From plastic recycling plants to maharajas’ palaces, and a visit to the lovely city of Udaipur (where my Facebook profile photo was taken!), travelling on a train which was carrying four tonnes of food (for eating, not selling) and provided passengers with TVs. Fruit, spices, camels, elephants … and Trevor McDonald’s got more charisma than John Beecham will ever have! What’s not to like? Oh, and apparently you can travel the entire length of India by rail for the equivalent of £12. But not on the Maharajas’ Express, which Trevor was on. That’s a seriously luxurious train. And it stops at some seriously exciting places. How can I get a job presenting programmes like this?!
Next week, we’re getting the Taj Mahal and the rats’ temple. Been to both 🙂 . Let’s just say that the Taj Mahal was the better of the two! Even the rats’ temple was fascinating in its way, though. Everything about India is fascinating, and Trevor’s trying to show a lot of different aspects of it in this two-part railway journey series.
He started off in Mumbai, visiting a plastic recycling plant. It doesn’t sound that interesting, but it actually was – India recycles far more plastic than we do, and it was indicative of how fast the Indian economy is growing and developing.
There’s been a huge population shift from the countryside to the cities in recent years, but much of the economy is still agriculture-based, and it was sad to see, on the next stop, in Pachora, how badly the farmers there have been affected by drought. We tend to associate drought with Africa, and India with monsoons; but things are really bad there, after several years with below average rainfall. It was a stark reminder of just how dependent we all are on weather conditions, and how all the industrial and technological development in the world can’t, at present, really do anything to bring relief from drought: there are just no irrigation systems powerful enough to give the land there the water it needs. It’s not good.
After that, it was on to Udaipur – with Trevor reminding us that the princely states of India were never part of the British Raj. In 1947, the year of independence, there were well over 500 princely states, some big, some small, covering over 40% of the sub-continent. They all became part of either India or Pakistan. The princes were originally supposed to get an annual payment and be entitled to keep their private property and titles, but later governments didn’t stick to that agreement. Trevor met one of the sons of the present Maharana of Udaipur (although I seem to remember that there’s some sort of succession dispute between two brothers there?), and later met the present Mahajara of Jodhpur, and it was clear that neither of them were overly happy with the way things had gone.
Having said that, they’ve still got their wonderful palaces, many of which are now heritage hotels. The one which Trevor visited in Jodhpur is said to be the most luxurious hotel in the world. He was welcomed by dancers, and had rose petals strewn at his feet! Sadly, places like that are a bit out of my price range , but some of the hotels we went to did give us some very pretty garlands when we arrived, and the security guards were very good about posing in their glamorous uniforms with sad female tourists like me! Incredible palaces – so big, and imposing, and beautiful. The Maharaja of Jodhpur’s even got his own train, although sadly it doesn’t run any more.
There was lots of food in the programme, as well. Those wonderful fruit and spice stalls you see everywhere in India. Such glorious colours! And the food on the train looked amazing. Apparently the train driver will even slow down if the chef asks him to, so that nothing gets spilt! It’s the most expensive luxury train in the world. Two restaurants and a bar. Plates containing real gold. The price wasn’t mentioned, but I’m guessing that this journey costs just a bit more than £12. And tea with maharajas and princes to boot. As I said, how can I get a job presenting programmes like this?! A brilliant hour’s TV, and another episode to come!