most nights on the train, thus cutting accommodation costs.
#5 Apr 5th, 2008, 12:08
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#5
Very useful feedback Manoj, thanks for sharing.

Quote:
It took 24 hours to cover the 500 km or so between Jaipur and Ujjain.
A journey that should take 8 hours, I think I'd have just got off the train, though this wasn't an option for you.
.
SOS: Missing Person...

Please look at this thread, even if you are not in India.: Have you seen Jonathan Spollen?

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#6 Jan 28th, 2009, 12:01
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  • chakravartys_sjdn is offline
#6

Thanks the warning!!!

I'm 27 years old, and my parents thought it would be a good idea for our family of four to go on the Bharat Darshan....after reading this, my mom said she'd think twice about it!

Thanks for saving me from the eventuality of going on a tour and cursing myself afterwards!
#7 Jan 28th, 2009, 13:09
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#7
Good write up Manoj, I have never been tempted to do these sorts of tours myself, and your writeup has given me more reason never to even contemplate it, even though it is good value for money. Slow and easy does it for me. This is too hectic, it is making my head spin just reading about it.
#8 Dec 10th, 2009, 22:39
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  • viladkarab is offline
#8

Angry Our perception regarding Bharat Darshan Tour E 017A.

Myself and my wife did this particular tour. Our views are as follows: -

Positive points: -

Good follow up before starting the tour.

Safe and comfortable train journey. I enjoyed the same.

Areas of improvement are as follows: -

Filthy toilets. Water accumulation. Cobwebs in Western Style Toilet. For a trip like this, IRCTC should arrange for better coaches. Neat and clean. Two or three fans in our coach were not working. Despite repeatedly telling , nobody attended the same. For a long trip like this, IRCTC and Indian Railways should design special coaches rather than standard ones. If IRCTC can provide special coaches with Bathroom facility, they can dispense of the dormitory accommodation, saving a lot.

Absolute lack of planning, coordination and management. The Tour Leader was not at all concerned with well being of passengers. He never bothered to visit our coaches and enquire about us, our facilities etc. He never introduced himself to us. I think he also attended the tour like us only.

Chaotic situation regarding morning tea, drinking water, breakfasts, meals. We rarely got our morning tea. After the breakfast, around 9 AM, we used to get our tea, but no drinking water. Lunch, we got around 15 hrs. Is this acceptable to IRCTC officials ? Many times, we had to take our lunch on the footpath itself. In Madgaon, many people could not get the breakfast even. On Chaturthi day, many people had fast. Remaining people got their breakfast around 9 o clock, while we got the same around 13 hrs. which is the time for lunch. Again, khichdi provided for breakfast cum lunch was khichdi or kheer, we did not know. With majority of maharashtrian people in the tour, they should have arranged for maharashtrian cooks. They know our taste better than these people.

Many people in such trips could be elderly / senior persons, may be diabetic. Is this food situation acceptable to them? I don't think so. This trip would be a menace to elderly persons.

Dormitory accommodation should be avoided and simple rooms to be provided to passengers. Even if IRCTC need to increase the cost of the tour, it is immaterial. We refrained ourselves from taking dormitory accommodation at Banglore and Tirupati and arranged for separate rooms for me and my wife.

Tour Coordinators should be well versed with all the places.

In Banglore and Mysore, we wasted lot of time in traveling and traffic jams, and hence had to avoid visiting famous Chamundi Hill temple. In Banglore, we did not visit Museum. This is ridiculous. We visit cities to see famous places; and not traffic headaches.

Buses were not up to the mark. Again, there was chaotic situation while entering the buses. Rush, and other similar situations. Seat numbers may be allotted to avoid these things.

There was total absence of Professional Approach.

We do understand that this tour is a budget tour, but that does not mean cheap quality of the service. If IRCTC can give better service within this monetary range, it will definitely add feather in their cap. With this costing, we are not expecting a lavish treatment, but basic necessary service is a must.

It is sure that we shall never go for this trip again, neither recommend it to anybody.
#9 Dec 10th, 2009, 23:26
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  • *jyoti* is offline
#9
Thanks for the write-up viladkarab. I thought the idea was interesting when people were talking about it before, but I hate the thought of 10+ days at the mercy of disinterested management! At least at a hotel or hiring a taxi you can walk out and go somewhere else...
#10 Dec 11th, 2009, 00:06
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  • trvl_in is offline
#10
Thank you manojb and viladkarab for these reviews. The clinical detail both of you provide on the shortcomings is dryly amusing (and informative).

It is all so familiar. The delays. The absurdity. The impossible situations and no answers forthcoming. Lots of activity and nothing happening. You both remind me of V.S. Naipaul (who I love and loathe) in his descriptions of a tour on the Amaranth pilgrimage and of his visit to Kashmir (where he was tormented by small indignities inflicted by his dragoman Aziz).
#11 Jan 28th, 2010, 17:43
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  • sandesh_thakur is offline
#11
Hi all,

I Just completed South India-Bharat darshan tour of IRCTC & found exactly "word to word same experiences" as mentioned above

Addition to this, they made goof up in accomodation arrangements due to which even old age peoples hv to walk distances in mid-afternoon for alternate stay arrangements

Rest all points same as given before
#12 Feb 2nd, 2010, 19:17
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  • rushijoshi is offline
#12
Thanks Manoj and Viladkarab to sharing your expierence.

These are non regular train and hence gettin lowest priority as train has to set in current timetable. These type of trains are always late, Yesterday I was at Pune station and a 7 Coach train arived from a Ashram Special Train(at Jodhpur) which arived 9 Hours late. Last year at Jabalpur a Student Special train arived 18 hours late.

I would suggest to arrange whole trip by your own where you will get good option, freedom and can choose best trains as well.

I am agree that IRCTC/IR should provide special coach and comfort for this type of journey.

Regards
Rushi
#13 Nov 23rd, 2010, 17:22
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  • hello4joy is offline
#13

Bharat Darshan train IRCTC

HI, I am interested in traveling on the IRCTC Bharat Darshan train starting from Madurai T.N on 22dec going to GOA,Jaipur,Delhi,Agra and Hyderabad ending 05Jan at Madurai..
I am planning to board nd deboard ex Trivandrum.
Its a 2nd class (Cattle class) trip all the way fed by Veggie food for 14days and accomddation in the train and Dormitories.
My family backed out as they cant take this trip esp in the winter Xmas-Nes years time.
Can somebody please give me some valuable tips???
Should I or should I not venture out on this trip (which i love to be a paricipant then afraid about the whole show reading the reviews in this forum..

Please help me
thank you
#14 Nov 29th, 2010, 09:12
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  • livinhimalayas is offline
#14
If I were you I wouldn't do it - especially after reading the above experiences.
He that would live in peace and at ease must not speak all he knows or all he sees. - Benjamin Franklin
#15 Mar 22nd, 2012, 19:50
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  • asishdas is offline
#15
The last post in this thread was dated 29--11-10 which is more than one year back. I am sure during this intervening period the IRCTC must have run many more "Bharat Darshan Trains" for different parts of our country. I wonder whether any of our fellow IMers have traveled in such trains recently, and if so, I would appreciate if he/she share his/her trip experience with us on this thread. Thanks you.

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