- Sipping Darjeeling tea
- The man with the needle
- Calcutta awakening
- Missouri meets Palestine
- Lesson learned
- The world´s largest tree
I am sitting in Calcutta, spending my last hours in India. It has been quite chaotic and I am actually just happy that we are flying to Southeast Asia today, it was not sure one day ago. But to that later.
Sipping Darjeeling tea
Last time I wrote to you guys I was in Darjeeling, northeast India. We had a lot of plans for stuff to do there, but to be honest we dropped most of them due to the weather. It was very cloudy, foggy and wet and the cafes on the other side of the road were just too comfy, so we did what you should do in Darjeeling: drink tea tea tea. A pot of really good black tea costs like 30p, so we spent entire days inside nice cafes drinking up to 10 pots a day. Moreover the streets are very very steep in Darjeeling and we realized that after the trekking we can’t be bothered to walk uphill anymore and just want to finally hit the beaches.
There was a zoo in Darjeeling, which is like the main attraction, but it’s what you expect from a zoo in south Asia, small cages, bad treatment. Just not nice to look at. They have the biggest number of snow leopards in captivity, which was nice to see but still within that environment not something we wanted to do for too long.
Well to be fair we did something else: the weather was shit and in our hotel they had some computers downstairs. We saw that the children, around 10, were playing Counter Strike all the time. Yassin and I used to play so much when we were 13, especially at LAN parties and everything. Haven’t played for 5 years we thought to give it a shot, destroyed those little kids until they didn’t want to play anymore and spend a few hours in the middle of the mountains in Asia playing Counter Strike, something we didn’t expect J
The man with the needle
One big task before taking off to Calcutta was sending away all the stuff we don’t need for warm Southeast Asia, boots, long sleeve stuff, and souvenirs. It was a looot of stuff, around 15 kg and the experience at the post office was worth telling. Every single package you send off from here has not only to be properly packed, but it has to be sown into a bag of textile. It took a very able and skilled guy one and a half hours to make our package. He sewed together this huge pack for one hour and then closed every single knot with a wax candle. Looks amazing, now we just hope it arrives as everything we have bought and loads of valuable stuff is in there. The advantage is having a 5kg backpack now with literally nothing and we can fly with hand luggage again.
So after Darjeeling the next step was going to Calcutta. Calcutta is in the same state, west Bengal, but 800km south of Darjeeling right at the sea. But this time no buses, good old night trains. It´s just so nice to lie down on a berth, sleep and waking up 12 hours later in the next city, without all the fear and hassle and bruises of taking buses. Was quite a long ride, but I like to take trains and look at the passing landscape while trying to fall asleep.
When we arrived in Calcutta it was 5 am. As always we took a cab to the centre. These are the same as the ones you know from Havana, these really old cars of the model “Ambassador” which look just so old-school. Calcutta is one of the 4 biggest cities in India and has around 15 million inhabitants. It’s very different from Delhi though, as people don’t beg as much, you can smell and feel the close sea and the architecture shaped by the British looks beautiful.
Once in the centre the problem was finding a hotel. As everything is closed at that time we just decided to sit among Indians, drink a few chai and chill in the streets and wait for something to happen. As it was our last full day in India we decided to get the full chai dose and had at least 20 yesterday. But we are going to miss this lifestyle: just sitting down on the street on a little bench in the shadow of a tree, marvelling at this guy preparing chai without even looking, pouring it into terracotta cups and drinking it while it is still boiling hot. Just so good. And while sitting there, we could see all the hassle going on in the morning, a chicken market for instance, where people go and buy the living chicken, bind them with their legs at their bikes (but around 50 or 60 on one bike, with a special technique to use their legs as rope), and drive them to their restaurant, well at least you can be sure they are fresh.
