After my whistle stop tour of Delhi and a few hours sleep, I was heading to Jaipur, the Pink City, painted so to represent the colour of hospitality. Usually I stay in hostels and use public transport, however my friends had spent an entire day trying to source train tickets, and in the end had to book through our hotel. Every time they tried to buy tickets they would be told that the “foreigner ticket office” was elsewhere. The person would then direct them to somewhere unofficial which earned him commission, and you had no confidence if your tickets were accurate or even genuine.
Even when we eventually got the tickets, some entrepreneurial rogues told us the train was cancelled and sent us to the wrong platform and offered to exchange our “invalid” tickets. Lord Sugar and Fagan are amateurs compared to these guys. I would have lost valuable exploring time so I’m glad the girls opted for the accommodation, train and transfer package with the hotel. Another train tip, you have to put your bags through an airport style scanner. It’s wise for someone to supervise the bags going in and someone else to catch them at the other side. It sounds a very scathing report card for the locals, but this is all just limiting unlikely risk. I’ll get back to my (very positive!) impressions of Indian people in another blog.
I googled what “2A” carriages look like, fearful of having to sit on a shelf with bag on my lap and a chicken under each arm. The results varied and as the train pulled in I was still anxious that I was in for a very authentic journey.
How naive I was. I thought I was winning when I was given a free bottle of water. I was shocked to be served fresh tea and biscuits. I was gobsmacked to then be served a hot breakfast.
Staying on the topic of trains, we had the same anxiety about the condition of the sleeper trains. This time our tickets were “3A” class and we were worried this signified a mobile Indian jail cell. After a mad scramble to board, we were delighted to find our carriage full of other backpackers and we had sole-occupancy of nine bunks. You get sheets, a flimsy pillow and a fan above your bunk and it’s wise to sleep with your day bag under your head. I was comfy and pretty excited as I’ve never been on a sleeper train. During the night turned a bit sketchy when two guys paid an attendant to stay in our section, and sat staring at us sleeping. Maybe they just weren’t tired…
Here are some pics of the places I visited, which you can google if you think they look cool. I’d rather give mention to the overlooked Raj Mandir cinema, a beautiful Art Deco filmhouse where I saw a brilliantly cheesy Bollywood movie. Michaela happened to bring her newly-bought saree, and one of the attendants invited us into the staff room at intermission to help dress her in the five metres of gorgeous material. Such a giggle and so sweet, this is a lot more typical of Indian people.