Kraziness and Klubbing!

Trip Start Apr 28, 2006
Trip End Oct 21, 2006

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Right well, we saw the footy! Get the important things over with first haha! We got invited to sit with this guy at the Irish bar we went to, and as there were no other seats we accepted. He then proceeded to ply us with ridiculous quantities of beer - during the match he bought us about four 650ml bottles of Fosters each (we only managed about half of them!) as well as tequila shots! We didnt pay a thing all night so we were happy, even though he was so blatantly trying to get us wasted to take advantage! Unfortunately for him his self-control didnt equal ours and eventually he staggered off in a complete state and we never saw him again haha!

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! Indian people eat sooo much though, there was a family opposite us and they all ate constantly throughout the entire journey - pies and cakes and loads of random traditional snack things - it made us feel a bit sick! Especially because the youngest girl was really overweight so it was quite sad to see. And when you think of some of the beggars on the street who are literally skin and bones... :o(

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'
How delightful.

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. And fighting with the selfish man behind me who wouldnt close his window even though I was freezing cold! And the toilets at the little roadside shacks where we stopped on the way were sooo rough! One of them was almost beyond belief - it was literally just a little room with not even a hole; just piles of, well, faecal material going nowhere on the floor!

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. But you know that giving in to them, although it might alleviate your conscience for a brief second, only makes the problem worse in the long term and its just not feasible to help every single person you see so you still feel guilty anyway. Plus some of them are so nasty the little sods!! I've been pinched and even punched by horrible little kids after I refused to give them money - on one taxi ride we had small boys reaching in to grab our water bottles; we had to literally fight them off!!

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. Also in sweltering heat, which makes it seem like two hours. When we got back to the area we were staying we thought we'd unwind by going for a drink at the Princess bar where they had live music playing. The live music turned out to be a guy strumming woodenly and completely off beat on a guitar, another guy playing an ear-splittingly high and tuneless keyboard at full volume, and various tone-deaf female 'singers' screeching and wailing karoake-style in Hindi. We were served cocktails which were basically pure alcohol - which would have been great if we'd wanted to get drunk, but not so great for relaxing! We didnt stay long...

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! Even though it was pretty expensive for here it still only came to not more than four quid each, including cocktails! Crazy. After that we went to a club called Tantra, under the very swanky Park Hotel. They're soooo paranoid - they wouldnt even let me take my camera in! Fran always gets away with it because they think hers is a phone, grr! Its weird because entry is usally restricted to couples in clubs, so single people, especially men, cant get in alone. Not quite sure how we managed it, but some guys speedily spoke to the bouncer in Hindi and somehow we got ushered in without even paying for entry! Either they pretended we were with them or said we were lesbians... :oS Anyway, drinks prices inside were insane, even more than in England!! So by the end of the night we werent even tipsy, probably for the best I suppose (hmm!) Some of the music was pretty funky but just as we plucked up the courage to dance it suddenly changed to all this hardcore Hindi trance. We bopped away in a corner quietly for a while, then when we decided to go the DJ started playing some chooons - proper hip-hop and r'n'b... So we had to stay! Was a bit eerie walking back to our hotel along the dark deserted streets though - the beggars were sleeping in random corners, under makeshift canopies and tables and on steps - quite scary seeing all these bodies prostrated in every pitch-black little nook and cranny! Weirdly it actually feels safer than walking about in the dark at home though, because you know they dont mean you any harm and there are less psychopaths and murderers and rapists wandering about.

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! They'd put some fraud marker thing on it because I'd withdrawn more than my daily limit for the trek while we were in Nepal, d'oh! Anyway its working now thank God!

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! I think they all found my indignation hilarious, hmph...

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. We tried finding our way on foot to the gallery, but even following the map religiously we ended up suddenly on a huge main road which shouldnt have even been there and packed our maps away in disgust! We then realised we were conveniently close to the shopping mall from the other day and a short chubby guy who actually seemed genuinely sweet and friendly led us there. Fran bought some pretty shoes - she'd managed to resist buying them the other day, but with her will weakened by our foul moods caused by the joke of a morning it just wasnt possible today!

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
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