As I stepped onto the red carpet rolled out at Platform 18 of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a Maharashtrian dance troupe put forward their best moves. I was welcomed with a garland around my neck, a chilled drink, and a cold towel. Obviously this wasn’t just another day at one of the busiest railway stations in the world! This was a royal welcome to my new home on wheels, The Deccan Odyssey and a glimpse of what lay in store.
Royal welcome on board the Deccan Odyssey
For the next four days I was going to experience one of India’s finest luxury trains. I stepped inside the Deccan Odyssey, not knowing that I was going to be spoilt for life with the comforts and luxury on offer. Chair cars and sleeper beds gave way to luxurious cabins with beds that had feathery pillows; sink in mattresses and gorgeous Egyptian cotton bed sheets. With a television set, a state of the art music player, fine Kashmiri carpeting and an attached bathroom, I got used to my new home on wheels in a jiffy and wondered if I could ever travel in a regular train again.
Deluxe rooms on board the Deccan Odyssey
A personal butler looked after my every need – big or small. Mealtime was a fine dining experience at the train’s two restaurants – Waavar and Utsav – where gourmet meals were served on silver and gold plated bone china plates. Think eggs benedict, sausages, fluffy pancakes and waffles for breakfast, delicious biryani, pan seared Norwegian salmon, red Thai curry with rice butter garlic prawns for lunch and dinner and an abundant choice of yummy desserts whenever I desired!
Luxury on wheels
Restaurant wagon on board the Deccan Odyssey
At the plush lounge, where I spent most evenings sipping delicious cocktails and chatting with fellow travellers, one gets easily transported to that golden age of train travel as the train chugs through the night to its next destination. A spa and gym complete the experience of a luxury hotel. The train even had four presidential suites with double beds.
Presidential suite on board the Deccan Odyssey
The train stopped every morning at an exciting new destination and we would go out for a few hours exploring the place and be back in our new home by lunchtime. Returning to the comfort and luxury of the train was a highlight and I was getting used to my afternoon beauty snooze pretty easily.
The Deccan Odyssey offers several routes – I chose the one where I would be exploring the caves of Ajanta and Ellora and meandering through the vineyards of Nashik. Having read about these caves in school and heard much about these wonders dating back centuries, I was really excited to visit them.
A UNESCO world heritage site, Ellora is a string of 34 caves that represent Hindu, Buddhist and Jain artwork dating back to 600–1000 AD. It is awe inspiring to think how these caves were all carved out of rocks over many centuries. I was really impressed with Cave 16, a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, carved out of a single rock and is one of the largest rock sculptures in the world. Of the 34 caves, 12 are Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 are Jain.
Image Credit: Y Shishido
The next day we headed to the even older Ajanta caves, which were accidentally discovered by a British officer out tiger hunting in 1819. Besides the impressive rock sculptures, Tempera paintings and Jataka stories adorn the walls. The last of these wondrous 26 caves has a large reclining Buddha statue and a prayer hall. It’s tough to imagine the sheer hard work, dedication and skill that went into carving these out of rock more than 2,500 years ago.
Image Credit: Youri
Our last day on the trip was closer to nature. We spent our time on the bustling ghats of the Godavari before heading to the vineyards in Nashik – ending the trip on a high note as we sipped some great wine.
Riding the Deccan Odyssey is an experience of a lifetime and should an opportunity ever arise it needs to be grabbed with both hands. I definitely would – AGAIN!
Tariff of a deluxe cabin for a 7-night/8-day journey:
Single/ Double occupancy: Rs. 3,71,900/ Rs.5,36,710
Tariff of a presidential suite for a 7 night/8 day journey
Single & double occupancy: Rs. 8,05,100/
Website: www.deccan-odyssey- india.com
All images of the Deccan Odyssey are by Simon Pielow