Home > India 2012 > In and Out of the Tourist Bubble

In and Out of the Tourist Bubble

(Still catching up on a few posts written in India. This one was drafted en route to Kerala from Udaipur on Aug 20).

We’ve been tourists before in our lives, but only for short stints; usually our travels have been to visit friends and family. Certainly we’ve never had a formal program such as the one our travel agent, Surya Kathpalia, put together for us here in India. All hotels, transportation, guides, and “transfers” have been seamless. “Transfers” involve a person meeting us at a given point and accompanying us until we’re checked in to the next hotel or house boat, or in the case of the train, until we’re seated in our cabin. It feels a bit like we’re children being handed off to the next responsible adult. It’s odd but not unpleasant.

In the train station, though, it was essential. We had wanted to experience the famed Indian train system, so our travel agent booked us on an overnight train from Jaipur to Udaipur. The ticket said 1A class–the top level of service. But the station was overwhelming. We arrived at 9:45 for a 10:30 departure, and there were people everywhere. Many of them were sitting or lying down in various places; they appeared to be there for shelter rather than transportation, but there were lots of people there with suitcases, too. We were taken to a lounge for first class travelers. It was somewhat better, perhaps equivalent in ambiance to the Durham bus station. After a while we were led to a platform that looked to be a quarter mile long. Our guide found the correct place for us to stand, and there we stayed for 3 hours as the train was repeatedly delayed in small increments. After a while we got seats on the platform, so that part wasn’t too bad.

For a good part of the time, we were reluctant to call attention to ourselves by taking pictures, but after a couple of hours I did snap this one.

From time to ttime, people would walk over to the track and throw trash on it. And at other times, people would go down onto the tracks and pull things out. It was disconcerting to see rats running around down there, but at least they didn’t come up on the platform. The guide stayed with us the whole time, and I must say we did feel like children who needed adult guidance. Here he showing Pakis some pictures of hs son. The boys in the background were just curious, perhaps about the I-phone.

 

When the train arrived, there was more confusion. It turned out we had to walk a little ways down the platform, and then the guide found a paper plastered to the side of the car. It had names and compartment numbers on it, and though we initially missed ours in the list, we later realized it was there.

We climbed aboard and found that our compartment had 4 bunks. There was a young American couple already in it. They solved the awkwardness of sharing sleeping quarters by never acknowledging our presence. Since it was 2:00 am, we went to sleep quickly. By mid-morning we arrived in Udaipur and were met by another guide. The hotel he took us to was perhaps the most luxurious of the whole trip. Such a transition from squalor to luxury! In a way, we’re glad to have gotten out of the “bubble,” albeit briefly, but it was definitely more than we bargained for.

 

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Categories: India 2012
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