Day 1 from my trip to India – 23.11.2018

Part 1 – Kolkata and trying to leave the airport

Kolkata is a city in eastern India and kind of near the border with Bangladesh. When I got the invitation to attend the wedding, I had for some moments the thought of traveling there as well. Actually, I know more Bangladesh people than Indian, but that is not a competition, it’s just an interesting thought. I also talked a lot with them before going to Kolkata, since its a Bangoli area, as in Bangladesh, with similar traditions, food and other. In the end, I decided to not go to Bangladesh this time.

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Brazilian flag in Kolkata streets

My Bangladeshis friends said their country is good in cricket so that’s why the people are fans for either Brazil (my home country) or Argentina (my family) <3 when it comes to soccer. When I was in Kolkata I learned that the Indian folks are also torn during the world cup. I even saw some Brazilian flags in the street and a taxi with an Argentinian flag as a sticker. What I saw and heard this, it made me feel even more welcome 😀

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Argentinian sticker on the car ceiling. And yes, they drive on the right side of the car, like in Britain

Kolkata was the first city I have been in India. I arrived at 5 a.m. with almost no idea what do to next. So I waited for 2 hours at the airport for the sunlight. While waiting, I discovered:

  1. you can only enter an airport if you are going to fly (later during the trip I could get into the airport paying a ticket).
  2. the atm is either in the arriving or in the departure area. Since I left the arrivals area, I was not supposed to enter the departure area and there was no possibility to get cash money. (But anyway I managed to make it. I am pretty good at convincing people :D). My advice: go to an ATM before leaving the arrivals area and DO NOT try to go to the ATM outside the airport.
  3. The public AirTel WiFi worked fine for me for a few minutes, but it shuts off if the phone is not able to receive a one time password through SMS. (there is a way to get a SIM card but only in the airport and actually, I made it in Delhi, have no idea whether there’s a shop inside the Kolkata airport).
  4. it’s hard to find a power plug to charge your cellphone but I made it.
  5. there is a stand to order uber so you don’t need an internet connection. When I was there, it was closed however but it looks like a good solution if you don’t have an Indian number and arrive during the day.
  6. there is also a pre-paid taxi station and that is what we decided for.
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Typical Kolkata Yellow Cab

Without knowing, our first experience in Kolkata was actually an attraction: The yellow cab. We gave the address to the pre-paid taxi and went outside the airport. We drove through Kolkata to our first stop, which was to visit a friend of mine: Vivek 😀 (thanks again) He is a really nice Indian guy who used to also study in Dresden (yeah he graduated already).

Kolkata

Trying to take a pic without letting the driver realizing it. Look at the hole where the belt was supposed to come out :O

Outside the airport, I already feel the dust and how warm was there. I had a small and a big suitcase what the taxi seems to find a lot. Finally, I managed to show him the address and let’s go 😀 😀 😀 I was in Indiaaaaaa.

Wow, the first half an hour in India. I was so nervous. I had no idea what to expect but I knew taxis are not to trust anywhere. Suddenly I thought: I have no phone, don’t know the language, this taxi has no seat belt and I am carrying some money with me :O I don’t know how the street and the building Viveks lives looks like and I am super tired and smelling from the journey with 3 flights (as I had to run to get my connection in Zurich and in Delhi with all the luggage).

The drive was a mixture of different feelings and thoughts: I was finally there, after so many months preparing the trip, getting the visa, reading about how to dress, asking friends how it looks like. At the same time, I was worried as and had thoughts like “I have no idea what is going to happen”, “Will be fine”, “drive slower please”, “Ahh he cannot find Viveks place and already drove in that street 5 times”. But for the most important, I was pretty satisfied and thought “I cannot believe I finally came to India :D”

Part 2 – Visiting an Indian house 😀

Luckily I have studied the map before leaving Germany so I was able to help the driver to find the place. Luckily Vivek was looking from the window and saw the taxi driving around. So we arrived at our first stop, at his home 😀

I learned then, as, in Germany, people don’t walk with shoes inside the house. Seeing Vivek after a long time was so nice, I am so thankful he invited to his home. There I had some chai tea made from his mom, some crackers (yeah they were spicy) and my first south Indian breakfast. We chatted a bit about Dresden and expectations about the trip around India. He and his family were very kind. I haven’t seen that kind of hospitality for quite some time. The trip really started great. I felt already home and welcome.

