To Reach : The Buddhist Holy Place of the World, BodhGaya.
Chapter 2. Travel
Airplane travel to India
People of integrated society today works, coordinates and relates to others both near and far with globalization technology, including swiftly developing communication and transportation. No matter, how far it is, talking to each other by real time is easy and very convenient. To meet together, just take a plane or a high-speed bullet train as in Japan or in fast-growing economic city in China, 300-400 kilometers in one hour approximately. Going to India to render homage the Lord Buddha, we don’t need to go by foot or by oversea ship which take a month as long time ago. All of us in the team agreed to go by plane with 1,612 kilometers, 2-3 hours and continue by normal train with 8 hours approximately to the place of the Lord Buddha Enlightenment. Different railway agency will take different time, there are many railway agencies in India, we have a choice to select.
There are three seasons in India, Summer – March, April, May and June, Monsoon – June to October and Winter- November to February. The temperature in Summer and Monsoon time will start heating up, average is around 38 degrees C, in some areas the temperatures go up to over 50 degrees C. As World News report in 2010, hundreds of people died from heat wave in northern part of India. Winter will be the most suited to travel, average temperature range from 10-15 degree C. In some parts of north, temperature will drop to below 0 degree C. As agreed in the team, we will start travel from the second week of December to the last week of the year. Airline’s tickets were prepared with promotion type, means no change, no refund. We got to have a good and exact plan, otherwise, if we change the plan, we will lost all ticket-fee. For traveling in India, we have agreed plan to purchase train tickets at Dum Dum, Kolkata airport.
Dum Dum Airport Kolkata
Tourist Visa to India of our group was already applied, travel date was also closer. But, an event of protestation beyond our control happened. They against the corrupted government and want them to expel out of the cabinet. I always think, fortunately, I was born in Thailand. I’m Thai, my ancestors came to Thailand because of economy crisis in their motherland. They stayed in Thailand for survival and taking care their family, never have any problem for Thailand. When I was young, I started to study in the elementary school. One Thai language practicing books says, Thailand is the prosperous country, lots of fishes in the water, lot of rice in the paddy field. Why now, many groups get never enough. Some are in the cabinet. They were claimed to corrupt their homeland. Thai people suffer from this corruption problem. The place of the protestation was near the airport. Management of the airport could not operate normally and concerned the safety for passengers and the airport. They requested the government to operate the U-Tapao airport instead. These protestation happened 2 weeks before my group journey, and fortunately, the airport back to operate normally only two days before our trip started.
11.25 pm., departing from Suvarnabhumi airport, we arrived the Dum Dum airport, Kolkata after midnight 30 minutes, Indian time zone which is slower than Thai time 1.30 hours. We finished all immigration and baggage claim process in one hour. It still was a night time, it was not a time to go outside. Generally, when I have a chance to go abroad, I would like to have a plan to arrive the destination in the morning time or a little bit after mid-day. It would have enough time to find out an accommodation hotel or get a transportation to go other place. At this time, we had mostly six hours to wait for morning time of the next day, to purchase train tickets. Taking a nap to get more strength for next day travel was the best choice. The Dum Dum airport is not modernize as Delhi or Mumbai airport. There are a set of bench lay scattered. After selecting a comfortable one with quiet area. I got a chance to exchange my Thai Baht to Rupee, Indian currency. The exchange rate was approximately 7 Bahts for 10 Rupees. We always have to have circumspectness, after receiving Indian Rupees, I did not forget to reconcile the amount of exchange. Otherwise, it would be less than expected amount. I was back to the bench to take a nap, there was a Japanese guy dragged his suitcase and log it with the next bench then went out to do other things. It was a pretty easy way. He could get their stuff safely just with a locker. There were three persons in our team. If anyone wants to do some thing, there should have one or two persons left to take care our own luggage.India Airport
Train Travel in India
8 am. of the next day at the airport, we went out to purchase train tickets at the train ticket office which is the next building of the Dum Dum airport. To complete the request form, we must fill out starting station, train number, train name, coach type and the destination station. But as far as I knew only that the starting station was Howrah station and the destination station was Gaya station, that’s all. I was already in the queue waiting for purchasing, I did not want to waste my time to start in queue again. How can I do? Generous support of human assistance appear everywhere in the world. In India too, I got help from them, a person behind me in the queue. He was a young professional programmers as same as my career before. He suggested me to fill only we knew, a train officer would help more. The officer helped and gave me an information of one train from Hawar 6 pm. and arrive Gaya at 2 am. in the next day. Oh, I did not want to get the destination place very late in night time. Is there any train before this? I requested the officer. “Yes Mam, from Kolkata station at 12.00 am. and arrive Gaya station at 8.30 pm. “. “Yes, OK.” That is my answer. We were lucky just simply help of the train for the first journey experience. Generally, we need to make a seat or berth reservation for long-distance journeys for Indian train. The Indian railway network is the third biggest in the world, Russia is the first and China is the second. The trains in India go almost everywhere, city center to city center including major town.
