Reflections from a cross country train ride
Trip Start Dec 28, 2006
24Trip End Jun 28, 2007
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Our flight out of Kathmandu was rather uneventful. I had jockeyed for a window seat and had my face pressed against the glass throughout the turbulent liftoff. We emerged suddenly from the dense clouds and everyone on the other side of the plane gasped.
I had picked the wrong side of the plane! I wasn't going to be denied, however. I scanned for watchful stewardesses and w/ the seat-belt light still glowing, and the plane still bouncing around, I scurried across the aisle and sat down on the floor in front of the emergency exit's portal window.
I peered across a blanket of clouds and there they were... The enourmous craggy, snow capped peaks of the Himalayas. A solid row of peaks towering on the horizon as far as I could see in either direction. This time of year visibility is low in Nepal and one can only see the closest ridge of mountains from the ground- and routes to the larger peaks grow inaccessible in the colder months. But our plane had climbed above the layer of fog and there they were. I have been enchanted by the Himalayas ever since I was a boy and I wanted nothing more to visit the fabled Everest- the highest point in the world. It would have been virtually impossible for us to do it this time of year, though. I dismissed the notion that perhaps one of the peaks I could see through my porthole was Everest.
A line of more than a half dozen tourists w/ their cameras at the ready had formed behind me and snapped me out of my daydream. I return to my seat. We were headed for South East Asia. Soon we would be out of our long pants, knock of North Face fleeces, and heavy shoes. I was ready fort he sun, the heat, my sandals and the beach! We were landing in Bangkok and leaving the next morning via a cross country train to Malaysia.
I'm on that train now, somewhere in Thailand, nearing the border. The people here are smiley and friendly, the train is modern and clean, and the landscape outside is lush, tropical, and devoid of garbage. There is no doubt in my senses that we have left the Indian subcontinent. There are more westerners on this train than the sum of all the westerners we encountered in the past month.
Perhaps that is what I'll remember most- take the most pride in- about India: India is HARD. It forces you to have to earn it, fight against it, struggle with it. Which offers you a more rewarding view?: hiking up the side of a mountain or taking the road up the back side? Nothing is taken for granted, nothing is given to you in India. Traveling in India probably gives you the most honest account of what the day to day lives of the people living in the country are like. And even this most-honest account is still a world away from what it must be like. As I spread out in my comfortable sleeping compartment on my way to Malaysia, my thoughts drift back to the train ride to Varanasi when 3 old women literally sat on me while I slept in my sleeping platform. This train sparkles from the scrubbing I saw it receive at the station, while our Indian trains crawled with rats. I am brimming with excitement for new experiences in the tourist friendly S.E. Asia, but those feelings will always be weighed against the hardships of India.
See you in Malaysia!