While the traveller nestles in the period décor and wood-panelled plushness of the train, it thunders over a distance of 1400 km of varied terrain, showcasing the best of heritage and wildlife in Karnataka.
Liveried attendants ushered us into the Golden Chariot, the luxury train stationed at Chikkaballapur Railway Station in Bengaluru. A joint venture between the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) and the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC), the Golden Chariot is south India’s first and only luxury train. The train gets its name from the Stone Chariot in historic Hampi. The hospitality on and off board the train is managed efficiently by the Sarovar Group of Hotels.
We had a peek into the thematically designed coaches which are a tribute to the myriad dynasties that once ruled Karnataka—Adil Shahi, Bahmani, Chalukya, Ganga, Hoysala, Kadamba, Rashtrakuta, Satavahana, Sangama, Vijayanagara, and Yadukula. Every inch of the train is inscribed with motifs of Karnataka’s vibrant heritage. The coaches are splendidly designed in three different architectural styles of Mysore, Halebidu, and Hampi, marrying opulence with comfort. It is indeed five-star luxury on wheels.
Besides the passenger coaches, the luxurious train has a bar, two restaurant cars, Arogya (the coach with the in-house spa), a state-of-the art gym, a business centre, staff coach, two power cars, and gensets. A conference coach in contemporary style is on the anvil, to rope in business travellers wishing to organise conferences on the train. There’s also a room for persons with disabilities. The wood-panelled cabin with beautiful art deco inlays and wide glass windows with silk curtains in pastel shades, left me admiring Pramod and Kusum Pendse, the Mumbai-based architects and interior designers who gave the luxury train a look that is true to its tag-line, ‘Many Worlds, One Voyage.’
A lounge where you can unwind
The facilities include Wi-Fi, plasma TV, beds draped with handwoven silk bedspreads, built-in writing desk, a foldable table underneath a large mirror, a tiny wardrobe, and an ensuite bathroom with a shower, towels, bathroom robes, and toiletries. From the swanky interiors to the plush beds, everything exudes finesse. Each coach sports paintings of the state’s renowned monuments. There are also attendants on board to cater to the needs of guests. The compact lounges adjoining each coach flaunt paintings.
I wandered into Madira, the lounge bar aboard the Golden Chariot. The bar is a wonder of design and taste. The colour scheme of the curtains and carpets, with fluted columns and arches that sport back-lit floral grille panels, reflect the ambience of the Mysore Palace. The curtains in the bar, the burnished wood, and the carvings on the mirrored ceiling give the interiors a refined touch. It is a perfect place to unwind with a drink in the evening after a day’s sightseeing. The bar stocks top brands, which include wines, gin, vodka, all the premium whiskies, and champagnes.
Madira the Lounge Bar aboard the Golden Chariot
From Madira, we moved to Nalapak, the restaurant named after Nala, the mythical king and legendary chef from the times of the Mahabharatha. The interiors of Nalapak reflect the Halebid style. The carved grille panels on the sofa, decorative columns, curtain pelmets, and the floral borders inspired by temple plinths reflect the rich Halebid elements. One also has the option of checking out the other restaurant, Ruchi. It is designed in the Hampi style with simplified versions of the columns in Vittala temple, and mirrors on the ceilings with floral patterns.
A twin bed cabin with aesthetically designed interiors
One of the highlights of travelling by this luxury train is the delectable food served in the two restaurants. The executive sous chef and his staff rustle up three-course meals in a compact kitchen ensuring excellent quality, chic styling, and freshness of ingredients. It is very challenging for them to cook all the food onboard a moving train in the two compact kitchens. Everything is cooked with electricity as there is no gas on board.
The range of food is varied. Guests are treated to seven different menus on the seven days of the week, catering to the diverse tastes of the clientele aboard the train. South Indian, north Indian and continental food are served at mealtime, with vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices. The skilfully-crafted menu features the best dishes and sumptuous fare; don't be surprised if you gain weight at the end of the rail sojourn.
The train, while ensconcing the traveller in period décor and wood-panelled plushness, thunders over a distance of 1400 km of varied terrain, showcasing the best of heritage and wildlife in Karnataka. One gets to travel through the night to different locations and have the day to explore them.
Purple beauty chugging to its destination
There three journey options are:
The Pride of Karnataka (6N/7D): Bandipur National Park, Mysuru, Halebidu, Chikmagalur, Hampi, Aihole, Pattadakal and Goa.
Tariff for Deluxe Cabin is Rs 4,14,750
Jewels of South (6N/7D): Mysuru, Hampi, Mahabalipuram, Thanjavur, Chettinad/Karaikudi, Kumarakom, and Kochi.
Tariff for Deluxe Cabin is Rs 4,14,750
Glimpses of Karnataka (3 N/4D): Bandipur National Park, Mysuru, and Hampi. Tariff for Deluxe Cabin is Rs 2,37,000
All the journeys start and end in Bengaluru.
The tariff for the three packages includes accommodation, meals, alcohol, tea and coffee, mineral water, butler service, porter service at railway stations, sightseeing tours, entrance and camera fee for monuments, and cultural entertainment. Service charges, laundry, spa, and business facilities are extra.
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All pics by Susheela Nair.
Susheela Nair is an independent food, travel and lifestyle writer, and photographer contributing articles, content, and images to several national publications, besides organising seminars and photo exhibitions. Her writings span a wide spectrum that include travel portals and guide books, brochures, and coffee table books.
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