In Kolkata I ended up staying in a very cheap, barebones, locals-only hotel, in a neighborhood where I was the only westerner for miles; because it was the closest hotel to the convention center, only 3 km away. I could walk to the convention. All other hotels (re: higher rated and more expensive) were all 6-10 km away from the convention center. The moral here is never trust the pictures you see on internet travel sites. I certainly got a chance to see “authentic” Kolkata, not just the touristy parts, although I saw some of that too. The most annoying thing about clichés is that they are often true. Kolkata, a teaming mass of humanity … Lots of people, noisy crowded streets, mullahs chanting, music constantly being played over public loudspeakers, public ablutions, the poorest poor-the richest rich, friendly/helpful people-lots of stares 'what's he doing here.' Smells: spices-people-industry-motor fumes-trash and litter. Hot-dusty-dry, mosquitoes, livestock all over the roads (not just cows), dirt roads, CRAZY drivers, push carts, stalls with all manner of goods, lively, thriving, throbbing, pulsing ... Kolkata - City of Joy.
View from my hotel room, toward the back of the hotel.
View from my hotel room, toward the back, doing the laundry.
View from my hotel: toward the front- the street the hotel is located on.
For the record, this was not the roughest hotel room I have ever stayed in - that would have been in Guthrie Center, Iowa.
More shopping near my hotel.
Kolkata, street scenes: near Chowinghee Road
Fruit and vegetable stands were all over India, this was a larger one. These are in lieu of what we call traditional grocery stores-the product looked great and was very fresh-think of our farmer’s markets.
Hogg Market: more fresh groceries; those are chickens running around in those cages.
Hogg Market: you can get the exact cut of meat you want.
Sisters making bracelets to sell at the market.
It took a long time, but I finally found some tea in Kolkata. I hadn’t even seen a chaiwallah. The Cha Bar was located inside Oxford Books, the best book store in Kolkata, of course in the touristy section of town.
It actually was a pretty neat layout. A pretty good selection of 50 or 60 teas. And they offered food, not a full blown restaurant, but sort of like a café or diner. I was going to order some Indian food, but then I noticed this which unfortunately really reminded me of something back in the States.
I figured I had to try the India version of a McDonalds knock off.