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A golden experience on wheels

A ride aboard the Golden Chariot : Karnataka’s luxury tourist train and answer to the famous Palace on Wheels. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, really.

The Golden Chariot

For those of you, who still haven’t heard of this special train, here’s some background: The train goes on a 8 day journey covering Bangalore, Mysore, Srirangapatna, Kabini, Belur-Halebid, Sravanabelagola, Hampi, Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal, Goa and then back to Bangalore. Tickets are priced at $350/per head/per night that makes the entire week approx $2450 (or Rs 1 lakh)/head, comparable to the pricing of the Palace on wheels. It’s mainly geared at showcasing Karnataka to overseas visitors and giving them an experience of the culture, history and heritage of the state over the 8 days and 7 nights.

Needless to say, the experience of riding on the trial run of the train was quite out of the world. From a traditional welcome at Yeshwantpur station to boarding the train and then later having champagne at the bar and an elaborate dinner in the lounge, this was a totally different experience from our normal train journeys. Cramped interiors, not too clean seats, stinky toilets are some of our associations with Indian trains so this was like a bit of a culture shock on wheels.

Welcome onboard!

The whole train has been done up in different vestibules in various architectural styles of Karnataka. This theme is reflected in the doors of the cabins which are carved in that particular style. The usual basin and overflowing dustbin we’re used to in trains right at the entrance, has been replaced by a small but cosy foyer with a couple of chairs, a mirror with a mural and stylish entrance doors.

The bar (called Madeira initially) had to be erased on the outside apparently because it was felt to be against Kannadiga culture (erm?!). Anyway, there were quite a few people already in the bar area (Kannadigas and non-Kannadigas might I add) thus bringing an end to the myth but who are we to argue against such strange reasoning anyway?

Dining car

Getting back to the train – the staff are extremely friendly and well-trained and this being their one and only test run obviously wanted to get everything right. Mapple Hotels has been given the responsibility of on board service. We were all pampered in true royal style and obviously enjoyed every moment of it. All the meals including dinner and breakfast that we had on the train were great.

We had a word with the head chef who told us a bit about the challenges of cooking on a moving train and providing world class food. For dinner we had a choice of continental and Indian food, and it was quite good, including the delicious dessert (mango cheesecake) that everyone polished off. In Mysore, we had lunch was at the Regalis and dinner was planned for the Lalit Mahal Palace hotel.

Interior

The Golden Chariot is going to be an experience that will obviously be unaffordable to many : it is basically geared mostly at the affluent foreign tourist and will be a means to showcase Karnataka. While it can be argued as to why it should be more affordable to Indians, I guess it is also a business decision considering the amount of money the Railways will have to spend maintaining the train.

Though the rooms are small (how big can you get on a train) they have been designed for maximum comfort within the available space and the bathrooms too has been well designed. All the off-board activities will be taken care of by Arun Pai and his Indiawalks team. I’ve already written extensively about his Bangalore Walks experience earlier.

Whether they will be able to maintain these high levels of service is something that only time will tell. But there is a lot riding on stake. For the price that people will be paying for the 7 days trip the hotel management and the railways cannot afford to make too many mistakes.

One thing I noticed was that while the windows are large, the visibility is both ways. A suggestion would be to give it a one way visibility from inside (similar to the Volvo buses). This is especially uncomfortable when dining or enjoying a drink when people on the platforms come right up to the window and peer into your food 🙂

With Rohini

Overall, I had a great experience and also got to meet some very interesting people from diverse backgrounds on the train. At the end of journey, I wished I could have spent a few days more aboard the Golden Chariot, but unfortunately other plans got in the way. So, at Mysore station, I had to bid adieu to the rest of the team and the Golden Chariot as it geared up for its onward journey.

For more about the Golden Chariot, visit this link.

I leave you with a few pictures that should give you a good idea of the grandeur and opulence you can expect on the journey aboard the Golden Chariot.

A few pictures from the ride on the Golden Chariot

42 Comments

  1. Read about Golden Chariot couple of weeks ago on news papers… as you mentioned it’s not affordable for many including me…

    Content by looking at your photos for the time being

  2. Wow, sounds impressive. But why does the Golden Chariot look purple? Looks more like a Cadbury endorsed venture 🙂

  3. well presented.. now we will get to see other States also coming up with sort of things.
    Indian railways just means people coming in with cattle herds, stinking toilets, jam packed, etc etc to foreigners.
    gr8 relief after reading it. 🙂

  4. Great post Anita..
    Great to know about this heritage train..
    Would love to go on it someday..
    Can somebody here sponsor one ? 😉

  5. Great post and really fun to hear about this! I hope the find enough “rich tourists” to keep it going though. I know it is out of my financial comfort zone as well!

  6. @ prashanth: true! someone was suggesting having a month with a discounted rate for us poor indians but i doubt they will do that! 🙂

    @ Adel: i have no idea, but you would have asked the same for any colour they used, na? it has gold lining all through though! 🙂

    @ Mukta: thanks!

