Tag Archives: train

On our way…………

As I mentioned, I recently had two dear friends come visit from the United States. In true me fashion, I totally mixed up the day they planned to arrive. So, I accidentally put us on the overnight train to Amritsar on the same day that they arrived. Now it takes a full day to get to India from the U.S., so they had not seen a bed or shower in essentially two days – the overnight train is not exactly like home. But, hey, they were a captive audience – what could they do? Thank God they also have adventurous spirits and forgiving hearts.

We started off their first day by going to Dilli Haat – a craft fair that is not too overwhelming – and Khan market – a market with a more Western feel. My thought was to “ease” them in to India before throwing them on the train.

We had a lovely day of shopping and a leisurely lunch at a place I knew they would not get sick, a place where it is even safe to have a drink with ice – they took a shower – we picked up the kids at school – ate a yummy Indian meal at home and then headed out. We were running a little behind because, heck, getting three women fed, showered, packed, and out the door ain’t easy. So we asked the driver to get us there quickly (during rush hour). Welcome to India my dear friends. We weaved and bobbed  and honked our way through 45 minutes of full-on traffic. Jet lag was hitting them hard and just as my friends would drop their eyelids, a horn would blast or the car would swerve and jostle them out of any sleep they hoped to catch.

Not too far into the ride, we had this conversation…

Ann: That car is going down the wrong side of the road.
Me:  Mmm-Hmmm. Yes, it is.
Ann: But he is kind of coming towards us.
Me: Yep. That is true – he is.

And then, let the games begin, we found ourselves on the wrong side of the road.

Our train was scheduled to leave at 7p. Most people will tell you that the trains in India are never late. So when our driver pulled in front of the train station at 6:53p, I told my buddies to grab their stuff and let’s go. I was trying very hard not to let on that I was very worried we would be too late and that I was not at all confident that I could navigate through the station, find our train, and then find our seats on the train.

We went up a very crowded stair case and then thru “security” and then down more very crowded stairs and onto the platform. I was crossing my fingers pretty sure that I could figure out what to do. Luckily there were some very helpful people on the platform. And unfortunately many curious people. Ann and Julia had never really been truly stared at before – but we fixed that right away – you could stare at them for about 10 hours straight now and they probably would not even notice.

Pretty quickly we found where I prayed we thought the train was supposed to come at 6:59p and looked up to find that the train would be about 15 minutes late. We also found our names on the list with one slight hiccup. We had purchased a ticket for Angel to reserve all four seats in the cabin for just us. Angel wasn’t actually coming with us and she wasn’t listed in our cabin. Our cabin had the name of another passenger listed.

Me: That never happens. Trains in India are never late. snicker. snicker. And passenger lists never get mixed up.
Ann: That’s okay, I can wait 15 minutes. It’s really not that long.
Me: Remember, expectations low. We’ll address the extra passenger when we get on the train.

The train station isn’t exactly clean – it is very crowded – and it feels a little unsafe if you aren’t used to it. I felt safe. But I think my visitors felt a little overwhelmed and super duper tired. I would argue that their impressions had as much to do with how tired they were as they did the surroundings – but the surroundings weren’t exactly what they were used to. There were no seats and the ground was filthy slightly dirty. Trash was everywhere. There were men not too far from us using the train tracks as a restroom. There were young children selling things. There were some older men begging. There were lots and lots of stares. And, not having a scratch and sniff blog, I really cannot begin to describe the smell of train smoke, cigarette smoke, trash, urine, body odor, and the like. Let’s just say Estee Lauder won’t be marketing it as a perfume any time soon.

I set my bag on the ground but my friends held tightly onto theirs. They were trying really hard to be patient, stay awake, and hold onto their things. The only thing I could say was “aren’t you glad you came?”

I won’t bore you with how many times we were teased with what time the train would really arrive but we finally boarded at about 8:30p for a 9p departure. We had a cabin to ourselves (the mystery passenger never appeared) and I remembered to bring a bottle of wine and some very fancy plastic cups and lots of snacks. (If you ever travel with me,  you can be pretty sure you won’t starve – I am big on the bag o’snacks. I also almost  always have diaper wipes, hand sanitizer, gum, tylenol, and toilet paper. Yes, you’ll want to sit with me on your next Indian train ride.) We sat down thankful for a place to sit. The cabin, on first inspection, did not seem too bad. But you never really want to dig too deep here. We brought our own pillows and blankets and we had wine. All is well, right? Sure. We’ll go with that. Or maybe not…………

Ann: There is something moving over there.
Julia: It might just be the light reflecting in that silver thing.
Ann: I think it is a mouse.
Me: What?
Ann: Maybe it’s just the reflection.
Ann again: No, I am pretty sure it’s a mouse.
Me: Where?
Ann: Right above your bunk.
Me: Wanna switch?
Ann: I am the guest remember?
Me: Luckily they don’t charge extra for that.

