So I lied. This adventure didn’t start with a cheap flight.
I have a passion (some say fetish) for getting inside abandoned places. I’ve ticked off many ‘Dark Tourist’ hotpots and last year when I was thinking of my next destination, I dreamt up the ultimate… The Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, the site of the world’s largest industrial disaster.
On the evening of December 2nd 1984 the then USA owned pesticide plant leaked a huge cloud of Menthyl Isocyanate into the surrounding slums. Over half a million were exposed to the toxic gas, and when the town woke the next morning bodies littered the streets.
The death toll varies widely from 3,000 to over 16,000 and birth defects continue 35 years on. To this day the USA owned parent company has not accepted liability or paid compensation to the victims.
I initially contacted fhe governor and mayor of the City for permission but heard nothing. Fortunately a contact at a charity in the UK linked me up to their contact on the ground and permission was granted in principal. This year is particularly poignant as its the 35th anniversary and the chsrity welcomed me as the first Western photographer to be allowed entry with permission.
The visit confirmed, I next looked at the logistics. Bhopal is in the centre of India so as Louise has always fancied an epic railway trip. One of Indian’s longest tracks connects Delhi to Chennai so we’d need 2 single flight tickets.
Despite hating Manchester ‘Airport’ (a 1970’s shopping centre masquerading as an international transport hub) it did come in cheapest for the two single tickets I required. I was planning to fly into Delhi and fly out of Chennai a fortnight later. Normal return tickets were being quoted £500+ BUT the multi ticket booking I required was actually £100 cheaper.
Manchester – Dubai
Emirates: Dubai – Delhi
Emirates: Chennai – Dubai
Dubai – Manchester
Top Cashback: -£3.65
American Express Cashback: -£8.03
Price after cashback: £389.62
I snapped up the tickets and started planning trains. India has discontinued their hop on hop off tickets and foreigners generally aren’t allowed to book trains. I found a site that acts as an agent and books on your behalf.
Suprisingly the agency was based in Singapore and had a team that make the booking in real time, minutes after you pay
I’ll break the prices of the trains down in later posts but needless to say it was very reasonable. We booked a mixture of different classes and split the journey with 3 stops between Delhi and Chennai
Logistics booked, it was then a case of booking hotels. This simply entailed booking via my preferred website Hotels.com based on location, value and reviews.
The visa was a little tricky. Foreigners for many countries (UK included) can apply for e-visas. These cost between US$80-100, the UK being at the top end! Once applied you get a confirmation without 48 hours which must be printed out and taken with you. It’s then exchanged for a visa stamp in your passport.