Advice Overload

#1 Jun 27th, 2005, 08:54
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  • thirdreel is offline
#1
This is kind of a "pleasant problem" to have, but it's kind of bothering me. I'm planning my trip with the help of a guidebook, the Internet and IndiaMike, and also a few friends and acquaintances in India who I chat with online. A few friends in particular are being very helpful... and, in particular, giving lots of advice.

That's where it gets tricky, because I'm uncertain how much of their advice I will take, or how much I should take. "That's not a good train to take--wait until you're here to book your tickets, and I'll tell you which trains are good." "Don't stay in that neighborhood. You need to stay somewhere nicer." They also seem to insist that I must insist on an AC room.

Some things are getting in my way. I am a high-strung American, I know I am, so it makes me feel a lot better to know I can fly in, have a hotel pickup waiting at the airport, and have a stack of prebooked train tickets waiting for me once I get to the hotel. Not that I have a lot of needs, but I think I'd be a little panicky about leaving that until I get there. So I emailed a hotel and set that all up.

In a lot of ways, I'm feeling my way on this trip, and it's a question of my needs. If I find after the first few days that I don't really need an AC hotel room, then I'll economize for the rest of the trip. If I find it really bothers me staying in a downtrodden neighborhood, I'll change to a better one at some point. (That doesn't seem too likely; I lived on Trumbull Street in Detroit for three years, after all.) But I want to make my own mistakes. If the hotel that looks wonderful and classy on its website turns out to be a dirtbag, then I want to see that for myself. If there's some experience that they expect most travelers can't handle, I want to see if I can handle it.

I'm just worried that I will look ungrateful if I don't take their advice. I worry that I'm coming across as the obstinate American. Probably I worry too much. Probably it's just impatience to get going and get there.
#2 Jun 27th, 2005, 10:21
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#2
Hi thirdreel,

Not sure if you are asking for advice, just saying things out loud or quite what. Anyway ~ its your 'trip' man, know one else's, you fall and rise on your decisions as much as you can trip up on other peoples.

One thing to ask is that you said that the hotel has organised your train bookings, are you 100% on that, just in case they said yes they would be pleased to do it, as many Indians don't like to say no and end up not doing what you anticipated they would. So you might still have a freak out on the train bookings yet, be prepared as India tends to have its own set of rules.

The only other thing that I would say is as long as you really show that you are grateful to these people for their advise and help, even though you may not be doing exactly as they have suggested it has given you some excellent help in making your plans. If you convey that, they will be happy, also ask if they will be able to help you should things fall apart as this will help them feel that they are still useful and allow you to know how they feel.

Good luck.
#3 Jun 27th, 2005, 10:26
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  • Merchant is offline
#3
All the advice goes out the window when the first blast of diesel and jasmine suffused subcontinental air hits your face. You'll find that AC in India refers more generally to a class of room than whether or not the unit will actually keep you cool. You do want AC, by the way. For a host of reasons. The upgrade to AC is the price of a cup of coffee at home. If you can smuggle a pair of needlenose plyers through airport security, you'll be able to change the temperature settings (the knob vanished in 1982). If not, you'll have full max the whole night--which is actually preferable to no AC at all.

On a serious note, if you do go without AC, you'll sweat a lot and will be prone to dehydration. Trust me on this. Drink lots of water while you're there, more than you think you need. And if you forego AC, drink twice that amount.

Otherwise, figure things out for yourself and make your own mistakes. That's the point of traveling.
#4 Jun 27th, 2005, 11:03
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#4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Merchant All the advice goes out the window when the first blast of diesel and jasmine suffused subcontinental air hits your face.


I agree! Once you get there as a newcomer, things will definetly come into picture.

AC rooms are great, especially when you are not accostomed to the climate. If you are leaving soon, it will be terribly hot in many parts of the country. AC's will save you some sweat...literally. You will be more calm, less cranky and will be able to revive in your room every night and probably will enjoy India more during the day. If you do stay in a AC room, especially those AC rooms in 2-3 star hotels, where it is not centralized AC, do make sure maintanence clears the AC filters. Especially if you are prone to allergies. AC rooms in budget hotels are not occupied as much as Non-ac rooms, so the dust buildup can be bad. No point sneezing in a cool ACed room.

