Golden Chariot is not just a train journey but it is an unparalleled way to explore South India.
With respect to my travel experiences, the month of March was magnificent. Everything around me conspired to make that much-awaited trip to South India happen. And it not just happened for me but it rolled in the lap of luxury. I had an amazing opportunity to explore South India aboard one and only luxury train – Golden Chariot, which is an incredible tourism icon of Government of Karnataka and Ministry of Railways. As the name suggests, ‘pride of south’ actually acquaints you with the best that you feel proud to discover Southern India. This train journey is an experience which puts together a dream of a luxury holiday on wheels.
Can you imagine living in a pretty and compact room of a train coach, moving through the beautiful surroundings, exploring a new city every day, eating gourmet meals, partying, all in a luxurious and pampering environment? This is what 8 days and 7 nights on Golden Chariot is about. You come, you settle in, you move around, you sleep, you eat, you step out, you return, you party hard, you discover 7 beautiful cities, you indulge in South India, you meet and chat with travelers from all over the world, you do all of this on one luxurious train. This train pampers the traveler in you. Mapple Hotels and Resorts, the hospitality partner of this journey must be applauded for making it more than an indulging experience. They make it a 5 -star hotel on a railway track!
With no second thoughts, there is no better way to see South India!!
If you are keen to acquaint yourself with seven offbeat and gorgeous places of South India in a comfortable and luxurious way, this trip is one great option. You might wonder what is the fun of doing a train journey when you can plan it all yourself. Trust me, arranging for the logistics can mar the fun of the trip and its tough to move from one city to another like we did. I was really impressed with Helen’s reply when I asked her why did she choose to board Golden Chariot. I remember she said that she loved the fact that this planned itinerary saved herself from the pain of packing/unpacking everyday. Also, a train journey in India seemed exciting to her. She was keen to experience South India as a whole which she could only get by touching upon more than one place. Traveling to 7 new places in one week seemed like a great idea to her.
Let me introduce you to the itinerary as I would love to re-live my splendid moments on the train.
DAY 1 (13th March) – After playing Holi with my friends in Bangalore, I was onboard Golden Chariot
4 p.m. -Everyone was supposed to arrive at Taj West End. It is here where the representatives of the train meet and greet the travelers and hand over the boarding pass to them. The luggage is taken charge and tagged with the room number.
4:30 p.m. – The co-travelers met each other and indulged in snacks over ‘Hi – Tea’.
5:00 p.m. – A nature walk around the Taj West End followed suit. It was a great way to unveil and learn about some of the interesting and old facts around this luxury property, which happens to be the first hotel of Bangalore.
6:00 p.m. – The first introduction with the Golden Chariot was being looked forward by everyone. The General Manager of the train introduced us with the conceptualization, unique features and the amenities on board.
6:30 p.m. – In India, cultural dance show is the most affectionate way to extend a warm welcome to the guests. 3 forms of classical dances were presented and it gave a beautiful kick-start to the South Indian sojourn.
7:10 p.m. – After the performance, all of us were directed towards a bus coach and driven to the ISKCON temple (a well-known temple in Bangalore) to take the blessings of Lord Krishna.
8:15 p.m. – The unexpected showers delayed us by fifteen minutes. We reached the Yeshwanthpur Railway Station to a warm and musical welcome.
8:30 p.m. – The first few minutes on board the train were full of surprises. I was awestruck with the beautiful decorations of the Madira Bar. Next, when I walked towards my room in the KADAMBA B, I immediately took a liking to it. Two single beds were neatly stacked on either side. The attached bathroom was spic and span. There was a television at the corner. In between the beds, there was a table that held the lamps, glasses. At one side, there was enough room for placing the luggage. At the sides, there was a cupboard too.
9:00 p.m. – The train chugged from the station towards Mysore.
9:30 p.m. – After freshening up, I walked towards the restaurant -‘Ruchi’ where we were pampered for the next 7 days and nights. The first dinner absolutely impressed me. Before we retired to the room, the announcements were already made that we all had to report at 10:00 a.m. to start for the next days’ outing.
