I arrived in Chennai on the 16th from Mumbai but had to leave that very evening to another city further south called Tirunelvelli to attend a relative's wedding. Bunch of women from the family traveling together is always fun. For the onward train journey, we carried a picnic of Indian breads and curries to eat during the journey. We had a berth to ourselves so essentially 8 beds are ours.
We managed to get a few hours of sleep before the early morning alarm got us ready to disembark at the station. Luckily we traveled in air-conditioned compartments so we were provided bedsheets and blankets for the nap. We were booked to stay at a hotel - Hotel Applettree (dont' let the additional t fool you, it is pronounced as you think!) which came highly recommended.
We didn't think much of it, Thirunelvelli is a smaller city than Chennai so our expectations were pretty low, but we were positively blown away by the service and amenities at this place. Staff were courteous, helpful, spoke English and arranged anything and everything we asked for without hesitation. The room was clean and well-appointed - since we had three people in the room they even brought in a roll-in bed and set that up for us. Coffee was delivered when ordered and we had a really nice mix of in-room snacks to enjoy.
Our stay also included morning breakfast which was a treat. You will especially enjoy it if you enjoy vegetarian food in South India. We actually looked forward to it the two days we stayed there. We asked to have a rental car and driver organized and that was done as well - our driver was a local and a good chap, we were three women traveling in an unknown city and he ensured we were safe at all times. If you compare the cost in dollars, our stay including breakfast and in-room snacks and services as well as driver and car rental all turned out very cheap.
Overall, a fantastic experience that I would recommend to anybody visiting the area in a heartbeat. However, after we checked out and left back for Chennai is when the disastrous journey home began. Unable to get any train tickets, we decided to buy bus tickets back and assumed we would be in sleeper chairs but this ended up being a sleeper bus with beds - something I hate and always feel sick traveling in.
To make matters worse, our beds were at the very back of the bus right above the wheel so rest assured every bump and bend was experienced with 5x the hatred. These buses make very few stops for restrooms and even then the facilities are not brilliant so I strongly advise against this mode of transport. Multiple times women had to accost the driver asking him to stop somewhere for a restroom break. The night was spent between fading in and out of sleep along with jumping out of that stupor and running for the door every time the bus stopped because that signaled a restroom break.
Let's just say I will not be traveling by bus in India ever again!