Thursday, 22 September 2016

3 days, 2 trains, 1 city (Jaipur to Goa)

Jaipur to Goa: 22/09/16-24/09/16

How we survived two 17 hour train journeys & 12 hours in Mumbai:

Sweaty, tired and disheveled after our first 17hr train - outside Gate of India

After the craziness of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, we booked our journey onto Kerala. We we contemplating how exactly to do this journey, as the straight train down the coast is a total of about 32 hours nonstop. We wanted to see as much of India as possible, but this wasn't easy in only a month. We settled on kind of breaking up the journey, by taking a train from Jaipur to Mumbai, and then Mumbai to Goa (with 12 hours in Mumbai). I think I possibly went delusional during those 12 hours, and I'll explain why. I felt like this whole section of our travels needed its own blog post, because a train journey in India is like visiting a city all in itself. 

Trains in India: Cheap, long and full of stories

Up to this point we had been on 2 trains, both fairly short journeys, from Delhi - Agra and Agra - Jaipur. We both enjoyed the journey; getting your own bed/seat, meeting different people with varying amounts of English and amazing stories, eating the questionable train cuisine. We had to take the train to Goa as it was the cheapest option and probably most comfortable. Honestly, the trains in India have been the best on our journey so far. Saying this however, if you don't stand in the exact position on the platform where your coach will be, it's doubtful you'll make it on the train as the whole length of the train is insanely long and trying to run up the platform with an 18kg bag on your back, in the rain, might just kill you. 

Both the trains we got were night trains, which were the best type as you can kill at least 8 hours by sleeping. If you upgrade to 2nd class you get a private curtain around your bed, but staying in 3rd class you get to experience people's feet in your face, and the most enjoyable part: snoring. Apart from this, sleeping on an Indian train has been a better experience than many hostels we have stayed in, so I can't complain at all. 

Train 1 (Jaipur - Mumbai): The first of our night trains. It was remarkably on time, and we settled down to our bunks, with the curious eyes of many Indian ladies and families upon us. We haven't had any problems at all on Indian trains (with creepy old guys etc, like you find watching you on the streets), and on this train we had a nice older couple in the bunks next to us. When Bob went off to the loo (another fun train experience - you can choose between a squat loo and a 'western' loo, both filled up to your ankles in water), the older man looked at me and in very broken English said 'Beautiful. Beautiful couple. You are Diana and Charles'. Now, I don't know if he knew much about British royalty, but I don't know if being compared to those two is really the best thing. However, I laughed and thanked him as he continued the say how beautiful we were. 
Spot the difference...
Mumbai: So the first train journey went without a hitch. It was fairly comfortable, and before we knew it the 17 hours were up and we'd reached Mumbai. Maybe it was the broken sleep I had, or the lack of food, or maybe just because I'm always grumpy when I wake up, but Mumbai is up there in my list of least favourite cities. It could be because we spent 12 hours there with not much to do between trains, but it was drizzling and loud and full of traffic. The train station was probably the nicest part of the area we were in, and is even a Unesco Heritage Site, which made it interesting. 

The pretty Mumbai Railway Station
We left our bags at a luggage drop in the station (thank God for that, else we would have been even more miserable walking around the city) and set off to get some breakfast. The streets outside were manic, so the little McDonalds across the road caught our eye, and we went to get some much needed food. After using the WiFi and refuelling, we set off to explore. It seemed somewhat calmer than Delhi, but reminded me a bit too much of London, with the grey atmosphere, huge buildings and masses of people + traffic. We walked up to the Gateway of India, a now tourist attraction built in honour of the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary, built in 1924. It was nice to see,and an amazing place to people watch. We sat for maybe an hour or two opposite the gate, watching photographers trying to get people to take and buy their photos and lots of tourists and locals taking selfies. 

This is also where we encountered the phenomenon of people wanting to take our photos. Whilst walking across the square, a group of local teenagers cam up to us with a selfie stick and a phone. I thought they would as us to take a group photo of them, but no. They wanted selfies with us. We took maybe 4 photos with them, and then they said goodbye and left. I found this so strange - who would want a photo with 2 random, sweaty, red British people. Are the going to put them on Facebook? We were then asked to take maybe 4 or 5 professional photos with different families, and older women. We later learned that it's apparently looked highly upon if you have a photo with a Westerner in your home; something I still don't really understand. 

Mumbai's British influence - the
Taj Mahal Palace hotel
After exhausting the gate and the streets around it, we still had about 6 hours to kill. After wondering what to do now, we decided we would see a movie. The best way to kill time in a foreign place, when you don't have much money or any way to get about. Luckily Mumbai shows films in the original language (with English subtitles) so we went to see the Magnificent Seven. As soon as we settled into the seats, we had to get right back up again to honour India and listen to the national anthem. The film was good, apart from the added subtitles whenever anybody smoked saying 'smoking kills'. It was a cowboy movie, everyone was smoking most of the time. 

We then left the cinema, and with 3 more hours left, decided to go back to McDonalds and use the WiFi again. It was opposite the train station, and it was raining harder at this point. We walked to the cafe through a cricket ground and through the busy Bombay rush hour. By the time we had to get our train, it was pouring. Not English pouring, but Indian, monsoon season pouring. The walk to the platform wasn't exactly covered, so we had to dodge huge raindrops and puddles to get onto the train, which was then an hour late. Safe to say, we were soaked, tired, and looking forward to our bed. 

Train 2 (Mumbai - Goa): We found our seats, shoved our bags under them and settled down for another 17 or so hour journey. We were met by a group of older men walking up and down the carriage, being loud and laughing. They would occasionally sit on someones bunk to have a chat. One guy (red hair, looked like a TV presenter) sat down next to Bob. I think he was trying to speak in English although we didn't understand, and then took out some paper, drew Bob's name on it, and gave it to us like he'd just given us a piece of art. He laughed, a lot, whilst we were still looking very confused. He left, and the man sitting next to me simply whispered 'they are drunk, it's OK'. Drinking isn't a big thing in most parts of India, as it's very frowned upon by the Muslim community, so it was all very hush-hush. 

Our bed for 2 days -
more comfortable than they look
When it was time for dinner, we decided to order some train food, which consisted of a tray of rotti, rice and some sort of curry. We only got one between us as we weren't particularly hungry. When it came, the rest of our carriage looked at us sadly, maybe as if they thought we couldn't afford 2 meals (to be fair we did look a bit disheveled and tired after 12 hours stuck in Mumbai). We were then given some Indian cake, more bread, a samosa and the spiciest Bombay mix I've ever had (we couldn't eat it) by the kind people in the carriage. Again, the journey wasn't very eventful, although we arrived in Goa sleepy, hungry and with buzzing ears. 

Who knew I could write so much about a train journey?? It was possibly the longest (feeling at least) part of our travels so far so I guess there was plenty to write! 

It took us to Goa, an entirely different part of India...

Ciao!! Sarah

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