Monday, 12 July 2010

Touristing in India

As I still had some days of vacation left to spend I asked Jira whether she would be interested in joining me to go down south India to Tamil Nadu and meet Richard who was on his annual leave also. She said yes and we spent a week getting her Indian visa made. Cost was abt 4000THB via a travel agent, at least it saved us the time and hassle to go up to Bangkok and in the end I think it would have been more expensive.

Maharashtra paddy fields

Another problem was to get a flight ticket to India that would have cost triple the amount on my flight (Thai airways) but I found a same priced ticket as mine at Malaysian airways. So, kudos for them for flying people around cheaply and none for Thai trying to extort the max from their own people. Only minus was that we had to travel separately, then I also had to arrange train tickets from Mumbai to Trivandrum, return was easy but the departure we were on the waiting list. Thanks to Saini we managed to get those tickets as well all in rupees as we did not use foreign tourist quota (they have to pay hard currency).


I arrived about an hour before Jira to Mumbai without any hassles and was waiting for her to land. After awhile she found me albeit I had been keeping a keen eye on the stream of people coming out of the airport. Then it was on to queuing for the pre-paid taxi to Khargar as we had agreed on staying at Saini's pad for one night. We arrived at midnight so it was just hello, shower and sleep for Jira. I sat up with Saini and discussed some job things.


Next morning 10th July we had to leave early again for Kurla train station. The weather looked good but halfway to the station it started raining, of course our luggage was on the roof of the taxi as the dickey (boot) was taken up by the LPG tank. We arrived the station about an hour earlier of departure and found our seats confirmed on the tatkal scheme (short notice quota) and even beside each other in 3rd tier A/C. Dubey was escorting us and kept an eye out for bag snatchers, we found our compartment and settled down for the 1800km journey to Trivandrum.

In Kerala, note the lungis

Soon enough the Netravati Express train left on time and we were on our way. I called up Richard letting him know of our arrival. Soon enough the vendors (all licensed) started running up and down the aisles selling tea, coffee etc. This was not like the Rajdhani Express where all was included in the ticket, here everything went on cash payments. Lunch time came and we opted for the non-veg which was ghee rice and fried chicken with dhal.

Kerala landscape

Soon enough we passed Panvel, the last suburb of Mumbai and the Maharashtrian countryside spread out on both sides of the rail. Everything was as green can be with all the monsoon rains continuously pouring down. Peasants could be seen ploughing their paddy fields with Oxen and planting rice. Waterfalls and rivers cut the scenery at steady intervals. Soon it was dark and nothing could be seen. Dinner was served later and we had the non-veg option which was chicken and ghee rice with dhal. Then we made our beds and I pushed Jira up and I slept myself down below.

Netravati Express

Next morning we got up at at first light, same as all other passengers. Soon enough the chai wallas came around and other wallas selling Pao's and Samosas for breakfast. The train made breakfast had the non-veg option that was a few slices of bread and a fried egg. The sun came up after the rainy Maharashtra and we were in Kerala already. One could see men walking around in their lungis and the script had changed.

Netravati Express

As the day went by we came more south and the landscape had more rivers crossing the rails. We also could see more in land lakes that are called backwaters as many are accessible from the sea. The day was really long and the train was running late due to having slowed down the previous night, also in Kerala this train was stopping at every station. Finally we arrived around 8pm and at the platform we were met by Richard and his son Ashley. Soon enough we were ushered into a white Ambassador taxi and off we drove towards Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu.

It was dark already so there was not much to be seen except at times big crowds of men gathered around wine shops getting their evening fix. We passed the border into Tamil Nadu and the road became narrower and interestingly the roadsides became littered with hospitals. After about an hours drive later we arrived Nagercoil and the taxi drove to Hotel Canaan. The reception area was full of Jesus pictures and bible quotation that I got a feeling of being in a church than a hotel but nevertheless it was a hotel. We had some late dinner and settled down for sleep.

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