Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ticket To Nirvana

Indian railway representatives introduced the country's railway tourism to the Indonesian market on Thursday, promoting in particular its spiritual Buddhist tour on the Mahaparinirvan Express."The Mahaparinirvan Express train goes on a seven-night-and-eight-day package tour, which covers traditional Buddhist places. It provides an exclusive, safe and comfortable tourism service," Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTR) joint general manager for tourism Arun Srivastava said on Thursday. Speaking at a presentation of the tourism service at the Indian Embassy, Srivastava explained that the Mahaparinirvan Express was a fully air-conditioned train tour. The tour covers many important places of Buddhist interest such as Lumbini where Buddhism founder Siddhartha Gautama was born; Bodhgaya, the place Buddha attained enlightenment; Sravasti, the city that sheltered Buddha for 24 rainy seasons in the Jetyana Gardens; and Kushinagar where Buddha died and attained Parinirvana (Final Nirvana). The train also made stops at other Indian tourism destinations such as Agra, where the famous Taj Mahal is located. The tour package, he said, included all train journeys, hotel accommodations, road transports, tour guide services, meals, travel insurance, security and monument admission fees. The train's cabins are divided into three air-conditioned classes: first class, second tier and third tier. The first class cabins, boasting two berths and a sliding door, cost US$160 per person per night. Tier two and three, which have more berths and a curtain in place of a door cost $130 and $105, respectively. Srivastava said that the facilities and services would be worth the price, as the trip would be a unique, exclusive and comfortable train experience. "This is not a public train where people at stations can just jump on board. Only passengers who have bought the package are allowed to board the train. This is an exclusive train," he said. The tour period, which starts in October, provides 14 trips in a year. Last year, the tour attracted around a total of 2,000 tourists, from 35 countries all over the world including the US, Canada, China and Singapore, he said. Manadimetta Michael, an Indonesian who has taken the tour, said that the Mahaparinirvan Express did have its drawbacks, such as lack of privacy in the small cabins, as well as limited meal choices. However, he hailed the trip as the best he had ever been on. "Whether you find it pleasant or unpleasant, India is definitely the most enjoyable place to visit," he said.

From The Jakarta Post, December 10, 2011

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