Prepaid Taxi Service at the Dum Dum airport is quite convenient for passengers. It won’t waste our time for bargaining, just pay service fee with fare chart to our destination first and then get into a taxi. From a prepaid service booth, we got a taxi voucher and got a taxi with our suitcases. The taxi driver drove out from the airport 500 meters approximately and asked us to pay 300 rupees for suitcase service fee, each 100 rupees. We argued that we had already paid taxi fee. He said, taxi voucher we had excluded suitcase service and if we would not pay more, we had to get out from the taxi. I took a look on the voucher, that was true. “How do you set the suitcase service charge?, we asked. “One kilometer per rupee”, his answer. There was no weighing machine in the taxi. We did not want go back to the airport. I would bargain first. I said “There are three suitcases, each less than 30 kilometers, I will pay extra only 150 rupees.” Taxi driver easily agreed. Then we continued to Kolkata station. When I came back from Hawar station to Dum Dum airport, a statement in the voucher of Prepaid taxi service is “Don’t pay any extra”. This experience teach us that we can not ignore any details when we go abroad.
Kolkata train station is the starting station to Jummu(northern India). It takes 8 hours to Gaya Station with 548 Kilometers and average speed 53 kilometers/hour..How do we get into the right train. We can take a look on the monitor to get platform number and reconfirm with a train officer also for coach number. This journey was easy for us because Kolkata is the starting station, the train was already in the platform. Our seats are air-conditioned 3-tier(AC3). It is open-plan of berths – upper, middle and lower, arranged of six berths on one side of aisle, and upper and lower berths arranged along the coach side on the other side of the aisle, these berths convert to seats for daytime use. Indian trains consist of 8 classes. 1) Air-conditioned first class (AC1) – lockable 4-berth and 2-berth compartments with washbasin, 2) Air-conditioned 2-tier(AC2), open-plan and only arranged 4 berths which is similar to AC3 as mentioned above. 3) AC3 as mentioned above. 4) First class, lockable 2-berth and 4-berth compartment, without air-conditioner. 5) AC Executive chair class, only for some trains which is the most important trains, ex., Delhi to Agra. 6) AC Chair class, good for daytime travel. 7) Sleeper Class, non-conditioned open-plan, arranged berth is similar to AC3. This class is the majority of cars and is the way for most of Indian population travels long-distance. It is very crowed and grubby. 8) Unreseved 2nd class, open-plan wooden or plastic seats. It’s good for daytime travel with a few hours. Our AC3 class was quite comfortable for three persons. Spacing in the coach is wider than Thai, Indian railways is 1.676 meters wide (5 feet and a half, the Thai railway is only 1 meter. The opposite seats of our team was a family, father, mother and two boys, the older one was 6 and the younger one was just one. Human being society is interesting, no matter what language they speak, they would like to talk together. The youngest one in our team was 18, she was still young and wanted to talk with a 6-year boy. They can talk in English, almost all time with permission by his parents. Adults of us, and the boy’s parents also talked together, the boy’s father is an engineer and mother is a house-keeper. Indian people can speak English mostly. A man of the top seat opposite our berths came to join for talking. His destination was Gaya station. Fortunately, we had a companion to get off the train at the same station. We would get the right destination station, wouldn’t loss
India is the 7th-largest country of the world of approximately 3.3 million square kilometers. It’s six times larger than Thailand (Thailand is the 5th-largest country in the world, five hundred thousand square kilometers). Indian is the second largest, Indian population, about 1,200 million people. China is the largest one, about 1,300 million people. India are projected that 20 years in the future, Indian population will overtake China. The most density of population is in cities and suburban areas. Agricultural field of India is very huge. Lots of big trees are standing gracefully and long live as well, among the open field without any obstructions, especially, the Bodhi tree. Hindu people never cut the Bodhi tree. The Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment at the Prasrimahabhodi ( Bodhi tree).India Train
Photography by Marco Martinelli
The train arrived on time at Gaya station, 8 pm. Getting help from a railway officer to find out a hotel which near the station is the better choice for evening time. It looked safe with extra bed for three persons by extra charge. All equipments in the room was quite strong and robust. As a rough estimated, they were producedt at least few decades ago. All members in the group agreed to have a dinner at the hotel after we were on the train almost 10 hours. We got full with a simple dish of plain rice and a couple rotis with chicken curry. After that we went out to buy some fruit. It was approximately 9 pm. We could see only men on the road for fruit selling and walk around. I still wonder until now, why no women appear. They may be very on strict house wife at home.
The early morning of the next day. Car horn, crashing against noise, and others made as a voice of alarm clock. It was just only 4 am. Thai people who come to India had to wake up too. After taking a shower, of us got more strength by having breakfast with hot meal along footpath near the hotel. There were many shops set on the soil ground. Each shop had a cooking stove, a pot of cooking rice, a set of soup or curry or other things to eat with rice or roti in each shop. I got one plain of hot rice, one cup of egg curry and a drinking bottled water, that’s all enough for me to continue to travel.
After getting a cap like jeep in Thailand with successful bargaining, it took about half an hour to get our destination Wat Thai Bodh Gaya with 15 kilometers distance. Human being travel is the life of an amazing and profitable with a new place where we did not visit before. In addition to what has been found. Common sense would have to resolve some situation successfully and obtain a value a lot back.
Once it starts, the achievement is a half