South India Breakfeast

Idli is a typical south Indian breakfast. It consists of rice cake served with a sauce. In our case was sambar and chutney (made with coconut). It was REALLY spicy for me, but also incredibly tasty. I was surprised 😀

Vivek showed us around and it was the first time I walked in Indian streets 😀 As I expected, it was nothing from another world – actually I felt like in Brazil. In the street we walked he showed us a supermarket, a street market where people were selling fruits and a kiosk where we bought something to drink. He also showed a beautiful park with a small lake in the middle. In that area, it was easier to walk in the street than on the sidewalk. We had to take care every time some motorcycle passed by but this was nothing I haven’t experienced before. That moment, I understood why when I was reading in German about India, people were so careful and when reading in Brazilian Portuguese people were so chill. That place could also be some village in Brazil.

I would say undeveloped or small villages in Brazil looks like India and developed Brazil looks like Europe. So no big surprises for me there when it comes to city structure and streets.

Just the dust it was something new for me and some streets had no enclosed canalization. But somehow it was not smelling as bad an open canalization should smell. That surprised me a lot. Actually it was not smelling at all. I also saw that fancy buildings and simple ones are side by side in India. There is none separation like in other countries I have been. That is kind of nice, no neighborhood segregation.

Part 3 – Shopping in Kolkata

Feeling really tired and smelling, I decided to try my luck and check-in earlier in the hotel where the wedding took place the day after. I managed it 😀 Check-in, shower, and shopping. After all, the main reason why we came was for the wedding. And some parts of the dresses were still missing.

Super tired but good-smelling, we went to the city. We asked the Uber to drop us off at Park Street and started to walk. The street was very crowded. No surprise – it was a Friday afternoon, an Indian holiday and wedding season. However, I could not find what I needed :O

Walking around was not so pleasant because the dust and also the jet lag really annoyed me. I started to cough a lot and got disappointed as I could not find what I need. I also decided to not drink anything because I was not willing to try some public toilet. Anyway, I kept observing the details of the street life. I saw a lot of street food (famous in Kolkata) but was not hungry and did not try it. Some people said I should do it, but I knew my body would not accept that. I tried other local food during my stay.

Before going to India, I heard that it would be hard to find a supermarket but I found one. It turned out to be actually the only one during my trip.

I entered many shops, saw pajamas, sarees, scarfs. I also went to a franchise store and found a long arm shirt for about 3 Euro. I loved it so much. It was almost the only place I could find a shirt that was not super long, covering my underbody (like Indians use to wear). In one store I tried a crop top with an incredible long skirt. I was so in love with it until I heard about the price. Besides the price, I knew I just needed the crop top and the skirt I would probably NEVER have the opportunity to use again ;( I was looking like a princess :P, a Queen, like a bride or whatever you prefer to call. It was magnificent.

After walking a lot, going in the shops and so on, we realized we had to go to another shopping place: New Market, where many people were telling me I could buy the blouse I needed.

Again we took the nice yellow cab and went to the New Market. It was such a crazy car ride. The driver didn’t care about the road line and, like almost in all the cars we took in India, there was no seat belt. The problem is that in the yellow cab you REALLY miss the belt because you have so much empty space and all the windows are open. I felt so loose inside that vehicle. Especially for me, it feels so big because I am so small and it was around 50 centimeters of space to the front seat. It was also getting dark and we had no idea where we were (how I missed an internet connection back them).

I believe by then,  we arrived at another place because the cab stopped and said: walk that street until the end and you will find it. I have no idea where he sent us or how long we walked, but the thing is, we got inside a bazaar with A LOT of clothes on several floors and stores. Somehow it was the only place I have been to India where we were the ONLY foreigners. It felt good but a bit weird to be in such a local place. We realized they would ask for much more money than the actual price is. Besides that, people started to follow us trying to convince us to buy whatever they had. Hehe funny. But like I mentioned in: 2 weeks of India, months of preparation, lifetime experience, nothing I have never seen in Brazil while in São Paulo at “25 de março” before.

