Well, not a lot of pics on this entry. Thought we would give you guys a bit of a break. So, the Indian railways. Brings to mind images of high tea on the Orient Express, yes? Well, no. After having done the whole Eurorail thing I thought this would be sort of similar. I mean didn't England help plan this system? Well its not quite the same. The first train we took was from Hyderabad to Aurangabad. There was some confusion because multiple trains were going the same way all with the same name and our train number was not posted even though it was due to leave in 10 minutes. It was 45 minutes late so we had time to figure it out. (Oddly enough it arrived to our final destination on time, must have been the tailwinds?) There are several classes of train. Sleepers- which are really not sleepers but seats for the general public, 3rd tier (a/c or non)- 3x3 bunks to a berth, 2nd tier (a/c or non)- 2x2 bunks to a berth, and 1st class - which we didn't see. We chose the 2nd tier a/c. Not a bad choice. Fortunately for us the other two seats in our area (no doors, only a curtain) were vacant so we had plenty of room. Mrs. Rao had been kind enough to pack our dinners. So we had potato curry with roti and fried fish along with fresh fruit. Otherwise you can order a meal on the train and they deliver it to your berth. Once we got out of the frenziness of boarding the train and finding our seats, it was rather peaceful. Except for the frequent intrusion of a family of mice. Who knows how many of them there were but they kept running up and down the car. How dare they, they didn't even pay! We didn't see any mice on our train to Mumbai but we also went straight to bed. That is after we kicked a guy out our berth. He was poaching our seat but the conductor straightened it all out.
So, Mumbai or as you may know it, Bombay. What can one say about it. There are something like 16.8 million people living in this city. And it seems like most of them are on the street. There literally are individuals and even families living on almost every block. Our train arrived to what used to be Victoria Station before it was renamed. It is a beautiful station and many of the buildings are grand in their European architecture. But the poverty abounds and overwhelms. Brad was out and about doing Internet at midnight one night while I was home reading and he said the streets were swarming with rats. For better or for worse, we decided to spend less than 24 hours in Mumbai. We didn't even do any sightseeing although we did treat ourselves to a nice dinner at an upscale restaurant. I had crabs and they were enormous! Actually it was only one crab but it was probably 3 times the size of a jumbo Maryland Blue Crab! We also (and yes, Brad is ashamed but it was my idea) made a stop at McDonald's. One of my coworker's brothers opened up all the McDonald's in Bombay. They don't serve beef in any McDonald's in India. Remeber that cows are sacred. But they did have a fabulous McAlooTikki or potato burger!
Really, its kind of a shame that one has to fly in and out of Mumbai or Delhi. Both airports are pretty basic and a bit shabby. And then you drive through these polluted mammoth cities teaming with people and the first and last impressions of India remind one of the poverty and struggles of this country. We found for ourselves the real beauty of India outside of these two cities. We enjoyed the smaller cities up north with the fantastic architecture and history and the cave temples of the south with their amazing feats of construction. And of course our highlight that hardly any tourist gets was our visit with the Rao family. Partaking in a family holiday and sharing in their religious practices was phenomenal. The Indian people are truly wonderful and generous people. Three weeks is not nearly enough time to do India justice. (Brad really wants about nine months!) There is so much to appreciate but we definitely feel fortunate to have had the experiences we had and to bring this back to the States. We're dying to put on our new outfits and go down to the Indian joint down the street from us and greet them in Hindi!
Now, its off to Bangkok and in the words of two zany Muppets:
"Movin' right along, foot-loose and fancy-free
Gettin' there is half the fun, come share it with me
Movin' right along, we'll learn to share the load
We don't need a map to keep this show on the road..."