Darjeeling Bound
8:00 | 24 March 2010 | GMT+07:00

SILIGURI -> DARJEELING, INDIA
Siliguri is only really significant because it’s the last major rail terminus before the Himalayas shoot up off the Gangetic Plain. The main attractions seem to be cows, angry dogs and children taking dumps on the river bank, so we hit the road early the next morning.

There’s a train from Siliguri up to Darjeeling (it scales 2100m up into the Himalayas and is actually a UNESCO World Hertige site), but it’s coal powered, takes eight hours and screw that. We opted for the two hour jeep ride. It’s far from comfortable and offers little in the way of leisurely views, but there will be plenty of time for comfort and views.



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Hazy Day
8:00 | 22 March 2010 | GMT+07:00

CALCUTTA -> SILIGURI, INDIA
Remember how I said the air outside the Kanchenjunga Express isn’t exactly fresh? These were taken out the window at about 9am on a cloudless day. To be fair, it could just be the season. Maybe the rain takes it all away.

Maybe not.


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Aboard the Kanchenjunga Express
23:30 | 16 March 2010 | GMT+07:00

CALCUTTA -> SILIGURI, INDIA
If you’ve ever heard anyone talk about Indian trains, they probably weren’t raving about what was going on the outside.

The inside of an Indian train car would put most American county fairs to shame. Men with cases full of scissors, combs and cigarettes prowl the aisles, Chaiwallahs come by every other minute and the whole spectrum of bizarre Indian snacks is available whenever you’re hungry. The cars are packed solid and, as The Foreigners on the train, everybody wants to talk to you. Unlike Southeast Asia, a lot of Indians speak fluent English and conversations will go way past the obligatory “Where you from?”

Surprisingly, the beds in fourth class are pretty comfy.




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The Kanchenjunga Express to Siliguri
8:00 | 12 March 2010 | GMT+07:00

CALCUTTA -> SILIGURI, INDIA
The Kanchenjunga Expresss takes about twelve hours to puff its way across the Gangetic plain from Sealdah to New Jalpaiguri Station outside Siliguri. The scenery isn’t pretty and the air isn’t fresh, but I spent the whole trip hanging out the door anyway.

The thing about India – or, well, one of many things about India – is that there always something happening. It might be beautiful, hideous, comforting or frustrating, but this place is never boring.





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Sealdah Station
8:00 | 10 March 2010 | GMT+07:00

CALCUTTA, INDIA
Calcutta’s Sealdah Station is equipped to handle three million passengers a day.

Trains are a pretty big deal in India.

To beat the rush and get to Siliguri before dark we showed up at Sealdah around 5:30am. It was already packed with travelers, soldiers, feral dogs and chaiwallahs camped out in little islands spread across the station’s huge arena. We chugged masala tea and tried to decypher impossible Indian crossword puzzles as Sealdah came to life around us.

Maybe “came to life” is the wrong expression – it’s more like the place turned into a riot. We made our way down the platform while hundreds of people beat the hell out of each other trying to get an unreserved seat. A lady in an orange sari shouted, “Oh my goodness, help!” as someone smacked her blind mother in the face with a burlap sack. I climbed over a pile of teacup bags with everything I own on my back and stumbled towards the sleeper car.

“Oh hello, where are you going?” asked a dapper young Indian man. We must have looked a little out of place.
“Uh, S2.”
“Yes yes, right this way.”

N was an engineering student in Calcutta. I never quite figured out why he was hanging out at the train station at 6am, but he sat down in the seat across from us and asked the standard questions: What’s your name? Where are you from? What did you study? My companion left to find a bathroom and he started asking about IT work in California.

“I don’t know much about that, but sure, it’s possible. What kind of IT work are you interested in?”

“Surely you know… brazzers.com?”

(it’s a porn site)

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