In that market, I got what I was searching for. I just wanted a crop top, without a skirt or a saree. It seems like there was the only place you could buy loose pieces of clothes.  For sure I paid more for the blouse but it’s not so dramatic since it was my first purchase in India in a bazaar store. I had jet lag and no much time to keep searching and bargain. I had finally found what I wanted and they even made it smaller to fit perfectly for me, including sewing on sleeves.

I really loved what I got and that’s what matters for me 😀

If you want to know how the crop top I bought looks like, enjoy reading about the first day of the wedding.

Part 4 – Trying to get a cab and go back to the hotel

When we left the market, it was already dark and we had to somehow go back to the hotel. What now? I didn’t want to tell the cab to bring me to the expensive hotel we were. Anywhere in the world, when being in an unfamiliar place, I wouldn’t say to a taxi to bring me to one of the most expensive hotels in the city,  without knowing the actual distance. Taxi drivers taking extra loops are quite common.

Problems with cabs around the world

In Moskow, Russia, I had to go near an expensive hotel. The taxi guy taught that I would be rich and stay at the hotel, so he wanted to me to pay 10 times the price it was supposed to be. And even if I would be there, it should not be a reason to ask for a different price. When he demanded the price, we started to discuss with the taxi driver in English, with help of another taxi driver. Haha OMG, when I think about it, it sounds a bit dangerous. Fortunately, in the end, we found an agreement and he left.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, the taxi driver thought my grandma would be a local since I was speaking half Portuguese and half Spanish. He made some extra loops along the way. In the end, she said: “It should have taken 20 min not one hour to come here”. The taxi driver: “OH you live in this city? Do you speak Spanish?”.

That are just two examples from many why I NEVER trust drivers, which is a bit unfortunate as there also are many good drivers.

Anyway, we asked the cab driver to bring us to a big street we knew the name, half an hour from the new market. Actually, we asked to be dropped out at the Park street because it was lighter and we wanted to feel more comfortable to think about a safe solution how to go back to the hotel. We didn’t know how much should be the ride, so we said 100 rupees ( about 1 euro 20). OMG, that guy was so happy and thought he was stealing so much money from us hahaha. We just wanted to go somewhere we knew and we felt glad to make him happy.

Arriving in that big street with lights and shops made us feel a bit safer. Then, we got into a coffee shop with the hope of being able to connect to WiFi and order a Uber. However, there were two unfortunate things: We ordered an ice tea (looked like it comes in a bottle), but it was tea with ice cubes. Even our Indian friends warned us to not drink something with ice cubes because our bodies are not used to the tap water yet. The second unfortunate thing was that after spending money with the tea that we didn’t drink, we could not connect to WiFi because we had no Indian phone number for receiving a one time password. But 😀 because I am bold, I talked with a guy working in his laptop and kindly, he provided a hotspot on his cellphone so we could order the Uber.

Wwwwwwwwwwwwwweeell but of course we had to cross the street to catch the Uber at the pickup point. Unluckily, it was out of the range of the hotspot and it was rush hour. We waited really long and the Uber did not arrive. I was super thirsty. Besides that, it was so dry and we didn’t sleep for more than 30 hours. It was too much. I remember it as unpleasant 30 minutes that felt like several hours hahaha. Luckily, behind us was the only supermarket as I know we ever found in India. So we decided that buy water at that moment would be better than keep waiting for the Uber.

Drinking the water after hours of shopping, or better saying, trying to find something to shop, was so great and magically, when we left the store our Uber was waiting there <3 We arrived safe and for a fairly low amount of money in our hotel <3 Traffic was crazy and it took really long but we made it. What a long day, full of impressions, experiences, less water, no hunger, jet lag, and none sleep.

I took a nice shower and felt into bed happy that the next day the wedding ceremony would be. A moment I was looking forward for a long time.

Here you can find an overview from my Indian trip: 2 weeks of India, months of preparation, lifetime experience.  and here the impressions when I was about to fly to India: Heading to India

In some days I will post the more experiences of the trip. Wait for it 😀

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