It is always believed that a good trip lets you discover new things about the world. But a great trip also lets you see the world with new eyes. This is exactly the effect India will have on you! Thanks to its eternal old traditions and customs the country is so full of life. The country has age old forts, temples, mosques, palaces on the one hand and contemporary markets, adventure parks on the other. But everything you witness in India reflects its belief in upholding its royal past and taking it forward creating a unique mix of the new and the old, the historic and the modern and the ancient and the young! In India, you get to discover a culture that teaches you how to live life gloriously.
But what captivates most of the tourists and exudes an aura of longing are the railway platforms in India. First, there is the bustle – the mingling of voices and noises. Then, as the crowd folds itself into the metal behemoth, there is the air of anticipation. The journey is now not far away. You can close your eyes and hear the whoosh of the train, almost…
When you step aboard India’s most luxurious rail journey with the sublime Maharajas' Express; what you notice at the very first glance is the seductive combination of age-old traditions and refinement blended with the engineered sophistication of the contemporary age. The short ‘Gems of India’ journey transverses this eclectic nation from Imperial Delhi to overwhelming Taj Mahal and the thrilling Ranthambore, and finally the vibrant Jaipur, snaking serenely through a landscape as dramatic as it is historic.
Each of the elegant passenger carriages enjoys sophisticated suspension for the smoothest of rides, a dedicated butler and cabins with large panoramic windows, air-conditioning, flat-screen television, en suite bathrooms and a host of delightful flourishes and added-luxury touches. It is difficult to digest the fact that one is traveling on an “Indian Train”. Many have bad experiences with Indian rail journeys. Some have ended up having severe back pains and many have also missed their scheduled meetings or connecting flights due to late arrival of the train/s. But Maharajas’ Express in every aspect is truly a magnificent experience, whether it comes to punctuality, hygiene, luxury, comfort, food, stay or off-train excursions. One gets enthralled to see the exquisite décor of the interiors of this palace on wheels. The details such as silken bedspreads, the lovely paintings, the royal wall furnishings, and the out-of-the-ordinary furniture reminds one of the Rajasthani Palaces in Jaipur which leaves one awe-struck!
As the train began its journey from New Delhi’s Safdarjung Railway Station, the celebrations begin. After a grand royal welcome with Tilak and dhols, you get escorted by a turban clad and polite attendant to your room or in other words, your own mini palace. Each suite is just too beautiful to be expressed in words. Immaculate synchronization of the old and the new worlds could be seen in the amenities provided inside the mini palace.
The best feeling is when you to proceed to savour gourmet banquet dining in the finest of the restaurant cars you have ever seen in your life. ‘The Rang Mahal’ as it is called; the restaurant is assorted with silk curtains, intricately curved wood paneling, artificial lights and royal furniture. You can order a traditional Rajasthani thali or anything of your own choice as the menu ranges from Indian, continental, Chinese to other International cuisines. In the time you interact with your fellow passengers sitting in the beautiful restaurant car, the freshly cooked, aromatic food would arrive and you would sure relish it to the core. After such an aromatic delight, retiring to your personal cabin for a tight sleep is truly luxurious. Before you even realize, the train would reach Agra – home to the most beautiful monument of the World – the Taj Mahal.
The day in Agra starts with a Champagne breakfast atop Taj Khema overlooking the Taj Mahal. The memory is one which you would cherish for all your life to come. The sparking white-marbled Taj Mahal gleams as tinted sunshine falls on it and the sight astounds everyone. The guests are then taken to a sightseeing trip to the mystical, the awe-inspiring, the superbly beautiful Taj Mahal. It would seem as if the time has stood by as you witness and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Taj. Post lunch, you would visit the magnificent Agra fort - a massive red sandstone fort on the banks of the Yamuna River. After a day that can be best described as simply fabulous, you can return to the comforts of the train and spend a few hours in the ‘Rajah Club’ on board sipping your favourite wine and chatting with your fellow passengers.
For all those wildlife lovers, the second day would be the most exciting one as it would start with an early morning sojourn into the Ranthambore National park in Sawai Madhopur by way of jeep safari. Through getting a glimpse of the elusive beast – the tiger is purely a matter of luck; you would surely see many to fascinating flora and fauna in their natural habitat. As you enjoy a hearty lunch on board, the train would reach Jaipur – one of a must visit places in India. Here you can embark on an exciting tour of the city and shop for exclusive jewellery, kurtis, juttis, beautifully painted pots and God knows what all at local markets of Jaipur including Baapu bazaar, Nehru Bazaar etc.
The shopping expedition would be followed by a visit to the grand Amber Fort in a truly royal style as you ride a canopied elephant. Here you can enjoy the fantastic views of the gorge before entering the Chamber of Mirrors and the Hall of Victory. And what would follow would be like a cherry on the cake – a unique sight of an elephant polo match at Jai Singh Palace! Set amidst 18 acres of Mughal Gardens, you get a grand welcome with royal military band and the beating of 'Nagadas'. The match is followed by Champagne lunch at the hotel. Enjoy a royal elephant ride to palace complex, which emerges dramatically from the placid waters of the Mootha Lake.
You would actually not believe that your trip would end in a few hours from now when the train would reach the same Safdarjung station in Delhi from where you started this memorable extravagant voyage. As you sleep over in the comforts of you cabin with the memories of the colourful bazaars of Jaipur, the overwhelming Taj Mahal and the thrilling tracks of Ranthambore, the train would reach the station and after yet another lavish breakfast on board you would bid farewell to the train that had been your companion for three days and four nights. Of all your trips to India, this one for sure would be one of the most special ones for the comfort, the luxury and the thrill you experience would stand unrivalled. You would wish you be in this lap of luxury again next season….
About the Author: A committed wanderer, a passionate photographer and an ardent admirer of Indian literature; Lena Attwood has journeyed extensively through Asia, India in particular, building up an impressive photographic portfolio of her memorable journeys in this wonderland. Her interest in Indian history, culture and tourism lead her to shift to Mumbai in 1990 and ever since then, she has been visiting various places in India and writing about the same. Destinations visited in 2012 include Cobert, Cochin, Munnar, Ooty and an unforgettable trip onboard the famous luxury train Maharajas Express.
The train Maharajas' Express is run and operated by Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), a subsidiary of Indian Railways. But I found this site - www.themaharajasexpressindia.com a really useful and comprehensive one about the luxury train.
Also see pictures of
1. Jaipur City
2. Jaipur City 2
3. Block printing Sanganer
4. Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary
5. Amber, Jaigarh Forts
6. Mehrangarh Fort Jodhpur
Editor – If you wish to discover and understand India travel by train. Rajasthan is amongst the most colorful states of India. Love the forts and palaces.