As of October 2012, there was a train running every Thursday from Chennai Egmore station all the way to Varanasi.
I was lucky enough to purchase the last remaining seat in the 2A class carriage yesterday, but now I'm not sure how lucky it was of me to travel for 40 hours on this train.
The 2A class was the top class (no 1st class) on this occasion. However, it was neither upmarket nor luxurious. Perhaps, the only luxury inside the 2A compartment was that it was fully air-conditioned; 2A's "A" probably stands for Air-conditioned; Just kidding.
It was quite dark inside the carriage because the windows and curtains were all shut, apparently, in order to keep the room temperature low. Stupid!
Another downside of the 2A carriage was that it was not as spacious as I thought it would be. My seat/bed number was 42 and upper-bed. I could not sit or keep lying down there all day long because it was an upper one and not enough room between my bed and the ceiling. Therefore, during the day I had to share the lower seat/bed (the number 41 designated for somebody else) with a very old Indian man....
The photo below shows the number 41 seat folded and transformed into two seats while the top bed (the number 42) remained flat.
The photo below shows my upper bed. A blanket and a tiny pillow as well as clean sheets were provided. Yet, there was no window for this upper bed, only a small reading light attached on the wall, which became really really hot after keeping it on for less than an hour.
Train conductors weren't very friendly and one of them often disturbed my reading by trying to close the curtain every time I opened it. I just wanted to get some natural light through the window, but he wanted to keep it closed at all times in order to maintain the room temperature.... Annoying!
Although I stocked up on food for this 40hr train-ride, I was curious about what on-board food was like; I know I shouldn't be too experimental when it comes to food in India, but I gave it a try twice on this train.
The first one was Egg Briyani as shown in the photo below. It was, of course, a little spicy hot, but no meat in it and I quite enjoyed it.
My second try was vegetable curry as shown in the photo below. I couldn't tell a difference between these three types of curry. All of them were certainly spicy, and I actually found them quite salty too. Mediocre.
Later in the day I had a look at the Sleeper class, and it actually looked somehow nicer and brighter than the 2A class. It was probably because there were no curtains and no air-cons. It was FULLY open-air and breezy. This Sleeper class was the cheapest option, but the least spacious and it must've been quite hot, especially during the day and when the train wasn't moving.
I would've travelled in this Sleeper class only if I had been with small luggage without my surfboard.
As mentioned in the previous article, the fare was INR2,635 (about USD50) for my 2A class seat, food and beverage were not included.
I remember travelling by train in Sri Lanka in August 2010. And I must say that overnight train from Batticaloa to Colombo was better and cheaper with a little more privacy than this 40-hour train. Consequently, this train-ride from Chennai to Varanasi was not really enjoyable but tolerable.
Anyway, the train is supposed to arrive in Varanasi around 5am in the morning of Saturday. I'm only hoping that nothing bad will happen throughout this longest train-journey.