Old Jun 7, 09, 2:41 am
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: ABQ, LAX, ORD, TLV and beyond
Programs: Mostly a free agent nowadays: UA,AA, LH, DL; Starriott (er, Bonvoy); Hilton; Amex Plat
Posts: 1,581
An Indian Odyssey: BA to Delhi and 5,000 Miles of Rail Travel on the Subcontinent

Note: LOTS of pics are forthcoming upon my return home. I wanted to write this report on the road to ensure maximum accuracy, but I do not have the ability to upload photos here. I will update the thread with the images as soon as I arrive back in the States.

This trip was conceived seven months ago, just before Thanksgiving. I had simulatneously been a full-time graduate student/TA and a full-time professional for three years, and the double life had begun to take its toll. With my 20s feeling perilously close to their end, I decided that it was time for a lifestyle change marked by one last big adventure abroad before I buckled down to focus on finishing my education and embarking on a lasting career.

The decision to stage this odyssey in India came easily, since it was a country that I'd wanted to see for years and one where a few of my college friends now live. Late one night (admittedly after a few beers to scare away any potential buyer's remorse), I hastily booked a BA flight in Y from ORD-DEL via LHR's T5, which I had yet to visit since its completion.

I awoke the next morning feeling confident in my decision and looked forward to planning the six-week journey, which I planned to spend riding the rails to and from the extremities of the Indian subcontinent. My goals were to hit the major cities, to visit my friends (thereby experiencing India from the local perspective), and to fulfill a long-standing desire to see the Himilaya.

Not long after booking my flights, tragedy struck, as Westerners and Jews were targeted in the notorious 11/26 terrorist attacks on Mumbai. Being both a Westerner and a Jew, I began to reconsider my trip. I would continue to do so for months, finally deciding only about 8 weeks prior to my departure that the desire to have this experience was worth the risks associated with traveling alone in India.

During those last weeks of planning, I worked with a travel agent in the UK to book my rail itinerary, which was to begin in Delhi. From Delhi, I would make my way to Rajasthan, visiting Udaipur and Jaipur, before backtracking to Agra and the obligatory visit to the Taj Mahal. From Agra, I would ride to Mumbai, then to Madgoan, Goa (staying in Colva Beach). From Goa, I would head south to Kochi, Kerala, then east to Chennai to visit the family of my best college friend. After Chennai, I would make my way back north to Calcutta, where I would stay with another good friend of mine, after which the two of us would make the trip to Darjeeling, which would serve as the staging area for the Himalayan portion of my adventure. I continue to work with a mountain guide--a friend of a friend--on determining the best itinerary within the mountain regions.

During the final three weeks before my trip, I informed my employer of my plans, obtained my Indian visa, endured a bevy of immunizations, and purchased a veritable pharmacy of malaria medication, altitude sickness pills, and antibiotics.

BA0294, June 4-5, 2009
Aircraft: B767 ETOPS
Depart: 7:15 pm (sheduled, on time)
Arrive: 9:35 am (scheduled, 8:50 am actual)
Flight time: 7 hours, 50 minutes

I left my condo at roughly 4:00 pm for a 7:15 departure, assuming rush hour traffic and the usual bottlenecks at ORD's horrendous international T5. To my pleasant surprise, it took only 45 minutes to reach the airport, and after saying long goodbyes to my girlfriend (who was sadly unable to make the trip with me), I entered the building to find it surprisingly calm for a weekday late afternoon.

There was only one other passenger in the BA Y line, and it was soon my turn to retrieve my boarding pass. The check-in agent tagged my bag all the way through to DEL and handed my BPs for both legs of the trip (21B to LHR and 18A to DEL). She then proceded to explain that all food and shopping was on the outside of security, and she kindly suggested that I eat and shop before heading to the departure area. While I knew ORD's T5 and its shortcomings well, I appreciated the warning and told the check-in agent as much.

The previous night, when I checked in online with BA, I found that the first leg of the trip would be on a 767 instead of the 777 that had been initially promised. It had been a few years since I had ridden a 767, and I was looking forward to doing so once again.

After making a few last phone calls in the check-in area and quickly perusing the meager shopping options, I headed through a light security line and did some spotting before heading to the gate. Soon, I was on my way to the back of the bus (or the Boeing, as it were).

We pushed back on time, and after a short taxi, we were airborn. The company to my left was a talkative and pleasant young British woman, so I barely realized that we had taken to the air.

Soon after takeoff, drink service was offered (I opted for a Diet Coke), followed by dinner.

I opted for Asian-style chicken with rice and salad with a whole-grain roll, and a caramel cake and piece of crispy chocolate for dessert. I was offered wine with the meal, and when I asked for white, I was given the choice of Chardonnay or Bordeaux. I chose the latter and was pleased. 30 minutes late, a refill of wine was offered, which I turned down in favor of coffee.

Once dinner ended, I finished the movie that I had been watching (Gran Torino--excellent) and took some notes for the TR. This was when I noticed something that I don't often see in Y cabins--an amenity kit! While it lacked the velvet PJs and other trappings of higher classes of travel, it did contain socks, an eye shade, toothbrush, and toothpaste.

A note on BAs AVOD: it ranks with Swiss (and perhaps even outranks it) as one of the best film and music selections across the Atlantic.

A meager breakfast of orange juice and a pre-packaged Danis was served about an hour prior to landing, and we arrived at LHR's new Terminal 5 without event.

Last edited by zcat18; Jun 7, 09 at 10:18 pm
zcat18 is offline