Tuesday, 26 August 2008

24 August 2008: Bhopal to Gwalior

Train travel is one of the highlights of India. To date, we've travelled in the AC Chair Car and 2AC in the sleeper (it has four foldaway beds on two tiers per compartment in an air-conditioned carriage). The trains are clean, comfortable and fast, with both western and asian style toilets. A light snack was delivered to us in AC Chair Car, and bedding is supplied in 2AC.

Close to Gwalior, our train passed an unattractive town called 'Sithouli'. Needless to say, the name made us both smile. We had more laughs in the restaurant Blue Fox tonight, as the menu offered 'light snakes' (light snacks), 'basmati rice coked with mutton' (cooked with), and 'deserts' (desserts).

We bought the Hindustan Times to read on the train. Intriguingly, we found a section called 'Matrimonials'. But instead of being about who's married who, the section was full of text adverts (no photos attached) from families looking for love for their children– or an arranged marriage rather. The bride and groom candidates in the ads are allegedly beautiful, slim, over-educated and come from reputable families. Everyone has a large monthly income. The paper has a big disclaimer telling readers to make 'appropriate thorough enquiries before acting upon any advertisement'.

Hotel room rates seem to have gone up in most towns – India does have 12 percent inflation – and we're constantly spending more than we expected. At the moment, we're staying in yet another expensive deluxe room. We have no hot water on tap (you order a bucket which, if it comes, takes a minimum of 30 minutes). There's no towels, no toilet paper and the western style toilet squirts water horizontally when you try to flush it. On the plus side there's no shortage of switches. We counted 16 switches to operate seven appliances (AC unit, two fans, three lights and a TV). There's even a switch in the shower if it all gets too much. So far we've been using the bucket instead.