Kraziness and Klubbing!
Trip Start Apr 28, 2006
31Trip End Oct 21, 2006
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Next day we left Darjeeling - luckily we did get a place on the toy train, which was really interesting at first as we swerved around corners hanging off the edges of mountains on a rather unstable little steam train - but the novelty kind of wore off after seven hours, as our bums gradually became number and number
Anyway... ooh on a lighter note, saw another one of those road signs on the way, an especially sick one, think they took it a bit far! It said:
'Donate blood at a blood bank, not on this road'
So we arrived at Siliguri train station eventually and were mobbed by people staring at us and wanting to say hello to the 'goras' (white people) as usual. Honestly, when I get home its going to be so weird walking into a room and not having all heads turn to stare at me - would be nice but cant see it happening haha! We soon realised we had got off at the wrong station (there's a surprise) so we had to get a taxi back to the stop we'd just passed through to find the bus station. Booked an overnight bus to take us to Kolkata (Calcutta) which was another lovely night of horn-beeping, sleeplessness and dust blowing in our faces
Anyway, moving on... we arrived at about half ten the next morning, rather than eight as we'd been told, think they took a detour to make a delivery of all these strange boxes - bit dodge but hey! Not for us to ask questions. We stayed on Sudder Street, which is the cheapo backpackery area. However, more tourists equals more beggars, so Sudder Street represents the impression that many people have of Kolkata; that of extreme poverty, desperate begging and dirtiness. I found it so hard just walking down that street - begging is like a profession for most of these people - its all they have so they're absolutely tireless. Small children follow you for ages at a time, crying 'aunty aunty please ten rupees please aunty some water some food aunty'. Women carrying tiny malnourished babies tug your sleeves saying 'please some milk for baby please just something for baby' and people with deformed and missing limbs just lie around helplessly on the streets with a small bowl for change placed in front of them. I still find it so hard to see, there's a limit to how far you can harden yourself against it
Anyway... so after we'd washed away the dirt and grime of that horrible journey, we decided we were in need of a few modern luxuries, like coffee! So we went to a few of the cafes down Park Street, which is basically Kolkata's answer to Oxford Street. Tried to go shopping in some of the big indoor markets but they were quite disappointing, all selling either really traditional Indian wear or loads of hippie crap. Not for us! In the evening we tried to find the Millennium Park, from where you can take a boat cruise along the river to see the Howrah bridge which is meant to be pretty funky. Unfortunately in our usual style we got absolutely lost and ended up wandering the dark streets for hours. We've started to realise that the map scales in our not-quite-so-trusty Lonely Planet books are actually really deceptive so things that look about a five-minute walk away tend to take about an hour in reality
Next morning we booked our train tickets to Varanasi for a few days' time, which was amazingly straightforward for a change! We managed to take the boat trip in the afternoon, which was a bit disappointing really - lets say its not the most picturesque river I've ever seen! Plus we were being stalked by a freak (yes another one) who had been staring at us relentlessly while we sat in the park beforehand. Staring back at him, (usually an effective technique as guys get really shocked by it) didnt work - even when Fran asked him rather bluntly what he was staring at he had the audacity to keep staring without even averting his eyes for a second, the weirdo!
In the evening we had an amazing dinner at a posh restaurant called Peter Cat - we even had to wait to get a table
On Monday we went to find a branch of HSBC to try and sort out my debit card which still wasnt working. As I had been stupid enough to forget all my security codes the people in England couldnt help me and told me to try a branch in India. They were completely unhelpful though and seemed bent on missing every point I tried to make, so eventually I was forced to give up, which meant for the rest of the day I panicked and worried about how the hell I would manage once Fran wasnt there to tide me over. We went to see the big Victoria Memorial - I never realised quite how fat Queen Victoria was! The grounds were really pretty and well-kept and the building impressive. After that we went to a planetarium to watch the stars - the presentation wasnt that great really - so un-great I actually fell asleep in fact! The commentary was by an old woman and was made a bit less convincing by the fact that she kept randomly breaking off to screech abuse in Hindi at someone on the front row!
Afterwards we pampered ourselves by going to a modern air-conditioned shopping mall, which was fantastic. The shops were sooo good and I couldnt resist buying a very pretty skirt (I needed one!) We ended up going to the cinema in the complex, just because we knew it would be really cold! Unfortunately the film was absolute rubbish! It was supposedly a comedy (in Hindi of course), but the humour was so slapstick and immature - we couldnt believe that everyone in the cinema was wetting themselves with laughter - we just sat there cringing! And there were no English phrases like normal so we had no idea what was going on - it all seemed completely random and nonsensical anyway! Oh well, least we got to cool down for a few hours! In the evening I managed to call HSBC in England and get my card reactivated, which was such a relief I cant even describe
Next day we went to Aquatica water park, was a bit of a joke getting there - as usual we picked the stupidest taxi driver out of the hundreds clamouring for our business - so we got lost and went a very long and roundabout way and then he tried to charge us more for it the cheeky man!! The weather, after being blazing sunshine the day before, decided to cloud over and even rain, so our hopes of some hardcore sunbathing were dashed! Also, as we emerged from the changing rooms, we suddenly realised we were dressed completely inappropriately - the few girls there (as usual the guys outnumbered the girls by a long way) were dressed either in full salwar kameez or trousers and t-shirts! We felt like we were completely naked in our little tankinis! So we were forced to go and hire some of the most unflattering kneelength cycle shorts in the world - I went for a subtle navy blue while Fran went all out in fuschia pink - the women in the changing room were a bit bewildered by us taking photos of each other pulling sexy poses in our new shorts haha! Anyway the water slides and chutes were lots of fun, although I'm a big wimp so Fran had to go down the big ones on her own - there was one which was practically a vertical drop then you sort of slide right up the other side and back down again! Scaaaary! :oS There are no lifeguards supervising things, so of course all the silly teenage boys only left like a two-second gap after you'd gone before throwing themselves down after you. At the bottom of one we had a huge pile-up where everyone got stuck in a big queue, and this fifteen-year old behind me copped a proper handful of my erm chest area to propel himself forward. In shock I didnt quite know what to say and speechlessly removed his hands forcibly from my boobs - when he tried it again I found my tongue and asked him none too politely what the **** he thought he was doing
In the evening we spent ages trying to find somewhere that was showing the England match -it was on at half midnight over here, which is later than most bars and places close. The only place we could find was the cafe in the v posh Park Hotel - expensivo beer! Least we got to watch it, we even managed to persuade them to turn the cheesy music off so we could have the sound on! But we should have won grrr...
This morning was another farcical trip trying to find the Kali Temple - again it looked so simple on the map! It took us hours and hours of asking directions and being sent a different way every time, and then it started chucking it down with rain when we finally found it. Soaking wet, we spent about two minutes at the temple and got so hassled by beggars and sellers that we beat a hasty retreat and grabbed a taxi to take us to the modern art gallery nearby. Nearby my arse! Yet again, we had found the biggest retard of a taxi driver, who not only got us lost but then was also incapable of asking directions which meant we had to make him pull over and do it ourselves! He was also unable to follow said directions, even in Hindi, and we got even more lost! In a rage we stormed out of the taxi into the rain without paying him anything and although he trailed us for a while he wasnt assertive enough to do anything about it and gave up
Tonight we get the overnight train to Varanasi, yet another fabulously long journey - at least the trains are less skank than the buses! Fingers crossed for no snorers!
So until next time,
Han/Mo xxxx :oP