Getting too much information can also be overwhelming. Maybe you can write the "biggies" down, remember some small details and forget the rest. Bad neighbourhoods in Detroit are quite different from bad neighbourhoods in an Indian city. Its just totally different. Dont count too much on train bookings, sometimes they can be unreliable. Anyways I dont know much about trains, I go to India every year and always try to travel by domestic flight or AC car. I know many first timers who would be extremely grateful to recieve the advice you've gotten. Sometimes when people are unprepared, they get overwhelmed and then end up hating on India. Now thats just not fair...But i can see you appreciate all the advice you got. Dont worry too much, I am sure nobody thinks badly of you. Most Indians anways are happy to give advice about their country. All said and done...

I would follow the words of Frou Frou ....

"Let go let go..jump in...well what you waiting for? Its alright, cause there's beauty in the breakdown"

Have a wonderful trip..India ... like no other place on earth.
#5 Jun 27th, 2005, 11:48
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  • Indojingai is offline
#5
Get the AC rooms, taxis, hotels and what not.

- It'll make you're experience more vacation like, becuase India has many
factors that can put you off. The heat, dust, poverty, pysical abuse and
the trains sometimes leave/arrive on time.
What I mean it is really going to be hard for you to appreciate the beauty
of say The Bh'ai Temple when the sun outside is 47.C. (~120.F)

- A dollar goes far longer in India than US, Japan .. all the good vacation
nice and easy places.

- It'll do our economy some good.

Like any wise traveller, take the shots, pills , different forms of money etc. all things suggested for travel to under-developed parts of the world, to end the trip safely. There is no guarantee that even after all of that you will have the most pleasent of experiences.

Great travels!
I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle.
#6 Jun 27th, 2005, 12:03
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#6

Information overload!!

Information can be found everywhere today, it's very easy to find too much information, but generally, info from a local is the best info.

A few things to remember though......(oh no, I'm going to generalise now...)

The Indians we talk to on the Internet are normally middle class or above.

They believe "If you've got money, use it". ("get air-con!", "stay in a better part of town")

They want what they pay for!! (the air-con will be put on maximum, if you walk down an air-con train carriage during the day, a lot of the curtains will be closed, I get the feeling that they have paid for curtains, so they will use them)

Middle class Indians find it very difficult to understand why 'rich' westerners would travel in Sleeper class (non air-con) on a train, or why we would travel on a slow local train when a taxi or a rickshaw would be faster or more convenient.

(I hope all this doesn't seem like I'm having a pop at Indians)

We, as tourists, feel the need to 'experience' India; they (Indians) just want to get from A to B as fast/comfortable as they can afford, then stay in the most comfortable hotel they can afford.

Some tourists will advise you to spend one day in this town, two days in that town and do it all on $10 a day, others will say that you can easily spend 6 or 7 days in one of the towns, I normally travel sleeper class and stay in hotels costing less than Rs400 a night, but sometimes I travel air con class or stay in a Rs2000 hotel, it depends how I'm feeling at the time.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, everyone offers advice on what they would do, it may not necessarily be the best advice for you.

Always remember who is offering the advice, and try to understand why they advise you the way they do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thirdreel "That's not a good train to take"
OK. Lets totally contradict all that I've said above.

Indians know their trains far better than tourists will ever know them, so when they say "That's not a good train to take", you should listen.

I was told by an Indian "donít take that train, it's dirty and it travels through Bihar during the day", but me, being the arrogant, 'know it all' tourist that I am, ignored the advice and booked the train, I was only half way through cleaning the First Class compartment when I realised that I should have took the advise, I then had 16 hours to wait to find out why I'd be warned about the train travelling through Bihar during the day.

