There has been a considerable distance covered in the past 48 hrs and we’ve had a few new experiences along the way.
We took our first Uber taxi outside of the UK; I was unsure how it would work as I don’t have an Indian data sim- however, if you book your cab whilst on Wi-Fi you will be OK. There turned out to be several advantages to using Uber- firstly, it eliminates issues with the driver not knowing where to go because they have a sat-nav destination pre-programmed in from your booking. Using Uber also ensures that you don’t get overcharged, as the Uber rate is final. The fact that you get emailed a map of your route afterwards also helps to see if you’ve been taken the ‘scenic’ route or not. If this is the case then Uber is likely to refund your trip (or give you Uber credit) if you complain. Furthermore, Uber now allows you to book a ride up to 30 days in advance, which could come in very useful for airport transfer journeys.
For those who are wondering about safety issues with Uber, well…how safe is a rickshaw? There are no doors, no seatbelts and no one knows who the driver is. So, I wouldn’t dismiss Uber straight away.
Our first Indian Uber took us to our first and only Indian train. We chose to take the train to tick a box on our bucket list, rather than for comfort. We opted for the 2AC carriage, the highest class offered on our particular route from Kochi to Trivandrum. There is a plethora of classes on Indian trains, but tourists generally are discouraged from travelling in the second or sleeper class carriages (confusingly, neither of these is same as 2AC with beds!). The 2AC carriage offered beds with curtains and it felt quite safe; there were a few uniformed guards visible.
Oh, I forgot to mention – this train was an overnight train…which got us into Trivandrum in the very early hours of the morning. It is also worth noting that many train stations have AC lounges with free Wi-Fi for about 20 INR an hour – worth it, in the unbearable heat and humidity of South India! Unfortunately, we didn’t see this until it was too near to our train arriving to bother with.
Upon arriving bleary-eyed in Trivandrum, we were accosted by many taxi/rickshaw drivers, however if you’ve been following our travels thus far you’ll see that we prefer to go for the official pre-paid services. The counter was manned by a police official and cost 2 INR for the service and 45 INR for the journey –we felt safe and happy, especially compared to taking a ride with one of the heckling taxi drivers who had been trying to charge us 300 INR for the same trip!
Time spent in Trivandrum was mainly given over to eating to eating; we visited a ‘coffee house’ which only sold two types of coffee: hot, or cold and so sickly sweet even Lorna couldn’t finish it. However, this coffee house did offer some excellent food in a very interesting building! The whole restaurant spirals around a central column; we thought that there must have been a former industrial use for this building - but it seems it was just the whim of the architect who built it. We both ate handsomely for 250 INR (less than the cost of a coffee in the UK!).
We then pottered around and recovered slightly from our sleepless night train and had a video call with our friend Lucy (we know you’re reading!). Alas…by then it was time for dinner. We have found that TripAdvisor has been very good in India for recommending local restaurants, especially if you find one with lots of good reviews from the locals, as I feel that they are a little more discerning than the tourists when it comes to local cuisine.
On the way back from dinner, we found perhaps the most helpful rickshaw driver in all of India; he was unsure of where our hotel was, so rather than following the usual practice of saying 'yes, yes, yes' and then driving around aimlessly, he asked for the hotel phone number, called them and figured out where it was, then delivered us there in record time. We considered it proper that he was rewarded generously for his lateral thinking!
That is us up to date, we hope that you’ve enjoyed our Indian tale as much as we have!