Edwin's Indian train tour 2016...

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#1 Sep 5th, 2016, 23:39
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#1
I would like to know if it is possible to start a new journal, and retain the existing one?
I didn't know where to best post the above question, but as a fan of Indian train travel, I thought here as good as any place?

(Please move to correct place if required!)

Also, I would like to post some daily bits and bobs, extracts from my journal, and am unsure of the best home for such readership?

My Journal.

Welcome to the story of my visit to India, September 1st 2016.
My name is Eddie, I live in Nottingham, UK, and I am aged 64, so far as I can remember...
I was unsure about making this trip, as I have had a few health problems in the last year, and am feeling a tad less robust than before.
After some mental debate, I decided to take the plunge, after all, what is the worst that can happen? They do a rather nice funeral service at Varanasi, so I hear !

I flew from Birmingham to Trivandrum, via Dubai, same as last year's visit. The flight from Dubai to Trivandrum was full, a big surprise, as it was half empty last year. I did not sleep very well the night before I left home, and I was rather tired on arrival in India.
The idea behind arriving in the south, Trivandrum was to see the monsoon greenery, and maybe a little of the monsoon deluge itself.

Very quick immigration check, I had a regular visa rather than an e-visa, as I expect to stay longer than 1 month.
Quite surprised to find that India requires scanning of hand luggage after Immigration control, before you exit to the baggage claim area. A long wait for my bag to come through and then I was free to go.
A quick visit to the "pre-pay" taxi window, a pre-pay system where you pay the driver??

I had thought to try the Chaithram hotel where I stayed last year, as it is near the train station, and cheap, but instead splashed out on a little luxury for my first night in India instead.
Very nice hotel, clean and modern, with good wifi connection too.
I had just reached my room when the phone rang, it was reception to tell me that a general strike had been called for next day, September 2nd, and there would be no taxi or bus transport operating, and shops and businesses would be closed too...
Not feeling too chuffed with the prospect of walking to the station with my luggage, I was also concerned about whether my train would even be running. In India it is best to go with the flow, so I had a sleep and put off worrying about things that I would not be able to change, and left events in the laps of the multitude of Indian gods!

I did not venture out on my first day here, simply due to fatigue. I slept and relaxed in air-conditioned comfort.

Friday 2nd. September.

I awoke to an eerie calm, and thought for a moment that I had gone deaf! No, old chap, just the strange lack of constant honking and hooting of traffic that is the norm in India, which was due to the strike taking place.
Looking out, I could see folk walking, a few private cars and motorbikes, but no taxis, auto rickshaws, buses or lorries.
This area has a left-leaning electorate, so the strike call was upheld much more than in some parts of India.
I had a very nice breakfast and took a walk to the station to scout out the train situation, as well as to check the walking distance. It was not far after all, so that was good news. I bought a few bottles of water at the station, as most shops were closed, and the rail staff confirmed that the trains were not affected by the strike, which was more good news.
(Left alone, these Indian gods do help out, it seems... )
Saw quite a few hammer and sickle red flags flying, and a well organised demo of workers marching for better wages.
With no transport and everything shut, it was not a day for going out and about, so back to the hotel again.
I arranged a late check out, and set about re-packing. Despite wishing to travel light, I seem to have even more junk with me than last year!

Leaving the hotel with my wheelie cases, I had only walked 200 yards when an auto rickshaw pulled up with an offer I could not refuse. I was pleased to see others beginning to buzz around as evening came, I don't condone blackleg strikebreaking!

Sitting on the station platform, supping a masala chai, I was surprised to see my train being shunted in so early.
This is my first 1st class air-con Indian train ride, and although I have a ticket, the seat/berth number is not announced for 1st class until a few hours before departure.
I found the ticket inspector, and after he and several employees went into a huddle, I was given a two person room, lower berth. Best of all, the upper berth is not occupied, so I have the whole room to myself, a real luxury on Indian trains!
I was expecting the berth charts to be pasted beside the train doors, as in the past, but this was not done today.

