Last Couple of Days in Kolkata

Day 2 in Kolkata
And then there were 8. Wow, these last few days were BUSY. Two days ago, my second day in Kolkata went something like this: Cass, Emily (the twin), and I walked around Park Street and the girls went on the Internet, while I ventured a little farther down the road. Dave and Lizzy were still recovering from the previous night. Finally when David was feeling a little better Emily, Cass, He, and I went out to see the Marble Palace which was quite a distance away. We had to go to the tourist embassy the other day to get a permissionary note allowing us entrance into the palace. We walked for nearly an hour trying to find where the metro station was, but finally gave up and nixed the Palace since it was already nearing its closing time. We walked back to our hotel and along the way stopped in a local cafeteria-like restaurant. My vegeburger was OK, but not a burger by any means, just tasted...Indian. Back at the hotel Cass, Emily, and I regrouped and went out to get another permissionary notice for tomorrow (Dave couldn't go since he had to leave for Nepal the next day). Dave went to DHL to mail some of his things, but he ended up keeping it since it would have cost him and arm and two legs. On the way back from the embassy we stopped at a chemist (pharmacy) and got some drugs. You would not believe what you can just walk up and get, scary really. Cass's jaw had been hurting her and didn't know what to get since there were no drug company names, only the chemical compounds. I was able to get her some NSAIDS and she was amazed that I knew so much. It made my day when the pharmacist didn't even know that much. He tried to give her antacids, and then antibiotics...oh brother. Anyways, Dave and I met up again and took a cab to Sudder St, where all the budget hotels were. I went to one that I had previously scouted the previously day and we checked-in. We had a room that looked like a prison cell. The bathroom had no drain, just a huge hole in the middle of the floor. No warm water, and a window in the bathroom only. There was a jungle of mosquitoes in that bathroom so we had to always keep it closed. We had only one bed, which didn't seem to bother either of us and a 13" small color TV that only got Hindi channels, but I must confess I do enjoy watching their music videos. India, unlike all of south east Asia is almost completely isolated from western culture (almost). Later that night we met up with the rest of the group, the Aussies, the twins, Lisa, and Cass. We went to a Chinese place to eat and then afterwards we said our goodbyes. It was sad, but I was getting used to saying goodbyes. We said we would keep in touch and visit each other. Maybe they actually believed this, but I knew better, but played along. Dave and I both wore pants, socks, and shirts to bed to ward off the bed-bugs we were certain where there. Tomorrow Dave, Emily (the Aussie), Deb (the Aussie), and Lisa (the German) would be gone.