Missouri meets Palestine
We finally saw some travellers who we asked and they showed us their place, which is described in the lonely planet by a fellow traveller as “constituting a new dimension of nastiness”. Standard. We liked the room in this ancient colonial building. Small, hot, dirty, no toilet and shower of course, but it had two beds. So we dropped off the stuff and strolled around the street and some other buildings. We got on this rooftop terrace, don’t ask me why and how, and I wanted to leave it again as I didn’t see anyone. Then we saw some hands reaching out of the hammocks and started talking to them. Eventually we got stuck up there and spent most of the day on this cosy terrace with Andi, the guy from the hammock, who is a German and has been traveling on his bicycle for 2 years now. Rasta, very chilled and relaxed person. Then there were two Austrians, one even from Tyrol, close to where I was born. The two met and got together while traveling and are not planning to go back anymore, and then lastly a Palestinian.
I have never met any Palestinian in my life and we spent most of the day up there having very good discussions on Israel, Palestine and the Arabic world in general, although the Austrians by trying to take part in the discussion destroyed it constantly with some of the most idiotic comments I have ever heard. But it was very interesting. I mean before coming to India I have never met neither an Israeli nor a Palestinian (and I mean people who actually live there, not expats). Now we have been traveling and discussing with Israeli and got the one side of the coin. Now we got the other side, although admittedly of course he is from a rich home and even Christian, but still it was amazing to discuss all these issues with him.
Later at night also 8 Spanish guys and girls came up and joined the discussion as well as 4 Indians from Missouri, one of the north-eastern regions bordering Burma. If you look on the map it has nothing to do with India, and they told us that they were a man hunting and eating tribe-people until 100 years ago, when the British came, Christianised them and forced them to join India. A long civil war followed and today they are kind of independent, Christians, have their own language, and don’t even speak Hindi. They have to talk English here. But the funniest part of the story is how they told us about the Bonny M story. Basically Missouri is very western oriented but in the middle of nowhere. They have been trying to invite musicians and artists since the 60s. In the 80s Bonny M came to Missouri and held a concert there around Christmas. Ever since they are a legend there and Daddy Cool is the official Christmas song and is played everywhere in this remote hill region between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Crazy huh? He of course invited all of us to go there as long as and whenever we want to. It was just great sitting on the rooftop with people from everywhere, chilling in hammocks, drinking beer and talking about everything.
But coming to our little inconveniency: around 5pm Yassin and I decided to have a look at our ticket to Bangkok for the next day. We take it out, I look at it and just point to one part and show it to Yassin. The ticket was not for the 28th of July, but 28th of June!!!! One month ago! Aiaiaiai! I mean we know that we said July, but at the same time how stupid do you have to be not to check it once in one and a half month until 12 hour before the departure time! So we had to look for a new flight, as we have a connecting flight from BKK to Phuket and didn’t want to miss it. We found one, spend another 230 euro, which is a lot considering that we are trying to spend less than 15 a day, and just accepted that there is nothing we can do about it. That has never happened to me in my life. Well we have a flight, everything is fine, and we should be in Southeast Asia tonight!
The world´s largest tree
Coming back to Calcutta. When we were not on the rooftop we took a public bus once around the city and went to the botanical garden, which has one main attraction which is unique on the planet. You approach a forest, 140m wide. When you enter you realize that all the trees, around 200 are interconnected. I mean the branches are growing into each other. Basically it is the biggest single tree of the planet. It started growing 300 years ago and as it got bigger, branches started growing from the top towards the soil. Once they reach it they grow into the soil and form an entire new tree, connected to the main tree. And so on for 300 years and the result is this jungle which is actually one tree. Looks amazing!
So yeah we did that and walked around lots. Which is beautiful in Calcutta and too bad we are here only for one day as I am especially interested in the culture for street food, which is very developed here and everybody is cooking, chilling and eating on the streets. But next time. We had a great time here; especially with all those amazing people we met on the rooftop and are veryyy happy to take off to BKK, Phuket and tomorrow morning with the ferry to Phi Phi for some serious birthday celebrations!
For the last time in Hindi