Hi all, well after a period of deep reflective thinking and high emotions it is time to scale things back somewhat and share some of our lighter moments on the trip. We travelled by train yesterday from Chennai to Bangalore, getting up at 4.30am for a 6am train. It doesn't matter how many times we do it on this trip it doesn't get any easier! Both Bec and I were up showered, had lights on and the TV on and all three kids were still fast asleep, not a good start to our long day. So we left the Hotel Connemara in Chennai with the belief that this is probably now our favourite hotel in the world. It isn't the most luxurious we have stayed in, it certainly isn't the biggest, it doesn't have the best restaurants but it is a very easy fit for our family. The rooms by the pool are awesome, the service is mind blowing, the care and attention shown towards the kids is beyond anything we have ever expected and overall it just feels like our hotel, our favourite.
After a bit of a shaky start and running a little behind schedule we managed to get to the railway station with a few minutes to spare. At the train station the porters will carry your bags for you on their head at 30 rupees per bag. Quite a sight watching these poor guys lift our very heavy bag on to their heads and meander through the dense crowd of weary travellers awaiting their trains. We made our way to platform 2A for the Shatabdi Express, our train direct through to Bangalore. Of all the modes of transport I would say my favourite is train travel. The ability to sit in a comfortable chair, watching life pass you by outside the window. You get to see so much of Indian life by the tracks as you charge on to your destination. There are the less than favourable sights of morning ablutions, which for some reason seem to occur frequently by the side of the tracks, there are the cues of cars, autos and other vehicles lined up at the train crossings, there are kids walking to school, people heading to work, families having breakfast on the roof of their homes, there are farmers tending their crops, goat herders, chicken farms, there are fancy coloured houses (pink, orange and bright lime green were very popular), slums with housing that is barely standing up and you would imagine a good rain shower would knock them down. It is one of my favourite Indian activities, my favourite being walking through the rural villages meeting with the local kids and families. The train is a little easier for the kids also as they can stretch out, get up and walk around and generally be a little more active than on a plane or in a car. Nanna and Popsy had organised breakfast boxes from the hotel to take with us so we had plenty of doughnuts, muffins and croissants and ofcourse the mandatory snickers, mars bars and kit kats for the trip. One of our not so bright manoeuvres was to feed Gus a handful of smarties as he started to kick up a fuss, in our defence we were not being particularly logical at that time of the morning and it seemed to work pretty well in the first instance! He was just starting to drift off for a nap when his eyes all of a sudden opened up very wide, he sat bolt upright and all you could hear in the carriage was the now famous dinosaur 'roar' bellowing from the little master over and over again. Not quite sure what our accompanying passengers felt about the very loud little Aussie man. The girls settled in for a nap and stretched out on a couple of seats each, I tried to get a little bit of work done until ofcourse the little master realised I was paying him the full attention he deserved and he decided it was time he shut down my laptop and I focussed on him. Bec was kept busy meeting the constant requests and needs of everyone with her almost magical ability to pull out almost anything you require including food, toys, cleaning products, clothing, scissors, stationary amongst many other requests from one of her pockets in her backpack, she is a veritable human swiss army knife and thank god she is with us.
About 2.5 hours into our 5 hour trip the little man finally gave up as the chocolate seemed to work its way through his system and he slept the remainder of the way. As he slept the girls started to stir and despite, DSs, laptops and DVD player started to get restless and we had to call in the big guns from Popsy, one his now infamous Barry Evil stories. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of listening to these it is an almost magical mix of stories from Poppas schooling days including characters such as Mrs Kierkegard, Kitchen Upstart (the boy with no bottom), Eddie Trucker (the one who always seems to get lost or hurt), Moria Phips (the love interest in most stories), Conrad Beshmerdnick, Teddy Salad (who had his head chopped off at the hands of Barry Evil's axe) and ofcourse Popsy and Barry Evil. I am not sure what plays out in Popsy's mind but the kids sure love the stories, and it was just what they needed to get over the line. Before we knew it we were pulling up into Bangalore station and as always seems to be the case we are pleasantly surprised with how quickly the time goes on the train. We made our way up and down several large flights of stairs, bags in toe, carrying the little raja up and down the stairs in his stroller, we must make quite a sight to the local onlookers! For the second time in a row our transport from the hotel is remarkably absent this despite several emails pre-warning of our impending arrival. We stand waiting out the front of the Bangalore train station, amongst hordes of taxi drivers peddling their wares in front of the security post made up of a machine gun toting soldier sitting behind a bunker of sacks of potatoes. After nearly half an hour of waiting we gave up and decided to take up the most patient of the taxi drivers offer of a couple of cabs to the hotel. Not to go into too much detail but we had a little bit of heightened negotiating when we made it to the hotel through our own transport and were placed in rooms that were not what we had pre organised. After several heated conversations we were upgraded to the Tata suites, which were the best of Indian extravagance and whilst a sight to behold forecast a couple of days of watching Gus like a hawk after his Thailand exploits of drawing on the tables, ripping wallpaper of the walls and painting nailpolish on the furniture. I would hate to think what the furniture in this room cost. It is the room the hotel owner stays in when he is here at the hotel. Time for a club sandwich and a south Indian coffee by the pool and a sit in one of the hammocks the girls love so much.
