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India: Bhopal

Wednesday was one of those days that makes you want to throw in the towel and bury your head under the pillow. I was trying to get from Mandu to Indore in time to catch the train to Bhopal, where I could buy an onward ticket to Gorakhpur, just south of Nepal, but almost everything that could go wrong went wrong.

Union Carbide

Anyway, back to Bhopal. After spending the morning visiting nearby Sanchi, eating some more wonderful food and discovering a branch of the Indian Coffee House, a wonderful chain that does simply divine masala dosa for breakfast as well as the best coffee I've had in India, I spent the rest of the day exploring Bhopal while waiting for the train. Before arriving in Bhopal I'd thought the name sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it until my guidebook reminded me of one of the most tragic stories in the history of India.

Bumpy Ride North

My unexpected air-conditioned two-tier sleeper journey was an eye-opener, being a step above first class and second only to the ultimate luxury, the air-conditioned first class sleeper. After extensive travel on second class sleepers – the cheapest sleeper class – AC is amazingly quiet (due to the windows being sealed) and full of little luxuries, like curtains to pull round your berth and individual reading lights. The chai men are also conspicuous by their absence, a major blessing that alone is worth paying five times the price for. Sure, the luxury of AC class is fairly illusory given the standard of my current lifestyle – in Europe these AC carriages would probably be consigned to the scrap heap and standard Indian second class would no doubt contravene a whole host of EU directives – but I found the long, long journey north simply wonderful after all the bouncy buses and rickety rickshaws of budget India.