My coach is the first on the train, just behind the engine and generator car. I put my luggage into the room and with half an hour before departure, stepped down to take a few photos of the platform and engine. I noticed the signal change to green, and with a blast of the horn, my train started to move! I was lucky to be near a door and got back aboard without trouble. Yes, dummy, the phone time display was set a half hour slow! Probably I messed it up changing time zones yesterday when I was tired, or maybe it was those Indian gods again, annoyed that I had not thanked them for smoothing my path thus far!

One drawback to being in this position on the train is that there is a strong smell of exhaust fumes in the coach from either the generator or engine. I gather that the engine changes from diesel to electric further into the journey, so that will narrow down where the fumes come from... they are most unpleasant!

Food is served soon after we set off, a slightly posh version of the second class fare, presented in china bowels rather than foil containers. I was very happy with the food, I chose the vegetarian option for all meals. The evening meal starts with soup and bread sticks, followed by a main protein item, such as paneer curry, with dahl, rice, chappaties,
curd, and finishing with ice cream, which I did not have.

Breakfast is cornflakes with hot milk, and some vegetable cutlets with diced cooked veg on the side.
The second day breakfast had some rice mounds with nuts in, and some rather sweet bright orange mounds of unknown ingredients, together with the cornflakes.
Each meal was similar, although there were minor variations to the ingredients. Lunch on the last day was great, with a dry brinjal "ladies fingers" curry.

Rather an odd experience for me to be alone on a train in India, they are often quite sold out. I did enjoy the experience, a slightly gentler introduction to India I guess!



Outside the land was very damp, green and lush in the south, clouds and mist hung over the mountains, many waterfalls seen, rivers in full flow.
I did not get to see the monsoon downpours I was hoping for, maybe it was just as well!
Moving northwards, there is a change in the climate, but still very green and fertile looking at this time. I did see a small amount of standing water in some fields, but nothing that could be described as a major flood.

I am becoming accepting of things that were startling to me on my last visit... the huge amount of rubbish lying everywhere, the train catering crew throwing bags of rubbish from the train.
I often stood at the open train door as we sped along, and found that although I could clearly see the rubbish, I was somehow blotting it out, it didn't upset me so much... maybe that is what Indians do?

It seems important to remember that no mater how colourful, exotic, challenging, strange, and fantastic India is, it is real, it is a land where folk live out their daily lives... somehow, to "try to understand India" is a pointless thing, better to just observe and enjoy, I think.

Those fumes stayed for the whole journey, and rather spoiled the 1st class experience for me. Although they probably helped me to sleep soundly, I can't afford to loose many more brain cells!

Up Next... "How to pay taxi prices for an auto rickshaw, without even trying" !

(Please scroll down for next entry entitled "Did you just order a $5 shake" )
Last edited by aarosh; Sep 6th, 2016 at 23:59..
#2 Sep 6th, 2016, 00:39
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#2
Quote:
I would like to know if it is possible to start a new journal, and retain the existing one?
Go to your existing journal, on top there is a button 'New entry'.

Happy traveling
#3 Sep 6th, 2016, 00:41
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#3
Mas photos por favor
"Travel is fatal to prejudice,bigotry and narrow-mindedness" Mark Twain
#4 Sep 6th, 2016, 00:42
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#4
Thanks for sharing your journal!

I agree, it would be very odd to wake up in India to a quiet street. I am glad to hear that your train was not canceled and that you didn't get left behind while taking pictures.

Looking forward to the next post.
#5 Sep 6th, 2016, 00:48
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#5
My idea of a journal is that it should read from start to finish... I think the I.M. journal page posts new entries at the top.
Last year, (with my existing one) I simply "edited it" and added my new updates to the end each time, so it read in chronological order.

