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India - Train from Mumbai to Goa

Hello. This is Dave writing. We are still in India.

A few days ago we arrived in Mumbai for 2 days. We met with my cousin Grace's friends who moved from the US to Mumbai 6 weeks ago for their jobs. We met them for dinner. They were really nice and we had a great time. It was nice to just hang out with some people from back home that we had a connection with through family. They were really kind to make a long drive by cab to our hotel location so we wouldn't have to find our way around town. The food was just OK but the company was refreshing.

The next day we saw a few sites in Mumbai. Afterward we needed to make our way back to our hotel to pick up our bags. But we didn't know where we were or how to get back to the hotel. We tried haling two cabs but neither driver knew how to speak or read english. A passerby tried assisting us with communicating with a driver but he also was not profitient enough in English. Finally we stopped a man who could read the written address we had. He took one look at it then looked up and pointed across the street. There was our hotel right across from us the whole time! We couldn't believe we'd been all around town and then ended up on the very street we began from simply by chance. We had a good long laugh.

After picking up our bags we made way for the train terminal for an 11:00 PM departure on an overnight train to Goa, (a touristy coastal state with lots of beaches where we are now and will be for another 5 days before leaving India.) The train ride was quite an experience. When we arrived at the station it was mobbed with people. It seemed like total chaos. We made our way through the crowds to our platform even though we were 4 hours early just to make sure we knew where we'd have to go at departure time. Then we headed back to the waiting area we found a huge hall with mostly Indian people sitting everywhere. In the seats, on the floor, squashed together as far as the eye could see. The air was hot and damp even with the many fans overhead. But we happen to see a sign that noted "upper class waiting room upstairs." Yippee - Our travel agent had booked us an upper class cabin ticket so we were so thankful to see this sign. So we went up to what, compared to downstairs, seemed like paradise. The smaller room was much more modern and only had a few people waiting there. There were lots of empty seats and several air conditioners. Since I had been feeling ill all day from a relapse of the stomach bacteria I thought I'd gotten rid of a few days earlier I quickly sprawled out on one of the lines of chairs and took a nap. Lynette watched the news on the flat screen television which to her disappointment was in Hindi, not English.

An hour before our departure we went down to the lower level to find some snacks before going over to the train platform. Seeing that we were foreigners, one of the many Indian porters came up to us and asked us where we were going. Now from experience we know that no one here in India offers to assist you with anything without something in return, so we figured we'd need to tip this guy, but in this chaotic situation we felt the assistance was welcomed. So we let him lead us to the best snack stand and help us pick out the right crackers and chips we'd probably like. Then, carrying our snack bags he lead us through the crowds to the platform. After a garbbled announcement came over the PA he informed us that the train was delayed by about 30 minutes. So he went and tracked down a luggage cart that looked more like a primitive flat wooden wheel barrel for us to sit on since all the benches were taken by the mobs of people. He tried to make idle conversation with us but his accent was very thick and it was hard making most of it out so we found ourselves nodding and smiling a lot. After a while he ran off so we thought, "hey maybe we'll get off without having to tip this guy." When the train finally pulled up you could see through the windows that the cars were packed with people sitting and standing filling the aisles all the way up to the doors like they were about to fall out. Regardless, some of the people on the platform jumped onto the entrance steps before the train even fully stopped so that they'd be the first to get seats once the masses started boarding. Lynette and I were kind of in a daze from all the commotion and were really confused as to which car to get on. We found what we thought was the right car but didn't see our name posted on the passenger list pasted near the car door. Then from out of nowhere this porter comes running back up to us and grabs us to come down to the other end of the car to board. To our relief we saw our names on the sheet posted there. But right as we were about to board we were stopped by about 6 uniformed guards with machine guns. At first we thought our fears of someone smuggling drugs in our bags and having to spend the rest of our lives in a hellish foreign prison were about to come true. But then we saw all eyes from the crowd leading to the back of the line of guards. A very important Indian man and his wife and child made their way through the guards and boarded the same car we were to be on. A man nearby told us that it was a very important criminal attorney who had done many mob trials. We didn't know if he was the defending or prosecuting attorney though so we didn't know if we should be happy or worried that we were on the same train car. In either case we didn't have to worry too much about our bags being stolen in the middle of the night because there were about 3 or 4 armed guards sitting in the entrance ways at both ends of the car all night. After the craziness of them boarding the train died down we were allowed to get on. The porter lead us down a hall of curtains with bunks behind them and at the end behind another curtain was our small cabin area. It was actually nicer than we thought it would be. It was air conditioned and at least we didn't have to share the room with anyone. We even had what seemed like clean linens and pillow. When we entered the cabin to put our bags down the porter cornered us inside and scawfed at the small money I tried to tip him. He demanded 500 rupees which is a huge fee for such a service. Most tips here are between 10 and 50 rupees. He said it was the required porter fee that he had to give to the office. I said, hey- you never told us it was going to be that much before. He just shrugged and refused to leave without the money. Even though he was a scrawny gaunt faced man and I knew I could take him he was kind of scarey. He had this crazy look in his bloodshot eyes, and I think he'd been drinking so I didn't know what he would pull. So I decided to concede and give him the dough. Afterall 500 rupees is a lot here but it amounts to about maybe 10 US dollars. After all that he even had the gaul to ask for a tip on top of that fee but we flatly said no. After about 4 more times of him asking and us saying no he got the hint and asked to shake hands then disappeared down the hall probably to assault some other unsuspecting foreigners. We were too tired to care and after getting comfortable and having a few snacks we went to bed on the fold down bunks. They were narrow and hard, but after the long day it didn't matter and we fell fast asleep.

That's all for now. You all take care.



Posted by schuckley 04:55

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Dear Lynette and Dave; I loved your train trip experience. We really enjoy your periodic reports. I just talked to a lady on the phone from India. She said that she was about 200 miles from Goa.She told me that it is a nice place with lots of beautiful beaches.I told her that you folks were in Goa and enjoying your time in India. She said that it is a great place to live and wondered if I and my wife were planning to visit there. She seemed really nice. Love Dad and Mom

by jwrossrd

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