We were pretty exhausted by the evening so all 5 of us crashed in the king bed and watched a movie. Indy and I were the only ones who managed to get through the opening credits before Indy departed shortly after. We couldn't quite work out the lighting system in the room so as Bec frantically tried to turn off the bedside lamp by actually turning on all the lights in the suite we finally slid into the darkness of sleep with four of us remaining in the bed and Gus back in his cot, at least until about 5am. We awoke to one of the best breakfast buffets you will ever see, Bec went the traditional western today and I the south Indian dosa, vada, idly and sambar and ofcourse accompanying chutneys. With the combination of the four cups of south Indian coffee (a milky coffee that is just so good) it certainly gets the insides going! The kids drift between donuts, French toast, pancakes and omelettes and bacon and the day gets off to a great start. After a long and leisurely walk around the expansive gardens at the hotel Bec decided to stay back this morning with Maggie and Gus by the pool as Indy and I ventured out in the autos (three wheeler Indian open taxis) and race nanna and poppa to the main shopping precinct. For the record despite leading all the way to the final leg Indy and I came in a close second in the auto race to the shops, I think Popsy must have paid off our driver, the whole thing smelled of match fixing! Indy loves the auto rides and because of the thickness of the traffic you barely get above 25km / hr and so the ride inevitably proves to be surprisingly safe. We headed into Commercial street and our favourite shop in Bangalore Fabindia to pick up a couple of things for everyone before heading back to the hotel. Maggie and Indy were booked in for their Henna tattoo like treatment on their hands, an Indian tradition of applying a henna staining paint in a decorative pattern, after a while the henna falls off and what is left is an orange tattoo like pattern which the girl love. Maggie, our resident fashionista, now has her hair braided / plaited, henna tattoos on her hands, manicure and pedicure, new Indian bracelets, new Indian dress, her Indian Bindy between and just above her eyes and ready for trouble. Indy has had a hair cut, layered ofcourse, her henna on her hands, new bracelets, new Indian dress and ofcourse her pedicure as well. Bec has had a pedicure, facial (in Bangkok), booked in for a haircut, and just returned from a waxing where Maggie believes her eyebrows have been waxed too wide apart, needless to say we have a minor drama on our hands! We all have some beautiful new Indian clothing and ready to head out tonight to Blue Ginger the resident Vietnamese restaurant. The little master has done the right thing and is having a long afternoon sleep. Popsy and I are due to have our rematch on the clay tennis courts here at the hotel. Last trip Popsy caused a stir amongst the hotel staff when 5-0 40-0 down he pulled a calf injury and had to retire hurt. This sent the hotel staff into a spin as people came from everywhere to lend assistance to Popsy as he hobbled off the court in disgrace. It culminated in the hotel physio being called to the pool to provide a somewhat soothing if not painful massage. You can ofcourse see that Popsy has called the match a dead rubber and is set to take the court again in the Bangalore tennis challenge. I will again await what moves Popsy will pull when he is facing defeat, stay tuned for the match results.
That is all for now. We are heading off by train tomorrow to Mysore, which in its time was a kingdom and staying at the famous Green hotel. A little happier than our last trip in 1995 when Bec was gravely ill after a bad idly on the train. Hope you are all well and enjoying our blog. To finish off with I have included an excerpt from Indy's interview with Maggie;
Favourite Sport: Running, Favourite Clothes: Watermelon, chips and Naan bread (recently added!), Job ideas; Florist, zookeeper, policeman (although the last one was crossed out after some consideration), Hobbies: Sport, going out and dressing up, Favourite animals: Elephant, dogs, cats (I am just waiting to be asked when we can get an elephant), Favourite hair style: Plaits and favourite type of pillow: smooshy.
And on that note I bid you all farewell from the Tata suite and the Taj West End Bangalore!