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Bangalore... and getting there...

Written on: Friday May 1st, 2009

A journal entry from: In the spiced Indian air....

I have added two blogs at once, so be sure to click back to the Hampi blog that is before this one.

Last night we embarked on a long journey to get from Hampi to Kochi in South India via Bangalore. This involves 2 overnight trains and a forced stay of 14 hours in Bangalore.  Dread. We weren't fans of massive Mumbai and expected to have the same feeling in Bangalore.

First of all... the train. Our first experience with the Indian Rail. Wow. I have composed a list of rules to follow when riding the Sleeper class train (of 5 classes, this is the 2nd from the lowest...i.e. not good). 

1.  When finding your seat, pay attention only to the embossed seat numbers, not the numbers marked in permanent marker that locals call "the new number system". To do so will save much confusion.

2.  Be sure to bring a sheet or something to lay over the "bed". Believe it or not, but it used to be blue... even though it now looks blackish/brownish. This is partly due to newspaper that locals lay out to sleep on.

3. Pee before you get on the train. Otherwise you will have to hold your breath while in the toilet since apparently the floor is to be used to pee on, not the hole.

4.  Prepare yourself mentally for giant locusts. Apparently they like to travel too! Also, do not stare for too long when you see one sitting on a man's crotch. This can be misinterpreted as a come-on.

5. Bring a facecloth for the morning and be perpared to throw it out after using it. All of the dirt from the train will surely collect on your face.

It was an interesting experience to say the least!  But nonetheless, I am happy to have done it!  It was definitely a bit of a shock to us, since our only other experience of sleeper trains was in Europe. Much different!  It's good to keep in mind people live their every day life travelling in this way (and even worse as there is one class below ours and you can't even lay down and the seats are wooden slats).  So all in all it was an eye opening experience... that we have to experience again tonight when we catch our final overnight train to Kochi. I must say I feel very very very lucky that we have a choice on how we travel.

Needless to say, we have changed our mind about taking the 42 hour train from kochi up to varanasi in a week's time. I think we will splurge for a flight since upgrading to 1st class is the price of a discount airline ticket.


Bangalore was actually a surprisingly nice city. It is India's IT capital, and you can see the relative affluence compared to other Indian cities. The streets are a bit cleaner and there are a greater number of nice office towers and executive hotels.  We visited a lively and crowded fresh produce market where we bought a bunch of mini bananas and a kilo of juicy oranges to enjoy for only 70 rupees ($2).  The market also sold an array of herbs, flowers, veggies and small household items. I just love experiencing things that are in a local's daily life. 

We also spent some time in a gorgeous botanical garden where we posed for more family portraits and ate some indian snacks (curry cornflake type things mixed with rice crispy type things... also bbqd corn seasoned with curry salt and lemon). The rest of our day we spent in Cafe Coffee Day which is a relatively high-end western style cafe. Our bill came to a staggering 1200 rupees ($30) for 2 sandwiches, 2 specialty coffees and 2 cheesecakes. To you at home this won't seem like much. But many indians don't make this much in a whole month. Even for us when eating at a restaurant we usually only spend 600 rupees for 2 indian dishes, rice, naan and wine!!! And that is fancy! We also didn't want to leave the bathroom there. It was like stepping into a bathroom at home! So excited!! Nice faucets, normal toilet, automatic soap and hand dryer! Of course as an indian touch there is a spray hose they use to wash themselves after going to the bathroom, and I was sooo close to having a quick shower with it. Please don't laugh and keep in mind my last shower was 24 hours ago, then add another dirty train ride and another 16 hours before I can have a shower. 

A few things I have noticed here that have urked (sp?) me a bit. First, the little boys speak english since they go to english school, but their sisters do not since they are sent to indian school. Second, men riding motocycles wear helmets but they do not give helmets to their children or wives. Third, when speaking to a seemingly well-educated and intelligent man about his 26 yr old daughter being a teacher, he shrugged his shoulders when we said he must be proud of her. Then he proceeded to tell us about his brother's 4 sons who are "very intelligent". It was a shocking contrast in his attitude. Such a difference in culture to ours. That is all I will say about that. 

So I leave you with that..we are off to the train station to try to find the correct platform...then the correct train car....then the correct seats. This may or may not be an easy task. Wish me luck...i think it will turn out better since I can now follow my own 5 rules of riding the Indian Railway. 


From Mom on May 1st, 2009

Hmmm! THe 5 rules - nasty. I am sure it makes you appreciate the CHunnel train and the lovely sandwiches! Glad you are having fun.

From Gram on May 8th, 2009

I love the flowers do they buy them by the dozen or what I think that underpass planting is a good idea it looks nice.