I will have a play around and see what I can do

Thanks for the good wishes, vonkla and everyone !
#6 Sep 6th, 2016, 00:59
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Originally Posted by OldandRambling View Post Quite surprised to find that India requires scanning of hand luggage after Immigration control, before you exit to the baggage claim area.
It's called Customs---your country has Customs too. They want to see if you are bringing in prohibited or taxed items (e.g. liquor, gold). Your checked baggage may have been x-rayed too, except it was done out of your sight.

PS A suggestion to improve your trip report: you might want to mention where your train is going, or where you are going.
#7 Sep 6th, 2016, 09:14
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#7
Thanks for the report, Eddie. Nice to see you back in India again.
#8 Sep 6th, 2016, 09:22
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I do get how customs work, we passed through the customs area after we collected all our bags. It was very odd to find another line of passengers to get through as soon as we passed the immigration officer, before we collected bags and reached customs...
I can understand India has a need to protect itself from attack, this seemed much more about security than customs, but maybe both are related in this case.
No worries, just a bit different, and it seemed noteworthy

Ok on the journal tip, I will take that on board in future.

Cheers,

Edwin.
#9 Sep 6th, 2016, 09:38
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Originally Posted by OldandRambling View Post I do get how customs work, we passed through the customs area after we collected all our bags. It was very odd to find another line of passengers to get through as soon as we passed the immigration officer, before we collected bags and reached customs...
I can understand India has a need to protect itself from attack, this seemed much more about security than customs, but maybe both are related in this case.
No worries, just a bit different, and it seemed noteworthy
I understand now, you expected that Customs would be done all at once. Instead, they x-rayed hand luggage before you collected your checked luggage. Well, that's India for you, they've been doing this for decades.

Come to think of it, in the airport I fly to most often, they don't x-ray hand luggage any more. In fact they've also stopped requiring Customs forms. Only the immigration form (for foreigners) with no Customs section. And, of course, no forms at all on departure (for foreigners). Ah, the joys of the modern age.
#10 Sep 6th, 2016, 10:04
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#10
Eddie, great post, and the background about yourself was good.

You are right hand baggage does not normally get checked again.
Hope you have a great trip.
Lord, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those people I had to kill because they pissed me off.
#11 Sep 6th, 2016, 10:44
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#11
Great reading Eddie. At last someone to rival Drew's reporting. Enjoying it very much. Watching for the next installment. Cheers. Zamba.
#12 Sep 6th, 2016, 19:32
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#12
Daily bits and bobs as you travel are fascinating, Ed.

Who cares the destination, it is the journey that counts.

Kindness is like snow - it beautifies everything it covers
(Kahlil Gibran)
#13 Sep 6th, 2016, 23:48
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#13

Is that a 5 $ shake you just ordered?

H. Nizamuddin station serves the south of Delhi, and it is where my Rajdhani from Trivandrum terminates.
Porters jump aboard the train even before it has come to a stop, and try to get your business. I was happy to accept the offer... there is a steep bridge to negotiate to reach the taxi rank. Haggling is required to get a fair price... The porter started at Rs 300, and we settled on Rs 100, probably still more than I should have paid, but worth it to me.
A taxi offer before we even get to the footbridge is a bit unofficial, once we get out of the station he suggests Rs 700 to get to my hotel near New Delhi station. A slightly long negotiation includes him suggesting I go to a different hotel, he will take me for "Indian price only" and he will get commission... (who will foot the bill for his commission I wonder quietly to myself?)
I got a taxi last year for Rs 250, so I was not going to pay more. Eventually he gave up on me, and one of the crowd of “helpers” said “I will take you for Rs 250” Great I think, I have won this small battle! Not so! He turns out to be an Auto Rickshaw driver, not a taxi. So I paid a taxi price in the end, for an Auto Rickshaw. India wins again!
Not a problem, I find auto rickshaw trips to be slightly terrifying, but never boring.
The drivers do have an amazing ability to find any tiny road space, to squeeze between cars and buses, and although it all seems chaotic, it kind of works well, mostly...

