Welcome to India

Trip Start Nov 15, 2004
Trip End Nov 10, 2005

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Flag of India  ,
Saturday, February 26, 2005

Our first taste of India came at the airport where we watched a number of Indian men argue with the kind Thai Airways ladies about how much hand luggage they could take on - most seemed to have around 5 times the 7kg limit! Many sneaked past the attendants and appeared to carry at least 4 bottles of duty free together with 20kg of other goodies!
When the flight landed there was a slight pause and then a huge rush as everyone jumped up to grab their goodies - quite a sight at 2 am.

We were already apprehensive about what to expect in India after hearing so much. When we arrived in Kolkata at 2:30 am the sites and smells (stench) were beyond what we had ever imagined. Each (crumbling) street was literally lined with homeless people sleeping on the footpath, even on narrow median strips. The lucky ones had a blanket or some perch off the filthy streets. Our taxi driver was rude and abrasive at best and our hotel was dirty and unkempt. We awoke the next morning a little nervous about stepping outside of the 'comfort' of our hotel.....(pretty crappy comfort for the price but at that time we weren't too sure what would great us outside).

However, by day the city wasn't nearly so intimidating. While the poverty was certainly pervasive and beyond anything we had seen in SE Asia, people were friendly, the food delicious and the activity on the street non-stop. People bathe, excrete, cook, sleep, beg, sell and more on the footpath. The colours of the women's clothing is dazzling and the stares of the men distracting. We got thoroughly lost each time we tried to go anywhere (they have changed the names of the streets as well as the city so maps were no help) but had fun in doing so.

Our stay in Kolkata was punctuated by a trip to the most popular temple - Kalighat (Kali is an evil god whom offerings and worship should be given to avoid misfortune). We were shown around by a priest (?) with donations in his mind but were glad for the guide through the thronging crowds. Among the spectacle was the sacrificing of goats, but more so the manic, sweaty activity that engulfed us - a real buzz of an experience. We also visited the home and museum of Rabindragath Tagore, a famous philosopher, poet, writer, painter, musician and diplomat, the informative but decaying Indian Museum, the Marble Palace, the maiden (where impromptu cricket games break out, with the famous Eden Gardens ground in the background) and the Victory Monument (British).

Tonight we catch the train to the holy pilgrimage city of Puri, which promises to be an experience in itself.
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