For many, train travel in India can be a harrowing experience. But for London-based journalist Monisha Rajesh, whose 100-odd train rides across the country culminated into the book Around India In 80 Trains, it was like tripping in bogey wonderland. Here, she reveals her favourite train rides, routes, on-rail breakfast and railway retirement rooms. Hop on!
Next Stop, Retirement?
When hopping from one city to the next, bear in mind that hotels and hostels aren’t the only option. Railway retirement rooms, like the trains themselves, can vary from immaculate to downright inhumane, but if you want to test them out, Mysore Junction houses some of the finest around. They’re offered on a first-come-first-served basis and comprise beautiful old bedrooms with arched windows, billowing curtains and marble floors.
If you’re up for a little adventure, take a passenger train from Jammu Tawi station up to Udhampur – the northernmost tip of the Indian Railways. The journey takes you through the Himalayan foothills, rattling over gorges furrowed with rivers of chocolate milk and balding riverbeds piled with rocks. But the key accompaniment to your journey should be a stack of omelette sandwiches which you can pick up at Jammu Tawi station’s restaurant. It provides the fluffiest omelettes on the Indian Railways: inch-deep with two springy pieces of bread and a healthy swipe of ketchup which you will be grateful for when you reach the end of your journey and find Udhampur isn’t the most happening town. Stay on board, eat your sarnies and head back to Jammu.
Luxury trains aren’t considered to encompass the true Indian train experience, but that isn’t to say they aren’t worth a look-in. The Palace on Wheels is far from the only princely carrier, and in fact, it’s quite old and run down now. The Golden Chariot – which runs across Karnataka – offers a unique alternative to the clichés of Rajasthan’s Golden Triangle. It begins in Bangalore and passes through Mysore, Hassan, Hampi, Badami and Shravanabelagola, ending in Vasco da Gama in Goa. The food is wonderful, the service sharp and attentive and the service is popular with Indian families rather than baseball cap-wearing tourists.
Ditch The Rajdhani, Go Duronto
When travelling between large cities, especially for overnight journeys, forget the Rajdhanis and opt for the new fleet of Duronto Express trains for an all-round excellent service. Introduced in September 2009, the non-stop trains are faster and cleaner, offering more comfort and space with the added benefit of being derailment-proof. However, they aren’t cheap. Going from Pune to Delhi in a Duronto would cost Rs 1,455, while a general class ticket in the Jhelum Express, between the same cities, would be Rs 234. But it’s still a bargain compared to airline travel. The most expensive train ticket between Delhi and Chennai, on the Duronto, is Rs 4,125 compared with a flight at Rs 7,375 on SpiceJet.
One Man-dovi Show
Finally, if you have a day to while away, take the Mandovi Express along the Konkan Coast. There are speedy Jan Shatabdis and regular mail trains that cover the route, but the Mandovi Express leaves Madgaon at 8.30 am arriving in Mumbai at around 9.45 pm, giving you a full day to dangle out of the doorways as the train crawls through coconut groves, and shoots across bridges above the sea– not to mention the excellent chicken spring rolls and biryani served on board.
|< Prev||Next >|