A Travellerspoint blog

My way to Vietnam...

04.06. - 05.06.07

sunny 37 °C

I have managed to survive Kolkuta again but what an experience. This time I was a bit smarter and booked my room in advance and it turned out to be half the price for what I paid last time and the taxi ride was less than half the price although it was triple the distance. This time I checked with the hotel beforehand how much a taxi should be and got a pre-paid one... You live and learn....
Driving for an hour through Kolkuta gave me a better insight than last time and I didn't find it as bas as on my first visit. Not sure whether I got used to a few things after being in Nepal and Tibet for a month but also the area I was in last time was far worse. Unfortunately when I got to the hotel they didn't have an airconditioned room anymore which at 37 C doesn't really help. To not get into the same disaster as last time, I happily accepted a room without a/c which made the price drop by another 50%, so I ended up paying 1/4 of the last shitwhole. Thank God I have my sleeping sheet, my own toilet paper and all that stuff, so I am far better equipped than last time ;-)
The light switches were so dirty that they were completely black (not sure about the original colour but I think they must have been white or beige at one stage) and I was convinced to catch something from just touching them. The ceiling and half of the bathroom was covered in mould and there was no window in the bedroom. But instead the window in the bathroom didn't have any glas in it, so was basically open. As the hotel had to be paid in cash I was venturing out to the streets of Kalkuta to find an ATM which proved much harder than expected, as both ATMs wouldn't give me any money. It didn't help that while everyone could quite clearly see that I was looking for something but by not tellling the merchants what I was looking for I got hassled as if I am the last peron on earth ever making a purchase and got offered the whole range: handy crafts, pashminas, haschisch, sarees etc. etc. the list would not end - quite annoying as they won't give up.
There are hardly any tourists (I think I have seen 2 in total), so the few ones that are there are attacked properly. I finally got there and managed to get cash with my credit card, got a few snacks and was "happy" to be back n my lovely room to enjoy some great Indian TV, which didn't last long due to the power cut.
Again, thanks very much Michelle for the torch, which turned out to be one of the most important things I brought to that trip. It only was a short night as I was worried they would forget to wake me up and I still don't have an alarm clock and it was also boiling hot.
In the morning at 6am I was delighted to see that my cab driver didn't bother showing up although it was the most important thing to give me another lift the night before. I found another one for the same rate. It seems that when you know exactely what you want and how much it costs they don't even try to haggle, so that was good. The journey back to the airport was an interesting one. So many people sleeping in the streets, half dead chickens for sales squeezed into baskets, men (including my receptionist) not wearing more than a towl or an equivalent cloth, naked children with poo all over them sitting on the street by the curb wondering barefoot in the dirt and men washing themselves in the middle of the street. Brushing their teeth with either a tooth brush or just their finger. One has to question the purpose of that.... not sure a finger will get your teeth clean....
Also, they seem to shampoo their hair, face and upper body. I am not raising any more questions at this point and leave the rest up to imagination....
Apparently Mao (regarding to a book written by his physician) has never washed himself or brushed his teeth in his whole life. No wonder he didn' thave a Misses Mao but sympathy with the random girls that had to put up with him for a night... urghhh...
Anyway, I really don't know what to make of this place. Although, I think by statistics Nepal is even poorer than India, ist strikes me more here in Kalkuta. The poverty is shocking.... Although this time wasn't as bad here I think I can safely say I didn't like it very much and was both times happy and relieved to get of it. Having said that, my flight is currently delayed by 3 hours, they started serving breakfast and the guy in th sweet shop just laughed and said "Oh my God" when I told him I am going to Bangkok. Just hope I am not getting stuck in this place.
Already the airport is dreadful and they are so unfriendly and bossy. I also don't this whole checking everything 15 times bit. Nepal was really bad with that too, but here in Kalkuta for example, before yuo even are allowed into the airport building they ckeck your ticket, in Nepal they even had an additional gate half a kilometer from the airport where they check you for the first time. Anyway, then here in Kalkuta there is a next barrier before you get to the whole check in area where they check your ticket and passport. Before you are allowed to get your baggage scanned they have another look at your ticket, you then can go to the check in desk. In the queue for emigration they check everything again, then of course at passport control then you get to the security check where it is checked again, then before boarding and then before you get on to the plane again. Two queues again where awaiting you on the stairs to the plane. One for women and one for men again where they checked all your documents and the hand luggage again. The guy seemed particularly interested in my tampons! He was wriggeling them around trying to work out what those things are. He either gave up or it clicked but at least I was spared a demonstration!
Not every time you get checked, but most of the times you also get a stamp on your boarding pass, emigration card, passport, ticket and the hand luggage card etc.... So, people saying that Germans are obsessed with their stamps quite clearly haven't been to Kathmandu or Kalkuta airport. My boarding pass from Kathmandu to Kolkuta counts 9 stamps! As a matter of fact it was so full with stamps and signatures that I couldn't identify my seat number anymore and had to ask an air hostess for help who consulted another 2 and made a guess after that.
I really don't know why they need so many people working here at the airport, all really doing the same thing. We have a word for that in German which is called "Arbeitsbeschaffungsmassnahme" (yes, another great German word....:-) which basically means giving people a job just for the sake of it to get them out of the unemployment statistics and I think Kalkuta airport is full of them.
Another highly annoying thing with the Indians here is that they all most naturally go right to the front of the queue and constantly try to jump pass you. Not with me though ,I am fed up enough as it is. They also quite often don't seem to be able to keep the normal distance to a stranger, so you end up having the knuckles pressed in your rips and his breath right your neck while you are in a queue awaiting yhour 7th stamp on your boarding card and when you turn around to give them the evil eye, you notice there isn't even anyone behind him. So why on earth to you have to stand that close????
AS you can tell I really didn't like it here....
The only cheerful experience at this airport was the monk I carried the luggage from Thailand for. He is flying with me today again and is still most grateful for my help.

I am now on my way to Vietnam and can't wait. After having heard so many negative things about Vietnam I am glad I started reading the Lonely Planet which got me really excited.
The other thing I have noticed now that I am by myself again is how much alive I feel again and how much I appreciate and love my time doing this. I seem to notice if far more when I am by myself....

Posted by Julia1976 07:46 Archived in Vietnam

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thank you so much for your great comments about vietnam
tan from viet vision travel

by tonyramble

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