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April 2-4: Kolkatta (India)

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 Sorry, but finally back on the web due to travel and lack of internet avalability.  We have reduced our India trip to only a couple of weeks and are staying only in the north. April is not a good time to travel India due to the heat.  The travel route:  Kolkatta, Veranasi, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur – fly to Darjeeling to see the Himalayas – back to Kolkatta to fly to Singapore. 

Leaving for India:

On boarding the plane and finding our seats, most of the other travelers were Indian.  You immediately knew you were entering a different culture and mindset.  The loudness of the conversation (some yelling to their friends 10 rows up), the pushing to get a seat (even though everyone has an assigned seat), trying to cram bags into the overhead bin even though it was full,  the sweaty smell of bodies  immediately brought back memories of what it is like to live and travel in India.  I told Natalie to take a deep breath, for here comes India!   For myself, since I know the language and culture, I knew I would be the primary one “carrying” the whole family around India.  In all the other travels, Natalie or I or the kids could share the duties.  However, to get around and converse with people, I would probably be the one doing the lion’s share.  I looked forward to it, but at the same time knew it would be wearing.  I needed to take a double deep breath.

Arrival in Kolkata

Kolkata (Calcutta) tends to be known for its mass of humanity and Mother Theresa’s work with the poor and dying.   However, the city used to be the capital of India under British rule.  One reason is that it is close to the sea for trade.  Later, power was transferred to Delhi, and it kind of lost its “glory”.  As we stepped out of the airport with our “pre-paid” taxi ticket, our taxi driver was under the hood of his 1970’s Ambassador (India made) taxi.  Once again, welcome to India.  I immediately started speaking Hindi without thinking about it.  Of course, we were soon surrounded by other taxi drivers wanting to see the “white foreigner” who spoke the language.  We had to immediately start arguing about the fare, despite it already being pre-paid.  As we were driving into the city, everyone’s senses were bombarded with India:  it was very hot and humid and no AC In the taxi, dirty, dusty, garbage everywhere, crowded, traffic congestion, the chaos of driving, incessant honking (worse than Vietnam), people everywhere, infrastructure no different than when I saw it 30 years ago it seems.  Natalie thought it looked like Germany after WWII. Quite overwhelming to start with.  Kolkata isn’t exactly the place to start a tour of India, nonetheless with children.  However, we came here first because it was cheaper airfare and also to “get it out of the way” first.  We ended up in a part of the city that was away from the “backpackers, touristy” location, and stayed in a local hotel.  In other words, we saw firsthand the street life in a little different perspective.  The kids handled that first outing, but were very glad to get back in the comfort of the hotel room.   Josh summed up the first 2 days in India like this: “I don’t know if I want to cry, laugh, scream, or hit somebody!”  That statement seems to be very true to one’s experience.  However, after you get into the rhythm of a city, and how it works, and begin to see what’s “normal” – in other words, its “life”, your perspective and outlook changes a bit and you don’t feel quite so disoriented and overwhelmed.  This was more true and took longer in India than anywhere else we’ve been. The kids will write about their feelings later.  Having gone through it as a kid myself, I knew what they were going through.  The crowds, noise, congestion, and loudness of the city really got to them.  As a parent, you just have to provide for a safe, cool (AC) place to retreat to after the traditional sightseeing.  They mentioned that it would not be so bad if it just wasn’t SO hot.  Our sightseeing day included the Indian Museum (very old), the Victoria Memorial, light show of history of Calcutta, and going to Mother Teresa’s place.

Taxi’s are old Indian made Ambassadors

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No AC – kids wiped out from early morning flight and heat of day.

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Night water light show – kind of like you would see at the Ballagio in Vegas  (smaller scale)- It was in the city park the equivalent to the park in New York

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Sound and light show at the Victorial Memorial – they way it is like the white house and Taj Mahal put together?

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The Queen herself – unfortunate for bird doo on the head

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Incredible bronze sculpture

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Mother Theresa’s House – a service was going on, her tomb is in the “sanctuary”, a great exhibit of her history and years of service, saw her room where the Pope met here.  A great idea to go see where she worked and the work continues.

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Bazar – street scenes – too much seen to have taken pictures – felt very conspicious

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Day workers who my not have a home – washing in local water area

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Communit slogans – elections are going on

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The busiest train station in the world – Kolkatta – we survived it

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Waiting for train – going to Veranasi (14 hour train ride overnight with sleeper berths)

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    April 2-4: Kolkatta (India) » TravelBlog Archive » Tahoe Johnson’s Journey to Southeast Asia

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