Day 3 in Kolkata
And then there were 4. Dave and I both woke up early, he to try to send his stuff home and me because I had to meet the girls at their hotel which was several kilometers away. I said goodbye Dave and he said he would just leave the room key at reception (he did). I met up with Cass, Lizzy and Emily (the twins) at their hotel (my first hotel). We took a cab to Cass's new hotel and she checked-in. She had booked it in advance and holy shit it was NICE. It better have been since she is paying 10 times what I'm paying. My 'double' room, which was right by the 'new market' by Sudder Street, called Hotel Palace, cost me 400 Rps per night ($8 UDS). Afterwards we walked to the metro underground train and took it north to MG Rd, where we walked around and got some Chai Masala. I LOVE CHAI...Indian Chai. It's only 2 to 3 Rps per cup of tea so we always get it when we see it. Chai Wallahs are at every corner. We walked into the Marble Palace, which was beautiful, see photo on right. There were caged animals in the gardens, which as I later read, was Calcutta's first zoo. If you have heard of the Hurst Castle then I strongly suggest you google the Marble Palace since the architecture and decor share a STRANGELY similar quality. We had to be 'followed' around by some tour guide who spoke close to no English. It was quite odd because of the HIGH security and precautions to get into this place, but there was no other tourist in the palace, not even around the palace grounds. That reminds me, there have been SO FEW tourists here in Kolkata that I have begun to feel that I am not a tourist any more. I am reminded when I get stares down the streets and the children run up and shake my hand and then return to their friends and giggle. SO MANY people, mostly young men (15-25 years old) look at my arms and say "wow, you work out" or "strong man" and they giggle. Indians don't have overly masculine builds, at least not the poorer and working castes. We walked around afterwards and I really jammed up my toe when I fell of a concrete and metal wire fence. I was scaling it to try to sneak a photo of the palace. It was a success since I was able to capture one. I applied first aide IMMEDIATELY as not to get an infections (that was for you mother). I always keep antibacterial spray, cleansing gauss, and a band aide on me. I'm the group's medic. I've very rarely used any on my self, but often times on other people. We walked south a little, passing some of the metro stops, and I bought an antique looking lock that I've been looking for all trip. They're ubber-heavy so I wanted to hold off as much as possible. See photo on left. We had walked maybe 1.5 km, but in the high humidly, sun, and heat we were done. We took the metro to Park Street to go to the Indian Museum, which was allegedly the best in the country. The fair was only 4 rps (equal to 8 pennies, mind you) and once we got there only Cass really wanted to go in. It was only 150 Rps, but no bags were allowed in. I didn't like this so I decided against it. We all decided to grab a bite to eat so I directed them to a nice place right next to my hotel, you can see in my photo on the right. Afterwards the twins and I went to the New Market, while Cass went on her own. We had plans to all meet up at 7:00 outside KFC for dinner. We walked around the market and men bothered us about showing us around and taking us into their stores. There was avoiding it so I just picked the 'coolest' of the guides and stuck with him so all the others would leave us alone. I looked at some saris and after 45 minutes the twins went on their own. I was ready to make purchase when I found out they only had one of each type of sari. I looked around for 2 more hours and found the same thing. I finally went to some fabric stores, but the fabrics that had ANY embroidery was no less than 4 dollars/meter. I really wanted to get ~45 meters for my Uncle, but I don't think it's going to happen. I spend a total of 3 hours yesterday and several other hours in Udaipur looking for fabrics. They are much more expensive then originally thought, and FedEx doesn't take account numbers. Bummer. O well. On my way back to my hotel I bought some henna and another lock, just for kicks. I relaxed for a little then went back out to meet the group for dinner. We went to a very nice place that had live music (piano and alto sax). I had a dish called Spicy Spiced Mutton. I demanded it be extra spicy. Here is what I said, "I want this spicy...not 'white man spicy', but full-on Indian spicy". I told him to bring extra chillies on the side. It was a GREAT meal, though not too spicy. Man I miss spicy Korean food. Shawn, when you see Jenny, tell her to bring me back some of her cooking. Haha jk. We said our goodbyes, but realized my plane didn't leave until 8:30 the next day. We made plans to meet up at 1:00 (today) to head to the New Market together. This is right by my hotel and I plan to hail a cab around 4:40? I think that's ample time for my flight. Wow, I know I missed ALOT, but I have been writing in my journal religiously, so I'll make sure to refer back to it later when I catch you all up to speed. It's 11:10 now and I'm in the fastest Internet cafe in all of Asia. It's only 15 Rps. /hour. I hope by now you're smart enough to understand the conversion of rupees into dollars. 1 rupee = 2 cents. Well that's close enough anyways. I have to check out of my hotel at 12:00 and luckily I'm already packed. I am wearing my trekking shoes (finally) and am carrying my journals and North Face jumper in a bag on the plane so my luggage is a little easier to handle now.

I'm a little worried about the money issue in Ireland, since a meal there can run 12-15 Euros, or around 20 dollars. That's more than I've been spending all day here in India. For your reference if I remove all the expenses of shipping things home and my carpets/saris I bought I've spent a little under $350 and that's for ~ days. That's under $15/day and trust me, I've been eating VERY well.

I don't think I'll be able to go online too much in Ireland, but we'll see.

Please check my pictures as I'm uploading a bunch of photos now.

