India: Kolkata

After returning from my trip to India I met up with Nicki to embark on another adventure,  this time in India.

We left on the Sunday morning after a rather rushed packing session due to my delayed flight on my return from Japan.

This, however, turned into one of the more peaceful flight experiences, where we had 4 hours to kill in Kunming and did so by relaxing with a few beers in the bar.

Our arrival in Calcutta was as much of a culture shock as we had expected. We were greeted with a dusty haze outside the lively airport where the traditional yellow taxis waited. We traveled the short distance to our accomodation both excited and shocked at how different India appeared to be compared to China. Nicki accurately noted that India was exactly as you imagine it would be, which is actually quite a surreal experience.

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Our quest for the cheapest possible flights meant we had a whole day in Calcutta before we were able to start our scheduled R&R in Goa. We were later told that visiting Calcutta first is like jumping into the deep end before you can swim. Still, we attempted to make the most of it.

We opted to take a public bus to the centre of the city, choosing to get off the bus when the majority of those on it did. One of the first things we noticed was the etiquette of the people traveling, which was different to those in China. Firstly, there was no pushing and shoving and secondly, we were informed that the seats we initially sat in were for the senior citizens so we’re kindly asked to sit in other seats.  Everyone adhered to the seats appropriate to them.

The bus ride was an good experience in itself as it allowed us to see the morning activities of the locals as well as observe the wealth of colour throughout the city. The people of calcutta also dress very trationally, so their clothes are almost as colourful as the buses and the buildings.

We got off at a stop in the middle of the city,  although the bus was still moving when we hopped off. This meant that we walked through the busy trading streets in search of the Victoria memorial gardens. 

Once we were free from the vibrant crowds, with all the sounds and smells anyone would associate with India,  we came to a greener part of the city, featuring a cricket green.

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Eventually, we made it the Victoria memorial gardens, where we became a bigger attraction than the monument itself. People were obviously interested in our pale skin and there were queues of people asking for a photo.

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We then visited a Kalighat temple, not far from the gardens. We were informed that 20-25 goats are slaughtered every day in the temple as a sacrifice against evil (because they have horns). We saw one of these goats being phycially torn apart by a man just outside of the temple.
The temple itself was impressive and a haven for all faiths. There was a large queue of barefooted people ready to enter for worship.

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Outside of the temple was a natural spring where people came to bathe in the holy water and pray to Shiva.

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We then headed for our first curry, at a brilliant place we had been recommended called ‘Peter Cat’. It was a little more upmarket than we expected but still had 2 curries and 2 beers for about £8. We later found out that this is very expensive for India. 

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As the afternoon wore on we walked a towards the ‘Mother House’ where Mother Teresa lived and worked for over 30 years. We were surprised to find the house with no sign postings and very few people inside.  There was no admission fee and many of Mother Teresa’s sisters were still working within. We were able to visit the room where Mother Teresa worked, and eventually died as it had been kept as it was.

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We were especially surprised to see the tomb of Mother Teresa visited by so few people at the time we were there. It was quite a surreal experience standing above the burial place of Mother Teresa.

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Our day in Calcutta then drew to a close as we anticipated our trip to Goa and saved a few sites for our last day in India when we retuen to Calcutta in 3 week time. 

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