Few years ago I spent a day in one of the best luxury train of India, Palace on Wheels for a client activity. It was my first rendezvous with any luxury train and I was more than thrilled to see it from inside. I faintly remember exploring the bar lounge and cabins, all converted into rooms and decked up with a royal touch. Ever since, it was my secret wish to ride in anyone of them. I knew it from the heart that I won’t be able to afford it so soon but I kept hoping for it still. I never knew Universe grants wishes this fast
I recently rode on Golden Chariot which is the only luxury train of South India on an invitation from Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation
I denied the offer initially due to my ongoing advance level Yoga certification course but all thanks to my fellow blogger friend, Abhinav Singh, to convince me at the last moment. I would have missed a great deal. It’s surely a lifetime experience.
As we were gearing up for the day I was all excited as well a bit inquisitive too. Because I always wondered what it would be to live on these trains? I was curious to know what make these luxury trains of India so special. Will we stay in the train for 7 nights & 8 days and ride through the best of three states? How can we explore the sites? My mind was full on questions and I am sure so is yours. So finally when I had my queries answered, let me take you through the gorgeous GOLDEN CHARIOT
The Golden Chariot
Golden Chariot is a joint venture between Karnataka government & Ministry of Railways, who in turn has got Mapple hotels on board to manage the same. The train has been named after the ‘Stone Chariot’ in Hampi, Karnataka which is one the UNESCO World Heritage site. Starting from Bengaluru, this award winning train offers 2 itineraries across some of the most prominent destinations:
‘The Pride of South’ which takes you through the best of Mysore, Hampi & Goa and the ‘Southern Splendour’ which ride you through the 3 states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. I was on the latter one. This year I was told that Southern splendour will be put on hold as the train is facing clearance issues on this particular route.
We got the first taste of the royalty of Golden Chariot at Taj West End hotel in Bengaluru where we were asked to assemble for the check ins. It is from here that the managing staff takes you over. You leave your luggage which gets boarded in the train directly as you proceed to collect the boarding pass. This is followed by a brief property visit and a cultural program where a glimpse is given inside the various form of South Indian dance forms. Enough to set the mood right!
From here we were taken to Yeshwantpur railway station via Iskon temple. What waited ahead was a grand royal welcome in traditional style with garlands & trumpets and red carpet laced on the floor. The authorities make a special effort to get you inside the station without any hassle by reserving the passage through barriers and policemen at work
We entered the train via the bar lounge called Madira and I couldn’t blink my eyes for few seconds seeing the exquisite decor of the train. I was mesmerised. Simply Wow!
We were served the welcome drink after which we were taken to our coaches by the respective appointed butler
Golden Chariot is truly a luxury hotel on the wheels, designed to recreate the aesthetics of Dravidian cultural ethos. This Indian luxury train comes equipped with state of the art amenities to create unique travel experiences and make it the best one.
Golden Chariot has 11 passengers’ coaches. Each coach has 4 cabins, the interiors of which have been inspired from the architectural styles of Belur, Halebidu and Mysore temples.
Everything within the train has been designed in accordance to match the feel of the era.
Each coach has been designed differently and named after the famous dynasties of South India.
My coach was called Adilsahi which was named after the dynasty of South Indian sultans, who ruled the Bijapur Sultanate from 1490 to 1686.
Rooms of the Golden Chariot
I must admit that this was the most fascinating part and most enquired too. I am a train lover but somehow I avoid it for long distance travel. But I wouldn’t mind taking it for long travels, if the local train compartment gives me this comfortable bedding. I seriously wished this when I saw my room for the first time.
The interiors of the room have been designed as per the dedicated dynasty of the coach, well equipped with all the facilities of a luxury room. The huge window on the side bed lets you enjoy the outside landscape while in the comfort of your bed.
The rooms are on twin sharing basis either double bed or in single bed. Some rooms can accompany a third bed as well which is more like a pull over seat.
Apart from this, the rooms also have an almirah to keep your clothes and other stuff. It also has a television to keep you entertained throughout your journey where you can play movies.
Since the train keeps moving hence no cable connection. Each coach has a butler to attend to your daily needs.
The bathroom is equipped with 24 hours hot running water and other basic amenities is provided just as in luxury hotel. The room has little walking space but I think it is obvious since the cabins are made out of limited coach space.
The Restaurants & Food of Golden Chariot
The two restaurants on board Golden Chariot are called Nalapaka and Ruchi which are inspired by the royal antiques of Hampi & Halebid temples and serve the lip smacking continental and Indian food.
The food has been carefully fusioned by the executive chef of Mapple Hotels, Mr. Deepak Kumar to suit the taste of royal cuisine and yet retaining the Indian flavours.
The train has fixed limited menu options for each day, but enough to keep you happy and filled.
The staff also makes sure to prepare the food from the fresh produce which is collected from designated stations each day.
They don’t store anything, not even the food. There is no gas in the kitchen. All the equipments work on electricity
There is also a special coach called Arogya which has been designed for the health conscious. It has a gym for fitness enthusiasts and a spa room which offers the authentic ayurvedic massages for quick relaxation.
And in case you want to work and catch up on mails, it has a business center too.
The Indoor Bar Lounge
The train also has indoor bar lounge called Madira which is modelled after the 20th century Mysore Palace.
It’s a place for people to meet, socialise & have fun. It is also through Madira that we de-board the train for our sightseeing throughout the day
The part of the journey is covered through the bus which means you don’t stay in the train throughout the day and this is how you explore a site.
The bus will take us for our day sightseeing while the train waits for us at the station. In the evening while we board the train again, the bus catch up in the night and wait for us at the next station in the morning. You will be accompanied by professional guides at each destination.
I didn’t face any network issue anywhere. Infact I was on 4G throughout my trip. The train also provides wi-fi which works only in bar lounge and the two restaurants. Wi-Fi doesn’t work in the rooms but then I had a good network throughout. Infact the bus journey also has wi-fi which let you remain connected with the world of social media though I really think why 😛
Things to take care:
- The itinerary is well planned and designed to show you the best of South India. But mind you it’s a packed itinerary. And if you are someone like me, who loves to spend all her time at one place, it can be a little challenging. It leaves you with really less time to absorb the place fully. The itinerary has been made keeping in the mind the luxury and comfort of regular tourist.
- You get around 3 hours of the lunch since it gets really hot during the day. Me and few of my blogger friends utilised this time to take de-tour and explore the other sites which we could cover in the designated time. But incase you plan to do this too, make sure to come back on time since the train moves on time in the evening. I almost missed my train the last day. ALMOST !
- The train has cramped up space to walk but then its a TRAIN!
- Though the train is really comfortable but it can feel shaky to those who are not used to train travels. My room partner loves to have a sound sleep and she faced challenges while sleeping in the moving train during night
- Carry appropriate clothes since there are clothes restrictions at few temples. You shall be informed by the on-board staff about the same. Temple socks are provided at the site itself
- Since the train moves at night and you are out the whole day for sightseeing, I missed sitting in the train and enjoy the morning views. Though I got an untimely opportunity when the train got horribly delayed to reach Kanyakumari due to de-railing (We have to skip it). But I guess the whole feel of sitting leisurely in your room while enjoying the landscape adds different essence to the experience altogether
Golden Chariot is a journey which takes you through some of the finest gems of South India and yet what make this train special are not these destinations only but the experience of living on it. The royal feel clubbed with the hospitality, the warmth and the ever smiling staff on board makes sure that Golden Chariot remains one of the treasured memories of your life
P.S.: All my pictures where I feature has been clicked my fellow blogger friend Abhinav Singh
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