I had no idea that a luxury train journey in India too could have a distinctive thrill about itself until I experienced Golden Chariot. It will be a memory, treasured forever.
Before this, my best train experience was the journey from Interlaken when I had travelled to the highest railway station in Europe, Jungfraujoch at 11,332ft (3,454m).
If you are interested in traveling in beautifully appointed cabins, waking up in a new city everyday, exploring places of history and heritage, dancing to foot tapping numbers, learning to cook, getting pampered, indulging in delicious meals, admiring the passing landscape from the window of your room, and sleeping to the lullaby of the chugging engine, the idea of train vacation or rail holidays will wake you up in excitement.
You must have a connect with trains!
But, before you get excited, I must clear the air too. Even though they are Luxury Trains, these journeys are not for everybody. First and foremost – You must have a connect with trains! It really helps to appreciate the little things that have been done to enhance the overall experience. Second, you must be patient enough to reach your destinations. Train journeys should never be compared with cruise or flights. Third and most important, you should be prepared to handle the constant rocking motion when inside the train. You know you will be on move for most of the time.
For more – Golden Chariot
Steps to go before the journey starts…
You block your tickets in advance. You reach your boarding city. You arrive at a pre-designated place. You are handed over your tickets. You meet and greet your co-passengers. You get acquainted with the itinerary once again. You travel to the first station. And finally, you board the train in-style with no boarding hassles or waiting time. This is based on my experience with Golden Chariot train that runs by KSTDC (Karnataka State Tourism and Development Corporation).
Golden Chariot – The name itself rings a bell that echoes luxury. The name is influenced from the ‘Stone Chariot at Hampi’ in Vitthala Temple’. As far as the literal meaning is considered, Chariots are carriages driven by the horses. They were extensively used in the battles and were owned by the kings, princes or rich people. Listed among the ‘Seven Best Luxury Rail Journeys in the World’, it was on 10th March, 2008 that the Golden Chariot had embarked on its first journey. I was there to celebrate its 9th year.
What is so special about Luxury Trains?
- These customised and beautifully curated journeys take train travel to a new level. They are nowhere close to what we have known of sleeper class travels. They promise lots of pampering!
- Where you get the best of the best – breathtaking scenery, exquisite haute cuisine by world-renowned chefs, sophisticated cars, and sumptuous meal. When you step out of the train, you are taken to the best places to immerse yourself in the history, culture, world heritage sites and pristine landscapes.
- These train journeys are one of the best ways to get acquainted with the pretty landscapes where roads and planes will fail to impress. These trains can sneak in through peaks, forests, deserts, plunging gorges and more. With a touch of luxury, they become a wholesome experience.
- It is almost like living in a five-star hotel (small room but intact with all facilities) that moves from one place to another. You unpack on the first day and pack your bit only on the last day. In-between you only travel and experience new places and don’t worry about anything on the Earth.
- These luxury trains boast of the highest level of excellence in the field of hospitality, suites, cuisine, bars, experiences and butler services.
- With luxury taking over the planet, luxury train designs are breaking all grounds. There is nothing impossible. These trains have been created to romanticise the idea of travelling, rediscovering the local heritage of each region and peeking into the unique culture of a place.
10 Things that I loved about my experience with Golden Chariot!
1.Even though I am a teetotaller, I was hooked to the conference area, next to the bar. The colourful and cheery ambience of the common room-cum- bar (Madeira cabin) was the USP of the train.
2.Carriages were tastefully designed with a touch of local art and architecture. They are named after the South Indian dynasties that ruled over the Deccan Plateau. My cabin was known as Kadama. Others are Hoysala, Ganga, Bahamani, Sangama, Yadukula, Rashtrakuta, Chalukya, Adil Shahi, Satavahana, and Vijayanagar.
3.I loved the thrill of eating my dinner in one city and then waking up for breakfast in another one. The food and the flavours onboard were one of the best. I must appreciate the chef and his team for maintaining the consistency for all 8 days and 7 nights. The hospitality in the restaurants is one of the best.
4.Sometimes, we were left breathless running from here and there but I think it was worth-a-do for places like Bangalore, Belur, Hospet, Hampi, Badami and Pattadakal. I came back with an amazing impression of South India.
5.The staff! They were not great with English speaking skills but don’t judge them for that. They did absolutely great with their professionalism and their warmth. They have to be informed only once and they make a prompt note of the foods that you are allergic to and they never serve it again.
6. The butler service was extremely pampering. It was easy to call him to settle all the inconveniences of the room, to set the temperature of the air-conditioning. It was way simpler to tell him to wake me up at a particular time every morning without worrying about the alarm clock. And it was fun to return to the train every day where he would greet us at the door with hand-sanitizers, cold towels and welcome drink.
7. Thank God, there was no WIFI in the rooms because you must use the time in hand to use the spa and the gym onboard. But Thank God there were very strong signals in two common areas (Bar and the restaurants). Such journeys should be about cutting off from the outside world and entering into a fantasy world. Whenever I needed the internet for my work, I knew where to go.
8. The eight days and seven nights itinerary were well planned and it took me away from the mundane life. I loved the wildlife blend with history, heritage and culture as part of the Pride of South route. Especially for working husband-wives and their kids, it a lovely break from the routine life.
9.Every day, it was fun to come back to something new for the evening. There was movie-watching session, henna programme (mehndi night for females), cooking session and the best of all, a DJ night. I have never done anything like this before. It was so much fun dancing on the train when we were entering into Goa from Karnataka.
10. I loved the exterior of the train which shines in beautiful colours of gold and purple. The logo is also a lovely artwork, that of a mythological animal (head of an elephant and a body of a lion).
Suggestions That Can Enhance the Experience of Golden Chariot.
The trip was definitely one of the best but since it’s a costly affair, I would really want to touch upon few aspects which could make it a better experience from many perspectives.
1.I missed an open observation car in this train. There should be one small section which should have a standing area and or at least it should have huge windows so that one can view the landscapes or the fields or more.
2.When its luxury, everything about the train should be immaculate.While the washrooms on board were equipped with all the amenities and were clean always, the places where we stopped for loo breaks were not up to the mark. The authorities must ensure that we should stop at only those places where we can have a clean loo. This was a concern raised by many female travellers.
3.When you are in India and you have the choices of best of North and South Indian breakfast, I do not think anyone would want to skip them. But what if someone is not ready to try Indian food, keep an option of Ala carte for those who want only continental and can’t eat eggs and bread every day.
4.I really appreciate the fact that every part of our journey was pre-informed to us. A loud announcement was made and it could be heard in every room. But it had the same boring format for all the 8 days. I would have loved it if the speaker added an exciting element to it every time he spoke.
5.The itinerary should have at least one day when the train should keep moving non-stop in the day time. While I had no problem with its movement in the night, I would love to sit and do nothing on the train. Though we did have easy days at the end of the journey but it
Follow my journey here!!!