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Travel: A Date with Royalty

Text by Maneesha Dube Email Text by Maneesha Dube
April 2015
Travel: A Date with Royalty

The Royal Rajasthan on Wheels takes you on a leisurely—and princely—journey.

I’m lying back on plump pillows on a brocade bedspread. The blind, which matches the bedcover, is rolled up, allowing me to admire the countryside whizzing past my window. Mustard fields. A small village. Children playing cricket. Women in colorful clothes working in the fields. Buffalo wallowing in a pond. A bridge. A factory. A dam. A meandering stream. Red earth and a lone eagle flying high in the sky. Ensconced in my air-conditioned suite in the super luxury train, I catch glimpses of India that are here one moment and then gone forever. I don’t know when my eyes close and I fall into a doze, the swaying motion of the train acting like a soporific.

I awaken and it takes me a moment to get my bearings. I realize I have woken up because the train has come to a halt at a station. My vision clears and I look out of the window through which I had been admiring the countryside. What do I see? Dozens of chattering faces peering in. Before I can pull down the blind and shut them out, I hear the amazement in their voices as they stare spellbound at the splendor of my cabin. “It has a bed!” “Did you notice the table and chair in the corner?” “Wow!” “Aisi train bhi hoti hai (they have trains like this, too)!” I decide not to pull down the blind, instead I walk away into the vestibule and let them absorb the story they will retell their families and friends for a long time to come.

I have boarded the train at Safdarjung Railway Station, New Delhi. Tucked away in a quiet part of the capital, it bears little resemblance to other railway stations. No red-shirted coolies jostling for attention, no hawkers shouting chai garam (hot tea), no trunks and hold-alls littered on the platform with impatient children sitting on them, not even a ticket booth. Before I can say Royal Rajasthan on Wheels (RROW), I see the train, run by the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation parked alongside the platform. It is painted in vermilion and a golden yellow. Within minutes I am checked in, my luggage has been whisked away and the turbaned attendants in kurtas printed with Rajasthani motifs and churidars, escort me to the Ruby Suite in Lalgarh Palace coach. The fully air-conditioned RROW’s 13 saloons are named after famous palaces of Rajasthan. Each has three suites Ruby, done up in red, Pearl in white, and Sapphire in blue.

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An exquisite royal suite.

Royal treatment to a royal cuisine in an exquisite dining car.

 

The decor is opulent and reminiscent of a set in a film about maharajas. The twin beds, placed lengthwise in the coupe, are longer than any berth in any train in India, as are the windows. Paintings, aesthetic lighting, a writing table, a comfortable chair, a wardrobe and an en suite bathroom are part of the elegant facilities.

I settle down and ask for a cuppa. It is served in bone china with a batch of home-baked cookies. A good start, I think. And I am not wrong. Over the course of the journey, the food lives up to its initial promise. Each day brings different fare. The menu is eclectic, with Indian, continental, and sometimes other international cuisines to choose from. Despite the limitations of space, after all the width of a train is the width of the train, the staff does a good job of bringing us hot and tasty meals in both the Sheesh Mahal and Swarn Mahal, the two restro-lounges.

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Decorated elephants are always a treat for foreigners. Rajasthani folk musicians entertain the guests.

 

The itinerary is packed. From Delhi the train enters Rajasthan with the first stop at Jodhpur, then it is on to Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Sawai Madhopur to visit the Ranthambore National Park, Jaipur, Khajuraho to admire the world-famous temples and the erotic sculptures, Varanasi to catch the spiritual experience of the maha aarti and finally Agra to gaze at the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. At each of the places, sightseeing tours and cultural entertainment is a ranged for the guests.


Reprinted with permission from India Perspectives.



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