I feel I'm just waffling now and I canít remember what the thread was about, so I'll say no more.
Last edited by steven_ber; Jun 27th, 2005 at 16:41..
#7 Jun 27th, 2005, 12:13
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#7
Steven, what happened travelling through Bihar?
Waffle on please.
#8 Jun 27th, 2005, 13:17
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#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by mira4bai4 Steven, what happened travelling through Bihar?
Waffle on please.
I was travelling from Delhi to Guwahati on the Bramaputra Mail, in my compartment was a man who worked in Delhi and was going back to his home in Nagaland to see his family, then 2 soldiers joined the train at Tundla, they were travelling from their homes in Agra to new postings in Assam.

As the train pulled into Patna station I went to the platform to get Chai and some food, I had been advised not to get off the train at Patna, but I knew best (arrogant, 'know it all') , when I went back to the compartment there were an extra 4 men sitting down and no room for me to sit.

I immediately remembered all the rest of the advice I'd been given, DO NOT argue with these people, they will throw you off the train (and they wont wait for the train to stop first).

The Naga man tried to make a bit of space for me to sit, but the new man next to him was having none of it, he actually moved a little closer to the Naga man to stop me sitting down, I climbed up to the upper berth and lay down to watch the men.

One of the soldiers said something in Hindi to one of the men, he got a very sharp, short reply and that was the last conversation any of us had with the men from Patna, the TTE came to check tickets but one of the men just spoke to him like he was a dog, never showed him any kind of ticket or ID card, and the TTE just walked away, the man then closed the compartment door, locked it, then there was complete silence until they left the train some 4 hours later.

The soldiers then told me that the men were high ranking policemen and local politicians and confirmed that I would have been thrown off the train if I'd have protested.

Bihar is also notorious for trains running late, I read a story a few weeks ago about a daily train that has been late every day for the past 17 years.

The main reason for the trains running late is that the locals just get on any train, then when it approaches their village they pull the emergency cord to stop the train, this happened a few times on our train, we lost a total of 2 hours going through Bihar.

Laloo Prasad Yadav, the train minister is from Bihar.
#9 Jun 27th, 2005, 13:30
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#9
Not just Laloo (the current one), but several Railways Ministers in the past have been from Bihar. The previous NDA govt had Nitish Kumar.
Bihar is worse than Jammu & Kashmir in terms of safety (for Indians at least). Laloo and his wife have been chief ministers of Bihar for over a decade (till recently) and totally screwed up an already messed up Bihar.
The people there think that since trains are 'public property' they can travel for free on trains. What steven_ber said is absolutely true - people stop trains at will by pulling the emergency chord, to get off at their villages. The locals do not purchase tickets but they get into the reserved compartments. No TTE (travel ticket examiner) dare check people's tickets while the train is passing through Bihar.
I once asked a senior Indian Railways manager why Indian trains do not have the quality of seats available in other countries such as UK and Germany, with cloth seats, instead of leather and so on. He mentioned that people (esp in Bihar) steal even the aluminium linings and sell for scrap, hence the govt dare not put in quality seats.

Slightly off-topic: The Chennai international airport has brand-new, swanky seats in the lounges and excellent trolleys - not the lousy ones you see in other Indian airports. Guess what - most of the new trolleys are getting stolen and sold for scrap, by the airport employees themselves.
#10 Jun 27th, 2005, 15:04
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#10
Thanks Steven, when i get to go through Bihar it will be via armoured car me thinks.
#11 Jun 27th, 2005, 18:27
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#11
Thanks for the advice, everyone. Seriously.

mira4bai4:
Quote:
One thing to ask is that you said that the hotel has organised your train bookings, are you 100% on that, just in case they said yes they would be pleased to do it, as many Indians don't like to say no and end up not doing what you anticipated they would. So you might still have a freak out on the train bookings yet, be prepared as India tends to have its own set of rules.
I'm planning to book the tickets through the IRCTC website and have them delivered to the hotel before I arrive. Suppose there are likely to be problems with that? I'm following the advice in the "Booking trains from abroad" thread here.

Merchant:
Quote:
All the advice goes out the window when the first blast of diesel and jasmine suffused subcontinental air hits your face.
Okay. So I'll prepare to be unprepared.

