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Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
April 2, 2012
May 4, 2001
This isn’t a typical ‘cruise train’, where the train ride itself is the principal attraction. The train is more a haven to return to after a strenuous day of sightseeing.
Rajasthani palaces and fortresses were usually built on hills or mountaintops, with steep entry ramps and multiple stories and lookouts to explore. And, invariably, a hundred feet or more of stairways to ascend and descend. In 90-plus degree heat. We’d usually spend the better part of a day doing this, then return to the train, wash up and have cocktails and dinner, and sleep as the train moved on to the next morning’s attractions. The itinerary provided just enough daytime running to remind us that a properly-appointed train is one of the most intimate and relaxing ways of getting aquainted with an unfamiliar country.
Life aboard was blessedly informal. Several of the Indian women did wear traditional dress costumes for dinner on their last two nights on the trip, and some Western women wore dressy gowns they’d acquired during their travels --- but if you didn’t feel like dressing up you didn’t have to and never felt out of place. The fact that our train only slept 64 guests --- and was barely half full during this off-season trip --- probably helped people to mingle easily.
With only four bedrooms per car, and cars built for broad-gauge track, sleeping quarters on board the Palace on Wheels are far roomier than you’ll find on most American and European trains. Each bedroom has twin beds, two large picture windows, and reasonably adequate luggage space. There was a full bathroom --- not a cubicle --- with sink, Western-style toilet, and shower. With only two couples and me on the car, the TWO attendants smothered us with attention. In fact, they occasionally acted as ‘baby-sitters’, herding us back to the car if we strayed too far during station stops.
In space, comfort and furnishings, my room compared favorably to economy-class cruise ship cabins that I’ve paid considerably more for. And, the ride was a lot smoother, at a leisurely pace over generally good track. One of my fellow passengers had trouble sleeping because he was too tall for his bed, but I always slept well.
Some of wood finishes showed signs of wear, as did some of the bathroom fixtures, but the Train Manager said that the cars will be extensively refurbished during summer 2001. Also, for the 2001-2002 season, a new luxury train, with bar cars and open-air observation platforms, will replace the 2-1/2 hour bus ride from Chittaurgarh to Udaipur. (The track is narrow-gauge, so the Palace on Wheels can’t use it.)
The Palace on Wheels is an extremely comfortable, and reasonably priced, way to get acquainted with the history and mysteries of Rajasthani India.
From journal A week on India's 'Palace on Wheels'