Yesterday, mum and I set off on our backpacking adventure. Now, because I’m travelling with mum on this trip, I am afforded much better luxuries than I would if I was travelling on my own or with friends.
We started off at Howrah Station in Kolkata – a historic building quite reminiscent of the colonial era, quite like many others across the city. This place, and New Market, are the only places where I really remember that Kolkata is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The chaos and hustle is like no other. There are large groups gathered and waiting, many availing of the food kiosks, stocking up for their onward journeys, while others gather their families and sit on the floor waiting for their train to show up on the many boards. You can smell and feel the poverty that India is known for but this doesn’t take away from the humbling old school feeling of the city.
My mum and I traveled on the Rajdhani overnight (~17 hour) train journey in a private 1st class cabin to ourselves. I’ve attached a picture of the cabin below – it may not look like much but the service provided in these places is to die for.
Upon boarding, we were met with English-Hindi-Bengali speaking attendants and staff members who greeted us with smiling faces and a tray for evening tea. Assam tea, sandwiches, a paneer cutlet and some sweets. What more could we possibly ask for?
Of course, trying to take the healthy approach to travelling, I indulged in a black Assam tea with no sugar (Twinings do a wonderful version of it!) and the paneer cutlet as that was the least in terms of carby sugary content. It was delicious and totally worth watching my mum scoff down her entire plate – since she said the sandwich wasn’t very soon anyway!
Dinner was served a few short hours later and arrived on a course-by-course basis. We started with a mixed vegetable soup served with breadsticks and butter. It tasted great and was extremely lean. In an effort to conserve the diet, I decided to forego the breadsticks on this occasion!
Main course was where I was thoroughly disappointed. I had ordered the “Continental” option which was to be a chicken spaghetti served with veg au gratin and another vegetable medley.What I received in return….well, it was interesting….
When travelling with Eastern Railway or any other Indian Railway company where food is served, always order the Indian meal for dinner! You’ll be making a colossal mistake if you order otherwise. My mother had a fabulous chicken curry meal (pictured below) which was light and wonderful while mine (pictured above) was drenched in oil and spices that really did not belong in any form of spaghetti known to me.
Lesson learnt! I shall be having the Indian meal on the way back to Kolkata.
After dinner, Mum and I had a little gossip about her friends and also, the lady in the cabin next door who kept trying to see what the two of us were up to before retiring to our own bunks. I, naturally, took the top bunk to save the old lady some climbing aches and read a fair bit of Jojo Moyes’ “After You,” the sequel to the critically acclaimed (and also my favourite) “Me Before You” which had a very accurate film adaptation released earlier this year.
If you’re ever weary about taking public transport across long distances in India, try the Rajdhani trains. The service is fabulous, the staff are friendly and tend to your every need. The lovely attendant even came in to provide a turn down service for our cabin. There was a cleaner on hand who cleaned the loos every hour or as necessary and who also swept our cabins after every meal or snack. The air conditioning works a dream and there are armed police guards on board. So forget every horror story you’ve ever heard and give this train a go.
It is totally worth every penny and plus, I reached New Delhi alive, right?
THB Rating: 7/10