Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Day 15 - 18: Delhi, Mumbai & Pune - India

Having flown from Cochin to Leh via Delhi, we wanted to do the rest of the trip by train. Our itinerary was Delhi to Mumbai (Mumbai Rajdhani), Mumbai to Pune (Deccan Queen) and Panvel to Ernakulam (Trivandrum Rajdhani). Having spent many uncomfortable nights aboard Indian trains during my college days, I was less than enthused about these 3 trains we would be taking. Of all the international train travels I have done thus far, Indian trains rank the lowest for unsanitary conditions and discomfort. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the fully air-conditoned Rajdhani trains and the level of service. Each car had a service attendant providing fresh sheets, meals, snacks, tea at regular intervals, towels and bottled water. My only gripe is the toilets continue to be unsanitary, subjecting me to pretty much fasting through the train ride. The train windows had accumulated some kind of muck, so we could barely see the scenic Konkan landscape as we sped by the coastline.

Talking about trains, T attracted curious onlookers at the stations despite his wheatish complexion which I thought would make him less conspicuous. When we stepped out of the station, auto rickshaw drivers and touts swarmed around us - till the crowd became more like a mad mob. I wish I had pictures to prove it. I admit that there is some curiosity that comes from being a mixed race couple - so I wasn't too taken aback when a cloak room attendant asked me in Hindi, "What are you doing with a white man?". There seems to be so many people just hanging around without much purpose outside these stations - odd considering that there are rarely any foreigners that ride the Indian railways.

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