It’s the morning of St. Valentine’s Day and I had my night’s sleep on the Mumbai to Delhi train. I’m headed to a wedding in Delhi tonight. I hadn’t planned on the train ride, but this is an adventure I will do again, very soon.
When I got to Newark, the agents told me I didn’t have a chance on the Delhi flight since it over by 20 passengers already. At the last minute everything changed and I got a BusinessFirst seat for the 15 hours flight. I arrived in Delhi last Sunday evening as planned. After two nights with Santosh and his family at their house just south of Delhi, I got up at 3:00 AM to take the early Jet Airways flight to Bangalore. The point of going to Bangalore was Aero India 2009 which is India’s national aviation exposition.
When I got to the information desk outside of baggage claim, I discovered my reservations were at a hotel two hours from the airport and almost that far from town. I canceled that one and form a small lodge in the city with a simple room and bath overlooking a garden. After I got situated in my hotel, I explored the city. It is more modern and cosmopolitan than most Indian cities and, which like most of urban India, is awash with private development and infrastructure construction. This normally beautiful city is blanketed with the dust of economic growth. On Wednesday, I took a day trip to Mysore which is a city and former capital of one of India’s princely states about 150 kms south of Bangalore. This quiet city has a wonderful palace and gardens which was the residence of the maharaja until independence in 1947. The original palace burned in the late 1800’s so the existing one is a restoration, but it is a great$ example of the lifestyle of the Indian nobility of the previous era. They don’t allow interior photos, but you can get and idea of the grandeur from the outside views.
My plan was to attend the air show for two days and return to Delhi on Saturday, but that all got changed. First, the air show was totally focused on defense and one day was enough for me. There were some things to look at, but after a dozen missiles or electronic counter measure systems, I was bored. Second, I found out the wedding was moved from next Tuesday to this Saturday. Now the pressure was on to get back to Delhi. All the flights to Delhi showed full, but I got up at 3:00 AM Friday to head for the airport and try for the first Jet Airways flight. Having now luck getting on that one, I looked for an alternative. I decided to use my only ticket and head for Mumbai since the flights looked better from there. I would have to buy another ticket from the Continental desk for the onward journey. When I arrived at Mumbai at 10:00 AM, I found that Continental opened at 5:00. That was too late for any of the open flights. I checked and found a sleeper train 5:30 that got to Delhi at 10:30 Saturday morning. This gave me plenty of time to get to the wedding and the train would be a new adventure for me.
Normally the Indian trains are sold out weeks in advance, but they hold back a quota of seats for foreign travelers. You must go to a special counter, show you passport, and pay in a foreign currency. Without this system I could never gotten a reservation. The trip has been remarkable. For around $30, I have been treated to a wonderful trip. It started with a tea service with a sandwich, sweets, and juice. Later, we had a hot dinner, the porter made my bed and I went to sleep. Mine was the upper of two bunks which, except for having to climb up, was quite comfortable. My sleep was affected by the train bobbing along the uneven tracks, rattling through the switches, and multiple station stops. It was like an airplane in light to moderate turbulence all night. I was prepared with a 180 ml bottle of Old Monk rum and some mango juice which seem to aid me in my sleep.
This morning, I planned the next stage of my adventure. When I arrive at the Delhi station, I will buy tickets to Jaisalmer and Jodhpur in western Rajasthan. I’ve discovered that the overnight train trips are a great use of time. You get the whole day to see things and there is no hotel to deal with in the night. Delhi station is approaching so I’ll write more later.