    @ Arun: i wonder if all states can come up with something like this – i guess it will also depend upon whether there is potential for tourism in those parts and whether they can handle a project like this one.

    @ Sumesh: haha, i am sure everyone’s hoping to get sponsored at some point 🙂

    @ Cindy/Snid: yes, i think they’ll need to target the very affluent community because a lac is quite a lot even for foreign tourists, i would presume. especially, for one travelling as a family!

  7. Beautiful pictures. Although I am sure that I have to remain happy just by reading your descriptions and seeing the pictures taken! 1L? phew!

  8. WOW!Thats great! I’d read about it on the net but now have a better insight 🙂

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  10. Radman says

    Anita, just a quick kudos to you. after reading the junk posted by most indian bloggers, it is a pleasure to read your comments. you provide relevant facts, pictures, links, descriptions, prices, etc etc. and you do it without the normally horrrendous grammer and english usage common to indian bloggers. thank you. i will comment on the golden chariot at a later date. cheers.

  11. Hi Anita:
    Beautiful site. I love that train. I have a quick question. You have a huge list of blogs. Is there a way I could sort them by geography. I’d like to get a list of all the Indian blogs in the Bay Area of Northern California. Any ideas? Thanks for any help you can lend. -Wes

  12. Wow thats great …… I am very new to bangalore …(just 2 days old) …. so it would be great to see all these things happening ! …….

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  14. I want!!! in South East Asia we got E&O train that went all the way to Thailand I really want to be on this one, currently planning and hoping to be in india this Christmas xoxox

  15. presently i am having a very bad experience …the Auto people in bangalore are just big time rowdies …the government needs to regulate the prices…Plus need to improve public transport. Bombay rocks in these services anytime…..
    Lets see i am still trying to fitin in Bangalore. …
    But i love the funda of this new palace on wheels in Karnataka… nice concept to improve tourism …. hope we get these type of trains all over the country ……

  16. @ angshu: 🙂 yes, 1L!!

    @ M: good to know that!

    @ Radman: thanks! i think quite a few people write quite well. but “horrrendous grammer”? ahem.

    @ Nandish: hehe 🙂

    @ Sunil Gangadharan: very yes! on par with the palace on wheels.

    @ Wes Conard: thanks! unfortunately, i don’t have them by geography. but you can try some of the more advanced indian blog listings (via google). i am sure you will find some via them!

    @ hiren: thanks!

    @ Sushanth: hey, welcome to bangalore!

    @ Az Azura: you can have it! 🙂 wow, sounds good! let me know your plans!

    @ anshul: thanks!

    @ Invisible China: thanks!

    @ rahul: thank you! train khon bhal lagile ne nai? 🙂

    @ Boostah: am sure you will!

    @ Sushanth: yeah, autos can get pretty difficult in bangalore! bombay rocks in that respect. but not to worry, you’ll settle in soon, won’t take very long!

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  18. kunjal says

    awesome!!!!I too wanted to have a ride on palace on wheels or Golden chariot but yes the prices are on the higher sides for Indians!!!!!

  19. Sandeep says

    That was a nice piece of info, never knew of such a venture. Cannot say I missed it though, because I am never in touch with whats goin around.

    Another one Added to my fantasies list

  20. Prasoon says

    Lovely!

    I’d term you lucky for you had such a chance and so, I am envious. 😉

    Whoz sponsoring me now – bids open indefinitely! 🙂

  21. pshhh. this is on the high side even for non-indians. ridiculous.

    it’s pretty cool and i haven’t been on any palace on wheels yet… but this dwarfs even the “heritage hotel” prices.

    clearly this is priced solely for the “westerner” and i don’t see much of a reason except to make a crapload of cash.

    but hey. whatever works, i guess. welcome to capitalism…

  22. Yo! Good one. This is the most readable and most informative piece I’ve seen about the Golden Chariot. The ones in the Slimes of India were pure barf and the ones elsewhere too PRish. How did you get to ride the Gravy Train though? 🙂

  23. Bernardo says

    hi!
    great article. But one question: hwo can it stop at Hampi if there is no train station there?

  24. This is an interesting initiative, and a great account of the train ride.

    One wonders though, why India should not try to make such experiences affordable for more Indians. Why must these trains exclusively cater to the foreigners, and the super rich Indians?
    A lakh for a week is too much to spend for even well earning professional types. You wouldnt travel alone, so thats a couple lakh for just a couple. Add kids, and you are broke!

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  26. Nitin Seth says

    Hi,
    All reviews I am able to view is not recent not one in 2012. Please if possible provide recent feedback about the Luxury train on route- Southern Splendour. I am planning for a vacant with my family and baby 3 yrs old in Jan 2013.
    Please advice…
    Warm Regards,
    Nitin

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