Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Overland by Train Through North India

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Inspired by Paul Theroux’s railway adventures, D and I opted to explore North India by train.  We took the train from Delhi to Agra, from Agra to Jaipur, from Jaipur back to Delhi, from Delhi to Amritsar and from Pathankot back to Delhi. I’m glad we did because traveling by train across India is cheap but comfortable, frenetic yet fun and confusing yet clarifying all at the same time.

With 64,000 km of rail, 7,000 stations and 11,000 trains transporting 12 million people every day, the Indian railway, without doubt, constitutes the very lifeline of the country. Being one of the most sought after means of transportation, Indian trains get fully-booked several weeks in advance. I wanted to secure our seats early so I booked our tickets through Cleartrip two months before our travel dates.

These are the routes and the corresponding trains that we took:  


Upon arrival at the New Delhi Railway Station in Pahar Ganj, we were immediately confronted by men in uniform who looked and acted as if they are railway officials.  They asked to see our e-tickets and claimed that our train has been canceled and directed us to go to a certain Tourist Center at Connaught Place.  Clueless tourists who do not know any better would definitely fall for this ploy. They were so convincing.  But, having read about this scam while doing my research, I didn’t believe any of it, of course.  We ignored them, proceeded to our designated platform and waited for our train to Agra, the Bhopal Shatabdi 12016, which, contrary to what those men said, was not canceled.  

four-berth, air-conditioned cabin
aboard the Khajuraho Udaipur Express
After a day of struggling with crowds while marveling at the grandeur of Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, the comfort and privacy offered by our first class compartment at the Khajuraho Udaipur Express (Kurj Udz) 19665 were such a relief.  The compartment, which we didn’t have to share with others, had beds, pillows and blankets. What more can a weary traveler ask for?

We were put on waitlisted status despite having reserved our train tickets bound for Pathankot from Amritsar months in advance.  Our seats were not confirmed till our travel date so we opted to go by taxi from Amritsar all the way to McLeod Ganj in Dharamsala.  At 5,000 INR (USD92) it was a bit expensive, but we didn’t have to go through the trouble of transferring from a rickshaw to a train to a bus to a cab just to reach our destination.

food served on the train
It is also true what they say about trains providing the most unique of experiences in India: the food that was served, the people that we met, the beauty and kindness beyond the stench and the squalor, the mundane concerns of ordinary Indian men, women and children and the candor and complexity of their way of life. 

6 comments:

Arti said...

Trains are very rarely cancelled, mostly if there is heavy rain. I have myself never travelled in the 1st AC till now!! It looks fabulous.

Angeli said...

true and efficient, too! riding trains in your country is one of the highlights of our trip.

Arti said...

Yeah! Because the length and breadth of India is so large, trains are the cheapest way to get around :)

Anonymous said...

Wow! Beautiful! I almost miss traveling... hmmm, someday, someday again. hehe.. Trains are the best, they do not use much oil and they carry the most people..


Artemis :-)

Angeli said...

'almost miss traveling'.. almost lang? not completely? :D

Angeli said...

'almost miss traveling'.. almost lang? not completely? :D

 
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