Sunday, 12 March 2017

From Varanasi to Bodh Gaya - The Grumpy Traveler

I departed early at 830 am to get to the train station on the opposite side of the Varanasi river. Accounted for traffic and tuk tuk bargaining time to reach the station by 1030 am. It was after all a very far station that I had to get to across the river. The train to Bodh Gaya did not leave from Varanasi Jp but from another station Mahgul Sarai Jp.

Got there fine with less than an hour to spare and just when I started to get confidence with the Indian train system it was about time I experience the Indian timing. Train was late 30 minutes the board said … then 30 minutes later it said 1 hour late and then an hour later it said 1hr 30 minutes late …. And when they finally announce the train approaching platform 1 it took another 30 minutes before it really arrived. 2 hours ….. f*ck me. So much for buying seats on a fast train that suppose to take me to Gaya in 3 hours instead of 5.
Mahgul Sarai Jp Train Station - Varanasi
Train tickets are kinda tricky too in India. I was still figuring out the system but as far as I understood the cheapest way is to just buy it on the day itself at the train station. But then there is a very high possibility of no seats or even if you get a seat you may have no seat. Confusing but there there.

Then there is the internet booking system which require an account to book hence a lot of agency will book on your behalf for a fee. There is AC1 to AC3 meaning first class air conditioning to third class air conditioning followed by sleeper class and finally general class. Ticket booking system is sold by General Quota to Tourist Quota to emergency Quota.

Finally there is the free hopper. Just hop on and hope there is no attendant to catch you. Trains are long and chance are you won’t see the attendant anyway. I did see one but he never check any tickets anyway. Hence there was lots of hoppers in the train in India. Chance are your seat reservation will be occupied by someone else as well since there is so many free hopper. People just find a seat and sit on it or sleep on it claiming it as their own. 
One has to be aggressive to shove off the locals to get your pre-determined seat. My seat to Gaya had 2 people seating on it when I finally bull dozed my way into the carriage with all the standing people around. Sleeper class … cheap f*cking sleeper class was not cheap at all.

The chap did not speak English and I pointed to the number and show my ticket to him and asked him to move. A big smile and a lot of talk in Hindi. He even pretend that he was doing me a favour by allowing me to join in and sit with them 3 to a single sleeper seat. Indian hospitality …. Which I later found out he had a full ticket at the berth beside but he used it to store his baggage. No one was even allowed to climb above … he just wanted to sit at the lower bunk to stretch his leg.

The chap with the big smile was playing me like a fool I guess and I was too kind to deprive three person of a seat so I could sleep. It was only a three hour train ride and during the day at that. I manage to shove him to the middle so I could get a wall to lean on. Lunch came and he tried to force feed me Indian water. That’s when I grunted at him sternly and he backed off.
Lack of any language to understand each other, I still got the message that I should be in AC class. You are a tourist … with money … only poor Indian people go to sleeper class …. You are going to be harassed by me while you are here the Indian chap said and my mind magically interpreted his Hindi and body language. I learn to ignore him mostly and finally he climb back to his berth to sleep.
Train Food in India - Good Stuff
My sat was a kind seat …. While everyone claimed their seat as their own if they have a ticket and barked away at others, mine had now 4 person sitting on it … Indian train … you have to be aggressive to claim what is yours else other will take advantage of you.

Poor is the common excuse used in India to justify all the bad things they do to tourist.
I reach Gaya eventually and was glad to be out …. Bathing in your own sweat in the train was not exactly pleasant. First person approach me for tuk tuk and thought he could charge me 250 for the ride to Bodh Gaya. No I told him and kept walking. I was only willing to spend 150 I told him and out with the standard crap Indian bullshit of no way I would get that price bla bla bla ….

Soon when I was near the mass crowd of rickshaw driver he cave in and agreed for the 150 ride. I knew it was less than that maybe even only 70 rupee or less but I am an outsider after all … doubt I could get that price, or maybe I could but I would lose a piece of my soul

Which hotel in Bodh Gaya ?
I dun have one I told him and you can practically see the fire light up in his eyes. An opportunity to get commission from the guesthouses. Poor is one thing but trying to rip people off is not a good thing and one expect to be liberated from such poor life with bad doings. The irony of it.

I let him bring me to his best recommended guesthouse owned by Japanese. …. Why is it that all the rickshaw driver recommends guesthouse owned by Japanese ladies? Yea … sure … I’ll think about it.
Namaste the guesthouse greeted me and would not answer my question of how much is a room for the night. After persuading me to see the room and halfway trying to show me every facility they had in the guesthouse I stopped and refuse to move till he told me the price of the room. 1200 rupee for A.C room and 800 for non A.C …..

Don’t waste my time ….. NO
I walked out of that guesthouse regardless of his price drop and told the rickshaw driver I’ll find my own. I do not like dishonest people I told him. Bodh Gaya of all place ….. but I guess I was still in India. He brought me to the next one …

Rama Guesthouse ….

Same drill and I asked for the price of the Room …. 1200 for A.C 400 for non A.C …. Sigh ….
Are you from Japan?
No I am not from Japan.
Where are you from Sir?
Why? Japan people many money have? Japan people 1200 rupee a night no problem.
No Sir…. Japan people normally wan cheap ….
(I find that hard to believe)
How many nights sir
3 Nights
I am from Malaysia …. How much for room with A.C ….
Nope … max I pay is 500
How much for room without A.C
You have to do better than that …
You can check everywhere in Bodh Gaya Sir and sure you will come back here ….
Fine …. I’ll check the whole of Bodh Gaya … I have plenty of time anyway ….
Wait … I ask boss if can give discount …
The boss which was his father came in talk a bit and offered me 350 for Non A.C
(The A.C seams to be stuck at 600)
300 I told him … no more
Fine … time to go …. Walking out the door he said ok …
(Shit … I should have asked for 250)
Oh well I was happy enough to get a clean room with bathroom attached for 300 a night ….

The boss grabbed me to the side …. Psstt …. Please dun tell other guest how much you pay for the room. If anyone ask especially the Indians staying here tell them you pay 500 …..
I gave him my best Indian Head Wobble … mmmm

He did not buy it and kept pestering me ensure him that I won’t tell the other guest ….
Ok …. But I didn’t say I wouldn’t blog about it….

If you can see a rainbow at the end of a long journey day, everything is gonna be alright

Rainbow in Bodh Gaya - India

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