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Varanasi and Kolkata

Varanasi
We woke up VERY early and took our things to a new hotel, one that was closer to the train station. We only had one car so we took shifts switching hotels. We were all down by reception by 5:00 am. When we arrived in the new hotel we went directly up to our two day rooms and passed out. We crammed on the beds like sardines in a tin. I couldn't sleep and went just tossed and turned until finally going up on the roof for some tea around 7:30. The others slowly trickled to breakfast and by 11:00 everyone was awake. The food at this hotel was VERY expensive, but at least they served meat. Everyone played 'colors'. I did not see the fun in it and listened to my ipod instead. Maybe it was because I was the only one sober, or maybe it was because I already did this stuff at camp during our Maccabiah games? Everybody was completely covered and after 2 hours we all had to take turns showering and changing and re-packing for our sleeper-train to Koltata. Nobody was able to get all the paint off their body and they still have it on them as of today...haha. Our dinner took ages to get, mostly because there was only one cook. Our waiter was drunk and stoned, which didn't help the matter. After an hour of waiting for our meal the waiter finally came out only to tell several of us that our meals couldn't be made and we had to choose something else. We finally got our food, which was average at best and paid the outrageously inflated prices. We took shifts getting to the train station. We got on the train and were on our way to Kolkata by 6:15 pm. I had taken the top bunk (of 3) and laid my sheets down first, before doing anything else. On all my other sleeper trains (6 or 7 so far) I have just slept on the bed w/o even using any sheeting. It's always so hard to make a bed when you don't even have enough room to sit up. And doing this when you're already tired, you can forget about it, as many people did. We chatted for a bit and I tried to get to sleep by 8:30 or so. That didn't work out too well. It was a crappy night's sleep.

Kolkata
When we arrived in Kolkata I noticed how much more 'industrialized' this city was. The train station was much more developed than the other places. There were no rickshaws outside the translation (any anywhere really). There were swarms of old fashion yellow taxis. We took 3 taxis and got to our hotel, where I shared a room with Dave. We went on an orientation walk through the city and we left Ajit 30 minutes later. We all went to the Victoria Memorial and we largely impressed with the architecture, but not so much the art exhibit inside. I walked around the gardens and then most of the group went back to the hotel afterwards. Debbie, Emily, Lisa, and I walked around to find a place to stay for the next night (and for the next two nights for me). We went to 4 or so places and I decided to let the 3 girls share a room and I would get my own (and maybe share one night with David). Sorry if this entry makes no sense, as I'm having a conversation with Emily right now (the twin). The 4 of us walked around and ate some street food. We walked to the New Market, and I bought some stuff. On our walk home we stopped in a bottle shop I spotted and got some wine and vodka. It was VERY cheap. We made some more shops at a few book stores and DVD shops and before we knew it it was getting late and we had to meet the group at 7:30. I found and bought a Lonely Planet for Ireland...what luck. We took a cab back to our hotel, but the driver couldn't find it and got lost for over 45 minutes. He would stop and ask for directions at EVERY damn corner. One time he had left his car to ask someone and we just all left, but we paid him and left the money on the seat. We walked the rest (asking everyone we saw for directions). At the hotel we started drinking and had a grand feast at dinner. Afterwards we drank in Ajit's room. He had to get up early so he had gone to bed and we all went out to a club. It was SOOO expensive. It was expensive for western standards. I only got one drink, but some guy was buying us drinks. I got 2 drinks from him and many others got one or two. He just saw us having such a good time he wanted to be kind i guess? I danced and danced for HOURS. Sam danced a little, but Dave didn't. Most of the girls danced on and off, but I SWEAR I danced the ENTIRE TIME. I danced with this GORGEOUS girl that I met in the bar. She lives in India. We talked a little and were flirting and I swear I could have married that girl. WOW. She was Nepali...I think that's where I'll go to next.

I'll keep this short because this girl next to me wants to go online. Basically we drank and danced all night. Back at the hotel, well after 2 am the party moved to Dave and My room. I wasn't up for drinking more and Debbie, Dave, and Astri (the girl from Norway) wanted to. I gave them my bottle of wine and went to bed in Debbie's bed. Emily, her roommate had woken up and saw be next to her and was a little curious, but all is good. They had spilled wine all over the bed and floor in our room. They didn't get much sleep and are trying to sleep it off now (it's 11:30). We're meeting at 12:00 in the lobby and then maybe going to the Marble Palace, but I still need to work out where I'm staying for the next two nights. I'll have pictures up sometime in the next day or so. Cheers.

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