A Travellerspoint blog

India - First Train Trip to Pondicherry

Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu

sunny
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Renee - Train Trip

We thought we would stay in Chennai for a day so we could check the bollywood film studios close by but after doing a quick hotel search near the centre of Chennai, we decided the rooms were a bit filthy and decided to train it out of town to Pondicherry. I love the train stations. Long long solid trains in a station that seems to come from an era ago. Old classy signage, hand painted wooden board timetables, waiting rooms with dull fluorescent lights flickering, small barred booths to purchase your ticket, people sitting on their ‘old school’ luggage bags and an air of patience not normally found elsewhere in the world at train stations. We did chuckle at the old computer from the 70s with 6 buttons used to check the timetable and seat availability.

Taktal - Means tickets that are only made available within 2-5 days of departure for AC reservations. On any day it will give a number of taktal tickets available for the next few days, you have to search each day to see which day they fall on. It was confusing for us as we asked some locals what it meant.

Train to Pondicherry

Train to Pondicherry

Nothing was available in the AC classes so we decided to go for cattle class which still had to be reserved. This involved filling out a complete form on every detail mentionable needed. Then we were given a ticket. As the train pulled in we were in a flurry as to where we can sit on the 18+ carriages. The women train police with big sticks had a huge presence and were using their sticks on some naughty Indians sneaking through the windows. I braved it and asked a few as where to go. Eventually we figured out we had to go down past 12-15 carriages to find ours. We didn’t have seats together so there was another flurry with other passengers trying to swap seats as well. I quickly went and got some train snacks (cake and biscuits) and tea from the platform for lunch only to realise that men would be constantly running up and down with screaming snacks, tea, coffee, biriyani… you name it. We started chatting to some proud Tamil locals who were interested in the general stuff and why Aussies don’t like Indian students in Australia. Tough one to answer but it was a question asked frequently. I wanted to say that its not racially motivated cos it’s not just Indians getting hurt, considering the other stabbings in Melbourne but that doesn’t really help my argument unfortunately. Everyone seems quite proud of their state and are keen to find out how you find the people and the land there etc. Can’t quite compare this to Australia where the only difference is what you call the size of your beer, oh and the weather. We found out Kerala state is a socialist state which makes us wonder what the federal powers would be.

We quickly learnt that many train stations don’t have signs telling which station you’ve arrived at. How I’ve taken for granted signs in western countries. Thankfully the locals helped us out and told where to get off. Not sure why I received some greasies off some of the other local passengers.

Look who'd driving

Look who'd driving

Posted by wheretonow 12:53 Archived in India Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

India - Chennai, Tamil Nadu

sunny
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Gerard:

Chennai
How much are your first impressions of a country moulded by your arrival at the airport? Judging by this arrival, India should be as manic as expected. The pilot (well maybe the auto pilot because it was an exceptionally smooth landing) had barely got the plane on the ground when nearly everyone had jumped out of their seats, yanked their bags from the overhead lockers and bolted for the door. Within seconds of touching down the aisle was completely chocker’s and the plane echoed to the chime of ring tones and received messages. The poor cabin crew tried in vain to encourage people to return to their seats until the captain switches off the fasten seat belt sign. This should be fun! Six weeks in India, spending four weeks finding our own way around on two big ol’ Royal Enfield motorbikes, a wedding, Christmas, New Years, a solar eclipse and no real plan or idea of how to go about it - fantastic!

Riding the Rickshaws

Riding the Rickshaws

The arrivals terminal in Chennai was pretty orderly, then we stepped outside. People, luggage, trolleys, cars, buses, bikes everywhere, all performing this dance of ordered chaos. We chickened out at the very first hurdle and booked a taxi to take us to a hotel, thinking that battling India could wait till tomorrow. Kinda glad we did to be honest, it was a pretty cool old taxi, an ‘Ambassador’. Traffic was crazy, the roads were completely choked with cars, buses, truck, bikes, rickshaws and the odd cow, but somehow it manages to slowly keep crawling along. Maybe its skilful driving or courteous road usage, or maybe it’s the use of the footpath or wrong side of the road to get you where you’re going, or maybe, just maybe, it’s all about the horn. After one drive across town Chennai its clear your vehicle does not need to meet any environmental emission standards, does not need working lights or indicators, rear vision mirrors are of minimal practicality, nor are there any standards of the type of load to be carried (other than as much as possible), but what you do need is a horn that works and a sixth sense to know when to get out of the way of a bus. The horns are relentless, the buses are plain scary. When it comes to who has right of way, the rule is “might has right”, and buses are the biggest fish.

Cows in the street

Cows in the street

One striking thing about checking into our hotel was how much marble they use. The hallways - marble, the bedroom floors - marble, the bathrooms - marble. The other great thing about this hotel, was the restaurant attached to it. Paneer masala, aloo gobi baretha, and the breads, naans and parantha tonight - oh so good. After that feast we need a walk (and a bottle of water) so we hit the streets. It was about 8:30pm and the place was alive. There was a small temple outside our hotel where there was some sort of ceremony going on, lots of people, food, lights, noise and tea stalls. Having a Chai is such an Indian thing to do we couldn’t miss our first opportunity. There is a lot of theatre that goes into the process of making a cuppa and they are not the cleanest of kitchens, but that’s all part of the fun. And it’s a pretty powerful brew they make, hot, milky and very, very sweet. We grab a couple of small glasses of tea and toast to our first few memorable hours in India.

When there's no room for a bedside table

When there's no room for a bedside table

Renee:
Cool advertising

Cool advertising

From previous travels I knew that being female and wondering the street you could be in the minority which can be quite intimidating. But we braved it and went for a short wonder and I pleasantly surprised the street was in a flurry of men, women and children especially near a small worshipping temple. We couldn’t wait to order our first tea/chai and it was worth every 5 rupee (about 8cents). I didn’t realise then but the first hotel set an example of what was to come, being told to ’sit’ insistently upon immediate arrival.. ’sit, sit, sit, come sit, why don’t you sit, come sir/mam sit, I take your bags, sit, sit, why you stand, sit, its good chair, sit’. Grrr. The other is urinal balls. I’ve never come across urinal balls before; here they are in the sink hole, floor drain hole, placed on top of the toilet tank, not just one but many confined in a tiny bathroom space, I was practically dreaming of toilets in my sleep as I breathed its aroma in. But I guess in many places it was better then the smell it was masking.

Smelly bathrooms

Smelly bathrooms

Posted by wheretonow 12:38 Archived in India Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

Singapore - India calling

Singapore

sunny
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Gerard:
Two things to do today, organise visa’s for Vietnam and fly to India, so of course its pissing down with rain when we have to go wandering about the streets of Singapore looking for the Vietnamese consulate office. We were forced to go hunting for an umbrella which of course once purchased made the rain stop. The consulate is in a very ritzy part of town indeed, big grand buildings with impressive fountains and huge lawns hidden behind high fences on massive blocks. They have done well for themselves, which I can totally understand after paying for a couple of very expensive visa’s. We were hoping to get everything done, signed, approved and stamped on the spot (had a flight to India to catch, so leaving passports was not an option), but instead the consulate was happy to take our money and their time over the visa’s, with any luck they’ll be ready and waiting when we get back from India. That done we had just enough time to get back to the hostel, pack, check out, suck down some rice and noodles and jump on a train out to the airport. Time to head for India, very exciting…

Vietnam Visa

Vietnam Visa

Indian Visa

Indian Visa

Posted by wheretonow 12:34 Archived in Singapore Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

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