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May. 30 2010 - 11:20 pm | 82 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

My maroon velvet cave to Goa

For 800 rupees ($17) I got a spot on a sleeper bus from Mumbai to Goa. I’ve taken an overnight train in India with sleeping compartments (see my story on unintentionally joining India’s masses and peeing on train tracks). But before this trip to Goa, I didn’t even know so-called sleeper buses existed. I could not imagine what they looked like or how one could create a bed on a bus.

Thanks to Google, I got some photos before my trip to help me visualize the dreaming while busing experience. And thanks to Twitter, I got some input before the journey. @dhempe confirmed these sleeper buses exist and wrote, “yup thr r sleeper buses which r very comfortable.”

But then @aparnaandhare chimed in: “except when the driver decides to speed around a corner and you are terrified of falling!”

Eek, maybe this was a bad idea.

@SudhaKanago added: “I had also heard about shady things that go on in the dark :-)

@AndrewBuncombe, the Independent’s Asia correspondent who was recently shot while reporting from Bangkok, wrote “That counts as brave. Will you be able to Tweet from the bunk?”

My transportation choice to the beach was not supposed to be “brave.”

But I needed a break for a couple days, and the pina coladas on the beach were calling.

The bus arrived at the Bandra long-distance bus station — which consists of a couple benches by the side of the road — and my brave mode of transport did not look particularly impressive. The windows were tinted black so I couldn’t actually see inside. I ran over to the man checking tickets, eager to be first on line, and then hopped onto the bus, peaking my head around the driver’s seat and into the vehicle of mystery.

Neither the Google pictures nor the friendly tweets had prepared me for the real thing. I don’t mean to be cheesy, but there’s no other way to describe it accurately — a sleeper bus is super cool.

Mine consisted of two layers of beds, like bunk beds, on each side of the aisle. Everything was maroon and velvet. Maroon velvet cushions, maroon velvet curtains on the windows, maroon velvet curtains blocking out the aisle, maroon velvet ceiling.

I climbed up a metal ladder on the side, awkwardly plunking myself, laptop, camera and beach towel into my compartment. I wrapped a metal chain around my camera and laptop (and, with no where to hook it, around me), spread my beach towel over my legs like a blanket and lied down.

To my surprise and delight, a sleeper bus is incredibly comfortable. Arguably more comfortable than my own bed. Resting my head on the built-in pillow, I glanced at the ceiling and curtains, ran my fingers along the bedding and felt like I was in a super soft maroon cave. As a lay in the bus horizontal, I pulled back the curtain and watched the Mumbai traffic as we headed out of town.

From this view, even the traffic seemed lovely.

Ten hours later, when the bus driver would only pause at the roadside for the men to pee and refuse to stop at a public restroom, and the little boys would repeatedly bounce up and down in the aisle, popping their heads into my compartment every six minutes, I saw the sleeper bus a little differently.

But those first 10 minutes were delightful.


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    About Me

    Hanna Ingber Win is a multi-media journalist based in Mumbai, India. In addition to blogging for True/Slant, she works as GlobalPost's correspondent in Mumbai and marketing consultant. Most recently, Hanna was the founding World Editor of the Huffington Post, and she won InterAction's 2009 Award for Excellence in International Reporting in recognition of the HuffPost's foreign coverage.

    Hanna has also lived and worked in Burma, Thailand, South Africa and the States. She has a passion for telling stories about people and how they live.

    She has covered maternal health in Ethiopia, police misconduct in South Africa, migrant workers in Malaysia, Iraqi refugees in San Diego and juvenile sex offenders in Los Angeles.

    Hanna's freelance work has appeared in Washingtonpost.com, LA Weekly and the Hartford Courant and on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "Day2Day."

    She received her undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University and her master's in journalism from USC Annenberg, where she was a Dean's Scholar.

    Twitter: http://twitter.com/Hanna_India

    Email: hingber@gmail.com

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    Followers: 23
    Contributor Since: January 2010