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Published: January 14th 2010
I wrote this a few days ago but haven't had a chance to put it up yet! So here it is..
It was whilst sitting on an early morning bus from Mamallapurnam to Chennai airport that I realized how much I love travelling India by train. The trains may be late. You may not always get a seat. You may be surrounded by cockroaches. BUT, you meet the Indian people. You know where you are when you arrive at your destination. You get the best chai and snack food. But most importantly, you can sit in a train doorway and watch the countryside whizz past… and there is very little that I have done so far that beats that experience. I’m sure you’re not supposed to sit with your legs sticking out the train doors. I’m sure that the occasional splash of water that I feel on my face is actually urine from the next door toilets (!) - but still, I love it. I have had some amazing journeys by train so far. And I would thoroughly recommend it.
And yet here I am at Chennai airport having just taken a bus! I realized this morning that the main aim of a bus driver when navigating the windy, pot holed, animal/people infested roads of India, is to use the brakes as little as possible; And if they really do need to be used, then only at the very last moment possible. This makes for a high speed, swervy, jolty ride to say the least! However it wasn’t terrible for some reason!! I had a seat at the front so I could see the full extent of the ensuing chaos, I was on the right bus and the ticket inspector wanted to ask me a million questions. (As all Indians do.. a curiosity about what brings us to their country perhaps? I don’t think they question why we are there - it is obvious to them;to see the temples and eat the food)
So. Having arrived at the bus stand I took it upon myself as the departure time came and went to wake up the driver who I suspected (correctly) was asleep in his bus. So having woken him we set off picking up more and more people until the seats were full. Then picking up more people until the aisle was full. Then picking up just a few more (you can’t possible turn away that R25!) until every available space was being used.
Now the two times I have caught an Indian bus I have been unceremoniously dumped on the side of the road (and in fact Vietnam was the same!). And I use the word dumped to the full extent of its meaning!! After a quick, ‘you get bags ready, you get off in 5 minutes’ the bus slows down (not really stopping fully!) and I am shoved onto the side of the road. Both times seemingly in the middle of nowhere. But no sooner than you are dumped, a rickshaw is sure to turn up and charge you an exorbitant price to take you to where you actually need to be.
So. My bus ride today was the first part of my trip I have had to do on my own - and , in fact, I met a lovely Korean guy who I chatted to about English music - so even now I don’t seem to be alone for long. And now I get to experience my first domestic Indian flight… on an airline named, ‘Spice Jet’.. it doesn’t fill me with confidence but it was cheap and hopefully will get me there in 2 ½ hours… fingers crossed!
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