A TRAIN JOURNEY
“A season of firsts!” B and I had not traveled together by train previously! A first train journey. Did you know that Gurgaon has a Railway Station? I did not know that. Inconveniently, it is located in Old Gurgaon, i.e., it is busy and messy and dusty. Conveniently though, the train we boarded, leaves Gurgaon at 0010 hours. So, no traffic. Door to door from our apartment in Gurgaon to the Hotel gates, it took us a total of 7 hours. No luggage restrictions, no waiting time, no pain in the butt akin to when traveling by road and no need to waste time on pit stops. Hop on, sleep, reach your destination and be served STRONG cold coffee in the Narendra Bhawan car right at the Bikaner Railway Station. Not that you’ll need it because the hotel is less than a 7 minute drive away.
I did not expect the station of be so clean and OMG digital displays! You no longer have to ask around for “Where will so-and-so compartment be on the platform?” Easy digital displays for everything. And if you use Google Maps, if you search for the railway station – like “Gurgaon Railway Station” – it will also give you details like what trains are arriving, whether there are any delays etc. Super convenient!
Currently, Rajasthan State Government has mandated a Covid Negative test for travelers to be able to enter the state, so we got that done a day before we got on the train.
We had time to unpack and chill till the evening – I had an Instagram Live Interview, which I was able to conduct from our room – when it was time for the pre-Holi party / sundowner at the Darbari lakeside. Signature Narendra Bhawan style. Excellent live music, champagne, sunset, the works.
29th March was going to be our first Holi that we’d played with others. Like I said, a season of firsts. The maximum B and I had done on Holi previously was dab a spot of powdered color on each other’s faces and send selfies to respective parents. Holi celebrations ( or rather “hooliganism” ) from our teenage years has kept us away from the festival. There really isn’t much enthusiasm for playing Holi after someone smears you with diesel or gobar. But NB promised to be safe and small and like coming home so we decided to take a chance and OMG I will go again!
We played Holi with flower petals and organic colors and of course there was the swimming pool and lots of beer! The colors were GREAT. I literally hand-washed my dress under tap water – with no soap – and the colors simply washed away. So that was quite thrilling ;P
After 29th it was the usual at Narendra Bhawan – sitting at the Traveller’s Table – meeting other guests, the Bhairon Vilas Dive Bar, Sid’s AMAZEBALLS DJ’ing skills, lots of Chicken Noodles, a bit of Duck Salad, lots of beer, lots of time in the swimming pool and lots of conversations.
We popped in to Suryagarh, Jaisalmer too for a couple of nights. More partying, more swimming pool time ( it was my first time in the Suryagarh swimming pool – I’m telling you – a season of firsts! )
I photographed the private swimming pool at our Suryagarh Haveli so much that it might need a separate photo story blog post altogether 😛
I expected the water to be warm – because it is already quite hot in the desert – both in Bikaner and in Jaisalmer. But, the water is SO CHILLED! It was heaven. Especially after a long night of debauchery.
Back to Narendra Bhawan
Flights from Jaisalmer are currently not operational. One of the ways to get back to home is to drive to Jodhpur from Jaisalmer and then get on a flight from Jodhpur. The other option is to drive back to Narendra Bhawan, take a rest day and then take the train back to Gurgaon. We opted for the latter. And ended up doing a lovely date-night dinner on a table that was NOT the Traveller’s Table for a change.
New seating areas at Narendra Bhawan. The hotel is also working on two new surprise additions to the outdoors. CANNOT WAIT!
BACK HOME, FOR NOW
The train leaves Bikaner Railway Station at 2230 hours. Since the station is the origin, the train is at the platform at least 30 minutes before departure – although the air conditioning only kicks in about 10-15 minutes prior to departure. We got on and since it was a weekend traveling out of Bikaner, it was just B and me in the entire 4-person cabin. The TT mentioned that we were unlikely to be joined by anyone else. We tried to go to sleep but we were nervous that we would miss our stop. The final destination is New Delhi Railway Station and the train halts in Gurgaon for not more than 2-3 minutes. Although we did have alarms activated on our mobile phones, we were still nervous! Got home safe and sound. Found an Uber at the station ( a rather shitty one though ) and same, 7 hours door-to-door journey.
Keep in mind that due to the pandemic, the Railways are not providing sheets / pillows / blankets. Personally, I have no issues sleeping in my jeans with my sneakers on, using my bag as a pillow, but that’s not for everyone. A good set of headphones help. The upper berth was better because no lights shining in from the lower berth windows AND the motion of the train is not as horribly felt on the upper berths.
I definitely see us traveling to Bikaner by train in the future!
As far as the SARS-COV-2 virus is concerned, please make your travel decisions based on your risk-averseness, not mine. While it is impossible to list out all the precautions I take, suffice to say that I do my best and then some. Those efforts will not be visible when I post online because those do not work well for my photographs. Just because you don’t see something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. As with everything else in life, do what makes you happy – without hurting anyone else.