Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Taking the train to Taj Mahal

Most people will imagine when anyone uses the train in India, the person will have to jostle among crowd to get to the train and then ride on top of the train like those pictures showing so many people in India riding the train like that with some holding to the doors for dear life and then there were those who had to crammed inside the train with nary any room to breath. 

One will always believe the Indian trains are such.

Nothing is further from the truth.

Trains in Delhi are not that bad. They are well-kept, they have train inspectors, the first class or executive class, depending on the train) serve hot breakfast, the second class (or car chair) gives you water and snacks, they do try to keep to their schedule, the train stations were maintained as best as Indians can keep all their public infrastructures clean and best of all, their toilets are passable for you to relieve yourself. That is more than I can say for other supposedly cultured countries.

I decided to travel from Delhi, from the New Delhi Train Station to Agra, where Taj Mahal is when I took the trip to Taj Mahal in February this year.

The friends I were having dinner with 2 days before the trip were actually aghast. One is working there at a Malaysian government agency, one is her friend and another two were there for the same reason as my wife and I, to attend the New Delhi Book Fair. The two who came for the Book Fair had booked a van to take them to Taj Mahal on the same day (we didn't meet then when we were at Taj Mahal).

The train we took was called the Shatabdi Express. It came from somewhere else and the Taj Mahal (Agra) station was not the last station it stopped. Although it does stopped at the New Delhi Train Station for more than 15 minutes, we didn't know that fact and even if we did, we wouldn't dare take the chances to be late. It actually departed from the New Delhi Train Station at exactly on the scheduled 6.15am. We took a auto-rickshaw from Safdarjung Estate area which is at the south of the Delhi.

When we arrived there it was already busy with passenger and as we've passed the New Delhi Train Station in the three days we stayed at Paharganj, where we have to use the pedestrian crossing across from the main train station to the other side to get to the New Delhi Metro, we have seen how busy it could be at the New Delhi Train Station. Add the touts, the auto-rickshaw, the taxis, the con-persons, the passengers and the securities which can be the guards, the police and/or the army, New Delhi Train Station at its busiest can be very daunting, even for seasoned traveller.

Shia LeBouf!!
Please make sure you have the correct train station when you are taking a train in Delhi.

There are 3 main train stations in Delhi. The New Delhi Train Station is legendary as the busiest and the largest train station in India. The train tracks criss-crossing the huge train complex made the train station very wide and is supposed to be the largest route interlocking system in the world which stands at 48. We've been to Shinjuku train station in Tokyo which is the world's busiest transport hub and we can say both New Delhi and Shinjuku have its own uniqueness in their claim to fame.

When we were in the train car, which was an executive coach, we were relieved with the space and the comfort the seats provided. We tried to sleep but I was too excited with the train trip and keep snapping pictures with my handphones as the sky brightened.

What surprised us was the service and the food. The service was fast (served by a waiter who looked like Shia LeBouf though my wife diagreed with me). The servings were many and in the end we had to take some of the food with us because we just couldn't they go to waste. There were western food and Indian food. They were cereals and dosa (thosai to most Malaysians). Only the coffee was instant coffee. Tea was served in a tea bag. Water was provided in a bottle.

I dreaded the trip to the toilet but I was pleasantly surprised they had a passable steel toilet which didn't make your appetite to take a leak gone (yes, there's a picture of the toilet if you care to take a peek).

When we arrived out guide waited for us outside the station as we were brought out by a boy whom he had tipped to get us. What greeted us outside was a scene as if people were fighting although what they were actually fighting for was the chance to take anyone who would hire them around Agra. I accidentally separate myself from my wife and the boy. They were so worried because I tried to take the pictures of all the guide shouting at the top of their voice and trying to get attention of any of the passenger who alighted from the train. I managed to get to them unscathed and off we go to see Taj Mahal.

 The ride back by train was another adventure for another blogpost....

(and also our Taj Mahal experience will be reveal in another one

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