So we broke out the wine and the snacks. I accidentally dropped one of the cups on the floor of the cabin and my dear, sweet friends made sure that was the cup I was served my wine in. After all,  I am more acclimated to the region.

We ate, we drank, and we tried to sleep. I have heard that the overnight train is fantastic. I guess that depends on what you mean by fantastic. I would say it was fine. But it is very difficult to sleep. The train had a slight jerking and many stops and a pretty nasty bathroom – oh, and did I mention that there was  a mouse? So, it is fine. But we didn’t sleep much.

We got to Amritsar at about 8am and went straight to the Ista Hotel. This was the perfect introduction to the reality of India because India is full of contradictions – highs and lows. And they jumped right in. From the train station to the Ista – it doesn’t get much more extreme than that. And we all took the most fabulous showers of our lives before heading out to the Golden Temple.

More to come………..

Ooops, I did it again……………

I just got home from a 3-day field trip with 120 fifth graders, some teachers, and several other parents who did not have the good sense to not raise their hands. We rode on a train to Ranthambore in India. I never thought I would find myself on a train in India. It just was not on my list of things to do. In fact, it was pretty high on my list of things not to do.

But nothing ventured – nothing gained. Right? Right.

So, I went on the train and Flower and I got to see tigers – again.

Ranthambore is an amazing place – it is a wonderful wildlife sanctuary and has a tremendous fort. I will share more about our journey with you soon. But, right now I am going to go take a shower, eat some food I recognize, brush my teeth, go to bed, and not worry about what 120 fifth graders are doing – or not doing. 😎

More Mumbai………..

Here are some more of the sites we visited in Mumbai.

This traffic sign was a little unnerving. Just in case you cannot read it, it says “Don’t touch unclaimed articles, they could be explosives.” Yeah, welcome to Mumbai. Of course, they are cautious – they have experienced real threats of danger and actual danger firsthand. But it wasn’t exactly the salutation I was hoping for. And, yes, I left all unclaimed articles very much untouched. Thank you very much.

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We spent most of the time in the car because we just did not have that much time to get out at each stop. But, the slums are very big and overwhelming even in drive by mode.

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But of course, there is beauty too. These are the hanging gardens. If you are in a hurry, you can really skip this part – but if you just want to take a short walk on pretty grounds, this is a lovely place to do it. They have a few shrubs that are cut in to the shapes of animals which were fun to see and some beautiful flowers.

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As we were driving near one of the train stations, we saw walls and walls of graffiti. There are some very talented graphic artists on the streets of Mumbai.

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This is one of the train stations. And it is true that there are compartments that only women ride in.

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We also passed by this flower market.

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I have more to share – but I know too many photos make a slow computer, so come back soon for More, More Mumbai.

old delhi………

I have heard a lot about Old Delhi – and I finally got to go. It is not the place you want to venture out on your own for your very first visit. I never, ever felt in danger – in fact I got some of the most beautiful smiles I have seen since I have been here – but it is narrow and dusty and fast moving. It is not laid out neatly – you can easily get turned around. So, it’s just better not to go at it alone the first time. It was a super quick trip and I plan to go again – and soon. But for now, here is a little taste of what I saw.

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We rode the Delhi metro – it was loverly. Really clean and very easy to navigate. This is the way to go!

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There were lots of vendors selling food. It is beautiful but, no, I did not eat any of it.

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I loved this water pump – it seemed so out of place and so in place all at the same time. This man is washing off his broom.

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You could buy veggies. Very fresh veggies.

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And tassles. Yummy tassles.

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And you can see people working really hard.

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And animals working really hard.

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And more wires than you could ever count – in the land of technical assistance call centers – this irony is not lost.

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This guy was a great big smile just waiting to happen.

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A great big smile.

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The streets are narrow and crowded – but it is a fascinating place.

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I was offered medical books here. Too bad I don’t need medical books. There was quite a selection.

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And you know I loved the kick arse doors in this place. They rock!

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This visit was too short. I plan to go back and see the wedding district, the spice market, and the nut market. Plus whatever else the day has to offer.