A few nights ago I discovered bed bugs in my mattress. It was my first experience with bed bugs so my first stop was, of course, the Wikipedia page on Bed Bugs. Thankfully, they aren't known to transmit any diseases.
Only a few weeks ago I joked about being happy there were no bed bugs in the cheap cockroach-ridden hotel I was staying at in Ujire. It looks like I spoke too soon.
I requested clean sheets and switched from sleeping on the mattress to sleeping on the floor. Some of them still find me, but it's a whole lot better than the mattress.
Starting this nomadic lifestyle of cheap travel, I knew it was bound to happen sometime. As I've said before, they're just bugs!
Booking tickets on one of the busiest train systems in the world
I spent a good part of yesterday trying to find an available set of trains that would take me from Gokarna to New Delhi, a total distance of about 1,300 miles. Since I would be passing through some interesting places along the way, I decided to spend a few days in two places: Mumbai (Bombay) and Udaipur.
The Indian train system is one of the largest and busiest in the world. Tickets become available 90 days in advance and many trains become fully booked weeks ahead of time.
Once a train is booked, you can get on a "Waitlist" and take your chances. If a confirmed passenger doesn't show up, the next person on the waitlist gets to take their place (there's also a Reservation Against Cancellation or RAC list, but this is already complicated enough).
To help those who travel on short notice get tickets, a system called "Tatkal" was implemented. A certain number of tickets are held back and only offered for sale at 8AM, two days before the train is scheduled to depart. As you can imagine, those Tatkal tickets go pretty fast.
All the trains from Gokarna to Mumbai were fully booked, but I woke up at 8AM Tuesday morning to see if I could get a Tatkal ticket. There was nothing leaving from Gokarna so I checked the next town up, Karwar. Bingo! I found an available Tatkal ticket and booked it.
Finding available trains between Mumbai and Udaipur was even more difficult. There was only one train that passes through Udaipur and it was fully booked. Even the best class seats, which usually fill up slower, were fully booked with several already on the waitlist.
After a few hours of looking up train stations and checking availability, I finally came up with an itinerary. It's not perfect or ideal, but it gets me where I need to go.
My itinerary for the next week
This Thursday afternoon, I will take a bus to Karwar (about 40 miles north) and then board the train to Mumbai. Once I arrive in Mumbai, the plan is to find a cheap place to sleep for the night and then spend the next two days exploring the city. I have several recommendations for places to see, so it will be a busy weekend!
Sunday afternoon, I leave on a 4 hour train from Mumbai to Surat. This was the furthest north I could find an available train. When I arrive in Surat Sunday night, I will look for the bus station and then try to find a ride that goes to Udaipur (my research online tells me there is one that leaves at 12:05am -- I hope I can find it).
An interesting side note about Surat: 92% of the world's diamonds are cut and polished there!
Once I arrive in Udaipur via bus (probably sometime Monday afternoon), I will find a place to stay for a few days and explore the area. Udaipur is known as the City of Lakes and has quite a few places to see (read more on the Udaipur Wikipedia page).
Next Thursday evening, I leave Udaipur on a 12-hour overnight train to New Delhi. It will be my first overnight ride on a Sleeper class train (the second to the lowest class) in India, so it should be an interesting night.
When I arrive in New Delhi on Friday morning, I will be visiting some friends who have invited me to their wedding. Unless I decide to venture outside the city, I will be staying and exploring New Delhi for two weeks before catching a plane to Vietnam on the 13th of July.
To help me better understand what you as a reader would like from this blog, I have created a survey with six questions, only four of which are required. The required questions are all multiple choice, so taking the survey should be quick.
If you could take a few moments to complete the survey, I would greatly appreciate it. Once I have collected enough responses, I will post the results for everyone to see.