8/5: Travel from Chennai to Bangalore by Train (2 of 6)

We awoke at 4:30 am this morning to pack and get ready for our trip to Bangalore. After spending the first week organizing our project on campus and explaining to the guys in the shop (with the help of a translator) what aluminum plates we needed, we embarked on a nearly week-long trip to Bangalore and Mysore. The roads were quieter than usual this morning, though of course there were still cars about and honking and people wandering and squatting on the streets. The Chennai Central railway station was hopping, and with only minimal trouble we found our seats in the first class air-conditioned car. Brad tells us this is a new train, where the windows aren’t yellowed. The seats look like a hybrid between airplane and CTA bus seats, relatively comfortable and reclining. Despite the A/C car, there are quite a lot of mosquitoes and we passed the time waiting for the journey to begin by killing as many as came within reach. Andy and Jesse missed much of the Indian countryside and sights due to naps and reading, respectively.
This train ride has opened my eyes to the huge disparity of living conditions between country-side farmers and city-dwellers such as the business men riding on the train with us and playing brickblocker on their crackberrys. (BTW, for how long can you plan that game and still be entertained? For the guy in front of me, his time is much, much longer than mine is.) We’ve passed farms and thatched-roof shacks and I even saw a mountain rock with a man-made overhang. The mountains we passed look like piles of giant rocks. The manual labor and the huge packages the local people carry on their heads will probably never cease to amaze me. Looks like backbreaking work, and again I’m so thankful for my living situation. There are bulls pulling plows and wagons, long lines of palm trees, people wandering along the train tracks for unknown reasons, school children in what looks like the middle of nowhere, the always run-down looking buildings painted brilliant colors, mountains of burning trash, tent slums, and auto rickshaws on gravel roads (apparently not just a city thing). I heard that a couple weeks ago two trains collided head-on, and I’m less surprised now that I know their rail signals consist of men holding green and red flags.
The Pride Hotel is swanky and plays mellow elevator music in the lobby rather than Indian music like at the Raj, but it’s lacking the personal touch and the swimming pool. The bathrooms are hilarious because there is only clear glass between the shower and the toilet and only clear glass with a curtain which FELL DOWN in my room between the shower and the bed. No big deal here, but it would be quite hilarious if Jesse and Andy had the same problem. I can say the hotel is pretty, and it’s in a fantastic location very close to the main shopping and pub district. This should be a great visit to this more modern, metropolitan city.