Indojingai
Quote:
What I mean it is really going to be hard for you to appreciate the beauty of say The Bh'ai Temple when the sun outside is 47.C. (~120.F)
True. (I can't wait to see the Bahai temple!)

steven_ber
Quote:
The Indians we talk to on the Internet are normally middle class or above.
Very true. One of my friends in particular seems very class-conscious, in ways that are difficult for me to understand as an American. I don't quite know how to convey that I'm trying to stretch my budget here without... well, looking like a spoiled rich American who's trying to save a few hundred rupees whenever I can.

Quote:
I was told by an Indian "donít take that train, it's dirty and it travels through Bihar during the day"
Hmm. That is good to know (and thanks for sharing the story). The train I'd planned to take from Chandigarh to Howrah/Kolkata goes through some of Bihar (Gaya) at night. I guess that won't be so much of a problem. I don't know if I can get from one point to the other without crossing Bihar. (And I will be doing so deliberately after I leave Kolkata, to see Bodhgaya.)

Thanks again, all.
#12 Jun 27th, 2005, 18:40
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  • Auntyji is offline
#12
Reading some posts on IM, I sometimes wonder whether I totally missed out on interesting travel experiences in non A/C coaches (when I lived in India). This always happens when I read some great posts on IM about train travel in sleeper coaches etc

Then I remember all those years when I had to put up with asthma and severe coughing on long-distance trips in non A/C trains and buses....so now I stick to A/C coaches on my trips home so I can enjoy my stay without asthma and wheezing. So yes, if you asked me, I would recommend what I do - travel by A/C II class.

Thirdreel, I feel I also err on the side of too much information/advice when non-Indian friends ask me for help because I feel I must tell them ALL, but perhaps I shouldn't do that in the future- it seems to be too overwhelming! Have a wonderful trip.
#13 Jun 27th, 2005, 19:11
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  • machadinha is offline
#13
Hi Thirdreel, apart from information overload occurring esp. with the internet these days (it can be like a disease sometimes, I know a friend of mine suffers from "emailophobia"), as a rule of thumb I'd keep a jarful of salt ready whenever general observations veer over into the "don't/do go train X*/street Y/hotel Z" kind of advice, as there's an obvious dose of subjectivity to it all. You'll find out what your personal comfort zones are soon enough once you're there, keeping all that stuff somewhere in the back of your head can provide you with a general sense of direction though esp. at first. I know I was terrified even to buy a stupid pair of plastic slippers (ca. 10 Rs. at the time) the first few days, having been inundated with advice not to be ripped off -- that's fine and dandy but it doesn't tell you what the bloody things should cost! I could have paid the "rip-off" price of 5 Rs. extra and got on with it, but so you learn as you go.

Another thing is with all the advice you'd sometimes get the impression it takes a rocket scientist to travel in India, which is really not the case. If anything the regulars on this board obviously can't stop sharing their experiences because it was mostly *fun* to them.

Have a nice 1.

*apart from to-the-point connectivity advice, as observed -- and often provided -- by Steven
#14 Jun 27th, 2005, 20:22
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#14
Quote:
Originally Posted by machadinha Another thing is with all the advice you'd sometimes get the impression it takes a rocket scientist to travel in India, which is really not the case.
So true.
#15 Jun 27th, 2005, 20:31
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  • 04274108 is offline
#15
Quote:
Originally Posted by thirdreel In a lot of ways, I'm feeling my way on this trip, and it's a question of my needs. If I find after the first few days that I don't really need an AC hotel room, then I'll economize for the rest of the trip.
I would agree to an extent and add that getting AC would depend upon when you are visiting India.

Although I cannot attest to personally, the concensus that I have gathered is that AC is mandatory during the hot summer months. However, we travelled in India in December and rode trains and slept in hotels comfortably that didn't have AC.

But again, think about what will give you peace of mind. If you feel more comfortable with AC get it. It doesn't cost that much more especially compared to the cost of not getting a good night sleep and being too tired to enjoy the next day's travels.
Last edited by 04274108; Jun 27th, 2005 at 23:54..

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