I was pleased to remember the location of the hotel, and after guiding the driver through the bazaar road, we arrived in due course. (Odd to be in due course, we were heading for Delhi...)
Check in straightforward, just the usual passport forms and signatures. “Pay when you check out”. Suits me!
I was shown an unsuitable room at first, but the second was much better... I can get the full benefit of the passing traffic honking every 30 seconds, in case I doze off...
Only joking, I tend to get used to the “neighbourhood hubbub” which recedes into the background almost unnoticed, except for the occasional shrill blast or a louder shout than normal.
The gent who shows me to my room asks if I require any beer, and I think, “why not?”, and order a couple of cold Kingfisher beers to put in the fridge for later. 10 minutes later, I feel much refreshed, having liberated the first one.
Arriving on Sunday evening, I just bought some bottled water and chilled out in the hotel.

Most museums and major monuments are closed on Mondays.
I took a walk through the main bazaar road up towards New Delhi train station, as I wanted to book some additional trips. I love all the variety of small shops selling brightly coloured tat. I called in to a money changer, but he wanted to deal in an unlighted dingy office, so I backed away from him. My second attempt was better, and I changed some sterling for only 13% less than I would have got before “Brexit”... Grrrr !

I was asked for my ticket by someone as I got near the station, and I recognised some scam in the offing. I simply told him to “F*** Off” and walked on. Good job he was not a plain clothes policeman!
Got my tickets sorted out at the tourist department, it was fairly busy which was a surprise, as it is still quite early in the tourist season.
I assisted several lost souls who did not know about taking a numbered ticket, and filling in the “carefully placed out of sight” forms. I only knew myself from my visit last year.
A great service to one and all would be a “greeter” who could point folk in the right direction from their arrival at the department.
Funny though, the folk I helped just ignored later arrivals, even though it was obvious they needed the same guidance... They probably thought it was this weird old bloke’s job!

I walked from the station into the centre of Delhi, Connaught Place, and tried to shelter from the sun under the colonnades of Mr. Lutyens grand design. I had a good walk around and then thought of food. I noticed a branch of the united coffee houses and stepped inside. Last year I ate at another branch, and became ill... I honestly don’t know that it was from that meal or not, but felt I needed to confront my fears of getting ill again head on.
I was expecting a snacky type place again, but this was very up market, with lovely chilly air conditioning.
Very varied menu, but rather pricey too. I had a most enjoyable meal, in the company of much posher folk than me, and of course, I did not get ill... I hope to go back again tomorrow.
I only had a small meal, and a bottle of water, very nice, but it cost almost as much as a night in my hotel... which is where the title of this comes in, from the film “Pulp Fiction”
when John Travolta is stunned by the price of a milk shake !

A well fed stroll back to the hotel and a few hours chilling. I had another wander around the streets nearby later, snapping many pics of all and sundry, then back to the hotel for a fairly early night.



Today I went to the National Rail Museum, by auto rickshaw. My third visit, I love the old relics rusting away in the sunshine! One can almost see how the mechanical beasts worked, the rods and cylinders, the engineering... Rather different from today’s sleek trains.
Another reason for this visit was to purchase the elusive Great Indian Railway Atlas, which I am pleased to say I accomplished.... Hmmm, now, where shall I go next...?

Tomorrow I anticipate a small amount of culture, and a large lunch !

Cheers for reading, more to follow, after it happens... When Worlds Colide
Last edited by aarosh; Sep 12th, 2016 at 00:26..
#14 Sep 7th, 2016, 04:51
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#14
Great reading, I wish you success in your travels.
#15 Sep 7th, 2016, 06:40
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#15
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Originally Posted by OldandRambling View Post I was asked for my ticket by someone as I got near the station, and I recognised some scam in the offing. I simply told him to “F*** Off” and walked on. Good job he was not a plain clothes policeman!
Good on ya!

Por favor, mas fotos!
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