Thursday, January 1, 2009

Catching up... Kolkata

Behind a little on my postings- Kolkata was pretty hectic.
Took the overnight train from Varanasi, but it was late by 5 hours...

The cool thing was meeting my bunkmate at the station- a Japanese guy who had been in Varanasi for a month building a school. He was there with a couple of his friends, and we played cards for a bit, until they left and it was just us, in the station, cold and mosquito ridden. His English was just a little better than my Japanese, so we did a little language exchange. It was nice to have a friend though- he was such a sweetheart.

When we landed in Kolkata, we took the ferry across the Howrah river, and had to take it back again and get on another one because we had got on the wrong one. Ah, such is traveling!

Then we were walking towards Sudder St to find a hotel, and he stepped in a hole filled with nasty sewer water and totally lost his shoe! So we got a cab the rest of the way and got him a pair of flip flops. He had such a good attitude though- he said that these things are not fun to go through but make for good memories...
So then, the hotels in Kolkata ended up being pretty dirty- a layer of grime on every surface, cats chasing mice and rats, cockroaches hanging out, and people everywhere bugging you to sell you something, ask for money, ask you something, anything- It was getting a little tiring.

This was my room at the hotel. At the time when I booked it, it seemed like the best option. My Japanese friend had settled on a hostel- I was still trying to find a hotel with a private bathroom- should have realized that hostels were the best option for us backpackers in Kolkata. Each hotel room was smaller than the next, there were rooms in which the ceiling was so low that I couldn't stand up in them- at 5'2"! I picked this one because it looked cleaner than the others and didn't smell. But when I came back in for the night, they had fumigated the place- it was downright toxic. The next day I went off in search of a new home, and ran into the girl I stayed with in Agra, and the room she had just finished booking had two beds! So I stayed with her, and it worked out quite well. Ah, the ups and downs... I love traveling!

Along our explorations of the city, we picked up an American guy who was taking a month break from studying Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal, and tackled the rest of Kolkata- Victorian Memorial and Kalighat- all on foot.

Victorian Memorial through the haze...

Good times... The next day we walked around some more, and fueled ourselves with loads of street food- bhel puri, fresh squeezed orange juice, a baked potato stuffed with spicy flour, doughnuts with spicy curry, and chai. For dessert, we had a bunch of sweets... So far, the biggest comoplaint from my stomach has been from eating too much food!
Bhel Puri stand

This was the guy who sold the bhel puri. He did a little dance for the camera- too bad it wasn't on video setting!

These are the people I met in Kolkata- very nice, calm, zen people. I was grateful to them for maintaining a positive outlook.

This was at the Kalighat temple. The guy was demonstrating a conch shell horn. It was really loud.

Then I took off for Hyerabad to meet up with Pri for New Years.
Which is where I am now- my next post will catch up from there!
I was really happy to be going somewhere where the food would be good and the place would be clean! Even though the street food was really good, most of the restaurants have turned out to be disappointing- I think they try to cater to tourist tastebuds, resulting in food that is strangely lacking in any flavor at all. And Kolkata was just really, really, dirty.


Amazonas said...

Just wanted to wish you a very happy new year, Formi. I think you are starting it off very well...with a back pack and a guide book. Fabulous!

Lilly said...

Happy New Year!
I just watched a movie "Namesake" about an Indian family. The burial traditions were in the movie as you had mentioned. I admire your adventuresome spirit. Keep making memories. Say Hi to Pri!