10:00 p.m. – Before I closed my room, I asked my butler cum attendant cum caretaker to give me a wake up call at 7 a.m.
DAY 2: I am not sure about others but I had a sound sleep on the first night when the train covered the distance from Bangalore to Mysore. By the time I woke up, the train had already reached Mysore station.
8:00 a.m. – Breakfast on board.
9:00 a.m. – I was back to my room to change and pack up well for the Safari and overnight stay at Kabini.
10:00 a.m. – Our bus was waiting outside the station and soon we all started for the grand Mysore Palace. (The lavishness of the palace as well our group picture in front of it will always be a special memory from here.)
11:30 a.m. – By this time, we had walked in and around the palace. It was time to hit the road again for Kabini. I had heard a lot about it and I was really excited.
1:30 p.m. – We reached the resort, checked in the room, had our lunch and rested for a while.
3:30 p.m. – It was meeting time for hi-tea and briefing for safari.
4:00 p.m. – Packed in our jeeps, we were all set for the jungle safari. The next two hours were well spent. It was a lucky day and we spotted a tiger as well as a leopard.
6:45 p.m. – Back to the resort, we rested for a while and met again to see a wildlife film.
8:00 p.m. – The dinner was served and we devoured the delicacies. The bonfire gave us some more time to bond and chat with each other.
DAY 3: I woke up before the sun.
6:00 a.m. – Tea time
6:30 a.m. – Everyone was enthusiastic about the boat ride on the Kabini River. It was a lovely place for bird sightings. We had a great ride and I learned about a number of birds.
8:00 a.m. – Breakfast at the Jungle Lodges
9:30 a.m. – After the wildlife thrill and the morning adventure with birds, we departed for Mysore! I would have loved to stay at Kabini but I was missing the train.
12: 00 a.m. – We stopped for a short break at the Mysore saree making factory where almost everyone ended up buying saree.
12:30 a.m. – Back on board on Golden Chariot.
1:00 p.m. – The lunch was amazing.
3:30 p.m. – There was more sightseeing planned for the day. We started for Srirangapatna, de facto capital of Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. This place introduced us with the glories of the Sultan. We visited the Daria Dalat Bagh and Gumbaz (mausoleum).
6:00 p.m. – A short stop-over and tea break at the Cottage Industries.
7:00 p.m. – We reached Lalitha Mahal Palace. Our dinner for the day was planned here. First, a cultural show was presented and then the dinner followed.
9:30 p.m. – We were back on the train.
DAY 4 : It rained at Hasan and our plan for the day had to be changed. All is well that ends well.
5:00 a.m. – Everyone slept well that night because the train did not move till 5 in the morning. I was waiting for the train to move and we started for Hasan.
7:00 a.m. -The breakfast was announced early because we were supposed to depart for sightseeing to Shravanaelogola which is a famous Jain temple with over 600 steps.
8:00 a.m. – We arrived at Hasan but it was raining and therefore we had to reschedule the plan.
9:30 a.m. – Since the steps of the temple at Shravanabelagola could be slippery due to the rains, we decided to implement the second plan first. We departed towards Belur and Halebidu temples. I was absolutely smitten by the beauty of both these temples. The carvings were marvelous and every piece of art had a story behind it. It was a lovely day after the rains.
1 p.m. – We were back on the train with
2.30 p.m. – I was really keen on visiting the famous Jain temple where we couldn’t go in the morning. I was glad that by this time of the day, the weather was back to normal and we were expecting to climb it easily.
5:30 p.m. – Yes, we did it too. The statue of Mahabali is the highest in India.
7:00 p.m. – We were back on Golden Chariot.
7:30 p.m. – An exclusive Mehndi program was organized for all the ladies on board. All the females joined the fun at the Madira bar.
8:00 p.m. – The train started moving for Hospet.
8:45 p.m. – The fun of having dinner on a moving train was amazing. I waited for the Mehndi to dry up and then indulged in the dinner when the train was moving at its full speed. The food was as amazing as always.
Each day was different and exciting on the train. Do catch up Part 2 tomorrow.
Also, you may check http://www.goldenchariot.org/