South India – day 1

We are in India! Hurray!

 

Cow in commercial street
 
We arrived at Bangalore late last night. Very late. Little M was wonderful on the plane, she’s a great traveler, she even has her little routines already. It’s the first time she wanted to sit by herself and put her seatbelt on. She only watches TV on planes, and she was loving the movie. As toddlers do, Little M was restless for a bit, but the flight was short and we even managed to sleep for a short while. 
Bangalore airport is nice. It’s similar to Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok, clean and efficient, without luxuries. It was surprisingly easy to get a taxi to the hotel, even after midnight. The taxi stand/queue is right outside the terminal with cars from different companies like Megacab and Meru, all under contract with the airport. The fare was calculated automatically by a modern-looking meter. Mr A got his first taste of the infamous indian style of driving…. Little M still managed to fall asleep in her carrier, glued to my chest. We payed around 900 INR, versus the 5000 INR the hotel would have charged us for their pre-booked pick-up service. 
We got a really nice deal for The Oberoi, and the splurge is really worth it! The service is unlike anything i’ve ever experienced. The attention to detail is exquisite. For example: we checked-in in our room instead of at the reception, where they had hot-chocolate waiting for us, they got and activated a sim-card for our phone, check out was at 6pm so we could have a full nap, a very friendly lady played with little M for a while while we had breakfast, and they left a full set of baby products and a little gift for her on our bed! Ahhh…Should i go on? The hotel is beautiful, the food so far amazing with many toddler friendly options. 
 
The hotel gardens, and d the wild mangosteen
 
Speaking of food, let me tell you what we had for breakfast:
Little M had iddli, a fried egg, yogurt, a bit of paratha and fruit. What a mix! We love it when she eats this much! 
I had a rava dosa with delicious sambar and coconut chutney, and some chai. Mr A had a bit of everything from the buffet, he was very excited! Paratha, omelette, pastries, dried fruits, uttapam… Ha! But we were so hungry that we didnt even think of taking pictures. Sorry! 
 
Our lunch thali
 
We headed out the hotel on foot, to find commercial street. The rickshaw drivers were going crazy to get our business…. One fellow even pretended to be casually walking on the same direction as us and kept pointing the way and saying “but if you take auto-rickshaw only 10 rupees”… But further down the road he showed up in his rickshaw and continued his offer. We declined, we wanted to walk. On commercial street we found many stores, mostly clothing, mostly fancy sarees and kurti sets. 

Amongst these was a W store, a brand a dear friend had praised, and Fabindia which is also well known. Little M got unnecessary little bangles, but they are cute! I got the kurti-churiddar sets that i wanted for the trip. I love this style of clothing and every time I come to India I consider making it my permanent style. 
This would be my fourth time in India, but the last time was 9 years ago! Time flies! It’s Mr A’s first time. I’m curious and nerveous about his reactions and impressions. We didn’t see much of Bangalore because today we prioritized a long nap for the little mangosteen.

I have to tell you a story. Because we planned this trip very last-minute (2-3 weeks?), we ran into some hurddles. Please learn from our mistakes and book your train or airline tickets very early! I don’t remember ever having had a waitlisted ticket for an Indian rail before, and i did A LOT of train travel 9-10 years ago. But nowadays, we were able to buy the tickets online, hurray, except that every train was already waitlisted. I also discovered that the way train tickets work is very complex, and i learned a lot about it these last couple of weeks. Codes like PNR, WL, RAC, RLWL are now meaningful and i know the ticket rules by heart! I now know and have used the forums where volunteer enthusiasts predict the chances of your tickets being moved from the wait-list to the confirmed/ assigned seat bunch. According to these websites we had very good chances, 98%- 97% on one website, a bunch of “confirmed” votes on another. Well, we had a nerve-wrecking afternoon checking on our reservation status, until around 3 hours before our departure time the “chart was prepared”, which means the ticket-fellows finished their seat distribution and no more changes take place. We ended up with one confirmed and one waitlisted. As I said, i know my ticket rules, and I knew this allowed us to still get on the train… Mr A who is not an overly adventurous traveler and likes things much more comfy and plush, was not very happy. Oh wait, I haven’t mentioned the train is going from Bangalore to Kerala, a 14 h overnight journey, and that we had no plan B if our tickets didn’t get confirmed. So we got on the train! We quickly found the ticket master and asked him which was our berth. He was somewhat surprised (maybe the foreigners with a toddler and no confirmed seat thing?), but showed us which was our single confirmed berth, “You’ll have to share”. Of course! Our berth is on the first class AC carriage. Basically the highest class on Indian trains.This was my first time on the 1st AC! We got a two berth cabin, sharing with an older gentleman, who graciously and ceremoniously traded our upper-berth for his lower berth. Yea, we not only got a single “bed” for the 3 of us but we also got the high-up-there-in-the-sky-one… Not ideal for squeezing in with a toddler. Husband decidedly not very happy. But we are on our way to Kerala!!! I love traveling by train! And i love indian trains! Yes, even first class on this train is particularly shabby, the bathrooms are horrible, hold your breadth and don’t touch a thing horrible, but i actually enjoy it! Right now Little M and the husband are sleeping. I’m at the far end of our family berth squeezing on the available space. It’s now almost 6 am. Outside everything is still dark, but i get glimpses of passengers on other trains, some of them really crowded, which makes our sleeping arrangements feel luxourious. People are waiting patiently at the stations, for late night-early morning journeys. Many fellow passengers have young children as well. I never noticed before, i wasn’t paying attention. Little M has slept surprisingly well. She is little yet she takes so much space! The sun is rising! Good morning Kerala! 

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